June 29, 2005

Open Source Amendment Project - Revision 4

There were a lot of good comments and questions on Revision 3. I'll go through those first.

Tuning Spork made some excellent excellent points in several comments I've combined:

First off, I'd change “for a period of 50 years” to for a period of not less than 50 years“. That just so's no one thinks that the government is required to sell it back to the either the old owner(s) (or their heirs) or a new private owner when the 50 years has passed.
Property shall not be taken if the purpose of the acquisition is the promotion of economic development for a private business enterprise which business enterprise would own any right, title, or interest in the property so acquired.
Even though the 5th Amendment uses the word ”taken“, it's modified by ”without just compensation“, so I think the word above should be ”purchased“.

And I think that ”Property shall not be taken“ should read ”Private property shall not be purchased by government“.

The bigger problem with the way it's worded is that it outlaws even a voluntary sale of private property to government if the government intends to resell it to a private entity. Perhaps the words ”under duress“ should be added.

Also, you specify only ”a private business enterprise“. What if John Bon Jovi wants to buy your house but you don't want to sell? What if he got the town use eminent domain to force you to sell it to the town who'd then sell it to John Bon Jovi?

And, I can already hear someone arguing in court that ”it's not for 'the promotion of economic development for a private business enterprise', it's for the economic development of the town as a whole!“.

Good catch on the fine point of the time requirement, it should be a minimum not a deadline.

I think if a town purchases property, i.e in a voluntary contract with the seller then by definition the seller has received just compensation. My town has acquired numerous fairly large pieces of land under a voluntary sale with stipulations that they be maintained as open spaces. It was a deal between the town and the seller and if it was a big enough purchase done via referendum.

I am not convinced that eminent domain being used for an individual to take a home from another is or will be an issue, but it will not weaken the amendment to add a reference to a private individual to the last sentence. And Spork is right it needs a little tweaking about who the taking is promoting economic development for.

Justin asked the question:

What if the state decides to let a private enterprise build on its land but still maintains all titles of ownership? Possible loophole?
I think we have that covered by specifying that ”public use shall be limited to property that shall be entirely owned, maintained and operated by government for the direct use of the public.“ In fact I asked the question could we just end it there? Is the following sentence unnecessarily redundant? Or is necessarily to make clear beyond any doubt what the intent of the amendment is?

Qunicy Brings a topic we have not really delved into yet:

I think that ”just compensation“ should also be defined somehow. One idea I've heard is twice the average market price for the neighborhood, since the property is being coercively taken, not sold.
I have been giving this some thought since this comment and I don't seem to be able to get my head around an acceptable standard. While the concept of a punitive payment requirement is appealing in case like Kelo v New London I don't know if it would be in a legitimate use of eminent domain for a legitimate public purpose. I was considering something along the lines of basing just compensation on the average selling price of a similar property per square foot. This would leave some room for manipulation in how a property is classified. I am going to take a crack at this in this revision - I know it is going to need some help.

Lastly Stephen Littau offers up an entirely new amendment for our consideration that he has aggressed to his congressman.

Section 1: Eminent domain shall not be construed to allow any government within the United States to take property from one private citizen, corporation, or organization to be given or sold to any other citizen, corporation, or organization for any reason. The Federal government shall only invoke eminent domain in order to carry out the necessary functions of government as enumerated in this Constitution.

Section 2: ‘Just compensation’ shall be defined as no less than double the fair market value of the property being taken for local, State, and Federal governments to carry out their legally prescribed functions.

Section 3: No government within the jurisdiction of the United States shall invoke eminent domain with the purpose of generating additional revenue.

I like point 1 very much. The only problem I have is with the second sentence. Not so much with what it says but simply because so much of what the federal government does is beyond ”the necessary functions of government as enumerated in this Constitution“ that I am not sure how that would work. That however is a bigger fish than we are trying to fry here.

In point 2 I am still not willing to go for punitive compensation. On the assumption that this amendment were actually in effect any taking would be for a legitimate public use. That being the case I think we need to keep the concept of ”just“ in mind for both parties. I am warming to the idea of making the taking agency responsible for all of the property owners costs in litigating to prevent the taking - win or lose. Taking should be permissible for a legitimate public use but it should be discouraged.

