In 1772, the famed English magistrate, William Murray, First Earl of Mansfield, presided over the case, Somerset v. Stewart . It was the first significant test of slavery as a legal institution.
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When I was around 17 my father gave me a piece of advice. I didn’t know it at the time — sitting there waiting for the traffic signal to change at the intersection of the Martha Mitchell Expressway and Blake Street — but the brief admonishment would have profound consequences for my life. As Thanksgiving is the one day each year we’re almost legally obliged to ponder that for which we are thankful, this seems as good a time as any to share that advice.
As the holiday season creeps closer, I fall prey to the same rush and urges that many people experience in their drive to find just the right Christmas present. It’s all-too easy. I suppose I come by it honestly. I grew up in a household with very generous parents. They weren’t just generous to me, but also to nearly everybody they knew.
Ayn Rand, the controversial darling of the rightmost extremities in modern politics, once wrote, “Civilization is the progress of a society towards privacy. The savage’s whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.”
A few years ago I wrote a book chapter on the scandal surrounding silent film star, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle. The research taught me many things. I learned that Arbuckle was perhaps the first real movie star. He was among the first — if not the very first — actor to write, direct and star in his own films. He was one of the original Keystone Kops. He was a mentor to Buster Keaton, and his million dollar studio contract even predated Charlie Chaplin’s.
This week The New York Times ran an article titled “Sparse Competition and Higher Premiums.” If ever five words could sum up every broken aspect of American health care, those do it perfectly.
Occasionally, I am able to pretend that such things don’t exist, but on a recent sojourn to Ohio, prejudice stared me square in the face.
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