Category Archives: Society & Culture

Princess Harry

Prince_Harry_and_Ms._Markle_Northern-Ireland-Office-Mar-2018-wikicommonsOn Saturday, Meghan Markle will become Princess Harry. That is when she will marry Prince Henry of Wales, second son of the Prince of Wales and better known as Prince Harry.

She probably won’t be called Princess Harry. Although it is the proper form for non-royal wives of princes, it has not been used often. The only example I know of is Princess Michael. That is how Baroness Marie Christine von Reibnitz has been known since 1978 when she married Prince Michael of Kent, first cousin of the Queen.

The Queen likely will give Harry a dukedom or earldom, as she did his elder brother William upon his marriage. That way, his wife can be called the Duchess or Countess of whatever.

Meghan is American and an actress. Although Grace Kelly and other American actresses have married into European royalty, this is a first for Great Britain.

British_Royal_Family on balcony_June_2012-Carfax2-wikicommons
Meghan’s inlaws L-R: Sophie, Camilla, Charles, Edward behind QEII, Anne, Philip, Louise (Edward’s daughter), Timothy Laurence, Catherine, William, Eugenie (click for larger view)

A more serious aspect of British royal marriage rules does not have to be an issue for them, or the Queen or Parliament. Meghan is divorced, with a living ex-husband. Despite being founded by a King who wanted to divorce and remarry, the Church of England long forbade the marriage of divorced persons unless the ex-spouse had subsequently died.

1992

For being free to marry Harry in the Church of England, Meghan has 1992 to thank. That year, called by the Queen an “annus horribilis”, sarah-ferguson-tabloid-headlineHarry’s parents Charles and Diana separated after scandal upon scandal. Tabloid photos of his Aunt Sarah, Duchess of York, scandalized the world after she and Prince Andrew split up. His Aunt Anne, Princess Royal, divorced her husband Mark Phillips then married Timothy Laurence. All this in one year.

Princess Anne and her second husband Timothy Laurence married in the Church of Scotland. It allowed the marriage of divorced, but not widowed, persons. So by getting married at a church near Balmoral, her family home in Scotland, they sidestepped Church of England dicta.

Prince_Charles_Diana-1985-Ronald-Reagan-Library-wikicommonsDissolution of Charles and Diana’s marriage was a thornier issue. He was heir to the throne, therefore the next head of the Church of England. Their marriage and its problems were much more public than his sister’s first marriage had been. However, Charles and Diana did divorce in 1996.

The next problem was what to do about his relationship with Camilla Barker-Bowles. She too was divorced, and her ex-husband was alive. So in November 2002 the Church of England changed its rules. The General Synod said that divorced people with living exes could remarry in the Church.

Despite having the way open to a church wedding, Charles and Camilla did not marry until 2005 and then in a civil ceremony, followed by a Church of England blessing.

Three Kings in One Year

Vincenzo_Laviosa_Duke_and_Duchess_of_Windsor-ca-1934 wikicommonsIt is the story of Harry’s great-great uncle, 82 years ago, that has been most compared to Harry and Meghan. In December 1936, the new King Edward VIII abdicated the throne rather than give up the woman he loved. She was an American divorcée, Wallis Simpson.

1936 was commemorated in a plate my mother had as Three Kings in One Year. George V died in January, Edward abdicated December 10th, and his brother became George VI. The former king and his new wife were given the titles of Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and effectively banished from the UK.

Three-Kings-One-Year-1936-Sovereign-Potters, Hamilton, ON CanadaWhile Meghan Markle’s story invites comparison with Wallis Simpson, Harry’s story is maybe more like that of Princess Margaret. Like Harry, Margaret was a member of the inner circle of Royals and always would be. Also like him, she was in little danger of actually ever becoming monarch.

Princess Margaret

In 1953 Margaret was third in line for the throne, behind her RAF-Peter_Townsend_Imperial-War-Museum-ca-1939-B-J-Daventry-wikicommonsnephew Charles and niece Anne. She was in love with RAF Group Captain Peter Townsend, and he proposed to her. Problem was he had just divorced his wife. The Queen and Parliament would not agree to their marriage. Over the next two years, they sought ways to allow it without compromising Church or government rules. If Margaret gave up her place in the line of succession, they eventually decided, she could marry him in a civil ceremony. But in 1955 Princess Margaret said that, due to “the Church’s teachings” and her “duty to the Commonwealth”, she would not marry Townsend.