In point 3 the question I have is would this prevent a government from building a facility on taken land who's function is to collect taxes and fees? I think a restriction based on ”purpose“ is too weak. And like in the case of this project, I wonder if given other language this part is really necessary.

So now for revision 4

The right to ownership of property being the cornerstone of liberty, the Fifth Amendment to this Constitution's statement that property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation shall not be construed to allow any government within the United States to take property from one private citizen, corporation, or organization to be given or sold to any other citizen, corporation, or organization for any reason. No private citizen, corporation, or organization shall own any right, title, or interest in the property so acquired. Public use shall be limited to property entirely owned, maintained and operated by government for the direct use of the public for a period of not less than 50 years.

Just Compensation shall be higher of the average price paid per square foot of similar property in the preceding twelve months or the average of the previous 24 recorded property transactions. For purposes of this determination property may be classified as residential, commercial, mixed use, or undeveloped land. This classification shall be based on the predominate state of a property for the preceding 12 months.

What I don't know is if/how we deal with neglect, disrepair, abandonment. Under this, or any other market average system I could think of, the owner of a run down hovel would probably wind up getting paid more than what the property is worth while the better property might wind up getting paid less. One could of course argue that this won't be an issue since they aren't likely to come after the rich guy's house anyway, however the relative net worth of the property owner should not entitle one to a lesser justice. This type of system also does not take into account the subjective value of property, particularly a home. It will not justly compensate the owner of a home that has been in the family for multiple generations.

If someone wants to take a stab at convincing me that twice market average system is more fair or just I'm open to the argument. But take Kelo out of it. Assume the first part of this amendment is in force and convince me.

One thing we need to keep in mind is that nothing in any of this language supersedes due process. Just because we have spelled out the parameters of eminent domain does not mean that a taking - even one that is within all the criteria cannot be fought. Particularly in the court of public opinion. more...

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:48 PM | Comments (10) | Add Comment


June 28, 2005

Too Good To Be True. But It Is.

When I saw this at Captain's Quarters I thought it had to be a hoax. Funny as hell. But a hoax nonetheless. Then I saw it again at The Volokh Conspiracy So I clicked through to Freestar Media, LLC and checked them out and it seems genuine enough to me. This is one of the best political stunts I have seen in a long time. I'm going to reproduce the entire press release.

For Release Monday, June 27 to New Hampshire media
For Release Tuesday, June 28 to all other media

Weare, New Hampshire (PRWEB) Could a hotel be built on the land owned by Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter? A new ruling by the Supreme Court which was supported by Justice Souter himself itself might allow it. A private developer is seeking to use this very law to build a hotel on Souter's land.

Justice Souter's vote in the “Kelo vs. City of New London” decision allows city governments to take land from one private owner and give it to another if the government will generate greater tax revenue or other economic benefits when the land is developed by the new owner.

On Monday June 27, Logan Darrow Clements, faxed a request to Chip Meany the code enforcement officer of the Towne of Weare, New Hampshire seeking to start the application process to build a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road. This is the present location of Mr. Souter's home.

Clements, CEO of Freestar Media, LLC, points out that the City of Weare will certainly gain greater tax revenue and economic benefits with a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road than allowing Mr. Souter to own the land.

The proposed development, called “The Lost Liberty Hotel” will feature the “Just Desserts Café” and include a museum, open to the public, featuring a permanent exhibit on the loss of freedom in America. Instead of a Gideon's Bible each guest will receive a free copy of Ayn Rand's novel “Atlas Shrugged.”

Clements indicated that the hotel must be built on this particular piece of land because it is a unique site being the home of someone largely responsible for destroying property rights for all Americans.

“This is not a prank” said Clements, “The Towne of Weare has five people on the Board of Selectmen. If three of them vote to use the power of eminent domain to take this land from Mr. Souter we can begin our hotel development.”

Clements' plan is to raise investment capital from wealthy pro-liberty investors and draw up architectural plans. These plans would then be used to raise investment capital for the project. Clements hopes that regular customers of the hotel might include supporters of the Institute For Justice and participants in the Free State Project among others.

