Saturday, March 2, 2024

Champion of Working Men and Women?

Trump’s track record with unions isn’t as simple as he’d like to paint it. Though he spent much of the 2016 campaign railing against free trade deals and neoliberal economic policies that contributed to the decline of the American manufacturing sector and the outsourcing of blue-collar jobs, that’s just about the limit of his union-friendly perspective. As president, he sided with capital and managerial interests over labor at nearly every turn, appointing corporate-friendly lawyers to the National Labor Relations Board, supporting right-to-work laws that limited union organizing and dues collections in Republican states, and promising to veto the PRO Act, a bill that would override those state laws and boost labor organizing rights. Even at his rally, he talked up the tax cuts he passed in 2017, without mentioning that they disproportionately benefited corporations and corporate leaders.

- Christian Paz, Vox, September 28, 2023

Donald Trump likes to portray himself as a champion of the working class, and an astute businessman.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  However, Trump's supporters don't care about the facts.  They support him out of raw emotion, fueled by fear.  The facts do not resonate with those who have been fed a steady diet of lies from Fox News, although moderate Republicans and independents may be persuaded not to vote for Trump.

A 15,000-word New York Times report contradicted Trump's portrayal of himself as self-made billionaire who built up his fortune from a $1 million loan from his father, Fred Trump.  According to the 2018 Times report,  Trump and his father evaded gift and inheritance taxes by establishing a sham corporation and undervaluing assets.  In other words, they committed outright fraud.

According to The New York Times, ex-President Donald Trump procured at least $413 million from his father through the years, much of it from tax dodges.  The Times' information on the Trump finances was obtained  from over 100,000 pages of financial documents, including private tax returns.

If you think Trump is a clever businessman, think again!  Trump has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection six times for his companies.  This has been fact-checked buy The Washington Post.  During the 1980s, Trump was considered to be a dashing real estate investor.  When the state of New Jersey legalized gambling, Trump made a huge bet that Atlantic City would enjoy prosperity.  Accordingly, he obtained possession of three casinos, The Taj Mahal, the Trump Plaza and the Trump Castle, which by 1991 couldn't pay their debts.  By 1992, they had all declared bankruptcy.  

Chapter 11 bankruptcy allows companies to restructure or wipe out much their debt to other companies, creditors and shareholders while remaining in business under the management of a bankruptcy court.
Trump's debt was restructured, not liquidated.  

In November of 1992, A fourth property, the Plaza Hotel in New York, also declared bankruptcy after accumulating millions in debt.  A 49 per cent stake in the luxury hotel was given to Citibank and five other lenders.  Trump remained chief executive, but without being paid.  His role in the everyday operations of the hotel was taken away.  

Trump married his second wife, Marla Maples, at the swank property, overlooking Manhattan's Central Park.  According to Newsweek, Trump officially relinquished ownership of the Plaza Hotel in 1995.  He sold it for $325 million, losing around $83 million in the change of ownership;

Trump's three casino bankruptcies occurred during the recession of the early 1990s and the Gulf War, which further exacerbated the difficulties in Atlantic City's gambling industry.  After 1992, Trump placed his casino holdings into a new company called Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts.  It went bankrupt in 2004, after amassing $1.8 billion in debt.  Trump Entertainment Resorts, the company that emerged from that restructuring declared bankruptcy in 2009 after being hit by the 2008 recession.  

Trump has never filed personal bankruptcy, only corporate bankruptcy associated with his business dealings.  He claims that he has never gone bankrupt, which is probably a half-truth.  However, the way his current legal woes are mounting, he may be forced to declare personal bankruptcy as he struggles to pay the $454 million he owes from his New York fraud trial.

It is a total fallacy that Donald Trump is a champion of working men and women.  Would a champion of the working man support tax breaks for billionaires?  During the recent autoworkers strike, it was President Joe Biden who stood alongside the picketers.  Biden became the first sitting president of the United States to join a picket line.  


- Joanne

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Number 16 Oscars Quiz 2024

The 96hh Academy Awards will be held on Sunday, March 10, 2024.  The live show will start at 7 p.m. Eastern Time. on ABC and will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, California.  It will also be live-streamed on the ABC app, which requires a cable subscription.  Streaming services such as Hulu Live TV, YouTube TV, DirecTV Stream, FuboTV, Sling TV and DirectTV Stream will also provide access to the event through ABC on their platforms.  This year's Oscars will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel.  As you prepare for the big night, why not challenge yourself and try Number 16's 12th annual Oscars quiz. There are 11 questions. Good luck!

