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John’s Believe It Or Not… January 31st

* 1839 – Lord Durham hands in his Report on the Affairs of British North America. * 1950 Truman announces development of H-bomb. * 1606 The death of Guy Fawkes. * 1968 Viet Cong attack U.S. Embassy. * 1953 Flood wreaks havoc in Europe.

It’s Hump Day Wednesday! Did You Know…

* 1839 – Lord Durham hands in his Report on the Affairs of British North America.

Lord Durham, a British politician, was sent to North America in 1838 to investigate the causes of the twin rebellions the previous year in the colonies of Upper and Lower Canada. Durham’s famous Report led to a series of reforms and changes including the union of the two Canada’s into a single colony. It also paved the way for responsible government — a critical step in the evolution of Canadian democracy.
Continue reading “John’s Believe It Or Not… January 31st”

John’s Believe It Or Not… January 30th

* 1815 – Rev. John Strachan writes to Thomas Jefferson protesting actions of US forces who burned and looted York (Toronto). * 1815 Burned US Library of Congress reestablished with Thomas Jefferson’s 6500 volumes. * 1948 Gandhi assassinated. * 1649 King Charles I executed for treason. * 1972 Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland.

It’s Tuesday! Did You Know…

* 1815 – Rev. John Strachan writes to Thomas Jefferson protesting actions of US forces who burned and looted York (Toronto).

John Strachan was a figure in Upper Canada and the first Anglican Bishop of Toronto. He is best known as a political bishop who held many government positions and promoted education from common schools to helping to found the University of Toronto.

Excerpt from his letter to Jefferson: Continue reading “John’s Believe It Or Not… January 30th”

John’s Believe It Or Not… January 29th

* 1820 King George III dies. * 1964 Dr. Strangelove premieres. * 1979 School shooting in San Diego. * 1861 Divided Kansas enters the Union. * 1962 Peter Paul and Mary sign their first recording contract.

It’s Monday! Did You Know…

* 1820 King George III dies.

Ten years after mental illness forced him to retire from public life, King George III, the British king who lost the American colonies, dies at the age of 82.

In 1760, 20-year-old George succeeded his grandfather, George II, as king of Great Britain and Ireland. Although he hoped to govern more directly than his predecessor had, King George III was unable to find a minister he could trust, until 1770, when he appointed Lord North as his chief minister. Lord North proved able to manage Parliament and willing to follow royal leadership, but George’s policy of coercion against the American colonists led to the outbreak of the American War for Independence.

The subsequent loss of England’s most profitable colonies contributed to growing opposition to the king, but in 1784 his appointment as prime minister, William Pitt (the younger), succeeded in winning a majority in Parliament. After Pitt’s ascendance, the king retired from active participation in government, except for occasional interference in major issues such as Catholic Emancipation, which was defeated in 1801.

In 1765, the king suffered a short nervous breakdown and in the winter of 1788-89 a more prolonged mental illness. By 1810, he was permanently insane. It has been suggested that he was a victim of the hereditary disease porphyria, a defect of the blood that can cause mental illness when not treated. He spent the rest of his life in the care of his devoted wife, Charlotte Sophia, whom he had married in 1761. Following his retirement from public life, his son, the Prince of Wales, was named regent and upon his father’s death in 1820 ascended to the throne as King George IV.

Portrait of King George III

* 1964 Dr. Strangelove premieres.

Stanley Kubrick’s black comic masterpiece, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb opens in theaters to both critical and popular acclaim. The movie’s popularity was evidence of changing attitudes toward atomic weapons and the concept of nuclear deterrence.

The movie focused on the actions of a rogue U.S. officer who believes that communists are threatening the “precious bodily fluids” of Americans. Without authorization, he issues orders to U.S. bombers to launch atomic attacks against the Soviet Union. When it becomes evident that some of the bombers may actually drop their atomic payloads, American President Merkin Muffley frantically calls his Soviet counterpart. The Russian leader informs Muffley that an atomic attack on the Soviet Union will automatically unleash the terrible “doomsday machine,” which will snuff out all life on the planet. Muffley’s chief foreign policy advisor, Dr. Strangelove, reassures the president and chief officials that all is not lost: they can, he posits, survive even the doomsday machine by retreating to deep mineshafts.

