Apr 162019
 
 April 16, 2019  Posted by at 8:56 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  


Charles Negre ‘The Vampire’, Henri Le Secq stands next to Stryge grotesque, Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris 1853

 

Notre Dame ‘Saved From Total Destruction’ (CNBC)
The Notre Dame Fire And The Future Of History (Wired)
Notre Dame Was Built To Last Until The End Of The World (Mason)
Salma Hayek’s Husband Pledges €100 Million For Notre Dame Rebuild (Fox)
Redacted Mueller Report To Be Released To Congress & Public On Thursday (ZH)
Uncle Tom’s Empire (Hopkins)
Why Isn’t Assange Charged With ‘Collusion With Russia’? (Andrew McCarthy)
Assange Suffered Severe Psychological And Physical Harm – Doctors (IC)
Useful Idiots on Parade (Kunstler)
Respecting the Other (Dmitry Orlov)
Fed’s Rosengren Says Central Bank Should Target An Inflation Range (R.)
Free Our Marbles From British Museum’s ‘Murky Prison’ – Greek President (R.)
Winds Carry Microplastics Even On To Remote Mountaintops (G.)

 

 

The Notre Dame is first and foremost a work of art designed to make one marvel at what people can build with their hands.

Notre Dame ‘Saved From Total Destruction’ (CNBC)

Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral has been saved from “total destruction,” according to a French fire official, after a massive fire ripped through the structure on Monday and caused the roof and main spire to collapse. The blaze burned for eight hours, but has now been largely extinguished, according to firefighters. One official was quoted as saying the two iconic rectangular towers have been saved, which will come a relief after one of the towers caught fire earlier in the evening. Earlier, a French Interior Ministry official had said that firefighters might not be able to save the cathedral. “The worst has been avoided, but the battle isn’t fully won yet,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement outside of the cathedral.


He also expressed his sympathies to Catholics around the world, the people of Paris and the people of France. The fire broke out just days before Easter. “We will rebuild the cathedral together,” Macron said, adding that France will start an international fundraising campaign to raise money for the renovations. President Macron is treating the fire as a national emergency. Residents living close to the cathedral were evacuated in case the building collapsed, said Paris Mayor Anne Hildago. The area surrounding the cathedral, Paris’ Ile de la Cite, was also evacuated, according to Reuters.

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Our Lady in the cloud.

The Notre Dame Fire And The Future Of History (Wired)

Some of the wood that burned in the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris on Monday was put in place in the year 1160. The beams and exterior of the roof over the nave, the long main section of the building, date from between 1220 and 1240. Nearly a millennium ago it was forest; today, after a catastrophe that cuts to the heart of French culture and human history, it’s ash. “It was one of the oldest—until today—surviving roofs of that kind,” says Robert Bork, an architectural historian at the University of Iowa. “It’s incomparable.” [..] By Monday night, the art and treasured objects kept in the cathedral had been saved, it seemed. But architectural historians around the world were emailing each other frantically: If the lower three-quarters of the building resist, if the stone walls stand, it’ll be possible to imagine restoring Notre Dame.

“If the fire burns out while the stone vaults are intact, then the repair is a repair,” Bork says. “If the vaults start to crack and fall down, then the building is going to be lost. We’d be talking about rebuilding, not a repair.” Parisian fire brigades held the line. They kept the fire from spreading into the towers of the western face of the cathedral. The wood—itself an architectural treasure—was lost. “Cathedrals like Chartres had all burned off,” Bork says. “This was quite special, and it was from the time that they were really developing roof techniques.” But the rest of the building seems to have been spared. [..] because it survived largely intact into the digital era, Notre Dame lives on in the virtual world, too—and that may make its restoration all the more complete.

For the last half-decade or so, an architectural historian named Andrew Tallon worked with laser scanners to capture the entirety of the cathedral’s interior and exterior in meticulous 3D point clouds. His billion points of light revealed a living structure; the magnificent flying buttresses had indeed held the walls true, but the Gallery of Kings, statues on the western facade, were a foot out of plumb, Tallon told National Geographic in 2015. Just as it had in Victor Hugo’s day, the entire building had in fact fallen into disrepair by then. In 2017, the problems became too serious to ignore. The New York Times reported on stacks of masonry, fallen or removed, in the gardens. Gargoyles had given way to plastic pipes to drain away rainwater. A remodel was imperative, though as Time reported, it wasn’t clear who would pay for it.

This is the renovation project that was underway when the fire started, and architects now hope that Tallon’s scans may provide a map for keeping on track whatever rebuilding will have to take place. Tallon died late last year, and his mentor, a pioneer in using modern engineering forensics in historic architecture named Robert Mark, died in early 2019. “Both of them loved this building,” Bork says. “I’m just glad they didn’t have to see this.”

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“By the time it is rebuilt, as a partial replica, most people alive today will already be dead.”

Notre Dame Was Built To Last Until The End Of The World (Mason)

I’m writing this because I have to. The first time I saw Notre Dame was in 1980. Summertime, early morning, before the bakeries were open. The slanted light made the reliefs on the doors stand out. The second time I saw it, a year later, somebody (I have now been reminded it was Bill Ford) read out to me a complete analysis of the three doors of the façade. Deliberately assymetrical, each one contains a moral universe. As I write it will be lucky if they survive. The spire is gone, the stained glass is gone, the wood of the roof timber is gone. By the time it is rebuilt, as a partial replica, most people alive today will already be dead. Notre Dame was -and will be- a monument to civilisation. In an age when there were no information storage devices other than handwritten books, giant stone buildings were society’s hard drives.

This is like losing the hard drive of medieval Paris. Every inch had meaning – not just the meaning imbued by the carpenter and the stonemason, but the meaning imbued by the student, the monk, the penitent -and then by the emergent French bourgeois society. I know almost nothing about architecture, but I do understand music. And the music composed in Notre Dame during the high period of feudalism is some of the most complex, beautiful and emotionally expressive you will ever hear. Understanding the music helped me understand the building. Andrieu’s requiem dirge for Guillaume de Machaut, O Fleur des Fleurs, seems to be on loop inside my head. The challenge was to make it as complicated as possible but as directly expressive.

The one time I did the full tour of the inside was in 1986, before mass global tourism took off. I didn’t understand its vastness even then. If you have ever seen it, you have to hold those memories close now, because you will probably never in your lifetime see the whole thing rebuilt. Last year I went to Tito’s birthplace in Croatia. A small village of wood huts. A tank could have destroyed it in half an hour. It was a reminder that, until the mid 20thcentury, most of the world was built of wood, thatch and fragile bricks. Notre Dame was built to last until the end of the world, out of stone, glass and vast forests of thick timber frames.


