Never forget. The killing of 13 American Military Personal at the hands of the Biden Administration. It’s been two years now that 13 American soldiers and almost 200 civilians died because of Joe Biden.
Remember that the suicide bomber was released from Bagram Air Base prison. If we had not abandoned that airbase the deaths would not have happened. And how about the testimony from our sniper?
Sgt. Tyler Vargas-Andrews, a U.S. Marine Corps sniper who served in Afghanistan during the surrender to the Taliban forces, testified before Congress earlier this year. Vargas told Congress that he was denied permission to shoot the suicide bomber in Afghanistan.
Over the communication network we passed that there was a potential threat and an ID attack imminent. This was as serious as it could get. I requested engagement authority while my team leader was ready on the M110 semiautomatic sniper system. The response: Leadership did not have the engagement authority for us. Do not engage. I requested for the battalion commander, lieutenant Colonel Brad Whited, to come to the tower to see what we did. Wile we waited for him psychological operations individuals came to our tower immediately and confirmed the suspect met the suicide bomber description.
He eventually arrived, and we showed him our evidence, the photos we had of the two men. We reassured him of the ease of fire on the suicide bomber. Pointedly, we asked him for engagement authority and permission. We asked him if we could shoot. Our battalion commander said, and I quote, “I don’t know,” end quote. Myself and my team leader asked very harshly, “Well, who does? Because this is your responsibility, sir.”
He again replied he did not know, but would find out. We received no update and never got our answer. Eventually, the individual disappeared. To this day, we believe he was a suicide bomber. We made everyone on the ground aware operations had briefly halted, but then started again. Plain and simple, we were ignored. Our expertise was disregarded. No one was held accountable for our safety.
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Inside the progressive war on the Supreme Court. The longer the spasm of investigative reporting goes on, the more desperate it sounds.
In the basement of a Washington, DC restaurant, 200 ticket-purchasing fans have gathered to witness the live recording of a multifaceted conversation about the villainy and corruption of the Supreme Court, and one justice in particular. It only seems appropriate to order the shrimp and grits: it costs $19.99 and comes with a white-wine tomato sauce. This may seem rather hifalutin, but it also comes in a glass mason jar that references tired hipster kitsch — perfectly suitable for a live podcast hosted by Slate.
Shrimp and grits are the uptown incarnation of staples from the Carolina Lowcountry, where the Gullah Geechee people, who live on the Sea Islands along the coast of the Carolinas and Georgia, would catch small creek shrimp in their bare hands to eat themselves or sell on the streets of the cities and towns. Grits, from ground dried corn, have a more troublesome history: they were distributed by slaveholders as part of slaves’ food allowances. Historical records show Carolina slave children would get one pint of grits a day for most of the year, with salt.
Clarence Thomas’s mother tongue was not English, but Gullah — a lilting language that sounds like music, a mysterious linguistic cocktail of English, Creole and West African. (Experts disagree on its exact origin.) Thomas was born in 1948 in Pin Point, Georgia, the second child of Leola Williams. His father abandoned them when he was two. When he was six, his younger brother accidentally burned down the shack they lived in, and they were both sent to be raised by his grandfather in Savannah.
This is the origin story of today’s most hated Supreme Court justice, if you poll the Slate audience. It is also the main focus for a well-funded, well-organized Democratic campaign to put the Supreme Court under siege — not just in the press, but in the public too. And many on the left seem to like it that way. If you can’t transform the judiciary through the process of government, transform it by making it a job people are afraid to take.
In March 2020 Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer stood surrounded by protesters and pointed at the Supreme Court Building, bellowing: “I want to tell you, Gorsuch. I want to tell you, Kavanaugh. You have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.” Since then, the last of the three branches of government with respect for norms has indeed been at the center of a whirlwind — even as Democrats repeatedly claim to be the stalwart defenders of democracy, norms, the Constitution and the rule of law.
When the draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization — the most significant culture-war decision in a generation — was leaked, the justices’ families and children were mapped and targeted, and their homes picketed illegally without any reaction from Merrick Garland at the Department of Justice. A twenty-six-year-old man even traveled across the country intending to murder Brett Kavanaugh and his family. He showed up on the justice’s suburban street with a Glock-17 and a plethora of tools — zip ties, duct tape, a tactical knife, pepper spray, a crowbar and padded boots for stealth. With last-minute misgivings, he called 911 and told the operator he had traveled from California “to kill a specific United States Supreme Court justice.” His online messages showed he had wanted to kill as many as three; he had conducted internet searches for “most effective place to stab someone,” “assassin skills,” “assassin equipment” and “assassinations.” He was arrested and indicted — he pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial. (Authorities still claim to have no idea who leaked the opinion.)
In the opening episode of a podcast series focused on Clarence Thomas, Slate host Joel Anderson begins with his own peaceful version of a home confrontation. In “America’s Blackest Child,” he knocks on the screened-porch door of a modest single-story white house on a Savannah street. The ninety-four-year-old Leola Williams, happy to oblige a visitor, welcomes Anderson inside, where he discovers the shocking scene you would expect from any proud Southern mother: pictures of her family, including her son Clarence, covering the walls.
Anderson sounds awkward in the podcast audio from Mrs. Williams’s home, as if he knows he’s crossed a line. But he showed no such qualms when he appeared on television with MSNBC’s Mehdi Hasan to promote the episode, instead expressing surprise there was no security to stop him outside the house. “If they had had a chance to tell me to not come, they probably would have, but when you show up it’s hard to turn someone away from your front door,” he said. The MSNBC segment is mostly devoted to accusing Thomas of being a hypocrite for his anticipated ruling against affirmative action in Students for Fair Admissions, Inc v. Harvard. (Thomas joined the 6-3 majority in the decision announced on June 29.) Speculating on his likely vote, Hasan described it as an example of a minority “pulling up the drawbridge after themselves.” Asked why Thomas would choose to become a member of the “radical right,” Anderson had the answer: “He wanted to make money.”
Money is central to the story the left wants to tell about Thomas and the Supreme Court more generally. As is this little white house in Savannah. A ProPublica investigation revealed this spring that billionaire conservative Harlan Crow bought the property from Thomas and his family several years ago.
The relationship between Thomas and Crow, a major Republican donor the justice and his wife Virginia say is a close friend they’ve known for years, has been the primary focus of ProPublica’s “Friends of the Court” series, which seeks to pin all manner of ethical lapses and alleged inappropriate and illegal behavior on conservative justices.
ProPublica’s work has been the centerpiece of a flood of reporting across multiple media outlets focusing on what is being framed as a Supreme Court irrevocably compromised by relationships with well-heeled benefactors. The original series is a slog of filings and reports interspersed with vacation photos dug up from corners of the internet and quotes from various ethics experts — who also are of the left — denouncing the dire nature of a corrupt court.