NUMBER 16 OSCARS QUIZ


1.  A new category will be added to the Academy Awards beginning in 2026.  What is the category?

A.  Best Box Office Success

B.  Best Musical

C.  Achievement in Casting

D.  Best Historical Documentary Film

E.   None of the Above


2.  Which film earned Steven Spielberg his first Academy Award for best director?

Steven Spielberg

A,  Schindler's List

B.  E.T: the Extra-Terrestrial

C.  Saving Private Ryan

Jaws

E.  Close Encounters of the Third Kind


3.  Steven Spielberg was one of the producers of  film that was nominated for Best Picture in 2024.  Name that film.

A.  The Fabelman's

B.  Maestro

C.  The Holdovers

D.  Anatomy of a Fall

E.  Oppenheimer


4.  In which year were the Academy Awards first broadcast internationally?

A.  1966

B.  1959

C.  1965

D.  1969

E.  1970


5.  How many Academy Awards has Clint Eastwood won?

Clint Eastwood

A.  3

B.  4

C.  2

D.  1

E.   None


6.  Paul Giomatti has been nominated in 2024 for a Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance in The Holdovers.  Has Giomatti ever won a Oscar?\

Paul Giomatti

A.  Yes, he won an Oscar on 2006 for  Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Cinderella Man.

B.  Yes, he won an Oscar in 2005 for Best Leading Actor in Sideways.

C.  Yes, he won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for The Illusionist in 2007.

D.  Yes, he won a Best Leading Actor Oscar for Best Leading Actor for American Splendor in 2004.

E.  No, Paul Giomatti has never won an Osccar.


7.  In 2024, Ryan Gosling was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Ken in the film Barbie.  Where was Ryan Gosling born?

Ryan Gosling

A.  Chicago, Illinois, USA

B.  Los Angeles, California, USA.

C.  London, England, UK

D.  Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

E.  London, Ontario, Canada


8.  Did Hollywood star Ginger Rogers ever win an Academy Award?

Ginger Rogers
A.

B.

C.  Yes, she won an Oscar for Best Actress for the leading role the 1940 film Kitty Foyle.

D.

E.  No, she never won an Oscar.


9.  Who was the first woman to host the Oscars solo?

A.  Jane Fonda

B.  Whoopi Goldberg

C.  Liza Minnelli

D.  Goldie Hawn

E.  Shirley MacLaine


10.  For what film did Whoopi Goldberg win an Academy Award?

A. The Color Purple

B.  Sister Act

C.  Ghost

D.  None of the Above

E.  She has never won an Oscar.

11.  How many Spanish-born actors have won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading or Supporting Role.

A. None

B.  3

C.  2

D.  1

E.  4



ANSWERS

1.  C

Achievement in Casting is the new category.  It will begin in 2026, for films released in 2025.  This is the first new category created by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science since 2002 for Best Animated Feature Film, which was won by Shrek.  

With this new category, casting directors will finally get the recognition they deserve.  The Casting Directors Branch, formed in 2013, has almost 160 members.


2.  A

Steven Spielberg has received eight Academy Award nominations for Best Director, including two wins.  He won his first Oscar in 1994 as director for the 1993 film Schindler's List.  In 1999, he won his second Academy Award for Best Director for the 1998 film Saving Private Ryan.  Spielberg received Best Director nominations for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, West Side Story, Lincoln, and Munich.


3.  B

Spielberg was one of the producers of the film Maestro, which is based on the life of conductor Leonard Bernstein.  Spielberg was originally set to direct Maestro, but he decided to let Bradley Cooper, who plays 


4.  D

The  Academy Awards were first broadcast internationally in 1969.


5.  B


Clint Eastwood has won four Oscars.  He has received Academy Awards for Best Director  for Unforgiven in 1993, Best Picture for Unforgiven in 1993., Best Director for Million Dollar Baby in 2005 and Best Picture for Million Dollar Baby in 2005.


6,  E  

No, Paul Giomatti has never won an Oscar.  His nomination for the Holdovers is his second nomination.  In 2006, Giomatti was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Cinderella Man.


7.  E

Ryan Gosling was born in London, Ontario, Canada on November 12, 1980.  His nomination for Barbie is his third Oscar nomination.  He was previously nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role for Half Nelson in 2007 and La La Land in 2017.


8. C

Ginger and James Stewart with Oscars in 1941

Ginger Roges won an Oscar for Best Actress in 1941 for her performance in the 1940 film Kitty Foyle.


9.  B

Whoopi hosting the Oscars in 1994.

Whoopi Goldberg was the first woman to host the Oscars solo in 1994.  Jane Fonda, Goldie Hawn, Shirley MacLean and Liza Minnelli all served as co-hosts.  Goldberg hosted again in 1996, 1999 and 2002.


10.  C

In 1991, Whoopi Goldberg won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance in the 1990 film Ghost.  In 1986, She was nominated for a Best Actress in a Leading Role for the 1985 film The Color Purple, but did not win.


11.  D 

Javier Bardem

Only one Spanish-born actor has one the Best Actor in a Leading Role.  In 2008, Javier Bardem, born in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain, won the Best Actor in a Supporting Role Oscar for his performance for the film No Country for Old Men (2007).  