Close scrutiny of the Dr. Strangelove character indicated that he was probably a composite of three people: Henry Kissinger, a political scientist who had written about nuclear deterrence strategy; Edward Teller, a key scientist in the development of the hydrogen bomb; and Wernher von Braun, the German scientist who was a leading figure in missile technology.

Little scrutiny was needed, however, to grasp Kubrick’s satirical attacks on the American and Russian policies of nuclear stockpiling and massive retaliation. The film’s jabs at some of the sacred core beliefs of America’s defense strategy struck a chord with the American people. Particularly after the frightening Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962–when nuclear annihilation seemed a very real possibility–the American public was increasingly willing to question the nation’s reliance on nuclear weapons.

Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) (

* 1979 School shooting in San Diego.

Brenda Spencer kills two men and wounds nine children as they enter the Grover Cleveland Elementary School in San Diego. Spencer blazed away with rifle shots from her home directly across the street from the school. After 20 minutes of shooting, police surrounded Spencer’s home for six hours before she surrendered. Asked for some explanation for the attack, Spencer allegedly said, “I just don’t like Mondays. I did this because it’s a way to cheer up the day. Nobody likes Mondays.”

Spencer was only 16 years old at the time of her murderous attack. She was a problem child who was widely known as a drug abuser with a violent streak. She repeatedly broke the windows at the Cleveland school with her BB gun. Still, her father gave her a .22 semi-automatic rifle and ammunition as a Christmas gift at the end of 1978.

This seemed to inspire Spencer into more grandiose plans, and she started telling her classmates that she was going to do something “to get on TV.” When Monday morning rolled around, Burton Wragg, the principal of Cleveland Elementary, was opening the gates of the school when Spencer started firing her rifle from across the street. Wragg and custodian Michael Suchar were killed. “I just started shooting. That’s it. I just did it for the fun of it,” explained Spencer.

Spencer’s hatred for the first day of the school week was later memorialized by Bob Geldof, the leader of the rock group The Boomtown Rats, in the song, “I Don’t Like Mondays.”

Spencer, who pled guilty to two counts of murder and assault with a deadly weapon, is currently serving a term of 25 years to life at the California Institution for Women in Corona, California. She has been denied parole four times, most recently in 2005.

17-year-old Brenda Ann Spencer leaves the courthouse in Santa Ana, California, escorted by sheriff's deputies, after pleading guilty to two counts of first degree murder, 1st October 1979
17-year-old Brenda Ann Spencer leaves the courthouse in Santa Ana, California, escorted by sheriff’s deputies, after pleading guilty to two counts of first-degree murder, 1st October 1979 (

* 1861 Divided Kansas enters the Union.

The territory of Kansas is admitted into the Union as the 34th state, or the 28th state if the secession of eight Southern states over the previous six weeks is taken into account. Kansas, deeply divided over the issue of slavery, was granted statehood as a free state in a gesture of support for Kansas’ militant anti-slavery forces, which had been in armed conflict with pro-slavery groups since Kansas became a territory in 1854.

Trouble in territorial Kansas began with the signing of the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act by President Franklin Pierce. The act stipulated that settlers in the newly created territories of Nebraska and Kansas would decide by popular vote whether their territory would be free or slave. In early 1855, Kansas’ first election proved a violent affair, as more than 5,000 so-called Border Ruffians invaded the territory from western Missouri and forced the election of a pro-slavery legislature. To prevent further bloodshed, Andrew H. Reeder, appointed territorial governor by President Pierce, reluctantly approved the election. A few months later, the Kansas Free State forces were formed, armed by supporters in the North and featuring the leadership of militant abolitionist John Brown.

During the next four years, raids, skirmishes, and massacres continued in “Bleeding Kansas,” as it became popularly known. The territory’s admittance into the Union in January 1861 only increased tension, but just three and a half months later the irrepressible differences in Kansas were swallowed up by the full-scale outbreak of the American Civil War. During the Civil War, Kansas suffered the highest rate of fatal casualties of any Union state, largely because of its great internal divisions over the issue of slavery.