# # #

Logan Darrow Clements
Freestar Media, LLC

Five justices can eviscerate property rights for all Americans. Three Selectmen in New Hampshire can make it real for one of them. It would be beautiful.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:34 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment


June 27, 2005

Open Source Amendment Project - Revision 3

Here is a revision of the amendment incorporating some of the language I found earlier at Virginal Postrel's site.

The right to ownership of property being the cornerstone of liberty, the Fifth Amendment to this Constitution's statement that property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation shall be narrowly construed. To protect the right to ownership of property, public use shall be limited to property that shall be entirely owned, maintained and operated by government for the direct use of the public for a period of 50 years. Property shall not be taken if the purpose of the acquisition is the promotion of economic development for a private business enterprise which business enterprise would own any right, title, or interest in the property so acquired.
As always I welcome want feedback and input from as many sources as possible.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:50 PM | Comments (10) | Add Comment


Open Source Amendment Project update

Via Virginal Postrel I found the following language from the charter of Carrillton, TX. I think we can use some of this in this project.

“Provided, however, nothing included above or anywhere in this charter shall authorize the City of Carrollton, or any corporations, agency or entity created by the City, or pursuant to the City's approval and authorization, to institute and exercise the power of eminent domain to acquire private or public property if the purpose of the acquisition is the promotion of economic development for a private business enterprise which business enterprise would own any right, title, or interest in the property so acquired.” (Emphasis added.)

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 08:09 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


June 26, 2005

Open Source Amendment Project - Revision 2

I have been hoping to have a lot more debate and input in term of numbers involved, but I really couldn't have hoped for more in terms of quality.

Check the comments to the original draught.

And the comments on Revision 1

Be sure to take a look at the press release which has so far generated zero interest!

The participants to date have expressed some doubt about some of the language in this revision. I will do my best to explain the intent of each clause. I am still hoping to broaden the input to bring in some aditional perspectives. Someone who knows something about the law would be more than welcome!!

The right to ownership of property being the cornerstone of liberty, the Fifth Amendment to this Constitution's statement that property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation shall be narrowly construed. To protect the right to ownership of property, public use shall be limited to property that shall be entirely owned, maintained and operated by government for the direct use of the public. Government shall not take property for any purpose that results in increased revenue through taxation of any person, private business or other legal entity and shall retain ownership of taken property for a period of 50 years.
The right to ownership of property being the cornerstone of liberty, the Fifth Amendment to this Constitution's statement that property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation shall be narrowly construed.

In addition to putting the courts on notice that they have little or no leeway in interpreting both this and the Fifth Amendment, this clause establishes the importance of property rights. Property rights are indeed fundamental to the concept of liberty. If you do not have the rights of ownership of the property you paid for, then you do not have the right of ownership of the wages you earned for your labor.

Every man has a property in his own person. This nobody has a right to, but himself. -- John Locke
To protect the right to ownership of property, public use shall be limited to property that shall be entirely owned, maintained and operated by government for the direct use of the public.

The phrase “right to ownership of property” is an intentional avoidance of the phrase “right to property.” The last thing we want is some judge ruling the amendment that we have to give everyone some property because they have a right to it. Here it is expressly stated that you have the right of ownership of property. i.e property you paid for. The real meat is in the second phrase stating that taken property must be owned operated and maintained by the taking agency. This taken along with the language narrowly construing the language of the Fifth Amendment should put an end to taking property for Wal-Mart and Pfizer.

Government shall not take property for any purpose that results in increased revenue through taxation of any person, private business or other legal entity and shall retain ownership of taken property for a period of 50 years.

The first half of this statement has given us some trouble. It is essentially a direct response to the Kelo decision stating that increased tax revenue is not a public use. I am not sure we have it right yet, and I am not sure if we even need it. If, based on the language in the previous statement the government taking the property must own operate and maintain the property for direct public use it is not possible to take property and turn it over to another private concern, then the tax issue is moot.

As for the 50 year requirement this is protection against a municipality taking a property, holding it briefly then turning it over to a private developer.

