Wednesday, March 28, 2012

People want jobs. Unemployment is the number one issue


It's a recession when your neighbour loses his job:  it's a depression when you lose yours.

- Harry S. Truman (1884-1972), 33rd President of the United States
In Observer, April 13, 1958

So many politicians don't get it!  They just don't get it!  The number one priority is not debt.  It's not deficit reduction.  The number one priority is job creation.  This is not to trivialize fiscal irresponsibility.  It is to state categorically that job creation is the most important problem facing many countries around the world.

Rick Santorum, candidate for the Republican Party's nomination for president of the United States was quoted as saying that he "doesn't care what the unemployment rate is going to be."  Santorum later explained that he meant that the election was about something more basic - freedom.  For Santorum and other right-wing conservatives, freedom can be defined as less government.  Conservatives want to cut social programs and government jobs.

Severe austerity measures during times of economic slowdown, however, result in job losses and layoffs.  It's sure to create more misery.  How can you stimulate the economy by putting more people out of work?  It's simply not logical.

 Here's what Santorum and other conservatives, including Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper, don't seem to understand.  The unemployed can't wait.  They need jobs as soon as possible.  They have rent to pay and mortgages and children to feed.  How free are they if they can't pay the bills and put food on the table?  The unemployed can't afford to spend money to get the economy rolling.  People who fear losing their jobs are afraid to make new purchases.  They are reluctant to eat out at restaurants or join fitness clubs.  As a result, businesses are forced to close down and more employees lose their jobs.  This leads to slumping retail sales.more layoffs and less money in the government coffers.  It's a vicious cycle.

The unemployed cannot wait for the private sector to start hiring.  Government has to step in when necessary.  That's why U.S. President Barack Obama set forth his stimulus plan for the American economy and his American Jobs Act.  That's why Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a self-proclaimed fiscal conservative, brought forth Canada's Economic Action Plan, even though the stimulus plan went against his conservatives principles.  Government investment in infrastructure creates jobs.

in January of 2010, one year after Obama took office, the effects of the 2008 recession were being felt and the U.S. unemployment rate was quite high, about 9.7 percent.  According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the most recent unemployment rate (February 2012) is 8.3 percent.  There are 12.8 million unemployed .persons in the U.S.A.  That's unacceptably high.  Yet, under Barack Obama, the jobless rate has steadily decreased.  Obama's economic stimulus has been working.  It's a shame that the Republicans have blocked his American Jobs Act.

In Canada, the unemployment rate for February 2012 was 7.4 percent.  Canadians are being told that we must lower our expectations and that secure employment and decent pensions are things of the past.  We're being told that government spending must be reigned  in.  Yet the Conservative government has plenty of money to spend on building new prisons at a time when the crime rate is decreasing in Canada.  Don't worry, though.  Once more social and recreational programs are cut and more jobs are lost, they'll be plenty of people to fill those prisons.

The recession of 2008 was devastating.  Four years later, we're still feeling reeling from its effects.  Unemployment remains unacceptably high in North America and much of Europe.  A jobless recovery is not a real recovery.  Just ask the thousands of people seeking employment or those who can only find temporary and part-time jobs.

I grew up in the Thirties with our unemployed father.  He did not riot, he got on his bike and looked for work.  
-  Norman Tebbit (1931 -
British Conservative politician; Speech at Conservative Party Conference, October 15, 1981

What if the work isn't there?  What if employers are only laying off and not hiring?  Conservative politicians like Tebbit constantly urge us to be self-reliant and to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.  Although rioting is definitely not the solution, neither is complete individual self-reliance.  Self-reliance and individual responsibility are good qualities.  Sometimes, however, people genuinely need help.  When you are 52 years old and find yourself laid off, it's difficult to find another job, especially when employers are not hiring due to cutbacks.  It's also hard to find employment at a time when so many jobs are being lost due to technology. The private sector is cutting jobs, not creating them.  The so-called "trickle down" theory isn't working.

