Monday, November 5, 2018

Midterm Elections: Test of America's character

Tomorrow's U.S. midterm elections will truly be watershed vote.  These historic midterms will be a test of the character and decency of the American people.  Will Americans be governed by fear, anger and hatred, or will they rise above it?  I want to believe that Americans are better than that.  I want to believe that their  exceptional natures will prevail.  Donald's Trump's America is closed to the world.  It is isolated from the rest of humanity.  It is an America where armed guards are placed in schools and places of worship.  It is an America of great inequality, where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.  It is an America where billionaires get tax breaks.

I could go on and on about why I abhor Donald Trump's polices.  I could go on and on about the spineless Republicans who will not put their country above partisan politics, but the issue in this election is not partisan.  It is one of basic decency and civility.  Donald Trump's vile policies must be stopped at the ballot box.  He is encouraging racism and anti-immigrant sentiments.  His attitude toward women is absolutely reprehensible (This is a man who bragged about groping women).  He also refuses to take seriously the threat of climate change.  However, the main reason Trump should be reigned in tomorrow is that he is encouraging and abetting far-right authoritarianism around the world.

If Abraham Lincoln was the Great Emancipator, then Donald Trump is the Great Divider.  He is most at home at his rallies, where he can let loose with his true feelings.  That is the real Trump, not the Trump who pays lip service to unity, decency and civility in his scripted speeches.  No, the real Trump is not the one who reads nice words from a teleprompter.  It is the one who turns around and calls the media the "enemy of the people" and encourages chants such as "lock her up."  It is the one who indulges in juvenile name-calling.

It is almost impossible to change the mind of a hard line Trump supporters.  The man himself once bragged that he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and "not lose any voters."  The Trump fans who attend his rallies, with their red caps, seem to be in a cult-like trance.  It's very disconcerting to watch them.  That is why the voters who make the difference will have to be moderate Republicans and independents.  They will have to be economic conservatives who reject Trumps's hateful immigration policies and what he has done to the party of Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.  They will have to be women of all political persuasions who are appalled by Trump's misogyny and racism, not to mention his dubious business dealings and his relationship with the wealthy, powerful Russians who interfered with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

All I can say is that I hope that most American voters will not fall for Trump's lies or his fear mongering.  So many people in the United States are without health care.  Some many are hampered by pre-existing conditions.  Shouldn't Americans be debating that topic?  Instead Trump has been trying to instill fear in the American people.  He wants them to be afraid of his caravans of "illegal aliens" from Central America.  That's Central America, not another planet.  The last time I checked, Central America was located on Earth and its people were human beings.  They are fleeing the violence in their own countries.

Since I am a Canadian, so I do not have a vote in these misterms.  However, the result will affect the people of my country and around the world.  That's why I'm so concerned.  I hope and pray that tomorrow Americans will reject Trumpism and that this will be the beginning of the end of one of the darkest periods in the history of the United States.  Tomorrow's midterms are indeed a referendum on the presidency of Donald Trump.  America, the world anxiously awaits your verdict.

- Joanne

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Jean Kennedy Smith at 90: The last of a generation

Jean circa 1953

Jean Kennedy Smith is the last surviving child of Rose and Joe Kennedy.  Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald and Joseph Patrick Kennedy married on October 7, 1914.  Jean is the eighth of their nine children and is known for her diplomatic career and her philanthropy on behalf of the disabled.

Joe and Rose on their wedding day in 1914


Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., born July 25, 1915, was the eldest of the Kennedy children.  Joe Jr. died at the on August 12, 1944, while serving as a World War II land-based patrol bomber pilot.  He was killed when his plane exploded over the English Channel during a top secret bombing mission. His body was never found.  He was 29 at the time of his death.

John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy, the second eldest, was born on May 29, 1917.  He became the 35th  President of the United States in 1961 and was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963.  At the time of his assassination, he was 46 years old.