Thanks again to Zendo Deb, Tuning Spork and Justin for their help.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 05:54 PM | Comments (6) | Add Comment


The Morning After

Many who wrote in the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court's Kelo decision (see here for a sampling of links) have now taken a taken a step back for a more dispassionate analysis. I think a number of them are getting it wrong. (I am not going to name names and link posts. If you go through the sites in my original list of links you will see all of these arguments)

One argument I have read is that a good deal of the outrage stems from the stories if the individuals involved in this case. While I don't doubt that sympathy for the individuals being forced from their homes played some part in the reaction, attributing the outrage to that factor alone misses the point and vastly underestimates the thinking of those who are deeply troubled by this ruling.

This argument is usually offered hand in hand with the observation that takings for purposes of increased tax revenue are nothing new and the court is merely ratifying existing practice and precedent. Therefore the reaction must stem form the particulars of this case. Post hoc ergo proctor hoc. This thinking clearly, and surprisingly, disregards a concept that that has become quite popular in both amateur and professional punditry. The idea of the tipping point. There has been a constant erosion of property rights via regulation and eminent domain. This case represented perhaps the last chance to stop that erosion.

I was aware of the issue of municipalities taking property purely for a tax revenue gain. Clearly the facts of the Kelo case, stripped of the particular stories of the individuals involved, are not unique. It is an unfortunately old and too frequently told story. Many people, myself included, looked at these cases and were angered. But we were not without hope. However naive some think that hope to have been, the issue had not been decided. There was the hope that when it reached the court, tax revenue would be determined not to be public use and the practice would be brought to a halt. Now there is no avenue of appeal. The issue has been decided. The hope has been destroyed. For the average homeowner, there is little or nothing standing in the way of their town seizing their property to give it to someone who can generate more tax revenue.

I always felt our first house was at risk. It was located just over the line that separated a commercial zone from a residential. At the end of our street was an on-ramp for I95. The town is building a new station on the Metro North commuter line about half a mile away and development of the area is already booming. When we moved I put that concern aside. We live in a quiet residential neighborhood that got its start as a 1950's subdivision. A cluster of capes on small lots. Most of the houses have been renovated and expanded, having gone from their original 1200 square foot size to an average of probably 1800 - 2000 sf. The average price for a house on my street is probably about $650,000. (yes I happen to live in one of the most ridiculously expensive parts of the country.) Could the city see an increase in tax revenue by giving the land to a developer who would bulldoze the neighborhood and put up a dozen or so 3500 sf mcmansions that would probably sell for $1 million or better. Definitely. Does this concern me. Definitely. Am I pissed off that I even have to give this a second thought. Definitely.

People are undoubtedly looking at their own lives and their own property and realizing that if the government can stretch the concept of public use to cover just about anything then their rights to their property are at risk. How can anyone misunderstand why this upsets people?

Another argument that quite frankly has me a bit befuddled is centered around limited government/judicial restraint vs big government/judicial activism. Maybe its me, but some people seem to have this so completely backwards. I have read the argument that conservatives who wanted the court to rule against the town of New London were in the unusual position of advocating for judicial activism and bigger government. This argument holds that overturning the evolving practice of takings for tax revenue and the existing precedents would be an act of judicial activism. On the contrary, refusing to expand the definition of “public use” beyond any rational meaning would hardly be judicial activism. And if halting and overturning previous judicial activism is to be considered a bad thing, then what is the point of going through the fight to put originalists on the bench in the first place. Is it enough then for conservatives to say judicial activism stops now, but we wont try to undo any of the damage that has been done? I don't think so.

It is not enough to say we only want to prevent any further erosion of the Constitutional protection of our rights. Stopping where we are is not enough.

A third argument I have read is the Federalist argument. I have read that this is the right decision because what constitutes a “public use” should be determined at the local level. While I am a strong supporter of states rights and think more often than not the federal government interferes in in local matters too much there are some principals that to broad and too important to be left to patchwork of state and local policies. If this were an issue that was to be left to the states, the Fifth Amendment would not include the language in protection of property that it does. The fact that the courts have allowed the protection of property rights to be eroded away to virtually nothing does not change the fact that from the ratification of the Bill of Rights, they were protected Constitutionally.

I have not seen a decent argument yet to the effect that this was a good, or even reasonable decision. This is yet another instance of the government systematically eroding the rights of the individual. We are not people to them, we are revenue sources. And if we are not producing enough they will bring someone who will.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 02:48 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


June 25, 2005

Quick Draw in Texas

Via The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler comes this story from Freeport Texas. I'm only going to quote the lead. Follow the link to get the rest of the angering details.

