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Enjoy, laugh, disagree or simply empathize with those who lived life in THE sixties and are now rockin' life in THEIR sixties, and beyond.


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Keep calm and carry on


Several years ago my husband and I toured the war rooms in the cellars beneath the Admiralty building in London, England. This underground bunker is where Winston Churchill, his generals and advisors spent time during WW II planning strategy and saving themselves from being bombed into oblivion. The tour was a fascinating experience with everything left exactly the way it was on May 5, 1945. The clocks stopped at 5:00 p.m. and cigarette butts still sit in the ashtrays. Seeing all the seemingly ancient telephones in different colours for different lines was odd when compared with today’s technology.

Several other things struck us as amusing. In addition to fake rats scattered throughout (for authenticity) there was only one functioning toilet in the entire complex and it was reserved for Mr. and Mrs. Churchill. The rest of the pit dwellers used large metal lidded cans like garbage cans that were emptied daily. (Don’t know what you had to do wrong to earn that job.) There were many quaint signs on the corridor walls including daily weather reports about the world above. People who were often entombed below ground for days or even weeks on end were supposedly uplifted by reading little blackboards that said “Fair and mild” and the famous “Keep Calm and Carry On”.

The cabinet war rooms in London, England. WW II’s answer to “safe space”.

Prime Minster Theresa May has her hands full these days. While not as challenged as Sir Winston Churchill, she’s had her share of stress with the killer B’s—Brexit, Bombings, Burning Buildings. She may want to consider retreating to that cozy little haven under the Admiralty building to regroup, strategize and escape the flak. It’s an environment free from parliamentary heckling, unhappy voters and bad British weather. And as a bonus, it’s bomb-proof.

The entire world seems to be under siege these days, whether home-grown or from foreign bullies. We have economic, political, social and environmental issues that seem insurmountable. Then there’s the NAFTA, NATO and immigration fiascos. We’ll try to “Keep calm and carry on”. .  and hope it gets better. War and conflict, whether military or economic leaves senseless casualties and is entirely preventable. Experience has proven, however, that we have to stand up to the bullies in order for good to prevail. I only hope our political leaders have the intestinal fortitude of Winston Churchill but somehow I’m not confident they do. Let’s hope diplomacy and cooperation prevail before it’s too late for this fragile world in which we live.

Maybe it’s time to call in the professionals.

Turning off the news and tuning out the noise is one way of constructing my own personal safe space but the problems persist. I’m thinking it might be a better idea to jet off to London, England and seek shelter in Churchill’s bunker. The phones don’t work in the bunker and there’s probably no cell signal or WiFi either. I’d be insulated from all the bad news and I know for a fact there is at least one working toilet. I’d have to download hundreds of books on to my iPad to fill the days. But the lack of sunshine could turn me into a very grumpy girl and no one would like that, so perhaps I’d better just soldier on in my own home in relatively safe Canada. Compared to the problems experienced by the rest of the world, there’s definitely no place like home. And there’s no place I’d rather be.

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Fighting our own personal trade war


Used car lots in Florida are a car lover’s wet dream.

A favourite pastime of old retired fellers like my husband and his buddies is to spend a day visiting car lots. These ‘research’ excursions are enormous fun for them especially in Florida where car dealers have thousands of pre-owned, like-new luxury cars with low mileage. These vehicles have never seen winter and are being sold for unbelievably low prices. Florida is full of geriatrics whose adult kids don’t want the big ol’ Cadillac when their folks can no longer drive (or worse) so they end up jockeying for attention on used car lots. The guys’ excursion usually includes a normally forbidden feast of chocolate-chip pancakes, bacon and sausages at IHOP which makes for an idyllic outing for a bunch of car junkies. Much as they would love to slide into a shiny new Lincoln, BMW or Jaguar SUV, it’s more likely we’ll stick with our several-years-old Ford Edge or Escape.

There are amazing deals in the United States but bringing that car back to Canada is a nightmare. People with Canadian passports cannot drive a car with American plates into Canada. We know that from experience because we once unknowingly tried it and had to leave the car in New York State until we got the paperwork sorted out. It was prohibitively expensive and I would never recommend it. Among the expenses was making physical modifications to the car for such things as bumpers to meet Canadian safety standards, which was more trouble than it was worth. And, now that we’re engaged in a trade war with the United States, there are obvious advantages to buying Canadian-made vehicles.

Florida is a strong Republican state where millions of Canadians winter and vacation every year. We speak the language. We can drink the water without requiring hospitalization (another issue for another time). We understand the currency. We love the weather. Many visiting Canadians often buy lovely pre-owned American automobiles to leave in Florida garages while they return north for the summer. Hell, sometimes we even buy the shoes if they’re a deal and not available in Canadaland, but don’t tell Donald Trump. We love to escape our crappy winters and our dollars keep the Florida economy afloat. All in all it’s a pretty agreeable situation for both sides.

