Monday, May 30, 2011

The Mysterious Death of Christopher Marlowe: Murder in Elizabethan England?

MONDAY, MARCH 30, 2011

Are you fascinated by conspiracy theories?  Well, I have a dandy for you today.  Forget about JFK, Lee Harvey Oswald and the grassy knoll for a while.  Travel back in time with me to 16th century England, to an era when Queen Elizabeth I reigned supreme and men wore tights, ruffled collars and pointy beards.  On this day, 418 years ago, one of the great playwrights and poets of the Elizabethan age was viciously killed during an altercation at a tavern.  His name was Christopher Marlowe.

Christopher Marlowe was born in Canterbury, England in 1564, to John Marlowe, a shoemaker, and his wife, Catherine.  He and William Shakespeare.were born only months apart.  Although Marlowe's exact birthdate remains undetermined, it is  known that he was baptized on February 26, 1564.  Shakespeare was born in late April of that same year. 

Marlowe's most famous work is a play titled The Tragicall History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus. Commonly referred to as Doctor Faustus, the play is based on the tale of a man who makes a pact with the devil and sells his soul in return for power and knowledge.  He is also well known as the author of the poem "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" which begins with the oft-quoted line "Come live with me and be my love."

In early May of 1593, postings appeared around London threatening Protestants from France and the Netherlands who had come to the city.  One of these, the "Dutch Church Libel," contained a reference to one of Marlowe's plays.  It was signed, "Tamburlaine."  On May 11, the Privy Council called for the arrest of those responsible for the libels.  The next day, Marlowe's colleague and fellow playwright, Thomas Kyd,, was arrested and imprisoned.  His lodgings were searched and a fragment of a heretical tract was discovered that rejected the deity of Jesus Christ.

Thomas Kyd denied that the document belonged to him.  He stated, probably under torture, that Marlowe was the author of the heretical writings.  Kyd, the author of The Spanish Tragedy, first became acquainted with Marlowe around 1591.  The two writers were under the service of the same patron, an identified nobleman.  For a while, Kyd and Marlowe shared the same lodgings. 

Thomas Kidd

Thomas Kyd apparently never fully recovered from the suffering he had endured. Kyd was eventually released but was not accepted back into the service of his patron.  He died at 35 years of age in 1594. At the time of his death, he was utterly destitute. His mother legally repudiated the management of her son's estate, most likely because it was debt-ridden.

On May 18, 1593, a warrant was issued for Christopher Marlowe's arrest, probably on allegations of blasphemy. Marlowe was reputed to have Catholic sympathies. He was also suspected of being an atheist, a "heresy" that was considered a serious transgression in Elizabethan England.

On May 20, 1593, Christopher Marlowe attempted to present himself before the Privy Council.  He was told that they were not meeting that day.  He was released on bail and ordered to report to the court once a day until they did meet.  Marlowe apparently followed these instructions, but the Privy Council never had the opportunity to investigate the allegations against Marlowe.  On May 30, ten days after his initial attempt to go before the court for questioning, Christopher Marlowe was fatally stabbed by a man named Ingram Frizer. 

Ingram Frizer was a rather unsavoury English businessman.  He was a commodity broker, a speculator who bought and sold property.  He also served as a kind of business agent for Marlowe's patron, Thomas Walsingham.  Frizer was not always honest in his business dealings.  According to Charles Nicholl, in his book The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe (1993), Frizer teamed up with a man named Nicholas Skeres in a scheme to defraud a certain Drew Woodleff of his inheritance.  It is interesting to note that Skeres was present at Marlowe's killing.

Marlowe's death occurred at the home of  Eleanor Bull, a respectable widow whose great-niece, Blanche Parry, was a  companion of Queen Elizabeth I.  Eleanor ran a rooming house located on Deptford Strand, which was in Kent, but is now within London..  Her establishment was probably more of hotel in which meals were served than a public tavern.  It was frequented by dockyard supervisors and inspectors, various merchants and exporters of fine goods

On May 30, 1593,  the 29-year-old Marlowe spent most of the day at Eleanor Bull's establishment with three companions - Ingram Frizer, Nicholas Skeres and Robert Poley. After dinner, a quarrel ensued over the bill for food and drink.  According to witnesses, Marlowe pulled out a dagger and wounded Frizer.  In the fight that followed, Fitzer seized the same dagger and stabbed Marlowe over the right eye, mortally wounding the young playwright.

On, June 1, 1593, am inquest was held into Marlowe's death by William Danby, the Coroner of the Queen's Household.  A 16-man jury determined that Ingram Frizer had acted in self-defence.  In his report, the Coroner concluded that "Ingram Frizer could in  no way flee" the attack on his life by Marlowe and that he was left with no choice but to kill him.  "And so it occurred in that affray that the said Ingram, in defence of his life . . . gave the aforesaid Christopher then and there a mortal wound above his right eye."  On June 28, 1593, less than a month after the inquest was held, the Queen granted Ingram Frizer a formal pardon. 

This information wa uncovered in 1925 when a scholar named Leslie Hotson came upon the Coroner's report into the Marlowe death in the Public Records. In the course of his investigation, Hotson discovered the document containing the pardon given to Frizer.  To read the words of the pardon, click on the link below.

Information has surfaced in recent years, however, which raises doubts as to whether Marlowe's demise was merely the result of a drunken brawl. Was the great author deliberately provoked into the argument leading to his death?  A biographer and scholar named Park Honan has unearthed a document revealing that after receiving his royal pardon, Frizer was later gifted with a a substantial amount of property.  One has to wonder if this was payment for his part in the death of Christopher Marlowe.

Pofessor Honan, of the School of English at the University of Leeds, has cast suspicion on Marlowe's patron, Thomas Walsingham, in the killing of the poet.  Honan has pointed out that as a suspected atheist, any association with Marlowe would threaten Walsingham's standing at the royal court.  Marlowe was a detriment to his ambitions and Walsingham had reason to want to rid him from his life. 

In 2004, Honan made the following statement on the climate of the times in Marlowe's England.  He said, "Early in the year, Parliament had ensured that heresy was akin to treason.  Dissidents were hanged.  The royal court was unlikely to reward any sponsor of heretics.  How could the law tolerate atheism or the Queen continue to favour Walsingham as the patron of a heretic if, in law, all heresy was treasonous?  As a patron of a so-called atheist, Walsingham risked damaging his reputation."

It remains uncertain whether the stabbing of Christopher Marlowe was connected to his arrest.  There is also a theory that Marlowe was intentionally provoked in order to prevent him from appearing before the Privy Council.  Had he been brought before the Privy Council, he might have implicated some very prominent men, including Sir Walter Raleigh.  Raleigh, a friend of Marlowe,  was also suspect of being an atheist.  There were rumours that he and Marlowe had scholarly conversations on the subject.

Espionage is also linked to the death of Christopher Marlowe.  Thomas Walsingham, Marlowe's patron, had contacts in the Secret Service.  His cousin, the late Sir Francis Walsingham had been Principal Secretary to Queen Elizabeth I from 1573 until his death in 1590.  Sir Francis was known as the Queen's "spymaster" and has been recognized as one of the earliest practitioners of modern intelligence methods for both foreign espionage and domestic security. 