Antony_Armstrong-Jones_1965_Dutch-National-Archives-Eric-Koch_Anefo-wikicommonsIn 1960 Margaret married Antony Armstrong-Jones. Wikipedia says she “reportedly accepted his proposal a day after learning from Peter Townsend that he intended to marry a young Belgian woman [who] bore a striking resemblance to Princess Margaret.” True or not, it fits well in the story of thwarted romance. Princess Margaret and Armstrong-Jones’s wedding was the first to be televised. Fitting for her, the glamorous sister and maybe the first Royal media star. Also maybe in keeping: in 1978 they divorced amid tabloid scandal.

So, from Edward VIII and Wallis, through Princess Margaret to Harry’s own parents, the path has been cleared for him and Meghan. The Church, the Queen and the public have given their blessing.

Princess Margaret 1965-Dutch-National-Archives-Erich-Koch_Anefo-wikicommons

Tinseltown Princess

A girl from Tinseltown and a prince. Maybe General Hospital will use the storyline. The soap opera is part of Meghan’s story. Her parents met while working on it and Meghan got her acting start there.

The Princess Harry story is a  happy-ending romance, one hopes. Wallis and Edward, Princess Margaret too, are more tragic romance stories.

See The King and Us for why I think Wallis Simpson and Parliament did us all a favour. Also, although Coronation Street hasn’t yet mentioned Harry’s wedding (at least in Canadian airtime), I loved their take on William and Kate’s marriage in 2011.

The Story of Seabiscuit

the story of seabiscuit stable decisions madeThe Story of Seabiscuit was released in 1949, only two years after the great racehorse died. It is the story of his life – sort of. His son Sea Sovereign portrays him.  Shirley Temple co-stars. The former child star was a young woman by then, and The Story of Seabiscuit was the second to last movie she ever made.

Seabiscuit ahead of War Admiral, match race at Pimlico Nov. 1938
Seabiscuit ahead of War Admiral, match race at Pimlico Nov. 1938

The real Seabiscuit is also in the movie. It includes archival footage of two of his races. The Santa Anita Handicap of 1938, a photo finish that Seabiscuit lost to Stagehand. Also the famous 1938 match race that he won against that year’s Triple Crown winner War Admiral. The race footage is the very best reason to watch the movie. Well, aside from also seeing his son Sea Sovereign, it’s the only reason.

Fiddling with the real story of Seabiscuit

While the movie portrays Seabiscuit’s career fairly accurately, it takes a lot of licence with the people around him. Owner Charles Howard and jockey George Woolf are portrayed in the movie. But fictional characters take the place of his trainer, Tom Smith, and regular jockey, Red Pollard.

His trainer in the movie, the man who recognizes his potential, is Shawn O’Hara, played by Barry Fitzgerald. O’Hara arrives in the United States from Ireland accompanied by his niece Margaret, shirley temple and lon mccallisterplayed by Shirley Temple. Seabiscuit’s jockey is called Ted Knowles, played by Lon McCallister. He falls in love with Margaret but there is conflict. It’s quite painful to watch.

Very painful to watch is derogatory stereotyping of African-American and Chinese characters – indeed Irish too. It starts very early in the movie and can put you right off watching any more. Also hard to watch is a discussion between nurse Margaret and jockey Ted about jobs for men and women. So be warned: pretty much every insulting portrayal of anyone is in here.

fictional racing programme
Racing form mixes real and fictional information

But the race footage! When the picture goes from Technicolor to black and white, you’re about to see the real races. Then you see the real tracks with the real horses and the actual crowds. Interwoven with the historical footage are shots of the actors to move the story along. Still, it’s spine-tingling to see the real horses in action. And, of course, to watch Sea Sovereign up close throughout the movie.

This movie makes you ask yourself questions about the nature of headline seabiscuit romps homestorytelling. Why was Seabiscuit’s well-known and real-life rags to riches story fictionalized in some ways and not others? Did some of the real people refuse to allow the movie to use their names? What did movie viewers think of this bastardization of a story many of them knew? It had all happened only a decade earlier.

Sea Sovereign as Seabiscuit in winner's circle Santa Anita 1940
Sea Sovereign as Seabiscuit in winner’s circle Santa Anita 1940

Ford Ontario

The Ontario Progressive Conservative party yesterday chose Doug Doug Ford 2014 parade-Bruce-Reeve-wikicommonsFord as its leader. That’s Doug, brother and advisor to the late Rob Ford who has to have been the weirdest mayor of Toronto ever. And that’s saying a lot. There have been some dillies. But Rob was the biggest dilly of them all.

