Free At Last – Steven Truscott Vindicated

August 29, 2007

The small town of Clinton, Ontario is shocked by the brutal rape/murder of school girl Lynne Harper in June 1959.  Clinton is home to a tight-knit military base. The Harper and Truscott families both live on the base and know each other well. 

On the evening of June 9, 1959 twelve year old Lynne Harper disappears with her friend 14 year old Steven Truscott apparently being the last known person to see her alive.

Lynne Harper’s body is found June 11, 1959.  She has been brutally raped and strangled to death.  Police removing body.Steven Truscott is taken into custody and charged the next day with the crime.  He is ordered to be tried as an adult.

In September 1959 Truscott’s trial takes place and he is convicted.  The judge as required by law at that time sentences him to “to be hanged by the neck until he is dead”.  He is still the youngest person in Canada to ever be sentenced to death. Police mugshot of Steven Truscott, 1959Later in 1960 his death sentence is commuted to life in prison.  He is 14 years old.

March 24, 1966, Isabel LeBourdais’s book “The Trial of Steven Truscott” is published.  This book shocks the Canadian nation with its claims of Truscott’s innocent.  An appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada in 1967 is dismissed.

Meanwhile Truscott, who is now in Collins Bay Penitentiary in Kingston, Ontario (one of the toughest maximum security prisons in Canada), is released on parole October 21, 1969. He is 24 years old.

Lawyers from the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted request that the federal minister of justice review his case. The justice minister concludes in October 2004 that “a miscarriage of justice likely occurred”.  The Ontario Court of Appeal is ordered to hear his case.

Finally on August 28, 2007 the appeal court releases their decision and acquits him of the murder of Lynne Harper. 

Almost 50 years after his youth was taken from him, Truscott receives justice. Unfortunately Lynne Harper has not.  Her killer is still at large. The prosecutors in this case rushed to judgment in 1959 and in 2007 still are not admitting wrongdoing.  Shame on them. This could have been anyone of us who was railroaded into this conviction. It is sad that the justice system refuses to admit errors and worse still continues with the same mindset.

Mr. Truscott is now 62 years of age.  He is married and the father of three children. His family has supported him throughout the ordeal. Steven Truscott is free at last.


How is the President of the United States Elected? The Answer May Surprise You.

August 22, 2007

buttons.jpg

(Minnesota Historical Society)

*** Author disclaimer: This article is not an argument for or against the method of electing the president and vice president, rather it is an attempt to explain the system to the layman.  Because the author is a Canadian, the perspective is unique 

 

Facts:

The general election is indirect. The president is not elected directly by the ballots of the voters. The “Electoral College” elects the president and vice president.

There is no such thing as the “popular vote” in an election for president.  It is the total of the ballots cast for the Electors representing each candidate. It is not officially compiled because it has nothing to do with the results of the election and is not binding in any way. The media always likes to make a big thing about the popular vote versus electoral vote, but really the only thing that counts is the Electoral Vote.

What is the Electoral College?
The Electoral College consists of the Electors as defined in the Constitution of the United States.  It is a body of proxies which carries out the last step in the election of the President and Vice President of the United States.

The system of Electors now referred to as the “Electoral College” was established by the Constitution of the United States, Article Two, Section I, and the 12th Amendment.  The Office of the Federal Register administers the College.  The meetings of the Electors in each state are administered by the states.

How are Electors selected?

Here is what the Constitution of the United States, Article II, Section I states:

 “Each state shall appoint, in such a manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector”. 

Presidential elections are held every four years.  The President of the United States is elected for a term of four years.

 

Who are these Electors anyway?

Most are party regulars within their states.  There are Electors representing the Republican and the Democratic parties. If there are other independent or third party candidates on the ballot, then they also have Electors representing them. 

 

How is it determined how many Electoral Votes each State has?

The number of Electors for a given State equals the number of Senators plus the number of Representatives that State has. Every State regardless of size or population has two Senators.  The number of Representatives is determined by the State’s population.  Obviously the more populous States like New York, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania and California have a lot more electoral votes than say Rhode Island or Montana.  Therefore in the general election the candidates want to win the electoral votes from the more populous States. Incidently, the District of Columbia where the federal capital of Washington is located is entitled to three electoral votes.  That is the minimum under the Constitution.

 

There are presently a total of 538 electoral votes.  To win the candidate has to gain a majority of 270 electoral votes

 

What actually happens on election day in November every four years?

