Tag Archives: Penney Kome

On wanting to fit in and Rachel Dolezal

By Penney Kome 
June, 2015 

“Mom, I want braids,” I said one day, as we walked home from my kindergarten to our apartment on the South Side of Chicago. “All the girls in school have braids. I want braids.” “Don’t you like your hair in a bob?” she countered. “Like mommy’s?” But I persisted and she gave in and let me grow my hair long. We soon learned that braids were the only way to tame my thick coarse wavy-with-a-chance-of-curls hair, so I wore my hair in pig tails most of my childhood and in one long braid until my stepmother’s sudden death in 1984 inspired a big chop in my mid-30s.

Rachel Dolezal's official photo at the Inlander, Young Kwak/The Pacific Northwest Inlander

Rachel Dolezal’s official photo at the Inlander, Young Kwak/The Pacific Northwest Inlander

Even before then, however, I’d looked at my early class photos and realized with a start that I could never have braids like my classmates’ braids. They were almost all black girls, with what were known as (please forgive the expression) “picaninny braids”, their heads covered with short little braids of hair brushed straight and braided tightly, to straighten it into “good hair”. This practice is so pervasive among black women that comedian Chris Rock, alarmed by his daughter’s fascination with “good hair,” made a documentary titled “Good Hair” about what he discovered is a $9 billion a year industry. At one point he asks a black woman under a hair dryer with her hair in papers,“What’s your definition of ‘good hair’?” She replies, “When your hair looks relaxed and nice.” Cut to a black male hairdresser explaining, “If your hair is relaxed, white people are relaxed. If your hair is nappy, white people aren’t happy.” That’s the sort of wisdom white people don’t have to share among themselves.

Of course, I had no idea that braids had any social implications when I was in kindergarten. I just wanted to fit in. We moved and I transferred out of that school soon anyway. But I was wearing my hair in braids when the civil rights movement came along 10 years later, and indeed until I reached middle age.

These memories re-surfaced when the bizarre Rachel Dolezal story broke. Riddle me this: why would a white person pretend to be black in America? Black author and commentator Tavis Smiley asked the same question in a New York Times editorial: “I love being black, and wouldn’t want to be anything else, as if I have a choice. But let’s be clear, I didn’t volunteer for this. So, why would you pass for black?”

Basketball champion Kareem Abdul-Jabaar says her reasons don’t matter. “…you can’t deny that Dolezal has proven herself a fierce and unrelenting champion for African-Americans politically and culturally,” he wrote in an TIME magazine op-ed. “Perhaps some of this sensitivity comes from her [four] adoptive black siblings. Whatever the reason, she has been fighting the fight for several years and seemingly doing a first-rate job….This seems more a case of her standing up and saying, ‘I am Spartacus!’ rather than a conspiracy to defraud.”

My own early experience suggests that a young child would do her best to fit in and to adapt to whatever characteristics her parents seem to prefer. In a fawning profile in the East Washington University newspaper, writer Shawntelle Moncy said that as well as being a professor at EWU, “Doležal has many faces in Spokane County, including NAACP President, chairman for the Office of the Police Ombudsman — she participates in ride-alongs, observing both police and citizens’ behavior — advisor for Black Student Union at EWU and Africana Studies professor at EWU. She’s an activist wherever she steps foot, a columnist for the Inlander and a mother 24/7.”

Dolezal talked a bit about growing up in a fiercely Protestant off-the-grid household where the children hunted their own food with bows and arrows. Their family moved often, across the US and even to South Africa. Moncy writes that she “…has no contact today with her mother or stepfather due to a series of events that still haunt her thoughts today. Doležal and her siblings were physically abused by her mother and stepfather. ‘They would punish us by skin complexion,’ she said.

The Homeschoolers Anonymous website – for adult survivors of extreme (usually religious) home schooling – offered a survivor’s analysis. “Rachel was homeschooled through Christian Liberty Academy,” says a note signed by HA co-ordinator R.L. Stollar. “Her father, Larry Dolezal, worked for Creation Ministries International and was charged in 1999 with felony theft though the charges were later dismissed. We have also heard testimonies from numerous homeschool alumni who grew up knowing the Dolezal family that frequent and significant child abuse occurred in the family. The parents allegedly forced both Rachel and her older, biological brother Joshua to beat their younger, adopted siblings with plumbing supply line and two foot long glue sticks, a practice inspired by Michael and Debi Pearl’s book, To Train Up a Child. (Forced sibling-to-sibling corporal punishment is sadly not uncommon in some homeschooling circles.) Such a practice conjures up troubling images of Larry and Carri Williams, another homeschooling family that abused to death their adopted child, Hana.”

The Easterner interview says Rachel Dolezal left home to attend university in art, with a full scholarship. Then she eloped with a black man in 1999 and soon after she began raising a biracial child, who she says is her son and some reports say is her adopted brother. Her marriage ended in divorce in 2004. Homeschoolers Anonymous picks up the thread. “Now comes the latest development in the Rachel Dolezal saga: Dolezal’s older brother Joshua is awaiting trial on charges he sexually abused a black child. Insinuations have been made that the parents spoke up now to retaliate against Rachel’s attempts to get her brother charged for abuse..”

“On one level, you’ve got to say to [Dolezal], ‘you’re misleading us’, “ Rev Al Sharpton told Mediaite, “but another level, mom and dad, come on! Are we gonna have this dysfunctional family stuff play out and distract us from key civil rights causes?” 

So we come back to Tavis Smiley’s question: “When God was passing out colors, who raised their hand for a life of social disenfranchisement, political marginalization, economic exploitation and cultural larceny? And that’s on top of always feeling unsafe, unprotected, subject to random violence and being hated for who you are….”

Kareem Abdul Jabbar comes back, in turn, to a central truth: “The thing about race is that, scientifically, there is no such thing. As far back as 1950, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) released the conclusions of an international group of anthropologists, geneticists, sociologists, and psychologists that stated that the concept of race was not a scientific entity but a myth. Since then, one scientific group after another has issued similar conclusions…..As far as Dolezal is concerned, technically, since there is no such thing as race, she’s merely selected a cultural preference of which cultural group she most identifies with. Who can blame her? Anyone who listens to the Isaac Hayes song, “Shaft,” wants to be black—for a little while anyway.”

 Copyright Penney Kome 2015


Good Hair documentary by Chris Rock (free to watch): [Movie free to watch http://putlocker.is/watch-good-hair-online-free-putlocker.html]

Let Rachel Dolezal Be as Black as She Wants to Be, by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Time: http://time.com/3921404/rachel-dolezal-naacp-race-kareem-abdul-jabbar/
a Life to be Heard, the Easterner, by Shawntelle Moncy:: http://easterneronline.com/35006/eagle-life/a-life-to-be-heard/#sthash.1aUk3liU.2HyACdZ8.dpbs 

HERE’S WHAT JOSHUA DOLEZAL WROTE ABOUT HIS AND RACHEL DOLEZAL’S CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALIST UPBRINGING, Homeschoolers Anonymous: https://homeschoolersanonymous.wordpress.com/2015/06/17/heres-what-joshua-dolezal-wrote-about-his-and-rachel-dolezals-christian-fundamentalist-upbringing/

Rachel Dolezal’s brother, author Joshua Dolezal, faces trial for alleged sexual abuse of a black child, by Justin Wm Moyer, Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/06/16/rachel-dolezals-brother-author-joshua-dolezal-faces-trial-for-alleged-sexual-abuse-of-a-black-child/

Al Sharpton Scolds Rachel Dolezal’s Parents: ‘Are You Really Gonna Do This To Your Kid?’, Mediate: http://www.mediaite.com/tv/al-sharpton-scolds-dolezal-parents-are-you-really-gonna-do-this-to-your-kid/


Penney KomeAward-winning journalist and author Penney Kome has published six non-fiction books and hundreds of periodical articles, as well as writing a national column for 12 years and a local (Calgary) column for four years. Her books include Somebody Has To Do It: Whose Work Is Housework?   (McClelland &Stewart 1982); The Taking of Twenty-Eight: Women Challenge the Constitution (Women’s Educational Press, 1983); and Peace: A Dream Unfolding (Sierra Club Books 1986).  She was Editor of Straightgoods.com from 2004 – 2013. 