Doug Ford as leader of the Ontario PC probably means that Kathleen Wynne will be re-elected as premier in May. Or he gets elected premier. Either way, it’s a disaster for Ontario. I’m sure there’s still a leader of the NDP but I’d have to google to find out who it is. And I have no real faith that she or he would be all that much of an improvement on either of the other two. Just mess up the province in new and different ways.

Kathleen_Wynnes_Campaign_Bus_Alex-Guibord-2014-wikicommonsI am very glad I am no longer living there. Living under the Liberal flag of first Dalton McGuinty and then Kathleen Wynne was an endless nightmare of trying to survive under their endless, non-essential ‘improvements’. And also an endless source of amazement of what stupidity they could dream up next. Kind of like what living in Donald Trump’s USA must be like.

But I have another reason for being glad I have been well clear since long before this latest move to crazy-land in Ontario politics. A friend once told me that when I moved to a place, it tanked.

He was speaking about my move to St. Thomas, Ontario, years ago. When I moved there, a Ford assembly plant had been in operation for four decades. Then it shut down and over 1,000 people lost their jobs. It was the largest employer in town.st thomas ford plant sep-2011-photo-d-stewart

I moved to Sussex, New Brunswick, where PotashCorp had operated a mine for four decades. Then it shut down and over 400 people lost their jobs. It was the largest employer in town.

Penobsquis NB Potash-Mine-2009-Verne-Equinox-wikicommonsSo, superstitious or not, I’m glad I am far away from Ontario. I do not have to feel any responsibility for this newest shit show. Doug Ford and Kathleen Wynne could be the dictionary definition of ‘between a rock and a hard place’. Good luck, Ontario!

One Trump Year

One Trump year is like one dog year – very long! Tomorrow, January 20th, is the first anniversary of his inauguration as the 45th President of the United States. A lot has happened, both silly and serious. The tweets and braggadocio coming from the White House have been entertaining and frightening. Also so mind-occupying that it’s hard to think of the serious stuff that’s happened. Actual legislation passed, revoked, deferred and proposed.Trump year begins - signing order permitting Keystone XL and Dakota Access

So here’s a summary of just one aspect of the past Trump year, the effect of his administration on the environment.

Earth’s 1st Trump Year

January 20, 2017

Trump is inaugurated. He says he’s going to drain the swamp. He meant the swamp of Washington politicos. But it’s real swamps that need to worry.

January 24, 2017

Stand-with-standing-rock_native-nations-rise-march-washington-mar-2017-slowking4-wikipediaTrump issues memoranda to permit Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines. He does this despite indigenous peoples’ protests and environmental concerns.

January 25, 2017

All references to climate change removed from White House website.

February 1, 2017

ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson is appointed Secretary of State. From 18 Dec 2016 in OilPrice.com:

[P]utting Tillerson at Secretary of State does present some questions over conflict of interest. After all, Tillerson could be instrumental in removing sanctions on Russia, which would be a highly favorable outcome for ExxonMobil, where Tillerson has worked for his entire 41-year career… As Vox’s Brad Plumer succinctly put it, “In a lot of ways, Putin and Exxon need each other. And Tillerson is now in the middle.”

February 14, 2017

Trump signs a Congressional Review Act resolution that ends a financial disclosure requirement for energy companies.

February 16, 2017

stream-protection-rule-lcnewsgroup.com_coal-producers-face-new-stream-protection-rule-from-interior-Mark-Drajem-17-Jul-2015Trump signs joint resolution passed by Congress revoking “Stream Protection Rule”. The rule had placed restrictions on dumping mining waste into surrounding waterways.

February 17, 2017

Scott Pruitt confirmed as head of Environmental Protection Agency. When he was Attorney General for Oklahoma, Pruitt was best known for suing the EPA. He was also known for his close relationship with oil and gas companies.

March 2, 2017

Newly appointed Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke rescinds ban on lead ammunition on federal lands and waters. NRA approves the move as being good for hunters. Conservation groups disapprove as poisonous for wildlife.

March 6, 2017

Boundary_Waters_Canoe_Area-US-Forest-Service-2007-wikicommonsAfter ordering an EPA review of it on Feb 28th, Trump announced his decision to rescind or revise the “Clean Water Rule: Waters of the United States”. Intended to clarify federal jurisdiction over US waters, it had extended federal protection to some waterways, wetlands and lakes.

March 7, 2017

EPA Office of Science and Technology removes word “science” from its mission statement. New wording stresses “economically and technologically achievable performance standards”.

March 13, 2017

First preliminary budget makes cuts to EPA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, other science and environmental agencies and social programmes. The cuts are made in order to allow $54 billion increase to defense spending.