It is interesting to note that Nicholas Skeres and Robert Poley, Marlowe's dinner companions on the day of his death, were associated with Walsingham's intelligence operation.  Robert Poley, in fact, was a senior spy who had been used often as a messenger of secret documents to Scotland and the Low Countries.  He later became the operational chief of a spy network in the Low Countries.

Christopher Marlowe was secretly buried in an unmarked grave in the churchyard of St. Nicholas, Deptford.  Many years later, a  plaque was placed at the site.  Ingram Frizer, the man who took Marlowe's life, died in August of 1627, over 33 years after the tragedy at Eleanor Bull's house. 

EDITOR'S NOTE (November 14, 2016): Gary Taylor, a Distinguished Research Professor at Florida State University, and his team of New Oxford Shakespeare researchers have decided that Christopher Marlowe should receive credit in the publication's latest edition for co-writing William Sharkespeare's Henry VI plays (written c. 1591).  This is a historic decision because it marks the first time Marlowe has been officially designated as co-writer of the three plays.

Taylor, cites as proof, new research techniques, which he calls "Big Data,"  "Big Data" detected the unitque characterterics of Marlowe's writing in Shakespeare's Henry VI, parts one, two and three.

- Joanne

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Dionne Quintuplets: The Triumph and Tragedy of Canada's Famous Babies

 SATURDAY, MAY 28, 2011

At the height of the Great Depression, five identical baby girls were born on May 28, 1934 near the village of Corbeil, just outside of Callander, Ontario.  They were born prematurely in a farmhouse  to Oliva and Elzire Dionne.  Their birth, 77 years ago today, delighted Depression-weary Canadians who were eager for some happy news.  It also attracted world-wide attention because there had been only two previous cases on record.  The Dionne babies were the first known quintuplets in the world to to survive past infancy.  The girls were, in order of birth, Yvonne, Annette, Cecile. Emilie and Marie.

Although the Dionne story captivated Canadians, many controversies arose regarding the upbringing and welfare of the children.  Just days after their birth, when it was uncertain whether they would live, Oliva Dionne, their father, signed a contract to exhibit them at the Chicago Century of Progess Exposition.  He did this without consulting with his wife.

Fearing that the babies would be privately exploited, the Ontario government intervened removed them from their dirt-poor Franco-Ontarian parents.  After just four months with their family, the girls were made wards of the province under the Dionne Quintuplets' Guardianship Act of 1935.  They were placed in a specially built hospital under the care of Dr. Allan Roy Dafoe, the obstetrician who delivered them.  Oliva Dionne, fought a nine-year battle to regain custody of his daughters.

Ontario Premier Mitch Hepburn with the Dionne quintuplets

Ironically, it was the government and those around them who brazenly exploited the Dionne Quintuplets for profit.  Between 1934 and 1943, the girls were put on display at a theme park called "Quintland," located between North Bay and Callander, Ontario.  Three million people visited Quintland to watch the girls play befind a one-way screen.  Oliva Dionne ran a souvenir shop and concession store opposite the nursery.

The quintuplets became Canada's most popular tourist attraction of the 1930s, surpassing the revenue produced by visitors to Niagara Falls.  Many Hollywood stars, including Clark Gable and James Stewart and Bette Davis, visited the Dionnes at Quintland.  Famed pilot Amelia Earhart went there just just weeks before her death in 1937.

Through no choice of their own, the Dionne Quintuplets found themselves at the centre of a circus.  Their lives were turned into a freak show and they were, according to the the Canadian Encyclopedia, a $500 million asset for the province of Ontario.  The sisters made numerous endorsements for such products as Quaker Oats, Karo Corn Soup, Palmolive Soup and Colgate Dental Cream.  Their commercial endorsements built them a trust fund of nearly $1 million and Hollywood fictionalized the Dionne story in three films.

Dr. Dafoe, who grew wealthy on the Dionne's product endorsements, died on June 2, 1943 at the age of 60 from pneumonia and complications from cancer.  Shortly after his death, in November of 1943, the Dionne parents won back custody of the five girls and the family moved into a big home within walking distance from Quintland.  The reunion proved to be unsuccessful in the long run.  According to accounts by the surviving sisters, the girls were not treated as individuals, but as a unit.  They were strictly disciplined and punished.

The quintuplets left the family home when they turned 18 and eventually moved to Montreal.  Emilie, an epileptic, entered a convent.  Annette, Cecile and Marie all had failed marriages and Yvonne remained single.  Emilie died on August 6, 1954 of accidental suffocation during an epileptic seizure at her convent.  She was only 20 years old.  Marie died on February 27, 1970 in her Montreal apartment of an apparent blood clot of the brain.  She was 35 years old at the time of her death.  Yvonne died on June 23, 2001 of cancer at age 67.

Oliva Dionne passed away in 1979.  His wife Elzire died in 1986.  In 1995, the three surviving quints alleged that Oliva had sexually abused his daughters during their teenage years when they were no longer under the influence of the domineering Dr. Dafoe.  The explosive allegations appeared in a book written by Jean Yves Soucy with Annette, Cecile and Yvonne.  Originally published in French, the English language version came out in 1996.  It is titled Family Secrets.  When interviewed by Radio-Canada in Montreal, the sisters were asked why they remained silent about the abuse for so long.  Annette replied that "We've come to a point where we had to liberate ourselves from the past." Cecile declared, "It's a long time, but that's normal for something so deep."

In 1998, Yvonne, Annette and Cecile, living together in the Montreal suburb of Saint Bruno-de-Montarville, reached a financial settlement with the government of Ontario over the province's exploitation of them during their childhood. They received $4 million in compensation for the nine years they were put on display at Quintland.

There are now only two surviving Dionne quintuplets, Annette and Cecile, and they celebrate their 77th birthday today.  Happy birthday, Annette and Cecile!

Some interesting facts about the Dionne quintuplets:

* Four of the Dionne quints were right-handed.  Emilie was left-handed.

* Dr. Dafoe is buried at Park Lawn Cemetery in Toronto.

* It was not until September of 1987 that another set of quintuplets (two boys and and three girls) was born in Canada.

* Oliva and Elzire Dionne already had five children when the quintuplets were born.  The other children were named Ernest (1926-1995), Rose Marie (1928-1995), Therese (born 1929), Daniel (1932-1995), Pauline (born 1933).  A son, Leo (born 1930), died of pneumonia soon after his birth.

* Oliva and Elzire had three more children after the quintuplets.  They were Oliva Jr. (born 1936), Victor (1938-2007) and Claude (born 1946).

EDITOR'S UPDATE (November 14, 2016):  On October 23, 2016, a story by Marian Scott appeared in the Montreal Gazette about the two remaining Dionne quintuplets, Cecile and Annette. The sisters are 82 years old now.  After their 1998 $4 million settlement with the Ontario government, Cecile is still struggling.  She resides in "a shabby seniors' home in Montreal North, as wards of the state." Accordig to the Gazette arrticle, she lives on a governmet pension of $1,443 a moth.  Her sister Annette is faring considerably better financially.  She lives independently in "a pleasant condo in South Shore-St Bruno.  Annette, however, is unable to look after Cecile, who cannot live independely because of serious health problems, Annette does pay for Cecile's extras, such as haircuts and a refrigerator for her room.