Buy Canadian and save yourself a lot of trouble, not to mention saving Canadian jobs.

As a result of those tire-kicking excursions with his buddies, my honey has been getting regular followup emails from a car salesman at a Lincoln dealership he chatted up last winter in Florida. He thought he had a live one and was relishing making a sale. When another email landed in his in-box this week, we were able to make a political statement that is bound to resonate across all fifty states. My guy politely informed the salesman that the impending 25% tariff puts Lincoln MLKs in Florida financially out of reach. No sale. Ouch! That is bound to be a major blow to the U.S. economy. We’ll show them what their crazy tariffs really mean. Hit ’em where it hurts—in the pocketbook. I expect that Lincoln car salesman is emailing his Congressman at this very moment, demanding they repeal the punitive tariffs against Canadian imports.

Taking this a step further, many Canadians may find it difficult to visit the United States at all. With Donald Trump treating us as trade enemies and citizens of questionable character, does the United States even deserve to benefit from our tourist dollars. Imagine Florida if the 3.5 million Canadians who spend billions each year in the sunshine state decided to stay home and spend our billions here. The Republication state of Florida would collapse. Our parents were right. Ignore the bully and play nice. This too shall pass—we hope.


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Are you guilty of smuggling shoes into Canada?


Slowly step out of the car and show me your shoes.

The comments made this week by Donald Trump about scuffy contraband shoes being smuggled into Canada is just too delicious for this Canadian serial shoe wearer to ignore. In one of his latest unhinged rants Trump attempted to horrify patriotic Americans into vilifying Canada and mistakenly defend protectionism. By informing them that Canadians were so desperate for shoes and to avoid Canadian duties (or tariffs as he called them, which are not the same thing) he announced that we make covert trips to the United States to purchase and smuggle their prized and precious footwear back into Canada. Then, in order to deceive those pesky Canadian border security agents, we toss our old straw clogs at the border in Buffalo, scuff up our new made-in-America Reeboks and trip across the border undetected, fooling those filthy Canadian revenuers. What more proof do Americans need that Canada is a terrible place?

I have a confession. In fact, any Canadian who has ever visited the United States would probably admit to being guilty of the same thing. I have purchased shoes in the United States and brought them back to Canada. But I’m confused. I didn’t realize what I was doing was wrong, immoral or unpatriotic. And I certainly didn’t break any laws so there was no need to scuff up my shiny new shoes to fool border security because I’m legally allowed to bring back up to $900.00 in merchandise duty-free after an absence of a particular number of days from Canada. If I exceed the legal spending limits, then I’m prepared to pay duty to Revenue Canada for the chance to pick up something different from what I might find at home. And what sane woman in her right mind would ever scuff up her new shoes anyway?

“Her” shoe closet.

So how is this hurting anyone? I supported American business. I kept border security agents employed by checking my passport and sitting in their little booth to ask me a few simple questions to ensure I’m not packing heat. And the banks rejoiced at the service charges and exchange costs they levied when I converted my Canadian dollars to American. If I hurt anyone, it’s probably China, the mother lode of cheap shoes. And, of course, this whole exercise is moot if you’re a man; everyone knows that men only own two pairs of shoes, one brown and one black—unless they’re under 30 in which case they may also own a pair of runners. Cross-border shopping is a non-issue for men.

“His” shoe closet.

The ironic thing about this whole fiasco is that if Donald Trump actually cross-border shopped like real people, he’d realize that we have far better quality shoes in Canada than they have in the United States. Many of our shoes are Italian imports thanks to our large Italian immigrant population who have created businesses here. See, Donald—immigration is a good thing. The quality and styles of what we can get here are far superior to what most American stores offer and our prices are competitive. No one in the world manufactures better winter boots and coats than Canadians and thanks to our global business practices we have access to imported as well as locally-manufactured merchandise that is far better than south of the border. Just ask Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex who regularly sports Canadian-made brands.

Pssst! Mr. Trump. Wanna buy some protection?

Sorry Mr. Trump. You got some fake news there. You’ve somehow taken the issue of non-existent Canadian protectionism and twisted it into something you hope will justify American protectionism, but you’ve shot yourself in the foot. And unless you were wearing genuine Canadian-made steel-toed Kodiaks, Timberlands, Royer, Canada West, Caterpillar or other superior brands made in Canada, you could be missing a few lower digits. You’re certainly missing something, and that’s not fake news.

Here’s Greg Perry’s (The Toronto Star) take on the situation:

 


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The irony of drug marketing


The late Anthony Bourdain.