Picked up on Twitter: Brooke Windsor – I took this photo as we were leaving #NotreDame about an hour before it caught on fire. I almost went up to the dad and asked if he wanted it. Now I wish I had. Twitter if you have any magic, help him find this

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Let’s do some gossip.

Salma Hayek’s Husband Pledges €100 Million For Notre Dame Rebuild (Fox)

Salma Hayek’s husband, the French billionaire François-Henri Pinault, pledged almost $113 million to rebuild Paris’ historic Notre Dame Cathedral after Monday’s devastating fire. Pinault announced Tuesday that he will draw almost $113 million in funds from his family’s investment firm, Artemis, “to participate in the effort that will be necessary for the complete reconstruction of Notre-Dame,” the French newspaper Le Figaro reported. Pinault, 56, who is the chairman and CEO of Kering, a Paris-based luxury group behind brands including Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, married the Mexican and American actress Salma Hayek in Paris in 2009, Yahoo News reported.


The couple owns a residence nearby the destroyed 12th-century medieval Catholic cathedral. “As many others I’m in deep shock and sadness to witness the beauty of Notre-Dame turn into smoke. I love you Paris,” Hayek said on Instagram, sharing an image of the cathedral ablaze. Pinault’s father, the 82-year-old Francois Pinault, is worth $37.3 billion, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index. The family’s contribution is the first major donation to reconstruction efforts after the fire engulfed the historic structure, leading to the collapse of the structure’s main spire.

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Get ready for more of the same Russiagate. Just look at that cartoon.

Redacted Mueller Report To Be Released To Congress & Public On Thursday (ZH)

Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec announced this morning Attorney General William Barr is expected to send Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report to Congress and make it public on Thursday (ahead of the long weekend’s news cycle). Those following Mueller’s investigation will pore over the report’s almost 400 pages for any new disclosures of contacts between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian operatives who interfered in the 2016 election, as well as evidence that the president sought to obstruct justice by interfering in the probe.


But, as Bloomberg reports, readers also will puzzle over sections that Barr has said he’ll blank out. He’s said the redacted material will be color-coded to indicate whether it involves classified material, grand jury information or damage to the reputation of a private citizen “peripheral” to the investigation. One key question the report may answer is why Mueller decided not to make a recommendation one way or the other on whether to charge Trump with obstructing justice.

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Brilliant absolute must read.

Uncle Tom’s Empire (Hopkins)

I don’t normally do this kind of thing, but, given the arrest of Julian Assange last week, and the awkward and cowardly responses thereto, I felt it necessary to abandon my customary literary standards and spew out a spineless, hypocritical “hot take” professing my concern about the dangerous precedent the U.S. government may be setting by extraditing and prosecuting a publisher for exposing American war crimes and such, while at the same time making it abundantly clear how much I personally loathe Assange, and consider him an enemy of America, and freedom, and want the authorities to crush him like a cockroach.

Now I want to be absolutely clear. I totally defend Assange and Wikileaks, and the principle of freedom of the press, and whatever. And I am all for exposing American war crimes (as long as it doesn’t endanger the lives of the Americans who committed those war crimes, or inconvenience them in any way). At the same time, while I totally support all that, I feel compelled to express my support together with my personal loathing of Assange, who, if all those important principles weren’t involved, I would want to see taken out and shot, or at least locked up in Super-Max solitary … not for any crime in particular, but just because I personally loathe him so much.

I’m not quite sure why I loathe Assange. I’ve never actually met the man. I just have this weird, amorphous feeling that he’s a horrible, disgusting, extremist person who is working for the Russians and is probably a Nazi. It feels kind of like that feeling I had, back in the Winter of 2003, that Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons, which he was going to give to those Al Qaeda terrorists who were bayonetting little babies in their incubators, or the feeling I still have, despite all evidence to the contrary, that Trump is a Russian intelligence asset who peed on Barack Obama’s bed, and who is going to set fire to the Capitol building, declare himself American Hitler, and start rounding up and murdering the Jews.

I don’t know where these feelings come from. If you challenged me, I probably couldn’t really support them with any, like, actual facts or anything, at least not in any kind of rational way. Being an introspective sort of person, I do sometimes wonder if maybe my feelings are the result of all the propaganda and relentless psychological and emotional conditioning that the ruling classes and the corporate media have subjected me to since the day I was born, and that influential people in my social circle have repeated, over and over again, in such a manner as to make it clear that contradicting their views would be extremely unwelcome, and might negatively impact my social status, and my prospects for professional advancement.

Take my loathing of Assange, for example. I feel like I can’t even write a column condemning his arrest and extradition without gratuitously mocking or insulting the man. When I try to, I feel this sudden fear of being denounced as a “Trump-loving Putin-Nazi,” and a “Kremlin-sponsored rape apologist,” and unfriended by all my Facebook friends. Worse, I get this sickening feeling that unless I qualify my unqualified support for freedom of press, and transparency, and so on, with some sort of vicious, vindictive remark about the state of Assange’s body odor, and how he’s probably got cooties, or has pooped his pants, or some other childish and sadistic taunt, I can kiss any chance I might have had of getting published in a respectable publication goodbye.

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Because then they would have to prove it.

Why Isn’t Assange Charged With ‘Collusion With Russia’? (Andrew McCarthy)

So . . . I have a few questions. First, why was there no Sanders-Russia probe? Why, when President Obama directed John Brennan, his hyper-political CIA director, to rush out a report on Russia’s influence operations, did we not hear about the WikiLeaks-Russia objective of helping Sanders win the Democratic nomination? Brennan & Co. couldn’t tell us enough about our intelligence-agency mind readers’ confidence that Putin was rootin’ for Trump. Why nothing about the conspirators’ Feelin’ the Bern? Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think there is any basis for a criminal investigation of Senator Sanders.

But there appears to have been no criminal predicate for a “collusion” investigation of Donald Trump, either — not a shred of public evidence that he conspired in the Putin regime’s hacking, other than that presented in the Clinton-campaign-sponsored Steele dossier (if you can call that “evidence” — though even Christopher Steele admits it’s not). Yet, Trump was subjected to an investigation for more than two years — on the gossamer-light theory that Trump stood to benefit from Moscow’s perfidy. Yes, of course, this cui bono claim was amplified by what were said to be Trump’s intriguing, if noncriminal, ties to Russia.

To my knowledge, however, the mythical pee tape of Steele lore has never been located; it is unlikely, then, that there are any Trump photos that compare, intrigue-wise, to a shirtless Bernie boozing it up in the Soviet Union. Surely that should have been worth a FISA warrant or four. A more serious question: Why hasn’t Assange been indicted for criminal collusion with the Kremlin — the same hacking conspiracy for which Mueller indicted the Russian operatives with whom Mueller says Assange collaborated? The same conspiracy for which the president of the United States, though not guilty, was under the FBI’s microscope for nearly three years?