March 15, 2017

EPA considers rolling back emissions standards for future new vehicles, as goal of greater fuel efficiency said to be unachievable.

March 17, 2017

EPA does not rescind $100 million to Michigan for water infrastructure upgrades in Flint. Hurray.

March 21, 2017

B-affinis-wildlifepreservation.ca_rusty-patched-bumble-bee-photo-christy-stewartThe rusty patched bumblebee is listed as an endangered species.  Trump had previously signed an executive order that delayed its listing by one month. It used to be a variety of bee commonly found in North America.

March 24, 2017

Keystone XL pipeline given permit by State Department.

March 27, 2017

Dakota_Access_Pipe_Line_Central_Iowa-carl-wycoff-wikipediaOil is pumped into the Dakota Access Pipeline.

March 28, 2017

Trump signs Executive Order to begin rescinding EPA’s Clean Power Plan, moratorium on coal leases, and more.

April 3, 2017

Trump donates first quarter of his presidential salary to National Park Service. His 2018 budget plan includes a $1.5 billion cut to the Department of the Interior. The National Park Service is part of that department. Funding for some National Heritage Areas will be eliminated.

April 19, 2017

All but one reference to climate change are removed from the climate change page on the Interior Department’s website.

April 26, 2017

Trump signs Antiquities Executive Order, instructing review of national monuments created since 1996.

April 28, 2017

ice-road-to-oil-rig-US-bureau-of-land-management-geology.com_articles_arctic-oil-and-gasTrump signs an executive order for a review of bans on offshore oil and gas drilling in the Arctic, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Also stops designation or expansion of National Marine Sanctuaries unless an “energy or mineral resource potential” estimate has been done by the Interior Department.

April 28, 2017

EPA climate change website is removed, remaining on the new page only in archived form.

May 5, 2017

EPA dismisses several scientists from the Board of Scientific Counselors. The EPA says this allows a “more diverse” membership of the board, including industry representatives.

May 23, 2017

Trump sends his budget to Congress. It proposes a 31% cut to the EPA budget. It also eliminates Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound restoration programmes.

June 1, 2017

Trump says the US will pull out of the Paris climate agreement.

June 12, 2017

Interior Secretary recommending decreasing size of Bears Ears National Monument in Utah.

June 13, 2017

Corpse_of_sea_turtle_drowned_in_fishing_net-salvatore-barbera-wikicommonsNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration cancels a rule designed to prevent endangered whales, dolphins and sea turtles getting entangled in fishing nets.

August 7, 2017

Interior Department recommends relaxing plan for protection of greater sage grouse habitat. The Department also recommends reprioritizing oil development in the affected federal lands.

August 15, 2017

Trump revokes federal flood-risk standards that took predictions of rising sea levels into account. He also announced that environmental review for infrastructure projects would be ” streamlined” and speeded up.

August 22, 2017

Martin_County-KY_home-mountainroadshow.com-jun-2006-wikicommonsInterior Departmental Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement stops a study of health risks from mountaintop removal coal mining. Also, the Trump administration disbanded a federal advisory panel for National Climate Assessment.

October 9, 2018

EPA head Scott Pruitt announces plan to eliminate the Clean Power Plan, saying “the war on coal is over.”

October 23, 2017

Department of Interior announces largest ever auction of offshore oil and gas leases. 77 million acres of federal water in the Gulf of Mexico outer continental shelf, off Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. The announcement comes days after a 672,000 gallon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico due to a pipeline leak off the coast of Louisiana.

December 4, 2017

Valley_of_the_Gods-Plain-US-Bureau-of-Land-Management-Aug-2012-wikicommonsTrump announces an 85% reduction in size of Bears Ears National Monument and an almost 50% reduction of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Both are in Utah. The Valley of the Gods, above, is now outside the boundaries..

December 18, 2017

Trump administration drops climate change from national security threat list.

December 20, 2017

Congress approves opening Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling. It was bundled with the tax reform bill.

December 22, 2017

Department of the Interior removes “incidental takes” – industry-caused bird deaths – from being a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

January 4, 2018

Interior Department releases new offshore drilling plans. 5 days later, Florida’s Gulf and Atlantic coasts are excluded. “Florida is obviously unique” said Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. It’s also home to Trump’s “Winter White House”.

January 6, 2018

Izembek_Lagoon_Amak_Island-chris-dau-1984-us-fish-and-wildlife-wikicommonsInterior Department says it will approve a road to be built through Alaska’s Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. One village and a fish cannery wanted it. It was added to the tax reform bill passed by Congress in December.