Violence between pro-slavery, free-state, and abolitionist groups continued for many years.
Violence between pro-slavery, free-state, and abolitionist groups continued for many years. (VOA Learning English)

* 1962 Peter, Paul, and Mary sign their first recording contract.

Peter, Paul, and Mary didn’t revolutionize folk music the way Bob Dylan did. Dylan’s songwriting fundamentally altered and then ultimately transcended the folk idiom itself, while Peter, Paul, and Mary didn’t even write their own material. They were good-looking, crowd-pleasing performers first and foremost—hand-selected and molded for success by a Greenwich Village impresario named Albert Grossman. Yet in their good-looking, crowd-pleasing way, Peter, Paul, and Mary helped make Dylan’s revolution possible, both by popularizing his songs and by proving the commercial potential of “serious” folk music in doing so. They took a decisive step on their path to success on January 29, 1962, when they signed their first recording contract with Warner Bros.—the label they still call home nearly half a century later.

Peter Yarrow, Noel Paul Stookey, and Mary Travers ran in the same Greenwich Village circles but had never performed together before Albert Grossman came along. Grossman, a co-founder of the Newport Folk Festival, was a controversial figure on the New York folk scene—a man openly seeking to commercialize a movement that wore its self-serious leftist political roots on its sleeve. Grossman recognized the commercial potential in the “message songs” he was hearing in famous Village venues like Gerde’s Folk City if only he could combine the music of brilliant songwriters like Pete Seeger with the non-threatening appeal of singers like the Kingston Trio.

Pete Seeger’s former group, the Weavers, had enjoyed enormous success in the early-1950s with hits like “Goodnight Irene,” until their leftist background derailed their career during the Red Scare. The downfall of the Weavers led to a split within the nascent folk revival—a split between political folk that had no chance for commercial success and entertaining folk that was utterly apolitical. Grossman believed that he could span that divide with a group whose youthful good looks and non-threatening demeanor would make subtly political folk music acceptable within the popular mainstream. Enter Peter, Paul and Mary and songs like “If I Had a Hammer” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” both from their debut album in 1962. In 1963, Peter, Paul, and Mary would release their biggest hit ever: “Blowin’ in the Wind,” written by a new client of Grossman’s named Bob Dylan. It was the first sample of Dylan’s work that most of the world would ever hear.

Mary Travers passed away in 2009.

Album Cover: Peter Paul & Mary - A Song Will Rise 1965
Peter Paul & Mary – A Song Will Rise 1965 (Tidal)

Today’s Sources: 

* This Day In History – What Happened Today                                       

John’s Believe It Or Not… January 28th

* 1980 – Canadian Caper – Ambassador Ken Taylor engineers escape of 6 US diplomats from Iran. * 1986 Challenger disaster. * 1917 U.S. ends search for Pancho Villa. * 1985 American recording artists gather to record “We Are the World”. * Clint Eastwood honored by Directors Guild of America.

It’s Sunday! Did You Know…

* 1980 – Canadian Caper – Ambassador Ken Taylor engineers escape of 6 US diplomats from Iran.

When the Islamic Iranian Revolution occurred, the U.S.-backed Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, fled the country, leaving it in disarray. Amid the turmoil, a mob of youthful Islamists, calling themselves the Muslim Student Followers of the Imam’s Line, stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on November 4, 1979, capturing dozens of diplomats and holding them hostage, demanding the return of the Shah to Iran for trial. The provisional government fell shortly thereafter when Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan and his cabinet resigned. Although the new Iranian government stated that the hostage-takers were merely students acting on their own, it joined in demands for the return of the Shah. Most of the hostages were held until early 1981.
Continue reading “John’s Believe It Or Not… January 28th”

John’s Believe It Or Not… January 27th

* 1859 – George-Étienne Cartier Proclaims Ottawa as the Capital of the Province of Canada. * 1888 National Geographic Society founded. * 2002 Explosions trigger deadly panic in Nigeria. * 1967 Astronauts die in launchpad fire. * 1302 Dante is exiled from Florence.