- Joanne

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Mona Parsons: The Hero that Few People Know About

Mona Parsons

We Canadians are a modest bunch, much given to self-deprecation.  We do not celebrate our heroes enough, particularly our female heroes.  That is why I have chosen to write about a woman who was a hero in every sense of the word.  To be honest, I had never heard of Mona Parsons until I saw her image on a Canadian postage stamp recently.  I don't remember her ever being mentioned in any of my studies at school.  Mona's story is largely unknown in her own country, despite the fact that she was the only Canadian non-military woman to be imprisoned by the German army during World War II.

Mona Louise Parsons was born in Middleton, Nova Scotia on February 17, 1901, the youngest (and only daughter) of the three children born to Colonel Norval Parsons, and his wife, Mary.  When Mona was ten years old, the family moved to Wolfville, Nova Scotia. a move precipitated by the loss of her father's business in a fire.  Mona's father, a commanding officer during World War I, eventually became a successful businessman.  He owned and operated Parsons and Elliott Home Furnishing, located on Commercial Street in Wolfville.

While in her teens, Mona enrolled in the Acadia Ladies' Seminary.in Wolfville, where she excelled in artistic pursuits.  After graduating in 1920, Mona attended the prestigious Currie School of Expression in Boston, after which she taught elocution for two years.at the Conway Central College in Conway, Arkansas.  She then returned to Wolfville, where she attended Acadia University and involved herself in campus drama activities.  

As an aspiring actress, Mona Parson's dream was to become a star on Broadway.  In the 1920s, she moved to New York City and appeared as a chorus girl in the Ziegfeld Follies.  However, she was unable land the kind of dramatic roles she coveted, and her stage career failed to gain traction.  In 1927, when her mother become ill, Mona went home too Nova Scotia to tend to her.

After her mother's death in 1930, Mona returned to New York City to study nursing  After graduation, she secured a position as a private nurse in the Park Avenue offices of a specialist from Nova Scotia.  Mona was an independent career woman in the Big Apple during the Great Depression, but by the late 1930s, her life would take a dramatic turn.  

In 1937, Mona's brother Ross introduced her to a debonair business associate named Willem Leonhardt.  Willem was a wealthy Dutch entrepreneur based in Amsterdam.  He and Mona were married on September 1, 1937, after a five-month romance.  In 1938, the couple built a sprawling estate in Laren, about a half hour drive from Amsterdam.  They called their estate "Ingleside." and they lived a quiet and privileged life there until May of 1940, when the Nazis invaded the Netherlands  

Since September of 1939, when Britain declared war on Germany, Willem had been been greatly concerned about Mona's status as a Canadian citizen and a British subject.  He felt she would be more vulnerable than he, should the Netherlands come under Nazi rule.  However, in the spring of 1940, when the Germans occupied Holland, a defiant Willem staunchly refused to leave his home  He and Mona decided to just go on with their lives.

Willem and Mona joined the Dutch Resistance.  Their private estate, with its long driveway and extensive grounds. became an ideal hiding place for Allied airmen being smuggled out of the Netherlands.  Mona and her husband built a secret apartment in the attic of their home where they could safely harbour British airmen who had survived being shot down over Holland.  Unfortunately, a Nazi informer betrayed them to the Gestapo in 1941.  Willem went underground, assuming that the Nazis would leave Mona alone because she was a woman.  He was wrong.  Within days, Mona was captured and jailed.  On September 29, 1941, she was sent to Weteringchans Prison in Amsterdam.

On December 22, 1941, Mon Parsons was found guilty of treason by a Nazi tribunal in Amsterdam.  She was sentenced to death by firing squad.  Yet, despite the harsh sentence, Mona did not sob and plead for mercy,  As she started to leave the courtroom, the judge congratulated her on her composure.  He was so impressed by her dignified manner, that he suggested that she appeal her sentence and that he would recommend it.  In 1942, Mona's sentence was commuted to life in prison with hard labour.  She worked on an assembly line where she often became ill and lost a great deal of weight.

In February of 1945, Mona was sent to Vechta Prison, a former reform school, where she was put to work peeling potatoes, knitting socks and repairing uniforms.  She was locked in a tiny cell with four other inmates who slept on a bed of straw.

It was at Vechta that Mona met 22-year-old Baroness Wendellien van Boetzelaer, whom she would later describe as her "companion and guardian angel in a memorable flight for freedom."  The two women plotted s daring escape plan, and they were faced with a sudden opportunity to put it into action.  On March 24, 1945, Vechta was bombed by the Allies.  The men's prison took a direct hit and none of the occupants survived.  Meanwhile, the women were taken outside.  The warden, who was the former principal of the school, allowed them to choose between Allied bombs and German bullets.  