The most striking thing about the Assange indictment that the Justice Department did file is how thin it is, and how tenuous. Leaping years backwards, ignoring “collusion with Russia,” prosecutors allege a single cyber-theft count: a conspiracy between Assange and then–Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning to steal U.S. defense secrets. This lone charge is punishable by as little as no jail time and a maximum sentence of just five years’ imprisonment (considerably less than the seven years Assange spent holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy to avoid prosecution).

This is very peculiar. Manning, Assange’s co-conspirator, has already been convicted of multiple felony violations of the espionage act — serious crimes that the Assange indictment says WikiLeaks helped Manning commit . . . but which the Justice Department has not charged against Assange. Why? Probably because espionage charges are time-barred. Which brings us to the possibility — perhaps even the likelihood — that Assange will never see the inside of an American courtroom.

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Who’s going to sue the politicians responsible?

Assange Suffered Severe Psychological And Physical Harm – Doctors (IC)

In an April 8 letter sent to both U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and Dunja Mijatovic, the commissioner for human rights for the Council of Europe, Crosby added that during her February visit to the embassy, the conditions of Assange’s confinement had significantly worsened since her first visit in 2017. Her letter noted the severe psychological toll Assange suffered in his prolonged and indefinite confinement. “Mr. Assange’s situation [inside the embassy] differs from a typical prisoner in a conventional prison,” she wrote in her letter. “In fact, his position is worse than a conventional prison in many respects. His confinement is indefinite and uncertain, which increases chronic stress and its myriad of chronic physical and serious psychological risks, including suicide.”

During seven years of confinement, Assange had suffered “a number of serious deleterious effects of sunlight deprivation,” she wrote, including “neuropsychological impairment, weakened bones, decreased immune function, and increased risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer.” He also displayed physical and psychological symptoms as a result of “prolonged social isolation and sensory deprivation.” “I believe the psychological, physical, and social [aftereffects] will be long-lasting and severe,” Crosby wrote.Assange was expelled from the Ecuadorian Embassy and arrested by British authorities on April 11, three days after her letter was sent to the U.N. and the Council of Europe. [..] Crosby wrote in her letter to the U.N. and the Council of Europe that Assange suffered from “multiple medical conditions” that had become “more complex and urgent” over the two years she had evaluated him.

“He has no ability to access necessary medical care, and he does not have access to the outdoors and sunlight. Even minimum standards for prisoners dictate at least one hour of sunlight daily and access to natural light.” While the British government and Assange’s many critics say that it was his choice to stay in the embassy, Crosby argues that Assange was denied the fundamental right to health care that should have been afforded to him as a refugee.In her April 8 letter, Crosby wrote that the “highest priority” for Assange’s medical care was his “critical need for an oral surgery procedure,” adding that “the severe daily pain” from his dental condition is “inhumane.” She had consulted with a dentist who had examined Assange, she wrote, and learned that the dental surgery could not be performed in the embassy. In her letter, Crosby says that the British government had repeatedly rejected requests to give Assange safe passage to a hospital for treatment.

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Jim illustrates the demise of Slate.

Useful Idiots on Parade (Kunstler)

There is probably a good reason that US government authorities did not essay to make Mr. Assange a witness on-the-record: because his testimony would have prevented Mr. Mueller from bringing his bullshit charges against the Russian internet trolls he indicted — who will never have to come to trial in the USA in any case, and thus never refute The Narrative so earnestly promoted by the Mueller team — until it all fell apart on March 24. But these are not terms that the Slate Political Gabfest chose to follow in their analysis of Julian Assange and his activities. Rather we got the following, transcribed verbatim:


Bazelon: “Assange is so detestable it’s really tempting to get as far away from him as possible. One look at him and I feel that way about him.” Plotz: “Do you think Joe Biden would get a little handsy with him?” Bazelon: “He’s far creepier.” Dickerson: “You don’t find that Dickensian beard alluring?” Bazelon: “It’s awful. But I always thought he was clean-shaven yucky.” Such are the Deep Thoughts of America’s leading Wokester political analysts. One also might ask why Mr. Assange has not been charged by the US with espionage, if that’s what their beef with him really is. In the meantime, behold the disgraceful episode of American journalists pimping for the leviathan state’s privilege to suppress the free flow of news and their own freedom of the press. Imagine them subjecting Daniel Ellsberg to such a hazing.

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I miss Dmitry.

Respecting the Other (Dmitry Orlov)

One of my old friends’ father was at one time something of a Cold Warrior: he did something or other for the US defense establishment—nuclear submarine-related, if I recall correctly. This work activity apparently led him to develop a particularly virulent form of Russophobia; not so much a phobia as a pronounced loathing of all things Russian. According to my friend, her father would compulsively talk about Russia in overly negative terms. He would also sneeze a lot (allergies, perhaps), and she said that it was often difficult for her to distinguish his sneezes from his use of the word “Russia” as an expletive. But perhaps she was trying to draw a distinction without a difference: her father was allergic to Russia, his allergy caused him to sneeze a lot and also to develop a touch of Tourette’s, thus his sneezes came out sounding like “Russia!”

What had caused him to develop such a jaundiced view of Russia? The reason is easy to guess: his work activity on behalf of the government forced him to focus closely on what his superiors labeled as “the Russian threat.” Unfolded a bit, it would no doubt turn out that what Russia threatened was Americans’ self-generated fiction of overwhelming military superiority. Unlike the United States, which had developed any number of plans to destroy the Soviet Union (of which nothing ever came due to said lack of overwhelming military superiority) the Soviet Union had never developed any such plans. And this was utterly infuriating to certain people in the US. Was this truly necessary, or was this an accident?

We could take into account geopolitical, military or economic considerations, consider the (no longer relevant) clash of socialist vs. capitalist ideologies or any number of other irrelevancies. Or we could find hints of what’s really behind this syndrome from certain efforts to combat it. Consider this lyrics from Sting’s 1985 debut solo album “The Dream of Blue Turtles.” Sting sang soulfully: “I hope the Russians love their children too.” From what mystical source sprang Sting’s forlorn hope? That the Russians may be a race of soulless automatons hell-bent on wanton destruction of all life on Earth, but that perhaps there is just a tiny streak of humanity running through their character—they love their children too—and that it will hold them back? Sting’s Russia is almost pure evil, but not quite, and a tiny speck of goodness is what keeps the world balanced on the edge of destruction.

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The Fed should do no such thing; it should close its doors before there’s no economy left.

Fed’s Rosengren Says Central Bank Should Target An Inflation Range (R.)