Read Penney Kome’s reporting on the Alberta, Canada, election win of the NDP in May 2015:  In Notebook: Alberta poised to turn NDP orange as Tory grip on power withers , and an analysis, Canada’s Famous Five would be proud

 Read Penney Kome’s essay The Degree Bubble, June 2014
Read Mature babes: Granny admirers more overt in the UK. By Penney Kome, September, 2014 (paywall)

For more information, see Penney Kome’s page at the Writer’s Union of Canada.



Facts and Opinions is an online journal of select and first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: a boutique for select journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Help sustain us with a donation (below), by telling others about us, or purchasing a $1 day pass or subscription, from $2.95/month to $19.95/year. To receive F&O’s free blog emails fill in the form on the FRONTLINES page. 



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Canada’s Famous Five would be proud

Photo Penney Kome © 2015

The swearing-in of Alberta’s new premier was a family affair. Photo by Penney Kome © 2015

By Penney Kome
May, 2015

“What’s going on?” asked the woman in the family piling out of their car with wading gear for the youngsters on a hot day, heading for the wading pools in front of the Alberta Legislature’s great domed and columned building. “Why is there a crowd?” 

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley, on May 3. Photo: Don Voaklander, creative commons

New Alberta premier Rachel Notley. Photo by Don Voaklander, Creative Commons

“They’re swearing in Rachel Notley as Premier,” I replied. “Oh,” she said, and then again, “Oh,” as she quickened her stride to join the crowd jamming themselves into front part of the great public square outside the “Ledge” of the Western Canadian province, so they could hear the proceedings. I had walked over from my hotel and arrived about 25 minutes before the ceremonies were scheduled to start, so I could watch as the people drifted in through the heat like cottonwood from the heritage poplar trees, settling first along the edges of the square in the shade, and then mounting the sides and the edges of the deep pool.

In the provincial capital of Edmonton, the immense Legislature plaza is a public space year round, like Toronto’s Nathan Philips Square, only terraced, and surrounded by a forest of sturdy pines and colourful elms, barberries and other seasonal trees. “The grounds were expanded north of the building in 1978 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the province,” says the “Welcome to the Legislature” brochure.  It continues, ”The project included the addition of the reflecting pool, fountains, wading pools, underground pedways and a new visitor centre. The project cost $62 million and was completed in 1982.

“Today the Legislature Grounds feature 56 acres of manicured lawns and trees. Each spring over 100,000 annuals are planted in the gardens. In the hot summer months many people enjoy the fountains and wading pools while in winter there is a skating rink on the south grounds. During the holiday season approximately 120,000 lights are added to 300 shrubs and trees on the north grounds, creating a winter wonderland…” And on this day, casually dressed pages and volunteers were handing out bright printed Swearing In programs to adults and paper Alberta flags to kids.

In the past, sometimes the populist purpose of the plaza has seemed at odds with the privileged financial elite who met within the buildings, to make decisions that benefited their friends. On Sunday May 24, as new Premier-to-be Rachel Notley strode out in her white blazer and bright orange strappy pumps, I was startled by the sheer volume of the crowd’s roar of approval. “A rock star welcome,” said Edmonton CTV.

True, the ever efficient-NDP online contact system had sent electronic invitations and RSVPs to everyone who’d ever signed an issue petition – and followed up with a donation request, for which Notley apologised and which was quickly withdrawn. True, the farther forward I got, the more I swam through a sea of orange teeshirts, indicating NDP staffers, canvassers or other volunteers. Still, Notley and others on the platform seemed shocked by the crowd, like a couple that planned a private informal wedding and suddenly the whole town turned up.

Moreover, when the crowd exploded during the speeches, the roar didn’t only come from the seated volunteers in front of me. An even louder roar came from behind me, a crowd full of families, many of them people of colour. The crowd looked more diverse than usual to me, and TV reports seem to confirm that impression. Maybe that’s just the usual crowd who turn out for some water fun on hot days – and this day was very hot – but CBC reported on one immigrant family that drove up from Calgary to see the installation. “Biftu Mohammed drove up from Calgary with two of her friends to watch the ceremony. ‘Just excited to celebrate the new government,” she said. “I’m just happy to see a government that represents me.’” 

The ceremony started punctually at 2. According to my souvenir Swearing In program, the first event was suppsed to be the entrance of the Vice Regal Party, and a Vice Regal Salute. However, the LG’s chief of staff announced that since Lieutenant Governor Donald Ethell was ill with back problems, his functions were filled by the Administrator of the province – The Honourable Catherine A. Fraser, Q.C, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alberta. Since the LG’s chief of staff is also a woman, as well as half of Notley’s scant 11-member cabinet, the platform looked very different from past years. As did the audience.

The Vice Regal salute turned out to be abbreviated versions of God Save the Queen and O Canada. I couldn’t figure out why no one else joined in as soon as the music started, but we went from the first line to the last line on each. Done. Boom. Not even a minute for both. The Chief Justice acknowledged that the meeting was being held on Treaty 6 land and introduced two First Nation elders. Métis elder John Macdonald delivered a blessing, and Rocky Morin of the Enoch Cree Nation offered an honour song. Chief Justice Fraser read out the procedure for changing from the old government to the new one, starting with her declaration that, “I accept the resignation of Jim Prentice and his government today.” She had to pause when the crowd exploded in cheers, whoops, and whistles. Then she asked Rachel Notley if she was prepared to form the government, and Notley leaned over to the microphone to say, “Yes, I am,” to longer and louder cheers.

Although I’ve been covering the women’s movement since 1976, I never imagined I would ever see such a scene in my lifetime.

I closed my eyes for a moment and tried to imagine the reactions of Emily Murphy and Nellie McClung, who fought for the vote here 100 years ago. Though they formed a group that won the Person’s Case in 1929, Alberta didn’t get a woman senator until 1979, the 50th anniversary, the year I first wrote up the Famous Five. That year, accordng to this chart, I count four women serving in the Alberta Legislature, all conservatives, with maybe a dozen having served in Alberta before that.

Regardless of how much she might have liked a breather, or a transition period, Notley had to be sworn in as Premier right away. Nobody was running the province. Former Premier Jim Prentice promptly resigned and walked away, not afraid to look like a sore loser. As a lame duck, interim Conservative leader Rick McIver would face a steep learning curve with little payoff. Notley comes in with a lean Cabinet, most ministers carrying at least two portfolios, while she evaluates the strengths of the newly elected MLAs. She also comes in with a very comfortable majority of 53 or 54 (depending on possible recount/appeal), about 10 more than she needs to pass most bills, which allowed her to suspend new NDP MLA Deborah Driever for her reckless social media comments and photos, but still keep her in the house as an Independent. One out of 53 ain’t bad, in this kind of total government upset.