At first glance, many of these stories look pretty bad. They paint a picture of lifetime-appointed justices palling around with powerful billionaires who shepherd them on fishing trips and to hunting lodges, take them on vacations to exotic locales and contribute indirectly or directly to supporting their legacies. It’s not a pretty picture. Yet even slightly closer inspection reveals that there are enormous reasons to take the breathless reporting with a pinch of salt.
The best example yet of the absurdly disproportionate reporting came in an over-the-top piece by Stephanie Kirchgaessner of the Guardian. The article revealed that seven Washington attorneys had used Venmo to send Christmas party money to a top aide of Thomas’s. Noticeably absent from the hair-on-fire “conflict of interest!” piece were the amounts in question, which turned out, according to one of the payers, to be $20 for an annual “lunch buffet consisting of hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken tenders” held for Thomas’s former clerks. Scandalous!
Then there’s the travel. The Judicial Conference, the administrative body which sets the rules for things such as travel disclosures, requires justices to report where they go, when they went and the nature of expenses, but not total costs. They are not required to disclose “any food, lodging or entertainment received as ‘personal hospitality of any individual.’” The rules further define the scope of hospitality: “hospitality extended for a non-business purpose by one, not a corporation or organization… on property or facilities owned by [a] person.”
The argument that the loophole should be smaller might be valid, but the rules are what they are. Demanding justices retroactively report something they weren’t required to report at the time is absurd — ex post facto rulemaking, if you will — and implying they were doing something untoward by following the rules as written is disingenuous. And it’s clear enough that justices of many stripes have long proceeded by the ethics rules as they stand.
The New York Times acknowledged in their editorial on the issue that “Justice Stephen Breyer took at least 225 subsidized trips from 2004 to 2018, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, including trips to Europe, Japan, India and Hawaii… Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg got a private tour of Israel in 2018 that was paid for by an Israeli billionaire, Morris Kahn, who has had business before the court.” And OpenSecrets reported that the top two trip-getters in 2021 and 2022 were tied, with Justices Amy Coney Barrett and Elena Kagan both at eight. So yes, both sides do it.
In fact, the single most overlooked story in recent years may relate to the Notorious RBG. According to the Washington Free Beacon, a $1 million prize given to her by the left-leaning globalist Berggruen Institute raised eyebrows (the Judicial Conference limits honoraria to $2,000), but RBG said she would instead donate the amount to a variety of charities. Only later did it become clear that she had wanted the list of recipients to remain hidden, and Berggruen complied on its requisite Form 990 — preventing the public from knowing if any of the recipients had business before the court.
Republican senator Mike Lee raised the issue in a July Judiciary Committee hearing on a court-targeting bill backed by Democratic senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Dick Durbin. “This might have some very significant ramifications if she was still serving on the court,” Lee said. “We don’t yet know exactly what was done with that, whether she carried out the apparent intention of the stated purpose of intent at the outset to donate it to charity.”
As for that house in Georgia: Crow’s spokesman has said he ultimately wants to turn Thomas’s childhood home into a museum, “telling the story of our nation’s second black Supreme Court justice.” Thomas’s share of the sale was a third of $133,000, and it’s still not entirely clear if he even reported it incorrectly, though he reportedly intends to amend it as necessary.
The longer this spasm of investigative reporting goes on, the more desperate it sounds. The Washington Post devoted a 3,300-word hit piece on the effort spearheaded by the Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo to honor Thomas on the twenty-fifth anniversary of his appointment. The public relations campaign was designed to push back against a fictionalized HBO glorification of Anita Hill, who testified against Thomas during his confirmation hearings, and included the promotion of a documentary, Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words.
The Post paints this entirely typical PR campaign in dark, secretive terms, even drilling down to investigate a “Justice Thomas Fan Account” which posted clips and quotes from the justice. “The account’s posts about the justice generated nearly 21,000 impressions,” the Post reports — a laughably small amount, no offense to the earnest creator.
The Post has yet to conduct a similar deep dive into the promotional campaign around the 2018 documentary RBG, which was acquired and distributed by Participant Media, a production company with an explicitly leftist activist mission founded by Canadian billionaire and former eBay president Jeff Skoll, who has given millions to leftist causes. Nor have they shown any interest in investigating the promotion and creation of the 2018 dramatic film, On the Basis of Sex, based on a script by Ginsburg’s nephew, and starring Felicity Jones and Armie Hammer (though the Post’s Style section did publish a meet-cute piece titled “That time Ruth Bader Ginsburg checked out Armie Hammer,” doing their part to promote the film’s Washington premiere). Participant Media also produced this laudatory fictionalized biopic for roughly $20 million, though it’s unclear if that amount also paid for the movie’s promotional pop rap “Here Comes the Change” performed by Ke$ha, with official artwork by Shepard Fairey, or the Jonas Åkerlund-directed music video, which as of this writing has 818,000 views on YouTube — tragically, the fewest of any Ke$ha music video.
Stepping back from all of this, what we see is a series of breathless reports designed to inflate perceptions of bias without the facts necessary to establish anything of the sort. At most, justices may have to refile forms or clarify their reporting to the ethics body. Due to a change in policy by the Judicial Conference this spring, they’ll also have to report when they fly on a private jet — something they didn’t have to do before. But if that’s all you think it takes to buy a Supreme Court justice, imagine what Hunter Biden could get you for $5 million.
“All these breathless ‘investigations’ amount to nothingburger concern-trolling of justices whose opinions progressive activists don’t like,” said Ilya Shapiro, director of constitutional studies at the Manhattan Institute and author of Supreme Disorder: Judicial Nominations and the Politics of America’s Highest Court. “The left simply can’t stand that a majority of the Supreme Court is finally, after decades of hand-waving, interpreting the Constitution based on what it says instead of nebulous conceptions of social justice.”
At the Slate podcast taping, Anderson’s first guest of the night was Rhode Island senator Sheldon Whitehouse, of course — his Democratic colleague, Illinois senator Dick Durbin, was supposed to be there too, but he came down with Covid. Anderson’s first question jumped right to the point: given all the horrible things now established about Clarence Thomas, he asked: “So Senator Whitehouse, do you think he should resign?”
“In all decency, he should,” Whitehouse said, to applause. “But there’s just no world in which that happens that I can foresee. He’s just that determined to stay there and make his points and exercise his resentments.”
“I told my caucus, the Senate caucus, that we have a problem with the Supreme Court: it’s now a political organization, we have to treat it as such. And I basically got booed back into my chair,” Whitehouse said. “I got told ‘oh, no, no, the Supreme Court relies on public confidence, we can’t possibly do that.’ So I realized I had to do my homework. And that’s where… the book and all of that came from. Prove your case, write your prosecution memo.”