January 15, 2018

Nine of the 12 member National Park System Advisory Board resign. From their letter of resignation: “For the last year we have stood by waiting for the chance to meet” with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

Trump Year Chronologies

This chronology is based on National Geographic’s A Running List of How Trump is Changing the Environment. Also well worth looking at for environmental,  social and economic impacts of one Trump year is The Trump Effect compiled by Reuters.

Halifax Explosion

Halifax Harbour, December 6 1917, two ships collide. An explosion, followed by a tsunami and a fire that burns much of the city. The next day, a major snowstorm.

Halifax Explosion blast cloud LAC wikicommonsA rare photograph of the actual explosion. The photographer is unknown. But other photos of the explosion turned up a few years ago. Royal Navy Lt. Victor Magnus was in Halifax. His daughter, Ann Foreman of Cornwall, UK, found his photographs of the explosion long after his death. You can see them and read the full interview in the Daily Mail. This is part of what she said in November 2014:

My father was a great photographer. He always had a camera around his neck… It was just a coincidence that he was at the Halifax disaster. The actual explosion was a massive amount of smoke. He was very lucky to survive, especially as it destroyed the town. He took some photos on the shore and it looked like the London Blitz.

W. G. MacLaughlan, Halifax Photographer

Looking-North-toward-Pier-8-from-Hillis-Foundry-after-Explosion-Halifax-1917-W-G-MacLaughlan wikicommons
Looking North toward Pier 8 from Hillis Foundry after Explosion Halifax, W G MacLaughlan

Many of the images of the destroyed city came from the cameras – still and film – of W. G. MacLaughlan. His daughter, Rose Edna, recalled the day of the explosion.

Just before war was declared in 1914, Dad opened a studio – he was a photographer- on the corner of Buckingham & Barrington, over the Royal Bank and [sister] Bea and I worked in the reception room awhile before she went to Normal College and I to Business College.

I was there on the morning of the explosion- a Belgian Relief Ship and another loaded with explosives collided in the harbour. The North end of the city was partly destroyed and a great many people killed. No one at the College was seriously hurt, although a number of the windows were shattered. The College was about three miles from the Harbour…

I knew Bea had gone to Dad’s studio uptown, so I went down and met her on Barrington St. coming for me. We went back to the Studio but Dad hadn’t come in. Mr. [George] Nason, who worked there had been in the developing room and had his head done up as he was cut when the skylight broke up, but not badly. We were living out at Armdale then, about five miles from Barrington St. and we had to walk home, as everything had closed in the city. The traffic was terrible – cars and trucks taking people, who had been hurt, to the hospitals. When we got home we found mama and sister Marguerite ok and Dad had been a few miles from the house on his way to work. He went back home to see if they were ok and then left for the city. Nearly all the windows in our home were shattered, but that was all the damage.

Benjamin Smith, Hillview, Trinity Bay, Royal Navy

A Newfoundlander, Ben Smith, was in Halifax on that day. His story was told in a 1977 Offbeat History column. Here’s part of it.

The account doesn’t say where Ben Smith joined the Niobe. Most likely he had to go to Halifax. In any case he was in the Niobe at the time of the cataclysmic explosion, December 6, 1917, when the city was half destroyed. Ben Smith was below decks when the blast occurred and perhaps he owed his life to that fact. As he hurried on deck in the confusion and terror he lost his cap, and when he reached the deck the first thing he saw was the bodies of two of his shipmates who had been killed. He thought to himself: “Well, they won’t need their caps any more.” So he picked up one of the dead men’s caps and put it on his head and wore it until the end of the war.

He saw a lot of grim sights on that terrible day in Halifax after the Niobe’s crew was allowed ashore but ordered to stay out of the explosion area. As the men were walking down the streets they heard a woman screaming from a window. They asked her if there was anything they could do. She beckoned to them to come up and three of the sailors went into the house and the woman asked them to take out her invalid mother, aged 80 years, and bring her downstairs so she could be taken into the country for safety. It was lucky they went in for there were so many dead and dying and injured people about that no one would likely have bothered to rescue the old lady.

Men who tried to save Halifax Harbour

From the Shelburne Gazette, Feb. 6, 1918 (complete article at Shelburne Co. Coast Guard). Nineteen of 24 crew members of the tugboat Stella Maris, including the Captain, died in the explosion.

Capt. Brannen’s Great Work

One of the outstanding characters who lost his life in the great Halifax disaster was Captain Horatio H. Brannen, commander of the S.S. Stella Maris, who was making an heroic effort to reach the burning Mont Blanc and tow her to a place of greater safety before the catastrophe came.

