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In today's European economy how do you fund the arts and artists?

Since the end of aristocratic patronage it's been a key question, but now it is acute: if not the government than who? Dolce & Gabbana?
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Scottish crime writer Ian Rankin has called for tax breaks for writers (Jeff J Mitchell/AFP/Getty Images)

It's an old question, one that is more discussed in Europe than America. But the juxtaposition of two articles in today's Guardian makes me ask it again.

The first, is more a press release than an article, and demonstrates how in certain realms of artistic expression there is no longer much difference between the ad industry and "art."

The story tells of someone I had never heard of previously, Francesco Vezzoli, who has, according to the headline, planned a "24-hour museum to vainglorious decadence" and managed to "charm" Helen Mirren into a toga.

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Earlier today I blogged about British Education Secretary Michael Gove's call for Queen Elizabeth II to be given a new yacht to mark her 60th anniversary on the throne.

Gove's idea has been run up the flagpole and no one has saluted.

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Scottish Independence, pt. 4

Interesting perspectives on confederations and the meaning of modern nation-hood

No shots will be fired, the only blood that will be spilled is metaphorical, so for those who like history, political science and speculating on the role of government it is interesting (and physically safe) to look closely at the drive for Scottish independence.

Simon Jenkins, a man who sits at the top table of Britain's establishment despite his Celtic origins, has some very interesting ideas in his Guardian column:

"Britain went to war to break up the Yugoslav union," he chides those who fear Scottish independence.  "Many Britons yearn for the break-up of the European one. Why do they fight to sustain the United Kingdom as it manifestly crumbles?"

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Scottish Independence, pt. 3

War of words between London and Edinburgh over Scotland's future heats up
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Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond strikes a Churchillian pose today in Edinburgh. (Jeff J Mitchell/AFP/Getty Images)

As I've mentioned previously, Scottish independence is both a possibility and increasingly an opportunity for political game playing.

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Britain: You want infrastructure projects, we got infrastructure projects

British government announces it will build a new high speed rail link from London to Birmingham.
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Despite serious objections from his supporters, British Prime Minister David Cameron's government gave the go-ahead today for a high-speed rail road between London and Birmingham (Christopher Furlong/AFP/Getty Images)

Britain's Tory-led coalition government gave the green light today to the biggest domestic rail project since the 19th century.

HS2 will link London to Birmingham, the country's second largest city. Distance: 140 miles. The cost: £32.7 billion ($50.6 billion). Completion date: 2026.

It is then supposed to be extended further north to Manchester and Leeds.

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Scottish independence: Cameron steps in

British Prime Minister raises the stakes by demanding Scots hold independence referendum within 18 months.
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They do love their history in Scotland and the Scots want their independence back, although they probably don't want to restore the monarchy of Robert the Bruce (Christopher Furlong/AFP/Getty Images)

In the first stage of a game of call my bluff, David Cameron announced yesterday that a referendum on Scottish independence should be held within 18 months.

The Scottish National Party took over Scotland's devolved parliament after winning a sizeable majority in the elections of May 2010. The main plank in the party's platform was its pledge to offer Scots a referendum on whether to remain in the United Kingdom. 

SNP leader Alex Salmond wanted to hold that referendum in 2014 on the 700th anniversary of Robert the Bruce's victory over the English at the Battle of Bannockburn - they are obsessed by history everywhere on this island.

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Saving the euro: 2012 begins in earnest

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel meet in Berlin, their first face to face of the new year, with old problems: Greece, and new ones: the rising price of oil, to deal wit
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So happy to see each other after the holidays: French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin today, heading in to their latest meeting on how to save the euro (Sean Gallup/AFP/Getty Images)

Europe's power couple got down to work on the nuts and bolts of the new treaty for euro zone countries that will, they hope, put the brakes on the sovereign debt crisis. A fiscal compact with penalties for euro zone countries that run deficits above three percent of GDP is the core of that treaty.

At a press conference after both Merkel and Sarkozy expressed confidence the treaty will be done and agreed on and ready for signature by March 1. Agreed on - probably. But my experience tells me to be slightly skeptical about ready for signatures on March 1.

More interesting news to those who follow this as a regular part of their daily existence was Merkel joining Sarkozy in endorsing a financial transaction tax, or Tobin tax, on all EU banks.

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The Iron Lady, biopic of Margaret Thatcher opens in London

Critics are unanimous in their praise for Meryl Streep, Conservatives are united in wishing it hadn't happened.
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Meryl Streep greets fans who braved gale force winds and rain to watch her walk the red carpet at Wednesday's gala premier of "The Iron Lady" (Stuart Wilson/AFP/Getty Images)

The film about Mrs. Thatcher creates greater unanimity than the real life former Prime Minister ever did during her long political career.

Everyone - film critics, former colleagues and the current Prime Minister, David Cameron - is effusive in their praise for star Meryl Streep. They all question whether the film itself is all that good, although for different reasons.

Cameron told the BBC "it's a fantastic piece of acting by Meryl Streep." But added, "It's more about ageing and elements of dementia rather than about an amazing prime minister". He added he wished it hadn't been made just now.  Presumably because the former PM is still alive.

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Finger pointing continues over Britain's "veto"

EC President Barrosso condemns Britain's negotiating stance at last week's summit
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EC President Jose Manuel Barrosso reports on last week's summit. He was diplomatic - but clearly unhappy with David Cameron (FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP/Getty Images)
David Cameron continues to reap the whirlwind over his actions at last week's EU summit
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Britain's David Cameron: on the outside looking in

The British Prime Minister is getting to know the space between the rock and the hard place as the euro and Britain's economic fate are decided without him
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David Cameron heads off to Brussels for the EU summit. (CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images)

As the EU summit gets underway spare a thought for the leader of Europe's perpetual odd man out, Britain.

Prime Minister David Cameron is marginalized by the facts: Britain is not part of the Euro. This gives him precious little influence in shaping a solution to the euro zone debt crisis, but whatever happens, if the euro breaks up Britain will pay as high a price as any euro zone member for failure.

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