Today marks the 152nd anniversary of the Gettsyburg Address, the speech given by Abraham Lincoln after the battle which left 7,000 American soldiers dead and 40,000 wounded.
Given its power and permanence, it may seem strange to memorialize it by pointing to an obscure comedy film from the 1930s. But it’s one that stirs all the right sentiments.
In Ruggles of Red Gap, the great Charles Laughton plays Marmaduke Ruggles, an English manservant who has been gambled away by his master (a duke) to a pair of unsophisticated “self-made” millionaires from America (Egbert and Effie). Ruggles sails to the New World, settles in with his rambunctious new employers, and hilarity ensues. (more…)
Do Google Earth satellite images point to more grim news from inside North Korea? According to an article from United Press International (UPI), Curtis Melvin of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University noticed a substantial difference in satellite images of a North Korean prison camp from 2013 to some taken last month:
[A]erial snapshots from Oct. 15 indicated considerable changes have been made to Camp No. 16.
Melvin said the new changes included dams, hydroelectric power plants, apartments for the camp’s guards, an athletic field, a mine and fish farms. These facilities were not visible in satellite imagery taken in 2013.
The latest construction appears to indicate that North Korea is planning for an increase in the population of inmates detained at Camp No. 16 … In 2014, Amnesty International said in a statement the camp imprisons about 20,000 people and the prisoners are forced to work in very treacherous conditions. [emphasis added]
Camp No. 16, also known as Hwasong or Myonggan concentration camp or Kwan-li-so (Penal-labor colony) No. 16. Camp No. 16 is a prison-labor colony where detainees are expected to work for life with no hope of being released and it is the largest of all the penal-labor camps in North Korea. The UPI piece points out that it was one of five political prisons where up to an estimated 120,000 people are punished for various “crimes against the state.” Despite testimonies of defectors who survived these camps and later escaped North Korea, Pyongyang denies the existence of camps and has officially accused all the witnesses of lying. (more…)
The fears of the past resonate in the present, and it’s no wonder humanity sometimes grasps desperately for answers in response to a frightening and unknowable future. Sometimes these answers come to us through literature and film which may allow us to dispense with the worst of them, given enough time.
The Overlords of Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End – a classic 1953 science-fiction novel that serves as the basis for a Syfy network miniseries beginning Dec. 14 – turn out to be a very mixed bag for their underling humans. On the one hand, the aliens’ presumed benevolence ushers in a utopian era of peace and prosperity where armed conflict and atomic warfare are effectively abolished, and no person goes hungry or suffers illness long. On the other hand, the Overlords’ munificence generates intellectual sloth and cultural stagnation. To some, abandoning free will and flushing centuries of human accomplishments down the loo poses benefits far outweighing the costs. To others, it means sacrificing all that it really means to be human. Additionally, the Overlord “Supervisor” Karellen issues an edict – similar to the warning given Pandora by Zeus about opening a box – prohibiting humans from exploring space, which places profound limitations on human free-will.
According to Clarke, the trade-off is precursor to the next step of human evolution, rendering corporeal existence and Earth itself moot on the path to attaining a higher plane of being for ensuing generations. Humankind has to persevere, however, through the perils of the Atomic Age first, and the only way to avert a nuclear war is through intervention of the Overlords. However, as Clarke shows us, even the Overlords are devoid of free will after they are eventually revealed as performing the bidding of the next layer of galactic bureaucracy, the Overmind. (more…)
The duty to respect individual property rights has been a part of the law since the Decalogue included the commandment, “Thou Shalt Not Steal.” But for just as long, governments have included an exception for the state in the form of “eminent domain.”
The term eminent domain was taken from the legal treatise by the Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius in 1625, which used the term dominium eminens (Latin for supreme lordship) and described the power as follows:
… The property of subjects is under the eminent domain of the state, so that the state or he who acts for it may use and even alienate and destroy such property, not only in the case of extreme necessity, in which even private persons have a right over the property of others, but for ends of public utility, to which ends those who founded civil society must be supposed to have intended that private ends should give way. But it is to be added that when this is done the state is bound to make good the loss to those who lose their property.
For most of U.S. history, the “ends of public utility” meant the government could take property to build highways and railroads. But in 2005 the Supreme Court ruled in Kelo v. City of New Londonthat the general benefits a community enjoyed from economic growth qualified private redevelopment plans as a permissible “public use” under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment.
At the time, Acton president Rev. Robert Sirico said that, “In the Supreme Court’s “new” ownership society, the very safety and security of God-given, inalienable rights are threatened.” That has been the general position of most every conservative and libertarian since the unfortunate ruling was handed down. But there are some people who think taking private property and giving it to others for their private use is “wonderful.” People like Donald Trump.
On the papal plane back to the Rome, Pope Francis said that government officials have a “human right” to refuse to discharge a duty if they feel it violates their conscience. “Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right,” Francis said.
The pontiff admitted, though, that he “can’t have in mind all cases that can exist about conscientious objection.” But what would he think about the case of Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who objected to having her name on same-sex marriage licenses?
Turns out he told her, in person, to “stay strong.”
When Pope Francis gave addresses at the White House, Congress, and the UN, he mentioned the importance of religious freedom. But many people (including me) were rather disappointed that he didn’t speak more specifically about what sorts of religious liberties are under threat.
Once aboard the papal plane, though, it appears the pontiff provided more clarity on the issue. According to Reuters, the pope said government officials have a “human right” to refuse to discharge a duty, such as issuing marriage licenses to homosexuals, if they feel it violates their conscience. (more…)
How did the framers of the Constitution seek to preserve liberty and protect against tyranny? Many Americans would say that to protect the individual and minorities against the tyranny of the majority, the Founding Fathers added the Bill of Rights and gave the power to enforce those rights to the Supreme Court.
But as Robert George, professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University, explains, that answer is wrong—dangerously wrong—and has led to an overall reduction in freedom.