Captain Brannen was born at Woods Harbor, Shelburne County, forty-five years ago, and so was just coming into manhood’s fullest prime when his life was so tragically cut off…

Captain Brannen had never been discharged from the naval service and, on the morning of the great disaster, he was taking the S.S. Stella Maris into Bedford Basin when he was sent to the aid of the burning ship. Aided by British blue-jackets he was trying to reach the Mont Blanc with a line in the hope of towing her to a place of greater safety when the explosion came.

Code Talkers

youtube code talkers-white house
L-R: Fleming Begaye, Donald Trump, Thomas Begay, Peter MacDonald, Nov. 27/17

In the early part of World War II, the enemy was breaking every military code that was being used in the Pacific. This created a huge problem for strategizing against the enemy. Eventually a suggestion was made in early 1942 to use the Navajo language as a code.

The Marine Corps recruited 29 young Navajos, not telling them what they are being recruited for because this was a top secret operation. They were just asked ‘you wanna join the Marines? You wanna fight the enemy? Come join the Marines.’ Then they were separated from all the rest of the Marines. Took them to a top secret location. That’s where they created a military code to be used in the Pacific.

After creating 260 code words, the 29 young Marines – half of them were sent overseas to join the 1st Marine Division. On August 7th 1942, 1st Marine Division hit the beaches of Gaudalcanal. This was the first battle where the Navajo code was to be tested in actual battle.

Three weeks after the landing, General Vandegrift, Commander of the 1st Marine Division, sent word back to United States saying, this Navajo code is terrific. The enemy never understood it, he said. We don’t understand it either, but it works. Send us some more Navajos. So that opened up the gate for United States Marine Corps San Diego to start recruiting more and more Navajos, using the same tactics.

The 13 of us, we still have one mission. That mission is to build National Navajo Code Talker Museum. We want to preserve this unique World War II history for our children, grandchildren, your children, your grandchildren.

Why? Because what we did truly represents who we are as Americans. America, we know, is composed of diverse community. We have different languages, different skills, different talents, and different religion. But when our way of life is threatened, like freedom and liberty that we all cherish, we come together as one. And when we come together as one, we are invincible.

-Peter MacDonald, Sr., Navajo Code Talker

This is part of what Peter MacDonald Sr. said at the White House on Monday. Mr. MacDonald, Fleming Begaye and Thomas Begave are Marine Corps veterans of World War II, Navajo Code Talkers. It played on Wednesday’s As It Happens on CBC Radio (beginning of Part 3).

Navajo US Marine Corps code talker recruits, Fort Wingate NM wikicommons
First 29 Navajo US Marine Corps code talker recruits being sworn in at Fort Wingate NM

This was a rare opportunity to hear about the history of the unit directly from those involved. But Mr. MacDonald’s speech didn’t get a lot of television coverage. Yep, President Trump opened his mouth.

So thank you, CBC, for playing this excerpt. It made me go look for the full speech, which I found on Real Clear Politics – both transcript and video.

Passchendaele

The Battle of Passchendaele ended 100 years ago today. It is also called the Third Battle of Ypres and the “Muddy-est, Bloody-est of the whole war”. The latter is what Alberta infantryman Arthur Turner called it in his diary.Frank-Hurley-Australian-4th-Div-duckboard-29-Oct-1917-Chateau-Wood

Passchendaele is a small village in Belgium near Ypres close to the border with France. British troops came to the aid of the French there in July 1917. Australian and New Zealand divisions were brought in early in September, then the Canadian Corps in October.

The Canadians weren’t supposed to be involved. They’d just come off the terrible Battle of Vimy Ridge in July. They were assigned to diversionary attacks on the Germans occupying nearby Lens, France. But the British Commander, General Douglas Haig, ordered them in over the protests of the Canadian Commander General Arthur Currie. Too much of a mess, too uncertain of a strategic gain, and the likelihood of too many casualties.

Be that as it may, General Haig was Commander in Chief and so his plan went ahead. And that meant reinforcements. The British and ANZAC troops were exhausted and their numbers drastically depleted. They pulled out and four divisions of the Canadian Corps moved in.pilckem-ridge-31-jul-1917-imperia-war-museum wikicommons

General Currie decided the first thing to do was clean up the place. The Canadians had fought two years earlier at the 2nd Battle of Ypres, and Currie and the men could see the bodies still there. Bodies of men, mules and horses had been churned up from their shallow graves by the renewed fighting. So they reburied the dead, built roads and board walks, brought in supplies.

