Friday, June 5, 2009

Justice Stevens renders an opinion on who wrote Shakespeare's plays

By Jess Bravin (Wall Street Journal)

In his 34 years on the Supreme Court, Justice John Paul Stevens has evolved from idiosyncratic dissenter to influential elder, able to assemble majorities on issues such as war powers and property rights. Now, the court's senior justice could be gaining ground on a case that dates back 400 years: the authorship of Shakespeare's plays.

Justice Stevens, who dropped out of graduate study in English to join the Navy in 1941, is an Oxfordian -- that is, he believes the works ascribed to William Shakespeare actually were written by the 17th earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere. Several justices across the court's ideological spectrum say he may be right.

This puts much of the court squarely outside mainstream academic opinion, which equates denial of Shakespeare's authorship with the Flat Earth Society.

"Oh my," said Coppelia Kahn, president of the Shakespeare Association of America and professor of English at Brown University, when informed of Justice Stevens's cause. "Nobody gives any credence to these arguments," she says.

Nonetheless, since the 19th century, some have argued that only a nobleman could have produced writings so replete with intimate depictions of courtly life and exotic settings far beyond England. Dabbling in entertainments was considered undignified, the theory goes, so the author laundered his works through Shakespeare, a member of the Globe Theater's acting troupe.

[ ... ]

Justice Stevens didn't start thinking about the authorship question, though, until 1987, when he joined Justices William Brennan and Harry Blackmun in a mock trial on authorship.

The panel found insufficient evidence to prove de Vere's claim. Justice Brennan vigorously rejected many Oxfordian premises, finding that "the historical William Shakespeare was not such an ignorant butcher's boy as he has been made out." It was a closer call for the other two justices.

"Right after the argument, both Harry and I got more interested in it," Justice Stevens says. In a visit to Shakespeare's birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon, Justice Stevens observed that the purported playwright left no books, nor letters or other records of a literary presence.

"Where are the books? You can't be a scholar of that depth and not have any books in your home," Justice Stevens says. "He never had any correspondence with his contemporaries, he never was shown to be present at any major event -- the coronation of James or any of that stuff. I think the evidence that he was not the author is beyond a reasonable doubt."

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Why Donald Duck is the Jerry Lewis of Germany

Susan Bernofsky reports in the Wall Street Journal:

Germany, the land of Goethe, Thomas Mann and Beethoven, has an unlikely pop culture hero: Donald Duck. Just as the French are obsessed with Jerry Lewis, the Germans see a richness and complexity to the Disney comic that isn't always immediately evident to people in the cartoon duck's homeland.

Comics featuring Donald are available at most German newsstands and the national weekly “Micky Maus”—which features the titular mouse, Goofy and, most prominently, Donald Duck—sells an average of 250,000 copies each week, outselling even “Superman.” A lavish 8,000-page German Donald Duck collector's edition has just come out, and despite the nearly $1,900 price tag, the publisher, Egmont Horizont, says the edition of 3,333 copies is almost completely sold out. Last month the fan group D.O.N.A.L.D (the German acronym stands for “German Organization for Non-commercial Followers of Pure Donaldism”), hosted its 32nd annual congress at the Museum of Natural History in Stuttgart, with trivia and trinkets galore, along with lectures devoted to “nephew studies” and Duckburg's solar system.

“Donald is so popular because almost everyone can identify with him,” says Christian Pfeiler, president of D.O.N.A.L.D. “He has strengths and weaknesses, he lacks polish but is also very cultured and well-read.” But much of the appeal of the hapless, happy-go-lucky duck lies in the translations. Donald quotes from German literature, speaks in grammatically complex sentences and is prone to philosophical musings, while the stories often take a more political tone than their American counterparts.

Whereas in the U.S. fans of Donald Duck tend to gravitate to the animated films, duck fandom in Germany centers on the printed comics published in the kids' weekly “Micky Maus” and the monthly “Donald Duck Special” (with a print run of 40,000 copies), which sells mainly to adult readers.

