Saturday, April 7, 2018

DEATH OF MANDELA'S WIFELY BURDEN


A VIOLENT SHOWBOAT

Nelson Mandela and I stood under a tree awkwardly eating a buffet lunch while bodyguards watched suspiciously within grabbing distance and the elite of the world press circled waiting for their chance.
Mandela had lined up for the food at the Nijo Castle with hundreds of publishers and editors gathered for the prestigious annual conference of the International Press Institute in Kyoto.
But they weren't as quick as me to slide in behind him in the queue for food and chat about what he liked to eat. Turned out his favourite food came wrapped in nostalgia about his childhood - maize  porridge.
I followed him to the shade of the tree, having established a weird rapport when earlier we had crashed head-on into each other on an elevated walkway as we surveyed the famous 15 rocks in what is said to be the most famous Zen garden in Japan, Ryoan-ji, a raked gravel "garden" where the Japanese come to meditate. (It's also called Temple of the Dragon at Peace.)
 Neither of us had paid enough attention to those walking towards us. I'm big, but he was an inch taller and hard from a youth as a boxer and those awful years in the quarry of his prison on Robben Island. Still I almost launched him into air since he was 73. And that would have been a dangerous fall that would have snapped bones. But I managed to grab him and haul him back up to safety while his bodyguards behind him glared in horror. "Gawd, I almost wiped out the guest speaker," I said as we both grimaced in bruised embarrassment.
So I had really made an impression.  Thank heavens, I thought.  My wonderful and difficult boss, Doug Creighton, reluctantly paid for the trip during Sun budget cuts after telling me I had better get an "exclusive" interview with Mandela. (I hate media labelling interviews as exclusive if they are with famous leaders or personalities who live in the media spotlight. and are interviewed constantly.)
After a few mild questions not to alarm him since this was a touring day, I asked just what he was doing in Japan at exactly the same time as his wife's notorious trial for kidnapping and murder was starting in South Africa. (In this story, the dragon was not at peace but back home in court.)
He studied me in silence, then slowly said: "We have good lawyers. They were good for the family. They were in the struggle."
There were other questions that day and the next, after he asked "the Canadian who hits so hard" what I thought of his speech defending his African National Congress in a forum that included such luminaries as Robert McNamara, the former U.S. defence minister.
I told him it would have been better if he had written the speech himself. Mandela challenged me on that, but laughed when I pointed out that he hadn't known when he got to the end and had turned the last page expecting to find more.
Yet it was his almost painful response to my questions about Winnie, the beauty for whom he left his first wife, by all reports a gentle nurse, that I remember most about this encounter with a remarkable man who bloomed in world stature and acceptance for his compassionate leadership despite his beginnings in the bloody terrorism of the ANC.
A year after this, he decided to stop being polite in public about the woman who was lionized for her struggle against the brutal apartheid regime even as she was attacked as the cruel den mother of a deadly vigilante group which beat and murdered any opposition. He separated from Winnie as she  flaunted her nickname of Mother of the Nation, then several years later sued for divorce for being so blatant in her infidelity that "I was the loneliest man when I was with her."
Mandela married again, this time happily. When he died, he left Winnie nothing, and his family squabbled over his will. She died April 2, but that will not end the controversies over her corruption and cruelty and her many roles with the ANC government that so often is an affront to the decency and honesty of the leader who  brought it to power.
Unfortunately, there are those who choose to ignore the calamitous history as apartheid was strangled  and now portray Winnie as the valiant woman who wouldn't be hobbled by men or apartheid thugs. Her obituary in Time by a former UN official skips over the trial of her gang for the murder of the youth where witnesses just happened to disappear. (Of course the UN staff are always painfully politically correct when it comes to gender and whatever myth the power blocs dictate. Just look at their  dishonesty over Israel.)
Winnie was the firebrand who believed in tires of fire hung around necks as well as in oratory. Only a great man could have survived her to continue to be respected by all who met him, even if it was just for two days long ago on a foreign island.





