Thursday, June 23, 2005

Howdy.
Quick morning in court today.
Word of warning. It's been a few days, so I got some pent up ranting to do. If you don't want it, skip to the end or just leave off here.
Here's some further evidence of the insanity of the federal government:
http://www.cnn.com/2005/LAW/06/23/scotus.property.ap/index.html
So now local governments can take away private property from homeowners if they see such seizures as being "in the best interest of government", which apparently includes private development. To rephrase, local governments can take away your house in order to sell your land to private developers, as long as the local government can show that the community would benefit from such a seizure (i.e., if either the local government was going to make a whole lot of money off of selling the property or if the local government decided that their community needed another strip mall). The law used to only allow these types of seizures in cases where the seized property was going to be used for some specific public purpose (such as roadways or public parks or something). Now, some fat cat land developer is going to be able to call in some favors with one of his old fraternity brothers from the city council and force some low-income homeowner out of the house that his family has lived in for three generations so that the fat cats can put in a shopping center. I haven't read the actual decision, but this case seems to set a terrible precedent. Although homeowners are promised "fair market value" for their homes, it's safe to say that developers wouldn't be seeking the property in the first place unless they were going to make a lot more than "fair market value" through the seizure of the land (and/or homes). Poor people are just gonna get screwed by this. They aren't going to get anywhere near what their land is worth (because they won't be able to hire expensive lawyers or real estate agents), and developers who have connections that are powerful enough to set the wheels of goverment seizure proceedings in motion are going to have a windfall.
This is America, damnit. People shouldn't be able to take away your freakin' house just because somebody else thought of a way to make more money off of it than you have (or because they're more well connected than you are). Somehow I'm landing with the conservatives on this one (Scalia, Thomas, and Rehnquist joined O'Connor's dissent in saying, "Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms.") I think, however, that private property rights should be pretty nearly inviolable, and I definitely believe that they should only be infringed upon when there is a clearly defined public necessity for interference with them. Taking private property from one individual in order to give it to another private individual is scary stuff.
And also this:
http://www.cnn.com/2005/POLITICS/06/23/rove.speech.ap/index.html
Apparently Carl Rove said that the Democrats were too passive and weak following the 9/11 attacks, specifically that they wanted therapy and indictments for our enemies. Now the Democrats want a public apology.
I'm so tired of politicians demanding apologies from one another. Who cares? Aren't politicians supposed to air their grievances and demand answers from one another in the attempt to run an honest, effective government?
Dick Durbin, a senior senator from Illinois, apologized earlier this week for making comments about Guantanamo Bay that compared it to Nazi or Soviet prison camps.
http://www.cnn.com/2005/POLITICS/06/21/guantanamo.durbin/index.html
Who cares? The guy was either insincere when he made the first remark, insincere when he made the apology, or he's a flake who's constantly sincere, but changes his ideology from one moment to the next. Of course, there's that scary fourth option in which he was just cowed into apologizing because of fear of reprisal, but that just kind of makes him a coward or self centered or both. None of these possibilities strike me as particularly good. The truth is, Guantanamo Bay DOES suck, and everyone knows it, and no one really is blaming the men and women in the armed forces for what goes on there, because everyone knows that the policy makers are the ones responsible for the whole mess. Maybe Durbin overstated things a bit, but he got the country's attention, and I think he ruined his own credibility when he apologized for his comments, not because they weren't essentially correct, but because of a poor choice of words. Even if he was misguided, he sounded passionate. Now he just sounds like a flunky. (if the Republicans are willing to commit acts which constitute violations of human rights and international law, I don't think Democrats should really be worried about the wording that they use when they challenge those actions- stopping the torture of some potentially innocent people is a little more important than worrying about the delicate sensibilites of the Republicans).
As for Carl Rove, unfortunately I think his comments hit a nerve with Democrats, not because they were necessarily true, but because they've managed to highlight the fact that the Democrats never really seemed to take ANY strong position regarding the war on terror following 9/11 (in the same way that the Democrats were so painfully wishy washy on many things during that time). Rove's comments, which mocked the international judicial process by making light of indictments as a means of addressing terrorism, could have been turned around on him by contrasting the need for a policy of global justice and law enforcement against the Bush administration's knee jerk reaction to the attacks- a reaction to 9/11 which landed us in a war in Iraq that had nothing to do with September 11th or the people who committed that atrocity. (right after 9/11 happened, I remember having a conversation with my father in which he said that the 9/11 attacks seemed more like a terrible crime than an act of war, and that America would be better served by hunting down Bin Laden and his lieutenants as high profile international criminals than by launching a war in which thousands of people would be killed, but Bin Laden would slip away. My Pops predicted that Bin Laden just wanted to lure America into a stupid war that would do further damage to America's image in the Arab world, and I think Pops was right).
Anyway, the Democrats kind of seemed like deer caught in the headlights after 9/11, while the Republicans launched into unthinking, ridiculous action, moving forward under the rubric that even the wrong plan of action was better than standing still. If the Democrats had managed to formulate some kind of alternate plan to promote (say, strengthening relations with Pakistan so that we could go into that country and get Bin Laden rather than just beating up on Iraq ), then maybe now they wouldn't be caught in the position of defending their inaction after 9/11.
Oh well. My point is, I would rather see some people take a stand than continue to see this pattern of attack and retreat-through-apology in which none of our political leaders seem to truly hold any passionate beliefs (or at least none which exist outside of political expediency).
Well, it's been a few days and I had a lot to get off my chest.
Hi Rami! Rami sent me some kind of email today about a guy who got stuck sitting next to the toilet stall on an airplane. Rami is a strange, funny, little elf. When we go to the beach in a couple of weeks, I will have to strongly encourage her to entertain me once again with an interpretive dance. Also, maybe we can construct a sand castle big enough for tiny Rami to live in.
That's all for the moment. I need to do some work.

I'm back. This is just too rich:
http://www.cnn.com/2005/POLITICS/06/23/rumsfeld.iraq.ap/index.html
Even the generals are openly disagreeing with the White House's assessment of the war. Who would have guessed that it's a bad idea to occupy a country in the Middle East? (uh, didn't the Russians mention something about this after getting their asses kicked in Afghanistan for like 10 years?) And the funniest part of this article? When Edward Kennedy once again called for Rumsfeld's resignation, Rumsfeld's response wasn't to tell the guy to go to hell or to call him to task for not offering any alternate solutions to the Iraq problem-instead, Rummy basically responded that the president wouldn't let him resign even though he'd tried to resign twice. Jeez. I bet that if Rumsfeld was the president's cook and he had given the president food poisoning, the president would have let him go without thinking twice. But then again, the country doesn't reexamine your entire foreign policy if they found out you've been eating dinners prepared by an incompetent chef...

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