Mona and van Boetzelaer made a run for it through the open gates.  For three weeks, the two women walked 125 kilometres (almost 78 miles) through Germany before becoming separated at the Dutch border.  The pair posed as refugees from Dusseldorf, with 44-year-old Mona using her acting skills as she played the role of  Wendellien's mentally challenged aunt.  Wendellien spoke German fluently, but Mona feigned a speech impediment to conceal her accented German

In the final months of the war in Europe, an emaciated Mona meandered about Nazi Germany ss a fugitive.  With the assistance of a Dutch farmer, Mona eventually reached the safety of a Canadian battalion from her home province - the North Nova Scotia Highlanders.  She was provided with food and medical attention.at the Canadian Army Rear Headquarters in Oldenburg, Germany.  By the end of May, 1945, Mona was able to return to her home in the Netherlands by way of the Canadian General Hospital in the Dutch port city of Nijmegen.

About a month after her return to Laren, Mona was reunited with her husband, who had been liberated from a Nazi prison camp by the Americans.  Willem, however, never completely recovered from his imprisonment.  His health had greatly deteriorated and he had become a semi-invalid.  Mona nursed him until his death in 1956.

Following Willem's death, Mona learned that he had kept a mistress and that he had fathered a son, of whom she had not been aware.  One quarter of his estate was left to his mistress, and the rest to his biological son.  A legal battle ensued, which Mona lost.  She was left with no inheritance from her late husband.

In 1957, Mona returned to Canada and took up residence in Halifax.  Back in Nova Scotia, she became reacquainted with Major-General Harry Foster, a childhood friend from Wolfville who was widowed and had retired from the military.  They wed in 1959 and lived in Lobster Point, Chester, Nova Scotia until Henry passed away from cancer in 1964.  After her husband's death, Mona moved back to Wolfville, the community where she was raised.  Mona remained in Wolfville until her own passing on November 28, 1976.

Mona Parsons was 75 years old at the time of her death.  She had suffered from pneumonia and had been plagued by nightmares. When she died, the childless widow's possessions were auctioned off.  Mona's incredible story was virtually ignored until 2000 when Andria Hill-Lehr wrote her biography, Mona Parsons: From Privilege to Prison, from Nova Scotia to Nazi Europe.

On November 13, 2023, Canada Post unveiled a Remembrance Day postage stamp of a young Mona with a photograph of infantry soldiers of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders entering the Netherlands in the background.  The stamp was designed by Larry Burke and Anna Stredulinsky of Halifax's marketing boutique, Burke & Burke.



Mona's amazing story should be heard in schools, colleges and universities in Canada and around the world. It is a story of unwavering bravery and bold determination.  It is heartening that she is finally getting some recognition.

END NOTES

* A few months after the war ended in Europe, Mona Parsons received commendations from British Air Chief Marshall Lord Tedder of the Royal Air Force and General Dwight D. Eisenhower, commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces.  The citations was given in gratitude for assisting Allied airmen in evading capture by the Nazis.

* In 2005, Historica Canada released a Heritage Minute, one of a series of 60-second public service vignettes focused on Canadian history.  The Heritage Minute about Mona depicted her arrest and eventual escape.

* A bronze stature was erected in downtown Wolfville in Mona's honour.  It is titled The joy is almost too much to bear.  It depicts Mona celebrating her and the Netherlands' liberation on May 5, 1945.  The sculpture was unveiled on the grounds of the Wolfville Post Office on May 5, 2017.


SOURCES:  The Canadian Encyclopedia; Canadian History magazine, "Remembering Mona Parsons," by Andria Hill, March 14, 2017; Historic Nova Scotia (historicnovascota.ca), "Mona Parsons (1901-1976)," by Andria Hill-Lehr with research support from the Wolfville Historical Society, Wikipedia


- Joanne

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Connor McDavid and a Million Dollars


Connor McDavid is 27 years old.  The Richmond Hill, Ontario native is the captain of the Edmonton Oilers and he is arguably the best player in the National Hockey League.  Last weekend, McDavid participated in the All-Star festivities in Toronto.  Not surprisingly, he won the revamped skills competition.  He put on quite a show for hockey fans with triumphs in the fastest skater, stick handling, shooting accuracy and obstacle course events..  

McDavid won a cool one million dollars U.S. for his victory, but does he really need a million bucks?  He's rolling in dough.  On July 5, 2017, McDavid signed an eight-year $100 million contract extension with the Oilers, which came into effect at the start of the 2018-19 season.  

When McDavid was asked what he intended to do with his skill competition winnings, he replied the he would be giving some away to his teammates and might even donate some to charity.  Oh, Connor!  Why don't you donate it all to charity?  There are so many people out there who need your support more than your teammates need it.  A million dollar can go a long way in improving this world.  It can alleviate a great deal of suffering.

I admire Connor's hockey skills, but I would admire him even more if he would use his talent and his good fortune for the betterment of society.  There are so many important causes - medical research, mental illness, addiction, homelessness . . . the list goes on.  

Some may argue that the million dollars is McDavid's money and he can do whatever he wants with it?  That may be so, but shouldn't it be put to better use?  Perhaps the winner of the NHL All-Star competition should be required to donates the money to the charity of his choice.  Why reward star athletes with money they don't need?   It just makes the NHL appear greedy, selfish and uncaring.  Nah!  That can't be true, can it?


