Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Photos from the last day of the Pan Am Games in Toronto

Torontonians are not known for giving themselves a pat on the back.  We have a reputation for being highly critical of ourselves and quick to find fault with our city.  We can hardly believe it when we do something well.  Therefore, it was somewhat of a shock to us that the 2015 Toronto Pan American Games turned out to be such a success.  We were fine hosts, if I do say so myself.

Last Sunday afternoon, on the last day of the games, I strolled around City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square, enjoying the beautiful summer weather and all that sunshine.  I saw the "TORONTO" sign and listened to some steel band music (By the way, I think the "TORONTO" sign should remain.  It is lively and colourful.  It has the potential be a great landmark for the city).  Oh yes, and just so you won't think I'm only focused on Toronto, I must say that Hamilton and other locations in Ontario's Golden Horseshoe deserve congratulations for their efforts.  

Here are some photos from Sunday afternoon.  I hope you enjoy them.

Toronto's City Hall and Nathan Phillip's Square

Old City Hall, which is now a courthouse

- Joanne

Is climate change a moral issue?

Pope Francis' extraordinary encyclical letter on the environment, entitled Laudato Si' (Praise Be to You), was published on June 18, 2015.  The pope's critique on climate change and consumerism has caused a stir, receiving both approval and condemnation.  Here are some excerpts from Laudato Si', which is subtitled On care for our common home.

We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels - especially coal, but also oil and, to a lessee degree, gas - needs to be progressively replaced without delay. (paragraph 136)

Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence. nor convey their message to us.  We have no such right. (paragraph 33)

A technology severed from ethics will not easily be able to limit its own power. (paragraph 136)

Men and women of our postmodern world run the risk of rampant individualism, and many problems of society are connected with today's self-centred culture of instant gratification. (paragraph 162)

Not surprisingly, the most vigorous opposition to the papal encyclical has come from conservative Republicans in the United States.

Jeb Bush

I hope I’m not going to get castigated for saying this by my priest back home, but I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinal or my pope.  I think religion ought to be about making us better as people and less about things that end up getting in the political realm.”

- Jeb Bush         

Rick Sartorum

. . . the church has gotten it wrong a few times on science, and I think that we probably are better off leaving science to the scientists and focusing on what we do – what we’re really good at, which is – which is theology and morality.”   

- Rick Samtorum             


Exponents of religions are most appreciated when they're deemed to be irrelevant.  As long as they stick to rituals and officiate at life-cycle events they can count on popular support. But when they criticize the injustices of their day by articulating their religious convictions they're likely to be accused of meddling in politics.

- Dow Marmur, rabbi emeritus at Holly Blossom Temple in Toronto, Canada
Toronto Star, July 20, 2015

Is climate change a moral issue?  Well, first of all, let us define "moral."  According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, moral is an adjective and it means "concerning or relating to what is right or wrong in human behaviour."  By that definition, climate change is one of the most important moral issues of our time. Human behaviour with regard to the environment is absolutely a matter of ethics.

It is simply not right and not just to destroy the planet's ecosystem.  The suffering and the destruction wrought by pollution and greenhouse gases is truly unconscionable.  It is immoral to leave such a legacy to future generations.

Global warming and climate change are very real.  The evidence is overwhelming. Almost every day, the news is filled with stories of floods, forest fires, heat waves and erratic weather conditions. Species are disappearing and the Arctic ice is melting at an alarming right.  In January, the state of California faced a drought of such unprecedented severity that Governor Jerry Brown declared a State of Emergency.  State officials were instructed to to make all necessary preparations for water shortages. In May of this year, an intense heat wave hit India, resulting in 2,330 deaths as of June 2, 2015 (according to report by CNN).

Humans, by their use of fossil fuels, have greatly contributed to climate change.  The proliferation of climate change refugees is a sad commentary on the early 21st century. Unfortunately, the oil industry and right-wing thinkers can't or won't see the truth.  U.S. Tea Party Republicans continue to deny climate change.  Conservatives here in Canada, especially our own prime minister, Stephen Harper, consider the environment a bothersome topic.  It is an impediment that they would prefer to sweep under a rug.  That is why Harper has muzzled scientists and scorned "radical environmentalists."

