Tuesday, January 23, 2018

From the Archives: Rutherford Institute asks local lawmakers to speak out against drones

Rutherford Institute asks local lawmakers to speak out against drones
January 23, 2013 1:11 AM MST

Rutherford Institute Charlottesville dronesA Charlottesville public-interest law firm has sent a letter to both the Charlottesville City Council and the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors warning of the dangers to civil liberties posed by the use of drones and asking both bodies to pass resolutions demanding protections against drones' misuse.

In a letter dated January 21 and addressed to Charlottesville Mayor Satyendra Huja, Rutherford Institute president John Whitehead points out that recent legislation signed by President Barack Obama “has opened the door for unmanned aerial vehicles” (drones) to fly in the skies of the United States.

In the letter, Whitehead cites predictions that by 2020, there may be as many as 30,000 drones operating in U.S air space. He calls these drones “robotic threats to privacy and security.”

Threats to civil liberties

Whitehead expresses his hope that Charlottesville's City Council will “not only give serious consideration to the dangers posed to our freedoms by these aerial devices but ensure that the people of Charlottesville are protected against any resulting incursions on their rights” that are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

To that end, Whitehead sent a copy of a Rutherford Institute-drafted model resolution for consideration by the city council and the county supervisors.

The resolution is intended to “encourage the General Assembly of Virginia to provide for limitations on the use of evidence obtained from the domestic use of drones and to preclude the domestic use of drones equipped with anti-personnel devices” (that is, weapons).


It notes that “the federal government and the Commonwealth of Virginia have thus far failed to provide reasonable legal restrictions on the use of drones within the United States” and that police departments have started to use drone technology without “any guidance or guidelines from lawmakers.”

In plain language, the resolution calls on Congress and the Virginia General Assembly “to adopt legislation prohibiting information obtained from the domestic use of drones from being introduced into a Federal or State court, and precluding the domestic use of drones equipped with anti-personnel devices, meaning any projectile, chemical, electrical, directed-energy (visible or invisible), or other device designed to harm, incapacitate, or otherwise negatively impact a human being.”

'Get in an uproar'

In an interview on Coy Barefoot's afternoon drive-time radio program on WINA-AM Monday, Whitehead suggested that “if enough cities across the country were to get in an uproar about” the civil liberties threats of drones, “we might be able to limit them some.”

He pointed out that already-existing technology allows drones to “be able to see through the walls of your home.” They are powerful enough, he said, “they are able to watch you in your homes, connect up with all the [electronic] devices in your homes.”

The drones, he said, “are amazing devices,” which include “hummingbird drones that come up to your window and watch you in your home.” Other, non-flying drones look like dogs and can walk "up to your front door.”

Citing Martin Luther King, Jr., Whitehead warned that “it's time to stand up and fight back,” and said that, in the absence of federal limits on drone use, local and state governments must act.

Experts, he said, are “freaking.” If, he said, there is a device “that flies over your home that can see you in your kitchen or upstairs using the bathroom or having sex with your wife, we've entered a whole new era” of threats to privacy and personal liberty.

Drones, he said, are “beyond Orwell. It's scary stuff.”


Publisher's note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com on January 23, 2013. The Examiner.com publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to Examiner.com since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.


Monday, January 22, 2018

From the Archives - 'Annie Get Your Gun': Not Just a Shot in the Dark

This article appeared in The Metro Herald (Alexandria, Virginia) on January 22, 1999:

Annie Get Your Gun: Not Just a Shot in the Dark
Rick Sincere
Metro Herald Entertainment Editor

By all rights, this year should be a great one for revivals of Broadway musicals, at least if major anniversary productions are mounted. December 30 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Broadway premiere of Kiss Me, Kate; April 7 will see fifty years since the debut of South Pacific; December 8 will be the fiftieth anniversary of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Hello, Dolly!, after a tryout at Washington's National Theatre, had its Broadway premiere on the night of January 16, 1964, making it 35 years old this month. A Broadway revival of The Sound of Music, which will be 40 years old on November 16, is already into a long run. Others celebrating forty years in 1999 include Gypsy, Once Upon a Mattress (also recently revived), and the Pulitzer-winning Fiorello. And another 35-year-old (September 22) is the great Fiddler on the Roof.