Rose Marie "Rosemary" Kennedy, born September 13, 1918, was the third child and eldest daughter.  She had mental disabilities and behavioural problems.  When she was 23, Rosemary's father arranged for her to have a frontal lobotomy.  It left her incapacitated and she spent the rest of her life in an institution.  She died on January 7, 2005 at the age of 86.

Kathleen Agnes "Kick" Kennedy, born February 20, 1920, was the fourth child and second daughter.  While her father was U.S. Ambassador to the U.K., Kathleen met English politician William Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington (known informally as Billy Harting).  They married on May 6, 1944.  Hartington died in combat in Belgium on September 9, 1944..  Kathleen was killed in a plane crash while flying to the French Riviera on May 13, 1948.  She was 28.

Eunice Mary Kennedy Shriver, born July 10, 1921, was the fifth child. In 1953, she married Sargent Shriver, the U.S. Ambassador to France during the administration of Lyndon Johnson.  Eunice was a pioneer for the rights of people with intellectual disabilities. In 1962, she founded Camp Shriver on her farm in Maryland.  It evolved into the Special Olympics in 1968.  She died on August 11, 2009 at the age of 88, just two weeks before Ted's passing.

Patricia Helen  "Pat" Kennedy, born May 6, 1924, was the sixth child and fourth daughter.  Pat was an advocate for the literary arts. In 1954, she married English actor Peter Lawford with whom she had four children (They divorced in 1966).  Pat died on September 17, 2006 at the age of 82.

Robert Francis "Bobby" Kennedy, the seventh child, was born on November 20, 1925.  In June of 1968, Senator Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles after winning the Democratic primary there.  He was 42 at the time of his death.

Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy, born February 22, 1932, was the youngest of the fabled family.  Senator Kennedy died of a brain tumour on August 25, 2009   He was 77 years old.


Jean is the only one of the nine Kennedy siblings to have reached the age of 90.  She was born Jean Ann Kennedy in Boston, Massachusetts on February 20, 1928 (She shares the same birthday with her elder sister Katleen, although they were born eight years apart).  Jean was educated at Manhattanville College (then a Sacred Heart school) in Purchase, New York.  It was there that she became friends with Ethel Skakel, who married her brother 1950, and Joan Bennett, who married Ted in 1958.

Jean became heavily involved in her brother Jack's political career.  She worked tirelessly in JFK's 1948 Congressional campaign, his 1952 Senate campaign and his 1960 presidential campaign.  She also supported Bobby's career.  In 1968, she was at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles when he was assassinated.

On May 19, 1956, Jean married Stephen Edward Smith.  The marriage took place in a small chapel of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City.  In a 2017 interview with Dotson Rader for Parade magazine, Jean stated that she met her husband in New York City.  He was a student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., but he had a home in Brooklyn.  When asked if it was love at first sight, Jean replied, "It was on my part.  It was maybe slower on his.  He was very attractive and fun.  He got along with my brothers, so we had a great time."

The couple had two biological sons.  Stephen Edward Smith Jr. was born on June 28, 1957.  Their second son, William Kennedy Smith, was born on September 4, 1960.  They also adopted two daughters: Amanda Mary Smith (born April 30, 1967) and Kym Maria Smith (born November 29, 1972).  Stephen Smith Jr. is an attorney and William Kennedy Smith is a physician whose work involves the rehabilitation of landmine victims.

Wedding photo of Jean Kennedy and Stephen Smith

In 1960, Stephen Smith became the political strategist and finance chairman for the successful presidential campaign of his brother-in-law, John F. Kennedy.  He was also Robert Kennedy's campaign manager during his 1968 presidential run.

Stephen Smith in 1963

In 1974, Jean founded Very Special Arts (now known as VISA), an international organization on arts and disabilities.  VISA is a non-profit organization with the purpose of advocating for the participation for the disabled in the arts.  It is affiliated with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing, which is headquartered in Washington, D.C.  Jean has travel worldwide in support of VISA.