In the United States, Jeb Bush and Rick Santorum, both Republican presidential candidates and both Catholics, were highly critical of Pope Francis' encyclical.  In essence, they told the pontiff to mind his own business, although, of course, they used more diplomatic language.  In his first official day on the presidential campaign, Bush declared at a town hall event in New Hampshire that Pope Francis should not involve himself in global affairs.

The energy industry also wasted no time in expressing  its disapproval of the pope's encyclical. On June 17, 2015, prior to the release of Laudato Si'Tom Altmeyer, a lobbyist for Arch Coal, one of America’s largest coal mining companies, sent an email to the U.S. Congress.  The email chastised the spiritual leader of the world's Roman Catholics for failing to promote fossil fuels as a solution to "global energy poverty."

In a June 7, 2015 interview on Fox News Sunday, Rick Santorum discussed climate change with journalist Chris Wallace,  Wallace questioned him about the extent of the pope's moral authority with regard to climate change.  The former Pennsylvania senator replied, ""that's important but I think there are more pressing problems confronting the earth than climate change."

When Santorum dismissed climate change as a problem not worthy of the pope's most urgent consideration, Wallace challenged him fiercely.  "If the pope can't talk about climate change." he asked, "why can you?"  In response to Santorum's  decree that science should be left to the scientists, Wallace pointed out that neither was Santorum a scientist.

Actually, Pope Francis has more claim to a scientific background than Rick Santorum.  According to a June 3, 2015 article in the National Catholic Reporter, Francis (then known as Jorge Bergoglio), studied chemistry and worked as a chemist before entering the seminary, although he does not hold Master's degree in chemistry as some press sources have stated.  The article, by Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese, author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church, states that Bergoglio graduated with "título in chemistry from the Escuela Técnica Industrial No. 12*, which is a state-run technical secondary school in Argentina (in the Argentine system titulo is the same term used for a secondary diploma or a university degree).

The Catholic Church, of course, does not have a spotless record in matters of science.  For example, take the the case of 17th century astronomer/physicist Galileo Galilei.  The Italian was persecuted for subscribing to the Copernican theory of the solar system (that the planets orbit the sun. not the earth). It was not until October 31 1992, after a 13-year investigation, that the church, under Pope John Paul II, formally pardoned Galileo of any wrongdoing and finally acknowledged its grievous error with regard to its treatment of him . This time, however, Pope Francis is on the right side of history.  The Republican Flat Earth Society and other climate change deniers are woefully mistaken.  There is more than enough scientific evidence to prove them wrong.  It's just that the evidence is not convenient for them. It does not fit their right wing political agenda.

When the pope speaks about climate change and its effects on the most vulnerable people in the poorest countries, he has every right to do so.  Indeed, it would be a dereliction of his duty as a spiritual leader if he failed to condemn environmental degradation or lend his support to the impoverished masses.  Francis made it clear in his encyclical, that he was not only speaking to his Catholic faithful, but that he was addressing all of humanity, believers and non-believers alike.


On September 24, 2015, Pope Francis is scheduled to become the first head of the Roman Catholic Church to address a joint session of the United States Congress.  According to BBC News, about one third of the members of Congress are Catholic, including the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Republican John Boehner, and minority leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat.  Given that the Republicans have control of both the House and the Senate, the pope's speech should be extremely interesting.

- Joanne

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The First MLB All-Star Game in 1933

The 86th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be held today.  The 2015 festivities, hosted by the Cincinnati Reds and the City of Cincinnati, will soon be underway at the Great American Ball Park.  It seem most appropriate, therefore, to take a trip back in time to the very first All-Star Game.  So let's do it!

