Literature, Poetry, and Books
In his latest motion picture, Anonymous, apocalyptic film director Roland Emmerich brings to the big screen a conspiracy theory so lunatic that it is widely dismissed by the vast majority of scholars and historians in the world. His tale of William Shakespeare being a sham, the great bard's works written by some nobleman instead, should be treated with just the same incredulity as some of Emmerich's other blockbusters, 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, and 10,000 B.C.
While the authorship of Shakespeare's plays was never questioned during his lifetime or in the centuries following, a small number of individuals have begun to question that he actually wrote his great works within the last hundred years. They insist that the son of an illiterate glove-maker from some bumpkin village is incapable of showing us the ambition of Julius Caesar, the love of Romeo and Juliet, the intrigue of Macbeth, and the tragedy of King Lear. How could someone from such a humble beginning know royalty well enough to bring to us Hamlet or Antony and Cleopatra?
Though the conspiracy theorists insist that someone like Shakespeare could not have written the plays, the answer as to who did is still up in the air, splitting the Shakespeare-deniers into various camps. The dozens of potential alternatives include Francis Bacon, Miguel de Cervantes, Walter Raleigh, Jesuit priests, King James I, Queen Elizabeth I, and Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford whose candidacy Anonymous supports. The reason that there are so many potential alternatives is because there is no actual evidence that Shakespeare did not write the plays himself, thus making it difficult to declare outright that someone else must have.
The Oxfordian theory is based on a 1920 publication by J.T. Looney, "Shakespeare' Identified," which tells an unproven tale of how the Earl of Oxford was not only Queen Elizabeth's son, but her lover as well. In this fantastical explanation of events, the Earl of Oxford had to give up credit for his plays and poems because a nobleman could not degrade himself to join the lowest possible level in society--that of actor and playwright.
Why indulge in this delusion when there is no evidence to support it? Is it really that much easier for people to believe in such a conspiracy than to accept the genius of a common man? Is it so hard to believe that human beings, regardless of circumstances, are able to rise up from nothing to greatness? Are not men able to understand things without necessarily having experienced them firsthand? There is something rotten about beating up on a man's legacy centuries after he has been taken by that fell sergeant, death, no longer capable of defending himself against such slanderous conspiracy. His words and genius will live on, but we owe the Bard respect for what he was able to accomplish. Let us be honest about the legacy of he who wrote these masterpieces.
Anonymous will surely be an entertaining and well-written film, with tremendous visual effects, intricate costumes, and decent acting. It may even have the great benefit of pushing people to revisit the works of Shakespeare, and get close once more to tragic Othello or knavish Puck. However, people should watch the movie with the same kind of incredulity as when they watched Emmerich's The Patriot--a film that tried to capture much of the detail and narrative of the time period, and laid forth some of the feelings and ideas of the American Revolution, but which was nonetheless a made-up story based in unserious history.
William Shakespeare was a genius, and held a greater command of our English language than anyone before and after him. He understood the human mind, heart, and soul, and knew not only how to make people laugh and cry, but how to get them to consider great and noble things. A Hollywood blockbuster will not be able to discredit this genius; it cannot take away what he gave us. But, in today's conspiracy-loving society, it can plant a poisonous seed of disbelief in certain minds. We must do what we can to protect the memory of Shakespeare and his legacy. Allow people to admire the fact that he, a simple peasant from an illiterate family, was able to rise to such genius and beauty. To rob people of the idea of such possibility does a disservice both to Shakespeare and humanity in general. Taking that away would be the most unkindest cut of all.
My law alma mater, The Catholic University of America is being sued again by John Banzhaf, the George Washington Law professor who recently sued CUA because it has single-sex dorms. This time, he is claiming that the proximity of the university to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and the presence of crucifixes in classrooms is illegal because it does not accommodate Muslim religious practices. Both complaints, filed with the U.S. Office of Human Rights, claim CUA is responsible for human rights abuses.
Of course, not a single Muslim has complained. Banzhaf, who has become a star of the left through promiscuous law suits pushing a liberal social agenda, has polluted the federal docket with suit against smoking, tobacco, fast food, religion, etc. He's the kind of lawyer that gives lawyers a bad name. And he does it for himself, not because anyone asks him to.