In 1993, U.S. President Bill Clinton appointed Jean as the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland.  She held that post during the historic process in Northern Ireland, known as the Good Friday Agreement.  In 1994, Jean advocated for granting of a United States visa to Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams.  She was criticized for this, although the Kennedy family claimed this influenced the IRA's decision to declare a ceasefire.  Ted Kennedy wrote in this memoir, True Compass, that "Jean was convinced that Adams no longer believed that continuing the armed struggle was the way to achieve the IRA's objective of a united Ireland."

In September of 1998, seven months after the Good Friday Agreement, Jean retired as U.S. Ambassador to Ireland.


* The patriarch of the family, Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., suffered a stroke in December of 1961.  He died at home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts on November 18, 1969 at the age of 81.  His wife, Rose, passed away on January 22, 1995, also at Hyannis Port.  Rose lived until the age of 104.

* In 1991, Jean's son, William Kennedy Smith, became the defendant in a well-publicized rape trial.  He was charged with sexual assault and his accuser was Patricia Bowman, a woman he met while at a bar in Palm Beach, Florida with his uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy and his cousin Patrick J. Kennedy.  Smith was acquitted of all charges.

Dr. William Kennedy Smith

* In 1998, Irish President Mary McAleese conferred honorary citizenship to Jean in recognition for her service to the Republic of Ireland.

* Jean's husband, Stephen Smith, died of lung cancer on August 19, 1990.  He passed away at home in Manhattan at the age of 63.

* On February 15, 2011, Jean received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honour, from President Barack Obama.for her work with VISA and the disabled.

*  In October of 2016, Jean Kennedy Smith published a memoir about her life as a member of the Kennedy family.  It is titled The Nine of Us: Growing Up Kennedy

* Jean Kennedy Smith lives in a stylish duplex on Manhattan's East Side.

Jean Kennedy Smith

-  Joanne

Monday, October 22, 2018

12 Features of a Neighbour's House That Can Devalue Your Home

The following infographic describes 12 features of  a neghbour's house that can devalue your home.  It provides a list of maintenance issues, the percentage of their effect on the value of your home and the effect of their value on the average UK home. (Note: This infographic was issued by a British company and its financial statistics are in British pounds, as are its other statistical information.).  It also features graphics on the five most costly features of a neighbour's house and reasons why you have difficulty selling your home.

I hope you find this infographic informative and useful.  Please keep in mind that it contains facts and tips that are relevant to homeowners everywhere, not just UK residents.

- Joanne

-130K Neighbours by Powertools2U.

An Open Letter to John Tory, Mayor of Toronto #4

This is is the fourth and final installment in a series of open letters to Mayor John Tory regarding the serious issues facing the city of this fall's municipal election.  The election will be held on Monday, October 22, 2018.

Dear Mayor Tory,

Today is voting day.  It marks the end of a very lacklustre and confusing municipal election in Toronto.  Sadly, Premier Doug Ford marred the election by his uncalled-for interference.  He shouldn't have cut the number of councillors so close to election day.  His actions threw many people for a loop and confused many voters.  I wish you had been more passionate in your opposition to Ford's move.  I'm not saying you should have screamed and shouted.  I doubt that would have changed Ford's mind.  I'm just saying that you should have been more forceful in standing up to his bullying tactics. 

Mr. Mayor, you have a commanding lead in the polls.  You are expected to win handily over your closest rival, Jennifer Keesmaat, Toronto's former chief planner.  According to a Forum Research Poll taken on October 9th, you have 56 per cent support.  Keesmaat has 29 per cent and other candidates have 15 per cent.  I must say, I was disappointed that you declined to have a one-on-one debate with Keesmaat.  Obviously, as the front runner, you were playing it safe.  Yet, I can't help but feel that voters were deprived of the opportunity to see the two of you face each other.  At any rate, she kept you on your toes a bit.  The campaign was sleepy enough, but without Keesmaat, it would have been a real snoozefest.  North America's fourth largest city deserves much more than that.

One of the reasons you were elected four years ago was that Torontonians were sick and tired of the circus surrounding the late Rob Ford.  Voters wanted a mayor who was dignified and who would not embarrass them.  This time, you are not campaigning to replace Rob Ford.  If you are re-elected, as expected, you will have another four years to guide Toronto in the right direction and to produce some results more quickly and efficiently.  This is a great city, but there is far to much homelessness and poverty.  More affordable housing and a downtown relief line arre urgently needed.  If voters reward you with four more years as mayor, I hope you deliver - for Toronto's sake.