By THAYER EVANS
Chronicle Correspondent

FREEPORT - With Thursday's Supreme Court decision, Freeport officials instructed attorneys to begin preparing legal documents to seize three pieces of waterfront property along the Old Brazos River from two seafood companies for construction of an $8 million private boat marina.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 02:21 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


For Immediate Release

A press release has been sent in support of the Open Source Amendment Project.

PDF

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 07:41 AM | Comments (4) | Add Comment


Blinded Me With Science

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 07:02 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


Open Source Amendment - Revision 1

Some great input already. Thanks.

The right to ownership of property being the cornerstone of liberty, the Fifth Amendment to this Constitution's statement that property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation shall be narrowly construed. To protect the right to property, public use shall be limited to property that shall be entirely owned, maintained and operated by government for the direct use of the public. Government shall not take property for any purpose that includes or results in higher taxation and shall retain ownership of taken property for a period of 50 years.
I like the suggestion from Tuning Spork of expressly stating that the Fifth amendment takings clause will be narrowly construed. Justin's suggestion about not creating tax revenue is spot on. I might even go further and say a taking would qualify as a public use only if it resulted in a loss of taxable property. If someone wants to take a stab at wording that I'd be grateful.

I understand the reasoning for Zendo Deb wanting to put a time requirement on the public use portion. The amendment should anticipate the possibility of a municipality churning a property. Holding it briefly then handing it over to a developer. 99 years might be a bit much I think. 50 years would certainly make eminent domain useless as a business tool. I could be wrong though. It's happened once before! more...

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:29 AM | Comments (14) | Add Comment


June 24, 2005

Open Source Constitutional Amendment

I'm not a lawyer and I don't play one on TV so I'm going to need a little help with this. We who would like to regain our property rights have few choices. We can either wait until the balance of the court changes and another case is heard and hell freezes over. Or, we can change the law. Which in this instance, means amending the Constitution.

Property rights are too fundamental to the concept of Liberty to allow them to be diminished at the hands of a mere five people. But since the court can can define “public use” any way five concurring justices would like, we're stuck with their expansive definition unless we can enact our own.

So my proposal is this. An amendment to the Constitution limiting the taking power of government by expressly limiting the scope of “public use” to actual public use. This is where I need your help. Below is my draft of the amendment. I request your comments and input to help refine the language.

Once the amendment is finalized It will take all of us, and all of our readers and all of their readers and all off theirs, and their friends too, to start it on its way to ratification.

The right to property is the cornerstone of liberty. The Fifth Amendment to this Constitution states that property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation. To further protect the right to property, public use shall be limited to property that shall be entirely owned, maintained and operated by government for the direct use of the public.

Zendo Deb is taking a more detailed approach that is definately worth a look. more...

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 02:40 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment


June 23, 2005

I Used To Own A House

Forget flag burning. We need an amendment banning desecration of the Constitution.

Not satisfied with having seriously abridged our First Amendment protected right to free speech by sanctifying the speech restrictions of Campaign Finance Reform the Supreme Court in a split decision has targeted the Fifth Amendment. Specifically the language that reads “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

You and I no longer own homes. We occupy them. We pay the bank every month for the privilege of living there as long as the government wants to let us.

In the ruling handed down today, the court ruled that the town of New London, CT could exercise eminent domain and take homes and business from citizens and turn the land over to private developers to build a river-front hotel, a health club and offices.

The Court has ruled that “economic development” qualifies as a public use. Economic development for who? For the homeowner who has worked and paid the mortgage month after month? Or for the developer who gets property he couldn't get on the open market because the owners didn't want to sell their homes?

What is to stop a developer from telling the city that if they take your home and give it to them, they can increase its economic value to the city. Not your right to your property. You no longer have that.

As the Supreme Court continues to render the words of the Constitution meaningless, perhaps it getting to be time to take these words to heart again.