It’s Saturday! Did You Know…

* 1859 – George-Étienne Cartier Proclaims Ottawa as the Capital of the Province of Canada.

Sir George-Étienne Cartier, co-premier of the Province of Canada, lawyer, rebel, railway promoter, politician, Father of Confederation (born 6 September 1814 in Saint-Antoine, Lower Canada; died 20 May 1873 in London, England). A former rebel against the government (see Rebellions of 1837), Cartier also served as Canada’s first minister of militia and defence. Arguably the kingpin of Confederation, Cartier was responsible for bringing French Canada, Manitoba, and British Columbia into the Dominion.
Continue reading “John’s Believe It Or Not… January 27th”

John’s Believe It Or Not… January 26th

* 1924 – Parliament approves Red Ensign as Canada’s official flag for government buildings at home and abroad. * 1788 Australia Day. * 1838 Tennessee passes nation’s first prohibition law. * 1950 Republic of India born. * 1962 “The Twist” ends record-setting run.

It’s Friday! TGIF! Did You Know…

* 1924 – Parliament approves Red Ensign as Canada’s official flag for government buildings at home and abroad.

The Canadian Red Ensign was the flag of Canada until 1965 when it was replaced by the current Maple Leaf flag. It is a British red ensign (flag or standard), featuring the Union flag in the canton, defaced with the shield of the coat of arms of Canada. Continue reading “John’s Believe It Or Not… January 26th”

John’s Believe It Or Not… January 25th

* 1924 – Canadian team attends opening of first Winter Olympic games at Chamonix. * 1905 World’s largest diamond found. * 1995 Near launching of Russian nukes. * 1949 Inaugural Emmy awards ceremony. * 1759 Robert Burns’ birthday.

It’s Thursday! Did You Know…

* 1924 – Canadian team attends opening of first Winter Olympic games at Chamonix.

Enjoying a growing popularity in the early 20th century, winter sports were introduced to the Olympic Games at London 1908 where the availability of artificial ice allowed figure skating to be contested. Ice hockey followed at Antwerp 1920. But there was hesitation in staging a complete Olympic Winter Games. The Scandinavian countries were concerned they would undermine their Nordic Games while modern Olympic founder Pierre de Coubertin also objected. Continue reading “John’s Believe It Or Not… January 25th”

The New Rules of Presidential Etiquette

Presidential Etiquette? Good Grief! Jill Dennison has kindly put together a few lists of the new presidential etiquette that is obviously approved by Trump’s party and supporters. Please share…

Filosofa's Word

For eight years, the Republicans gave President Barack Obama and his family grief.  I’m not even talking policy here, not talking about ACA, Afghanistan, Gitmo, or any of a thousand other issues.  I am talking style, demeanor, etiquette.  Just a few examples:

  • For a time, during the 2008 campaign, before Obama was even elected, he was criticized for not wearing the flag lapel pin that all candidates wear to signal their patriotism, even as they are lying through their teeth. Obama stated in 2007 that he felt the wearing of the lapel pin had become a substitute for true patriotism, but to hear the republicans, why he might as well have been an axe murderer.
  • During a White House press briefing in 2014, President Obama had the unmitigated gall to … GASP … wear a tan-coloured suit! He might just as well have come to the briefing in his flannel…

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Thoughts on Integrity

Integrity? Jill Dennison gifts us with a beautifully expressed lament about the absence of integrity in the USA. But in my view, this is not just an American phenomenon. Please share…

Filosofa's Word

Integrity: the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.

Somewhere along the way, between the signing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787 and the era of Trump that began 230 years later in 2017, we, as a nation, lost our integrity.  There is no integrity in our federal government, nor, I suspect, in the states’ governments.  There is little, if any, integrity within the medical profession.  There is no integrity in the religious community, and less than there should be in our schools.  And We The People are complicit in the destruction of integrity in this nation.

We The People are willing to accept a president who lies so much that he would not recognize the truth if it smacked him in the face.  We The People are willing to vote into office, members of Congress who take bribes from corporations and lobbyist groups.  We The…

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