In Whitehouse’s frame, an “omertà” of secretive groups funded by malevolent billionaires — whom he tags as fossil-fuel interests bent on preventing bipartisan climate-change policy — are operating the court like shabby robed puppets.
“We don’t know all of that yet,” Whitehouse said. “I think we’re going to find out a lot more.” Invited to make the case for his latest piece of legislation targeting all of this (is this a Slate podcast or a Democratic activism group?), Whitehouse calls it “one of the silver linings of this set of really sickening revelations about the Supreme Court.”
“This is a multi-front battle,” Whitehouse said. “Moving the legislation forward, I think we’ll hit tipping points as the behavior of the Supreme Court justices becomes more well known, as further revelations come. We’re preparing for that moment.”
There’s little subtlety in Whitehouse’s comments to a friendly DC crowd about the degree to which the activity swirling around the Supreme Court is an ideological information operation. Democratic politicians have all the reason in the world to promote the effort to do so: the biggest funders of their partisan priorities are all paying for it.
Of the justices targeted in the recent spate of hit pieces, Samuel Alito has been the most aggressive in pushing back. He wrote a prebuttal op-ed in the Wall Street Journal after ProPublica sent him a series of questions inquiring about a fishing trip he took as a guest of right-leaning billionaire Paul Singer. Alito’s response was thorough and ruthless, detailing the skewed and inaccurate framing of the piece and prompting ProPublica’s story to be redrafted, with an explainer for the “Unprecedented Wall Street Journal Pre-buttal.”
If leaking Alito’s opinion in Dobbs was supposed to have cowed the justice, it clearly hasn’t. “Those of us who were thought to be in the majority, thought to have approved my draft opinion, were really targets of assassination,” he told the Journal in April. “It was rational for people to believe that they might be able to stop the decision in Dobbs by killing one of us.” The experience prompted the justice to be more confrontational. If he were a meme, one former clerk joked, Alito would be Michael Jordan in The Last Dance: “And I took that personally.”
Whitehouse and his fellow leftists would do anything to alter the conservative course the court has taken in recent years — even radical steps like court-packing. In the fall of 2019, along with four other Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Whitehouse sent a brief to the court on a New York gun rights case. “The Supreme Court is not well, and the people know it,” they warned. “Perhaps the court can heal itself before the public demands it be ‘restructured.’”
For Whitehouse and those who would blow up the Supreme Court, dark money spent to this end is the good kind, and the activist groups and the journalists they push to echo their priorities are the noble pursuers of truth. The Judicial Crisis Network is a conspiracy, but progressive organizations like Fix the Court and Demand Justice are pure crusaders. The conservative Federalist Society is evil, but the leftist American Constitution Society is good. What this effort seeks to establish is a mutually justifying feedback loop. Democratic senators level severe allegations, activists parcel fever swamp stories to the press who then report on it, allowing the senators to point to these reports as legitimizing what was claimed in the first place.
Assisting in this effort are multiple billionaire-funded advocacy groups, bent on echoing the case for extreme measures to transform the court. They include Fix the Court, a spinoff from the New Venture Fund, managed by for-profit company Arabella Advisors, the center of the left’s dark money network — it spent over $1 billion in liberal efforts in 2020. Demand Justice, another Soros-backed group, was more explicitly focused on the push to pack the court — its board includes Elie Mystal, an MSNBC commentator who is most famous for calling the Constitution “trash.”
“While Whitehouse is championing supposed ‘ethics reform’ at the Supreme Court, he himself has sponsored environmental legislation pushed by the Ocean Conservancy, a group that has paid his wife as a consultant and policy advisor for years,” JCN president Carrie Severino said. “This isn’t about ethics for Whitehouse, but rather increasing the number of tools the left has at its disposal to intimidate the conservative members of the court.”
The central role of ProPublica should not escape notice. It was founded and continues to be funded by the Sandler family of San Francisco, who sold their bank Golden West to Wachovia right before its ludicrously profitable collection of dubious adjustable-rate mortgages played a central role in the 2008 financial crisis. Their family foundation is a huge backer of leftist causes, including the Center for American Progress, Human Rights Watch and Earthjustice.
Today ProPublica is also backed by a who’s-who of partisan Democratic billionaire donors, including George Soros, Pierre Omidyar, Laurene Powell Jobs, Donald Sussman and, until it was compelled to return the first tranche of a $5 million donation, notorious crypto bro Sam Bankman-Fried. All this billionaire largesse helps ProPublica pay top dollar for staff — its editor in chief currently makes more than $100,000 more each year than a justice of the Supreme Court.
For some reason, these billionaires don’t raise the hackles of Sheldon Whitehouse or Joel Anderson, or lots of others who are likely to tune into a multipart Slate podcast framing Clarence Thomas as a man who sold out black people for white money. Or, as one of the night’s other guests proclaimed of Thomas’s long ago divorce, “trading the black doll for the white doll.” There are hoots, laughs and murmurs in response.
At the opening of the show, Anderson led off with an odd extended monologue focused on Thomas’s high-school sports prowess, interspersed with audio from interviews with multiple figures from his past, most of whom spoke in praise of his arm strength with a football and gift for quick passing on the basketball court. The audience laughed when they are told he tried out for the Holy Cross football team but that he struggled taking hits; Anderson closes by expressing skepticism that the 5’8” Clarence could ever dunk. The audience claps.
They clap to confirm each other in their viewpoints. To remind each other that anger at the Supreme Court, over abortion or affirmative action or everything else, isn’t a mark of Democratic impotence or foolish mismanagement of the filibuster or RBG’s refusal to retire under Obama, you see — it’s those evil fossil-fuel billionaires like Harlan Crow who are to blame. Because as the good Senator Whitehouse, a son and grandson of ambassadors and bishops, assured them at the podcast party, it’s Thomas who is a creature of “resentments.” It’s the skinny Gullah kid who ran through the Lowcountry scrub, the place where his ancestors ate their pint of grits and the creek shrimp they could catch, boiled in the brackish salt water for flavor. That kid is the one who took the wrong lesson from the American experience, who wants to pull up the drawbridge behind him. You see, you understand. He’s the resentful one. We can all agree about that.
There is no apparent awareness that the persecution of Thomas is rooted in their resentments: not of his rulings as such, but the fact that he survived the full force of their apparatus, that his origin story is his survival. They have to destroy him because he exists: because the force of the counterexample shows them to be impotent, shows there is another path. It is a species of derangement. As a threat, Clarence Thomas is literally existential. Of course Clarence Thomas can dunk. He’s been dunking on these folks for years. All they can do is podcast about it.