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

More at
Michelle Malkin
Wizbang
Physics Geek
Vodka Pundut
Ranting Right Wing Howler
Yippee-Ki-Yay!
Limburg Letter
Mary Katherine Ham
Professor Bainbridge
Captain's Quarters
Blogs of War
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Florida Cracker
Pejmanesque
Instapundit
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Nashville Files
No Quarters
Unpartisan
The Right Report
Say Uncle
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SCOTUS Blog
Volokh Conspiracy
John Tabin
The Open End
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Glen Reynolds
Stones Cry Out
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Darleen's Place
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Another Rovian Conspiracy
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Macsmind
TacJammer
RussBlog
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Right Side of the Rainbow
Miss O'Hara
The Age Of Reason
Ramblings' Journal
Rhymes with Right
Lileks - Deadburb USA
Powerline 1
Powerline 2
Michelle Malkin

I'm going to stop adding names to this list and just send you off the Kelo Topic Page at Truth Laid Bear. He's got a very big list of blogs writing on this topic, even though he seems to have missed this one!

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 09:10 AM | Comments (11) | Add Comment


June 22, 2005

Don't Ban The Burn

I want to go on the record as saying that flag burning is offensive. It is offensive not in a deeply personal inspire me to riot kind of way. But it's like being called names on the playground. It is infantile. It is meaningless. If it gives some Islamic nutjob or modern day American hippie a vicarious thrill to watch it burn, so what. I really don't give a damn.

I also want to be on the record as saying that the idea of an amendment to the Constitution empowering the Congress to ban desecration of the flag is one of the most repugnant to come out of Washington in a long time. The flag is a piece of colored cloth. I'm wearing colored cloth right now. But my shirt does not stand for anything. It does not represent anything.

The Flag does. The flag is a visual symbol of the United States of America. What matters about the flag is not the threads. Not the Stars or the Strips. What matters about the flag is the ideas it represents. America is not a piece of cloth. America is an idea, and an ideal. Burn the cloth, shred the cloth, flush the cloth and you do nothing to damage the idea. Nothing to weaken the ideal.

One of the ideas symbolized by the flag is the idea of freedom. This includes the freedom to be an infantile idiot who gets a thrill from burning the flag.

I have enough faith left in the rationality of enough of America to expect this Amendment to go down in flames.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 04:25 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment


June 21, 2005

Durbin Aplologizes

Late this afternoon Senator Dick Durbin took to the floor of the Senate and offered this apology for his comments comparing the U.S. military detention center to the Soviet Gulags, Nazi Concentration Camps and Khmer Ruge Killing Fields.

“More than most people, a senator lives by his words ... occasionally words fail us, occasionally we will fail words,” Durbin, D-Ill., said.

“I am sorry if anything I said caused any offense or pain to those who have such bitter memories of the Holocaust, the greatest moral tragedy of our time. Nothing, nothing should ever be said to demean or diminish that moral tragedy.

”I am also sorry if anything I said cast a negative light on our fine men and women in the military ... I never ever intended any disrespect for them. Some may believe that my remarks crossed the line to them I extend my heartfelt apology.“

The Fox News story describes Durbin as ”choking on his words.“ Of that, I have no doubt. Given his week long defense of his comments and the widespread support within his party and the mainstream media, it had to have been difficult for to now express regret.

I cannot help but wonder if Al Jazeera will trumpet the apology as loudly as they broadcast the original statements. What will the Star Tribune will say. But since he didn't retract the statements only apologize for their offensiveness, I doubt either of those sources will take notice.

For me, its way to little and way too late. Durbin must go.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 02:58 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


I've Been Tagged

21st Century Paladin tagged me with the movie meme. I'll play along to the extent of answering the questions. I won't tag anyone - unless you feel really strongly that someone should suffer. If so, leave their name in the comments and I'll consider it.

1. Total number of films I own on DVD/video:
I don't have an exact number my wife loves movies. The kids love movies. Let's just say more than two hundred and leave it at that.

2. The last film I bought:
Well, my wife does most of the buying. The last DVD I paid for was the Justice League for my son. Not really a “film” just a collection of campy animated super-heros with and overly dramatic voice over. “Later at the Hall of Justice...” Some day I'll do a whole post on the enormous stupidity of the Wonder Twins. But not today.

