February 21, 2012 archive
Feb 21 2012
Feb 21 2012
Mardi Gras en français or Fat Tuesday in English, it is time to party. It’s the last day for some Christians to eat all the food they like and party before the season of fasting before Lent. In many traditions it isn’t just one day. Mardi Gras, or Carnival season, starts in January after 12th Night or the Epiphany, culminating at midnight on the day before Ash Wednesday. English traditions call the day Shrove Tuesday and for many religious Christians a time for confession. Celebrations vary from city to city and by country but many of the traditions are the same masks, beads, parades and parties. In Mobile, Alabama,the former capital of New France, the Mardi Gras social events start in November with “mystic society” balls on Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve with more parades and balls in January and February ending on the traditional Tuesday before Lent. And you thought New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro were the party cities, heh. Many if these balls raise large amounts of money for charity, justifying in a way the “decadence”. In other places with a French heritage, like Louisiana, where the revelry also starts weeks before with parades and parties celebrating the arrival of the “Krewes” or organizations that sponsor various parades, the day is an official holiday. Like anyone in New Orleans is going to the office that day. There’s many traditional foods, too, like pancakes, fruit laden sweet breads and sugary pastries. Any food with lots of fat and eggs. Look out arteries here it comes.
Mardi Gras was introduced to America in colonial days as a sedate religious tradition by Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, in the late 17th century, when King Louis XIV sent the pair to defend France’s claim on the territory of Louisiane.
The expedition, led by Iberville, entered the mouth of the Mississippi River on the evening of March 2, 1699, Lundi Gras, not yet knowing it was the river explored and claimed for France by René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle in 1683. The party proceeded upstream to a place on the west bank about 60 miles downriver from where New Orleans is today, where a small tributary emptied into the great river, and made camp. This was on March 3, 1699, Mardi Gras day, so in honor of this holiday, Iberville named the spot Point du Mardi Gras (French: “Mardi Gras Point”) and called the small tributary Bayou Mardi Gras. Bienville went on to found Mobile, Alabama in 1702 as the first capital of French Louisiana. In 1703 French settlers in that city began to celebrate the Mardi Gras tradition. By 1720, Biloxi was made capital of Louisiana. While it had French settlers, Mardi Gras and other customs were celebrated with more fanfare given its new status. In 1723, the capital of French Louisiana was moved to New Orleans, founded in 1718. With the growth of New Orleans as a city and the creolization of different cultures, the varied celebration of Mardi Gras became the event most strongly associated with the city. In more recent times, several U.S. cities without a French Catholic heritage have instituted the celebration of Mardi Gras, which sometimes emerged as grassroots movements.
In other countries Mardi Gras has different names. In Belgium’s city of Binche it is the most important day if the year:
The carnival is the most known of several others that take place in Belgium at the same time and has been proclaimed as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity listed by UNESCO. Its history dates back to approximately the 14th century.
Events related to the carnival begin up to seven weeks prior to the primary celebrations. Street performances and public displays traditionally occur on the Sundays approaching Ash Wednesday, consisting of prescribed musical acts, dancing, and marching. Large numbers of Binche’s inhabitants spend the Sunday directly prior to Ash Wednesday in costume.
The centrepiece of the carnival’s proceedings are clown-like performers known as Gilles. Appearing, for the most part, on “Shrove” Tuesday, the Gilles are characterised by their vibrant dress, wax masks and wooden footwear. They number up to 1,000 at any given time, range in age from 3 to 60, and are customarily male. The honour of being a Gille at the carnival is something that is to be aspired to by local men. From dawn on the morning of the carnival’s final day, Gilles appear in the centre of Binche, to dance to the sound of drums and ward evil spirits away with sticks. Later, during the day, they don large hats adorned with ostrich plumes, which can cost upwards of $300 US dollars to rent, and march through the town with baskets of oranges. These oranges are thrown to, and sometimes at, members of the crowd gathered to view the procession. The vigour and longevity of the orange throwing event has in past caused damage to property – some residents choose to seal windows to prevent this.
