Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


The Message of the Cain Smoking Ad

This is what Herman Cain's ad was really getting at. Yes, virility, independence, a contempt for conventions--and more than that.   Accept no other explanations!
Categories > Politics

Literature, Poetry, and Books

What Fools These Mortals Be

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.

The Founding

A Momentous Day, Yesterday

Yes, that would be October 27--and it's not just about the Cardinals' comeback in game six of the World Series.  It is also the 224th anniversary of the first Federalist Paper (1787), and the 47th (1964) of Ronald Reagan's "Time for Choosing."  David Azerrad notes the coincidence and the real connection between these two statements of the choices Americans have had to make over the years to obtain and sustain their liberty.  The question that confronted the founding generation (is mankind "really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice"), also faced Reagan and us today too.  But an additional problem arose for Reagan.  He sought a counterrevolution against the Progressive faith in the rule of experts and the rise of the administrative state.  To restore the Founders' vision of republican self-government, Progressivism must be rejected.
Categories > The Founding


Rights for Some, Not for 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.   

Categories > Religion


Further Thoughts on Inequality

I've been following the income inequality issue lately, and have learned a few more interesting tidbits:

Megan McArdle of The Atlantic further buttresses my earlier point about inequality rising and falling with the overall health of the economy.  That is to say, in terms of income the wealthy benefit disproportionately during times of prosperity, but their income also shrinks disproportionately during recessions.  Also note that unlike the studies I cited in my last post, McArdle looks back farther than the 1950s.  In fact, even according to these statistics income inequality is not too far out of line with the averages for the past century.

But then, what determines whether someone is in the top quintile of income earners, the bottom quintile, or somewhere in between?  Mark Perry of the University of Michigan has looked into the characteristics of households at each level, and has identified the most important variables.  Those at the top tend to share certain attributes--they have more than one income earner (that is, they are married), those earners are in their prime earning years (between 35 and 64), and they have college degrees.

All of this points to an argument made by Shikha Dalmia--that what is overlooked in the search for alleged bad news in income inequality is the fact that there is still tremendous social mobility in this country.  Indeed, there is perhaps more today than at any time in U.S. history.  Today's wealthiest Americans are almost certainly not the same as those at the top twenty years ago; many likely were at the bottom quintile at that time.

But there's another story that the statistics on inequality fail to reveal: the fact that ordinary people are living far more comfortably than they did in the 1960s.  When I was a child, growing up in a solidly middle-class family in the 1970s, a vacation meant a two-hour drive to a lake somewhere--having flown on a commercial jet was an indicator of great affluence.  So was ownership of a microwave oven, a portable telephone, or a computer.  For all the hype we hear today about the sufferings of the middle class, how many members of that class do not own these things today?  Are they not regarded as necessities of life?

Categories > Economy

Foreign Affairs

The Complicated Euro Crisis

This is probably the best headline on the collapsing Eurozone that I've yet to see, courtesy of the United Kingdom's The Telegraph: Euro armageddon is approaching, but it's too boring and complicated to explain.

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.

As Europe descends further into chaos, it appears more and more likely that the 27 sovereign states that make up the European Union are not going to be able to reach an adequate agreement to save the Eurozone from collapse (though the Greeks may have a plan!). German Chancellor Merkel, French President Sarkozy, British Prime Minister Cameron, and especially Italian Premier Berlusconi are increasingly unable to work with each other, and the German Chancellor went so far as to raise the specter of war in Europe should the Euro collapse (the warning was soon followed by the passage of a $1 trillion spending deal). It's all quite a mess.
Categories > Foreign Affairs

Health Care

Democrat Class: "No Viable Path Forward"

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."

Categories > Health Care

Literature, Poetry, and Books

Three Cheers for Colonialism

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.


On Grading Congress

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.

Categories > Congress

Foreign Affairs

Libyan Intervention Still Illegal

As President Obama continues to gloat over "success" in Libya and the countries of Europe pat themselves on the back for the demise of the Gaddafi regime, Americans in general and Congress in particular ought not to forget the fact that the President of the United States engaged in the killing of foreign citizens and a forced regime change without any type of authorization or legal justification for the attack. The "success" of the mission (as for it really being a success or not... we'll see) does not justify it; ends do not justify means. Just because Congress has, in a fit of absentmanliness, neglected its sworn duties to uphold the Constitution in this matter does not mean that the President acted legally.