Tuesday, October 9, 2018

2018 World Series Quiz

Major League Baseball's postseason has begun and we are on our way to the October Classic.  Here is a quiz to test your knowledge of the World Series.  


1.  Which player has won the most World Series rings?

A.  Mickey Mantle

B.  Joe DiMaggio

C.  Yogi Berra

D.  Babe Ruth

E.  Lou Gehrig

2.  How many has Tommy Lasorda managed the Los Angeles Dodgers to victory in a World Series?

Tommy Lasorda
A.  Twice

B.  Never

C.  Once

D.  Three times

E.  Four times

3.  What Los Angeles Dodger pitcher recorded 29 strikeouts in the 1965 World Series between the Dodgers and the Minnesota Twins.

A.  Wally Bunker

B.  Don Drysdale

C.  Claude Osteen

D.  Sandy Koufax

E.  Mudcat Grant

4.  To date the New York Yankees have won the most World Series with 27 victories.  Which team has won the second most World Series?

A.  Boston Red Sox

B.  San Francisco Giants (previously the New York Giants)

C.  St. Louis Cardinals

D.  Los Angeles Dodgers (previously the Brooklyn Dodgers)

E.  Pittsburgh Pirates

5. Which of these teams has never won a World Series?

A.  Seattle Mariners

B.  San Diego Padres

C.  Washington Nationals

D.  Milwaukee Brewers

E.  All of the Above

6,  Which pitcher has thrown the only perfect game in World Series history?

A.  Whitey Ford

B.  Don Larsen

C.  Roy Halladay

D.  Cy Young

E.  Tom Seaver

7.  Who hit the first pinch-hit home run in a World Series?

A.  Joe DiMaggio

B.  Mickey Mantle

C.  Yogi Berra

D.  Stan Musial

E.  Bobby Thomson

8. When the Pittsburgh Pirates won the World Series in 1979, what was their theme song?

A.  We Will Rock You (Queen)

B.  We Are Family (Sister Sledge)

C.  Get Down Tonight (K.C. & The Sunshine Band)

D/  Takin' Care of Business (Bachman-Turner Overdrive)

E.  Celebration (Kool & The Gang)

9.  In 1990, the Oakland Athletics were heavily favoured to win the World Series.  The defending champion A;s won 103 games to finish atop the American League West division.  Yet, they were defeated soundly in a four-game sweep.  What team defeated Oakland in the 1990 World Series?

A.  Cincinnati Reds

B.  New York Mets

C.  St. Louis Cardinals

D.  Montreal Expos

E.  Philadelphia Phillies

10.  Who is the first Black manager to lead his team to a World Series victory?

A.  Dusty Baker

B.  Frank Robinson

C.  Ron Washingon

D.  Cito Gaston

E.  Hal McRae

11.  Which manager(s) has led his team to a World Series championship the most times?  (Note: the ones with the slash between them have won the same number of times).

A.  Sparky Anderson/Miller Huggins

B.  Joe Torre/Walter Alston

C.  Connie Mack

D.  Tony La Russa/John McGraw/Bruce Boschy

E.  Joe McCarthy/Casey Stengel


1. C

Yogi Berra
Yogi Berra won 10 World Series rings during his years with the New York Yankees from 1946 to 1963. Joltin' Joe DiMaggio earned 9 World Series rings.  Catcher Bill Dickey was on the roster of 8 World Series victors, as was Phil Rizzuto, Frankie Crosetti and Lou Gehrig.  Mickey Mantle played on 7 championship teams, as did Babe Ruth.

2.  A

Tommy Lasorda managed the Los Angeles Dodgers to two World Series championships.  Under Lasorda's stewardship, the Dodgers won the World Series in 1981, defeating the New York Yankees four games to two.  They won again in 1988, defeating the Oakland Athletics four games to one.