In Germany, Switzerland and Austria, Mardi Gras is called Karneval, Fastnacht, or Fasching. Fastnacht means “Eve of the Beginning of the Fast”. One of the largest festivals is in Cologne, Germany:
Traditionally, the “fifth season” (carnival season) is declared open at 11 minutes past 11 on the 11th of November. The Carnival spirit is then temporarily suspended during the Advent and Christmas period, and picks up again in earnest in the New Year. The time of merrymaking in the streets is officially declared open at downtown square Alter Markt on the Thursday before the beginning of Lent. Street carnival, a week-long street festival, also called “the crazy days”, takes place between the Fat Thursday (Weiberfastnacht) and ends on Ash Wednesday (Aschermittwoch). The highlight of the carnival is Rose Monday (Rosenmontag), two days before Ash Wednesday. All through these days, Cologne folks go out masqueraded. The typical greeting during the festival is Kölle Alaaf!, a Kölsch phrase which can be translated as “Cologne above all!”
In Europe, some of the earliest Carnivales were in Italy. One of the most elegant and sumptuous is in the canal city if Venice:
It is said that the Carnival of Venice was originated from a victory of the “Repubblica della Serenissima”, Venice previous name, against the Patriarch of Aquileia, Ulrico in the year 1162. In the honor of this victory, the people started to dance and make reunions in San Marco Square. Apparently this festival started on that period and become official in the renaissance. After a long absence, the carnival return to operate in 1979. the Italian government decided to bring back the history and culture of Venice, and sought to use the traditional Carnival as the centerpiece of their efforts. Today, approximately 3,000,000 visitors come to Venice each day for Carnivals. One of the most important events is the contest for the best mask, placed at the last weekend of the Carnival. A jury of international costume and fashion designers votes for “La Maschera piu bella”. [..]
Masks have always been a central feature of the Venetian carnival; traditionally people were allowed to wear them between the festival of Santo Stefano (St. Stephen’s Day, December 26) and the start of the carnival season and midnight of Shrove Tuesday. They have always been around Venice. As masks were also allowed on Ascension and from October 5 to Christmas, people could spend a large proportion of the year in disguise. Maskmakers (mascherari) enjoyed a special position in society, with their own laws and their own guild.
Venetian masks can be made in leather or with the original glass technique. The original masks were rather simple in design,decoration, often had a symbolic, and practical function. Nowadays, most of them are made with the application of gesso and gold leaf and are all hand-painted using natural feathers and gems to decorate.
I would be remiss if I didn’t include the Carnivals of Brazil:
Carnaval is the most famous holiday in Brazil and has become an event of huge proportions. Excepted the industries, malls and the carnival related workers, the country stops completely for almost a week and festivities are intense, day and night, mainly in coastal cities. The consumption of beer accounts for 80% of annual consumption and tourism receives 70% of annual visitors. The government distributes condoms and launches awareness campaigns at this time to prevent the spread of AIDS.
Each Brazilian has its own unique celebration, the most famous, of course, is the one in Rio de Janeiro:
Modern Brazilian Carnival originated in Rio de Janeiro in 1641 when the city’s bourgeoisie, largely Portuguese, imported the practice of holding balls and masquerade parties from Paris. It originally mimicked the European form of the festival, later absorbing and creolizing elements derived from Native American and African cultures.
In the late 19th century, the cordões (literally “cords”, laces or strings in Portuguese) were introduced in Rio de Janeiro. These were pageant groups that paraded through city avenues performing on instruments and dancing. Today they are known as Blocos (blocks), consisting of a group of people who dress in costumes or special t-shirts with themes and/or logos. Blocos are generally associated with particular neighborhoods; they include both a percussion or music group and an entourage of revellers.
Block parades have become an expressive feature of Rio’s Carnival. Today, they number more than 100 and the groups increase each year. Blocos can be formed by small or large groups of revelers with a distinct title with an often funny pun. (Os blocos RJ, para os solteiros, são um lugar para conhecer e até beijar pessoas, or “The blocos in Rio de Janeiro, for the singles, are places to meet and even kiss people.”) They may also note their neighborhood or social status. Before the show, they gather in a square, then parade in sections of the city, often near the beach. Some blocos never leave one street and have a particular place, such as a bar, to attract viewers. Block parades start in January, and may last until the Sunday after Carnival.