The President has yet to give a legal justification for the intervention. With no Congressional declaration of war or authorization of the use of force, all we have to go on is existing precedents. The two that spring to mind immediately are the War Powers Resolution, which President Obama openly defied by declaring the blowing up of foreign nationals did not count as "hostilities", and the Authorization of the Use of Military Force following 9/11, which also did not apply as Libya posed no threat to the United States and was not involved with the terrorist attacks on our nation ten years ago. Even the use of an Executive Order to authorize this military action is an illegitimate response, as the 1952 Supreme Court case Youngstown Sheet & Tub Co. v. Sawyer clearly sets forth that executive orders are invalid if they attempt to make law (and, constitutionally, going to war is done through law passed by Congress), rather than simply clarifying or acting to further a law already put forth by Congress or the Constitution.

The argument for the United Nations Resolution granting him this authority is equally specious for several reasons, the most blatant being that our military does not serve at the direction of an international organization, especially one in which nations like Russia and China maintain equal authority with us. The United Nations charter does not grant the organization the power to force regime change outside of in the interests of collective security--Gaddafi posed no threat to the collective security of U.N. members. What supporters of the Administration have leaned on most is the Responsibility to Protect doctrine endorsed by the General Assembly a few years ago. This was merely endorsed by a vote of the United Nations though, and never ratified as a treaty--meaning that it is neither international law nor Senate-sanctioned U.S. law, and therefore cannot serve as a legal justification for our intervention in Libya. Obligations to NATO are also irrelevant as an argument as NATO is a defensive alliance.

I am happy that Moammar Gaddafi is gone. He was a vile man responsible for brutalizing his citizens and for committing acts of terrorism against the United States and other countries. I hope that the Libyan people are able to embrace democratic reform and a respect for human rights. None of this, though, excuses our President from the law. As difficult as it is for us to deal with long, messy things like legality and the Constitution while atrocities are being committed elsewhere, they must be dealt with. The War Powers Resolution, though no where near perfect and certainly in need of a replacement solution, granted the President some leeway to respond to something immediately--sixty days with which to gain the consent of his coequal branch in government, Congress. The legislature, for its part, just rolled over, and the courts have thrown out lawsuits from those few members of Congress who refused to cave to the Executive Branch on this serious breach of power. It is during times of pain and chaos when we are most likely to disregard the law--which is why it is even more important that we, as Americans, fight even harder during these times to show the world that even in the face of deadly adversity, the rule of law can continue to preside over man. Remembering this is essential to our experiment in self-government.
Categories > Foreign Affairs


Something fishy in San Diego . . .

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.

Categories > Progressivism


Perry's Got The Babe's Promise

Babe Ruth Called Shot.jpgBut is there any chance he can deliver?

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:


  • Individuals: Optional 20% flat tax rate or keep current tax rate (with $12,500 standard deduction). No death tax. No tax on Social Security benefits. No dividend or capital gains tax.
  • Corporations: 20% tax rate (down from 35%). 5.25% tax rate for repatriation. "Territorial tax system" which only taxes in-country income.


  • Balance the budget by 2020. Pass Balanced Budget Amendment. Cap federal spending at 18% of GDP. Freezes federal civilian hiring and salaries. Repeal ObamaCare, Dodd-Frank and Section 404 of Sarbanes-Oxley. Allowing personal retirement accounts.

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.

Categories > Economy


Saint Crispin's Day

October 25th is named for twins who were martyred in the year 286, the Christian saints Crispin and Crispinian. The day bore witness to three of the most famous battles in history. The first is one made famous by Shakespeare, the Battle of Agincourt--the victorious English archers of Henry V against the French forces of Charles VI. The second is the 1854 Crimean War's Battle of Balaclava, where British Lord Cardigan led the famous and ill-fated Charge of the Light Brigade against the Russians. The final is the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Pacific theatre of World War II, the largest single naval battle in human history, which saw the United States essentially wipe out what remained of the offensive capabilities of the Imperial Japanese Navy. This is a day of warriors, and, as always, the Bard provides the best words for it:

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

I had an opportunity to sit and chat for a while with a WWII veteran last week. The old warrior had good humor and a refreshing love for life in his gray years. He told me members of his family had fought in every conflict we have been involved in since the French and Indian War ("including both sides of the Civil War!"). Here's to him and the other brave brothers-in-arms who have risked it all for their countries. 
Categories > History


High Tea Party Scholars

Hadley Arkes and the Claremont Institute open a center for natural law--dedicated to teaching lawyers and judges that the best of them have been speaking natural law prose all their lives.
Categories > Courts

Foreign Affairs

Repelling Europe's Advances

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.