- Joanne

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Why MAGA Republicans are so afraid of Taylor Swift

Why are ultra right-wing Republicans and Trump supporters so afraid of the woman pictured above?  Taylor Swift holds no political office and at 34, she is too young to qualify as a candidate for President of the United States,  Nevertheless, Taylor wields an enormous amount of influence around the world.  She may even be the greatest online influencer on the planet.  Her Instagram follower count is currently at 279.5 million followers.

Taylor Swift is on a roll.  She was the Time 2023 Person of the Year.  Her name has appeared on lists such as Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time and Billboard's Greatest of All Time Artists.  She is the highest-grossing female touring performer and the most streamed woman on Spotify and Apple Music.        

Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour Movie has been a smash box office hit.  It has broken a handful of records pertaining to ticket sales.  It has become the highest-grossing concert movie of all time, surpassing Justin Bieber: Never Say Never.  In addition to being one of the world's best-selling musicians, Taylor is a philanthropist and an advocate for the empowerment of women.

In 2018, Taylor took to Instagram to support Phil Bredesen, the Democratic candidate for Senate in her home state of Tennessee.  This was the first that she expressed her political leanings publicly.  Then, a month before the 2020 presidential election. she formally endorsed Joe Biden in an edition of V magazine.  Taylor has also encouraged her supporter to become active in the political system, prompting over 35,000 of her Instagram follows to register to vote in September of 2023.  So what?  Isn't that a good thing?  Isn't it healthy for a democracy?  Isn't that Taylor's right as an American citizen to use her digital  platform to express her opinions, as long as she is respectful?

MAGA Republicans feel threatened by an increase in voters.  Instead of encouraging Americans to participate in the political process, MAGA Republicans want to limit voters, especially Democratic voters.  Instead of making their party more attractive to more people, especially Blacks and women, they choose to close it off.  They choose to be anti-democratic.   

Taylor Swift has a perfect right to express her political views.  It's called freedom of speech and it is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.  Unlike Donald Trump and his far-right supporters, Taylor has never been hate-filled and racist.

You can be sure, however, that if Taylor had endorsed Trump, those same MAGA Republicans would have praised her to the high heavens.  There would have been no talk of conspiracy theories.  However, she has expressed support for Democrats.  Horror of horrors!  She is evil.  She is a communist.  She must be stopped from corrupting her young fans.  

Taylor's boyfriend, Travis Kelce, a tight end for the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs, has promoted both COVID-19 and influenza vaccines in commercials.  Oh boy!  He must also be a leftist radical.  He and Taylor must hate America. 

Unfortunately conspiracy theories about Taylor Swift abound among far-right believers.  There have been unfounded theories that the pop singer is a Pentagon psychological operative. Former GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy described Taylor and Kelce as "an artificially, culturally propped-up couple."  Donald Trump's spokesperson, Karoline Levitt, called Democrats' alleged efforts to win Swift's endorsement as a "Hail Mary pass to drag Biden over the finish line."

Obviously, Republicans are concerned about whom Taylor will endorse in the 2024 presidential election.  She's a powerful and influential woman.  Unlike Trump, however, she does not bully people.  She does not behave like a mob boss.

Thank goodness that there is some sanity within the Republican party.  Nikki Haley, who is campaigning against Trump for her party's presidential nomination, has criticized Republican attacks on Taylor Swift.  When asked to weigh in on the pop star by Jake Tapper on CNN'S The Lead, Haley replied, "I'm not going to lie.  I don't know what the obsession is.  Taylor Swift is allowed to have a boyfriend,  I've taken my daughter to Taylor Swift concerts before.  You know, to have a conspiracy theory of all of this, is bizarre.  Nobody knows who she's going to endorse but I can't believe that that's overtaken our national politics."  

Haley, the former governor of South Carolina clearly believes that the United States has more pressing issues than than cooking up conspiracy theories about the candidate Taylor Swift will support in the 2024 presidential campaign.  To be fair, other sensible Republicans have also denounced the Taylor Swift conspiracy theories, including Megan McCain, daughter of the late Senator John McCain.  McCain, called out members of her own party in an X (formerly Twitter) post.  She wrote, "Whatever nutjob "republicans: are floating ugly and insane conspiracy theories about Taylor Swift are total idiots."

MAGA Republicans don't have the same point of view as Haley and McCain.  They have a very different perspective on the 2024 Super Bowl between the Kansas Chief and the San Francisco 49ers    on Sunday, February 11th in Las Vegas.  Travis Kelce plays for Kansa City, so there must be some conspiracy.  The NFL must be part of the conspiracy.  The league must have somehow arranged for the Kansas City Chiefs to be in the Super Bowl so that Taylor and Travis could promote their liberal views.  Don't you know that the Sup[er Bowl has been fixed?  That kind of thinking is absurd.  It is utterly ridiculous!  It would be laughable if it were not so sad that so many Americans take such claptrap seriously.