Carlo Tarini, a public relations consultant involved in negotiating the Dionnes' settlement, is quoted in the Gazette story as saying, "How incredibly tragic this is."  The three surviving sisters at the time were reported to have received $1 million each, with the fourth $1 million alotted to Marie Dionne, who did in 1970..  However, Tarini stated that only $75,000 remained after lawyers and pulic relations consultants were paid.

After the 1998 settlement, Cecile's son, Bertrand Langlois purcheased a duplex in the Hochelaga-Maison-Maisonneurve area and he and his mother lived there.  Langlois sold the property for $570,000 in 2006 and placed his mother in an expensive senior's residence on Sherbrooke St. E. Around four years ago, the payments from the bank for the monthly fees ceased.  Cecile told the Montreal Gazette that she has tried to contact her son, but has been unable to do so.  The Gazette was unable to locate Langlois either.

- Joanne

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Judy Lewis: The Not-So-Secret Daughter of Loretta Young and Clark Gable


Another schoolmate of mine at Marymount was Judy Lewis. Her mother, Loretta Young, was my godmother, and Judy was Loretta’s adopted daughter. But all of our mothers knew the truth. Judy wasn’t really adopted – she was the illegitimate child from an affair that Loretta had with Clark Cable. The women would always whisper about Judy’s “Clark Gable ears,” but all you had to do was look at her to see her strong resemblance to her gorgeous mother. And she had the same button nose as her cousin, Gretchen, who was also at our school. All the gossiping about her – I don’t know how Judy stood it.

- Marlo Thomas
From Growing up Laughing: My Story and the Story of Funny

Judy Lewis

Judy Lewis is a former television actress, producer, author and physiotherapist.  She was born on November 6, 1935 and her original name was Judy Young.  She is the daughter of two great film stars, Loretta Young and Clark Gable.

Judy’s mother, Loretta, concealed her pregnancy in order to protect her film career and that of Clark Gable’s. In the Hollywood of the 1930s, every star`s contract contained a morals clause. Any suspicion of an affair, never mind a child born out of wedlock, would have resulted in cancelled contracts and ruined careers for the two actors. Loretta was 22 years old at the time, single and devoutly Catholic. Gable, 34, was married to socialite Ria Langham, the second of his five wives. He remained married to Langham until their divorce in 1939.

In early 1935, Loretta had been eagerly anticipating a rest from her hectic schedule of filming for Twentieth Century Fox. It was not to be. When studio head Darryl Zanuck called to say that he had committed her to star opposite Clark Gable in Call of the Wild, she was forced to cancel a planned vacation in Europe.

The screen adaptation of Jack London’s classic novel was to be filmed on location in Bellingham, Washington and Judy met Clark for the first time on the train to Bellingham. She was aware of his reputation with women and the propensity of his leading ladies for falling in love with him. Little did she realize that it would happen to her!

Gable and Young

The location filming was expected to last for ten days. Due to severe winter storms and high winds, work was continually delayed. Ten days stretched into weeks and there was gossip about a torrid romance between Loretta Young and Clark Gable. The crew finally gave up on the location shooting and returned home to finish filming the movie the studio. Soon after the picture was completed, Gable left his wife and moved into a hotel. He and Loretta were not seen together and the gossip died down.

When Loretta discovered she was pregnant, she was so afraid of scandal that she went into seclusion. After travelling to Europe for a short time, she returned quietly to Hollywood and went to a small house that she owned in Venice, California to give birth. After Judy was born, she placed her in an orphanage for 18 months prior to retrieving her through “adoption.”

On July 31, 1940, when Judy was four years old, Loretta Young married radio producer Tom Lewis at the chapel of St. Paul’s Church in Westwood, California. Lewis never adopted Judy although she took his last name. The couple had two sons, Peter Lewis of the San Francisco rock band Moby Grape, and Christopher Lewis, a film director. In the 1960s, they divorced acrimoniously. Lewis died in May of 1988.

It was very difficult to disguise Judy’s true parentage. The child resembled her mother and she had her father’s big ears. Loretta attempted to hide her daughter’s ears under bonnets and hats. As a seven-year-old, Judy underwent cosmetic surgery to alter her telltale ears. People still noticed and they gossiped.  Everyone seemed to know the truth but Judy herself.  Jack Haley Jr., a friend from Judy's teenage years, said, "Our whole group knew who her parents were - and we knew she did not know.  But we thought her mother would tell her."

At the age of 15, Judy came face-to-face with her famous father for the first and only time. She arrived home from school one day to find Clark Gable in her living room. Unaware that he was her biological father, Judy conversed with him about her studies and her friends. Gable kissed her on the forehead before leaving and father and daughter never saw each other again.

In 1953, Judy graduated from Marymount High School, a Catholic, independent college preparatory school for girls in L.A. She eventually moved to New York to pursue an acting career. She appeared on Broadway and then later became a regular performer on soap operas such as The Secret Storm, Days of Our Lives and General Hospital. Judy worked behind the scenes too. She produced the daytime soap Texas and was a script writer for Search for Tomorrow. In 1985, she shared a Writers Guild of America award for several episodes of the latter.

From the late 1950s until 1977, Judy made guest appearances on prime time television series. She appeared in episodes of such series as 77 Sunset Strip, The F.B.I., The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Perry Mason, The Streets of San Francisco and One Day at a Time.

When Judy was 17, she wanted to marry a man named Russell Hughes. Her family strongly disapproved of Hughes and Judy was sent to school in New York for a year. When she returned home, she expected to marry Hughes. Due to family opposition, it never happened. Instead, on June 21, 1958, Judy married television producer/director Joseph L. Tinney. The couple had a daughter named Maria who was born on November 16, 1959, exactly one year before the death of her grandfather, Clark Gable. Judy tried to have a second child but after much difficulty conceiving, she miscarried in 1962.

Although the rest of Hollywood seemed to be in on the “secret,” Judy Lewis did not learn the truth about her real parentage until two weeks before her wedding to Joe Tinney. Judy was 23 years old at the time and had always believed that her mother had adopted her when she was 18 months old. Joe told her that Clark Gable was her father, but Judy refused to believe it “until I heard it from my mother’s mouth.” On the advice of a priest, however, Judy did not confront Loretta immediately. Incredibly, it was not until she was in her 30s that Judy finally questioned her mother and her mother admitted the truth to her.

In the early 1970s, Judy Lewis and Joe Tinney divorced. After the divorce, Judy moved back and forth between New York and L.A. before finally settling in Los Angeles. In the 1980s, Judy attended Antioch University in Los Angeles where she earned a bachelor’s degree and then a master’s degree in clinical psychology. She then took some time off to work on her autobiography, Uncommon Knowledge, which was published in 1994.

Loretta Young was 81 years old when Uncommon Knowledge was published and she refused to confirm Judy`s account of the circumstances of her birth. In a statement from her Palm Springs home, she said, “This rumour is (a) product of a bygone era. As I have in the past, I have chosen not to give it any further credence.” Judy’s book upset Loretta deeply and caused a rift between her and her daughter. According to Judy, they did not speak to each other for several years.