Seems to me that when John Turner lost Canada’s 1984 federal election, Brian Mulroney swept in with a host of newbie M Ps, of whom half a dozen in Quebec stumbled almost immediately.

Given the urgency, Notley might have chosen a quick, private ceremony with perhaps a photo op.

Or surely the Legislature’s protocol staff could have prescribed proper pomp. Instead, she stuck with the spirit of her campaign, to give top priority to at-home issues like job creation, health and education. Selecting the downtown public recreation place families go when they can’t afford West Edmonton Mall turned out to be the latest smart choice for the new Premier. 

Copyright Penney Kome 2015

Further reading on F&O:

Alberta once again the New Jerusalem, by Brian Brennan

NOTEBOOK: a bellwether election for Alberta?  By F&O

Remembering the Famous Five, a notebook by Brian Brennan

Reading elsewhere:

CBC news report on Alberta’s new cabinet

Copyright Penney Kome 2015

Penney KomeAward-winning journalist and author Penney Kome has published six non-fiction books and hundreds of periodical articles, as well as writing a national column for 12 years and a local (Calgary) column for four years. Her books include Somebody Has To Do It: Whose Work Is Housework?   (McClelland &Stewart 1982); The Taking of Twenty-Eight: Women Challenge the Constitution (Women’s Educational Press, 1983); and Peace: A Dream Unfolding (Sierra Club Books 1986).  She was Editor of Straightgoods.com from 2004 – 2013. 

Read Penney Kome’s essay The Degree Bubble, June 2014

For more information, see Penney Kome’s page at the Writer’s Union of Canada.



Facts and Opinions is an online journal of select and first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Subscribe by email to our free FRONTLINES, a blog announcing new works, and the odd small tale. Look for evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. Some of our original works are behind a paywall, available with a $1 site day pass, or with a subscription from $2.95/month – $19.95/year. If you value journalism, please help sustain us.


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You want fries with that mortarboard?

With convocation season wrapping up, journalist Penney Kome is prompted by her own son’s graduation to consider the severe deflation of university degrees in trying economic times. Convocation at the University of Alberta was a bittersweet occasion for at least one family,”  writes Kome in The Degree Bubble. “Yielding to parental pressure to attend the graduation ceremony, our son the graduate irreverently considered adding a bright duct tape debt message to his mortar board: $47K. That’s the accumulated debt from a basic part-time seven-year Bachelor of Arts, not the fees to earn a medical or law degree   read more

While on the topic of education, read or revisit poet Patrick Lane’s essay, Convocation Address, delivered last fall at the University of Victoria and republished here with permission. It begins: “It is sixty-five years ago, you’re ten years old and sitting on an old, half-blind, grey horse. All you have is a saddle blanket and a rope for reins as you watch a pack of dogs rage at the foot of a Ponderosa pine. High up on a branch a cougar lies supine, one paw lazily swatting at the air. He knows the dogs will tire. They will slink away and then the cougar will climb down and go on with its life in the Blue Bush country south of Kamloops.* It is a hot summer day. There is the smell of pine needles and Oregon grape and dust. It seems to you that the sun carves the dust from the face of the broken rocks, carves and lifts it into the air where it mixes with the sun. Just beyond you are three men on horses …. read more


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Facts and Opinions is a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, sustained entirely by readers: we do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes. 

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Penney Kome

Penney KomeAward-winning journalist and author Penney Kome has published six non-fiction books and hundreds of periodical articles, as well as writing a national Canadian column for 12 years and a local (Calgary) column for four years. Her books include Somebody Has To Do It: Whose Work Is Housework?   (McClelland &Stewart 1982); The Taking of Twenty-Eight: Women Challenge the Constitution (Women’s Educational Press, 1983); and Peace: A Dream Unfolding (Sierra Club Books 1986).

For more information, see Penney Kome’s page at the Writer’s Union of Canada.

Penney Kome’s column in F&O is Over Easy.  Recent columns:

Depiction of mass bomber raid on Cologne, by The National Archives, UK. via Wikimedia Commons

Climate watch: the world cannot afford a war

War, the most costly and damaging human activity, is outside the scope of Paris climate talks. “If the war was ranked as a country in terms of emissions, it would emit more CO2 each year than 139 of the world’s nations do annually, more than 60 percent of all countries, said one report.

Unpacking the backpack of Christian privilege

So Starbucks has won 2015’s first “War On Christmas” prize, by offering seasonal red, green and white paper coffee cups that some evangelicals deem not Christmasy enough. And it’s only the beginning of November!

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau is accompanied by his mother Margaret Trudeau (L) and his wife Sophie Gregoire, daughter Ella Grace and sons Hadrien (foreground) and Xavier (R) as he watches results at his election night headquarters in Montreal, Quebec, October 19, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Justin Trudeau’s speech to his kids

Canada’s newly-elected prime minister got Penney Kome thinking about George Lakoff’s research on differences between the “conservative” view and the assumption of “progressives” that “the world is basically good and can be made better.”

Nice Guys Don’t Go Looking

Big news! The Ashley Madison website lied, and 35 million men  fell for it. Married men who told themselves they were willing to risk everything for a quick guilt-free fling, now find out just how much they’ve risked. Two suicides might be linked to the hack! That’s dramatic. That bleeds, so that story leads. But there’s another story here too. Women avoided Ashley Madison like the plague. They not only spotted the duplicity, they rejected the premise.

Iran, nuclear waste, and Fukushima

Unfortunately, one thing that two years of US+5 negotiations with Iran did not achieve is to remove the most urgent nuclear threat to the world, The world still contends with every scrap of radioactive nuclear waste generated since Enrico Fermi’s first controlled chain reaction in 1942 – some 250,000 glowing toxic tons of used fuel alone.

On wanting to fit in and Rachel Dolezal

 I had no idea that braids had any social implications when I was in kindergarten. I just wanted to fit in. We moved and I transferred out of that school soon anyway. But I was wearing my hair in braids when the civil rights movement came along 10 years later, and indeed until I reached middle age. These memories re-surfaced when the bizarre Rachel Dolezal story broke.

Canada’s Famous Five would be proud

The swearing-in of new Alberta premier Rachel Motley was a family affair, in the capacious park that fronts the province’s legislature. Crowds roared as the first woman premier was sworn in, to lead the province where Emily Murphy and Nellie McClung fought for the vote a century ago.

Mature babes: Granny admirers more overt in the UK (Paywall)

Stepping up to the line to throw my three darts, I sank into my sideways stance and studied the score and the dartboard. From the corner of my eye, I saw an older man squirming appreciatively in his bentwood chair, his hand around a pint of bitters. He was giving me the eye. That hasn’t happened much since I let my hair go gray. I stood up and looked around, confused. Then I sank again, and not only did the first guy squirm, so did the fellow at the next table. I wondered if my husband was watching.

The Degree Bubble.

Convocation at the University of Alberta was a bittersweet occasion for at least one family. Yielding to parental pressure to attend the graduation ceremony, our son the graduate irreverently considered adding a bright duct tape debt message to his mortar board: $47K. That’s the accumulated debt from a basic part-time seven-year Bachelor of Arts, not the fees to earn a medical or law degree.


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F&O’s salon: an eclectic gathering place, for guests and resident contributors



Why Ramadan is called Ramadan, by Mohammad Hassan Khalil

The Muslim month of fasting, Ramadan, started Friday, May 26, 2017. Professor Mohammad Hassan Khalil  answers six questions about the significance of this religious observance. The Conversation

Why Scientists Should Not March on Washington, by Andrea Saltelli

America’s scheduled April 22 March for Science, like the Women’s March before it, will confront United States President Donald Trump on his home turf – this time to challenge his stance on climate change and vaccinations, among other controversial scientific issues. The Conversation But not everyone who supports scientific research and evidence-based policymaking is on board.