Annie Get Your Gun Bernadette Peters revivalWhat all these great musicals have in common -- with the possible exception of the seldom-produced Fiorello -- is that members of the audience walk into the theatre already humming the tunes. (This is not to be confused with a similar phenomenon that occurs when people see a new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical for the first time.) So it is with the revival of Annie Get Your Gun now on stage at the Kennedy Center Opera House. This 1946 musical, written by the irrepressible Irving Berlin for the incomparable Ethel Merman, is jam-packed with standard melodies that should be familiar to anyone who has owned a radio during the past half-century.

Although the songs are arranged in a different order from the original production -- it now begins with that anthem to performers, "There's No Business Like Show Business" -- each one lands pleasantly and familiarly on the ears: "Anything You Can Do," "Doin' What Comes Natur'lly," "The Girl that I Marry," "Lost in His Arms," "They Say It's Wonderful," "You Can't Get a Man with a Gun," and "An Old Fashioned Wedding," introduced by Merman in the 1966 Lincoln Center revival, a contrapuntal duet no doubt intended to match the success of the similar "You're Just in Love," from the 1950 Berlin-Merman collaboration Call Me Madam.

The team behind this revival of Annie Get Your Gun certainly matches that of the original production, which included Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II (as producers), Dorothy and Herbert Fields (book writers), Jo Mielziner (scenic and lighting design), and Joshua Logan (director). That production was only the second book musical in Broadway history to exceed 1,000 performances (preceded by Oklahoma!).

This revival is directed by Graciela Daniele, fresh from her award-winning choreography for Ragtime; the book has been revised by Peter Stone, who has won four Tony awards; the scenic design is by Tony Walton, with three Tonys, an Emmy, and an Oscar on his shelves; and backed by Tony-winning producers Barry and Fran Weissler.

Bernadette Peters is clearly the star of the show as sharpshooter Annie Oakley. Her name appears above the title, and she can belt a Berlin ballad nearly as well as La Merman herself. The two Broadway divas are similar in many ways: Despite forays into film and television, Peters is known primarily as a stage actress, making her name in Sondheim shows (Sunday in the Park with George, Into the Woods). Merman seldom ventured into the movies -- she repeated her starring Broadway roles only in the 1936 Anything Goes and the 1953 Call Me Madam. Her greatest triumphs -- Annie Oakley and Mama Rose in Gypsy -- were played by Betty Hutton and Rosalind Russell in the film versions. Go figure.

Bernadette Peters Annie Get Your Gun 1999 Kennedy Center
Unlike Merman, Peters rose through the Broadway ranks in an era in which Hollywood does not automatically produce movies based on hit musicals. In fact, not a single one of Peters' Broadway hits has been translated into film, and only one of her films -- Annie (1982) -- is based on a Broadway musical. So, to non-theatregoers, Peters is known primarily by straight dramatic performances, and they might be surprised to learn that she has such a terrific singing voice.

In general, Peters delivers what her talent and the material in Annie Get Your Gun promise. Her interpretations of the songs are spot-on, although there is a disappointment in "Lost in His Arms." In this instance, Peters seems to build up to a huge climax, but settles down on the approach to the top. Is this her fault, or was it the decision of arranger John McDaniel? Whatever the case, the whole song feels unresolved and unfulfilling.

One serious problem with Peters performance is her cloying, backwoods accent. It is cute at the beginning, but quickly begins to grate. And why don't the three children playing Annie's younger siblings have a similar accent? Peters needs to tone this down. We're not asking for Manhattan here, but we don't need the Beverly Hillbillies, either.

TV star Tom Wopat gives a strong performance as Annie's love interest and rival, Frank Butler. Wopat's Butler is confident without being (too) arrogant.

Daniele's choreography, created in collaboration with Jeff Calhoun, has echoes of her work in Ragtime. Daniele's dancers move geometrically, complexly, exuberantly. It would be interesting to view her work from above, like the June Taylor Dancers on the old Jackie Gleason show.

Some commentators have criticized the revised book for Annie Get Your Gun for being too "politically correct." These critics are looking just at the surface. While it was probably advisable to rid the script of insensitive treatments of Native Americans (one song, "I'm an Indian, Too," has been dropped from the score), the fact is that Peter Stone's new book subversively makes fun of the P.C. crowd. The most "P.C." jokes are, in fact, self-referentially mocking.