Even though the names of the presidential and vice presidential candidates for each party appear on the ballot, voters are in fact casting their ballots for the Electors representing the candidates.  The candidates having a majority of Electors elected on general election day are deemed to have won the election.  The Electors will then vote at a later date to officially confirm the result. More on this later.

 

What commits them to vote for the candidate?

There is really nothing in the law to bind them to cast their electoral vote for the candidate they represent.  However, because they are from the same party as the candidate to not do so would be tantamount to political suicide.  Some States have instituted “punishments” for those not supporting the candidate. This has only happened infrequently and has not made any difference to the result.

 

When and where do they vote?

The meet in their respective States forty-one days after the general election day in November.  Because the Electors meet at the State level, the entire body of Electors (Electoral College) never meets together.

 

What is the actual process?

The Electors cast their ballots.  The votes are counted and a list of the number of votes for president and vice-president is compiled. This list is signed by all the Electors, sealed and sent to the Congress and the attention of the President of the Senate.  Before the entire Congress the sealed boxes from each State are opened, verified and the votes counted. Once this confirmation vote is final the winning candidates officially become the president-elect and the vice president-elect as defined by the Constitution.

 

It should be noted that if the candidate wins the majority of electoral votes for a State, he automatically wins all the votes for that State (there are some exceptions).

 

What if there is a tie in the Electoral College votes cast?

If there is a tie in the number of votes cast for president, then the House of Representatives votes by ballot immediately to determine who will become president.  Similarly if there is a tie in the number of votes for vice president, then the Senate votes immediately by ballot to determine who will become vice-president.  There have been ties, but that is another story.

 

Prior to 1804 when the 12th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified if there was a tie the presidential candidate with the second largest number of votes became vice president.  This made for some strange combinations to say the least.  In effect the president ended up with his opponent as a partner for the term of his presidency.  After the 12th Amendment the president and vice presidential candidates were elected separately.

 

What is the final step in the presidential process?

The inauguration (taking of the oath) of the president-elect takes place at noon on January 20th following the election.  This is also the same day and time that the sitting president’s term officially ends.  Again this is all mandated by the Constitution, so no variance can occur.  If the sitting president has been re-elected to a second term, he still has to take the oath of office before his second term can begin.

 

Conclusion:

Although a controversial system to some, it seems to have functioned reasonably well for over 200 years.  I make no judgement on the fairness of the system, but I hope that this explanation has helped you understand how presidential elections work.

Some fascinating situations developed from these elections. In future postings I will tell the story of some of them.  For those of you who think the Bush/Gore election controversy of 2000 was something, wait until you read about some other offbeat and confusing results.  More to come.

Other Terms Used in this Article:

Congress (The Legislative Branch):
The House of Representatives and the Senate.

House of Representatives:

Elected body made up of members elected in each State based on population.

 

Senate:

Elected body consisting of two senators from each state regardless of size or population.    


Canadian Passport Woes

August 17, 2007

passport1.jpg 

It was July 23, 2007 and my trip to the United States was looming with travel scheduled for the morning of August 9, 2007.  The airfare was paid for, hotel booked and meetings set up.  One problem, I had not yet received my passport.

 

Now the first thing you are going to ask is:  why didn’t I apply earlier?

 

My application was hand-delivered on April 27, 2007.  When I dropped it off I was interviewed by a passport officer who verified that the application was complete and error-free.  He asked me for the date I was traveling and I answered honestly – August 9, 2007.

 

Unknowingly I had made one big mistake.  I had dropped the application at a “government services office”, not at a passport office which I believed I was doing.  I was told that to mail the application would delay the application significantly, so I looked up offices on the Canadian government website where I could submit the application in person.  All was well, or so I thought.

 

For those that don’t know the United States of America now requires a valid passport of Canadians entering the U.S.A by air. This passport must be produced before boarding the plane or they will not allow you to board.  This rule is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security requirements resulting from the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  The intent is to increase border security.  It should be noted that contrary to the myth being propagated on the internet and elsewhere, it is a fact that the 9/11 terrorists did NOT enter the United States via Canada.  Ironically Americans do not need a passport to enter Canada, however, they do need one to re-enter their own country!  The line-ups and waiting times for Americans to obtain passports are so bad that they have now relaxed that requirement and will accept the passport application confirmation in lieu of the actual passport.