Wednesday, March 7, 2018

CHRIS STOCKWELL'S METEORITE


QUICK FROM THE LIP

It symbolized the political meteorite known as Chris Stockwell that after he died of cancer at 60 - far too soon - there was no service but friends gathering in a Bloor St. W. pool hall to lift a glass to his memory.
Now The Crooked Cue is a vast improvement on the seedy ones of my youth where I lived, or died on the black, as I shot more snooker than I studied. (No drinking from a brown bag in the corner here either!)
Except Chris was once a young star in Toronto politics, both municipally and provincially. He played for keeps not on green baize but the carpets of power.  He had blazed there but then collapsed to a dreary end triggered by an expense account scandal involving a trip to Europe where he had been treating the family after marital difficulties. He was allowed to resign.
Yet he had once glowed in the media with apt quotes and fiery feuds. A veteran from his wars recalled Stockwell as one of the fastest man with a quip he had ever seen, one reason Chris made such a great Speaker in the bear pit of the Legislature where faltering words can blight a career.
Chris came from a family used to being in newspapers. His grandfather had been a character as the Argo trainer. His father Bill had been an acting mayor, veteran councillor and top administrator at the Ex and in GTA municipalities. He still is a Wasaga Beach councillor.
The Stockwell were so woven into city life that they kept the Grey Cup one winter behind the living room couch and the mother grumbled it made dusting difficult.
Chris was a terrible student because of dyslexia but he made up for early difficulties by a populist appeal, fearless common sense and a dislike of lazy BS from his colleagues that got him elected at only 25. A Tory who wasn't afraid to say the Grits could be right on the odd issue.
I recall a column I wrote supporting him when he ran later for Board of Control in Etobicoke. (We no longer have controllers, which were elected across a municipality and formed a cabinet selected by the people. Pity we don't because some tame councillors selected by mayors for their executives couldn't supervise a doghouse.)
Chris distributed thousands of copies of my column around the suburb. And one of the incumbents, David Lacey, sued me for libel, and Chris for the reprint, because I had punned on his last name, calling him Lazy because he walked through the job. So cool you weren't sure he even voted.
Chris had no money and phoned me quite upset. I told him that being sued was no big deal.
 I was named as Editor in all the legal actions against the Toronto Sun as well as suits against my column, and had never lost even though the complaints could be weird. One of the three from Jack Layton claimed damages because he had run into an "illegally placed" Sun box with his bike. A restaurateur sued, mainly, I think, because I wrote he used too much garlic on the steaks. And Anne Johnston, a friend who had once asked me at a municipal convention to beat up a Newfoundland mayor who had made a pass at her on the dance floor, sued me for a reason that I had never quite understood. It seemed the lawyer wanted the work.
I took pity on Chris in this case and talked the Sun lawyer, Alan Shanoff, into representing Chris as well, for free. Then Shanoff phoned one day saying that our interests, and those of Stockwell, had now diverged and Chris should get his own lawyer.
So I recommended a friend, a lawyer very well connected in Conservative and legal circles. And Chris and this lawyer waited while I laboured through the prelims, such as Examination for Discovery. Lazy, I mean Lacey, finally dropped the suit. Even though I don't think the lawyer did much for Chris, he charged him $35,000, as Chris lamented to me after he got over his shock.
Oh yes, the position of Etobicoke controller paid $32,000 a year.
Life often is unfair.  As Chris discovered then, and in the last years of his life, when all the promise had flickered out and he, once a lauded Speaker and capable cabinet minister, couldn't even get appointed by his former colleagues to fill out a term in a vacant riding.