The U.S. Federal Reserve should shore up its ability to fight economic downturns by committing to let inflation run above 2% “in good times,” a top policymaker said on Monday. The comments by Eric Rosengren, president of the Boston Fed, echoed remarks made earlier in the day by another Fed policymaker who cited the U.S. economy’s falling a bit short on the central bank’s inflation target as a problem. The Fed’s preferred inflation measure, the core personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index, is currently at 1.8%. Rosengren said he supports an approach that would see the Fed, which is “forced to accept” inflation below its 2% target during recessions, commit to achieve above-2% inflation “in good times.” Policymakers, for instance, could target a range of 1.5-2.5%.


“My own preference would be an inflation range,” because hitting the current target will only get harder with rates as low as they are, Rosengren said at Davidson College in North Carolina. “Even though we’re only missing by a little bit it actually does matter if you miss by a little bit on a regular basis.” The remarks come ahead of a broad policy review being conducted by the Fed this year. How the Fed meets its inflation target is one of the key topics. The president of the Chicago Fed, Charles Evans, said earlier on Monday that the U.S. central bank should embrace inflation above its target half the time and consider cutting rates if prices do not rise as fast as expected.

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What I always like most about this is the Brits’ defence is they bought them legally from an occupying force.

Free Our Marbles From British Museum’s ‘Murky Prison’ – Greek President (R.)

Greece’s president called on Monday for Britain to free the Parthenon marbles from the “murky prison” of its national museum, upping the rhetoric in a near 200-year-old campaign for the sculptures’ return. President Prokopis Pavlopoulos spoke at Athens’ own glass-fronted Acropolis Museum, which campaigners hope will one day house the classical reliefs and figures taken by a British diplomat in the early nineteenth century. “Let the British Museum come here and make the comparison between this (Acropolis) museum of light and the murky, if I may say, prison of the British Museum where the Parthenon Marbles are held as trophies,” Pavlopoulos said. There was no immediate response from the British Museum.


Britain’s Lord Elgin removed the 2,500-year-old sculptures from the Acropolis temple in Athens during a period when Greece was under Ottoman rule. They have been placed in a gallery inside the British Museum in London, lit by a long skylight. Greece has repeatedly requested their return since its independence in 1832, and stepped up its campaign in 2009 when it opened its new museum at the foot of the Acropolis hill. That building holds the sculptures that Elgin left behind alongside plaster casts of the missing pieces, lit by the sun coming through a glass wall looking over the original site. “This museum can host the Marbles,” Pavlopoulos said. “We are fighting a holy battle for a monument which is unique.” The British Museum has refused to return the sculptures, saying they were acquired by Elgin under a legal contract with the Ottoman empire.

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How much plastic is there inside of you?

Winds Carry Microplastics Even On To Remote Mountaintops (G.)

Microplastic is raining down on even remote mountaintops, a new study has revealed, with winds having the capacity to carry the pollution “anywhere and everywhere”. The scientists were astounded by the quantities of microplastic falling from the sky in a supposedly pristine place such as the French stretch of the Pyrenees mountains. Researchers are now finding microplastics everywhere they look; in rivers, the deepest oceans and soils around the world. Other recent studies have found microplastics in farmland soils near Shanghai, China, in the Galápagos Islands, a Unesco world heritage site, and in rivers in the Czech Republic.

Humans and other animals are known to consume the tiny plastic particles via food and water, but the potential health effects on people and ecosystems are as yet unknown. However the ubiquity of the pollution means it needs to be taken very seriously, said Steve Allen, at the EcoLab research institute near Toulouse and who led the new work in the Pyrenees: “If it is going to be a problem, it is going to be a very big problem. I don’t think there is an organism on Earth that is immune to this.” About 335m tonnes of plastic is produced each year – while it degrades extremely slowly, it can be broken into smaller and smaller pieces.

Microplastic pollution in rivers and oceans is now well known but just two previous studies have looked at its presence in the air, one in Paris, France, and another in Dongguan, China. Both found a steady fall of particles. The new study, published in Nature Communications, is the first to show microplastic is raining down just as hard in remote environments and that it can travel across significant distances through wind. The team collected samples from high altitudes in the Pyrenees that were far from sources of plastic waste – the nearest village was 6km away, the nearest town 25km, and the nearest city 120km.

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Jan 292019
 


Giuseppe Arcimboldo Four elements – Earth 1566

 

 

Over Two Thirds Of UK Public Don’t Feel Represented By Political Parties (Ind.)
Risk Of Accidental No-Deal Brexit ‘Very High’ – Key EU Negotiator (G.)
Will UK MPs Take Control Of Brexit? (RT)
Theresa May In Fresh Crisis After Anti-EU Tories Reject ‘Plan B’ (Ind.)
Bank Of England Urged To Give Juan Guaidó Venezuela’s Gold (G.)
US Announces Sanctions Against Venezuela State Oil Company (G.)
Why Did John Bolton’s Notepad Say “5,000 Troops To Colombia”? (ZH)
Stone Cold (Kunstler)
Mueller Investigation Close To Being Completed – Acting AG Whitaker (CNBC)
Sarah Huckabee Sanders To Media: You’re No Better Than WikiLeaks (VF)
Facebook To Create ‘War Room’ To Fight Fake News (G.)
Supermassive Black Holes Reveal Universe Expands Faster Than Thought (Ind.)
British Museum Chief: Taking The Parthenon Marbles Was ‘Creative’ (G.)

 

 

This is true all over the western world. But finding alternatives is daunting. And that’s how you get to pitchforks.

Over Two Thirds Of UK Public Don’t Feel Represented By Political Parties (Ind.)

More than two thirds of the British public feel they are not represented by the main political parties, according to a new report on the divisions caused by Brexit. Research by campaign group Hope Not Hate found that the disconnect had increased from 60% to 67% over the last six months as Theresa May negotiated the EU withdrawal agreement. The poll of nearly 33,000 people and results from focus groups also revealed that many felt they were being left in the dark or were “overwhelmingly bored” by the process. It has also seen an increase in the proportion of the public feeling pessimistic about the future – with very few believing that Brexit will address the frustrations and inequalities that lay behind the vote to leave the EU in 2016.

More people also believe that Brexit is feeding prejudice and division and taking the UK “backwards”, up from 57% in July 2018 to 62% last month. Just 20% of people said they could trust the government to deliver a “good Brexit”. Almost as many Leavers (66%) as Remainers (75%) said they do not trust the government to deliver a Brexit that works for them. None of the options being considered by parliament have consensus support across the UK, according to the report, and 42% of people think that it would be sensible to delay leaving the EU by a few months so we can agree a better deal with the EU or hold a Final Say vote.

Hope Not Hate suggested the deadlock could be broken by holding “citizens’ assemblies”, which have been used successfully in Ireland and Iceland. They are made up of a randomly chosen representative group of up to 1,500 people and hear evidence and argument on a subject before making recommendations to their political representatives. Citizens’ assemblies are “a less polarising choice” the report states, with 39% of people, including both Leave and Remain supporters, saying they would back this process given the political deadlock.