In the 1990s, Judy Lewis began working in her chosen field – psychology. She received her marriage and family counselling licence (M.F.C.C). It was not until 2001 at a Gone with the Wind convention that she was publicly introduced as Clark Gable’s daughter. That same year she appeared on Larry King Live. Judy told King that she considered Clark Gable to be the love of her mother’s life. She said, “I once asked my mother what was the biggest regret of her life. And she said the biggest regret was not getting your father to marry me.”

Loretta Young died of ovarian cancer in Los Angeles on August 12, 2000 at the age of 87. The screen legend finally confirmed the truth about the circumstances of Judy’s birth in her authorized biography Forever Young, published after her death.

Judy Lewis is now 75-year-old. She lives in Los Angeles and has two grandsons. In April of 1986, her daughter Maria married Daniel Dagit. Maria is the mother of two sons, Michael (born 1989) and Gregory (born 1994). Judy has never taken a DNA test and does not believe it is necessary to do so. She told Larry King that she accepts her mother’s word. Interestingly, John Clark Gable, Gable’s 50-year-old son by his fifth wife, Kay Williams, insists that he is his father’s only child. John Clark, who was born about four months after the death of his father, has never recognized Judy Lewis as his half-sister. He first met Judy at the 2001 Gone with the Wind convention but did not know who she was. Another time they had dinner together and Judy gifted him with a copy of her autobiography.

John Clark Gable has two children with his ex-wife, hairdresser Tracy Yarro.  He has a daughter, Kayley Gable, born in 1986.  He also has a son named Clark James Gable, born on September 10, 1988.  Clark James Gable is an actor.

Editor's Note:  Judy Lewis passed away exactly six months after this post was published.  Although a longtime resident of Los Angeles, she died in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania at the age of 76.  Judy's daughter, Maria, revealed that Judy had succumbed to cancer on November 25, 2011.


Congratulations to the Vancouver Canucks.  They are going to the Stanley Cup finals!  They defeated the San Jose Sharks in double overtime last night.  The fans in Vancouver are really excited about their time.  They are really hungry for the Cup.  I really hope they win it.  The are four wins away from total victory.  They will have to get past the Boston Bruins or the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

What a game Roberto Luongo played last night!  What a great goalie he is!  Last year he won a gold medal with Team Canada at the Winter Olympics.  This year he could be hoisting Lord Stanley's Jug.


I have to say I am not impressed with Frank Francisco as the Blue Jays' closer.  He blew a save yesterday at Yankee Stadium.  The Jays were winning 4-1 after a great performance by starting pitcher Ricky Romero.  The bullpen crumbled in the 9th inning and the Jays lost by a score of 5-4. 

I don't understand why the Jays removed big John Rauch from the closer position.  He was doing fine until they shook things up.

- Joanne

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Change in our lives and how to deal with it

SUNDAY, MAY 22, 2011

Be not the first by whom the new are tried,
Nor yet the last to lay the old aside. 

- Alexander Pope
From An Essay on Criticism [1711]

Yesterday marked the 323rd anniversary of the birth of Alexander Pope, the English poet and satirist. He was born on May 21, 1688 in London. The above quote by Pope brings forth a philosophy toward change in our lives. Although it was written in the 18th century, it is just as relevant in 2011 as it was then.

Change is an extremely important subject, dear readers, because it is something we must face constantly during the course of our lifetime. One thing that will never change, however, is that there will always be change. Like death and taxes, change is inevitable. Still, there are many questions. Should we embrace change quickly and accept it? Should we resist it if it appears intolerable and unacceptable to us? Can we just ease into it gently and slowly?

The serenity prayer asks for the courage to change the things we can and the wisdom to know the difference. This requires a great deal of fortitude because change can be very frightening, especially when our security is threatened.  In a world of uncertainty, we take comfort in continuity.  We cling to the familiar.  They serve as our anchor and our shield. 

Sometimes change comes upon us unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. It can be a sudden illness or death. It can be divorce or serious financial problems. Perhaps it is adjusting to the birth of a new child or moving to a new city. In these situations, we are forced to take action and adjust to new circumstances. We have to make quick decisions and we find ourselves unprepared. Some of us just find it it easier to adapt to change better than others.

Sometimes we chose change.  We toss the dice and take a risk.  It may not work out but we feel we have to make the effort or we'll remain in a terrible rut.  Often change is irreversible.  There is no turning back and we have to live with our decision.

Number 16 doesn't pretend to have all the answers to the complexities of life, but here are some thoughts and ruminations about change to give you some perspective.


The unripe grape, the ripe, and the dried. All things are changes, not into nothing, but into that which is not at present.

- Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 121-180), Roman emperor
From Meditations

Change is inevitable - except from a vending machine.

Robert C. Gallagher

After you've done a thing the same way for two years, look it over carefully. After five years, look at it with suspicion.. And after ten years, throw it away and start all over.

- Alfred Edward Perlman
From the New York Times, July 3, 1958

All conservatism is based upon the idea that if you leave things along you leave them as they are. But you do not. If you leave a thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change.

- Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936)
From Orthodoxy [1908]

Change is not made without inconvenience, even from worse to better.

- Richard Hooker, as quoted in the preface of Samuel Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language [1755]

There is a certain relief in change, even though it be from bad to worse . . .it is often a comfort to shift one's position and be bruised in a new place.

- Washington Irving (1783-1859), American writer
From Tales of a Traveller [1824]

All great changes are irksome to the human mind, especially those which are attended with great dangers and uncertain effects.

- John Adams (1735-1826)
Letter to James Warren [April 22, 1776]

When it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change.

- Lucius Cary, Lord Falkland (1610-1643)
English royalist politician, speech, 1641

He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.

- Harold Wilson (1916-1995), British politician

There are three things which the public will always clamour for, sooner or later: namely, novelty, novelty, novelty.

- Thomas Hood (1799-1845), English poet and humorist
Announcement of Comic Annual for 1836 in 'Quote . . .Unquote' newsletter January 2001

Change is inevitable in a progressive country. Change is constant.

- Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881), British Tory statesman and novelist:
speech at Edinburgh, October 29, 1867

The bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists.

- Japanese proverb

- Joanne

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Power of Big Oil

FRIDAY, MAY 20, 2011


The use of solar energy has not been opened up because the oil industry does not own the sun.

- Ralph Nader

Oil is a fossil fuel. It’s dirty and greasy and it pollutes. It’s a non-renewable resource and the world is running short of it. Yet we want it. We crave it. We can’t seem to do without it – or so we are led to believe. After all, it makes some people extremely wealthy. As the old Beverly Hillbillies song goes, oil is black gold. It’s Texas tea.

In the first quarter of 2011 alone, the five major oil companies in the United States (BP, Shell, Chevron, Exxon Mobil and Conoco Phillips) together racked up a grand total of $36 billion dollars in profits. On May 12, the chief executives of these companies appeared before the U.S. Senate Finance Committee in Washington. They were there to justify the $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies they’re receiving this year. They fought vigorously against an effort by the Democratic Party to repeal their tax breaks.

Senator Baucus (Democrat, Montana), the chairman of the committee, told the oilmen that given their profits “it’s hard to find evidence that repealing these subsidies would cut domestic production or cause layoffs.” Chevron Corp. Chief Executive John Watson replied, “Don’t punish our industry for doing its job well.” The oil executives contended that they are not to blame for high gas prices. “Stated simply,” said Shell Oil Co. President Marvin E. Odum, “oil is a global commodity.” “With worldwide economic recovery underway, demand is on the rise, sending prices upward.”