There occur Blocos parades in nearly every neighborhood throughout the city and metropolitan areas, but the most famous are the ones in Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, Lagoa, Jardim Botânico, and in downtown Rio. Organizers often compose their own music themes that are added to the performance and singing of classic “marchinhas” and samba popular songs. “Cordão do bola preta” (“Polka Dot Bloco”), that goes through the heart of Rio’s historical center, and “Suvaco do Cristo” (Christ’s statue armpit, referring to the angle of the statue seen from the neighborhood), near the Botanical Garden, are some of the most famous groups. Monobloco has become so famous that it plays all year round at parties and small concerts.
Samba schools are very large groups of performers, financed by respected organizations (as well as illegal gambling groups), who work year round in preparation for Carnival. Samba Schools perform in the Sambadrome, which runs four entire nights. They are part of an official competition, divided into seven divisions, in which a single school is declared the winner, according to costume, flow, theme, and band music quality and performance. Some samba schools also hold street parties in their neighborhoods, through which they parade along with their followers.
Feb 21 2012
The Musical Chairs Economy
by Ian Welsh
2012 February 19
(T)here will be recessions and non-recessions (amidst what is an ongoing long Depression). And in each recession those who fail to grab a chair will be cast out into the dispossessed. Those who keep their chairs will be allowed to keep some facsimile of the “American lifestyle”.
The people who run the American economy and political system will continue along these lines so long as it continues to bring them money or power. As noted, they do not have fellow feeling for other Americans, they believe they earned everything they have, and that if someone else isn’t prosperous, it’s because they didn’t earn it. Such useless eaters are a drag on society.
I emphasize the thought process, which some will find polemical, because it is at the heart of the problem. It is the most important part of the post. There are other options, from the managed decline favored by environmental purists through to various types of smart growth. They are not being pursued and will not be pursued because they are more work with less certainty of who will reap the profits and power than simply managing the current decline, and culling the herd from time to time, as necessary.
“The powerful do as they will, the weak suffer what they must.”
As long as you, the people, believe you are weak, you will suffer what you must.
The improbable Greece plan
By Felix Salmon, Reuters
February 21, 2012
The plan assumes that 95% of bondholders will accept this deal, which seems optimistic to me. Bondholders are by their nature a fractious and contrarian bunch, and Greece is not saying that it’s going to default on holdouts. As a result, bondholders have to guess what might happen if they fail to tender into the exchange: they might get defaulted on and receive nothing; they might get paid out in full; or they might get defaulted on while being offered, for the second time, the same exchange they’re being offered right now. Some of them, especially the ones holding English-law bonds, might well be tempted to hold on to at least some of their bonds, just to see what happens.
More to the point, the plan assumes that Greece’s politicians will stick to what they’ve agreed, and start selling off huge chunks of their country’s patrimony while at the same time imposing enormous budget cuts. Needless to say, there is no indication that Greece’s politicians are willing or able to do this, nor that Greece’s population will put up with such a thing. It could easily all fall apart within months; the chances of it gliding to success and a 120% debt-to-GDP ratio in 2020 have got to be de minimis.
Europe’s politicians know this, of course. But at the very least they’re buying time: this deal might well delay catastrophic capital flight from Greece, and give the Europeans more time to work out how to shore up Portugal if and when that happens. Will they make good use of the time that they’re buying? I hope so. Because once the Greek domino falls, it’s going to take a huge amount of money, statesmanship, and luck to prevent further dominoes from toppling.
Greek Bailout Secured, But Secret Report Shows It Won’t Work
By: David Dayen, Firedog Lake
Tuesday February 21, 2012 6:15 am
This is a recipe for endless bailouts, for more money, from the Eurozone. Greece will not have the ability to pay its debts and no other means of borrowing money. And that assumes that this deal WORKS, meaning that there’s no overthrow of the government, that a new leadership after elections in April doesn’t object to the plan, that creditors don’t revolt from the harsh terms of the haircut, etc. And this program only gets more expensive for the Eurozone over time. Even the fairly optimistic “downside scenario” from the confidential report shows that, saying that Greece will need €245 billion in aid.
But the Germans were reluctant to agree to even this bailout, and will be more reluctant when it doesn’t work and Greece comes a-begging. This problem either gets bigger or is no longer seen as a problem. And somehow, I don’t think the richer countries in Europe will continue to accept these transfers. This buys nothing but time, and in the long run it’s fiscally stupid, if Greece will eventually leave the euro.
Satyajit Das: It’s All Greek to Me!
By Satyajit Das, Naked Capitalism
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Everyone knows the amount of money available is insufficient to deal with the problems.