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“..we need to have a stable majority to ensure the ratification. That’s quite a big challenge. There’s no negotiation between the UK and EU – that’s finished.”

Risk Of Accidental No-Deal Brexit ‘Very High’ – Key EU Negotiator (G.)

The risk of accidentally crashing out of the EU without a deal has been described as “very high” by a key EU architect of the Brexit deal, with parliamentary backing for changes to the backstop likely to be met with a brick wall in Brussels. Senior Conservative MPs are seeking to form a majority in a Commons vote on Tuesday calling for Theresa May to demand an alternative plan to the Irish backstop for avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland. But on Monday, EU officials and diplomats said the amendment tabled by the Tory MP Graham Brady, and backed by Downing Street, failed to offer any clue as to what alternative arrangement parliament could support.

With the votes on Tuesday unlikely to offer any clarity on what MPs can unite behind, the EU’s deputy chief negotiator, Sabine Weyand, offered a sober analysis of the chances of a deal being ratified in Westminster. She said: “We need to have a majority that doesn’t just get agreement over hurdle of a meaningful vote by a narrow majority but we need to have a stable majority to ensure the ratification. That’s quite a big challenge. There’s no negotiation between the UK and EU – that’s finished.

“There’s no point beating about the bush – the agreement was defeated with a two-thirds majority in the House of Commons. That’s a crushing defeat by any standards. It’s quite a challenge to see how you can construct out of the diversity of opposition a positive majority for a deal.” Weyand said of the two years of talks due to end on 29 March: “There’s a very high risk of a crash out not by design, but by accident. Perhaps by the design of article 50, but not by policymakers.” “We think we can handle it,” Weyand said. “I’m less sure about UK side. For us it’s about EU-UK trade relationship and disruption to supply chains. For the UK a no deal would mean that a part of the regulatory and supervisory structure of economy breaks away – a much bigger challenge.”

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British people must be so sick of this. More ‘key’ votes today, and no end in sight.

Will UK MPs Take Control Of Brexit? (RT)

Later on Tuesday, backbench MPs will try to seize control of Brexit as they vote on a set of amendments to alter – or even stop – the UK’s exit from the bloc after PM Theresa May failed to get her deal through parliament.
Speaker John Bercow reportedly received 14 amendments to May’s Brexit deal, with half a dozen of them expected to be put to a vote in order to achieve Brexit Plan B. Voting is scheduled to start at 7pm and may go on until around 8.30pm. By that time, it’ll likely become clear whether Brexit will be paused, possibly indefinitely, or whether the embattled prime minister will be sent back to Brussels for more talks with the EU.

Proposals to prevent a NO-DEAL Brexit One of the most important amendments comes from Labour’s Yvette Cooper, which requires May to delay Brexit and extend Article 50 if she’s unable get parliamentary support for her deal by February 26. Another notable one is much softer and non-binding in nature. Tory MP Caroline Spelman and her Labour counterpart, Jack Dromey, are pushing for the “no-deal” concept to be rejected in principle.

Anti-backstop amendments The two key proposals here are from Tory backbenchers, Andrew Murrison and Graham Brady, chair of the influential 1922 Committee, responsible for hiring and firing Conservative leaders. They call for the contentious Irish backstop to expire by December 2021 or be removed from the Brexit deal altogether. The backstop is a safety net to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland if there’s no Brexit trade deal.

Indicative vote amendments These are focused on ensuring that MPs get more parliamentary time to discuss the kind of Brexit they want to see agreed. Labour MP Hilary Benn has one amendment explicitly demanding indicative votes on Brexit options, including Norway Plus, a Second referendum, a “managed” no-deal, or a Labour Brexit. Prominent Tory Remainer, Dominic Grieve, is also calling for six days in February and March to be set aside for debates on motions not selected by the government. May’s spokesman said on Monday that talks on changing the deal to make it satisfactory for the MPs were ongoing. The PM was also willing to give the parliament another opportunity to vote for the Brexit deal as soon as possible. He didn’t name the exact date, buy the Sky News sources claim it may happen on February 13.

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The people’s interest?!

Theresa May In Fresh Crisis After Anti-EU Tories Reject ‘Plan B’ (Ind.)

Theresa May has been plunged into a fresh Brexit crisis after anti-EU Tories rejected her ‘plan B’ attempt to rescue her deal and threatened to inflict another Commons defeat on Tuesday. The prime minister took the extraordinary step of urging her MPs to back an amendment that “requires the Northern Ireland backstop to be replaced” – even though it effectively rips up her own agreement with the EU. However, just 30 minutes earlier – in a dramatic underlining of her weakness – the hardline 60-strong European Research Group (ERG) rejected the wording as too vague. Without ERG support, the amendment, tabled by Tory backbenchers’ leader Graham Brady, appeared doomed to fail – wrecking No 10 hopes that it would persuade the EU to give way.

Even before the setback, Brussels made clear it would, in any case, never accept a UK demand to replace the backstop, insisting the EU was “not going to reopen the agreement”. Heidi Allen, a leading pro-EU Tory, said the prime minister was “dreaming” if she believed her strategy could succeed, telling The Independent: “She is doing nothing other than pandering to the ERG again.” Despite the continuing stalemate, Ms May told the emergency meeting of Tory MPs that she wanted to stage a second “meaningful vote” on her deal by 13 February. No 10 saw it as a mechanism of sending a clear message about the concessions the EU needed to make if the thumping 230-vote defeat on the divorce deal, a fortnight ago, is to be overturned.

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The UK government, who obviously have nothing better to do, wants to confiscate Venezuela’s gold. Time for every country to repatriate their gold. Or it can and will be used against you.

Bank Of England Urged To Give Juan Guaidó Venezuela’s Gold (G.)

A UK foreign office minister has suggested that the Bank of England grant access to £1.2bn in Venezuelan gold reserves to the self-proclaimed interim leader Juan Guaidó rather than Nicolás Maduro. In a statement to British MPs, Sir Alan Duncan said the decision was a matter for the Bank and its governor, Mark Carney, and not the government. But he added: “It is they who have to make a decision on this, but no doubt when they do so they will take into account there are now a large number of countries across the world questioning the legitimacy of Nicolás Maduro and recognising that of Juan Guaidó.” Guaidó has already written to Theresa May asking for the funds to be sent to him.

The former chair of the foreign affairs select committee Crispin Blunt said the current Venezuelan central bank president was not legitimate, since he had not been appointed by the country’s national assembly. Blunt has sent letters to the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, and to the chancellor, Philip Hammond, urging a decision. Duncan said Hunt would be discussing the next steps in the European Union’s efforts to support Guaidó in Bucharest on Thursday. Key EU states including France, Germany, Spain and the UK on Saturday urged Maduro to call free and fair elections within eight days or else see Guaidó recognised as interim president by the international community. The EU stance was backed by the SNP and the Liberal Democrats in the Commons.

