On Second Thought - May 2017

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Sports Analysis by Nigel Aplin, Sports Editor

Canadian Football League challenged to connect

with younger sports fans to reverse audience slide

CFL at crossroads – time for a woman commissioner?

The Canadian Football League (CFL) has roots that date back nearly 150 years. It has been a staple of sports culture in Canada over much of that time but the league’s recent history is checkered and its popularity has been on a downward slide, particularly in Canada’s largest city. The league must find a way to grow its audience, connect with younger Canadian sports fans, and somehow re-establish its place in Toronto.

News broke last month that the CFL and its Commissioner, Jeffrey Orridge, had agreed to part ways, barely two years into his mandate. In March, 2015, Mr. Orridge became the first black Commissioner of any major North American sports league (I still consider the CFL to be “major” in Canada but I know that this claim will be questioned) and thereby continued its progressive tradition of welcoming and embracing black quarterbacks and hiring qualified black coaches and managers long before the National Football League ever did. Orridge came to the CFL’s top job with an impressive resume in sports marketing and management, having held senior positions at Right to Play and, most recently, as Executive Director of CBC Sports. A native of Queens, New York, Orridge claimed to have always admired the CFL from afar for its hiring practices and its longevity.

After the announcement that he and the league had agreed to part ways, Orridge issued a statement that cryptically explained that he and the CFL Board of Governors “have differing opinions on the future of the league”. The Governors had apparently approved Orridge’s five year plan in November but soured on him only five months later. Perhaps the 2016 Grey Cup was his undoing. (More)

O Canada: Getting to know you . . . now, as Grace saw it

Through fiction and fact Ruth Latta takes us deep into

the intimate family life of CCF founder J.S. Woodsworth

Grace And The Secret Vault

A young adult novel by Ruth Latta that all Canadians should read

Reviewed by Evelyn Gigantes
Former New Democratic Party member of the Ontario Legislature

Living in a beautiful Pacific coast village with her mother, sister and brothers, fourteen-year-old Grace feels sheltered by the mountains from the troubling world beyond. Then a general strike breaks out in Winnipeg in the spring of 1919 and her father is caught up in it. Facing her fears while waiting for news, Grace finds a way of protecting her family.

Ruth Latta knows how to tell a good story — a story about real people searching for a new kind of Canada. Grace, our protagonist, is a teenager in Howe Sound, B.C. as Canada emerges from the First World War and begins the struggle for inclusive democracy. Her father, whom history knows as J.S. Woodsworth, is beginning his long and effective political career. Her mother, also an inspired reformer, teaches and raises a family that includes the strong-willed Grace.

Latta's skill at painting a clear picture of the world and domestic politics of the time, combines with a keen sense of how a lively family grapples with the strains of those politics. It's a moving story well told.

Military option on North Korea is too risky

Only serious diplomacy will calm attack fears

As the United States considers its policy options towards North Korea it must understand that Pyongyang has been thinking about military conflict for decades. It too will have military plans and they could pose major challenges for the U.S. This is why China and South Korea — and U.S. regional experts too — prefer the diplomatic route.

By Tim Willasey-Wilsey
Gateway House
29 April 2017 — As the United States strike force, led by the aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson, eventually arrives off the Korean coast, Washington is considering policy options. “Strategic patience” under recent presidents was an admission that all policy options had failed. It is certainly time for a new approach before North Korea is able to attach a reliable nuclear warhead to an accurate long range missile. A negotiated settlement facilitated by China is feasible and would be infinitely better than a military conflict. (More)

Who is behind Washington's Venezuela coup plot?

Creating a distorted image of the humanitarian crisis is the starting point. Painting a picture of a country on the verge of collapse is the excuse.

The coup plot against Venezuela has already been written and presented. On 2 March 2017, during the first round of OAS talks, Shannon K. O'Neil (Latin America director of the Council of Foreign Relations, CFR) presented the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee with a portfolio of actions and measures to be taken by the United States if it wanted to remove Chavismo from political power in Venezuela. (More)

From the Desk of Frances Sedgwick, Toronto

Toronto's poor: militant present echoes rebel past

Poor people's struggles for basic necessities today reflect the radical

resistance of the unemployed during the Great Depression

Toronto's Poor: A Rebellious History

By Bryan D. Palmer and Gaétan Héroux

19 April 2017 NOW Communications Inc. Thousands of people on social assistance in Toronto are being left destitute, unable to access funds to acquire basic necessities like dressers, mattresses, bedding and kitchen utensils since the province changed the funding formula for grants to municipalities to address homelessness in 2013.