Prices are going up and the cost of living is continually increasing.  It' isn't easy for many families to keep up, even if family members have steady employment.  It's especially difficult for seniors on fixed incomes.  Too many people are falling behind or falling between the holes of our social safety nets.  What of our youth?  What of their future?  Who will offer them hope for steady employment and decent pensions?  Will we allow them to be the future without a future, a lost generation?

It's easy for many bankers, politicians and CEOs who live in ivory towers to ignore the concerns of the most vulnerable in our society. After all, bean counters only see numbers and statistics.  Their decisions, however, have a significant effect on human lives.  People need jobs and they need them now.  The gap between rich and poor is growing every day and the middle class is quickly disappearing.  That does not bode well for our society.

- Joanne

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

It's the first day of spring! Spring fever anyone?



A little Madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King.

- Emily Dickinson

It's March 21st, also known as the vernal equinox.  Freshness and renewal are in the air.  It's time for spring cleaning and lighter clothing.  As the great American poet Emily Dickinson suggests, perhaps a little good-natured craziness is order.  Spring fever anyone? 

Emily Dickinson


Of course, spring is also the time for romance.  It was the English poet, Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809 - 1892), who wrote:

In the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to love.

That line was written by Tennyson in 1835 in his poem Locksley Hall.  It was published in his 1842 volume of poems.  Tennyson was Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom during the reign of Queen Vistoria.  He was born in August of 1809 at Somersby, Lincolnshire and succeeded William Wordsworth as Poet Laureate in 1850.   (I would be remiss if I did not point out, Lord Tennyson, that a young woman's fancy also turns to love in the spring.)

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Spring is necessary

Spring is necessary.  We all have to recharge our batteries.  The time for hibernation is over.  Awaken from your slumber.  Let there be light!

Is it so small a thing
To have enjoyed the sun,
To have lived light in the spring,
To have loved, to have thought, to have done;
To have advanced true friends, and
beat down baffling foes?

- Matthew Arnold (1822 -1888), British poet and social critic
From Empedocles on Etna {1852}

We need spring.  We need it desperately and usually, we need it before God is willing to give it to us.

- Peter John Gzowski (1934 - 2002), Canadian broadcaster
From Peter Gzowski's Spring Tonic [1979]

When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be the happiest.  The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits.  People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.

- Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961), American author
From A Moveable Feast

Spring will not be denied

Pablo Neruda

The circle of life contines and spring will not be denied.  The Chilean poet and politician, Pablo Neruda (104 - 1973) wrote:

You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming.

- Joanne

Monday, March 19, 2012

William Jennings Bryan and the Scopes Trial

MONDAY, MARCH 19, 2012

Today is the 152nd anniversary of the birth of William Jennings Bryan, a politician of great prominence in American history.  Bryan was the Democratic Party's nominee for president three times - in 1896, 1900 and 1908 - and he was defeated all three times.  He is remembered for his outstanding oratory and for his role in the famous Scopes "monkey trial" of 1925.

William Jennings Bryan was born in Salem, Illinois on March 19, 1860.  In 1881, he delivered the validectory speech at his graduation from Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois.  The young man then studied law at Union Law School in Chicago (now known as Northwestern University School of Law).  While preparing for his bar exam in Jacksonville, he met Mary Elizabeth Baird and married her on October 1, 1884.  The couple had three children: Ruth Baird (born October 2, 1885), William Jennings Bryan Jr. and Grace.

Bryan practiced law in Jacksonville for a few years, but he and his family moved to Lincoln, Nebraska in 1887.  In Lincoln, he became involved in politics and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Nebraska's Ist district in the Democratic landslide of 1890.  After winning re-election to Congress in 1892, Byron became a rising star in the Democratic Party.  He decided to run for the United States Senate in 1894.  His Republican opponent was John M. Thurston, the general counsel for the Union Pacific Railroad.  Although the Republicans won the state Legislature and elected Thurston to the Senate, the campaign provided Bryan with national exposure.