Donald Duck didn't always find Germany so hospitable. In the years following World War II, American influence in the newly formed Federal Republic was strong, but German cultural institutions were hesitant to sanction one U.S. import: the comic book. A law banning comics was proposed, and some American comics were eventually burned by school officials worried about their effects on students' morals and ability to express themselves in complete sentences.

When the Ehapa publishing house was founded in 1951 to bring American comics to German kids, it was a risky endeavor. Ehapa's pilot project, a monthly comics magazine, bore the title “Micky Maus” to capitalize on that icon's popularity. From the beginning, though, most of the pages of “Micky Maus” were devoted to duck tales.

Donald Duck's popularity was helped along by Erika Fuchs, a free spirit in owlish glasses who was tasked with translating the stories. A Ph.D. in art history, Dr. Fuchs had never laid eyes on a comic book before the day an editor handed her a Donald Duck story, but no matter. She had a knack for breathing life into the German version of Carl Barks's duck. Her talent was so great she continued to fill speech bubbles for the denizens of Duckburg (which she renamed Entenhausen, based on the German word for “duck”) until shortly before her death in 2005 at the age of 98.

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Greek nationalists disrupt 'Macedonian' dictionary release

From Group Storms Greek-Macedonian Dictionary Promotion

A group of some 20 people, some of them reportedly wearing masks, stormed a press conference late on Tuesday in Athens during which the Rainbow party of Macedonians in Greece was promoting a new Greek-Macedonian dictionary, according to local media reports.

Local Kanal 5 TV aired footage of the incident presumably shot by the organizers of the event showing men wearing black T-shirts, reportedly with signs of the Greek ultra nationalist organization Golden Dawn, storming the International Press Center in Athens where the conference took place.

They group began destroying the promo material and damaging some of the cameras, verbally attacking the promoters and guests, including renowned US Slavist and linguist Victor Friedman, Kanal 5 said. The group fled the conference after hearing that police were on their way, and the conference resumed without further incident.

So far there have been no reported official reactions from either Greece or Macedonia.

Rainbow leader Pavle Vaskopoulos told Kanal 5 that the incident was a sign that "the Greek authorities are beginning to fear Macedonian activism in Greece". He sees this only as a warning sign against their recent activities.

Although registered by the state as a political party, Rainbow is not officially listed as a party of the Macedonian minority in Greece, as Athens insists that a Macedonian minority does not exist, referring to all Macedonians as "Greek Macedonians".

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Home Office refuses to disclose stop-and-search information

From The British Journal of Photography:

The Home Office has rejected a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the British Journal of Photography regarding the disclosure of a list of all areas where police officers are authorised to stop-and-search photographers under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000

The controversial Act of Parliament, put into force in 2001, allows Chief Constables to request authorisation from the Home Secretary to define an area where any constable in uniform is able to stop and search any person or vehicle for the prevention of acts of terrorism. The authorisation, which can be given orally, must be renewed every 28 days and only covers the areas specified in the Chief Constables' requests.

While it is common knowledge that the entire City of London, at the behest of the Metropolitan Police, is covered by section 44 of the Terrorism Act, it remains unclear which other areas in England and Wales have requested the stop-and-search powers.

After growing concerns from BJP readers, who have been, in some cases, abusively stopped from taking pictures around the country, news editor Olivier Laurent filed a Freedom of Information Act request to the Home Office dated 24 April. The request asked for a 'full list of all areas – in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – subject to Section 44 Terrorism Act 2000 authorisations, which the Home Office has a statutory duty to be aware of.'

The request was rejected in late May on grounds of national security. 'In relation to authorisations for England and Wales, I can confirm that the Home Office holds the information that you requested. I am, however, not obliged to disclose it to you,' writes J Fanshaw of the Direct Communications Unit at the Home Office. 'After careful consideration we have decided that this information is exempt from disclosure by virtue of Section 24(1) and Section 31(1)(a-c) of the Freedom of Information Act.'