All in all, Annie Get Your Gun is great fun and suitable for the whole family. I hope that many Washington area children get their first taste of musical theatre through this show. It wouldn't be the first time: The celebrated playwright Terrence McNally (currently represented at The American Century Theatre with a revival of his first play -- see last week's Metro Herald for a review) decided as a child that for him, there was "no business like show business" when he saw a road company of -- what else? -- Annie Get Your Gun!

Annie Get Your Gun continues at the Kennedy Center through January 24. Performances are Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 8:00, Saturday matinees at 2:00, and Sundays at 1:30 and 7:00 p.m. Ticket prices range from $20 to $75 and may be purchased at the Kennedy Center box office or by calling Instant-Charge at 202-467-4600.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

From the Archives: Wrestling with the 'Naked Truth' About Religion on TV (1996)

This article appeared in various newspapers, including The Metro Herald, in January 1996:

Wrestling with the "Naked Truth" About Religion on TV
Richard E. Sincere, Jr.

By most accounts, modern entertainment media seldom -- if ever -- treat religious belief and practice with the seriousness and respect they deserve. Gone are the days when religious commitment was portrayed in a positive light. Unlike the 1940s, when movies such as Going My Way and The Song of Bernadette won both crowds and awards, the 1990s are strangely bereft of authentic portrayals of religious life.

There have, indeed, been some attempts to use religious life as the basis for TV series. Remember The Flying Nun? The Father Dowling Mysteries featured a priest and a nun as crimesolvers -- a gimmick to dress up a ho-hum detective story in clerical garb. Amen, starring a post-Jeffersons Sherman Hemsley, was set in an urban, vaguely Baptist church. None of these, however, dealt with religious belief in a sustained, serious manner. Religion was simply a frame in which to project otherwise unexceptionable storylines.

Although Americans are about the most religious people in the world, those who produce and write television programs tend to be among the "non-believers." These media elite live the lives Thomas Carlyle had in mind when he suggested that "if Jesus Christ were to come today, people would not even crucify him. They would ask him to dinner, and hear what he had to say, and make fun of it."

Tea Leoni The Naked Truth TV Guide 1995Thus it was with some surprise that the January 10 episode of The Naked Truth, an ABC-TV sitcom, focused respectfully on religious belief.

For those unfamiliar with this series, its main character, Nora, is a professional photographer who, through bad luck and poor personal choices, has been forced to take a job with a supermarket tabloid, The Comet, which makes The National Enquirer look like The Wall Street Journal. Once nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, Nora has descended to the depths of taking snapshots of buxom model Anna Nicole Smith at her gynecologist's office, and of Tom Hanks with his hand stuck down the fly of his trousers.

On January 10, The Naked Truth found Nora improbably dating a young man who spent the past five years on Zarkon-B, a planet 7,000 light-years from Earth. (He was, it seems, abducted by aliens.) At the same time, trying to track down Drew Barrymore for a Comet story, Nora disguises herself as a nun and runs into an old college friend -- once known as "Luscious" -- who is now Sister Katherine.

Nora, who in each episode frantically defends herself against the slings and arrows of daily life, is impressed by Sister Katherine's serenity and inner peace. ("Why did you become a nun?" Nora asks. Replies Sister Katherine: "Somehow being a drunken slut was strangely unfulfilling.")

When all the world seems to be against her, Nora takes her troubles to a drinking buddy, who makes Nora confront her own lack of belief. She plaintively asks why Sister Katherine can be so serene, while her own life is consumed by one trouble after another. Nora's friend suggests that Sister Katherine has found the love of God to guide her. Nora responds by saying she can't buy into that God business. "I haven't prayed since I was in grade school," she says.

Her friend gets right to the point. You can believe that your boyfriend was abducted by aliens and came to Earth from another planet, he says, but you can't believe there's a superior being who loves us? "What made you too cool for God?" he asks.

Nora returns to the convent to tell Sister Katherine that she, too, would like to become a nun. Sister Katherine, appropriately skeptical, suggests that Nora feels a great thirst and wants "to drink the ocean." Perhaps it would be better, the sister says, to start with "one glass of water." Departing for vespers, Sister Katherine invites Nora to wait an hour for her return. "What will I do for an hour?" Nora asks. "You'll think of something," says Sister Katherine.