Since demand for energy is on the rise, isn’t that all the more reason to find alternate energy sources and to end dependence on both foreign and domestic oil? Furthermore, with the United States facing a high budget deficit, oil companies neither need nor deserve government subsidies. Still, their CEOs came to Washington with cap in hand to declare, “Please sir, I want some more.” If that isn’t chutzpah, I don’t know what is!

Sadly, but not surprisingly, the Democratic bill to end oil subsidies was defeated in the Senate on May 17, 2011.  As expected, votes were cast mostly along party lines with three Democrats and two Republicans crossing sides. The final tally was 52-48. The bill required a 60 vote threshold to pass. If it had been approved, the measure would have removed $20 billion dollars in tax subsidies over the next 10 years and used the savings to pay off the deficit.

Republicans argued that the Big Five would pass any tax increases to consumers at the gas pump and that they would cut jobs.  Every time I hear that argument, I can’t help thinking it’s a form of blackmail or extortion on the part of the oil companies. Why should consumers give in to it? Isn’t there a choice other than being held hostage by greedy CEOs? Are they not putting a gun at our heads?

The latest Gallup Poll in the United States (May 3-6, 2011) reveals that more Americans are concerned about energy costs and supportive of offshore drilling than a year ago. Six in ten adult Americans (60%) favour increasing offshore drilling for oil and gas in U.S. coastal areas, up from 50% in May 2010, according to Gallup’s annual environment survey. Last year’s poll was conducted about one month after the April 2010 oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. The worst oil spill in American history is fading from memory. Unfortunately, people tend to forget about birds dripping with oil when they open their wallets to pay for gas at the pump. What’s an environmental disaster compared to the high price of gas in their lives?

Sarah Palin and her Tea Party cohorts continue to shout, “Drill, baby, drill!” and they seem to be making headway. Here in Canada, in the province of Alberta, they love their oil. The tar sands represent prosperity and jobs to most Albertans. That’s why they named a hockey team the Edmonton Oilers.  It's a shame, however, that so many people see a stark either/or choice between the environment and jobs.  Why can't we focus more on creating jobs that do not harm the environment?  Human beings have the ingenuity to do this and it is imperative that we do so.  Our future depends on it.

Even as the price of gas rises steadily, we North Americans continue to drive gas-guzzling SUVs. How many hybrids or electric cars do you see on the road? Not very many, I’d venture to say. Why? Well, one major reason is that they are too expensive for most people. Although hybrids save money on gas in the long run, their initial purchase price is too high. The other reason is that hybrids and electric vehicles are not in the interests of Big Oil. It is so difficult to take on the power, the wealth and the influence of the big oil companies.

Americans wish to reduce their dependence on foreign oil, especially from the Middle East. They talk about finding more domestic oil. Canadians, meanwhile, promote the Alberta tar sands. My question is this: Why aren’t we talking more about safer and cleaner energy alternatives? Just imagine if everyone drove hybrid automobiles or electric ones. The air would be cleaner and we would save money on gas. Right now, it’s only a dream.

On a happier note, there has been an important good news story this week. At the invitation of Irish President Mary McAleese, Queen Elizabeth II visited the Republic of Ireland. It was the first visit of a British monarch since 1911, ten years before Irish independence.

The Queen’s visit to the Republic was, above all, a visit of reconciliation. I must commend President McAleese for having taking the initiative in this situation. I also commend the Queen for reaching out to the Irish. Her visit has received a positive reaction from the Irish press.

Although the royal visit focused on Dublin, it was not restricted to the Irish capital. The Queen spent her last day in Ireland in Cork, a hotbed of Irish nationalism. She left Ireland on a triumphant note.

In the spirit of reconciliation, Elizabeth II visited Croke Park in Dublin, the site of the original Bloody Sunday massacre on November 21, 1920. She also visited famed Guinness brewery in the city, although she declined to taste the brew. Her husband, Prince Philip, reportedly looked longingly at the ale. Do you think he was given orders to refuse it? Nah . . .


How do you fix a tuba?


With a tuba glue


The Vancouver Canucks have taken a 2-0 lead in their Stanley Cup semi-final series against the San Jose Sharks. The series moves to San Jose tonight for the third game. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m cheering for Vancouver. I’d like to see a Vancouver versus Boston Stanley Cup final.

It is interesting to note that of all of the “Orignial Six” NHL teams, only the Toronto Maple Leafs did not make the playoffs this year. The other five (Chicago, Boston, Montreal and New York Rangers) all made post-season play.


After a win against the Tampa Bay Rays, The Toronto Blue Jays begin interleague play today at the former SkyDome against the Houston Astros. The Jays must do better against the National League beginning tonight.

I’m really enjoying the great play of Jose Bautista as he proves he was not just a one-season wonder. I only wish the Jays would make better use of the wonderful asset they have in Bautista. Although Jose slugs those home runs, he does not get many RBIs. I can’t for the life of me understand why he isn’t batting fourth in the line-up.

- Joanne

Friday, May 13, 2011

One Friday the 13th in Barcelona . . .

FRIDAY, APRIL 13, 2011

Today is Friday the 13th, but I'm not superstitious about it.   In my whole lifetime, I've only experienced one unfortunate incident on Friday the 13th.  So it really hasn't been much different than any other day.  Nevertheless, I'm going to tell you about my one unluckly Friday the 13th. 

My husband and I stood across from a police station in Barcelona on a sunny August day in the summer of 2004. We were two Canadian tourists, unfamiliar with the city, unable to speak Spanish and desperately trying to gain entrance to the police station. It was then that our angel of mercy appeared out of nowhere. At a moment of extreme distress, he came to our rescue.

The previous evening my husband had been robbed of his wallet and passport while riding an escalator in a subway station. As we were constantly reminded, this kind of robbery is not uncommon in Barcelona and we weren’t the first tourists to experience such a crime. That’s very true, of course, but it is of little consolation when you are the victim.

On the night of the robbery, we had enjoyed a wonderful evening on the beach. After a scrumptious dinner there, we had started to make our way to the subway station when we noticed a television displaying the opening ceremonies of the 2004 Olympics in Athens. We just couldn’t resist sitting down in the pub to view the festivities. Consequently, we headed back to the hotel later than we had anticipated. Two young men robbed my husband on the subway escalator and within seconds our dream evening turned into a nightmare.

As soon as possible, we reported the theft to our tour guide. She helped us get in touch with the Canadian consulate and KLM airline. Fortunately, we had both made photocopies of our passports and left them at the hotel. After cancelling credit cards, the only thing remaining was to obtain a robbery report from the police. We soon discovered that the police report was a major obstacle.

Our tour guide assisted us by phone. She was very helpful considering that she lived in a village outside of the city and was not staying at the hotel with us. The one thing she stressed was that the police report was essential if my husband wanted to return home to Toronto. We had already visited two police stations on the night of the robbery and had not succeeded in obtaining a robbery report. Aside from language difficulties, the theft had occurred late in the evening and the police hadn’t shown much empathy for our plight. To them, it was just a routine robbery involving tourists. Given the lateness of the evening, we decided it was of greater urgency to return to the hotel and cancel credit cards.