Here's a question to test Banzhaf's authenticity: Would he sue a private Islamic university for not providing Catholics with a Christian chapel or Muslim-free zone in which to pray? Yeah, I don't think so either. It requires a particular breed of hatred and bigotry to spawn such ridiculous hypocrisy and outright discrimination from otherwise sane and intelligent individuals.
I pass over the actual legal frivolity of the suit without comment, as I trust the judgment of RoNLT sufficiently that I would not impugn your common sense with an explanation. As a personal note, however, when I entered CUA Law, incoming classes were divided into 30-person sections which stayed together through the first year. Just from memory, I recall that my section included at least a dozen Catholics, half a dozen Protestants, two Jews, one Muslim, several non-religious types and one precocious atheist. Not a bad record of religious diversity from an unapologetically Catholic school, and none of those students were so petty or arrogant as to assume the school would stop being Catholic simply because non-Catholics roamed the halls.
Previously, it was relatively easy to explain: Greece is bankrupt and we don't know what to do about it. But then we bailed Greece out and it's still not over. Now it's something along the lines of: Greece is bankrupt, but then French and German banks own Greek debt, so they might be bankrupt too. Then Italy has lots of its own debt, which Germany would like it to pay off, just in case that markets start worrying that Italy is bankrupt too.
And that's before we even get into the the proposed solution (mostly it seems to be that Germany should throw money at everything, which the Germans understandably aren't too keen on). How big does the bailout fund need to be? Who pays for it? Who do we (well, the Germans) bail out: the Greeks, or the banks? Should the European Central Bank be allowed to buy government bonds? No one is sure of any of this. Not even the people whose job it is to understand it.
Milton Wolf writes:
Class, for lack of a better comparison, is like bladder control: You either have it or you don't. When it comes to forcing Obamacare upon America with dishonest gimmicks, the Democrats have no class.
Of course, Dr. Wolf - who happens to have the distinction of being President Obama's cousin [At last, a legal relative!] - is speaking with a double tongue, implicating the Democrat's CLASS Act, "a major entitlement program tucked quietly within the 2,700 pages of Obamacare." This portion of Obamacare has been found "totally unsustainable" (in the words of HHS Sec. Kathleen Sebelius).
Doubtless, the media finds this surprising. Or unexpected. Or somehow the fault of partisan opponents to Obamacare. Nevertheless, Obamacare is beginning to crumble.
Wolf predicts that "Obamacare will not survive."
Even if this ill-conceived law does somehow miraculously withstand the potent legal and political challenges, it cannot survive the unforgiving laws of economics. So when the president forces an unconstitutional law on the nation against the clear will of the majority of Americans and it is proving itself to be wholly unsustainable, there's really only one conclusion you can reach about Obamacare: "No viable path forward."
Literature, Poetry, and Books
H.W. Crocker III is the author of "The Politically Incorrect Guide to the British Empire." Brett Decker reviews in today's WaPo:
The zeal of Anglophiles tends to be overdone - like food in Old Blighty - because it needs to compensate for an anti-historical political correctness that has infected academia, twisting an objectively positive institution - the British Empire - into something bad. Harry Crocker's new book ... sets the record straight about the small island that governed a quarter of the planet and had a civilizing influence on the rest of it.
Decker's review hints at the gems within Crocker's book - which is surely worth a read. But the two gentlemen also seem to grasp the fortunate legacy of the British Empire:
Late in life, Winston Churchill sighed, "I have worked very hard all my life, and I have achieved a great deal - in the end to achieve nothing." The former prime minister was lamenting the demise of the empire he hoped would continue to be the guarantor of peace and a force for good in the world. Yet, as Mr. Crocker puts it, "When Britain could no longer maintain the Pax Britannica, it became the Pax Americana." Despite the sun having mostly set on the British Empire, the old limeys' high-minded values of limited government and individual rights endure through its former colony, America, which took up the important burden as Western Civilization's chief proselytizer. Chin-chin to that.
Public approval for Congress dips into the single digits. I'm not surprised for the reason often given--people (especially in gerrymandered districts) like their own crook--and distrust all the others. Hence, a better measure of how people will vote would be reflected in, e.g., whether they think Obamacare should be repealed.
But I also raise the question whether the members of Congress would give any higher rating of their own institution. Somehow I doubt it. The separation of powers and the bicameral Congress create such frustrations. But there is only one President.
The latest Progressive nonsense:
In an unprecedented lawsuit, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is accusing the SeaWorld marine parks of keeping five of its star-performer killer whales in conditions that violate the 13th Amendment ban on slavery.