Baseball fans, it is July 6, 1933 and we are headed to Comiskey Park in Chicago Illinois to watch the "Game of the Century," as it is being billed.  Before we arrive, though, here is some background information that you should really know.

* If you think times are tough now, remember that we are in the depths of The Great Depression. Franklin D. Roosevelt has just become President of the United States with promises of better days ahead and a New Deal for the Forgotten Man.  Remember that in the early 1930s, baseball served as a welcome distraction in the midst of terrible hardship and economic turmoil.

* You'll notice that "The Century of Progress Exposition" is being held in Chicago during this summer of 1933.  Chicago Mayor Edward J. Kelly had wanted to arrange a sporting event to coincide with the World's Fair, so he shared his idea with Col. Robert McCormick, the publisher of the Chicago Tribune. McCormick immediately called upon Arch Ward, the Tribune's sports editor, for his input on the matter. Ward suggested a matchup between the best players in baseball - the American League versus the National League. The sports editor became the driving force in establishing this inaugural All-Star game.  He diplomatically persuaded the AL and NL owners and Major League Baseball itself to accept his idea.

Arch Ward

By the 1930's, baseball had already established itself as America's favorite pastime and the national exposition provided the perfect stage to introduce baseball's best to the rest of the country. Many did not believe that a contest of this magnitude could possibly live up to the fan's expectations, especially for those who lived in the far western states and had never been to a major league baseball game.

- Baseball Almanac website

In the end, Arch’s one “Dream Game” idea was approved by Major League Baseball largely thanks to the economy. As a by product of the Great Depression, with the player salaries cut back, the proposed game was more attractive to the owners and Commissioner (Kennesaw Mountain) Landis.

All parties agreed the game would be played shortly after Independence Day, as western teams would be travelling east on their schedule, and vice-versa. A rainout date was scheduled for the following day.

- Eric Aron
TTF Baseball, June 30, 2013

We've arrived at the ball park.  Here is your ticket to the big game!  Let's buy some popcorn and then we'll take our place in the stands.  We'll join the capacity crowd of 47,495 (according to the Chicago Tribune) to watch the American League Stars take on the National League.  Weather conditions are ideal in the Windy City this afternoon, so let's enjoy the game!

Now that you've settled in your seat, take a look at your program.  You will notice that Connie Mack is the manager of the American League All-Stars and John McGraw is the manager of the National League All-Stars. McGraw has come out of retirement to manage the NL team (This was the only All-Star managerial appearance for those two Hall of Fame managers).

Mack (left) and McGraw at 1993 All-Star Game

The pitching matchup is a battle of southpaws. Left-handed pitcher "Wild Bill" Hallahan of the St. Louis Cardinals, takes the mound for the National League.  Lefty Gomez of the New York Yankees is the starting pitcher for the American League.

Look at the rosters for both teams. What a line-up of sluggers!  The American League side.includes famed Yankee first baseman Lou Gehrig, future Hall of Famer Jimmie Fox of the Boston Red Sox, outfielder Al Simmons of the Chicago White Sox and the legendary George Herman "Babe" Ruth of the New York Yankees.

Let's face it though, we are more excited about seeing The Babe than any other player on the field. Even the National League pitcher agrees that the Sultan of Swat is the star attraction.

We wanted to see the Babe. Sure, he was old and had a big waistline, but that didn't make any difference. We were on the same field as Babe Ruth." 

- Wild Bill Hallahan

The American League takes an early lead, scoring a run in the bottom of the first inning, It's 1-0 for the AL, but there is more to come.

It's the bottom of the third inning.  Babe Ruth is at the plate.  He may be 38 years old and considered past his prime, but The Bambino does not disappoint.  He blasts the ball into the right-field stands, recording the first home run in All-Star history.  The Babe's two-run homer puts the American League ahead by a score of 3-0.

In the top of the sixth inning, with two outs, second baseman Frankie Frisch of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a two-run homer deep to right field. Suddenly, the National League is on the board and the American League's lead is cut to 3-2.   Frisch's homer, however, is too little, too late.  The AL adds another run in the bottom of the seventh inning and the game ends in an AL victory by a a score of 4-2.