This article was originally published in The Spectator’s September 2023 World edition.
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Democrats Denied Election Results 150+ Times Before Trump Was Indicted for Challenging Election.
Although a Georgia grand jury indicted former President Donald Trump on Monday for challenging the 2020 election result, Democrats have refused to accept the results of elections they lost for decades.
In fact, everysingle Democrat president since 1977 has questioned the legitimacy of U.S. elections, according to the Republican National Committee. In both 2013 and 2016, Biden claimed that Al Gore won the 2000 presidential election. In May 2019, Biden said he “absolutely agrees” that Trump was an “illegitimate president.” Biden cast doubt on the legitimacy of the 2022 midterms this year.
In 2006, then-DNC Chairman Howard Dean stated that he was “not confident that the  election in Ohio was fairly decided.” Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said it is “appropriate” to have a debate concerning the 2004 election and claimed that there were “legitimate concerns” regarding the “integrity” of U.S. elections. Then-Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) cast doubt on the security of electronic voting machines in the 2004 election, saying he was “worried” that some machines do not have a paper trail.
Democrats also cast doubt on the 2016 election. Seven House Democrats tried to object to the 2016 election electoral votes. After President Trump’s victory in 2016, 67 Democrats boycotted his inauguration, with some claiming Trump’s victory was not legitimate.
In September 2017, Hillary Clinton said she would not “rule out” questioning the legitimacy of the 2016 election. In October 2020, she added that the 2016 presidential election was not conducted legitimately, saying, “We still don’t really know what happened.”
In addition, Democrats supported Stacey Abrams in her stolen election claims. Hillary Clinton said Stacey Abrams “would have won” Georgia’s gubernatorial race “if she had a fair election” and that Stacey Abrams “should be governor” but was “deprived of the votes [she] otherwise would have gotten.”
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said, “I think that Stacey Abrams’s election is being stolen from her.” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) contended that “if Stacey Abrams doesn’t win in Georgia, they stole it.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said, “the evidence seems to suggest” the race was stolen from Stacey Abrams.
“We won,” Abrams falsely claimed about the 2018 election. “I didn’t lose; we got the votes,” and “we were robbed of an election.” She also called it a “stolen election” multiple times and argued, “It was not a free and fair election.”
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Since profiling her in February – and the atrocious way she’s been treated by the elitist cabal that runs the EU – Giorgia Meloni, Prime Minister of Italy has done nothing but move her country forward.
Isn’t that delightful?
In fact, there are a lot of things looking rosy about Italy that can’t be said for the powerhouses of the E.U. and they still treat Meloni as if she had shown up to their ball uninvited and in a tracksuit (That would be Zelensky’s uniform, but everyone in the EU has a man-crush on that guy.)
Besides negotiating new oil deals to free her country from EU Green entanglements as far as energy goes, Meloni has also been considering detangling some of her former office holders’ deals. One of which was not only baffling, but – as she calls it – “atrocious.”
In 2019, Italy, under the then Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, had signed a memorandum of understanding supporting China’s multi-trillion Belt and Road Initiative. Beijing represented an opportunity to export made-in-Italy products.
As the two countries began to finalise the deal, warnings came on many fronts. Both American and European leaders cautioned Rome against signing a bilateral agreement with Beijing. PM Conte, on the other hand, reassured the public that the agreement was purely a commercial one, that favoured Italian national interests.
Conte was lured by China’s huge market potential. Highlighting both America’s role as Italy’s main strategic partner and China’s growing global footprint, Conte envisioned a role for Rome and Brussels to act as a potential bridge between Washington and Beijing.
That was all before the horrific Hong Kong crackdown and China’s human rights abuses became international fodder and cast even more unflattering light on just how the Chinese do business. The Italian parliament began looking for ways to reconsider the deal itself and asking the government to push back against Chinese influence. As Italy was the only major Western country to sign on with the Chinese, it also had the effect of making the Italians something of a pariah at meetings.
The next administration, of Prime Minister Mario Draghi, began the process of discussions, but China’s enormous economic punch always lent an element of danger to any talk of withdrawing completely from the BRI agreement.
The U.S. was deeply critical of Italy’s decision in 2019 to become the only major Western economy to sign on to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The BRI, as it’s known, is an unprecedented global infrastructure project that critics see as Beijing’s attempt to gain influence abroad and make smaller countries financially dependent on Chinese investment.
But this week Italy gave its strongest signal yet that it planned to pull out of the project.
Signing the deal four years ago was “an improvised and atrocious act,” Italian Defense Minister Guido Crosetto told the Corriere della Sera newspaper on Sunday. “We exported a load of oranges to China, they tripled exports to Italy in three years.”
Crosetto added a more measured coda: “The issue today is, how to walk back without damaging relations? Because it is true that while China is a competitor, it is also a partner.”
These remarks followed months of reports that Italy planned to quit the BRI. Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s far-right prime minister, said her government would make a decision by December, when the pact between Rome and Beijing is due to renew.
It’s goin to be a delicate tap-dance for Ms. Meloni, for, while she’s made it clear she’d very much like to remain on congenial terms with the Chinese, her pivot to the West is a full buy-in to the emerging NATO Asian-Pacific expansion that Britain and France are already working with.
…The discussion was part of NATO’s efforts to “de-risk” – that is, reduce – economic activity with Beijing.
Meloni let it be known she was working to cancel Italy’s participation in China’s so-called Belt and Road Initiative, the trade and infrastructure partnerships that Rome joined four years ago. Meloni indicated Rome could somehow maintain “good relations with China” even as it dropped Belt and Road.
…Meloni, for example, expressed hopes that benign post-Belt and Road relations with Beijing will continue. But she also steered clear of touting Italy’s other China policy feature: entry into the anti-China arms race. Italy joined the United Kingdom in a partnership with Japan to develop new fighter jets.
There’s much more upside to working with United States, Japan, Korea and the Philippines, et al, in concert with other EU nations, as opposed to being owned belt, road, hook, line, and sinker by the Chinese.
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Firefighters battling a large whirl-spawning wildfire in California and southern Nevada are facing challenging conditions as the blaze spreads and threatens iconic desert Joshua trees.
The York Fire – already California’s largest fire of the year – has burned more than 82,000 acres as of Wednesday morning, fire officials said. It began Friday in the New York Mountains of California’s Mojave National Preserve and crossed state lines into Nevada on Sunday.
Crews have been battling the flames under unpredictable wind patterns and unrelenting heat, authorities said. They’ve also been trying to not disturb desert tortoises – federally listed as a threatened species – in part by trying to avoid their burrows.
The fire, among dozens burning around the country under scorching temperatures, has been fueled by extreme conditions that have made it more dangerous and difficult to control, fire officials said Monday night. The York Fire was 30% contained as of Wednesday morning.