PETA says the suit, to be filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in San Diego, is the first federal court case seeking constitutional rights for members of an animal species.
Perry just hit the WSJ op-ed page with an all-things-to-all-conservatives economic plan. "Cut, Balance and Grow," promises "to scrap the current tax code, lower and simplify tax rates, cut spending and balance the federal budget, reform entitlements, and grow jobs and economic opportunity."
Well that should be easy enough.
Perry is pointing high into center field (or, in this particular simile, right field). Here are a few details:
Perry is, of course, vying for the right-pole position, with it's spectacular view of the Tea Party Express. He needs energy and is diving to the right (although all of his suggestions are entirely sensible - and perhaps entirely necessary). Whether they are at all plausible absent a miracle in the Senate is another matter altogether - and a question Perry should be asked by the press. In the inevitable failure to pass so ambitious a package, where would he focus?
For the actual liberal media response, read the NY Times' Q&A with Perry. It reveals the liberal obsession with "tax cuts for the rich," or "income inequality." Watch for the media to make their class-warfare obsession the principal talking point against the GOP candidate.
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;For he to-day that sheds his blood with meShall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,This day shall gentle his condition:And gentlemen in England now a-bedShall think themselves accursed they were not here,And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaksThat fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.
Last night, the House came together in a rare moment of bi-partisanship and patriotic unity by firmly and unequivocally telling the European Union what they can do with the new environmental laws they've decided to pass on the United States. Apparently, the EU forgot that they don't actually have the authority to regulate non-EU countries which have decided to retain their full sovereignty.
The EU's Emissions Trading System (ETS) has said that, starting next year, it will charge U.S. aircraft for carbon emissions whenever they land or take off in Europe.
The House responded decisively.
The lower chamber approved H.R. 2594 by unanimous consent after a brief debate in which most Republicans and Democrats said they reject the ETS as an extra-territorial plan to fine American aircraft that was imposed without any input from the U.S.
Of course, a few Democrats [surprise: Massachusetts and California Democrats] couldn't help but oppose U.S. sovereignty and economic interests in support of hysterical environmentalism and ever-expanding internationalism. But that's to be expected from the far left. The EU "tax grab" is estimated to cost 78,500 American jobs if implemented - a small price for the accomplishment of foisting EU-style climate-change legislation on the U.S.
Then again, many in the bi-partisan majority were likely scrambling to save 78,000 jobs rather than standing on principle in their vote. Multi-national regulations aren't a simple matter to unravel - they depend on government-ratified treaties and indecipherable bilateral agreements. But the EU seems to have neglected that multi-national regulations require multiple nations. Eurocrats have become a bit drunk on their heady draught of super-national supremacy in the EU. One hopes the U.S. continues to have the fortitude to check their untoward advanced.
If this is a case of European over-reach, as I expect, the U.S. should fight fire with fire. If the Europeans turn out to be within their authority, leadership will be required to revisit the license granted to foreign nations in our treaty agreements.
George Clooney's latest film depicts for us the cold, cruel, and calculating side of campaign politics. In it, Ryan Gosling is an idealistic young man working for an idealized presidential candidate, and the young idealist gets buried in a scandal that makes him forevermore see the world through jaded eyes, indulging in the cynicism that plagues so many in the public sphere. The title of the film draws the mind towards the tale of Julius Caesar. He, too, was a great politician capable of doing great things for his people. Yet Caesar was also corrupt, and the corruption of this great man led an idealistic young man who loved him to betray him--Brutus. The tale of Caesar is one of a republic's dying breaths, drowned for decades in a sea of decadence, corruption, and cynicism.
Compare, then, The Ides of March with Frank Capra's timeless classic, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. In the film, Jimmy Stewart plays an idealistic young man who is thrust into the midst of a scandal in the United States Senate, and overcome with grief upon learning that his idealized senior colleague, whom he saw as a mentor and friend, was actually a corrupt pawn. Mr. Smith presents to us a Senate filled with greed, deception, and vanity, with one man standing alone against a seemingly insurmountable political machine.
While both Clooney's and Capra's films depict a political system rife with corruption, there is a hugely important difference between the two. Clooney's dark and pessimistic tale brings no closure to it, and no hope; one leaves the theater with a bitter sense of disappointment and cynical contempt for our political process. It is a tragedy where everyone loses, much like the tale of Julius Caesar that the title alludes to.