Losing a dog can be harder than losing a beloved human, by Frank T. McAndrew

Recently, my wife and I went through one of the more excruciating experiences of our lives – the euthanasia of our beloved dog, Murphy.  When people who have never had a dog see their dog-owning friends mourn the loss of a pet, they probably think it’s all a bit of an overreaction; after all, it’s “just a dog.” Perhaps if people realized just how strong and intense the bond is between people and their dogs, such grief would become more widely accepted.

I Cover Hate. I Didn’t Expect It at My Family’s Jewish Cemetery, by Ariana Tobin

The American cemetery  Chesed Shel Emeth, where Ariana Tobin’s relatives are buried was vandalized in February 2017. As authorities investigate whether it was a hate crime, she relates it to the project she works on for ProPublica,  “Documenting Hate.”  It’s about confronting the ugliness and comforting the scared, she notes — but it’s also about giving real answers, using actual numbers and telling true stories when our children ask questions like, “What happened to the Jews?”

Under Trump, Is It Game Over for the Climate Fight? by Bill McKibben

Donald Trump’s ascension to the presidency is a stunning blow to hopes for avoiding the worst impacts of global warming. But a broad-based, grassroots movement committed to cutting emissions and promoting clean energy must continue and intensify – the stakes are simply too high to give up.

WASHINGTON DIARY, by Cheryl Hawkes  Column

IMG_2449Estimates put the Washington, DC, Women’s March at between 500,000 and a million people, while sister protests in more than 650 U.S. centres and another 261 internationally drew an additional 3-5 million people. Journalist Cheryl Hawkes marched in their midst. This is her story about it, and thoughts about what comes next.

Protecting Digital Privacy in Public Shaming Era, by Julia Angwin, ProPublica   Column

Every January, I do a digital tune-up, cleaning up my privacy settings, updating my software and generally trying to upgrade my security. This year, the task feels particularly urgent as we face a world with unprecedented threats to our digital safety.

U.S. President Donald Trump (L) takes the oath of office from U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts (R) with his wife Melania, and children Barron, Donald, Ivanka and Tiffany at his side during inauguration ceremonies at the Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos BarriaTrump Hits Populist Note in Inaugural Address, by Richard Tofel, ProPublica

Donald Trump’s speech largely lacked lofty language, but contained a full-throated populist vision, delivered with confidence, and signaled this from the start in one of its most memorable lines: “Today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people.” This might be heard to echo Ronald Reagan’s 1981 statement that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem,” but that would actually miss Trump’s point: The speech did not oppose government — it opposed the governors.

Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Fund choice between LGBT rights and saving lives, by Jeremy Hainsworth

Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Fund choice between LGBT rights and saving lives, by Jeremy Hainsworth The annual hullabaloo about the allegedly homophobic and discriminatory activities of the Salvation Army has begun. I'm torn: the Salvation Army has discriminatory policies affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people issues. It also runs detoxes and rehab facilities for those seeking recovery from addiction. Bottom line: someone who is dead can’t help fight inequality.The annual hullabaloo about the allegedly homophobic and discriminatory activities of the Salvation Army has begun. I’m torn: the Salvation Army has discriminatory policies affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people issues. It also runs detoxes and rehab facilities for those seeking recovery from addiction. Bottom line: someone who is dead can’t help fight inequality.

Wake-up: How the 2016 Election Changed One American Voter, by Emily Lacika

My U.S. post-election emotions have run the gamut: sadness, anger, anxiety, vindictiveness, shame. American politics is big on rhetoric about democracy, but it often falls short, especially this year when the candidate who won fewer votes has captured the White House. Sixty two million other Americans voted the same way I did, and lost –and now we are working together.

How should you grieve? by Andrea Volpe, Loose Leaf essay

The pain and sorrow of bereavement is supposed to get easier to bear as time passes. But what if it doesn’t? Psychiatrists call it ‘complicated grief’ – and it can be treated.

Poppy: medicine, or opiate? by Alex Kennedy  Loose Leaf 

A former soldier questions the symbolism of the poppy.

His Bob-ness joins Yeats, Beckett, and Eliot, by Rod Mickleburgh

In the winter of 1990, I waited with a handful of reporters and photographers in a grand salon of the Palais-Royal in Paris for Bob Dylan. More than 25 years ahead of the Nobel Prize people, the French had decided that Dylan’s lyrical prowess was worthy of the country’s highest cultural honour, Commandeur dans l’ Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. T.S. Eliot was one of the first to receive the award in 1960. Borges followed in 1962. And now, following in the footsteps of Sean Connery (1987), it was Bob’s turn.

photo_10261“Only White People,” the Little Girl Told my Son, by Topher Sanders

I saw the messy birth of my son’s otherness … They were playing on one of those spinning things — you know, the one where kids learn about centrifugal force and as a bonus get crazy dizzy. They were having a blast. “Only white people,” said a little girl.

On Capitalism and “Bullshit Jobs” by David Graeber

In the year 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that technology would have advanced sufficiently by century’s end that countries like Great Britain or the United States would achieve a 15-hour work week. There’s every reason to believe he was right. Why did Keynes’ promised utopia never materialise?

Is the Environment Stuck in US Journalism’s Basement? by Peter Dykstra

Environmental journalism has reached a certain maturity: Decades of quality, often courageous and ground-breaking reporting on life-or-death issues, an imperfect-but-enviable record of accuracy, and at least a dozen Pulitzer Prizes to show for it in the U.S. But some see another view.

An Ancient Fossil’s Lessons About Cancer,  by Richard Gunderman

The finding of cancer in the bone of a 1.7-million-year-old human relative isn’t just a biological oddity – it is a reminder of what it means to be both alive and human. Life is fraught with hazards. Thriving biologically (and biographically) does not mean eliminating all risks but managing the ones we can, both to reduce harm and promote a full life.

Photos Shape Attitudes to Refugees: View from Australia, by Jane Lydon

Photography has mapped a distinctively Australian version of this global story. Once migrants were represented as complex, vulnerable, diverse people. Today the Australian government seeks to suppress photographs of asylum seekers, seemingly from fear that such images will prompt empathy with them and undermine border security policy.

Trump as dealmaker-in-chief? by Brian Brennan

Donald Trump would envisage himself as America’s dealmaker-in-chief. What would that look like? Not a pretty picture, as I see it.

hc_Al_Hussein_smllVerbatim: Hate, mainstreamed — UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. By Ra’ad Al Hussein

Hate is becoming mainstreamed. Walls – which tormented previous generations, and have never yielded any sustainable solution to any problem – are returning. Barriers of suspicion are rising, snaking through and between our societies – and they are killers. Clampdowns on public freedoms, and crackdowns on civil society activists and human rights defenders, are hacking away at the forces which uphold the healthy functioning of societies. Judicial institutions which act as checks on executive power are being dismantled. Towering inequalities are hollowing out the sense that there are common goods. These trends bleed nations of their innate resilience.

Canada’s ambassador to Ireland: Once a Cop, Always a Cop. By Brian Brennan

It’s hard to tell from the raw television footage if the shaven-headed protester posed any real danger to the Irish and British dignitaries gathered at a Dublin military cemetery this week to honour British soldiers killed during the 1916 Irish rebellion against British rule. But clearly the Canadian ambassador, Kevin Vickers, felt there was a threat. He made a beeline for the shouting protester, grabbed him by the sleeves of his leather jacket, marched him away from the podium and turned him over to police.