* Although the 1933 All-Star Game was originally intended to be a one-time deal, an adjunct to the  "The Century of Progress Exposition," it was so successful that it became a permanent annual fixture for Major League Baseball.  The second All-Star Game was held on July 10, 1934 at the Polo Grounds in New York City, home of the New York Giants.

* NoBabe Ruth was not selected as the "Most Valuable Player" of the 1933 All-Star Game.  In fact, there was no M.V.P. Award until 1962,

* My hometown of Toronto, Canada, hosted the All-Star Game back in 1991.  I will soon be time for Toronto to host the game again.

- Joanne

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Benjamin Franklin and conservatism

In the first Place, as an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure . . .

- Benjamin Franklin, 1735

Conservatives would do well to heed the words of Benjamin Franklin, even though they were not written in a purely political context.  In fact, you may be surprised to learn that Franklin's famous dictum was actually fire-fighting advice to the good citizens of Philadelphia.  

In the 18th century, fires were a very serious concern to the people of the City of Brotherly Love. On February 4, 1735, an anonymous letter from an "old citizen" (Franklin) appeared in The Pennsylvania Gazette.  It was entitled "Protection of Towns from Fire" and it began with the well-known warning about the importance of prevention,  Today we would call it "being proactive."

It may be unfathomable from a 20th century perspective, but the great American statesman really had to be persuasive in his letter concerning fire protection.  However, as Daniel  Kiel pt it in his research paper, An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure: Reframing the Debate About Law School Affirmative Action.(Denver University Law Review, Vol. 88, p. 791, 2010), "That it was difficult to convince colonial Philadelphians that a group committed to firefighting was a good idea is hard to imagine, but Franklin had to advocate for the creation of just such a group for some time.  In one submission to a local newspaper, Frankline argued that prevention of a catastrophic city-wide fire was certainly preferable to rebuilding a burned city from scratch."

Benjamin Franklin was not merely a man of words.  He was unequivocally a man of action and he worked tirelessly to bring about that "ounce of prevention."  In 1736, he helped to organize Philadelphia's Union Fire Company, the first of its kind n the city.  In 1752, he helped to found the Philadelphia Contribution for Insurance Against Loss by Fire so that those with an insurance policy would not have to face financial ruin if their homes were damaged or burned to the ground.

Can you imagine such a man as Franklin wanting to repeal the Affordable Heath Care Act (commonly known as "Obamacare")?  Speaking of the much-maligned "Obamacare," here are some facts, according to a tracking survey released on July 10, 2015 by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

* The sharp decrease in the number of Americans without health coverage continues.  It has reached a seven-year low.  In the second quarter of 2015, 11.4 percent of adults lacked some kind of health insurance, a half-percentage point drop from the prior quarter,

* The uninsured rate has plummeted almost six percentage points since the Affordable Health Care Act took effect in late 2013.

That is all good news, my friends, despite what the GOP says.  It's much better to prevent an illness from happening than to treat its symptoms.

For example, it seems that conservatives would rather build prisons than alleviate some of the major causes of crime.  Isn't it more logical to spend taxpayers money on programs that eliminate poverty and illiteracy than on jails that breed more crime.  I am certainly not advocating that dangerous criminals should not be incarcerated for the protection of the public.  I'm just saying that more money should be invested in preventing crime before it happens.  More money should be invested in health care and health insurance before illnesses occur.

After enjoying the benefits of Obamacare, how many Americans would want to give it up now and become uninsured again?  Not very many, I'd venture to say.  Why would anyone want to risk financial devastation if they or a family member should develop a serious health condition?

How many colonial Philadelphians would have given up fire protection and fire insurance once they had experienced its advantages.  Not many, I'd venture to say.  I'd also venture to say that the Republicans are on the wrong side of history.  Why do they insist on spending more money and fighting the disease rather than in preventing its outbreak in the first place?

- Joanne