Last night I watched a series of programs about Anthony Bourdain on Gusto TV. During one episode in particular he spoke honestly about his entry into the world drug abuse, heroin in particular. He sat with a group of recovering addicts in Greenwood, a small town in Massachusetts plagued with the problems associated with opioid abuse. A local doctor explained how doctors freely prescribed Oxycontin and other pain-killers for everyday problems like sports injuries, getting wisdom teeth removed and back pain because the drug companies assured the doctors the meds were not addictive. When patients can no longer get legal pain-killers, they resort to street drugs and heroin. It’s a problem no longer limited to big city slums. Small towns are now victims of big-city drug abuse problems.

Nearly very commercial aired during this hour-long show was by a major pharmaceutical company promoting an assortment of remedies for real or imagined ailments. ‘Just ask your doctor’, followed by an exhaustive list of qualifiers. If you’ve ever watched television in the United States (not U.S. stations in Canada with substituted Canadian commercials) you’ll know what I’m talking about. I’ve counted up to 13 drug ads in a commercial break with 15 commercials on American television. Just an observation.


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Mr. Trudeau . . . we have a problem, a big one


Canadian border agents are being pulled from their posts at Pearson International Airport in Toronto and being relocated to rural sites in Manitoba and Quebec. The reason? So many asylum seekers and illegal immigrants are teeming across the border at remote locations that extra border service agents are need to handle the volume. The government is providing food, clothing and accommodation for these illegals while thousands of our indigenous people do not have basic housing, safe, clean drinking water and access to fresh fruits and vegetables. The government’s solution is insane. Illegal immigrants and asylum seekers from the United States should be turned back, not welcomed.

Illegal asylum seekers awaiting admission to Montreal stadium. Canada should tighten the border to illegals.

Our government is now building temporary housing (at taxpayers’/our expense) at these remote locations to accommodate those illegal immigrants. And now they’re inconveniencing legitimate, legal, tax-paying Canadians at Canada’s largest international airport so they can take care of illegals. That’s just wrong, wrong wrong. These immigrants are crossing from the United States into Canada at weak border points and getting preferential treatment which is unfair to those who go through proper legal channels to gain landed immigrant status. And furthermore, despite the current political climate in the United States, it is not a hostile country compared to Iraq, Syria or Russia. Legal immigrants are relatively safe and do not require asylum coming from the United States while they undergo proper processing.

The appeal of Canada may lie in our generous welfare system and universal health care. These immigrants will ultimately migrate to cities where they may or may not be able to find jobs, further stressing social welfare systems. University dormitories and sports facilities are being refitted to accommodate them while Canadians foot the bill.

The current approach of welcoming illegals and diverting resources to accommodating them completely disregards and disrespects genuine asylum seekers, people truly deserving of our resources. I’m totally in favour of immigration when done through proper channels. Asylum seekers from truly dangerous countries are welcome; the United States does not qualify. While the illegals are being treated to free meals and housing, legitimate Canadians are sitting for hours on the tarmac at Pearson International Airport because there are no border agents available to service them. Resources that could be going to help legitimate asylum seekers, our indigenous people on remote reserves and underprivileged Canadians are being diverted to aid illegals. Where’s the logic in that?


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Here’s how to win an election


The promises that accompany every election campaign are piling up. The provincial Liberals are promising universal child care and increasing debt/deficit. They’re trying desperately to cover up the great smoldering pile of doo-doo they’ve created over the last few years.  NDP’ers say they’ll take back Ontario Hydro, as if it’s not enough of a joke already in business management case study circles. They’re also promising free drugs and better healthcare (that mean free facelifts?) for everyone. The Conservatives are going to give us the subway and public transit system of our dreams, but with absolutely no fiscal accountability. Just like Trump promised a wall between the United States and Mexico and to reopen the mines in West Virginia, or the Labour Party in U.K. promised Brexit, the political rhetoric and hollow promises are flying.

One thing is guaranteed about election promises. They’re all lies. Bait to lure in gullible voters. Why do politicians keep doing it to us? Worse still, why do we keep falling for it? We’re not stupid. Right-wing Americans fell for it big-time, to their everlasting peril. Britons are now questioning their choices. Canadians are left to cope with the unfortunate shortcomings of Trudeau’s hollow election promises and growing debt/deficits and Ontarians are wondering how in hell we’re going to make a decision among three disastrous parties running for election, four if we factor in the impotent Green Party. It baffles me how political parties can be so phenomenally inept at representing the best interests of the people.

The only blessing in this cesspool is that our election campaigns have a time limit of a few weeks, unlike in the United States where the agony never ends. We should be thankful we live in a democracy where we have free elections but the politicians treat voters like idiots and corporate lobbying makes a joke of the laws they enact. Let’s be clear on one thing: politicians are in it for their own personal interests not in service to the people. After a mere six years sitting part-time on those comfy seats in parliament, members of parliament get full, pork-barrelled pensions for life. Who in real life gets benefits like that? Don’t raise your kids to be doctors; being an MP or MPP is the best gig going. And don’t even get me started on The Senate.