In July of 1896, at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, William Jennings Bryan made one of the most memorable speeches in American history.  His dramatic "Cross of Gold" speech mesmerized the audience at the convention.  His words addressed the controversy at the time concerning the coinage of silver. Jennings supported silver against the Gold Standard and he defended the interests of western farmers over the industrial East.  "Burn down your cities and leave our farms," he thundered, "and your cities will spring up again as if by magic.; but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country. "  He ended his speech by declaring that "You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold," his arms outstretched in the form of a crucified Christ.

At the age of 36, William Jennings Bryan went on to win the Democratic nomination for president of the United States, becoming the youngest person ever nominated for the office.  During the campaign of 1896, he took four major railroad trips and gave stump speeches at every whistle stop.  According to The American Nation: A History of the United States Since 1865, Bryan made over 600 speeches, speaking directly to some five million people.  His amazing energy and his superb oratory, however, failed to win him the election for him.  The Republican candidate, William McKinley, was elected president with 51 percent of the vote to Bryan's 47 percent.

William Jennings Bryan had two more chances to become president, but he was defeated by McKinley again in 1900 and by William Howard Taft in 1908.  After supporting Woodrow Wilson for the presidency in 1912, Bryan was appointed Secretary of State when Wilson assumed office.  He served as Secretary of State during the early years of World War I, before the United States had entered the conflict.   He resigned in June of 1915 in protest over President's Wilson's handling of the Lusitania crisis, fearing that U.S. would be thrust into the war. 

On May 7, 1915, the Lusitania, a luxurious British ocean liner, had been torpedoed by a German U-Boat.  Nearly 1,200 passengers and crew were dead, including over 120 Americans.  The Germans claimed that the ship had been carrying munitions and was a legitimate target of war   Wilson, upset by the loss of life and the lack of German regard for freedom of the seas, sent a letter of diplomatic protest to the Germans.  The letter was signed by Secretary of State W.J. Byran.  When Germany's Foreign minister replied that sinking the ship was a valid action, Wilson decided to send another letter of protest.  Bryan refused to sign the second letter, concerned that Germany would break off diplomatic relations with the United States.  As it turned out, the U.S. did not officially enter the First World War until almost two years later, on April 6, 1917.
In the summer of 1925, William Jennings Bryan played a central role in one of the most spectacular trials in American history.  He was a prosecuting attorney in the case of John Thomas Scopes, a 24-year-old high school science teacher in Dayton, Tennessee who had been arrested for teaching the theory of evolution.  In March of 1925, the Tennessee legislature had passed a statute making it unlawful for any teacher in a publicly suported educational institution "to teach any theory that denies the story of the divine creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man descended from a lower order of animals."

Bryan, a believer in the literal interpretation of the Bible, had been asked to participate in the Scopes trial by the Christian Fundamentals Association.  Although he had not set foot in a courtroom for 30 years, he agreed to become a member of the prosecution.  Heading the defence in the Scopes case was 68-year-old Clarence Seward Darrow, America's most celebrated criminal lawyer, and an agostic. 

Clarence Darrow was a former labour lawyer who had switched to criminal law.  A staunch civil libertarian with a formidable reputation, it was Darrow who had defended "thrill" killers Leopold and Loeb in their 1924 trial for murdering 14-year-old Robert "Bobby" Franks.  It was he who had saved the two Chicago teengers from the death penalty.

The Scopes trial was dubbed "The Monkey Trial" and it began in Dayton on July 11, 1925.  Over 100 journalists converged on the small town, as well as thousands of curious vistors.  The Chicago Tribune set up its own radio transmission and the trial became the first in American history to be broadcast nationally.  A trio of schoolboys testified that John T, Scopes had indeed taught Darwin's theory of evolution at their school.  Since the judge, John T. Raulston,, would not permit scientists to testify at the trial, Clarence Darrow summoned William Jennings Bryan to the witness stand.  During the cross-examination, the wily Darrow tried his best to make Bryan seem foolish. 