'Section 24(1) provides that information is exempt if required for the purposes of safeguarding National Security. Section 31(1)(a-c) provides that information is exempt if its disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the prevention or detection of crime, the apprehension or prosecution of offenders, or the administration of justice.'

The Home Office continues: 'In considering the public interest factors in favour of disclosure of the information, we gave weight to the general public interest in transparency and openness.  This was considered in balance with not disclosing the information due to law enforcement and National Security issues.'

According to the Home Office's Direct Communications Unit, the disclosure of a Section 44 authorisation in a particular area is an operational matter for the police force covering that area. 'The Home Office believes that as Section 44 authorisations are used with up to date intelligence, to make any specific authorisation public could inadvertently release sensitive information. A list of authorisations that are in place could also allow any terrorists to act outside of them.'

'It is the decision of the Chief Constable to decide whether or not to disclose the existence of a current authorisation in their area.  In order to help maintain public confidence in the use of stop and search, the Metropolitan Police Service does make the existence of any Section 44 authorisation in place public knowledge.'

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Will Hammersmith eco-village inspire new generation of Diggers?

From The Guardian:

The spirit of the Diggers has been invoked once more with plans to seize land in Hammersmith next week in order to create an eco-village.

The Diggers were a group of 17th-century English radicals led by Gerard Winstanley, who has been referred to as the father of both communism and anarchism. Winstanley realised that one-third of England's land was barren waste, which the landowners would not permit the poor to cultivate. He declared:

... if the waste land of England were manured by her children it would become in a few years the best, the strongest and flourishing land in the world.

So on 1 April, 1649, Winstanley and his followers began to dig over a patch of common land in St George's Hill in Walton-upon-Thames. They were soon chucked off, and then chucked off the next spot they tried out. Winstanley gave up in the end, and became a Quaker instead. But the idea had taken root, and has never been killed off since.

The action on Saturday is the latest incarnation of this long-running movement. After the second world war we had ex-servicemen taking over land because of a housing shortage. In the 1970s, the squatter movement used empty houses for the homeless and poor. In the 90s, gardening protest camps flowered at Twyford Downs, the M11 extension, Newbury.

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State Department: Designations of three Greek Foreign Terrorist Organizations

From the State Department:

Ian Kelly
Department Spokesman,  Office of the Spokesman
Bureau of Public Affairs
Washington, DC
May 18, 2009

On April 22, 2009, the Secretary of State designated Revolutionary Struggle (RS) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended (INA). RS is a Greek terrorist organization responsible for numerous terrorist acts against Greek, U.S., and other targets since 2003, including the 2007 RPG attack on the U.S. Embassy in Athens, Greece and the March 9, 2009 detonation of a bomb outside a Citibank branch in Athens. Secretary Clinton took this action in consultation with the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Treasury.

Also on April 22, 2009, the Secretary revoked the FTO designation of the Revolutionary Nuclei (RN) after completing the five year review of the FTO designation required by Section 219 of the INA. The Secretary concluded that the circumstances that were the basis for the prior designation of RN as an FTO have changed in such a manner to warrant revocation of the FTO designation.

The Secretary has maintained the FTO designation of Revolutionary Organization 17 November (17N) after completing the five year review of the FTO designation required by Section 219 of the INA.

Designations of foreign terrorist organizations play a critical role in our fight against terrorism and are an effective means of curtailing support for terrorist activities and pressuring groups to get out of the terrorism business. The consequences of these designations include a prohibition against the provision of material support or resources to FTOs and the freezing of all property and interests in property of the organization that are in the United States, or come within the United States, or the control of U.S. persons.

Meanwhile, new ones keep cropping up, as reported in Monsters and Critics:

New group claims responsibility in latest Greek bombing

Athens - A newly emerged left-wing militant group claimed responsibility for a bomb which exploded early Friday outside the offices of a tax office in an Athens suburb causing extensive damage, but no injuries.

The bomb had been planted outside the offices of the tax office in the Athens suburb of Psyhiko.

Officials received a warning after unknown individuals called the daily newspaper Eleftherotypia 10 minutes before the bomb was set to go off.