Economic disaster, social disaster or track-record of disaster? Take ‘yer pick.

We’re now getting down to the nitty-gritty in the Ontario election campaign. The personal insults and hollow promises are flying like confetti at a wedding. Whoever makes the most outrageous promises in sucking up to voters will probably win. And don’t forget—all that cash they keep promising to buy our favour with is our hard-earned money that we pay through taxes. Government money is not fairy dust; it’s mine and yours.

Keeping those promises will inevitably be pushed aside by the winning party as “things were worse than we were led to believe” or “the situation has changed so we’ve had to adjust our position”. The rhetoric is so predictable. As a concerned citizen I’m frustrated and angry. I’ll definitely be voting, because, tempting as it is, a protest vote is useless. I’ve made up my mind about which of the incompetents I’ll go with but as a proud Canadian and a conscientious citizen I’m not a happy voter. But who cares? After all, we just pay the bills!


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Got a problem? Get an enemy.


It’s a page right out of The Handbook for Dictators. When you’re in deep doo-doo, find someone else to blame. It’s an effective distraction tactic as old as time itself. When you sleep in and are late for work, blame traffic. Stalin blamed the intelligentsia and packed them off to Siberian labour camps when things didn’t go his way. Hitler wrongly blamed the Jews and other minorities for all Germany’s problems. We know how tragically that turned out. During the Cold War, the United States blamed communism for the world’s ills. That rationale gave them the green light to invade foreign countries and impose their own political agenda on local populations. Failing at school? Blame the teacher (that one never worked particularly well for me). Can’t lose weight? Blame menopause—well, bad example because that one is actually true. The point is, find a scapegoat and push your agenda until your perceived enemies are kneecapped.

Donald Trump has seized on this principle with amazing tenacity. In the bizarro world, he has the Midas touch. Everything he touches turns to disaster. So he blames fake news. He blames Mexico, China and Canada. He blames the NFL, FBI and immigrants. Autocrats need fake enemies. In a further manifestation of this philosophy, Donald Trump has now set his sights on Amazon and in particular their use of the United States Postal Service who handles a large portion of their deliveries.

Someone has to explain this business case to me. I do not have an MBA. In fact I can barely calculate the tip in a restaurant so I’m not exactly the brightest light on the tree. But it seems to me that when a business attracts more paying customers, especially ones with the power of Amazon, the result is usually:

Amazon also creates thousands of jobs.

  • more business, which equals
  • more revenue to grow the business, which equals
  • more jobs created to support the business, which equals
  • more sales revenue, which equals
  • more profits, which equals
  • more taxes paid, which equals
  • more happy people

Except for Donald Trump. Do you suppose his beef with Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive of Amazon has anything to do with the fact Bezos is a known critic of Trump? And this from the guy who said not paying taxes is just “smart business”.

Full disclosure here. I’m a big fan of Amazon. Hardly a week goes by that I don’t have an Amazon box arrive at my door—a book, an item of clothing or a kitchen gadget. I even took Warren Buffet’s advice and bought stock in a business I understand and have some knowledge of or experience with, which means I also own shares in Amazon. They were purchased as a long-term investment and I’m holding on to them. In fact with their market price now low, I’m tempted to buy even more shares because I believe in the business. They’re certainly not perfect corporate citizens but we have to accept progress while remaining cautious in our choices.

Working through the blame theory to its natural conclusion

The basic strategy of blaming others for our shortcomings is perhaps something I should investigate on a personal level. It certainly has advantages. That means the dairy industry’s marketing is responsible for my passion for butter pecan and black jack cherry ice-cream. That’s why I weigh more than I should. Not my fault. Martha Stewart set impossibly high standards for entertaining. That’s why I am incapable of making decent hors d’oeuvres and generally do not like cooking. Not my fault. Five Guys’ french fries? Probably laced with cocaine. Not my fault I’m addicted. Same thing with Tim Horton’s steeped tea and peanut butter cookies. Fake news and not my fault?

Hey—that was easy. Donald Trump is on to something. I’m sure he’s well aware of it and we can expect to see and hear a lot more ‘passing the blame’ as time goes on . . . and on . . . for nearly three more years. That should be all the time I need to convince myself that this approach is not fake news and my failings are not my fault. Will it work? What do you think?

Footnote to Mr. Jeff Bezos: Want to put Mr. Trump in his place? Locate your planned new Amazon distribution centre in Canada! Canada Post would be happy to work with you and your employees would get health care, work in a country that doesn’t worship guns and respects the hard work and contribution of immigrants.