History suggests that a write-down of debt for distressed borrowers is frequently followed by others.
The entire trajectory of discussions, plans and negotiations largely ignores Greece. There is no longer any pretence of “assisting” Greece. It is about ensuring that German and French banks minimise their losses. It is probable that no funds will be released to Greece but rather placed in a special account from where it will be used to meet the country’s debt obligations.
Subplots connect main plots in thematic terms or provide minor diversions or comic relief. The light relief in this instance come from a group of hedge funds who have threatened to take action in the European Court of Human Rights alleging that Greece has violated bondholders “rights”.
In the end, Greece may live to default another day. Other embattled European nations will be scrutinising the Athenian sub-plot extremely closely as to clues as to their future as they await the battles that lie ahead.
Nellie Forbush is a very flawed character.
Feb 21 2012
This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.
Find the past “On This Day in History” here.
February 21 is the 52nd day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 313 days remaining until the end of the year (314 in leap years).
On this day in 1965, Malcolm X, an African American nationalist and religious leader, is assassinated by rival Black Muslims while addressing his Organization of Afro-American Unity at the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights in New York City.
Malcolm X began to speak to a meeting of the Organization of Afro-American Unity when a disturbance broke out in the crowd of 400. A man yelled, “Nigger! Get your hand outta my pocket!” As Malcolm X and his bodyguards moved to quiet the disturbance, a man rushed forward and shot him in the chest with a sawed-off shotgun. Two other men charged the stage and fired handguns, hitting him 16 times. Furious onlookers caught and beat one of the assassins as the others fled the ballroom. Malcolm X was pronounced dead at 3:30 p.m., shortly after he arrived at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital.
Talmadge Hayer, a Nation of Islam member also known as Thomas Hagan, was arrested on the scene. Eyewitnesses identified two more suspects, Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson, also members of the Nation. All three were charged in the case. At first Hayer denied involvement, but during the trial he confessed to having fired shots at Malcolm X. He testified that Butler and Johnson were not present and were not involved in the assassination, but he declined to name the men who had joined him in the shooting. All three men were convicted.
Butler, now known as Muhammad Abdul Aziz, was paroled in 1985. He became the head of the Nation of Islam’s Harlem mosque in New York in 1998. He continues to maintain his innocence. Johnson, now known as Khalil Islam, was released from prison in 1987. During his time in prison, he rejected the teachings of the Nation of Islam and converted to Sunni Islam. He, too, maintains his innocence. Hayer, now known as Mujahid Halim, was paroled in 2010.
The number of mourners who came to the public viewing in Harlem’s Unity Funeral Home from February 23 through February 26 was estimated to be between 14,000 and 30,000. The funeral of Malcolm X was held on February 27 at the Faith Temple Church of God in Christ in Harlem. The Church was filled to capacity with more than 1,000 people. Loudspeakers were set up outside the Temple so the overflowing crowd could listen and a local television station broadcast the funeral live.
Among the civil rights leaders in attendance were John Lewis, Bayard Rustin, James Forman, James Farmer, Jesse Gray, and Andrew Young. Actor and activist Ossie Davis delivered the eulogy, describing Malcolm X as “our shining black prince”.
There are those who will consider it their duty, as friends of the Negro people, to tell us to revile him, to flee, even from the presence of his memory, to save ourselves by writing him out of the history of our turbulent times. Many will ask what Harlem finds to honor in this stormy, controversial and bold young captain-and we will smile. Many will say turn away-away from this man, for he is not a man but a demon, a monster, a subverter and an enemy of the black man-and we will smile. They will say that he is of hate-a fanatic, a racist-who can only bring evil to the cause for which you struggle! And we will answer and say to them: Did you ever talk to Brother Malcolm? Did you ever touch him, or have him smile at you? Did you ever really listen to him? Did he ever do a mean thing? Was he ever himself associated with violence or any public disturbance? For if you did you would know him. And if you knew him you would know why we must honor him.
Malcolm X was buried at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. At the gravesite after the ceremony, friends took the shovels away from the waiting gravediggers and completed the burial themselves. Actor and activist Ruby Dee (wife of Ossie Davis) and Juanita Poitier (wife of Sidney Poitier) established the Committee of Concerned Mothers to raise funds to buy a house and pay educational expenses for Malcolm X’s family.
Feb 21 2012