The blaze has spawned fire whirls – “a vortex of flames and smoke that forms when intense heat and turbulent winds combine, creating a spinning column of fire,” the Mojave National Preserve said Sunday. As the fire-heated air rises, cold air dashes to take its place, creating a spinning vortex rising from a fire and carrying aloft smoke, debris, and flame – also referred to as a fire tornado in some cases.
The fire is also threatening groves of Joshua trees – the branching, spiky plants of the Mojave Desert that can live more than 150 years.
“It will take a lifetime to get those mature Joshua trees back,” Laura Cunningham, the California director of the Western Watersheds Project, told CNN affiliate KVVU. “Some are fire resistant, and if the flames are not too hot, they will stump sprout out or reseed.”
“This is pretty devastating,” Cunningham said.
The Mojave National Preserve has been seeing an increase in fire frequency over the past decade due to a combination of wet winters and increasing levels of invasive grasses, fire officials say on Inciweb, a clearinghouse for US fire information.
“If an area with Joshua trees burns through, most will not survive and reproduction in that area is made more difficult,” the National Park Service says. “Wildfires could also result in the loss of irreplaceable resources in the park, like historic structures and cultural artifacts.”
In 2020, a 43,273-acre wildfire burned through the Joshua tree woodland of California’s Cima Dome, destroying as many as 1.3 million Joshua trees and leaving behind a plant graveyard, according to the National Park Service.
Firefighters braving intense desert heat to stop the York Fire’s spread in the Mojave National Preserve are among more than 11,000 wildland firefighters and personnel assigned across the country, the National Interagency Fire Center said Tuesday.
Fifty-six active, large fires were burning in 11 states as hot and dry conditions persist throughout the US, the center said Tuesday. More than 1.1 million acres have burned across the US in 2023 as of Tuesday, the center said.
Emerging desert tortoises pose unique challenge
Firefighters were aided by a brief but heavy downpour early Tuesday as they worked to contain the York Fire. More rain moved across the area early Wednesday and may give firefighters an additional boost.
But rain in the Mojave Desert, which is seasonal and scarce, “poses a unique challenge to firefighters,” the Mojave National Preserve said.
Desert tortoises – federally listed as a threatened species – become especially active on wet summer days, emerging from their burrows to drink rainwater.
“Fire crews carefully balance fire suppression with resource protection. They will be on the lookout for desert tortoises, making sure to avoid burrows and active individuals,” the Mojave National Preserve said.
The good news is that most desert wildlife can move to safety when fire approaches, park officials said.
“Resource staff at Mojave National Preserve anticipate that the York Fire has caused minimal damage to critical tortoise habitat and has likely affected few individuals since tortoise observations in the fire area are rare,” preserve staff said.
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Not an article about religion, but an article about what’s right.
JERUSALEM, Israel – Against a backdrop of growing anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, Christians who are descendants of Nazis are asking forgiveness from Holocaust survivors, their descendants and the Jewish people; and this move is leading to a greater sense of unity.
Jerusalem’s Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum welcomed the Christians to the city. She told them, “I saw you all marching and it’s so heart-warming to see our city filled with lovers of Jerusalem. Thank you for being here!”
Christians from some 30 countries came up to Jerusalem for what they call “The March of the Nations.” They came to say, “From the Holocaust to new life, Shalu Shalom Yerushalayim – Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”
Hassan-Nahoum told CBN News, “The founders of this march are essentially descendants of Nazis, and you know, to have the human beings coming and saying something so awful happened, we’re going to spend our lives trying to correct and compensate for that; and to create a movement like that.”
Jobst Bittner, from Tubingen, Germany, is the founder and president of the March for Life. “I am from a city in which the university is where Nazi perpetrators – SS murderers – were educated and trained,” he explained. “And they were responsible for the death of 700,000 Jews, and that’s why we started really researching the history of our city.”
Bittner says German families usually don’t speak about their Nazi past.
“We discovered that only once we are willing to actually speak the truth about the past, we will be able to take responsibility both for the present and the future. And that’s why we decided to give that call into the nations and to call hundreds of thousands to the streets to raise their voices against anti-Semitism, the hatred of Jews and for Israel,” he said.
Bittner, like many in the march, has a personal story.
He recalled, “My own father was an officer in the Wehrmacht (German army), and he was in France and in Northern Africa; and as an officer of the Wehrmacht, he shared in that responsibility for the deportation of Jews, for the murder of Jews, because everyone who was in the Wehrmacht shared that responsibility,”
Now he sees their responsibility is to stand with Israel, especially in times of crisis.
“United to be a light, and together with our Jewish friends, hand in hand, we want to walk and stand for Israel and that’s our theme: ‘united to be a light.'”
Heinz Reuss, the international director for the March for Life, said the past was revealed to them over time. “Many of us found out that our fathers, great-grandfathers, they were Nazis, they were part of the Shoah. They were concentration camp guards. They were part of the Wehrmacht,” he explained.
Reuss’ family shared a mixed past. While his Dutch great-grandmother hid Jews in her home, his German-Austrian great-grandfather took a different path.
“He was not a Nazi,” Reuss stated. “He was part of the Lutheran church and was not supporting Hitler. So, I thought, okay, everything was okay. But then I started to read his diaries and his letters, and what I found out is that…he withdrew from his Jewish friends at that time. So he didn’t speak up. He just didn’t want to have anything to do with that. And, that’s the problem, because at that time, people who knew better didn’t do anything.”
The march began as a movement of repentance.
“We realized that the same silence towards the Jewish people, it’s also in our own hearts.” He related that “in 2007, we learned that there were eight concentration camps around our little town of Tubingen in southern Germany. And there were death marches at the end of the war towards Dachau. And then we had …a word from the Lord to say, why not do a March of Life on these trails of the death march?”
They walked 300 kilometers, re-tracing the steps along those different routes for three days. The result was powerful.
“We had, reconciliation meetings in the middle of it, and beautiful encounters between the descendants of the Nazis and the Holocaust survivors and the descendants of Holocaust survivors,” Reuss said.
What they initially saw as a one-time event is now worldwide. Marches have been held in hundreds of cities in 25 countries. In the U.S., it is called the March of Remembrance.
Ahead of the Jerusalem event, Israeli President Isaac Herzog commended the group for its courage in facing their dark past. He wrote:
Your presence demonstrates unwavering moral support for our nation-state and its people, and the State of Israel welcomes you with open arms.”
Gerd Gekeler, a participant from Germany, noted, “I know that my, grandfathers were part of the army and they were – I don’t know much about it – but they were part of the system. And, so, I’ve learned that everybody who is part of the system has his part in it.” He added, “I was in Yad Vashem last week. And to see the dimension of that grief and that murder that was really hard; and I’m happy that I could be a part of this movement because I know, also in Germany, most people say it’s passed, it’s gone. But that’s not true. It’s part of our heritage.”