Friday, March 2, 2018

MAROONED IN COSTLY U.S. HOSPITALS BY OHIP


WHAT'S $85,000 IF YOU'RE NOT PAYING

Another in the long series of horror stories about Ontarians trapped in American hospitals with their horrendous charges because OHIP and the health ministry and hospitals claim they don't have one empty bed here.
This time the patient from London ended up in St. Catharines because closer hospitals weren't willing to rescue him from a Mexican hospital where he languished for more than a week after a fall burst vessels in his brain.
The family calls the experience, including being ignored by the ministry,  "unbelievable." But having endured the same atrocious disinterest from Ontario's medical system, and knowing of too many other cases, and remembering all the Legislature questions that showed the health minister really didn't care that much (and the medicrats cared less) I know tragically it's very believable.
I wrote about how Toronto hospitals refused to let me be flown back from West Virginia in 2011 in a six-part Toronto Sun series titled "hospital hell." My bills for eight days there totalled $85,000. Then when an air ambulance delivered me to that awful hospital, St. Joseph's, the lead doctor refused profanely to my frantic wife to admit me. He finally gave in to two sets of paramedics, perhaps because the air ambulance staff was refusing to fly me back to Charleston, as I struggled to get off the stretcher to punch the fat arrogant bastard harassing Mary.
I became seriously ill with a gall bladder infecting every cm. of my body cavity on April Fool's Day. My three sons came from three countries to support my wife. Even though they have six degrees among them, including U of T and Harvard, and are strong challengers to any system, even though my Toronto doctors include the noted and powerful Heather Ross and Bernie Gosevitz, no Ontario hospital would take me.
As I wrote the Sun series, I talked to Deb Matthews, the health minister and a major player at Queen's Park. She promised to have a task force look into the costly dilemma that I posed to her.
Ontario hospitals have a policy that Canadians needing a hospital bed in Ontario are at the bottom of the eligibility list if they are in an American hospital because they already are being accommodated in a health system. Except American charges are appalling and will bankrupt most families unless they have travel health insurance.
I did have insurance. Except TIC Claims, the company representing some major Canadian insurers, refused to pay, pretending there had been problems with the questionnaire before the policy was granted. My intro to the notorious con that is the travel medical insurance scam was TIC sending a copy of the refusal (but not sending me the original) to OHIP on July 11, which timestamped it on August 15, and notified me on Oct. 3.  TIC never talked to me in any way.
As one sympathetic specialist told me later, if the health ministry and the travel insurance industry screwed me deliberately or through incompetence, even though I was well-known as a columnist and editor who had served on a hospital board for two decades, with friends who served on or even chaired other hospital boards, even though I was a patient who could actually get the health minister on the phone, can you imagine how badly ordinary Joes and Janes without a bit of clout get treated.
Even though it took me a year to recover from the bed sores from St. Joe's, I had enough energy to go to war against TIC. I also wrote 54 letters to hospitals, paramedics, specialists, and assorted agencies, and told two collection leeches to go take a flying leap in Lake Ontario.
I enlisted Ross and Gosevitz and all the initials and titles that march behind their names. The family was mad at Gosevitz, feeling he hadn't done enough to get me home, but he volunteered the name of another of his patient, a "pitbull" lawyer who just loved to sue travel insurance companies because of their numerous infamous attempts to evade responsibility.
I didn't need him eventually, but it certainly was another ordeal. Nine months after I became so sick I spent three months in four hospitals and had to learn to walk again, the travel insurance sharks paid up. OHIP and the ministry never did a damn thing other than ignore me. Matthews moved on, the policy leaving us at the bottom of the priority list if you're stuck in a foreign hospital never changed, and MPPs are still getting up in the Legislature to complain their constituents are not being helped by our health system even when they're at their most vulnerable.
It's a disgrace, just like most of what happens these days under this corrupt Liberal regime which spends more time covering their ass and wasting millions on PR and ads where they try to put lipstick on the donkeys of their botched administration.