Remembering the Pillar. By Brian Brennan

A century ago, on April 29, 1916, the Irish Republic ended its brief existence with an unconditional surrender. Though successfully thwarted, it set off a series of events that led to the outbreak of an Irish war of independence between 1919 and 1921. Brian Brennan writes about his experience of Ireland’s independence movement halfway between then, and now.

After Paris climate pact, let’s get personal. By Gwynne Taraska and Shiva Polefka  Essay

Reengineering global economic dependence on carbon pollution requires conscious commitment and action from individuals as well as governments and corporations.

Thousands turned out in Vancouver, Washington to hear Bernie Sanders. © Rod Mickleburgh 2016

“Feeling the Bern”  By Rod Mickleburgh

The 74-year old, white-haired politician advanced to the podium, and the roof nearly came off the Hudson’s Bay High School gymnasium. No wonder. For nearly four hours, thousands of us had been standing in line, braving a cold, miserable rain, without even knowing whether we would be among the 5,000 or so lucky enough to make it inside. As the cheers continued to cascade down from the packed, rickety benches of the high school gym, Bernie Sanders leaned forward and shouted in his hoarse, Brooklynese. “All I can say is: WHOA!”

Dal Richards Facebook profile

DAL RICHARDS: The bandleader who almost lived forever. By Rod Mickleburgh

How often do you get to shake hands and say ‘hello’ and ‘thanks’ to a living legend? Vancouver’s King of Swing had a gig every New Year’s Eve for 79 years, which, as the whimsical Richards never tired of pointing out, must be some kind of world record.

Star Wars inspired me to become an astrophysicist, by Martin Hendry

For nearly 40 years, the phrase “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” has resonated in popular culture – forever linked to the iconic opening credits of Star Wars. When I watched the movie for the first time in 1978, at the tender age of ten, I was instantly entranced by its visions of alien worlds, lightsaber battles and the mysterious Force that “binds the galaxy together”.

Alaa Murabit: Libyan Women, identity, country and faith, by Christopher Majka

Alaa Murabita, a Canadian born-woman of Libyan heritage, and a physician and activist, founded the Voice of Libyan Women following the overthrow of the Gaddafi dictatorship.

The Painting That Saved My Family From the Holocaust by Stephen Engelberg, ProPublica

Seventy-seven years ago, my grandmother left her fourth-floor apartment in Munich carrying a painting by Otto Stein, a modestly popular German artist. Earlier that month, the Nazis had launched a nationwide pogrom against Germany’s Jewish minority, a rampage in which gangs of men burned stores, schools and synagogues. In the aftermath of what became known as Kristallnacht, the Gestapo rounded up hundreds of Jewish men and sent them to the Dachau concentration camp. Among them was my grandfather, Jakob Engelberg.

Courtesy of the author: Naomi Shihab Nye explores her world through poetry and prose. She will read and discuss her work at a free event of the New Mexico Humanities Councils Annual Convocation, Friday, Nov. 14 at the KiMo Theatre, 421 Central NW, from 7 to 9 p.m. dolmstead@abqjournal.com Wed Oct 29 16:51:47 -0600 2014 1414623104 FILENAME: 181150.JPG

Gate A-4, by Naomi Shihab Nye

Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning my flight had been detained four hours, I heard an announcement: “If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately.” Well — one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.

Remembrance and Refugees, by Rod Mickleburgh

Two days before the numbing atrocities of Paris, I went to the annual Remembrance Day ceremony at the Japanese-Canadian War Memorial in Stanley Park. After the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, bowing our heads in remembrance on that sun-bathed morning feels light years away. Yet, looking back, as hearts harden towards welcoming desperate Syrian refugees, the event seems to take on a deeper meaning.


“Throw the bastards out,” by William Thorsell

Not in recent times have Canadian voters had an opportunity to “throw the bastards out” in the classic phrase. Elected officials generally leave office before such public urges get to them. Knowing when to leave is among the more elegant qualities of any CEO, but then Mr. Harper has never laid claim to elegance.

Niqab: Radical feminism or female subjugation? By Christopher Majka

Unexpectedly (or perhaps not) the wearing of the niqab has emerged as an issue in the Canadian federal election. Yes, that’s right — the Canadian federal election, not that of Pakistan or Yemen. And in the year 2015, not 1015. How is it that we are even having a discussion about how a very small minority of Muslim women in Canada dress in the context of determining the political future of Canada?

Steve pic

When Democracy Becomes Controversial. By Stephen Collis

Poet and professor Stephen Collis,  and biology professor Lynne Quarmby, were awarded the Nora and Ted Sterling Prize in Support of Controversy at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver on Oct. 13. Here is Stephen Collis’s acceptance speech: “Here’s perhaps a bit of controversy: we’re not living in a democracy. Not, at least, if we take seriously the idea that a democracy is a system of rights and freedoms enshrining the self-determination of a community’s constituents. As many thinkers are now pointing out, western democracies in fact function much more like oligarchies …”

The Canada We Hope For. By Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi

Crafting an ideal Canada—the Canada to which we aspire—lies in engaging muscularly with the past and the future. It means a thousand simple acts of service and a million tiny acts of heroism. It means acting at the community level: on our streets, in our neighbourhoods, and in our schools. It means refusing to accept the politics of fear. And then it means exporting the very best of Canada, that ideal and real Canada, to the rest of the world.

Photo by Kent Kallberg, Creative Commons via Suzuki Foundation http://davidsuzuki.org.

Voting and Canadian values. By David Suzuki

When my grandparents arrived from Japan in the early 1900s, Canada was far less tolerant than it is today. Women and minorities couldn’t vote, nor could Indigenous people who had lived here from time immemorial. In 1942, the government took away my Canadian-born family’s property and rights and sent us to an internment camp in the B.C. Interior simply because of our ancestry. Canada has come a long way in my lifetime.

Pope Francis and Dorothy Day Economics. By Chuck Collins

Perhaps the most subversive part of Pope Francis’ speech to the United States Congress was in celebrating a little-known figure and thus reviving interest in what Dorothy Day stood for. And if we truly heed the teachings of Dorothy Day, we would radically transform our society and economy.

Alan and x Kurdi. Photo from Facebook page In Memory of Kurdi Family

Alan and Ghalib Kurdi.

 “Politicizing” Alan Kurdi’s death. By Alexander Kennedy  (Warning: photo and language may be disturbing)

The future and the past clash with me, and I’m left with a feeling of shame. The past. That a child drowned on a beach near a Turkish resort. The present. That the death of Alan Kurdi, 3, along with his brother Ghalib and mother Rehanna, is the last  straw for me. The future. That Canada’s immigration minister,  Chris Alexander  was allegedly asked to bring these children to safety in Canada.

Facts, or fictions? How PR flacks exploit Wikipedia. By Taha Yasseri

If you heard that a group of people were creating, editing, and maintaining Wikipedia articles related to brands, firms and individuals, you could point out, correctly, that this is the entire point of Wikipedia. It is, after all, the “encyclopedia that anyone can edit”. But a group has been creating and editing articles for money. Wikipedia administrators banned more than 300 suspect accounts involved, but those behind the ring are still unknown.

Science and “the environment” should not be separated. By Manu Saunders

 Does the natural world have any relevance to modern science? Of course it does; but sometimes it seems like that’s not the case. This is a myth perpetuated directly and indirectly through media, policy decisions, academic disciplines, even some science engagement initiatives: that the natural world is somehow separate from science.

