Category Archives: Anthropology

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, 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. As Attorney General for Oklahoma, Pruitt was best known for suing the EPA as well as 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 as 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 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, a previously commonly found variety of bee in North America, is listed as an endangered species. Trump had signed an executive order that delayed its listing by one month.

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, of which the National Park Service is part. 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. 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 and 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

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

Diana Spencer family tree
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.

Un-American Affairs

Marya Mannes on out of my time book coverFrom More in Anger (1958), a collection of essays by American social critic and satirist Marya Mannes. From 1904 to 1990, her life spanned most of the 20th century.

A fictional life-story of a man who, Mannes says, “drew strength” from the “poisoned climate of McCarthy”. Just change a few words and, maybe, ‘plus ça change…’?

The Brotherhood of Hate: Three Portraits (Pt. II)

If you should come across Charlie Mattson and his family barbecuing in the back yard of their Darien home, you would think they came straight off the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. There is the jolly father-chef in his apron, the pretty – but not too pretty – wife in slacks, the twelve-year-old boy with the T shirt and the crew cut, and the teen-age girl in heavy white socks and loafers, blue-jeaned, sweatered and pony-tailed. They appear to be having a genuinely good time.

There is no reason, really, why they shouldn’t. Charlie has a good job in a factory sub-contracted to a defense plant, his family is healthy, and he is a pillar of his American Legion Post, the Presbyterian church, the Kiwanis and the weekly poker group. One reason for this is his good nature, another is his repertory of jokes, mainly for male consumption. Charlie rolls ’em in the aisles.

Yet Charlie is one of those men who was, whether he admits it or not, happiest in the war. He got overseas late in the game, but not too late to taste the liberation of Paris and the advance into Germany, and he can never forget the excitement and fulfilment of either. Nor can he forget the German girl he shacked up with after the surrender, in the months of occupation that followed. Ruins, starvation and all, he found the Germans very much to his liking, and he joined a number of other Americans in wondering why the hell they had fought the Krauts instead of the Frogs. Fundamentally, the Germans had the right ideas, and one of those was plumbing.

The nearest he could come to those war days now were bull sessions at the Post, where the men would reminisce about the war and the women they had. But the years after the war were a letdown to men like Charlie. They were conscious of a great lack: there was no place to go, nothing to do, no direction, really. They were disgusted with the untidiness and frustration of civilian life, and they began to blame it on all sorts of things, beginning with socialism (the bastard Truman and his goddam Fair Deal) and ending with Jews, foreigners, do-gooders, pinkos and longhairs.

It was small wonder then that when the Junior Senator from Wisconsin began raising his voice in 1952, Charlie began to listen. Here, at last, was a call to action, a new kind of war for good Americans to wage. McCarthy gave men like Charlie a motive and a function: to rid this country of the traitors in its midst, to hunt down the enemy, to restore America to its rightful owners and guardians. The bugle had sounded and Charlie Mattson joined the colors.

But things have died down a bit since, partly because most of the reds had been smoked out, and partly because there was nobody left in the government who had the guts to keep up the fight against subversion. For there was no doubt in Charlie’s mind that his country was in constant danger of penetration, that the wrong people were getting back into power, and that the only reason the Russians were ahead of us was that they stole our secrets.

But what can you do when people are dumb? Make money and mind your own business and tell your children what the score is. If folks can’t realize, for instance, that this whole integration business is one more communist plot and that the Supreme Court is playing right into their hands, it’s their funeral. [pp 84-86]

More in Anger cover Keystone Books J B Lippincott 1958Charlie Mattson would be the father or grandfather of one type of Trump voter: the white man from the Rust Belt. The man who remembers, and wants back, those good factory jobs. Donald Trump says he’ll restore the jobs, restore “Made in the USA”, restore America. Many want to believe that. And some want the “call to action” that he appears to promise. No matter what it costs in the long run. No matter what it costs others, and us all.

 

First Hundred Hours

In his first hundred hours – from midday Friday to this afternoon, President Donald Trump has been busy. Trump_first_day_as_President signing orders and nominations-wikipedia

Signing executive orders:

  •  Directing all federal agencies to ease the “regulatory burdens” of ObamaCare by waiving or deferring any provision that puts a “fiscal burden on any State” or clients, insurers, medical services and manufacturers. Not included are the specifics on what and how.
  • Imposing a hiring freeze for federal government workers, excluding the military.
  • Withdrawing the USA from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. He also plans to renegotiate NAFTA.
  • Reinstating a ban on federal funds for international development NGOs that provide abortion information or services. First brought in by Ronald Reagan in 1984, this “Mexico City Policy” can adversely affect health care provision for people around the world.
  • Reviving the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, as well as related orders that would expedite their environmental assessment process.

Trump has also told large corporations that he will cut taxes, fast-track their factory openings and remove 75% of government regulations affecting their operation. That’s the carrot. The stick is “substantial border tax” on companies that move production outside the US.