Thursday, February 22, 2018

BILLY GRAHAM'S PROSTITUTES


CHARLES TEMPLETON SAVED HIM FROM SCANDAL

The warm stories about the passing of that legendary evangelist Billy Graham skip over that an important figure in his formative years had been Charles Templeton, a true renaissance man who  dominated the media of his home city of Toronto several decades ago.
Chuck Templeton was successful in just about everything he did, from his first job as a sports cartoonist to his last days as a TV commentator/inventor/writer/personality before Alzhemier's wiped him out in 2001.
In a strange deal that would take pages to outline, I as Editor got Templeton to write a column for me in exchange for the Sun running excerpts from one of his books and giving him valuable publicity.
Templeton, despite a major career in radio, TV and as managing editor of the Toronto Star, had never written a  column, and so he set to his new task by bugging me about what actually a columnists did (I had written thousands of columns at that point) and becoming a charming and fascinating friend.
Finally he decided that I wasn't paying him enough to justify all the extra time he was spending agonizing over the words. He had books he wanted to write with Rev. Robert Schuller (once one of the most famous tele-evangelists preaching from Crystal Cathedral) and there were inventions to patent like the one about a teddy bear that you put in the microwave so it would be nice and toasty beside the baby.
We met to hash it out at Winston's, then one of the best and most noted restaurants in the land, and stayed from noon into the evening. And, of course, as Templeton had once been one of the most famous evangelists in the world before he stunned the same world by becoming an agnostic, and my mother had been a Toronto Bible College grad and missionary, we argued religion.
Finally we got to Billy Graham, who Templeton had hired as the first preacher when he founded Youth for Christ. In my youth, it was one of the most famous Christian organizations in North America.
David Smith, the retired Liberal senator/lawyer with a father and brothers who were ministers, recalls Templeton preaching at the old Varsity Stadium, dressed in gleaming white from collar to shoes, at a Youth for Christ rally that was the top attraction that day in the city. He dominated the stage.
Many books and biographies recall Graham and Templeton preaching their way through Europe in a  tour before the famous crusades that Graham and local churches organized throughout the world from London to Seoul that attracted millions of worshippers. Graham finished each service with a renowned altar call in his distinctive baritone, and hundreds of "sinner"s would come forward to pray and be born again in front of the stage while a massed choir sang a muted and haunting Just As I Am.
During the long lunch at Winston's, Templeton reminisced about the early days. "We got into Paris one Saturday and we were so tired from jet lag that we couldn't sleep. So Billy called my room and said let's go for a walk. We strolled around the Arc de Triomphe in the evening and Billy got energy back and became quite enthusiastic. You know, Chuck, he said, this is really a friendly city. "They say people in Paris aren't, but look at all these pretty young women smiling at us."
Chuck said he stopped him right there, incredulous that his friend could be so naive. "Billy," I said,
''they're prostitutes, hookers, they're looking for business."
Templeton told me that Billy just didn't believe him, so he urged Graham to watch what happened. And  men approached the "friendly" women, and then they left the circle, presumably to the little hotels that cluster near the Arc. Graham finally conceded that just maybe Templeton was right. But his was an approach of love. He always wanted to think the best of people.
I asked Templeton, who had been the best man when Graham got married in 1943 to the love of his life, Ruth, whether he had left any mark on his old friend as they went their separate ways, Graham to become the main preacher of the United States, pastor to presidents, Templeton to become a leading figure in Toronto.
"I told him to stay away from love offerings. You know, it was common at revival meetings, whether in the old tents or downtown churches, for the collections to go to the preacher. I said that would raise too many questions, too many opportunities for critics to say that evangelism was just another way to make a lot of money. So I told Billy to put himself on a modest salary and never make any secret about what he was getting paid and what his expenses were. So he did that his entire life."
When I as a fallen Baptist watch the old telecast of a Billy Graham crusade, or listen to the hymns of the Gaither Gospel Hour, I go back decades to the tent-and-sawdust world when in the sweltering heat outside some town in Southern Ontario the insects would buzz around the bare bulbs and the visiting evangelist would preach fire-and-brimstone warnings that made the book of Revelation seem like a page in the local weekly.
Graham led the way with an upraised Bible from the outskirts of towns to the downtown of cities and the capitals. Some evangelists had done it before in explosions of publicity and then flamed out, but Graham lasted because his message was of salvation, not of solicitation, and his Canadian friend was one reason for that success even as he lost his faith.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