Indeed she does. The scene closes with Nora kneeling in a pew, facing the altar, saying out loud: "Hello, God, this is Nora. Long time no see."

Tea Leoni The Naked Truth This summary does little justice to this tightly-packed, amusing half-hour. The writers are to be commended for their ability to deal with serious philosophical issues in a light-hearted, yet respectful, manner. Sister Katherine shows that, even in a convent, she and the other nuns are part of this world, not some other ethereal one. Nora displays her heartfelt need to seek something beyond herself, something that can guide her decisionmaking. Not yet sure of what she needs, she approaches Sister Katherine for assistance.

All this, despite the humor, is done without mockery. What shocks is not the placement of religious topics in a situation comedy -- this has been done before (Buddy Sorrell's bar mitzvah on The Dick Van Dyke Show, or the presence of Father Mulcahy on M*A*S*H). What is startling is the respectful treatment, something one simply does not expect in the 1990s. The message is clear: Faith in God is something worth seeking; religious faith can help us define our identities and guide our actions.

If this episode of The Naked Truth is idiosyncratic, it means that the Hollywood elite are just as hostile toward -- or indifferent to -- the religious commitment of the vast majority of Americans as they have been over the past 40 years. If, however, it is not unique, we have reason to remain hopeful.

* * * * * * * * * *
Richard Sincere is entertainment editor of The Metro Herald, a weekly newspaper based in Alexandria, Virginia.


Friday, January 05, 2018

Guest Post: The Freedoms at Stake in the Gay Wedding Cake Case

by Marian L. Tupy

On December 5, 2017, the Supreme Court of the United States heard the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v Colorado Civil Rights Commission. It’s a case that raises important questions about freedom of speech and of association that even the most fervent supporters of equality for gay people ought to take to heart.

gay wedding cake topperIn July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins, a same-sex couple, visited Masterpiece Cakeshop in Denver to order a custom wedding cake to celebrate their nuptials. Jack Phillips, the shop’s owner and a practicing Christian, was happy to sell the couple any of the goods in the store, but he refused to create a bespoke cake for a gay wedding, arguing that it would contravene his religious beliefs.

Craig and Mullins bought their wedding cake from a different bakery and went ahead with their happy event. The couple also filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission that oversees the enforcement of the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act – a law prohibiting businesses open to the public from discriminating against their customers on the basis of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

A lower court ruling decided in favor of the plaintiffs. The bakery was ordered to provide cakes for same-sex marriages and to “change its company policies, provide ‘comprehensive staff training’ regarding public accommodations discrimination, and provide quarterly reports for the next two years regarding steps it has taken to come into compliance and whether it has turned away any prospective customers”.

The Cato Institute, where I work, has been at the forefront of the fight for gay equality, submitting amici curiae briefs in favor of the gay community in such ground-breaking cases as Lawrence v Texas, which decriminalized sodomy in the United States in 2003, and Obergefell v Hodges, which legalised gay marriage throughout the country in 2015. In Masterpiece Cakeshop v Colorado Civil Rights Commission, we have taken Phillips’s side.

There is no inconsistency here. Just as we would support a gay baker’s right to decline to convey a homophobic message, we support this Christian baker’s right to decline to celebrate a same-sex wedding. That is because Masterpiece isn’t really about religious liberty – apart from claims that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission itself treats the religious and nonreligious differently, something that concerned the swing Justice Anthony Kennedy at oral argument – but about freedom of speech.

As my learned colleagues wrote, the Supreme Court has repeatedly held “that what the First Amendment protects is a ‘freedom of the individual mind’, which the government violates whenever it tells a person what she must or must not say. Forcing a baker to create a unique piece of art violates that freedom of mind…

“Although making cakes may not initially appear to be speech to some, it is a form of artistic expression and therefore constitutionally protected… Indeed, the Supreme Court has long recognized that the First Amendment protects artistic as well as verbal expression, and that protection should likewise extend to this sort of baking – even if it’s not ideological and even if done to make money.”

gay wedding cake two men silhouetteNo matter which side wins, the final decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v Colorado Civil Rights Commission is likely to reverberate for many years to come. That’s because the case does not deal with government discrimination, which everyone abhors, but with private discrimination, which is, in some fashion, unavoidable. Each day, all of us discriminate against things (which car to buy), actions (where to eat) and people (who to go out with).