Battle of Mud

Passchendaele Battle-of-Pilckem-Ridge-brushwood-track-St-Eloi-11-Aug-1917-John-Warwick-Brooke-imperial-war-mus_Q5944The 2nd Battle of Ypres was marked by gas warfare, the 3rd Battle by mud. Complete desolation of the land from the years of battle and heavy rains caused the drainage system to collapse. “The mud is a worse enemy than the German” said NZ divisional commander Sir Andrew Russell.

Two months of horrific fighting and losses by both sides, but the Canadian troops prevailed. The Germans were pushed back and the battle ended November 10th.Second Battle of Passchendaele Cdns-survey-German-Bunker_public-domain-in-Bostyn-and-Van-Der-Fraeden

Then in December, General Haig pulled out the Allied troops guarding this patch of land won at such expense. The Germans moved in again. After two more battles of Ypres, the Allied Forces won it back by the end of the war a year later.

British soldier and poet Siegfried Sassoon was not at Passchendaele. He was in hospital, but could well imagine what it was like. He could imagine too the process of ‘king and country’ that took so many young men to fields of slaughter like it. In October 1918 he wrote Memorial Tablet.Cambridge U Library The Siegfried Sassoon Literary Estate via First World War Poetry Digital Archive http://ww1lit.nsms.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit/collections/item/9660

Ikea Chair

In honour of Ikea opening a store in Dartmouth NS, The Manatee published an article about a couple divorcing after a trip to the new Ikea. Very funny – the story and Facebook comments. The Manatee is a satirical magazine, so of course this article wasn’t actually true. But the Facebook stories about Ikea assembly were. One person thought maybe they should point out, hey, this story isn’t real, you know. Clearly someone who has never assembled an Ikea product. Keep your innocence, my dear, stay away from the store.

Ikea chair photo D StewartIn the past, I have assembled Ikea furniture and have watched while someone else did. Nevermore, nevermore. However, dismantling an Ikea chair and reassembling it seemed do-able. A hand-me-down, I liked the chair a lot but the cover desperately needed washing.

Still, I was nervous. Maybe buying a new cover would be safer. So I googled Ikea chairs and covers. Do you know how many identical looking bentwood chairs Ikea makes? And chair covers? All with different model names and tiny differences in shape and size. With fitted chair covers, a millimetre matters. Buying online was pretty much a shot in the dark.

Maybe I should wait until the Dartmouth Ikea opens and go there. I’d have to take the chair, of course, so I could directly compare it to what was in stock. Picturing that trip, I decided to take the cover off.

How hard could it be?

I had the advantage of an assembled chair in front of me. I should have taken photos first. But I was fooled into complacency by lots of zippers and velcro fasteners. They must mean easy removal.

I started opening fasteners. Then I saw the screws in the frame went through the fabric. You have to take them out to slide the cover off. So I get the Allen key. Soon the chair was in pieces – seat and back section and two arm and base sections. Ok, start peeling the cover off. Ikea chair covers fit very tightly, to give their sleek look.

Using hands, feet, elbows and knees to hold and peel, I looked anything but sleek when my husband walked in. What are you doing? Eating bonbons and watching tv, what the hell does it look like? Fortunately, that thought stayed in my head. I had chosen an evening black-cat-photo-d-stewartwhen he was out to do this job. Best for the chair and our marriage. I should have picked a weekend! He quickly disappeared, presumably joining the cats and dog wherever they were hiding. I got the cover off.

It looked fine after washing. Now to reverse the process. Just as difficult. Just as much cursing on Ikea and all things Swedish. This time I needed help. One person to hold the chair parts in place, the other to use the Allen key and curse.

Ikea cat

After several hours, we got it put together. I’d walk past it just to admire its beauty (never mind the few rumples in the cover). Next day, I saw black hair on the seat and lower back. The cat with fine, sticky, shedding hair had claimed it.

car-seat-on-chair-photo-d-stewartOh no you don’t! That cover is never ever coming off again! A towel didn’t help. She just pulled it down and bunched it under her so she could spread her hair all across the back.

So I strapped a car seat cover around it. That fixed her. Of course, it ruins the visual of the sleek Scandinavian design too. But that cover is never ever coming off again. So it’s either the car seat or cat hair. Likely both.

Diana 1961-1997

Twenty years ago today Diana, Princess of Wales died at the age of 36. She was the daughter of the 8th Earl Spencer and 15 times great-granddaughter of King Henry VII. She was the ex-wife of Prince Charles, also 15x-great-grandchild of Henry VII.