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Bolton: “Now is the time to stand for democracy and prosperity in Venezuela..” Straight faced.

US Announces Sanctions Against Venezuela State Oil Company (G.)

The Trump administration has tightened the screws on Venezuela’s embattled president, Nicolás Maduro, announcing sanctions against the country’s state-owned oil giant PDVSA in what the US national security adviser admitted was partly an attempt to counter strategic threats from Cuba and Iran. At a briefing in the White House, the US treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, told reporters the sanctions would help punish “those responsible for Venezuela’s tragic decline” and boost Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader who last week declared himself Venezuela’s rightful interim president and was recognized by the United States. “It is a complete tragedy to have a humanitarian crisis in a country that has very rich resources,” Mnuchin said.

The sanctions – which represent the US’s toughest economic move against Maduro to date – come five days after Guaidó’s dramatic declaration sparked Venezuela’s latest political crisis. The national security adviser, John Bolton, said $7bn of PDVSA assets would be immediately blocked as a result of the sanctions while the company would also lose an estimated $11bn in export proceeds over the coming year. Bolton said the sanctions were an attempt to alleviate “the poverty and the starvation and the humanitarian crisis” currently gripping the South American nation and stop “Maduro and his cronies” looting the assets of the Venezuelan people. “Now is the time to stand for democracy and prosperity in Venezuela,” he said, calling on “all responsible nations” to back Guaidó.

However, he also conceded US strategic interests were in play, including concerns about the presence and activities of US foes in the region. “We think stability and democracy in Venezuela are in the direct national interests of the United States right now,” Bolton told reporters. “The authoritarian regime of Chávez and Maduro has allowed the penetration by adversaries of the United States, not least of which is Cuba.” He added: “Some call the country ‘Cubazuela’, reflecting the grip that Cuba’s military and security forces have on the Maduro regime. We think that is a strategic significant threat to the United States and there are others as well, including Iran’s interest in Venezuela’s uranium deposits.”

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Wonder what Putin and Xi are thinking. And doing.

Why Did John Bolton’s Notepad Say “5,000 Troops To Colombia”? (ZH)

During a Monday White House press briefing national security adviser John Bolton was photographed carrying a notepad — presumably as he was fresh out of a national security meeting — and one of the things which appears to be handwritten on the pad is “5,000 troops to Colombia”. The contents of the notepad were spotted almost immediately by multiple journalists online after an NBC news release featuring the AP photo was published. More precisely the full contents appear to read: “Afghanistan -> Welcome the Talks. 5,000 troops to Colombia.” And a closer look, per one of the first journalists to examine the photograph and writing, who noted that “if confirmed this would be a pretty terrible OPSEC [operations security] breach”.

Bolton during the White House presser revealed that President Trump is “leaving open the possibility of a U.S. military intervention to protect opposition leader Juan Guaidó, members of the nation’s assembly and American diplomatic personnel,” according to NBC. “The president has made it clear that all options are on the table,” Bolton told reporters while holding the yellow notepad. “We also today call on the Venezuelan military and security forces to accept the peaceful, democratic and constitutional transfer of power,” Bolton said. But could, as the notepad suggests, this involve plans to send 5,000 American troops to neighboring Colombia, a close US ally in Latin America?

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“.. in reopening it for three weeks, does this allow for the confirmation of William Barr as Attorney General?”

Stone Cold (Kunstler)

As I often point out here, history is a trickster, too. Things fly out of left field from it all the time. Pink elephants, black swans, honeybadgers, World Wars, flash crashes, and Roger Stone. I have a theory that Mr. Stone, in his twisted way, will turn out to be a sort of unlikely hero in this subplot of the Mueller inquisition. How might that work? Despite the attempt to squeeze him on charges that will bankrupt him and send him off to die in the federal cooler, Mr. Stone will do what he said on the courthouse steps: he won’t bear false witness against Mr. Trump. What that really means is something else: he is willing to step into a court-of-law and face down Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors.

Mr. Mueller does not want this case to be tried in court, I assure you. In the event, an awful lot of dark evidence will emerge from the defense side of the room about the criminal malfeasance among the Mueller Team, and their reliance on the Clinton network of fixers, grifters, and rogues who cooked up the years-long Russian Meddling-and-Collusion flimflam in the FBI going way back to the spring of 2016. Mr. Stone’s case is not unlike the case against General Mike Flynn, who was sent to the doghouse for three months in December by Federal Judge Emmet Sullivan to reconsider his guilty plea. Judge Sullivan may know that the charges against Gen. Flynn amount to prosecutorial misconduct by Mueller, and Sullivan is interested in trying the case to see what might come out. It will be March before anyone knows whether Gen Flynn got his mind right in the matter.

[..]I’m wondering about something else. Of course, Mr. Trump eventually caught hell on the government shutdown. But in reopening it for three weeks, does this allow for the confirmation of William Barr as Attorney General? And when that happens, might it change the flow of events in the RussiaGate show?

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If Stone’s indictment is any clue, there will be zero collusion reported. Well, at least not with any sort of proof.

Mueller Investigation Close To Being Completed – Acting AG Whitaker (CNBC)

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is “close to being completed,” acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said Monday. “I hope that we can get the report from Director Mueller as soon as possible,” Whitaker said during a Department of Justice news conference announcing indictments against Huawei officials. While there were reports that the special counsel probe was wrapping up, Whitaker’s remark is the first indication from a Justice Department official suggesting that Mueller could deliver his report soon. Mueller’s team of investigators is examining Russian interference in the 2016 election. The special counsel is also probing for possible collusion by Donald Trump’s campaign and whether or not the president obstructed justice.

The acting attorney general’s comment comes after Roger Stone, a longtime political advisor to President Donald Trump, was arrested in Florida on Friday. Stone faces seven counts, including allegations of witness tampering, obstruction of justice and making false statements to Congress. Whitaker’s appointment as acting attorney general sparked concern that he might try to stifle Mueller’s investigation. Before joining the Justice Department, Whitaker was critical of the special counsel probe. In a 2017 op-ed, Whitaker argued that if Mueller examined the Trump family finances “without a broadened scope in his appointment, then this would raise serious concerns that the special counsel’s investigation was a mere witch hunt.”

Whitaker addressed his critics during the Monday news conference, saying he has now been “fully briefed” on the investigation and is looking forward to Mueller’s report. “I really am not going to talk about an open and ongoing investigation otherwise, but you know, sort of the statements that I made were as a private citizen only with publicly available information,” Whitaker said.

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“When asked whether working with WikiLeaks should be considered a crime..”