Living With an Ankle Bracelet in America. By M.M.

I cannot sleep. There is a device on my leg. It requires that I wake up an hour early so I can plug it into a charger and stand next to the outlet, like a cell phone charging up for the day. Not the day, actually, but 12 hours. After that, the device runs out of juice. Wherever I am, I have to find an outlet to plug myself into. If I don’t, I’m likely to be thrown back onto Rikers Island. At the age of 22, I landed in prison. Though I had grown up around violence, it was my first time in trouble. I’d taken the law into my own hands during an altercation, because where I come from, we don’t dial 911 for help — we see how badly police officers treat people like us.

Riccardo Cuppini

Riccardo Cuppini

A Judge Asks: How Do We Hold a Child’s Mind Accountable? By Morris B. Hoffmann

Debates about juvenile justice also sometimes mix up responsibility with punishment. We hold our own children responsible for their actions from about the time they learn to talk. English common law drew the line of criminal responsibility at age seven. Indeed, holding children responsible for their actions is one of the important ways we teach them to become responsible adults. In this sense, it is more important to hold children responsible than adults.

Wanted: A new story of humanity’s place in the world. By Philip Loring

It goes without saying that humans are good at causing problems. Climate change, overfishing and widespread environmental contamination from chemical toxicants are all creations of our own making. But are we destined to create such problems? Many people believe so, and argue that our capacity for self-interest, avarice and ecological shortsightedness make us inherently unsustainable as a species. Not only is this way of thinking built on long-disproven myths about human nature and human origins, it also constrains how we think about solutions and alienates us from the rest of the natural world. We need to abandon this belief and not allow ourselves to be defined only by our most recent history. The truth of the matter is that we belong here, and belonging is a much more powerful narrative for sustainability than isolation.

The Crush Also Rises: On learning only Spain’s vineyard-plant exceed China’s. By Michael Sasges

Chiang was glad to see us, and shook hands and gave us good rooms looking out on the square, and then we washed and cleaned up and went downstairs to the dining room for lunch … His text a Hemingway appreciation, “wine is the most civilized thing in the world,” Mike Sasges savours this week’s viticulture news: Last year, and for the first time, only Spain had more hectares of vineyard under cultivation than China. The Spanish number was more than one million hectares; the Chinese, 799,000. The French number was 792,000 hectares, making 2014 the first year the Chinese planted more vineyards than the French.

The Great Riddle: fostering creativity and tenacity. By Sheldon Fernandez

Not everyone is an entrepreneur, though many readers may be so without realizing it. The word itself means different things to different people, but I prefer the sentiments of the playwright who said: “some people see things and ask why, but I dream of things that never were and ask why not?” Stripped of the decoration and fluff, what I’ve discovered is that the entrepreneur’s soul is move by two complementary forces: refusal and audacity. Refusal to be limited by the world as presented to them, which then blossoms into the audacity to transcend it.

Lone-Wolf Terror Trap: Why the Cure Will Be Worse Than the Disease. By Matthew Harwood, ACLU

The shadow of a new threat seems to be darkening the national security landscape: the lone-wolf terrorist. Like all violent crime, individual terrorism represents a genuine risk, just an exceedingly rare and minimal one. It’s not the sort of thing that the government should be able to build whole new, intrusive surveillance programs on or use as an excuse for sending in agents to infiltrate communities. Programs to combat lone-wolf terrorism have a way of wildly exaggerating its prevalence and dangers – and in the end are only likely to exacerbate the problem. For Americans to concede more of their civil liberties in return for “security” against lone wolves wouldn’t be a trade; it would be fraud.

CCM Tackaberry skates worn by Jean Béliveau when he scored his 500th goal, on February 11, 1971. These are at the lac aux Castors Pavilion, Mount Royal, Quebec, Canada. Photo by Simon Pierre Barrette via Wikipedia, Creative Commons

Jean Béliveau’s bronzed skates. Simon Pierre, CC

Thank you, Jean Béliveau. By E. Kaye Fulton

When I arrived at the Montreal Gazette as a feature writer in 1980, the legendary Red Fisher offered a blanket invitation to write anything I wanted, anytime, for the sports department. Without hesitation, I said: “I want to write about the Forum.” In my family, the Forum was the Temple of Apollo and the guardian at its gate was the man who wore these skates, this glorious gentleman, this unassuming and superb sportsman.

Body counts disguise true horror of what wars do to bodies. By Tom Gregory

Every year on Remembrance Day, we pause to look back on old wars and recount the tallies of the dead, including 16 million killed in the first world war and 60 million in the second world war. And every day, news reports use body counts to highlight the human costs of war: from Syria, where the United Nations has estimated more than 191,000 people have been killed up to April this year, to Ukraine, where the latest estimates are of at least 3,724 people killed (including 298 on Flight MH17). But simply counting the bodies of those killed in war may not actually help us understand the death and destruction caused by war. Instead, my worry is that they end up erasing the violence inflicted on each of the bodies of those affected by war, and numbing our emotional responses to the deaths of others.

Postcard from Poland as the Iron Curtain lifted. By Rod Mickleburgh

Rod Mickleburgh, 1989

Rod Mickleburgh, 1989

Being in Warsaw while East Germany teetered had its fascination. It was the dawn of the free market in Poland. An entrepreneur had set up the country’s first fledgling stock market on the second floor of the city’s ramshackle, old Fisherman’s Hall. A cab driver told me that now, for the first time, he could buy bananas. The independent, pro-Solidarity newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza, had just been launched. But I most remember my first night in Warsaw, when I walked into the darkened main square of its beautifully-restored Old Town. A couple of guys, clearly from the country, were selling cheese by candlelight from the back of an old van. There was such simplicity to the scene as money and cheese changed hands, only the low hum of their voices breaking the silence of the vast, empty square. I thought to myself: “Thus, capitalism begins in Poland.”

Ebola: the Black Death Revisited. By Ewa Bacon

It is not Ebola that is stalking the land, but anxiety and fear. We fear an extinction event. We search the environment and note the loss of plants and animals. We worry as we examine “Martha,” the last ever passenger pigeon. We examine the geological record and note that not even the mighty dinosaur survived the cataclysm of Cretaceous period. Could that happen to us as well? We search history and note some sobering examples of global catastrophes. Few are as renowned as the “Black Death.” Early in the 1300’s Europeans received news of unprecedented diseases raging in the wealthy, remote and mysterious realm of China.

Michael Brown, Ferguson and the nature of unrest. By Garrett Albert Duncan (Public access)

Many Americans share president Barack Obama’s sentiment regarding the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. This is clearly indicated in the deeply felt hurt experienced by so many and the massive swell of moral support people of all backgrounds offered to the young man’s parents in recent days. But to suggest that all, or even most, Americans feel the same would be severely misleading.

Israel at the Boundary. By Chris Wood (Public access)

A friend — I hope I may still call him one — recently chastised me for selectiveness in my criticism on social networks of Israel’s Gaza campaign, and my comparative silence about the horrors occurring in Syria and Iraq. The unspoken implication that there was something particular about Israel that inclined me to single it out, embedded another: that the something particular was Israel’s Jewishness. The suggestions are sufficiently morally impugning, and implicate enough of my personal friendships, that they deserve a thoughtful response.

Canada’s Justice Minister is Yesterday’s Man. By Charles Mandel (Public access)

Peter MacKay is yesterday’s man.  According to Canada’s Justice Minister, women are dedicated moms and caregivers around the clock who are busy changing diapers, packing lunches and dropping the kids off at daycare. In contrast, men are dedicated fathers who are shaping the minds of the next generation. This old-fashioned, blatantly sexist attitude recently surfaced in a pair of emails MacKay sent to his staff on the occasions of Mother’s and Father’s Days.