NIPPLES AND LBJ


THE RAUNCHY SIDE OF U.S. POLITICS

The National Post reminded us with a page on Lyndon Johnson on Jan. 27 of just how foul mouthed and oozing of sexual shenanigans the White House was decades before Donald Trump brought  his coarse preening, lies and daily cheating to the American presidency.
It also perked out of my memory one of the nicest power couples that Mary and I ever met in our travels. This occasionally took us to the International Press Institute annual conference packed with world names in politics and the media who spoke and performed, and then yarned into the wee hours as booze chased caution and slander suits.
Lucianne Goldberg, the author and literary agent,  stood out, just as she did in every arena from the Upper West Side of Manhattan to the bear pits of Washington to the casting couches of Hollywood. And her husband, Sidney, head of the NANA syndicate, was an agreeable host at the parties that formed around the couple after the sessions of IPI, the gathering of editors and national leaders crusading for freedom of the press and of expression. (The noted conservative critic, Jonah, is a son.)
If Nelson Mandela didn't come to us in Capetown, Bishop Tutu did, and Mandela saw us in Kyoto. If it wasn't the president of the host country to welcome us, it was the opposition leader who probably jailed the president by the time the next IPI conference was held in another troubled country.
And Lucianne knew every former VP and Secretary of State on the speakers' circuit.
To place her for those who remember her name but can't remember why, Lucianne persuaded her friend Linda Tripp to record her many conversations with Monica Lewinsky and to make sure the infamous dress survived from the legendary encounter with Bill Clinton. She was a central figure in that scandal,
just one of the notorious anecdotes in which Lucianne played, since she wandered through presidential campaigns for years after interning at the White House. So when she dropped the name of a famous politician over a drink, she usually gift wrapped it with salacious details.
When she gossiped about authors and movie stars, she did so with the assurance of someone who had sold her novel about high-priced call girls,  Madam Cleo's Girls, to Hollywood for just under $500,00. And she did it twice. (If anyone has a copy, please email me because my autographed one has frayed  after Mary loaned it to so many friends.
I remember many conversations with Lucianne over the sexual side of politics, not that my names matched hers.
There was mine about the provincial cabinet minister who died while having hot sex at the King Edward. The body was moved, by one of those aides who do those kind of chores, back to his suite at the Park Plaza so the widow back in the riding could report the next day how her husband had died peacefully in his sleep.  (I have never read about this incident.)
There was a reporter with a national rep working for me who was so drunk when he was trying to get back to his desk in the press gallery in the Parliament Buildings that he went in through a first-floor window. Since it was the middle of the night, it meant he landed inside on a couch on which reclined a politician and his aide, and they weren't sleeping.
There was a premier who cavorted at a far north lake with young Japanese acrobatic twins, which was the mildest of the gossip told me by an opposition leader. Indeed he starred in many stories.
Mild stuff compared to Lucianne's notebook of scandal. She knew, of course, all about the famous encounters of JFK, like in a broom closet in Macey's, but then Kennedy was quoted as saying if he didn't have intercourse every day, he got a migraine.
So I asked her about LBJ who always has fascinated me. How could such a coarse man - he was said to often scratch any part of his anatomy, including his balls, no matter where he was  - get such major  legislation as the Great Society through the Congress?
Lucianne said she was only 18 and riding up alone in an elevator with LBJ on one of those muggy  afternoons. (Before air conditioning, Washington was considered a tropical posting for British diplomats.)
She was wearing a flimsy blouse because of the heat. The President of the United States reached out and pinched both of her breasts because as POITUS explained briefly, "I really like to see titties stand up."
The 36th president didn't run again because of the unpopular Vietnam war, not because of the uncouth behaviour that revolted many around him. Things are changing in such areas, they hasten to assure us, but are they really when there are too many voters (and some Canadian voices raised approvingly too) who are willing to tolerate far more than LBJ's antics in the 60s just as long as they seem to get what they want from a leader who has cheated in everything from marriage and business to politics and decency.