Diana’s line comes from Princess Mary, daughter of Henry VII. Charles traces his ancestry from Henry VII’s heir, Henry VIII. Her family therefore is nobility while his is royalty. Her sons, however, are royals and direct heirs to the British throne.

Spencer Family Tree – from Edward IV to Diana

family tree Diana daughter of 8th Earl Spencer
Diana Spencer family tree – click for larger view

18th century Lady Diana Spencer

Duchess_of_Marlboro_with_Lady_Diana_Spencer-Maria-Verelst-wikipedia
Lady Diana Spencer and grandmother Duchess of Marlborough

A several times great-aunt, and name-sake, of Diana’s almost took the same path from nobility to royalty. (See her highlighted in chart.) That earlier Lady Diana Spencer‘s grandmother tried to arrange her marriage to Frederick, heir apparent of George II. But he married Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha. Frederick died before his father and his son became the next king, George III.

Frederick_Lewis_Prince_of_Wales_by_Philip_Mercier-wikipedia
Frederick, Prince of Wales

While Frederick was Prince of Wales, his grandfather George I created the title of Duke of Edinburgh for him. His son inherited the title but it “merged into the Crown” when he became king in 1760.

Two more times the title was created and died out before King George VI re-created it for Philip Mountbatten in 1947. In order for it to pass to Prince Philip’s youngest son Edward, as planned, instead of to eldest son Charles, as it would through rules of primogeniture, it will likely have to officially end and be re-created once more.

So had history played out differently, another Lady Diana Spencer would have been in line to be Queen. But ‘our’ Lady Diana is the only Spencer who actually married into the top echelon of the Royals. The People’s Princess, PM Tony Blair called her, “queen of people’s hearts,” she hoped to be. A fairy tale princess she certainly was.

David Duke and Donald Trump

David Duke said “we’re going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump” during the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville VA on Saturday. David Duke, former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, using the president’s name as justification – that’s ballsy, I thought.David Duke praises Trump cnn

My husband said Trump’s brand is his name, and nothing is more important to him than his brand. Trump Tower, Trump Water, Trump Steaks, Trump University. Donald Trump emblazons everything he does with his name. Looking at it that way, Duke’s statement is even ballsier!

So I thought Donald Trump would unleash his full fury on David Duke personally and, by extension, all the white supremacists, neo-Nazis and Klan members at the rally and in the United States.crowd with torches around robert e lee statue

But he didn’t. Trump did not thunder about his name being taken in vain. Instead, In a mealy-mouthed ‘everybody is responsible, therefore nobody is responsible’ type of statement, he let the white supremacist organizations off the hook. He said: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides.”

Omit those last three words, and it’s a vague decrying of violence and racism. But at least it doesn’t imply that blame should not be placed on torch-carrying, Swastika flag-waving racists.

Given his history with David Duke and white supremacists, it particularly behoved the president to speak out loud and clearly against domestic terrorism that is inspired by racism. The virulently racist factions of the far right supported his candidacy and still support him.

In turn, they see the lack of specificity in his statement as support of them. “Trump comments were good. He didn’t attack us”, tweeted the neo-Nazi The Daily Stormer.

Other brands distance themselves

detroit-red-wings-fb-12-aug-17On Saturday, David Duke linked the Trump brand to organized American white supremacists. On that same day, other brands distanced themselves immediately from any implied association with the groups rallying in Charlottesville. The Detroit Red Wings, the NHL, Tiki Brand. Even webhost GoDaddy told The Daily Stormer to move its website to another provider.

Finally on Monday, Trump spoke again. About two minutes, with the first minute devoted to how great he has been for the US economy. Then he did name “the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups” as repugnant. Such as it is, it’s about time!

marchers with confederate and nazi flags jkrowling-twitter-12-aug-2017The groups that were at the Virginia rally are terrifying. Seeing the Nazi flag on parade in an American city is spine-chilling. As Republican Senator for Utah Orrin Hatch tweeted, “My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.”

The Confederate flag, representative of America’s Civil War, a division between North and South over the socio-economic institution of slavery. The Ku Klux Klan, no longer wearing white robes and pointy hats, but still carrying fiery torches.hoods-on-hoods-on-same-shit fb meme

The Klan is a home-grown American terrorist organization. It predates Hitler’s Nazi Party by half a century, based on the same kind of racist ideology. Astoundingly, it is still alive and well in the US. And they see President Trump as their man. Surely not good for the Trump brand.

The mother of the kid who drove into the crowd and killed Heather Heyer and injured many others said that she thought her son was going to an event that “had something to do with Trump”. That’s maybe the most telling statement of all.