3.  D

Sandy Koufax
Left-handed pitcher Sandy Koufax recorded 29 strikeouts in the 1965 World Series.  Koufax, who is Jewish, did not pitch in Game One of the Series because it fell on Yom Kippur.  After losing Game Two, he pitched a four-hitter in Game Five and a three-hitter in Game Seven.  He finished with a remarkable 0.38 ERA.and was chosen World Series MVP that year.

4. C

To date, the St. Louis Cardinals have won the second most World Series with 11 victories.  The Boston Red Sox have won 8 championships - 1903, 1912, 1915, 1916, 1918, 2004, 2007 and 2013, The New York Giants have won five World Series, and the San Francisco Giants have won three times since the team began playing in California at the beginning of the 1958 season.  That's a combined total of 8 World Series wins.  The Brooklyn Dodgers won the World Series once(1955).  Since playing their first season in L.A. in 1958, the Dodgers have won five World Series - 1959, 1963, 1965 1981 and 1988. That's a total of six World Series championships.  The Pittsburgh Pirates have also won five World Series - 1909, 1925, 1960, 1971 and 1979.

5. E

All of the above.  None of the teams listed have ever won the World Series.  Milwaukee Brewers franchise began in 1969, as did the San Diego Padres and the Washington Nationals.  The Seattle Mariners franchise in 1977.

6. B


On October 8, 1956, Don Larsen pitched a perfect game for the New York Yankees in Game Five of the World Series.  Larsen needed just 97 pitches to complete the game and the Yanks won the game by a score of 2-0  and went on to win the World Series over the Brooklyn Dodgers four games to three.  Larsen's perfect game was the only no-hitter of any kind ever pitched in postseason play until Roy Halladay threw a no-hitter for the Philadelphia Phillies on October 6, 2010 in Game One of the National League Division Series against the Cincinnati Reds. (Halladay's only flaw was a fifth inning full-count walk.  Larsen's perfect game remains the only perfect game in World Series history.

7.  C

Yogi Berra became the first player to hit a pinch-hit home run in the World Series in Game Three of the 1947 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Yogi hit the home run off Dodgers' pitcher Ralph Branca.  It is interesting to note that in a 1951 National League playoff, Branca allowed a walk-off home run to Bobby Thomson of the New York Giants.  That home run was nicknamed the "Shot Heard 'Rond the World" and the Giants won the NL pennant.  They were defeated by the New York Yankees in the 1951 World Series.

8.  B

Sister Sledge

When the Pittsburgh Pirates won the World Series in 1979, the team's theme song was We Are Family by Sister Sledge.  That year, the Pirates defeated their American League opponents, the Baltimore Orioles four games to three.

9.  A

The Cincinnati Reds of the National League upset the heavily-favoured Oakland A' in the 1990 World Series. 

10.  D

Cito Gaston
Cito Gaston managed the Toronto Blue Jays to back-to-back World Series championships in 1993 and 1994.  Gaston is the first Black to manage a World Series winner.  To date, he is the only one who has accomplished this. Venezuela native Ozzie Guillen is the only other minority manager and the only Lation-American skipper to won a World Series (Chicago White Sox in 2015).  If the Boston Red Sox or the Los Angeles Dodgers should win the Fall Classic this year, another minority manager will be added to the list.  Alex Cora of the Red Sox.was born in Caguas, Puerto Rico.  Dave Rogers of the Dodgers was born in Japan to an Asian mother and a Black father.

Cito Gaston's Blue Jays defeated the Atlanta Braves in 1992 and the Philadelphia Phillies in 1993.  The 1992 World Series marked the first time the October Classic was played outside of the United States and the fist time it was won by a team not based in the U.S.

11.  E

Casey Stengel

It's a tie between Joe McCarthy and Casey Stengel.  Both managed seven World Series championship teams.  Connie Mack managed five winners.  Joe Torre and Walter Alston managed four.  Sparky Anderson, Miller Huggins, Bruece Bochy, Tony La Russa and John McGraw managed three.

- Joanne