The next day, our tour guide gave us the location of yet another Barcelona police station and we made our way there. When we arrived, we noticed that the police station also served as a prison. A woman in a booth informed us that we had to phone a number inside the police station in order to be allowed into the building. To our dismay, she would not permit us to use her phone. Instead, she pointed to a pay phone across the street.

We stood on that Barcelona street trying to figure out how to use the pay phone. It really is a frustrating experience to use a payphone in Europe when you don’t speak the language and you are not accustomed to the currency. We didn’t see anything telling us how many Euros we needed to make a call and many of the locals were using phone cards.

As we discussed our predicament and endeavoured to make a phone call, I held back tears of frustration and fear. Still, I was alert enough to notice a man walking by us. My every instinct was to stop him and ask for assistance. There was something about this man, an aura about him. I saw calmness and compassion on in his face. So I quickly asked him if he spoke English. To my relief, he replied in fluent English.

It turned out that he was a native of the Netherlands and that he also spoke Spanish.  For some reason, he though we were from England.  He was very friendly when we informed him that we were Canadians.  He said he remembered how Canadian soldiers had liberated the Dutch in World War II.

We told him of our quandary and he immediately phoned the police for us. He escorted us into the police station and conversed with the police in Spanish, explaining our plight to them. After his conversation with the officers, we were given a number and sent to a waiting room. The helpful Dutchman explained apologetically that he had leave. We thanked him profusely and told him we appreciated what he had done for us.

After the departure of our guardian angel, we waited for over two hours in the waiting room. There was just one person ahead of us. At that point, a woman who had been chattering constantly on her cell phone told us she has left a baby alone at home.  We never found out why the baby was alone because we were unable to converse with her in Spanish.  She pleaded with my husband and me to allow her go ahead of us. How could we refuse?

Not long after we exchanged numbers with the woman, a police officer called out our name. Since our name had been called and not our number, we decided we had better go into the room immediately. We didn’t want to risk losing this opportunity.

Our tour guide had just phoned the police and inquired if we were at the station. The police spoke with her as they examined the photocopy of my husband’s passport. We signed some forms and left the room. The whole process had taken about ten minutes. As we walked out, the woman with the baby at home smiled at us. She was relieved that we hadn’t taken very long and we were relieved to be leaving the station with the police report.

As for the kind-hearted Dutchman, we didn’t even learn the man’s name. Nevertheless, we will be eternally grateful to him because he’s the guy from Holland who helped two befuddled Canadians in their time of need. Without his assistance, it is doubtful that we would have gained entrance to the police station. Wherever he is, I fervently wish him the opportunity to read this expression of our gratitude.


The fear of Friday the 13th is called friggatriskaidekahopia.  The word is derived from Frigga, the Norse goddess for whom Friday was named, and triskaiedkaphobia, meaning fear of the number 13.


Vision at Fatima

On May 13, 1917, three Portuguese children reported seeing the Virgin Mary outside of Fatima, Portugal.  This led to mass pilgrimages to what would become a holy shrine.

Happy Birthday, Stevie Wonder!

On May 13, 1950, singer/songwriter Stevie Wonder was born in Saginaw, Michigan.  His birth name was Steveland Hardaway Judkins.  Stevie was born six weeks premature causing the growth of the blood vessels at the back of his eys to be aborted.  Due to the aborted growth, his retinas became detached.  The medical term for this condition is retinopathy of prematurity or ROP.  In Stevie's case, the condition was probably exacerbated by the oxygen pump into his incubator, resulting in his blindness.  Originally known as "Little Stevie Wonder," he signed with Motown Records at the age of 11. 

Stevie Wonder is 61 years old today.  Happy Birthday, Stevie!



Most hockey fans in Canada and the United States are fixated on the NHL playoffs right now.  I'm cheering for the Vancouver Canucks.  I hope they defeat the San Jose Sharks. 

As for the Boston Bruins and the Tampa Bay Lightning, I really don't have any strong feelings about that series.  My only comment is that Steve Yzerman has done a remarkable job with the Lightning.  Kudos to Stevie Y.

While North Americans continue to follow the Stanley Cup playoffs, the 2011 World Hockey Championships are taking place in Slovakia.  Canada has been eliminated from the tournament by the Russians. 

- Joanne

Wednesday, May 11, 2011



Calling all fans of Archie Comics! Number 16 has a treat for you today. You are challenged to answer a ten-question quiz on Archie and his friends. First, here’s a little background on your favourite comic book character and his creator.

Red-haired Archie Andrews and his bevy of teenage friends first appeared in Pep Comics in December of 1941. Archie was created by Vic Bloom and Bob Montana. Bob Montana attended high school in Haverhill Massachusetts from 1936 to 1939. His sketchbook of life in Haverhill was the real genesis of the Archie Comics. For example, Pop Tate’s Chocklit Shoppe (the Archie gang’s favourite hangout) was based on real-life locations frequented by teenagers in the 1930s in Montana’s hometown.

Bob Montana launched the Archie newspaper comic strip in 1946 after his return from World II military service. He drew the strip until his passing in 1975.


1.  What is the real name of Jughead Jones?

A. Jeffrey J. Jones, Jr.

B. Rudolph William Jones III

C. Forsythe Pendleton Jones III

D. James Randolf Jones

E. Randolph Pennington Jones, Jr.

2. How old is Archie Andrews?

A. 15

B. 16

C. 18

D. 17

E. His exact age has never been given.

3. Archie Andrews wears the letter “R” on his sweater, for Riverdale High. What letter traditionally appears on Jughead’s turtlenecks?

A. “R”

B. “S”

C. “P”

D. “W”

E. “Y”

4. Who are Polly and Chick Cooper?

A. Betty’s cousins

B. Betty’s pets

C. Betty’s parents

D. Betty’s grandparents

E. Betty’s siblings

5. Veronica’s father, Mr. Hiram Lodge, is a wealthy business tycoon. What is the name of his butler?

A. Gregory

B. Bernard

C. Smythe

D. Smithers

E. Stuart

6. Archie really likes cars. What did he call his old red jalopy?

A. Ol’ Betsy

B. Jenny Jalopy

C. Red Rita

D. Ol’ Bessie

E. Ol’ Jean

7. Who or what is Hot Dog?

A. A diner where Archie and the gang hang out

B. Jughead’s dog

C. A disco where Archie and his friends go to dance

D. A poor area in Riverdale

E. A clothing store for Riverdale’s teenagers

8. What subject or subjects does Miss Grundy teach?

A. Science

B. History and/or Geography

C. English and/or Math

D. Music

E. Social Science and/ or Economics

9. What is the occupation of Reggie Mantle’s dad? (This is your bonus question. If you answer it correctly, give yourself an extra mark.)

A. Lawyer

B. Head of a newspaper printing company

C. Owner of an upscale restaurant

D. Psychiatrist

E. Real estate agent

10. Riverdale High’s star athlete, Moose Mason, has a disability.  What is it?

A. He has poor hearing.

B. He has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).

C. He has a speech impediment.

D. He has dyslexia.

E. He has a mild form of autism.


1. C

Jughead’s real name is Forsythe Pendleton Jones III. In the earliest Archie comic strips, however, he was identified as Forsythe Van Jones II.