The trial lasted for 12 days during one of hottest and driest Tennessee summers ever recorded.  Despite Darrow's efforts, Scopes was found guilty of violating the law and fined $100.  The Tennessee Supreme Court later overturned the conviction on the technicality that the jury, not the judge, should have determined the amount of the fine.  On Sunday, July 26, 1925, only five days after the end of the trial, Bryan died in his sleep during an afternoon nap in Dayton.  He was 65 years old at the time of his death.  Clarence Darrow returned to Chicago where he lived until his passing on March 13, 1938 at the age of 80.  The cause of Darrow's death was pulmonary heart disease. 

As for John T. Scopes, he went on to study geology at the University of Chicago.  While doing geological field work in Venezuela, he met and married his wife, Mildred, and was baptized a Roman Catholic.  Scopes eventually launched a career in the oil industry, first in Texas and then in Louisiana.  He retired in 1963 and died on October 21, 1970 at the age of 70.

John T. Scopes

William Jennings Byran's views cannot be easily labelled or pigeon holed.  He was a certainly a devout Presbyterian and a religious fundamentalist.  His fundamentalism was similar to that of the Tea Party faction of today's Republican Party.  Yet, Byran, if he were alive today, would eschew any association with the Tea Party.  He was a loyal Democratic with some progressive views for his era.

William Jennings Bryan was an outspoken critic of banks and railroads.  His support of women's suffrage helped to pass the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing American women the right to vote.  He was also a strong advocate of  graduated income tax and the regulation of child labour.  Throughout his life, Bryan campaigned for social and economic justice.  His nickname was "The Great Commoner."

These are the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his speech at a memorial to Bryan in 1934.

It was my privilege to know William Jennings Bryan when I was a very young man. Years later both of us came to the Nation's capital to serve under the leadership of Woodrow Wilson. Through this service and the intimate relations which ensued, I learned to know and to love him.

As we look back on those days—the many of us who are gathered here together who were his friends and associates in the Wilson Administration—I think that we would choose the word "sincerity" as fitting him most of all. It was that sincerity which brought to him the millions of devoted followers; it was that sincerity which served him so well in his life-long fight against sham and privilege and wrong. It was that sincerity which made him a force for good in his own generation and has kept alive many of the ancient faiths on which we are building today.

It was Mr. Bryan who said:

"I respect the aristocracy of learning, I deplore the plutocracy of wealth but I thank God for the democracy of the heart.

"Many years ago he also said:

"You may dispute over whether I have fought a good fight; you may dispute over whether I have finished my course; but you cannot deny that I have kept the faith."

- Joanne

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Irish wit, humour and folklore


                 HAPPY ST. PATRICK'S DAY

The Irish are renowned for their wit and their humour.  On St. Patrick's Day, Number 16 is proud to present some of that fine Irish drollery.


An Irishman was asked if the Irish always answered one question with another.  'Who told you that?' he replied. 

- Niall Toibin
Irish comedian and actor, born November 21, 1929 in Cork

Did you hear about the Kerryman with the inferiority complex?  He thought he was only as good as everyone else.

- John Brendan.Keane (July 21, 1928 - May 30, 2002), Irish playwright and novelist from Listowel, County Kerry

St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland.  It's a pity the idea never caught on.

- Attributed to George Bernard Shaw (July 26, 1856 - November 2, 1950), Irish playwright, born in Dublin

A man who says his wife can't take a joke forgets that she took him.

- Attributed to Oscar Wilde (October 16, 1854 - November 30, 1900, Irish writer and poet, born in Dublin

I was travelling in County Mayo late one evening and stopped outside a little boarding house.  I knocked on the door and a second later the top floor window opened and a woman yelled down, "What do you want so late in the evening?  I asked, "Could I stay here for the evening?"  The woman yelled down to me, "YES!" and then closed the window.