 

Back to my passport story here in Canada.  On July 23, 2007 with my trip looming and still no passport (almost four months have now elapsed), I decided to telephone the government’s 1-800 number to find out the status of my application.  I was told “no action” had been taken on my application.  Explaining my situation, I was told the application would be rushed and to call back later in the week.  Phoning back a couple of days later on July 26, 2007 I was told the application was “in production”.  Again I was advised to call back.  Finally on August 2, 2007 I was told the passport had been mailed and the agent gave me the tracking number.  They mail them Canada Post Xpresspost which is basically courier mail and normally takes 1-2 business days across Canada.

 

I went to the Canada Post website and using the tracking number found out it had been mailed from Ottawa, Ontario the morning before and was now in Winnipeg, Manitoba where it was “being sorted”.  This was at about 6:00 a.m. local Calgary time (I start work at that ungodly hour).  So a couple of hours later, at around 10:30 a.m. local time, I checked again and found out it was in Calgary.  The status said “out for delivery”.

 

Sure enough around 1:00 p.m my wife called me and told me it had been delivered.  Finally I had a passport.  Elapsed time over four months and well over 60 working days.  The government claims that getting a passport can take around 50 working days.

 

There is a moral to my story.  Make sure if you are submitting the application in person that it is actually a “passport office”.  Second make sure you give them a travel date about a month before you are actually traveling.  Am I telling your to lie?  You bet.  If I had not phoned I believe I would not have received my passport in time to travel.  Next time I will definitely give them an date much earlier than my actual travel time.  Sorry government people, but living with the poor turnaround times is unacceptable.


2008 United States Presidential Race

August 14, 2007

The race for the White House is underway. With incumbents not eligible or wanting to run it is a wide open contest.

President George W. Bush is limited constitutionally to two terms. Even if he could it is unlikely he would be re-elected. Vice president Dick Cheney has serious heart problems. It is amazing that he has lasted this long, besides he is disliked even more than George Bush.

Republican hopefuls must distance themselves from the present administration if they hope to get elected. Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, is the leading declared candidate. However, his Mormon religion is not palatable to the general population so even if he gets the party nomination I predict he will lose. Fred Thompson from Law & Order, and a former U.S. Senator from Tennessee is undeclared, but definitely the dark horse favorite. Senator John McCain from Arizona was leading the Republican race but has slipped badly recently. He is seen as too old and his policies are virtually the same as Bush’s. He must find some way to distance himself from Bush to regain any hope of getting nominated.

Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, is also in the mix and seems to be doing well in the early going. He lacks experience on the national and international stage. Also he is on his third marriage and was in fact cheating on the second wife with the one he is married to now. His very liberal views on such things as abortion do not sit well with the general populace. I think he will fade badly and not be a factor.

On the Democratic side the leading candidates are both breaking new ground. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, the front runner is the first woman to have a serious chance at getting elected President of the United States. Senator Barack Obama is the first black-American with a chance at the White House. The question remains are Americans ready for this?

I believe that Hillary stands the best chance simply because of her name. She has also proven herself to be a very capable Senator. Mrs. Clinton has become a heavyweight politician in her own right. That together with her husband’s connections and experience make her the one to beat.

Obama on the other hand is exciting and has fresh ideas. He lacks experience though and I believe he will ultimately fail to win the prize. There is no doubt that he will be a factor in the future.

Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton will square off against Republican Fred Thompson in the November 2008 general election. President Clinton will be inaugurated on January 20, 2009. You heard it here first.


JFK: Why the Fascination?

August 7, 2007

jfk_whitehousepublicdomainphoto.jpg

In 1960 it was the height of the Cold War tensions between the USSR (Soviet Union) and the United States, both super powers as a result of the Second World War and their acquisition of weapons of mass destruction. The policy of “Mutually Assured Destruction” or MAD had been adopted by both powers. This policy kept them from attacking each other because any attack would mean all-out nuclear war. The obvious impact would be total destruction of both countries. Bottom line for the United States and the USSR was that the fear of this destruction was supposed to prevent a war, at least that was the theory. In hindsight it worked because that unthinkable war never took place, but at the time we all believed it was inevitable, the only question was when.