In 2015, only 24,500 on social assistance in Toronto were able to get money from he Housing Stabilization Fund, while 49,000 got funds in 2012 from the provincial program it replaced.

Poor people's struggles for basic necessities in Toronto today mirror the militant resistance of the unemployed in the 1930s. In this edited excerpt from Toronto's Poor, A Rebellious History (Between the Lines), authors Bryan D. Palmer and Gaétan Héroux, describe a 3 April 1935 march on Queen's Park by 3,000 that sprang from riots in York Township and other mobilizations around the province.

In early April 1935, 3,000 men, women and children marched on Queen's Park to demand that the [Mitchell] Hepburn government raise relief rates. (More)

In France, Macron is the radical, not Le Pen

'A year ago few would have predicted this outcome'

By Tarek Fatah
The Toronto Sun

Tuesday 25 April 2017 As a result of the first round of elections in France, the country has a choice between two contrasting characters.

On one side is Marine Le Pen, an anti-Islamist advocate of French sovereignty, who supports French working class rights.

She faces the front runner, former investment banker Emmanuel Macron, economic minister in President Francois Hollande’s government. 

A year ago, few would have predicted this outcome. (More)

From the Desk of Nick Aplin, Contributing Editor

A special obscenity. Pablo Picasso painted Guernica in

just five weeks in spring of 1937 to reveal horrors of war

George Orwell went to Spain to write news stories then

picked up a rifle to joined the militia against the fascists

while keeping his pen busy.

Picasso painted Guernica eighty years ago this spring. It still stands as a searing protest against the brutality of war and fascism.

Pablo Picasso painted Guernica in just five weeks in the spring of 1937. Picasso, then living in Paris, was asked by Spain's Popular Front Government to produce a mural for the 1937 Paris World’s Fair. Picasso agreed, and though progress at first was slow. It was the April 26 German nazi and Italian fascist air bombardment at Guernica that moved him. He threw himself into the painting and in less than five weeks, astonishingly, had completed Guernica.

Guernica, massive in size, composed in mixtures of black and gray and white, is a picture of an air raid. It is twenty-five and a half feet long and more than eleven and a half feet in height. In July 1937, the mural was installed in the entrance to the Republic's Spanish Pavilion amid controversy.

The late art critic John Berger described it as "A profoundly subjective work — and it is from this that its power derives. Picasso did not try to imagine the actual event. There is no town, no aeroplanes, no explosion, no reference to the tim of day, the year, the century, or the part of Spain where it happened. There are no enemies to accuse. There is no heroism. And yet the work is a protest — and one would know this even if one knew nothing of its history.

Instead we find timeless images — a falling woman, a Madonna and Child, a mother screaming, a child broken, a wounded soldier’s shattered corpse, a ménage of mutilated bodies and distorted faces, a twisted horse shrieking in agony. Only an electric light reminds us of modernity.

Nevertheless, Guernica achieved its political as well as artistic goals. Picasso created a searing protest against the new face of war and fascism’s brutality. The mural depicts suffering: not only the suffering Picasso heard in the news from Spain but also a more universal suffering. Guernica almost immediately became legendary, and Berger called it “the most famous painting of the twentieth century.”

Indeed, John Rockefeller tried to buy it, and, when the artist refused, paid for its recreation as a tapestry. Famously, the reproduction, which has been on display at the entrance of the United Nations Security Council since 1985, was covered with a large blue curtain on February 5, 2003. Journalists reported that the Bush administration had pressured officials to conceal the tapestry before Secretary of State Colin Powell and United Nations ambassador John Negroponte arrived there to press the case for war against Iraq.

Guernica may not specifically be about Spain but rather about war and its victims. Still, looking back, we might qualify this statement. The mural also remains inescapably about what happened in Spain eighty years ago and all that was lost there.

George Orwell arrived in Barcelona in December 1936, intent on writing newspaper articles about the conflict, but he soon joined a workers’ militia.

Orwell documented this in his classic account of revolution and counterrevolution, Homage to Catalonia, published in Britain in 1938, but not until 1952 in the United States. The French edition was not published until five years after his death. In the book, Orwell described the revolutionary change that had come over Barcelona:

Every shop and cafe had an inscription saying that it had been collectivized; even the boot blacks had been collectivized and their boxes painted red and black. Waiters and shop-walkers looked you in the face and treated you as an equal. Servile and even ceremonial forms of speech had temporarily disappeared. Nobody said “Señor” or “Don” or even “Usted”; everyone called everyone else comrade and “Thou,” and said “Salud” instead of “Buenos dias.”

But this would not last. The German and Italian governments handed victory to Franco and his army, installing a fascist government that would last for thirty-six years. Soon all of Europe would be at their mercy. (More)

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