- Joanne

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

When will the Toronto Maple Leafs ever learn? They keep making the same mistakes

  “The definition of ‘insanity’ is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

The above quotation is often attributed to Albert Einstein, although there is little or no evidence that Einstein actually said that.  The source of the quote remains unknown, but the words certainly apply to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Let's discuss the Leafs.  It's truly astounding that the Core Four - John Tavares,
Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander- is still intact.  Tavares, the team captain is a seasoned veteran.  He often wins faceoffs for the team.  Although Tavares has been struggling lately, he can't be traded.  Number 91 has a no-trade clause in his contract.  Unless and until he waives his no-movement clause, he isn't going anywhere.

With the Core Four, the Leafs do well in the regular season, but year after year, they fizzle out in the playoffs.  Matthews, Tavares and Nylander take up about 49% of the team's salary cap.  It doesn't take a genius to figure out that that doesn't leave very much to spend on defence and goaltending. To win a Stanley Cup, you need a strong defence and really good goaltending. 

On January 8, 2024, the Leafs signed William Nylander to an eight-year $92 million contract extension.  That means that he will be earning an annual salary of $11.5 million.  At 27, Nylander is probably at the peak of his career.  If the Leafs had traded him, they could have received maximum value in return.  They could have asked for a top-of-the-line defenceman.  It's too late now.  

Nylander

On July 1, 2025, Mitch Marner becomes an unrestricted free agent, and he will ask for a hefty raise.  How are the Maple Leafs going to stay within their salary cap without compromising their defence and goaltending? How are they going to go far in the playoffs without a balanced team?  For too long, the Leafs  have been a strong regular season contender, but have faired poorly in the playoffs.  

I have been a Leafs fan my whole life, but I'm going to be blunt.  As every fan of the Blue and White knows, the Leafs have not won a Stanley Cup since 1967.  I really can't see a parade along Yonge Street in the near future.  I am not demeaning Tavares, Matthew, Marner and Nylander.  They are all good players.  However, I refuse to be greatly impressed until they shine in post-season play.  They have never done that and the Leafs have never gone deep into the playoffs with the Core Four.


- Joanne

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Extremism is blocking peace in the Middle East

The world is off kilter right now.  It's off balance.  Too many people view society in terms of black and white.  For them, it's always "us against them", 'either/or," "my way or the highway."  There's never any compromise.  There's no in-between, no middle of the road.  They fail to see the shades of grey, the nuances.  

When that sense of balance is lost, extremism fills the void.  There is a lack of moderation.in an either/or world.  Unfortunately, the pandemic, social media and Trumpism have only exacerbated the problem.  There is a distinct lack of civility and so much polarization.

In particular, we are witnessing the rise of the extreme right around the globe, as well as a decline in trust for democratic institutions.  Conservatives are becoming noticeably more extreme.  In my own country, Canada, the conservatives of today are not the same as the conservatives of yesteryear.  They are more aggressive and they have moved much further to the right.  It's no surprise that our federal Conservative Party is no longer the Progressive Conservative Party.  The word Progressive has been dropped.

The far-right has drummed up hate for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.  He was swarmed by protesters in Belleville, Ontario and he was forced to cancel an appearance in Surrey, British Columbia due to safety concerns.  I have seen anti-Trudeau hate messages around Toronto.  This has never been the Canadian way and it is deplorable.  It seems that MAGA Republicanism has found its way north.

Have we not learned the lessons of history?  Have we forgotten the rise of fascism and Nazism in the 1930s?.  I was sickened to read about a far-right rally that was held in Rome on January 7, 2024.  Videos were later released showing hundreds of men making fascist salutes.  This happened in front of the former headquarters of the MSI group, a neo-fascist party that eventually became the conservative Brothers of Italy.  The Brothers of Italy was co-founded by Giorgia Meloni, who just happens to be the Italian prime minister.

Of course, condemnation of right-wing extremism must be balanced by condemnation of left-wing extremism..  Stalin and Mao were as brutal as Hitler and Mussolini. History teaches that extremism in any form, whether it be political, religious or social, leads to death, destruction and oppression.  

Right now we have a nightmarish situation in the Middle East, with no end in sight.  Both Palestinians and Israelis are suffering terribly.  Yet, around the world, people are using the actions of the Israeli government to unleash the most vile anti-Semitism.  Similarly, there has been a rise in Islamophobia.  Synagogues and mosques are being vandalized and defiled.  Protesters are busy assigning blame to Jews and Muslims for the actions of extremists.  Meanwhile, innocent civilians are suffering and dying, many of them women and children,  Who is speaking for them?  