Sarah Huckabee Sanders To Media: You’re No Better Than WikiLeaks (VF)

Last week, Roger Stone, one of Donald Trump’s longest and most loyal advisers, was indicted on several counts of lying to investigators regarding his interactions with WikiLeaks, the quasi-journalistic organization accused by U.S. intelligence of being in cahoots with the Russian government. Perhaps most dangerous for the president, the indictment against Stone alleged that a senior campaign official “was directed” by an unknown someone to ask Stone about “additional releases” from WikiLeaks, which had already dumped stolen D.N.C. e-mails all over the Internet. After Stone was arrested by the F.B.I., White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was quick out of the gate with the standard statement: “This has nothing to do with the president, and certainly nothing to do with the White House,” she said.

“This is something that has to do solely with that individual, not something that affects us in this building.” But on Monday, as she presided over the first official White House press briefing in 41 days, she was pressed to provide a more detailed response. She denied that the White House and Trump had any contact with WikiLeaks, and brushed off the possibility that Trump would issue Stone a pardon. When asked whether working with WikiLeaks should be considered a crime, however, she went a step further. “I think every single outlet that you all represent looked for and searched for information that WikiLeaks was providing,” she said. “Most of you reported on that information. I think you’re just as accountable as anybody else in that process.” In other words, if seeking information from WikiLeaks is a crime, the media is full of criminals.

In fact, by the end of 2016, certain media outlets engaged in some earnest hand-wringing over whether the extent of their reporting on the leaked WikiLeaks documents, including the e-mails of Democratic officials like John Podesta and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, had thrown the election in Trump’s (and Russia’s) favor. Stone’s connections to the Julian Assange-run organization, however, are of a different nature entirely. Stone, a one-man political goon squad, had long publicly flaunted his connections with WikiLeaks, selling himself to the Trump campaign as someone with inside knowledge of the organization.

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This is your future. A bunch of call-center type ops in cheap labor nations will decide, using handbooks, what you are allowed to see.

Facebook To Create ‘War Room’ To Fight Fake News (G.)

Facebook will tackle political misinformation in the run-up to the EU elections this May with a new “war room” based in Dublin, the company’s incoming communications chief, Nick Clegg, has announced. In his first speech as Facebook’s top public face, Clegg said the company would be setting up an “operations centre focused on elections integrity, based in Dublin, this spring”. The centre will build on the company’s previous experience running an “elections war room” in its US office, where it coordinated efforts to police the platform during the US midterm and Brazilian presidential elections. “This approach will help boost our rapid response efforts to fight misinformation, bringing together dozens of experts from across the company – including from our threat intelligence, data science, engineering, research, community operations and legal teams,” Clegg said.

“They will work closely with the lawmakers, election commissions, other tech companies, academics and civil society groups to continue the fight against fake news, prevent the spread of voter suppression efforts and further integrate the large number of teams working on these important issues across Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.” In his speech, made to an audience of European policymakers in Brussels and livestreamed on Facebook, Clegg accepted that the company had erred in the past, but said it was on a path of improvement. “What I have seen in my short time at Facebook is a young company – only 15 years old next month – which has grown at a startling pace, has undoubtedly made mistakes and is now entering a new phase of reform, responsibility and change.”

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Why? “Dark energy is evolving – with a density that increases as time passes.”

Supermassive Black Holes Reveal Universe Expands Faster Than Thought (Ind.)

Supermassive black holes in the depths of space have been used for the first time to measure the universe growing, yielding intriguing results. Astronomers found the universe appears to be expanding faster than previously thought, a discovery that suggests a whole new set of rules is required to understand the cosmos. The rate of universe expansion is known as the Hubble constant, named after the American astronomer who also gave his name to the famous space telescope. It has proved a tricky value to pin down, because while the cosmos has been getting bigger since the Big Bang, the rate seems to vary depending on where astronomers look and how they measure it.

In a new study published in the journal Nature Astronomy, scientists used black holes sitting at the core of distant galaxies as reference points by which to measure the speed of growth. These bodies constantly spew out radiation, placing them among the brightest points in the universe. “Black holes are the most luminous persistent sources of the universe and allow us to measure its expansion rate at very early times,” explained Dr Elisabeta Lusso from Durham University. Using data collected from 1,600 supermassive black holes as the universe expands and they move away from each other, the scientists were able to record the rate of this expansion.

Previous efforts had used the light produced by exploding supernovae to measure the growth of the universe, but such measurements could only go back so far in time. The luminous black holes allowed Dr Lusso and her colleague Dr Guido Risaliti to peer back further, providing a clearer picture of early universe expansion. The discrepancy they recorded matched the contradictory results previously obtained by the European Space Agency and Nasa. These results suggest the early expansion of the universe is different from that predicted by the standard model of cosmology, which describes the age, history and contents of the universe. [..] Dr Risaliti, of the Università degli Studi di Firenze, said if this dark energy is evolving – with a density that increases as time passes – this could provide an explanation for their results.

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A land of ordinary thieves.

Dull is the eye that will not weep to see
Thy walls defac’d, thy mouldering shrines remov’d
By British hands
– Lord Byron

British Museum Chief: Taking The Parthenon Marbles Was ‘Creative’ (G.)

The director of the British Museum has provoked anger by suggesting the removal of the Parthenon marbles from Greece in the 19th century could be seen as “a creative act”. Hartwig Fischer gave an interview to the Greek newspaper Ta Nea in which he ruled out returning the 2,500-year-old sculptures, which many people in Greece and elsewhere regard as stolen. Greece desperately wants the sculptures, popularly known as the Elgin marbles, back but has been rebuffed repeatedly by the British Museum. Asked about the argument that it should be seen more as a rejoining of the sculptures than a return, Fischer said the British Museum offered a different way of interacting with the marbles, “posing different questions because the objects are placed in a new context”.

He added: “We should appreciate this opportunity. You could, of course, be saddened by the fact that the original environment has disappeared. When you move a cultural heritage to a museum, you move it outside. However, this shifting is also a creative act.” The same could be said for the Acropolis Museum created in Athens, said Fischer. “Nothing that we admire at the Acropolis Museum was created for the Acropolis Museum. They are close to the original environment, but they have again moved away from it and have been transformed through this act.”

There are many who will not see the early 19th-century removal from Greece of the marbles by agents of the 7th Earl of Elgin as “creative”. Lord Byron likened it to vandalism, lamenting in verse in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage: “Dull is the eye that will not weep to see / Thy walls defac’d, thy mouldering shrines remov’d / By British hands.” George Vardas, the secretary of the International Association for Reunification of Parthenon Sculptures, tweeted: “Seriously. What was so creative in the destruction of the temple and looting and pillage of a nation’s keys to its ancient history?” He called it “astonishing historical revisionism and arrogance”, and added: “The imperial condescension of the British Museum knows no bounds.”