Kennedy’s election in 1960 marked a major change. Here was a President from a younger generation who expounded new ideals and ways of doing things. His predecessor in the office, Dwight David Eisenhower, was 70 years of age in the last part of his presidency. Although a vital part of Second World War, he was of the older generation. Kennedy represented the younger generation who had just served in the war. In addition Eisenhower had been in office for eight years, Kennedy campaigned on the need for change to move the nation forward. His opponent was the sitting Vice President Richard Nixon. This likely hurt Nixon in the election because he was seen as part of the status quo whereas Kennedy was something new and exciting to the electorate. Even considering these factors it was still the closest general election in American history up until then. The election of George W. Bush in 2000 is now officially the closest in history with the result not becoming official for several weeks.

He was the youngest president ever elected at age 43. The White House was now occupied by the Kennedy’s, his beautiful and elegant wife Jackie along with their young children Caroline, 4 years old and John Jr. two years old. They were for all appearances real people and parents. Americans and the world could associate with that.

John Kennedy had endured tragedies in his life: the loss of his older brother Joe in WW II, and the loss of two children from miscarriages. Although he was from a wealthy family, he had a true affinity for the downtrodden and the average working person. He certainly didn’t need to work or serve the country, but public service was a tradition in the Kennedy family. People admired that.

He was idealistic, perhaps to a fault, but that’s what attracted the young like me when I was in high school. We could see the possibility of real change. One of the thrusts of his candidacy was to involve the young. Hence the formation of the Peace Corps and his “New Frontier” policies.

He had energy and vigor even though he had health problems. Only later on did we learn how serious some of those were. The fact that he battled though these only increases my respect for him. Author Robert Dallek expounds at length on this health problems in his wonderful biography titled “An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963”.

Kennedy had one major character flaw. He was a womanizer and unfaithful to his wife frequently. Learning of this was a great disappointment to me, but over time has made studying his life even more interesting. In the broad scheme of world events, this must be set aside to focus on the important leadership he demonstrated. He certainly was not the first president to have affairs outside his marriage, Eisenhower, Johnson, and Clinton to name just a few. I am not condoning this, but the good that individuals do has to weighed against the bad. After all they were only human with the associated imperfections that we all live with.

The Cold War times of the 1950s and 1960s that I grew up in affected me deeply. When I realized that the U.S. and the Soviet Union could in less than 30 minutes destroy civilization as we know it, I started to become a news junkie and followed world events closely. I can clearly remember during the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis carrying letters home from my elementary school advising our parents that should the situation escalate, they would be notified and we would be sent home immediately. Presumably this would be so we could be together as a family when the nuclear bombs landed and so die together. We watched Kennedy and his handling of this situation closely on the news every evening. I am not sure what would have happened if we didn’t have a man like JFK at the helm during those critical times. Against almost all his advisors’ advice he and his brother Attorney-General Robert Kennedy played the deadly game of nuclear chess and saved the day. His military and civilian advisors all wanted him to attack and/or invade Cuba, conveniently forgetting that the USSR was bound to come to Cuba’s defense if they were attacked. Many other men would have yielded to the temptation to exercise the might of the United States and attack. That would have been the easy way out, but likely the fatal way for the world.

After this incident Kennedy managed to get the Soviets to sign the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Although just the first step in easing Cold War tensions, it did stop atmospheric testing of these weapons and opened up further dialogue with the USSR over nuclear disarmament.

The final tragic fascination lies with his assassination. He was struck down with so much possibility remaining. So many what-ifs linger. He was only 46 years of age when he was killed.

The assassination itself adds even more to the fascination. Was he really killed by Lee Harvey Oswald, the lone gunman, or was there a conspiracy? The questions will perhaps never be answered to our satisfaction. Even if they are, it seems impossible for us to believe that a loser like Oswald could have altered history so dramatically with his mail-order rifle on that sunny November day in Dallas. How could it be allowed to happen?

At the time of the assassination I was 14 years old and very much in my formative teen years. Even at that young age I was absorbed by history. I had begun reading everything I could get my hands on about 20th century history especially the two world wars. Kennedy’s campaign, nomination, election and tragic assassination were broadcast on television for us all to follow. These processes were never before exposed so easily to the world at large. The presidential election debates between Kennedy and Nixon, and his televised presidential press conferences were firsts and allowed us a up-close look at the leaders. Before these innovations virtually all news was the written word in newspapers, magazines or books. Seeing history made live on television was a rush especially for young people like myself. It was instant gratification in its initial stages.

I am 58 years young now in 2007 almost 44 years after President Kennedy was taken from the world stage. With the passing of time I find that I am more fascinated than ever with him and the times he and I lived through.


%d bloggers like this: