Thursday, April 11, 2024

Trump vs. Biden


Trump mug shot.  He looks quite presidential, doesn't he?  Yeah, right!

Two peas in a pod

On November 5, 2024, the choice will be yours, America.  You will choose between democracy and despotism, freedom and authoritarianism, the rule of law and chaos.  Keep in mind, however, that your choice will affect the whole world.  Keep in mind what happened to Germany in the 1930s.  

The world will be watching, America. because American democracy cannot withstand another Trump presidency.  As Trump's  niece has stated, he is the most dangerous man in the world.  So many Americans are so brainwashed by Fox News and social media that they cannot distinguish between facts and conspiracy theories.  In their blurry eyes, those arrested for their actions on January 6th, 2021 are hostages. They are so blinded that they cannot see the difference between a man who led an insurrection to overthrow American democracy and the imperfect decency of President Joe Biden.  

Donald Trump is not fit to be president and he should be nowhere near the Oval Office.  The future of humanity rests upon the voters of America.

- Joanne

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

With love to Newfoundland and Labrador: The province joined Confederation 75 years ago

I live in Toronto.  As Newfoundlanders and Labradorians like to say, I come from away.   However, I have the greatest regard for the province and its people.  To me, Newfoundlanders are the salt of the earth.  I have only visited the province once, in the summer of 2001.  Due to time constraints, I travelled mostly within the Avalon Peninsula.  However, I was left with a lasting impression, and  I will never forget the friendliness and welcoming attitude of the people. Nor will and forget the beautiful lighthouses and the whale watching,  I hope someday to return and visit some more of the province.

I love the colourful houses in St, John's.  During my visit, I took a a boat ride in St. John's harbour, along with a black Newfoundland retriever.  On the boat, I kissed a cod, tasted some Newfoundland Screech (a local rum), and became an honorary Newfoundlander.  Of course, I toured Memorial University and Signal Hill.  

While I was visiting St. John's, there was an apartment fire in the city.  The community immediately got together and organized a concert of Newfoundland music to raise money for those whose property was damaged and destroyed.  My husband and I attended that concert at Mile One Arena, now known as Mary Brown's Centre.  

During my Newfoundland vacation, I also visited Cape Spear, the most easterly point in North America.  I'll never forget the rugged cliffs and the strong winds.  I also spent time in Terra Nova National Park, Trinity Dungeon Provincial Park near Bona Vistas and Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve.  Cape St. Mary's is a great place to enjoy watching seabirds.  In addition, I went to Ferryland, where the first Lord Baltimore tried to establish a the 17th century.  It is now an excavation site for archaeologists,  Unfortunately, I did not have an opportunity to visit Gros Morne National Park or Labrador.

Newfoundlanders are Canada's premier comedians.  One only has to list names such as Rick Mercer, Mary Walsh, Cathy Jones and Mark Critch.  Over the years, I have enjoyed watching 22 Minutes, and The Rick Mercer Report on the CBC.  I am a fan of Son of a Critch, Mark Critch's delightful ode to coming of age in the 1980s.

In 2001, the people of Gander, Newfoundland, displayed their generous and welcoming spirit to travellers stranded at the Gander Airport due to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  The story has been made into an uplifting musical called Come from Away, which I have seen.

Newfoundland joined Confederation at midnight on March 31, 1949, becoming Canada's tenth province.  Until then, it was a British colony.  Some portion of Newfoundland's  coast was one of the first parts of North America seen by Europeans.  About a thousand years ago, Vikings settled in a seaside outpost in Newfoundland known as L'Anse aux Meadows.  Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to visit L'Anse aux 2001.

In 1497, Italian explorer and navigator Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot)  landed in North America.  The exact location is disputed.  It may have been southern Labrador, the island of Newfoundland or Cape Breton Island.  Nevertheless, Cabot claimed the territory, which he had mistaken for Asia, in the name of Henry VII of England. 

From 1907 to 1949, Newfoundland was a British dominion in eastern North America.  In the 1920s, Newfoundland was in debt.  The Great Depression of the 1930s, exacerbated its financial problems.  In 1934, facing bankruptcy, Newfoundland's leaders decided to suspend responsible government.  They agreed to accept an unelected Commission Government directed by Britain.

During World War II, Newfoundland became an important military strategic base.  Prosperity returned to Newfoundland, due to miliary investment.  In 1946, an elected National Convention was established to consider Newfoundland's future.  There was a lively debate about whether to join Canada or to return to responsible government.  Convention members, especially Joey Smallwood, contended that living standards would improved if Newfoundland became a Canadian province.  The Confederation choice was even encouraged by Britain.

In a June 3, 1948 referendum, the responsible government option garnered 44.6 percent of the vote, while the pro-Confederation side received 41.1 percent and the Commission Government option received 14.3 percent.  Nevertheless, a run-off vote was held on July 22, 1948 between responsible government and Confederation, with Confederation receiving 52.34 percent of the vote and self-government 47.66 percent.  

By 1949, Newfoundland had erased its debts and recorded a surplus.  Joey Smallwood became the new province's first premier and a celebrated Father of Confederation.  Sadly, the province suffered the economic impact of the 1992 moratorium on cod fishing, imposed by the Canadian government.  This was done for the purpose of restoring cod stocks that had been depleted due to overfishing.  In 2015, two reports on cold fishery indicated that stocks my have recovered somewhat.  However, in June of 2018, the federal government felt compelled to reduce the cod quote because stocks had once again fallen after only two years of fair catches.

Thank you Newfoundland and Labrador.  This Torontonian appreciates all you have contributed to Canada.  Congratulations on the 75th anniversary of your entry into Confederation.

- Joanne

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Easter Reflections in Troubled Times

Now let the heavens be joyful,
Let the earth her song begin;
Let the round world keep triumph,
And all that is therein;
Invisible and visible,
Their notes let all things blend,
For Christ the Lord is risen
Our joy that hath no end.

- Saint John of Damascenus, in The Congregational Hymn Book: Psalms and Hymns for Divine Worship (1881)

It is Easter 2024 and humanity is at a crossroads.  The world seems full of atrocities and human suffering, and democracy is under assault.  With Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, war in the Middle East, the threat of climate change, and the possible election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, the world seems engulfed in madness.  More than ever, people of all faiths need to find solace and hope.  

It is disconcerting that so many Evangelical Christians in the United States have lost their way.  Some actually believe that Donald Trump was sent by God to save America.  From what?  To me, this is blasphemy and sacrilege.  Trump is a con man and he is shamelessly hawking "God Bless the USA" Bibles for $60.  The former president faces expensive legal battles, and he is taking advantage of people's faith to raise money.  Not only that, but he is doing so during Holy Week, the most solemn period in the Christian calendar.  Evangelicals who support Trump should be reminded of the Biblical story of how Jesus drove the moneylenders from the temple.  

“It is a bankrupt Christianity that sees a demagogue co-opting our faith and even our holy scriptures for the sake of his own pursuit of power and praise him for it rather than insist that we refuse to allow our sacred faith and scriptures to become a mouthpiece for an empire,” 

- Rev. Benjamin Cremer, American pastor, writer, B.A. in Religion, M.A. om Spiritual Formation, M.A. in Theological Studies.

God is just and merciful, not Donald Trump.  Christians believe that Jesus is the Messiah, not Donald Trump.  Shame on Evangelicals and other so-called Christians who follow Trump as a false god.  There is a need to get back to to basic tenets of Christianity, which are clearly set out by Jesus in two commandments: Love God and love your neighbour as yourself.  I am ecumenical and I believe that ecumenicalism should be extended beyond the unity of Christian churches.   People of all faiths are required to live by the Golden Rule . . .Do unto others . . .  Christians, Jews and Muslims are all children of Abraham.  They all worship the God of Abraham.

People of faith should greatly respect adherents of non-monotheistic religions, such as Hindus, Buddhists and Jains.  They should also respect agnostics and atheists, many who behave in a more Christian fashion than those purporting to be Christians.  The spiritual beliefs of Indigenous peoples should also be greatly respected.  

Here is a Muslim view of respect for other faiths:

As Muslims, we ought to respect all religions in their pristine form as revealed by Allah.  The Quran reiterates the fact that God has blessed every nation by sending prophets and messengers proclaiming the perennial message of Divine Oneness: Worship one and only God and renounce false gods."

- Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and an Islamic Scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario.

I am a Christian, but I am not a fundamentalist.  The Bible is not a history book, and it should not be treated as such.   Neither am a "Christian nationalist."   I don't believe that God favours one nation above all others, or that God favours a particular sports team.  Yes, I think that family is very important.  It is one of the backbones of society.  No, I don't think "anything goes."  I believe in God, but  I don't believe that God is an old man with a white beard and a baritone voice, who happens to speak English.  God is a mystery, and a Supreme Being does not have a gender.  

Yes, there is evil.  How else would one describe Nazi Germany?  The devil, dressed in red and wearing goat horns, is merely a figurative representation of that evil.  I  do not believe in a literal hell of fire and brimstone. I believe that hell is separation from God.  I do not believe in a literal heaven of pearly gates and harps.  I believe that heaven is a spiritual experience that is beyond human comprehension.  Finally, I also believe that no one has all the answers.  Be wary of those who refer to themselves as "true believers."

Happy Easter to all who celebrate.  Peace and joy to believers and non-believers alike, and to the Jewish brethren who will begin celebrating Passover on April 22nd, as well as the Muslim brethren during their holy month of Ramadan.

- Joanne

Monday, March 25, 2024

Why Justice is Blindfolded

Jimmy Kimmel

On Oscar night, Jimmy Kimmel read out a scathing review of his performance as host of the ceremonies.  He then informed the audience that the review came from none other than Donald Trump.  In response, Kimmel quipped< "Isn't it past your jail time?"  Jimmy was exactly right.  In addition to running for president, for which he should never have been allowed to do, Trump faces countless legal challenges and felony charges.  Why would he even have time to attack Jimmy Kimmel?  The answer is that he is so deranged that he has to attack anyone who criticizes him or does not support him.  In his world, you are either a Trumper or a Never Trumper.  Never Trumpers must be attacked and destroyed.  

It's more than past time for Trump to finally face accountability for his words and actions.  If found guilty by a jury, he should go directly to prison.  There should be no Jail Free Card for a sitting president or a former president.  Michael Cohen, Trump's former personal lawyer and "fixer."  He pleaded guilty to eight counts, including campaign-finance violations, tax fraud, and bank fraud.  Cohen claimed he broke campaign-finance laws, at Trump's direction, for the purpose of influencing the 2016 presidential election.  In December of 2018, Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison and a $50,000 fine,  He was also disbarred from practicing law in the state of New York.  In May of 2019, he reported to a federal prison.  In November of  2021, he completed his sentence.

Paul Manafort, a long-time Republican campaign consultant, chaired Donald Trump's presidential campaign from June to August 2016.  In March 2019, Manafort was sentenced to 47 months (almost four months) in prison for defrauding banks and the government, as well as failing to pay taxes on the  millions he earned as a consultant for Ukrainian politicians.  In May of 2020, due to the danger of COVID-19, Manfort was released to home confinement.  On December 23, 2020, he was pardoned by Donald Trump, his good buddy.  

Cohen aul Manafort are convicted felons.  They were sent to prison for crimes they committed in support of  Trump or to enrich themselves.  Yet Trump has managed to delay his day of reckoning.  That has been his grand strategy.  If he delays long enough, he hopes to evade justice through presidential immunity.  What gives hm the right to think he should be treated differently from anyone else?  No one, not a king, president, vice president or prime minister is above the law.  The United States Declaration of Independences states clearly, "All men are created equal."  It does not say that some are more equal than others.  Lady Justice is blindfolded for a good reason.


Traditionally, justice has been depicted as a blindfolded woman holding scales and a sword. The scales represent a fair balance of arguments in a legal case.  The doble-edged sword signifies that judgements can go either way, depending on the evidence and circumstances brought forth by both parties in a dispute.  The blindfold is intended to show that justice is impartial and should be delivered without regard to wealth, power or social status.  In an ideal justice system, impartiality and objectivity are paramount,  Therefore, the American justice system should treat Donald Trump no differently from anyone else. 

In April of 2023, Trump became the first sitting or former president to appear in court to face criminal charges.  He was criminally indicted in a New York investigation into a hush money payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels.  The payment, engineered by Michael Cohen, was made to protect Trump's presidential campaign from further scandal after his disastrous Access Hollywood  interview, in which he bragged about his ability to sexually abuse women.

Donald Trump claims that he has absolute immunity from being charged or jailed, even though he led a violent insurrection against the government of the United States on January 6, 2021.  He continually paints himself as the innocent victim of numerous witch hunts.  He contends that he has done nothing wrong, despite his criminal activities.  The fact is a large number of world leaders have been charged  or imprisoned, gong way back in history, including King Charles I  of England, who went on trial for treason against the state or "levying war against Parliament and the People."  Charles was found guilty and executed in 1649, so let's discuss some world leaders who have been imprisoned for crimes in more recent times.


Ivo Sanader

* In 2020, Ivo Sanader, the former prime minister of Croatia was found guilty of corruption.  He was sentenced to eight years in prison and is currently serving out his sentence.


* On August 1, 2013, Silvio Berlusconi, former prime minister of Italy was convicted of tax fraud.  He received a four-year prison sentence and was prohibited from holding public office for two years.  Due to his age (he was 76), Berlusconi was exempted from direct imprisonment.  He served his sentence by doing unpaid community service.  Berlusconi died on June 12, 2023.

Jacques Chirac

Nicolas Sarkozy

* Two former French presidents were convicted of corruption.  In 2011, Jacques Chirac was convicted of corruption and given a two-year suspended prison sentence.  Chirac died in 2019.  In 2021, another former French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, was convicted of corruption and influence peddling in two separate cases.  He received a sentence of three years in prison, two of them suspended and one in prison.  In May of  2023, Sarkozy lost his appeal against the conviction.  His three-year prison sentence was upheld, with two years suspended and the final year under home confinement with an electronic bracelet rather than in prison.

Moshe Katsav

Ehud Olmert


* In 2011, Moshe Katsav, the former president of Israel, received a seven-year jail sentence for rape and other sexual offences.  Katsav served just over five years of his sentence.  In 2015, former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert was convicted of fraud, breach of trust and tax evasion. The following year, Olmert was sentenced to 27 months in prison.  He served two-thirds of his sentence.  The current Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is on trial for fraud, breach of trust and corruption.  He was indicted in 2019 in cases in which is charged with receiving gifts from wealthy friends and granting regulatory favours for media magnates in return for favourable coverage.

Jacob Zuma
* Former South African president, Jacob Zuma, was the the defendant in an ongoing corruption trial.  Zuma, who was president form 2009 until 2018, when he resigned under pressure  In December 2007, Zuma was chosen African National Congress (ANC)  president.  Later that month, he was recharged with money laundering, racketeering and tax evasion.  Despite many allegations of wrongdoing, which his supporters regarded as politically motivated, Zuma remained popular within his party.  In September of 2008, those charges were dismissed due to a legal technicality.  However, prosecutors vowed  to appeal the ruling, upsetting the ANC.  Weeks before the 2009 South African general election, the corruption charges against Zuma, as well as allegations of political interference, were spotlighted.  Nevertheless, the ANC won the election handily and Zuma became the country's president.

In June of 2021, Zuma was found to be in contempt of the Constitutional Court for refusing to take part in commission hearings.  He was arrested and sentenced to 15 months in jail.  He began serving his sentence in July, but in August underwent surgery for an undisclosed medical issue.  The following  month, he was granted medical parole and was permitted to serve the rest of his sentence from home.

Lee Myung-bak 

Park Geun-hye

* In 2020, former South Korean president Lee Myung-bak was sentenced to 17 years in prison for bribery and embezzlement. In 2022, he was pardoned.  Another former president, Park Geun-hye, the first female to hold the position, was convicted in 2018 of charges related to bribery and coercion.  She received a 15-year prison term, but was pardoned in 2021.  

The conviction and imprisonment of a current or former president is not a novel event outside the United States.  The notion that any president or former president is absolutely immune to criminal prosecution is contrary to the impartiality which Lady Justice must upheld.  No, Donald Trump, you cannot shoot and kill someone on Fifth Avenue with impunity, even if your supporters won't hold it against you.

- Joanne