Susan Haueter took part in the march from Colombia. “I can take a stand for the past, the present, and the future with being part of the March of, (life in Spanish) in Espanol. I was three times, involved in organizing a march, in Colombia, in Bogota, (in the capital). Also, the Jewish community, the chief Rabbi of Colombia, is in favor of the march and just a few weeks ago, we had the fourth march, in Agua Sierra,” she said.
Nikolai Gagarkin, a participant from war-torn Kyiv, Ukraine, said, “We are praying for Israel. We are praying for the Jewish people in all countries, in the whole world.”
Global Zionist Movement leader, Rabbi Yehuda Glick, welcomed the marchers, saying he hoped to see many more visiting and standing with Israel for the future. He also had an exhortation: “After the people of Israel came back home and established our state and established Jerusalem as our capital, now it’s the time that to raise the banner of God on the place that He chose in Zion. It’s time for the nations. Just like we – the Jewish people – took our destiny in our hands and came back home, now the nations have to stand up for Zion and make sure Zion is the House of Prayer for all Nations.”
In a powerful and emotional show of unity, the Jerusalem march and event participants sang the Aaronic Blessing from the Book of Numbers over Israel and the Jewish people.
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The comfort food-style restaurant chain Cracker Barrel, known for its overwhelming amount of ornamental knick-knacks and vintage signs plastered on the walls, is in some social media trouble today. Folks on the internet are claiming Cracker Barrel is racist.
What’s the meaning behind Cracker Barrel?
According to Southern Living, “cracker-barrel” was coined in 1916 because of barrels containing soda crackers — a popular item for sale at country stores. Customers at said country stores would hang around the barrels as a kind of ritual (kind of like the trope of employees gossiping near the water cooler). The first Cracker Barrel location opened in 1969 in Lebanon, Tenn., and it derived its name from the cracker-barrel community experience back in the day.
According to Dictionary.com, “cracker-barrel” means “of or suggesting the simple rustic informality and directness thought to be characteristic of life in and around the country store.”
But some Twitter users have also pointed out that the term “cracker” might have another, more racist connotation. According to NPR, the term “cracker” was used in the mid-18th century to refer to poor white people in states like Maryland, Virginia, and Georgia.
“It is suspected that it was a shortened version of ‘whip-cracker,’ since the manual labor they did involved driving livestock with a whip,” historian Jelani Cobb told the outlet.
But in the late 1800s, writers from the northern USA region referred to some southerners as “crackers.”
“[Those writers] decided that they were called that because of the cracking of the whip when they drove slaves,” historian Dana Ste. Claire told the outlet, though he noted those the term would be applied to weren’t typically wealthy enough to own slaves.
Users on Twitter also claimed that a “cracker barrel” was the barrel used to hold whips, though there is currently no historical evidence to back up that claim. [See the above screenshot from a Twitter post.]
Back in 2015, someone named Ryan Koch, who lived in Iowa, started a petition to change its name because he believed Cracker Barrel to be “racist” toward white folks. Per the Change.org petition, Koch wrote, “I say all European Americans start protesting C****er Barrel. It uses an offensive slur, and it is deeply offensive and mocks our long and proud heritage.” He later clarified the post was “satire.” Ummmmm, OK.
In a tweet, one user claimed you can even see a whip in the logo, going from the first R in “barrel” to the K in “cracker.”
While it’s currently unclear whether or not there is any historical evidence to that claim, the company has since removed the connecting line from the R to the K in the logo.
Cracker Barrel’s PR team reportedly told Pop Icon that the logo was meant to “invoke nostalgia,” and was inspired by “an older gentleman who sat on the front porch during the summer.”
Has Cracker Barrel ever been racist?
So, while it seems like the name of Cracker Barrel isn’t inherently racist, it sounds like a lot of Black customers have experienced racism at the restaurant locations, which is horrifying.
In 2004, there was a filing and settlement of a racial discrimination lawsuit against Cracker Barrel after finding evidence of racist behavior and discrimination in at least 50 locations across the U.S. According to CBS News, 21 people filed a $100 million federal lawsuit against the chain. At the time, a spokesperson for Cracker Barrel stated, “ Our mission is pleasing people, and that means all people. We do not tolerate discrimination of any kind.”However, evidence suggests that Cracker Barrel definitely knew what was happening and wasn’t doing anything about it. Attorney David Sanford stated, “It can’t be the case that Cracker Barrel doesn’t know about it. We have enough evidence right now to suggest that Cracker Barrel, to the very highest level, is responsible.”
According to CBS News, the lawsuit includes statements from Black customers who stated they were forced to wait while white customers were seated right away. One specific person said that she arrived at Cracker Barrel at 9:48 p.m. and was told that she couldn’t be served because the restaurant was about to close. However, she then saw four white men were allowed in. “We had hungry children, and he still refused to serve us,” the person said.
“There are perhaps thousands more African-Americans who have been denied service, treated rudely by servers and hosts, and subjected to racial slurs at Cracker Barrel restaurants,” attorney Grant Morris said.
Hopefully, the chain learned from their (sic) mistakes and has implemented a zero-tolerance policy among their (sic) staff. Nobody deserves to go to a restaurant and be discriminated against — period.
If you are looking for ways to donate your time or money to Black Lives Matter and other antiracist organizations, we have created a list of resources to get you started. [bolded in original]
Well, that last paragraph lets you know where this clueless white woman who posted this on DISTRACTIFY stands on the political spectrum.
It would seem she is so far gone that she doesn’t proofread her articles before submitting them. A number of commas are missing and misusing their for its. I left those in with the notation hat they are in the original.
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You know you’re in trouble when your own hometown newspaper endorses the other guy.
John Fetterman’s hometown newspaper, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, has endorsed Republican Dr. Oz in the Pennsylvania senate race.
Newspaper endorsements rarely count for much unless they make a surprising choice that makes people take notice.
This is one of those cases.
Mr. Fetterman’s life experience and maturity are also concerns. He has lived off his family’s money for much of his life. That has allowed him to do some good things, including mentoring disadvantaged young people and working to improve community policing and economic development in Braddock.
That work, along with his six-foot-eight frame, shaved head and tattoos, attracted national media attention. Still, Mr. Fetterman, despite his hoodies and shorts, has little experience in holding real jobs or facing the problems of working people.