Friday, December 29, 2017

THIS PRODUCT WILL KILL YOU WARNINGS


TALK ABOUT SILLY WARNINGS!

Got my first heating pad the other day. No longer do I have to borrow antique varieties with electric cords as rigid as steel cables and the stiff pads with more edges than a toy box.
 I pulled it out of the gift package, savouring its suppleness and six settings including one that turns it off after two hours.
I beamed over this Sunbeam product ... and then I read the large enclosed sheet about "IMPORTANT SAFETY INSTRUCTIONS DO NOT DESTROY." There were 24 rules in large capital letters (anyone who has taken typography courses as I have is taught that 'all caps' reduces readability) but I suppose the lawyers who advise about how to reduce lawsuits over body harm from products have never studied print.
Rule #1 is to READ ALL INSTRUCTIONS. The last rule is SAVE THESE INSTRUCTIONS.
Wow! I can just imagine the lawyers having a victory dinner after billing HUGE SUMS  for these cautious rules which include, I imagine, since I lost interest after wading through the early warnings, what happens if you are hit by a dying satellite while using the pad or if you fall into a crack left by an earthquake.
Rule #2 is DO NOT USE WHILE SLEEPING.  Which certainly would eliminate much of my use over the years. I searched for an alarm in case I nodded off but there was none in the box.
Rule #4: Do not use on A PERSON WITH DIABETES, A PERSON WITH POOR BLOOD CIRCULATION...So that eliminates me and many of my friends and neighbours.
And on and on, from always unplugging the pad to doing a thorough examination of every last cm of pad and power cord before every use.
Just in case people really did throw away that sheet, the main rules were actually printed on the pad too so that diabetics would know that these pads were banned along with such chocolate joys as Turtles.
The reality is that anyone who has neuropathy(loss of nerve sensation in extremities) must be careful around all heat. But we don't slap warning labels on water tanks and many other devices to remind diabetics to take care they don't scorch or burn or even blister. Surely every one of us understands from childhood about the need to guard your skin from harm from excessive heat.
Ironically, one standard advice from doctors about discomfort or inflammation caused by neuropathy is to apply heat. But these lawyers say not with a Sunbeam pad. Find one that liability lawyers consider to be safe if used the sensible way, that is at a low setting unless you are monitoring alertly.
I realize the media are filled with stories about huge awards by juries for plaintiffs scalded by hot coffee in a restaurant, those who swallowed a foreign object in pop,  or were supposedly harmed physically by use of the product. There aren't as many stories about the many awards being quashed by higher courts, the judges there not as gullible as the juries in the courts beneath them who are quite willing to soak giant corporations.
Except enough settlements survive to spook the business world, particularly pharmaceutical giants, so that every ad in the media for the latest wonder drug comes with so many warnings about who shouldn't use the pill that there is hardly enough room to list the benefits.
The liability wars have certainly made their way to the main stages of politics. In the U.S., the Democrats are said to be  more supportive of plaintiffs and the liability lawyer industry than Republicans but no real reforms to limit excess awards have survived so this liability charade continues.
All the alarms, caveats, notifications and threats that now accompany even the simplest product, which range from the silly and obvious to the obscurely legalistic, mean that people like me don't even bother to read every word of the cover-your-ass language. So we might miss helpful suggestions.
Those medical ads on TV and in magazines have become more ludicrous than useful. You would think that only a 35-year-old person who has just passed a two-day physical at the Mayo Clinic should consider taking a new pill but they must be in an OR with a surgical team ready to spring into action if there is the slightest pause in breathing or heart beat.
Since I am kvetching about the child-like nature of these warnings, let me end with a child-like joke which is the oldest one I know about the legal profession. What do you call a group of lawyers at the bottom of the sea? A good start!