- Hal Roach

A man buys a jigsaw puzzle with eight pieces.  Nine months later he has managed to put it all together and is delighted with himself.  He thinks he has done well because on the box it says "four to six years."

- Hal Roach

This fellow Casey went to the dentist.  He said to the dentist, "All my teeth are turning yellow.  What can I do?"  The dentist said, "Wear a brown tie."

- Hal Roach

Murphy found himself very late one night in London in the underground subway station.  He walked along to the escalator.  And on the escalator it is written, "Dogs must be carried on the escalator."  And he thought, "Where am I going to find a dog at this hour of the night?"

- Hal Roach

(Hal Roach, described as Ireland's international comedian and the King of Blarney, passed away recently.  He died on February 28, 2012 at the age of 84.  Roach was born in Waterford, Ireland.)

Reilly went to trial for armed robbery.  The jury foreman came out and announced, "Not guilty."  "That's grand," shouted Reilly.  Does that mean I can keep the money?"

- Source unknown


Two of the most famous characters in Irish folklore are leprechauns and banshees.  The word "leprechaun" is the Gaelic tern for shoemaker.  According to Leprechauns, Legends and Irish Tales by Hugh McGowan, the old book of Irish folklore tells us that a leprechaun  is "a tiny man, though not so small that he could hide under a mushroom or dance on a blade of grass."   Any further details?  Well, yes.  "His countenance is a mixture of crankiness and humour.  He has a pair of piercing black eyes which twinkle with mirth or mischief.  His nose is hooked and his mouth grins from ear to ear."

McGowan describes a banshee as "a spirit whose sad song warns of  imminent death.  She takes the shape of a beautiful girl dressed in flowing white and has siren quality which attracts the listener in spite of its sad prophecy.  She appears and disappears on dark windy nights and those who hear her chant know that a death will shortly follow."

- Joanne

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Bomb Iran? Stop and think!!!!


Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

What's said on the campaign trail, you know, those folks don't have a lot of responsibilities.  They're not commander-in-chief.  And when I see the casualness with which some of these folks talk about war, I am reminded of the costs involved in war.  I am reminded [of] the decision that I have to make in terms of sending our young men and women into battle and the impact that has on their lives, the impact it has on our national security, the impact it has on our economy.

- U.S. President Barack Obama
Press Conference, March 6, 2012

The United States has fought two costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Why then are some American politicians beating the drums of war against Iran?  Let me be clear.  The Iranian government is despicable.  Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is an anti-Semite and a Holocaust denier.  That does not mean, however, that the United States and its allies (including Canada) should be eager to go to war against the regime.

Thank goodness for the good sense and moderation of U.S. President Barack Obama.  I watched Obama's press conference last Tuesday with great interest.  Obama was asked about the situation concerning Iran and he spoke rationally and calmly.  He declared that "this is not a game" and that "there is nothing casual about it."

Obama simply said what needed to be said.  He emphasized that war should not be entered into lightly and the consequences should be carefully considered.  He stated that it was his belief that "we have a window of opportunity where this can still be resolved diplomatically." 

The Middle East is unpredictable and volatile.  As abhorrent as the Iranian regime is, Iran has not aggressively attacked or occupied any other country.  Why open a Pandora's Box and draw Middle East nations into an all-out military conflict?  Given the tensions in the region, that would be a recipe for disaster and possibly World War III.  As President Obama stressed, there is an opportunity to settle this conflict diplomatically.  Diplomacy should be given every chance to succeed.

It's a good thing that Obama won the 2008 election and not John McCain.  Remember when the Senator from Arizona sang "Bomb Bomb Bomb Bomb Bomb Iran."   It was a parody of the Beach Boys' song, "Barbara Ann" and it was not a joke.  Bombing another country is never something to joke about.  The incident was a reflection of McCain's hawkish mentality.  To watch a video of McCain singing about bombing Iran, click on the link below.