In 2013, as the mayor of Braddock, Mr. Fetterman, after hearing gunshots, pulled a shotgun on an unarmed Black jogger. It was, we believe, an honest mistake. Still, it’s troubling that Mr. Fetterman never apologized for it. And during Tuesday’s debate, confronted with his 2018 statement that he didn’t support fracking, Mr. Fetterman still said, with a straight face, that he always supported fracking…
Unlike most Republican politicians, candidate Oz spent a lot of time in poor urban neighborhoods, talking to people and, most important, listening and learning. He is more moderate on some issues than portrayed.
We don’t believe he will be a stooge for the far right or Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. We hope that Mr. Oz will disappoint them and serve in the Pennsylvania tradition of moderate Republicans, such U.S. Sens. John Heinz, Hugh Scott, and Richard Schweiker.
How embarrassing for John Fetterman.
“All candidates for a major elected office should release their medical records, as did Mr. Oz. If you want privacy, don’t run for public office.”https://t.co/cnCtm4a5SN
A bizarre string of events is unfolding at the American Historical Association (AHA). Last week, AHA president James H. Sweet published a column in the organization’s magazine on the problem of “presentism” in academic historical writing. According to Sweet, an unsettling number of academic historians have allowed their political views in the present to shape and distort their interpretations of the past.
Sweet offered a gentle criticism of the New York Times’s 1619 Project as evidence of this pattern. Many historians embraced the 1619 Project for its political messages despite substantive flaws of fact and interpretation in its content. Sweet thus asked: “As journalism, the project is powerful and effective, but is it history?”
Within moments of his column appearing online, all hell broke loose on Twitter.
Incensed at even the mildest suggestion that politicization is undermining the integrity of historical scholarship, the activist wing of the history profession showed up on the AHA’s thread and began demanding Sweet’s cancellation. Cate Denial, a professor of history at Knox College, led the charge with a widely-retweeted thread calling on colleagues to bombard the AHA’s Executive Board with emails protesting Sweet’s column. “We cannot let this fizzle,” she declared before posting a list of about 20 email addresses.
Other activist historians joined in, flooding the thread with profanity-laced attacks on Sweet’s race and gender as well as calls for his resignation over a disliked opinion column. The responses were almost universally devoid of any substance. None challenged Sweet’s argument in any meaningful way. It was sufficient enough for him to have harbored the “wrong” thoughts – to have questioned the scholarly rigor of activism-infused historical writing, and to have criticized the 1619 Project in even the mildest terms.
New York Times columnist and 1619 Project contributor Jamie Bouie jumped in, casually dismissing Sweet’s concerns over the politicization of scholarship with contemporary “social justice” issues. 1619 Project creator Nikole Hannah-Jones retweeted the attacks on Sweet, even though she has previously invoked the “journalistic” and editorial nature of her project to shield it from scholarly criticism by historians.
Other activist historians such as the New School’s Claire Potter retorted that the 1619 Project was indeed scholarly history, insisting that “big chunks of it are written by professional, award-winning historians.” Sweet was therefore in the wrong to call it journalism, or to question its scholarly accuracy. Potter’s claims are deeply misleading. Only two of the 1619 Project’s twelve feature essays were written by historians, and neither of them are specialists in the crucial period between 1776-1865, when slavery was at its peak. The controversial parts of the 1619 Project were all written by opinion journalists such as Hannah-Jones, or non-experts writing well outside of their own competencies such as Matthew Desmond.
The frenzy further exposed the very same problems in the profession that Sweet’s essay cautioned against. David Austin Walsh, a historian at the University of Virginia, took issue with historians offering any public criticism of the 1619 Project’s flaws – no matter their validity – because those criticisms are “going to be weaponized by the right.” In Walsh’s hyperpoliticized worldview, historical accuracy is wholly subordinate to the political objectives of the project. Sweet’s sin in telling the truth about the 1619 Project’s defects was being “willfully blind to the predictable political consequences of [his] public interventions.” Any argument that does not advance a narrow band of far-left political activism is not only unfit for sharing – it must be suppressed.
Within hours of the AHA’s original tweet of Sweet’s article, the cancellation campaign was in full swing. Predictably, the AHA caved to the cancellers.
One day after the offending article went live, the AHA tweeted out a “public apology” from Sweet. It reads like a forced confession statement, acknowledging the “harm” and “damage” allegedly caused by simply raising questions about the politicization of scholarship toward overtly ideological activist ends. It did not matter that Sweet’s criticisms were mild and couched in plenty of nuance, or that they even came from a center-left perspective that also criticized conservative historians for politicizing the debate around gun rights. Sweet was guilty of pointing out that partisan political activism undermines scholarly rigor when the lines between the two blur, because the overwhelming majority of that activism inside the history profession currently comes from the political left. And for that, the very same activists extracted an obsequious apology letter. Its text, reproduced below, reads like a “struggle session” for academic wrongthink.
Sweet’s apology excited the activist wing of the profession, though it did little to placate their ire. The resignationdemands continued, because Sweet’s apology was “insincere” and because his argument would be used by the “wrong” people – i.e. anyone who dissents from a particular brand of progressive activist orthodoxy. Simply criticizing the 1619 Project would play into the tactics of “Right-wingers, Nazis, and other bad-faith actors” who could use Sweet’s commentary “in the service of white supremacism and misogyny” announced Kevin Gannon, a historian who’s primarily known for scolding other scholars on twitter when they deviate from the profession’s far-left orthodoxies.
In this branch of academia, it does not matter whether the 1619 Project was truthful or factually accurate. The only concerns are whether its narrative can be weaponized for a political cause or used to deflect scrutiny of the same. As is often the case in the pseudo-moralizing political crusades of academia, the loudest demands against Sweet also came from the least-productive academics – historians with thin CVs and little in the way of original scholarly research to their names, although they do maintain 24/7 Twitter feeds of progressive political commentary.
Lora Burnett, one of the more vocal cancellation crusaders after the initial article posted, scoffed at Sweet, announcing “this apology was basically, ‘sorry I made you sad but I’m still right.’” She continued: “lamenting ‘inartful expression’ is apparently easier than admitting to flawed argument, unsupported claims, and factually incorrect assertions.” Note that Burnett and the other detractors never bothered to explain how Sweet’s argument was flawed or unsupported. Nor did they attempt to pen a rebuttal, which could have produced a constructive dialogue about the role of political activism in shaping historical scholarship. It was sufficient to denounce him as guilty for holding the wrong opinions. No matter the apology that Sweet made, the campaign to eject him from the history profession’s markedly impolite company would continue.
Meanwhile, the rest of the world began to take notice of the bizarre spectacle playing out at the main professional organization for a major academic discipline. As criticisms mounted on the AHA’s twitter feed, the organization moved to shut down debate entirely. They locked their twitter account, and posted a message to members denouncing the public blowback as the product of “trolls” and “bad faith actors.”