Mr. Smith, though, has a far different, more lasting, and more important tone. It depicts one decent and determined common man, surrounded by petty bunch of political thugs, who nonetheless makes a difference. This is not to say that its title character, Jefferson Smith, is alone in his feelings--the people support him, and there are even members of the Senate who likely support him as well, but are yet complicit with the villains through their silence. Smith still wins in the end, though.
Perhaps this is too idealistic. Perhaps the cynical transformation of Gosling's Stephen Myers is closer to the real thing than the determined support for lost causes exhibited by Stewart's Smith. If that is the case, though, then the fault is not with our system of government, but with us. We are the government.
Many Americans over the past few years seem to see our country through the same jaded vision of The Ides of March, and are tired of it. Perhaps, then, now is the perfect time to revisit the 1939 classic, which came out just in time for Nazis, Soviets, and Fascists to all ban it for its dangerous idea. When Hitler banned American movies in France, one Parisian theater played Mr. Smith nonstop for the month leading up to the ban. Tyrants are threatened by the idea that individuals have power; mortified by the possibility that one single person has the power to change the world. The reason they fear this is because it is true: good men, armed by the truth and common decency, can do more to change the world than all the armies and propaganda of tyranny and corruption in the world combined. It just takes hard determination in face of the harshest adversity.
Though our nation appears full of the broken hope in politics given to us in The Ides of March, we still have the ability to ensure that we remain a nation of the people, by the people, and for the people. It is within our grasp if only we have a rebirth of understanding our good old American principles, a support for our constitutional institutions, and a renewed emphasis on the importance of the individual. Then, if we are lucky, perhaps we can also find a Mr. Smith or two to send to Washington in order to remind them of these things too. "Great principles don't get lost once they come to light. They're right here; you just have to see them again!"
Prague is a beautiful city in which I spend a bit of time. Particularly since the 14th century reign of Charles IV, Prague claims inclusion among the most beautiful cities in the world. However, the distorted communist regime which seized control in the 20th century polluted the city with "communist architecture." Czechs refer to the identical rows of square, multi-story communist-era apartment buildings as "rabbit cages."
Michael Mehaffy and Nikos Salingaros take up the theme of architectural design in their Guernica / On the Commons article, "The Architect Has No Clothes." The authors explain "architectural myopia" as the condition which produces "contemporary eyesores."
Laboratory results show conclusively that architects literally see the world differently from non-architects. Not only do architects notice and look for different aspects of the environment than other people; their brains seem to synthesize an understanding of the world that has notable differences from natural reality. Instead of a contextual world of harmonious geometric relationships and connectedness, architects tend to see a world of objects set apart from their contexts, with distinctive, attention-getting qualities.
There are many such confirming studies. For example, Gifford et al. (2002) surveyed other research and noted that "architects did not merely disagree with laypersons about the aesthetic qualities of buildings, they were unable to predict how laypersons would assess buildings, even when they were explicitly asked to do so."
Unsurprisingly, the authors heavily blame this myopia on the lengthy education of architects.
Up to about 1900, architects were understood to be practicing an adaptive craft, in which a building was an inseparable part of a dynamic streetscape and a neighborhood.
With the coming of the industrial revolution, and its emphasis on interchangeable parts, the traditional conception of architecture that was adaptive to context began to change. A building became an interchangeable industrial design product, conveying an image, and it mattered a great deal how attention-getting that image was.
It is telling that "the early modernists saw their work as a revolution." A "Novelty Spectacle" approach is now the "dominant model for architecture." And as with all crafts founded upon a skewered, modernist view of human nature, modern architecture fails to satisfy human needs on mental, emotional, spiritual and biological levels.
I previously noted, in an article titled "Beauty and the Bibles of Stone," an address by Pope Benedict XVI on the purpose and effect of beauty in religious architecture - specifically, the medieval cathedrals. Comparing these architectural masterpieces and they effect they have on the human soul, one cannot but grieve for the impoverishment of the modern craft.
This was the noblest Roman of them all;All the conspirators save only heDid that they did in envy of great Caesar;He, only, in a general honest thoughtAnd common good to all, made one of them.His life was gentle, and the elementsSo mixed in him that Nature might stand upAnd say to all the world, "This was a man!"