Where is the steady leadership that is so dearly needed.?  Remember how former President Jimmy Carter brokered the Camp David Accords back in 1978.  Thanks to the leadership and courage of Carter, as well as Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, peace was achieved between Israel and Egypt.  So, why can't a fair and just agreement be reached between the Israelis and the Palestinians?  The reason is that terrorist groups such as Hamas and extreme right-wing Israelis do not want peace.  They would prefer to see innocent civilians suffer than to agree on a fair and just two-state solution.  

Left to right: Begin, Carter and Sadat in 1979

There will be no peace in the Middle East without a two-state solution.  The Palestinian people and the Israeli people are sick and tired of war and suffering.  They desire peace and they want a two-state solution.  Meanwhile, the extremists are doing all they can to prevent peace and to prolong the suffering.  At one extreme, Hamas wants to obliterate Israel. wipe it off the map.  At the other extreme, Benjamin Netanyahu and his far-right government reject a two-state solution.  Neither path leads to peace, only more death, destruction and misery.

Benjamin Netanyahu

Netanyahu has always claimed that he would protect his country's security.  Yet, under his watch, Hamas was able to launch an attack on Israel and kidnap hostages.  Netanyahu has done Israel more harm than good.  He has hurt its reputation.  What is occurring in the Gaza is madness.  It is humanity at its worst.


- Joanne

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Hey Evangelicals in Iowa, Trump is using you!

AN OPEN LETTER TO AMERICAN EVANGELICALS IN IOWA

The Iowa caucuses are about to open the Republican primary calendar.  It is frigid and snowy in the Hawkeye State.  A large percentage of Iowa voters identify as Evangelical Christians.   Here are some thoughts for them as they prepare to vote.

Dear Evangelical Voters,

Do you really think Trump cares about the hard-working farmers of Iowa?  Are you kidding?  The man lacks empathy.  He's running for president so he can avoid going to prison. He faces 91 felony charges across four criminal cases and two civil lawsuits.

I know you don't want to hear this, but you are being used by Donald Trump for political purposes.  All he wants is your money and your vote.  It is astounding that conservative Christians, who are well-schooled in Biblical verse, can support someone whose values and views are completely at odds with those of Jesus.  Trump is man whose policies and beliefs constantly violate the basic tenets of Christianity.

I live in Canada, so I do not get the opportunity to speak to many Trump evangelicals.  You are most welcome to email me and refute my arguments, but I don't see how you can square Trump's words and deeds with the teachings of Jesus Christ.  

* Jesus built bridges.

  Trump builds walls.

* Jesus preached love.  He said "Love thy neighbour."

Trump preaches hate.  It is no secret that he and his extreme right-wing followers harbour nothing but hate for immigrants, women, Blacks, Muslims, homosexuals etc.

* Jesus preached forgiveness.  "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us," according to the Lord's Prayer.  In Matthew 18:22, Jesus rejects the teaching of religious leaders who restricted forgiveness to three times.  For followers of Jesus, forgiveness should be generous and unlimited.

Trump is vengeful.  His goal is to exact revenge on those whom he feels have wronged him or don't agree with him, especially Democrats, liberals, non-supporters and other critics.

* Jesus said that you can't serve two masters, God and mammon.  

Trump's wealth and lavish lifestyle tales precedence over everything with him.  He worships at the altar of the almighty buck.     

* Jesus showed respect and love for women such as his friends Mary and Martha, the Samaritan women at the well, the adulterous woman who was being stoned, and Mary Magdalene.

Trump denigrates women.  He objectifies them and rates them by physical beauty.  In the infamous Access Hollywood tapes, Trump bragged about groping women.  In addition, a Manhattan jury found trump liable of sexually abusing and defaming magazine journalist E. Jean Carroll.  Carroll was awarded $5 million in damages.

* Jesus suffered an ignominious death.  He was mocked, tortured and crucified.

In Trump parlance, Jesus would be considered a "loser."  After all, Trump insulted the late Senator John McCain for injuries he suffered while he was tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

I can't for the life of me understand how you, as people of faith, can support such a man as Donald Trump.  It is beyond me.  

Sincerely,


Joanne

Monday, January 8, 2024

The Missing Reporter

Note to Readers of Number 16

If you have been following my postings on this website, you might be interested in my novel, The Missing Reporter.  You can find information about this suspenseful thriller on my author page.  Just click on https://joannemadden.ca/

Update:  I am working on my third novel, the sequel to The Missing Reporter.  I am looking for someone with experience in editing to assist me.  Payment to be determined.


Happy New Year and Happy Reading,  Your comments and feedback would be greatly appreciated.  I would like to hear from you.  It's very important to me.


Thank you for your support,

Joanne

Monday, January 1, 2024

My 2024 New Year's Wish List

Last year I posted my personal wish list for 2023.  I promised to let you know which of my wishes came true and to write another wish list for 2024.  

Here's how my 2023 wish list turned out:

In my 2023 wish list, I hoped for an end to the horrible conflict in Ukraine, which has caused untold suffering and destruction.  That hasn't happened, and the war may drag on for a long time.  However, it's still h my hope that the war will end sooner rather than later.