The explosion caused extensive damage of the building.

A newly emerged group calling itself the 'Armed Revolutionary Struggle' claimed responsibility for the explosion.

The attack is the latest in a series of almost daily violence that has rocked the country since the police shooting of a teenager in December, triggering Greece's worst riots in decades fuelled by high youth unemployment.

Over the past few weeks a string of firebombings by suspected anarchists caused damage to two police stations, banks, car dealerships and government buildings.

The violence has embarrassed Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' government, which has been criticized for its inability to protect citizens.

The government has vowed to crack down on the increasing violence and has sought advice from British police.

Which adds irony to this, in the Financial Times:

Opinion: It's time for the Greeks to turn things round – again

By George Pagoulatos

In an ironically symbolic picture from last December's riots in Athens, the poster of Greece's National Tourism Organisation appeared behind a shattered window, featuring the slogan: “Greece: The True Experience!”...

Peru: State of siege declared to put down revolt

Federico Fuentes reports in Green Left:

The Peruvian government decreed a 60-day state of emergency on May 9 across various districts in the Amazonian region in the east.

The move is in response to a wave of indigenous protests that began one month earlier against a series of laws granting greater privileges to mining, oil and logging transnationals companies.

The laws allow the companies to loot natural resources, while attacking indigenous rights and community traditions.

Under the emergency decree, all constitutional rights have been suspended — including the right to hold meetings and freedom of movement.

Wagna Musoni, a representative of the indigenous community of Loreto, one of the districts affected by the state of siege, said: “The government can not decree a state of emergency against the just struggle of the Amazonian peoples.”

Musomni said his community was “willing to die” to overturn the laws. 

~ more... ~

To the graduating class of American Empire, 2009


Missing Word, Missing World

by Tom Engelhardt

Graduates of the Bush years, initiates of the Obama era, if you think of a commencement address as a kind of sermon, then every sermon needs its text. Here's the one I've chosen for today, suitably obscure and yet somehow ringing:

"The idea that somehow counterterrorism is a homeland security issue doesn't make sense when you recognize the fact that terror around the world doesn't recognize borders. There is no right-hand, left-hand anymore."

That's taken directly from the new national security bible of Obama National Security Advisor (and ex-Marine General) James Jones. He said it last week at a press briefing. The occasion was the integration of a Bush-era creation, the Homeland Security Council -- which, if you're like me, you had never heard of until it lost its independence -- into the National Security Council, which Jones runs, a move that probably represents yet another consolidation of power inside a historically ever more imperial White House.

After four years in this college, I assume you are students of the word and like all biblical texts, this one must be interpreted. It must be read. So let's start by thinking of it this way: If we are, in some sense, defined by our enemies, then consider this description of terrorism -- even though most acts of terror are undoubtedly committed by locally-minded individuals -- as something like a shadow thrown on a wall. The looming figure to which the shadow belongs is not, however, al-Qaeda, but us. We are, after all, in the war-on-terror business. It's how we've defined ourselves these last years.

If you accept Jones's definition, then you only have to go a modest distance to conclude that we are the other great force on the planet that "doesn't recognize borders." Keep in mind that, right now, we're fighting at least two-and-a-half wars thousands of miles from this sylvan campus, and in your name no less. When it comes to our "national security," as we define it, borders turn out to matter remarkably little in a pinch, as long, of course, as they're other people's borders.

After all, we have established an extensive network of military bases, some gigantic, in Iraq and Afghanistan, and secured the right to treat them essentially as U.S. territory; we have hundreds of such bases, large and small, scattered across the Earth, most not in war zones, a startling number of them built up into impressive "little Americas." It's through them that we garrison much of the planet (something you will almost never see commented upon in the mainstream media, obvious though it may be). Our drone aircraft, flown by remote control from bases in the United States, now regularly patrol distant skies, as if borders did not exist, to smite our foes, whatever any locals might think. Typically, as far as we know, our secret warriors continue to fund, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, a Bush-era project, which also knows no borders, aimed at destabilizing the Iranian government.