2. D

After all these years, Archie remains 17 years old.

3. B.

The letter “S” traditionally appears on Jughead’s turtlenecks.  Are you wondering what the "S" stands for?  Well, according to Bob Montana's widow, Peg Bertholet, it is dervived from Jughead's old school, Squirrel Hill Intstitute of Technology.  According to Peg, there was a place in Montana's hometown of Haverhill called Skunk Hill "which Bob turned into Squirrel Hill."  Peg said that "Bob's elementary school near Haverhill called its athletic teams the Tigers..  So Jughead's "S" meant 'Squirrel Hill Independent Tigers,' and you couldn't abbreviate it any other way."

4. E.

Polly and Chick Cooper are Betty Cooper’s siblings. Polly is Betty’s older sister and Chick is her older brother.

5. D.

The name of the Lodge family's bald, portly butler is Hubert Smithers.

6. A

Archie called his jalopy “Ol Betsy.” It was destroyed in a 1983 issue of Life with Archie. In the newer comics, he drives a 1960s Ford Mustang.

7. B

Hot Dog is Jughead’s dog. He is a shaggy mutt and resembles a sheepdog.

8. C.

Miss Grundy teaches English and/or Math. In Life with Archie, a magazine set in an alternate universe than the monthly comics (it follows the grown-up Archie and his friends), Miss Grundy died of cancer. Before her death, she married Riverdale High principal, Mr. Weatherbee. Geraldine Grundy continues to torment her students in the regular Archie series.

9. B

Reggie’s father, Reginald “Ricky” Mantle Jr., is the head of a newspaper printing company.

10. D

Big Moose, whose real name is Marmaduke Mason, has dyslexia. When he copied some instructions from the board incorrectly, a frustrated Miss Grundy removed him from his sports teams. An angry Moose had his eyes examined and was informed that his vision is good, but his brain receives the signals improperly.

- Joanne

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Thoughts on Mothers, Motherhood and Anna Jarvis

SUNDAY, MAY 8, 2011

Today is Mother’s Day in Canada, the United States and many other countries.  In the United Kingdom and Ireland, mothers are honoured on the fourth Sunday of Lent (in March or April) and the celebration is known as "Mothering Sunday."

Mother's Day was established in the United States due to the efforts of Anna Marie Jarvis and her tireless devotion to her mother.  Anna's mother, Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis, grew up in present-day West Virginia.  In 1850, she married Granville E. Jarvis.  They had 12 children, eight of whom died before reaching adulthood.  Four died of disease.

Anna's mother worked relentlessly to raise awareness of the poor health conditions in her Appalachian community.  She organized a series of Mothers' Day Work Clubs to improve conditions.  The clubs provided money for medicine and sent women to assist families in which mothers suffered from tuberculosis. During the Civil War, Anna's mother urged her Mothers' Day Work Clubs to remain neutral during the conflict.  The clubs treated the wounded and fed and clothed soldiers in the area.

When Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis died on May, 9, 1905, her devoted daughter became determined to carry on her legacy.  On May 10, 1908, Anna organized a memorial service for women in honour of her mother.  This Mother's Day service took place at Andrews Methodist Episopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia, where Anna's mother had taught Sunday School.  Those in attendance were presented wtih white carnations, Anna's mother's favourite flower.  Thus began the tradition of giving mothers carnations on Mother's Day. 

With the assistance of Philadelphia merchant named John Wanamaker, Anna Jarvis campaigned vigorously to have Mother's Day designated as a U.S. national holiday.  She campaigned continuously, writing letters and lobbying business people, politicians and clergy.  Her persistence paid off.  On April 26, 1910, Mother's day was declared an official holiday by the state of West Virginia.  The other states followed suit and on May 8, 1914, the United States Congress passed a law recognizing the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day.  On May 9, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first National National Mother's Day to honour those mothers whose sons had died in war.

In the 1920s, Anna Jarvis became increasingly angry and disappointed by the commercialization and gift giving associated wtih Mother's Day. According to a news column by journalist Tom Henshaw, "She invaded and all but broke up a convention of the Associated Retail Confectioners in 1923. She was arrested in 1925 for trying to prevent the American War Mothers from selling white carnations." "But most of all, " wrote Henshaw, "she assailed the nation's florists for horning in on her holy day. Whenever she had the chance, she assailed the 'charlatans, bandits, pirates, racketeers, kidnappers and other termites' who had co-opted her day." 

Anna Jarvis never married and never bore children.  She died in poverty in West Chester, Pennsylvania on November 24, 1948.  The church in Grafton is now the home of the International Mother's Day Shrine and the United States Department of the Interior has designated it as a national historic site.

Anna Jarvis

In honour of the celebration of Mother's Day, Number 16 proudly presents some quotations and reflections on motherhood. I would like to dedicate this to my own mother, Frances.


My mother had a good deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.

- Mark Twain
From Autobiography [1924]

A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world!  And candy!  You take a box to Mother - and then eat most of it yourself.  A pretty sentiment.

- Anna Jarvis

A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavour by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.

- Washington Irving (1783- 1859)

For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.

- William Ross Wallace (1819-1881)
From "What rules the world" [1865]

What do girls do who haven't any mothers to help them through their troubles?

- Louisa May Alcott (1832-188)
From Little Women

Men are what their mothers made them.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson
From Conduct of Life

The mother's yearning, that completest type of the life in another life in which is the essence of real human love, feels the presence of the cherished child even in the debased, degraded man.

- George Eliot (1819-1880), English novelist
From Adam Bede

Mother o' Mine

If i were hanged on the highest hill
Mother 'o mine. O mother 'o mine!
I know whose love would follow me still,
Mother 'o mine, O mother 'o mine!

If I were drowned in the deepest sea
Mother 'o mine, O mother 'o mine!
I know whose tears would come down to me,
Mother 'o mine, O mother 'o mine!

If I were damned of body and soul,
I know whose prayers would make me whole.
Mother 'o mine, O mother 'o mine!

- By Rudyard Kipling


- Joanne

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Donald Trump for President? Please NO!


He’s flamboyant, outspoken and filthy rich. His name is Donald Trump and he’s an in-your-face real estate tycoon. Hang on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen, because the bombastic businessman is considering a run for the Republican nomination for President of the United States in 2012. It’s a horrifying thought!

The Donald is many things, but he’s certainly not dull. With his antics and his feuds, he attracts an enormous amount of attention. Yes, he’s a real showman and he would spice up any presidential race. It’s the prospect that he might win that frightens me.

An April 15-20 Gallop poll shows that the New York real estate mogul leads among moderate and liberal Republicans. The poll indicates that 64-year-old Donald Trump is gaining momentum. He is tied with former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee as the preferred Republican nominee for president. Trump has the highest level of support of any right-wing candidate among moderate and liberal Republicans (21 percent).