The Ugly Oil Sands Debate. By Tzeporah Berman (Public access)

I have family who work in Canada’s oil sands. They know that I have been a vocal critic of current oil sands operations and plans for expansion, yet they didn’t hesitate to welcome me into their homes and to invite me to a family gathering in Canmore, Alberta. We had a wonderful time. We shared some memories, laughed a lot and even tackled some hard stuff. The conversations were rich and surprisingly easy. Perhaps in part because although we have different opinions there already was a basis of trust and shared experiences.

Hurricane Carter, Champion of the World. By Cheryl Hawkes (Public access)

Rubin (Hurricane) Carter, who spent 19 years in a United States prison for a triple murder he did not commit, died of prostate cancer on Easter Sunday at his home in Toronto. He was 76. Toronto journalist Cheryl Hawkes remembers the man who, for a few years, was her neighbour: “a man who had given a lot of thought to how we treat one another in this world and to the deadly power of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

512px-Archbishop-Tutu-mediumAn Argument for Carbon Divestment. By Desmond Tutu (Public access)

Scientists and public representatives gathered in Berlin are weighing up radical options for curbing carbon emissions contained in the third report of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The bottom line, a draft of the report warns, is that we have 15 years to take the necessary steps to affordably reduce emissions to attain the targeted 2°C over pre-industrial times. The horse may not have already bolted, but it’s well on its way through the stable door. Who can stop it? Well, we can, you and I. And it is not just that we can stop it, we have a responsibility to do so.

Fred Phelps: Death of a Dinosaur. By Cheryl Hawkes (Public access)

Fred Phelps, the Christian crusader who led his flock of evangelical nut bars from Topeka, Kansas, on anti-gay crusades, died last month. It is mortifying for many Christians that Phelps defined himself as one, as he stalked the funerals of gays and straights, raging against his own United States government and a democracy that tolerated homosexuality. Phelps and his family at Westboro Baptist Church took full advantage of their constitutional rights while blasting the civil rights of others. His death has given the people he hurt and offended a moral choice.

The Pluck of the Irish: How a proud native cuts through the kitsch. By Brian Brennan (Subscription)

Here’s what I will not do this St. Patrick’s Day: I will not call it St. Paddy’s Day or the 17th of Ireland. I will not wear a green tie or sweater. I will not drink green beer. I will not wear a button that says, “Kiss Me, I’m Irish.” I will raise another glass to the poet Seamus Heaney, listen to Dublin pianist John O’Conor play the music of Irish composer John Field, and re-read James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I will remember that many of us who become emigrants leave Ireland because we beg to differ, because we fear what Edna O’Brien calls the “psychological choke.”

Winter Swan. By E. Kaye Fulton (Public access)

Swan 3

© E. Kaye Fulton

This has been a hard, hard winter for wildlife  – the worst, locals say, in 70 years. For a month or more, the mute swans of Wellington, Ontario, have been buffeted by howling winds and driving snow. Unable to forage the frozen shorelines and bottom of Lake Ontario for food, they fend off starvation by curling themselves into snowy white mounds, immobile and defenceless on the impenetrable surface. Two nights ago, in search of easy prey, coyotes crept across the ice to claim two sleeping swans huddled at the end of the line formed by their 26-member flock.

Golden Age of American Journalism? By Paul Steiger, ProPublica (Public access)

… I too am thrilled with what the new digital tools can do, in capturing data, drawing knowledge it, and in displaying and distributing that knowledge.  I’m also delighted that the barriers to entry have shrunk so dramatically. Instead of spending millions on a printing press, you need only spend a few thousand on a laptop and a website and, boom, you’re a publisher. But creating millions of lone-wolf, single-person bloggers doesn’t get us to a golden age. It can give us cat photos that make us giggle, news scoops involving an original fact or two, a trenchant analysis of finance or politics or sculpture, video of Miley Cyrus or Taylor Swift nuzzling their latest boyfriends, or possibly some movie and book reviews worth trusting. All nice to have but not game-changing. If you’re going to reliably produce journalism that improves the world, maybe you don’t need a village, but you need some collaborators. You need lots of reporters. You need editors, data journalists, a lawyer … (and) you need to find a way to get paid.

Pete Seeger: Farewell to a Giant
. By Silver Donald Cameron
(Public access)

silver_donald_cameronAuthor and filmmaker Silver Donald Cameron remembers American icon Pete Seeger, who died January 27, 2014:
In June, 1969, I was rattling away at my old Remington manual typewriter when my five-year-old daughter Leslie wandered into my workroom.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“I’m writing a letter to Pete Seeger,” I said. I was hoping that Seeger would consider a benefit concert for The Mysterious East, a dissident magazine in Canada’s Maritimes that I helped to edit. At five, Leslie already knew and loved Seeger’s music, especially his children’s album Strangers and Cousins.
“Pete Seeger? Really?”
“You tell Pete Seeger,” she said gravely, “that I’m having my birthday — and he can come!”

My Last Day in Kenya. By Sheldon Fernandez  (Public access)

Kenya child 2

© Sheldon Fernandez 2008

In the summer of 2008 Sheldon Fernandez spent several weeks working in Kangemi, a large slum on the outskirts of Nairobi.  Under the auspices of the African Jesuits Aids Network (AJAN), he assisted with infrastructure projects and HIV/AIDS education, but also had the opportunity to work with the school children of Kenya. The following essay recounts the very last day of his trip, when Fernandez discovered some hard truths about one of his students.

Behind Houghton Walls: on Nelson Mandela’s last days. By Iain T. Benson (Public access)

Madiba has been a long time a-dying.
I’ve driven, we all have,
past his Houghton home;
cream security walls
even him …

Convocation Address. By Patrick Lane(Public access)

Armstrong, BC - Purple Springs Nursery field location shoot with large lift.

© Craig Pulsifer 2013

It is sixty-five years ago, you’re ten years old and sitting on an old, half-blind, grey horse. All you have is a saddle blanket and a rope for reins as you watch a pack of dogs rage at the foot of a Ponderosa pine. High up on a branch a cougar lies supine, one paw lazily swatting at the air. He knows the dogs will tire. They will slink away and then the cougar will climb down and go on with its life in the Blue Bush country south of Kamloops.* It is a hot summer day. There is the smell of pine needles and Oregon grape and dust. It seems to you that the sun carves the dust from the face of the broken rocks, carves and lifts it into the air where it mixes with the sun. Just beyond you are three men on horses.

Two decades of disaster: Newfoundland’s fishery. Words and photos by Greg Locke (Subscription)

Spanish and Canadian offshore fishing trawlers at the Canadian 200mile limit on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. © Greg Locke 2000

© Greg Locke 2000

It’s a cold foggy day in the fishing village of Petty Harbour, Newfoundland. Just 20 kilometers south from downtown St. John’s, it feels much further. There is not much activity or many people out and around the few remaining wharfs and twine lofts that once were buzzing hives of fishing activity ringing the harbour. Today, there are just a few frozen tourists looking to make photos of a Newfoundland that doesn’t exist anymore …  The grim faces and tears of the people of Petty Harbour, and other fishing communities around the eastern Canadian province, told the story of a great calamity.