Categories > Foreign Affairs

Pop Culture

Mr. Smith and The Ides of March

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!"

Categories > Pop Culture


Castles to Cages

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.

Categories > Environment



On October 23 in the year 42 B.C., the forces of Triumvirs Mark Antony and Gaius Octavian Caesar were locked in battle against the soldiers of Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus, fighting on a great plain located to the west of the ancient city of Philippi in Greece. Twenty days early, at the First Battle of Philippi, Antony's forces had crushed those of Cassius and the assassin committed suicide. While this would have put the Republicans at a disadvantage, that same day they had been able to intercept and destroy a fleet of reinforcements coming for the Triumvirs, leaving Antony and Octavian in a precarious position. However, Brutus was no brilliant strategist--Cassius was the cunning one. The battle came to full force on the 23rd, and Brutus was outflanked by Antony. Trapped, the camp of Caesar's assassin was stormed by Octavian's forces and captured. After retreating to some nearby hills, Brutus saw that it was impossible for him to escape capture and subsequently ended his life, refusing to return to Rome in chains.

The Battle of Philippi was the last stand of the Roman Republic. The deaths of Cassius and Brutus, joined along with other aristocrats like Marcus Porcius Cato and the great orator Hortensius, left the Republican movement with little leadership. Though Sextus Pompeius, son of Caesar's rival Pompey the Great, still lived, his opposition would be but a thorn in the side of the Triumvirs, and lacked the type of principled opposition given by Brutus and Cassius. With the forces of the Republic exterminated, and high-minded Brutus dead, the Triumvirs would go on to split up their new empire before turning on each other, paving the way for Octavian to become the first emperor, Augustus.

Marcus Brutus was the descendant Lucius Junius Brutus, a nobleman who led a rebellion against the Tarquin Kings, overthrowing the monarchy and establishing the Republic. As the heirs to the founder of the republic, the men who held the name of Brutus throughout its 500-year history were often seen as the guardians of Rome's liberty. Honor and virtue were synonymous with Brutus, and for this the conspirators knew they needed his leadership to stand up to the overwhelming tyranny of Julius Caesar. While Brutus did support liberty and feared tyranny, he was betraying and murdering a good friend. Taking another's life was a big deal, especially the life of a friend. Dante thought that the betrayal was so great a crime that he placed Brutus in the mouth of the Beast on the lowest level of hell--beside his compatriot Cassius and Judas Iscariot. What is worse is that Brutus did this all in vain. By failing to include Cicero in the conspiracy and by refusing to allow the conspirators to kill Mark Antony, Brutus doomed the conspiracy from the start. His high-minded and stubborn refusal to do any of the less-than-noble things necessary to succeed in such vicious politics and war brought him to lose on that field in Philippi.

Nonetheless, the "all-honored, honest, Roman Brutus" probably was the most committed to his cause. So noble was he in fact that he could not stray at all from his strict and Roman sense of virtue, and there is something very admirable about this. His last stand against the forces of Caesarism at Philippi and his nobility were enough for even his great enemy, Antony, to give him due praise. The Bard, as always, captures the sentiment better than any historian can, with these closing lines from Antony in The Tragedy of Julius Caesar:

This was the noblest Roman of them all;
All the conspirators save only he
Did that they did in envy of great Caesar;
He, only, in a general honest thought
And common good to all, made one of them.
His life was gentle, and the elements
So mixed in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, "This was a man!"

Indeed, the last of the Roman men. It would do us well to occasionally dwell on his memory, what it is that moved him to act, and what it is that caused him to lose and end up dead on the plains of Philippi. 
Categories > History