Photograph: Matthew Fearn/PA

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Dec 082018
 


Rembrandt van Rijn Bathsheba at her bath 1654 (see video at the bottom)

 

There are not many things that I’m allergic to. But there are some. Here’s a good example: bigotry. Behold, in the article quoted below, the danger of political correctness in all its glory. A 30-year old Christmas song, Fairytale of New York, it is claimed, must be censored or banned. For a reason I’ll explain, such things always make me think of Rembrandt’s painting “Bathsheba at her Bath” (the painting above), which hangs in the Louvre.

No doubt there are those who are offended by her nakedness. But as John Berger put it in the video below, the master painted it with the utmost love and devotion. I first saw the video many years ago in art school, and it’s always stayed with me. Berger was a British art critic (he died last year) who wrote many books and made lots of TV shows on his view of what makes art – and its viewers- tick, together. Berger loved Rembrandt as much as Rembrandt loved Bathsheba. And so do I.

Back to the song, Fairytale of New York: There are people who think/feel/proclaim that the perhaps most popular Christmas song of the modern age contains one word they do not like, and must therefore be changed. It hurts their safe space, or something. It’s not politically correct. You can’t say ‘faggot’, even after it’s thoroughly explained to you that it means something else entirely in older Irish vocabulary. This is a very dark road towards a very dark future; don’t go there.

We can censor and ban a large part of art -and rock- history if we go by 2018 PC standards, but we should never give in to the vapid illusion that we know better now than the artists in the days and places when and where they produced the paintings, the sculptures or the songs. That is profoundly stupid, arrogant and conceited. None of us are any better than the Greek and Roman sculptors who carved their genius marbles of naked splendor. None of us are better people than Rembrandt or Michelangelo or the ancient Greek sculptors just because we live later in time then them. So we have no right to correct them.

And none of us have the right to demand a correction of a 30-year old song. Don’t even try to take our art away from us. It’s the best thing handed to us through the ages. Art is where man excels, much more than technology or anything like that. Art. And Fairytale of New York is Art. So don’t you dare touch it.

 

Calls To Censor ‘Fairytale Of New York’ Lyrics

A student newspaper editor has called for the word “faggot” to be censored from The Pogues’ popular song “Fairytale of New York” over claims it is offensive. Tom Haynes, the assistant editor of The Tab, shared his opinion about the classic Christmas song in an article titled: “Dear straight people, stop singing the word ‘faggot’ in ‘Fairytale of New York’” – which has since divided people on social media.

According to Haynes, the line in question, sung by Kirsty MacColl, “you scumbag, you maggot, you cheap lousy faggot,” is homophobic – but despite being censored on some stations, including the BBC and MTV channels, continues to be sung by “straight people” when it comes on. “Only when you take a step back does something seem off with that picture in 2018,” Haynes wrote.

He also points out that, despite being repurposed by the gay community, the slur can “evoke very specific memories of being bullied either online or in real life” and is comparable to the n-word. Haynes concludes by suggesting that people simply skip the word when singing the 1987 song – which has faced lyrical controversy numerous times in the years since it was released. “That’s all – one word, two syllables. Not too much of a stretch, right?” he wrote. The response to Haynes critique of the beloved Christmas song has been varied – with some disagreeing and labelling the editor a “snowflake” millennial, and others recognising that he has a point.

According to some people on social media, who have defended the use of the word in the song, faggot has a different meaning in old Irish slang. “I won’t be refraining from singing the lyric ‘cheap, lousy faggot’ in ‘Fairytale of New York’ because it’s not in reference to any homophobic intent – in old Irish faggot simply means a lazy person,” one person wrote. Another said: “Snowflakes left right and centre saying ‘Fairytale of New York’ is homophobic when in reality the cheap lousy faggot line is in reference to laziness.”

 

 

Update: as I was writing this, and looking for info, I stumbled upon singer Shane McGowan of the Pogues actually defending the lyrics . Sort of. And saying the band are not going to change a thing. But really, he should tell ’em all to stick it to the dark side of the moon.

“The word was used by the character because it fitted with the way she would speak and with her character. She is not supposed to be a nice person, or even a wholesome person. She is a woman of a certain generation at a certain time in history and she is down on her luck and desperate.

“Her dialogue is as accurate as I could make it but she is not intended to offend. She is just supposed to be an authentic character and not all characters in songs and stories are angels or even decent and respectable, sometimes characters in songs and stories have to be evil or nasty in order to tell the story effectively.

 

That’s enough of that safe space blubber. It’s endless. One person wants just two syllables changed, the next one another two, and before you know it Bathsheba is fully clothed and Rembrandt lost his interest, and so therefore have we all. It’s not up to us to decide what an artist paints or sings or writes. Period.

Let’s move on to how and why this is relevant to anyone who’s not a snowflake. John Berger years ago described with how much love Rembrandt painted Bathsheba’s belly:

 

..”there isn’t another belly in European art painted with a fraction of this devotion..”

 

Start at 6.30 min into the video for that. The whole video is very much worth watching, it’s brilliant even. Rembrandt discovered light itself in painting, and how to get from two dimensions to three. He saw that what the human eye sees from up close is very different from what she sees at 2 meters, or 4, or 10. His was an unmitigated genius.

However, yes, Bathsheba is naked. And plenty people today will find that offensive. What about the kids!? (gee, I don’t know, where they born fully dressed?) But Rembrandt painted Bathsheba in 1654. And nobody has any business today being offended by what people did or said 350 years ago.

Or, better yet, if you want to be insulted about something from that era, why not protest any and all signs of slavery and warfare, rape and pillage, of Europeans massacring Africans and Native Americans, and leave art alone once and for all, stay away from a genius painter putting what love he can muster into the depiction of a biblical character.

I post a lot of art works at the Automatic Earth, a new glorious picture every day, and only once have I had a complaint about it. That was for a photograph whose artist the thought police apparently wasn’t familiar with. Not even full frontal nudity, but people seen from behind diving into the water. But there was a complaint alright. The acne-ridden social media overlords deemed it inappropriate. They wouldn’t dare with Rembrandt, but that’s beside the point.

Also, as you may know, I’ve spent a lot of time in Athens lately. And if you walk through the Parthenon, or its museum, or any of the other archeological sites in the city, there’s no way you can bring enough stickers or fig leaves to hide what nudity offends you. Probably all the Americans who visit the city think it’s far enough removed from them in time that they can watch the naked men and women without being offended (aroused, I’m not so sure).

But even if they do, they are the same people who use terms like ‘the F word’ and ‘the N word’ on a daily basis. Something as bigoted as protesting a word such as ‘faggots’, or a sculpture or painting that’s 100s or 1000s years old. Maybe if you let everyone say ‘fuck’ to their heart’s desire, they’ll stop saying it. And even if they don’t, so what? Why ban words when everybody uses them, why ban nudity when everybody’s naked under their clothes, why ban or censor art when it’s the best thing our forefathers have ever left us?