Sunday, December 24, 2017

THE CHRISTMAS OF MY DREAMS


I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT THE SEASON

My sisters and I have many reasons to have dark thoughts in December but our nostalgia about the ghosts of Christmas past have always warmed our appreciation of Christmas present(s).
I was orphaned at 5 and the comfortable private school life as children of a prosperous doctor and future MP disappeared as we left the big city for a small town and religious grandparents who were Dutch stiff in their old age when they felt they had to look after us.
So we literally went to school in rags while the trust fund supported a missionary aunt in Nigeria since the watchdog over such money, Ontario's Official Guardian, was as incompetent as it was corrupt.
But the three Js, as we called ourselves, survived out of that mess because such is the power of the basic Christmas message that our humble family Christmas, where the turkey was actually the weakest Leghorn from the backyard pen, a very modest celebration aided by old-fashioned schooling and a tiny Baptist church on the hill, was something we remember with fondness mixed with only a little regret.
There have been many great Christmas days for me, even the one when I was an editor trapped in the office during a hostage taking and triple murder where I urged the police reporter on the scene to tell the police to hurry up and shoot the guy so I could get home to enjoy a little bit of the day with my sons.
Along the way, my evangelical roots vanished and I only darken a church door for carol sings, which I still love even as an unbeliever. Oh yes, I got trapped several Christmases ago when I took Mary to early mass and it was awkward to leave, even though I wanted to heckle the priest during his inept homily.
One of the joys of the early Sun was Doug Creighton's staff Christmas party because Doug was one of the great hosts (now a heavenly host) whether the guests were only few or 400.
John Cosway refers to this in a Facebook posting about his life in one of the great newsrooms of Canada.
(Cosway does a wonderful service for the Sunbeams who have moved on from that tabloid world in fertilizing our memories. I started work at a time when many jobs were for life and there were bowling and curling leagues to unite employees into a large and perhaps cantankerous family. There was no need for the Cosways to be the Boswells of the plants. That chapter in my life closed when the Telegram closed and 1,200 employees lost their jobs. Many never saw the guy at the next desk again. I went to the funeral of a critic who had been a Tely stalwart for 30 years and I was the only one there from that past.)
One of the features of Doug's Christmas parties was we all bellowed our carols as if our future at the paper depended on it. There was no excuse for atheists, drunks, Moslems or waiters. We all sang.
One afternoon at the Old Mill (yes Doug picked some great spots) we were singing Silent Night. Everybody knew the first verse, of course. But then only Bernie Gosevitz and me sang on with the other verses.
I said to Bernie that I knew the verses because I had sung in a choir but how did he, the respected Jewish doctor for the Sun, know the words? "I have a photographic memory," he said.
Ah, the joys of Christmas when even those from other religions, and great doubters like me, see nothing wrong or even remarkable about singing along in the queen of carols.
In an insightful piece in the Dec. 23 National Post, Robert Fulford writes about this nice social phenomena, that people like him, and he calls himself an unbeliever rather than card-carrying atheist, still can enjoy Christmas. He appreciates the value of Christianity even as he refuses to believe its dogma. "Our society has been given its moral principles by Christianity." He argues that Judeo-Christian traditions have provided the energy, intelligence and will to evolve democracy.
I have argued for years in many columns and blogs that I have no patience for any assault on Christmas because I realize it is Christ Mass, a religious celebration, but its basic message of peace on earth good will to all is one that surely every thinking person supports.
And if you don't, Merry Christmas anyway!