Bangladesh and The Bay. By Rod Mickleburgh(Subscription)

The fair city of Vancouver on Canada’s West Coast is more than 11,000 kilometres from poor, benighted Bangladesh. But this week, the teeming flood plain came to the doorstep of the large Hudson’s Bay Company department store in the heart of downtown Vancouver, through the glass doors and up the escalator to the second floor. There, close to a hundred union protesters gathered in front of the store’s swank, high-priced merchandise, serenading shoppers, mannequins and suddenly-invisible Bay managers with chants of “Shame” and “Sign the Accord.” Their ire was directed at far-away Bangladesh, and Western retail chains like The Bay that peddle clothing items produced  by impoverished, poorly-paid Bangladeshi textile workers toiling in grim, frequently dangerous factories.

JFK: The Murdered King. By Brian Brennan (Subscription)

I was 20 years old at the time so I remember, of course, where I was the day Kennedy was shot. I had been out visiting with friends that afternoon and when I got home my mother was in tears. “The president’s been killed,” she said. “Dev’s been killed?” I said, thinking she was referring to Ireland’s Brooklyn-born president, Éamon de Valera. “No, President Kennedy,” said my mother. “Somebody shot him.” For my mother, as for many in Ireland, it was as if a member of the family had been taken from us.

A lesson passed on. By Jim McNiven (Subscription)

My wife and I spent a couple of months in the American Southwest last winter. We stayed out on the edge of the desert near Tucson, Arizona. It is dry, hot and utterly unlike where I live, in Halifax on Canada’s Atlantic coast. Our two married daughters, twins, came down together to visit, bringing one’s 9-year-old son. The three women were keen to explore shops and galleries and a mother-daughters expedition was formed. I was designated as official entertainer of the grandson.

A bale of  a good time. By Charles Mandel (Subscription)

Hay bales in the Peace Country

© Greg Locke 2009

Thursday night in Auburndale, Nova Scotia, and what’s the big entertainment? A drive-in movie, perhaps? Maybe dinner out? How about staring at a big field of hay? That doesn’t sound terribly promising, but over four balmy nights in July, Steph and I sit on our front porch, watching grass get cut in the field directly across from our house. We aren’t the only ones entranced. Everyone and his dog (literally, for half the vehicles zipping past have a mutt sharing the front seat) slows down and gawks at the haying that proceeds apace up the hill on the Oickle farm.

The Prince and the Prostitute: By Brian Brennan (Subscription)

When the heir to the British throne paid his first official visit to Canada in 1919, it was expected he would follow the usual royal routine of shaking hands, making speeches and inspecting troops. What wasn’t anticipated was that Edward, Prince of Wales, would buy a ranch while he was abroad. And what certainly wasn’t predicted was that the ranch would become a convenient hiding place for the prince four years later, when one of his former mistresses went on trial for murder in London.

Accordion Man: Born to Squeeze? Not me. By Brian Brennan (Subscription)

Brian Brennan, age 16, playing accordion at a talent contest in Dublin, 1960. (I didn't win, by the way!) You’ve heard the jokes. They’re not funny. What’s the difference between an accordionist and a terrorist? A terrorist has sympathizers. Not funny, I tell you. Syndicated cartoonist Gary Larson (The Far Side) used to lead the insult brigade. He put his favorite on a greeting card sold all over the world. The caption read, “Welcome to Heaven, here’s your harp. Welcome to Hell, here is your accordion.” Not funny? All right, maybe a little bit funny.  Accordionists get no respect. I know. I used to be an accordionist. OK, still am. No respect I get.




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“You are entitled to your opinion … you are not entitled to your own facts” –  Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Facts and Opinions is no longer publishing new stories, and is on hold for lack of a sustainable funding model for journalism.

Most recent works:

San Miguel de Allende: “NAFTA of Literary Festivals” , by Brian Brennan

A writers’ gathering in San Miguel de Allende (SMA), a colonial gem of cobbled streets and revolutionary charm, has been held annually since 2005, with an audience now of some 10,000. Its secrets to success include sun – lots of sun – a city that is culturally-rich and diverse, and  some of the world’s best-known authors.

Muskrat Falls hydroelectric – Who buried the risk assessment report? 
ROGER BILL  Reporting

Muskrat Falls, Labrador. Site of a proposed hydro electric project by the governments of Newfoundland and Quebec. This is downriver from the Churchill Falls Hydro project in Labrador. Photo by Greg Locke © 2017 DCS Files

Muskrat Falls, Labrador. Site of a proposed hydro electric project by the governments of Newfoundland and Quebec. This is downriver from the Churchill Falls Hydro project in Labrador.
Photo by Greg Locke (C) 2006


Note to readers: In the Autumn of 2013 a group of veteran professional journalists launched Facts and Opinions as a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan, and employee-owned, F&O was to reach out via the vast web and, to be free of conflicts of interest, funded only by readers — not by advertising, “branded content,” or organizations.

Amid massive cultural, political, financial and technological change, and a worsening crisis in the business of journalism caused largely by digital corporations like Facebook, F&O ceased publishing new works in 2017.  Thank you, to those those few hundred of you who supported our site. You were, sadly, too few among nearly 1/4 million readers, most unwilling to spend even pennies on journalism, even as many copy and paste our works onto Facebook or blogs.

Meantime, we invite you to read Elizabeth Kolbert’s review in the New Yorker of two important books about journalism media — and consider what is at stake in the survival of real journalism as a cornerstone of democracy. If we view ourselves as citizens of informed democracies, we have power to support or change systems. If we don’t, the cynicism or apathy of acting only as consumers will be self-fulfilling. Whether our future unfolds in democracies is our choice, and each of us has a stake.

Deborah Jones, former volunteer F&O editor



Regular contributors, most recent works:

BRIAN BRENNAN, features and Brief Encounters

San Miguel de Allende: “NAFTA of Literary Festivals” 
Canada’s ambassador to Ireland: Once a Cop, Always a Cop

Fort McMurray: from “black pitch” and salt to oil sands
Remembering the Pillar
The Pluck of the Irish: How a proud native cuts through the kitsch.
JFK: The Murdered King


#MeToo? Not me.
 Good riddance, Hugh Hefner 
Dear Americans: Enough, Already
Rule of Law vs Rule by Man
Fake News and Our Happiness Disorder
On the death of Cuba’s Fidel Castro


Feminists mourn Wendy Robbins     
Trump’s gurus taken off air
Americans turn Canadian about health care
Fukushima still in hell
Where have all the jobs gone?
Media literacy in a post-fact age

GREG LOCKE, Photographer/F&O Web designer

Newfoundland’s fourth offshore oil project set to sail
Remembering War
Life goes on in rural Newfoundland
Mummers the Word
Welcome to Iceberg Alley
Under a malaria moon

JONATHAN MANTHORPE, International Affairs

For Britain, friendless desert looms behind Brexit door
Singapore rocked by ruling family feud 
British Election Brings Mayhem
Trump Cries Havoc! – Dogs (still) Kenneled
Theresa May’s election victory no longer certain
Broad alliances trump Trump for Israeli security

JIM McNIVEN, Thoughtlines

Why Celebrate July Fourth, or First?
Down and Dirty in the Trade Game
Nothing’s Happening
America’s Republican Quandary 
The System Comes First
America: Andrew Johnson Rides Again

TOM REGAN, Seeking Orenda

The putz in America’s room
Reflections of a Canadian abroad as Canada turns 150  
American Civil Discourse in Serious Trouble
Comey Lands Punches, But No Knockout Blow

America’s Confederate icons must go
Roger Ailes’ special place in hell 
Why Donald Trump won’t be impeached

Explore our archives:  evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES, image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS

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