The splashy developer also appears to be attracting conservative voters. At 13 percent, Trump has a higher percentage of conservative supporters than Tea Party darlings Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty and Michelle Bachmann. It now seems that even evangelist Franklin Graham is warming up to The Donald. During a recent ABC News interview, Graham declared that he considers Trump to be “very capable” and that his opinion of him has changed. Graham stated, “Donald Trump, when I first saw that he was getting in, I thought, well, this has got to be a joke. But the more you listen to him, the more you say to yourself, ‘You know, maybe the guy’s right.’”

What has The Donald been up to lately? Well, he has spent a great deal of time questioning whether President Barack Obama is really an American. He’s been harping on whether Obama was really born in Hawaii. Really, Mr. Trump, why can’t you let that rest? Why did you have to reopen that can of worms? Barack Obama was born in Honolulu on August 4, 1961. That’s a fact! Trump is just pandering to the arch-conservatives in the Republican Party. He’s diverting voters from far more pressing matters. Not only that, but does it really matter that the President of the United States is born on American soil? As long as a candidate is an American citizen and has lived in the U.S. for at least 14 years, that’s what’s important. It is absolutely ridiculous that an immigrant cannot be president, even if he or she came to America as a two-year old child.

If Donald Trump wishes to oppose Obama, let him stick to the real issues. Let him discuss the economy, the war in Afghanistan or the way greedy, unregulated Wall St. barons brought America and much of the the world into a terrible recession. Why are Trump and many others so fixated on Obama’s place of birth? Would they be doing this if he weren’t black? Are they not encouraging the feeling among Americans that their president is some kind of foreigner and not really one of them? It’s the politics of fear and it’s shameful.

In 2008, Donald Trump was given approval from the Scottish government to build the $1.6 billion Trump International Golf Links on the coast of Scotland. In addition to the golf course, the massive development includes 950 holiday homes, an equestrian centre, tennis courts and a residential village. This deal has been surrounded by controversy and legal complications. Trump has been accused of planning to evict families from their land in order to build his glitzy golf resort.

There are also concerns about the effect that the project will have on the wildlife habitat in the area. When Trump was given the green light to go ahead with his development, the decision was severely criticized by Helen McDade of the John Muir Trust, a U.K. charitable company established in 1983 to preserve wilderness and indigenous animals. She called it a mockery of Scotland’s environmental designations! McDade declared that the government’s rationale seems to be “that it is okay to ignore any number of protections that are in place to safeguard Scotland’s environment, provided there is a big enough buck to be made at the end of it.” She said that it was “a green light for development any place, any time, regardless of the consequences. Decisions such as this suggest that the planning system which has helped protect Scotland’s incomparable landscape is rapidly being eroded.”

President Barack Obama has dignity and a sense of humour. He has the ability to laugh at himself. It appears that Donald Trump does not share that characteristic. At an annual White House gala for journalists last Saturday night, Obama joked about the “birther” debate, Trump’s potential presidential aspirations and his television reality show. Images were flashed on ballroom screens spoofing the real estate tycoon’s penchant for naming his properties after himself. The images were labelled “Trump: The White House.” The Donald was in attendance and was not amused. He couldn’t even manage a smile. He just sat there squirming and looking extremely uncomfortable.

Later, in an interview with CNN, Trump made an attempt to be a good sport. He conceded that he thought “some of what the president did was pretty good.” “I understand it was a lion’s pit,” he said. “I was walking into it. I’ve been there before and I thought it was an entertaining evening.” His body language at the event, however, told a very different story.

Watch this video of Obama poking fun at Trump at the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner and make your own judgement.

Donald Trump is awfully adept at making money.  According to Forbes Magazine, hia net worth in 2011 is $2.7 billion.  The man is also a formidale showman and an entertainer, but do those qualities alone make him suited for the office of President of the United States? The fact is that Trump has no political experience. The late Ronald Reagan was often derided for being a B-movie actor, but he at least served as governor of California before he ran for president.

The Donald informed CNN that he will make an announcement about his presidential intentions after his realty show, Celebrity Apprentice, finishes for the season on May 22. If he decides to run, does he really have a chance? Is it possible that the Republican Party would choose someone as untested as Donald Trump for its presidential candidate? I doubt it, but stranger things have happened. If Trump should lose the Republican nomination, he may run as an independent, thus splitting the right-wing vote. Such a scenario would virtually ensure a second term for Obama, which would not be a bad outcome at all. 


Why, in this day and age, does it require about a year and a half to hold a presidential election in the United States?  I realize that choosing a president is extremely important.  The candidates should be carefully screened and scrutinized.  There should be time for debate and reflection.  Nevertheless, it shouldn't take that long, not with modern technology and modern transportation. 

Here in Canada, we have just had a general election.  Our campaign took 37 days.  Some Americans may argue that 37 days is too short a time.  It is also true, of course, that our political systems are different.  Still, a year and a half of  relentless campaigning seems far too long and unnecessary.  It's too gruelling for the candidates and the voters.

- Joanne

Monday, May 2, 2011

Hey, young people of Canada! You have the power. Here are 8 good reasons why you should vote today.

MONDAY, MAY 2, 2011

Today is election day in Canada. If you are planning to vote, I commend you. The majority of you who are 18 to 25, however, are not planning to do so. If I were to ask you why, you would come up with a myriad of excuses. I have heard them all.and I am well aware of all the broken promises and the corruption involved in the political process. Yet, by declining to vote, you are not going to make the situation any better. Politicians deal with issues and problems that affect your everyday lives. Don’t give up your right to a say in these matters. There is nothing wrong with a dose of healthy skepticism. In fact, it is admirable and should be encouraged. However, apathy and cynicism are not the answer. So, if you require some good reasons to vote, here are eight of them:

1. By exercising your franchise, you are participating in something precious and special – democracy. Voting is the cornerstone of democracy.

2. When you cast your ballot, you are effectively serving notice to the politicians that they have to answer to you for their actions. You are demonstrating that you have the power to vote them in or out of office. Even if you throw out one set of scoundrels for another, you are sending a worthwhile message and performing an important service.

3. By voting, you are experiencing and participating in something for which millions of people would risk their very lives for the opportunity to do. You are doing what much of the world’s population will never be able to do in their lifetime. The sad fact is that much of humanity is prevented from voting in free elections. Millions of people are denied a choice, a democratic right that we often take for granted. Just ask someone who has lived under a dictatorship.

4. You are the future and eventually your children will inherit the country you have left behind. By voting, you are demonstrating that you care about the generations that will follow you. You may be young and healthy right now but someday the state of our health care system will really matter to you. Someday you may have a disabled child or an ailing parent.

5. Your vote matters. Elections can be won or lost by extremely small margins.

6. Democracy must be nurtured and nourished. Elections are democracy’s dinner, its sustenance. Without citizen participation, democracies wither and die, and as the song goes, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”

7. Low voter turnout can lead to electoral success for extremists and give them power and influence the majority of people don’t want them to have. A case in point is the racist National Front party in France.

8. The voice of Canadian youth needs to be heard. You have concerns. You have interests. Perhaps they are only concerns that affect you personally, such as the high cost of tuition fees. You may say that the politicians never talk about what interests you. Well, get out and make them address your concerns - but never forget that you are part of a community. You should also be concerned about the welfare of your fellow citizens. Remember that your interests and those of others will not be heard if you remain silent.  Let your voice be heard today!

If this posting persuades even one young person to vote, it will have been worthwhile. 

- Joanne