The law says that private discrimination is fine so long as it does not involve a business, which ought to be open to everyone. That’s a perfectly fine legal distinction, but not a logical or moral one. Consider the following scenario:

Suppose that you operate a private dining club – such as the one described by Dana Bate in her superb 2013 book Girls’ Guide to Love and Supper Clubs. You rent a space where you can indulge your passion for cooking and choose from a list of paying gourmands in accordance with your preference for, exempli gratia, straight people. Is that discrimination? No court has ruled so. Yet, Bate’s supper club is basically a business, except for incorporation. Were you to incorporate, you would be guilty of discrimination. Without it, you are free to do as you please.

So, private discrimination is not cut and dried. As one of the pioneers of gay marriage, the British-born writer Andrew Sullivan, noted, advocates of gay equality ought to acquire some perspective. “I think it was a prudential mistake to sue the baker,” he wrote. “Live and let live would have been a far better response.” That’s where Cato stands as well.

Reprinted from CapX.

Marian L. Tupy gay wedding cake


Marian L. Tupy is the editor of HumanProgress.org and a senior policy analyst at the Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity.


This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.



Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Guest Post: Celebrating Cicero's Birthday

by Gary M. Galles

Marcus Tullius CiceroJohn Adams said of Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BCE) that “All ages of the world have not produced a greater statesman and philosopher combined.” Anthony Everitt called him an “architect of constitutions that still govern our lives.” Thomas Jefferson said the Declaration of Independence was based on “the elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, etc.”

Cicero was a Roman Senator whose writings, as Historian Edward Gibbon put it, “breathed the spirit of freedom.” Particularly influential was his idea of natural law, echoed by John Locke and other enlightenment thinkers: Human nature included reason, which could discover justice, which was the basis of law. Voltaire said “He taught us how to think.”

Cicero stayed loyal to the Roman Republic against Julius Caesar. Antony had him murdered for his principles, and his head and hands were nailed to the Senate speaker’s podium as a warning to others, making him a model of resistance against tyranny to America’s revolutionary leaders.

Cicero’s ideas, particularly on justice, law and liberty still merit remembering, two millennia later, on his January 3 birthday.

Justice

Justice is the crowning glory of the virtues.
Justice consists in doing no injury to men.
Justice is the set and constant purpose which gives every man his due.
The foundations of justice are that no one should suffer wrong; then, that the public good be promoted.
Justice must be observed even to the lowest.
Justice does not descend from its pinnacle.
Justice extorts no reward, no kind of price; she is sought...for her own sake.
Law
True law is right reason in agreement with nature; it is of universal application.
The welfare of the people is the ultimate law.
The precepts of the law are these: to live honestly, to injure no one, and to give everyone else his due.
According to the law of nature it is only fair that no one should become richer through damages and injuries suffered by another.
The strictest law often causes the most serious wrong.
The more laws, the less justice.
The arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled.
The administration of government, like a guardianship, ought to be directed to the good of those who confer, not of those who receive the trust.
When a government becomes powerful...it is an usurper which takes bread from innocent mouths and deprives honorable men of their substance for votes with which to perpetuate itself.
Liberty
We are in bondage to the law so that we might be free.
The essence of liberty is to live as you choose.
Freedom is a man’s natural power of doing what he pleases, so far as he is not prevented by force or law.
Freedom is a possession of inestimable value.
What is so beneficial to the people as liberty...to be preferred to all things.
Liberty is rendered even more precious by the recollection of servitude.
Only in states in which the power of the people is supreme has liberty any abode.
Peace is liberty in tranquility. Servitude is the worst of all evils, to be resisted not only by war, but even by death.
Cicero was an important influence behind the American Revolution. He symbolized opposition to tyranny and his ideas on justice, law, and liberty inform our founding documents, which is why Jim Powell’s The Triumph of Liberty begins with Cicero’s story. Though he wrote two millennia ago, his understanding of why defending liberty requires tightly constraining government was thoroughly modern: “Never was a government that was not composed of liars, malefactors and thieves.”

If Americans are serious about their liberty, which is defended by treating our founding documents as more than mere words on paper, Cicero merits renewed attention today.

Gary M. Galles

Gary M. Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University. His recent books include Faulty Premises, Faulty Policies (2014) and Apostle of Peace (2013). He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.


This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.