It's worth remembering that the McCain mentality is shared by three out of the four remaining candidates seeking the Republican nomination for president - Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.  The only exception is Ron Paul and Ron Paul does not have enough support to win the nomination.

- Joanne

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Joanne's Journal: March 6, 2012


Editon No. 6

Quote of the Day

Education is when you read the fine print; experience is what you get when you don't.

- Pete Seeger (1919 -  American folk singer and songwriter
From L. Botts, Loose Talk [1980]


If you were born on this day, you share a birthday with one of the greatest artists this world has even known.  Michelangelo di Lodvico Buonarroti Simoni was born on March 6, 1475 in Capese, Republic of Florence (present-day Tuscany, Italy).  He died in Rome on February 18, 1564 at the age of 88.  It is noteworthy that men of that era rarely lived to the age of 88.  It is also noteworthy that Michelangelo died the same year that William Shakespeare came into the world.  Shakespeare was born in April of 1564, a few months after Michelangelo's death.  One genius left the world and another was born soon after.


1.  He completed two of his greatest works, The Statue of David and The Pieta, before the age of 30.

2.  The Pieta was the only one of his works that he ever signed. 

3.  During his lifetime, Michelangelo was called Il Divino ("the divine one").


On February 22, 2012, a nine-year-old boy inadvertently shot his classmate at Armin Jahr Elementary School in Bremerton, Washington.  According to police, the boy had brought a .45 caliber handgun to school in his backpack.  The gun fired accidentally when he slammed his backpack down and eight-year-old Amina Kocer-Bowman was shot.  Amina remains in critical condition.  HeraldNet reported that she requires a ventilator to help her breathe.

The boy, a Grade 3 student, pleaded guilty to three charges - possession of a gun, bringing a dangerous weapon to school and reckless endangerment.  The Seattle Times reported that he told a Washington court that he was sorry after pleading guilty to the charges.  Under a plea agreement, he will serve a year of probation followed by 48 hours of community service.  His mother and her boyfriend have been accused of allowing him access to the gun.  Meanwhile, his classmate, the unfortunate Amina Kocer-Bowman, will never be the same - if she survives.

Is this the kind of society the National Rifle Association envisions for America?  Do Americans really want pistol-packing nine-year-olds?  Is it too difficult to understand that the easier it is to obtain guns, the more likely they will fall into the wrong hands?


Atom Bomb: An invention to bring an end to all inventions.

Conference: The confusion of one person multiplied by the number present.


What was written on the hypochondriac's tombstone?


"I told you I was sick!"


I've never been a great fan of Ron Wilson and I can't say I'm disappointed that he's no longer the Leafs' coach.  He was, however, the scapegoat for failure of the Toronto Maple Leafs to make the playoffs during his four-year tenure.  Although Wilson bears a great deal of responsibility for the teem's fecklessness, he is not the only culprit.  General Manager Brian Burke and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment share some of the responsibility for the mediocre performance of an iconic hockey franchise.  Ron Wilson failed to motivate the players and handled his goaltenders miserably.  Although to be fair, he didn't have great goaltenders in the first place.  As for new coach Randy Carlyle, I wish him the best of luck.  He'll need it.


The Toronto Blue Jays have to improve their 5-man pitching rotation.  It is not deep enough and there are too many question marks.  Of course, the party line is that the team can contend with the starting pitchers it has now.  What will happen if Ricky Romero or Brandon Morrow gets injured, though?  Then what?  There's not enough depth to carry the team if one of those pitchers should sustain a serious injury, especially one that requires surgery and a lengthy convalescence.  The Jays have built an impressive bullpen.  If the starting pitching flounders, the bullpen will be overused and overtired. 

Where is free agent Roy Oswalt headed?  Would he play for the Jays for one season?  Until the Jays start contending, they'll continue to have problems attracting players such as Oswalt to the city.  Too bad!  He would really bolster the starting rotation.  I wouldn't rule out Oswalt in a Jays uniform, but he's most likely to end up in Boston or Arizona.

- Joanne