Sunday, he said discussions would begin on moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. With Israel and Palestine both having claims to Jerusalem, that puts the cat amongst the pigeons. He named son-in-law Jared Kushner as senior White House advisor and said Kushner would be part of Middle East negotiations. “If [Jared] can’t produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can.” Dad-in-law just made the job even more difficult.

Trump back-up

Trump’s minions have been busy too. On Friday, the White House website was updated. Gone were pages on climate change, civil rights, LGBT and disabled peoples concerns.

Spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway gave us a new term for lies: alternate facts. She did that after Sean Spicer, Trump’s press secretary, tore strips off the media for publishing photos and estimates of the crowd size at Trump’s inauguration. Spicer gave much larger figures not backed up by any evidence whatsoever. “Alternate facts” Conway explained.

inauguration crowds 2017 left, 2009 right wikipedia
2017 Trump Inauguration, left, 2009 Obama Inauguration, right

Trump, his staff and federal offices are not the only ones sweeping with a new broom. On Monday, the Texas Supreme Court said it will revisit a 2015 case allowing spousal benefits for gay city employees.

All this in 100 hours – after a bizarre inauguration day.

Inauguration Day

Trump’s inauguration speech emphasized the ME in aMErica. He went on to insult 40 years worth of presidents sitting beside him in decrying the nest-feathering and self-serving of the previous administrations.

Then he watched the parade. He had wanted a tank in it. I don’t Melania and Donald Trump dance at Liberty Ball wikicommons USAF Staff Sgt Alyssa C Gibsonknow if it was due to the “optics” or the damage one would inflict on the pavement, but I’m glad the answer was no.

His last public function was attending the inaugural balls that, at $50 a ticket, were overpriced. In the First Dance with the First Lady to the song ‘My Way’, he smirked and mouthed the words “my way” directly to the camera. OMG!

I didn’t think it could get worse than that, or more surreal. It has. And it’s only been half a week.

Yesterday, in Value Village in Saint John, I saw a woman with George Orwell’s 1984 in her shopping cart. I wonder how many copies of it have sold lately.

Trump Imagery

What is the appeal of The Donald as president? Trump imagery over Trump policy, I suspect. But why? Reading The Englishman’s Boy, I got a clue from a 1923 fictional Hollywood studio boss:

Last year Mussolini marched his Blackshirts on Rome and the government, the army folded. The government possessed all the material force necessary to prevail, and yet they gave way to a few thousand men with pistols in their pockets. Why? Because Mussolini orchestrated a stream of images more potent than artillery manned by men without spiritual conviction. Thousands of men in black shirts marching the dusty roads, clinging to trains, piling into automobiles. They passed through the countryside like film through a projector, enthralling onlookers. And when Rome fell, Mussolini paraded his Blackshirts through the city, before the cameras, so they could be paraded over and over again, as many times as necessary, trooped through every movie house from Tuscany to Sicily, burning the black shirt and the silver death’s head into every Italian’s brain. [p. 109]trump imagery tv

Guy Vanderhaeghe published The Englishman’s Boy in 1996, long before the phenomenon of Trump the Candidate. Trump moved on a fractured Republican Party, and America, the same way Mussolini moved on a post-WWI fractured Italy and Europe. Like Mussolini, Trump knows the power of image.Donald Trump is showbiz and glamour, gossip and myth. His actual beliefs? Do we know? Do we care? Donald Trump is a green screen of outrageousness. You can project whatever meaning you want on to his words. Be offended or be empowered.

Trump as Green Screen

To his supporters, he is Everyman: just like us, with money. If you squint right, you can see the Horatio Alger story in him. A “small loan” from his father set him up to become fabulously wealthy, so he says. He knows how to play the system. We go to his casinos, hoping that Lady Luck gives us a helping hand. We dream that  we could parlay that stake into our fortune. Those with a more scholarly approach subscribed to Trump University, hoping to learn the art of the deal.

But if we can’t, maybe he’ll do it for us. He will stand up to big corporations and job-stealing nations and immigrants. He’ll out-bully the bully boys of international politics (who are ‘taking advantage of us’). He can arm-wrestle Vladimir Putin figuratively and probably literally.

To his opponents, however, he is racist, sexist – every ‘ist’ that is vile and not part of the mantra of “diversity and inclusivity.” Including fascist. (Here is an excellent article on Trump and fascism.)

Stylistically, he is everything that gilt and mirrors are. Braggadocious, as he might say, decor. But his political and social philosophies are less consistent. So look at his statements and performance and choose your interpretation. For example: he’s anti-women because he insults women; he’s pro-women because of his hiring practices.

Whatever the topic, his very public life provides the canvas upon which you can draw the picture you want to see. He knows the art of the image better, perhaps, than he knows the art of the deal. This election campaign is proving to be more about imagery than about deals and policies.