The Architecture of Meaning

Instead of simply continuing down this superhighway of borderlessness, let's just consider two sentences buried deep in a recent piece on the inside pages of the New York Times about a roadside explosive device in Iraq that killed three Americans in a vehicle. It's the sort of thing that Americans tend not to find strange in the least. So as an experiment, try, as I read it aloud, to take in the deep strangeness it represents:

"The Americans were driving along a road used exclusively by the American military and reconstruction teams when a bomb, which local Iraqi security officials described as an improvised explosive device, went off. No Iraqi vehicles, even those of the army and the police, are allowed to use the road where the attack occurred, according to residents."

Keep in mind that this isn't a restricted road in Langley, Virginia. It's a road outside the Iraqi city of Falluja, where we conducted two massive, city-destroying assaults back in 2004; in other words, the road which "no Iraqi vehicles... are allowed to use" is thousands of miles and many borders away from Washington.

And that's nothing really. If you want to know something about American "impunity" -- a fine nineteenth century word that should be more widely used today -- when it comes to Iraq's borders, get your hands on the text of Order 17. That order was issued by our viceroy in Baghdad, L. Paul Bremer III, back in the salad days of the Bush administration, when that era's neocons thought the world was their oyster (or perhaps their oil well).

Promulgated on the eve of the supposed "return of sovereignty" to Iraq in 2004, Order 17 gave new meaning to the term "Free World." In intent, it was a perpetual American get-out-of-jail-free card. If I were the president of this college, I would assign Order 17 to be read as part of a campus-wide course on magical imperial realism. Here's but one passage I've summarized from that document:

    All foreigners (read: Americans) involved in the occupation project were to be granted "freedom of movement without delay throughout Iraq," and neither their vessels, vehicles, nor aircraft were to be "subject to registration, licensing or inspection by the [Iraqi] Government." Nor in traveling would foreign diplomats, soldiers, consultants, or security guards, or any of their vehicles, vessels, or planes be subject to "dues, tolls, or charges, including landing and parking fees," and so on. And don't forget that on imports, including "controlled substances," there were to be no customs fees (or inspections), taxes, or much of anything else; nor was there to be the slightest charge for the use of occupied Iraqi "headquarters, camps, and other premises," nor for the use of electricity, water, or other utilities.

Or, since actual architecture, like the architecture of language, is revealing, consider our most recent embassy-building practices. An embassy is, almost by definition, the face of our country, of us, abroad. For our embassy in embattled Iraq, the Bush administration ponied up almost three-quarters of a billion dollars (including cost overruns). The result, now opened, is the largest embassy compound on the planet.

It's about the size of Vatican City, a self-enclosed world with its own elaborate defenses and amenities inside the citadel of Baghdad's Green Zone. Staffed by approximately 1,000 "diplomats," it's the sort of place Cold War Washington might once have dreamed of building in Moscow (not that the Russians would have let them).

Do the Iraqis want such an establishment in their capital? Would you, if it was a foreign "embassy" in your land? Once again, that old-fashioned word "impunity," which once went so well with words like "freebooter" and "extraterritoriality," seems apt. We still practice a version of freebooting, we still have our own version of extraterritoriality, and we do it all with impunity.

~ more... ~

[ hat tip to Naeem ]

HOME a film by Yann Arthus-Bertrand

We are living in exceptional times. Scientists tell us that we have 10 years to change the way we live, avert the depletion of natural resources and the catastrophic evolution of the Earth's climate.

The stakes are high for us and our children. Everyone should take part in the effort, and HOME has been conceived to take a message of mobilization out to every human being.

For this purpose, HOME needs to be free. A patron, the PPR Group, made this possible. EuropaCorp, the distributor, also pledged not to make any profit because Home is a non-profit film.

HOME has been made for you : share it! And act for the planet.

Yann Arthus-Bertrand

HOME official website

PPR is proud to support HOME

HOME is a carbon offset movie

More information about the Planet


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