Unfortunately, another bitter conflict began in the Middle East in October.  Terrorists and extremists are responsible for the atrocities committed and the deaths of innocent civilians, among them women and children.  The majority of Israelis and Palestinians want to live in peace.  Both Jews and Muslims are children of Abraham.  They desire an end to the suffering and they support a two-state solution. The terrorists and extremists want war and a continuation of suffering.  

I hoped Premier Danielle Smith's United Conservative Party (UCP) would be defeated in the provincial election in Alberta of May 29, 2023.  I am opposed to Smith's policies and I don't like her Alberta Sovereignty Act.  However, the UCP, under Premier Danielle Smith was re-elected to government, albeit with a reduced majority.  

As regular readers of Number 16 are well aware, I am a homer all the way when it comes to sports.  I  hoped that the Toronto Maple Leafs would advance further than the first round of the playoffs in 2023.  Well, they did win their first playoff round against the Tampa Bay Rays, but they were eliminated in the second round by the Florida Panthers.  The Leafs need to break up the Core Four of John Tavares, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander.  They should trade Nylander for a top-of-the-line defenceman.  They need a stronger defence to win the Stanley Cup.

As for the Blue Jays, I opined that they must go deeper into post-season in 2023.  Nothing less would be acceptable.  It didn't happen and the team's playoff performance was very unacceptable and very unsatisfactory.  The decision to remove Jose Berrios after 4 1/2 good innings (during the second game of their playoff series against the Minnesota Twins) was boneheaded, as was the decision to trade Gabriel Moreno.  GM Ross Atkins should have accepted responsibility, but he didn't.  He just passed the buck.  

The defending Grey Cup champion Toronto Argonauts had a terrific regular season, led by quarterback Chad Kelly.  The Boatmen recorded 16 wins and only two losses in 18 games.  However, they were defeated in the Eastern playoff final by the Montreal Alouettes, who went on to win the Grey Cup.

Back in  2021, I wished that Benjamin Netanyahu would be ousted from power in Israel.  That wish came true, but only temporarily.  After continual political deadlock in Israel, Netanyahu was returned to power in 2022.  On December 29, 2022, he was again sworn in as Prime Minister, leading a hardline right-wing coalition. 

Netanyahu, 74, has been charged with one count of bribery and three counts of breach of trust in three long-running corruption casers.  Of course, he denies any wrongdoing and claims that he is the victim of a politically orchestrated "witch hunt."  Where have we heard that before?  Kind of sounds like his old friend, a former president who likes cheese burgers and diet coke.

On a happier note, Netanyahu's other friend, Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, was voted out of office in an election held on October 30, 2022.  He  left office on January 1, 2023.  During his presidency, Bolsonaro rolled back protections for Indigenous groups in the Amazon rainforest.

I hoped the world would  take stronger measures to protect our environment.  Some progress has been made, but far more has to be done. There should be less talk and more action.  People have so many day-to-day concerts, but the environment is of paramount importance.  It can't be relegated to the background.  According to the United Nations, 2023 was the warmest year on record.


Here is my 2024 wish list:

The American presidential election of 2024 will probably be the most crucial and consequential election in the history of the United States, if Donald Trump manages to evade justice and becomes the Republican nominee for president.  Should Trump win the election, the United States will never be the same.  Sadly, it will be transformed into an authoritarian regime.  One of my greatest wishes for 20234 is that Trump is not allowed to run for president under the 14th Amendment, or that he is found guilty under the law and sentenced to prison time.  If he is the Republican nominee in November, he must be soundly defeated by the American people. It will be a disaster and a nightmare if he should become president again.  He must be held accountable for his actions and for his assault on democracy on January 6, 2021.  No one is above the law.  No one should have immunity from prosecution for serous crimes and misdeaeanours, not a reigning monarch or a sitting president.(never mind an ex-president).

Trump, Vladimir Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu are an unholy trio.  They are all Alpha males in their 70s and they have caused an enormous amount suffering, death and destruction.  All three pose a threat to world peace.

Putin

 Netanyahu 

Trump

I wish for better leadership around the world and I hope that the popularity of the far-right will decline in 2024.

The 2024 Summer Olympics will be held in Paris France and I hope they are a great success.

I wish the Leafs, the Blue Jays, the Argos the Raptors and all the other Toronto teams the best of fortune in 2024.

COVID is still around and is not going disappear.  We know more about it, but it is still around.  I hope that more will be done to combat it.

My final wish is that there will be more civility in the world in 2024, and less political and social polarization.  If Donald Trump does not become president again, there will be less animosity and political strife.  He has set the tone for much of this hatred and ill-feeling.  In 2024, I hope that there will be a greater connection between people and less isolation.  

All the best to you and yours in 2024.  I wish you happiness and good health.  In January of, 2025, I will write another wish list and I will let you know if any of my 2024 wishes came true. 


 Happy New Year!
     
- Joanne