Keep in mind that only 24 hours earlier, the AHA had no problem with hundreds of activist historians flooding their threads with actual harassing behavior by bad faith actors. It tolerated cancellation threats directed against its president, calls to flood the personal email accounts of its board with harassing messages and denunciations of Sweet, and dozens of profane, sexist, and personally degrading attacks on Sweet himself. There were no AHA denunciations of those “trolls” or their “appalling” behavior, and no statements calling for “civil discourse” while the activist Twitterstorian mobs flooded the original thread with obscenity-laced vitriol and ad hominem attacks on Sweet.
Sadly, this type of unprofessional belligerence is now the norm on History Twitter. It would never be tolerated from any other perspective than the far-left, but it is valorized in the profession as long as it serves that particular set of ideological objectives.
The final irony is that the AHA only shuttered its twitter feed from the public when it could no longer restrict the conversation to the activist mob calling for Sweet’s cancellation. It’s the same brand of intellectual closure that Sweet’s offending column warned against in its final passage: “When we foreshorten or shape history to justify rather than inform contemporary political positions, we not only undermine the discipline but threaten its very integrity.”
Phillip W. Magness is Senior Research Faculty and Research and Education Director at the American Institute for Economic Research. He is also a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute. He holds a PhD and MPP from George Mason University’s School of Public Policy, and a BA from the University of St. Thomas (Houston).
Prior to joining AIER, Dr. Magness spent over a decade teaching public policy, economics, and international trade at institutions including American University, George Mason University, and Berry College.
Magness’s work encompasses the economic history of the United States and Atlantic world, with specializations in the economic dimensions of slavery and racial discrimination, the history of taxation, and measurements of economic inequality over time. He also maintains active research interest in higher education policy and the history of economic thought. In addition to his scholarship, Magness’s popular writings have appeared in numerous venues including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Newsweek, Politico, Reason, National Review, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.
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At Guédelon Castle the year is 1253 and the minor nobleman, Gilbert Courtenay, has ridden off to fight in the Crusades, leaving his wife in charge of workers building the family’s new home: a modest chateau that befits his social position as a humble knight in the service of King Louis IX.
Here, in a forest clearing in northern Burgundy, history is being remade to the sound of chisel against stone and axe against wood, as 21st-century artisans re-learn and perfect long-forgotten medieval skills.
The Guédelon project was dreamed up as an exercise in “experimental archaeology” 25 years ago. Instead of digging down it has been built upward, using only the tools and methods available in the Middle Ages and, wherever possible, locally sourced materials. Now, in an unforeseen twist of fate, Guédelon is playing a vital role in restoring the structure and soul of Notre Dame cathedral.
Notre Dame’s complex roof — know as La Forêt because of the large number of trees used in its construction was destroyed in the 2019 fire.
Paris’s imposing 13th-century cathedral, a world heritage site, was consumed by fire in April 2019, destroying its complex roof structure, known as La Forêt because of the large number of trees used in its construction. The widespread view was that it would be impossible to rebuild it as it was.
“The roof frame was extremely sophisticated, using techniques that were advanced for the 12th and 13th centuries,” Frédéric Épaud, a medieval wood specialist, tells the Observer.
They said it was impossible.
“After the fire, there were a lot of people saying it would take thousands of trees, and we didn’t have enough of the right ones, and the wood would have to be dried for years, and nobody even knew anything about how to produce beams like they did in the Middle Ages. They said it was impossible.
“But we knew it could be done because Guédelon has been doing it for years.”
The beams of La Forêt lasted for 800 years, The builders must have done something right.
A number of the companies bidding for the Notre Dame work have already engaged carpenters trained at Guédelon, and more are expected to beat a path to the Burgundy clearing 200km down the autoroute du Soleil from Paris.
It might be quicker and cheaper to turn wooden beams out of a sawmill – especially with French president Emmanuel Macron’s pledge to reopen the ravaged cathedral in 2024 – but you will not find anyone at Guédelon who believes it should be done that way.
Stéphane Boudy is one of a small team of carpenters at the medieval site, where he has worked since 1999. Boudy, 51, trained as a baker, then an electrician, until discovering his vocation at Guédelon. He explains how hand-hewing each beam – a single piece from a single tree – respects the “heart” of the green wood that gives it its strength and resistance.
“We have 25 years’ experience of cutting, squaring and hewing wood by hand,” he says. “It’s what we [have done] every day for 25 years. There are people outside of here who can do it now, but I tell you they all came here to learn how. If this place didn’t exist, perhaps the experts would have said: no it’s not possible to reproduce the roof of Notre Dame. We [have shown that] it is.
“This isn’t just nostalgia. If Notre Dame’s roof lasted 800 years, it is because of this. There’s no heart in sawmill wood,” he says.
Maryline Martin is co-founder of the Guédelon project that attracts around 300,000 paying visitors every year and was featured in a 2014 BBC documentary series, Secrets of the Castle. She says the chateau’s blacksmith has been commissioned to make the axes that will cut the wood for Notre Dame, and its carpenters are expected to train others to work on the cathedral.
“…a private enterprise lost in our forest that receives no public money.”
“It’s prestigious for us that Notre Dame will be restored by many who learned their trade at Guédelon. We are a private enterprise lost in our forest that receives no public money. We work with many state research bodies, but some people wrote us off as a theme park,” she says.
“Now, after 25 years, we are the only ones who can understand and are able to do what has to be done, and they discover we have not sold our soul to the devil. Our people will be working on Notre Dame one way or another, but why would we want to go to Paris? We will continue our 13th-century work here.”
Florian Renucci, the Guédelon site manager and a philosopher turned master mason, has already been asked to oversee training of artisans expected to work on Notre Dame.
“All we heard over and again after Notre Dame burned was that it was not possible to reconstruct the roof as before. There was no wood, no savoir faire – it was an argument used by those who wanted to modernise. We showed that it can be done and we know how to do it,” he says.
“All those who didn’t think it was possible didn’t know about Guédelon.”
Épaud is on the scientific committee at Guédelon and the committee overseeing the reconstruction of Notre Dame, as well as a member of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), France’s national research body. He says that going back to build the future is not just nostalgia.
“I have studied the 13th-century technique for many years and, if we respect the internal form of the tree, the beams will last for 800 years. Guédelon is the only place in France, and I believe in Europe, where they build this kind of roof structure in wood. All those who didn’t think it was possible didn’t know about Guédelon.”
He adds: “But it shouldn’t be rushed. Macron’s insistence that the cathedral be open by 2024 is idiotic. We are talking about a cathedral, we’re not in a hurry and we have the money to do it the right way. If we rush it, there’s a risk it [will] be done badly and something is missed. Sadly, I fear Macron doesn’t understand that.”
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