3. The last film I watched:
I took my daughter to see Madagascar. It was amusing in the way that all of those kids animated movies with double entendres for the adults is amusing. The jokes were clever - entirely expected and predictable - but clever. I only fell asleep once or twice.

4. Five films that I watch a lot or that mean a lot to me:
I don't think I could say that any film means a lot to me. I don't watch movies for meaning. I watch for entertainment. So there are some I have watched a lot. (note I am excluding any of the kids movies which I have seen and seen and seen and seen.)

1. The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I read the books when I was young. So young that we had an 8-track tape player in our bedroom. I started with The Hobbit then the Trilogy. Throughout the entire course of the books, the same tape was playing in the background. Who Are You by The Who. It was interesting to watch the movies which of course had a much different sound track. When I watch them, I don't hear the Who. But when I hear any song from that album it still invokes images from the stories.

2. Star Wars - all of it even though the first prequels kind of sucked and I haven't seen Sith yet.

3. October Sky. The closest any film has come to having meaning for me.

4. The Matrix. I really only loved the first one. The second two seemed a little too self involved. I've seen the first one at least 10 times. The second and third only three or four each.

5. The Usual Suspects. The whole Verbal Kint/Kaiser Sose twist was great. It is one of the few twists in a plot I didn't see coming. Back in the OS 9 days I had a shut down sound of Kint saying “And like that... he's gone.”

5. Tag five others with this meme
Like I said, I'll take requests.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 02:03 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


Bring It Home To Durbin

“I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part.”

Here's the phone number for Dick Durbin's office. (202) 224-2152.

Cue up the most obnoxious piece of music you can find.

Turn it up real loud.

Dial.

Repeat.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 08:08 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


June 18, 2005

Letter to Congress on Dick Durbin

Below is the text my letter to the people representing me in Congress, Senator Lieberman, Senator Dodd, and Representative Shays. I also copied Bill Frist, M.D.

Recently a colleague of yours, and a member of the Democratic Party leadership in the Senate, compared the treatment of illegal combatant terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay Cuba with the atrocities of the Soviet Gulags, Nazi Concentration Camps, and Pol Pot's Killing Fields.

Do you agree that the American Military and the Bush Administration are the moral equivalent of Stalin and the KGB or Pol Pot and the Khmer Ruge?

Do you agree that the actions outlined by Senator Durbin such as the playing of loud music and manipulating the air conditioning to make a prisoner uncomfortable are the moral equivalent of Nazi Germany exterminating six million Jews?

Do you agree with Senator Durbin that such a comparison is not an insult to all who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces and their families, to all who suffered or are connected to the suffering of the world's most barbarically repressive regimes, and to all American's?

If you do not, you should be on the Senate floor or in front of a press microphone at the first possible moment to condemn Senator Durbin's comments in the strongest possible language and demand an apology if not the Senator's resignation.

I would also like to request that you immediately submit to the Senate a resolution censuring Senator Durbin for his comments.

Overwhelmingly anti-American statements such as those made by Senator Durbin cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged. Your failure to do so would be further insult to the people of Connecticut. An insult I and many others will be sure to remind voters of when you next you stand for re-election.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 07:56 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


June 16, 2005

Prisoner Abuse Reality Check

When ranking members on one side of a war send out video for news outlets to air that is really nothing more than propaganda what happens? Well if the video comes from an agency of the Bush White House there is a great uproar and the media drips with righteous indignation. When the video is an Al Qaeda snuff film from Iraq, if it gets covered at all, it's just news.

When Al Qaeda captures an enemy, or even a civilian, they release a video of the terrified detainee reading a statement at gunpoint pleading for their lives. The next time the detainee is seen, the hooded guards read the statement for the camera and then their leader invades the detainee's personal space with a knife and cuts his head off.

When the U.S. captures an enemy combatant and review determines that he should be sent to Cuba for interrogation, they make him uncomfortable. First they turn up the AIR CONDITIONING really high and make the detainee cold. Then they have sadistic cruelty to turn the AIR CONDITIONING off and make the detainee hot. Think about that contrast for a moment. One side will cut you head of on camera while you scream in agony, the other side will mess with your AIR CONDITIONING.

AIR CONDITIONING.

The enemy captured four civilian contractors in Falujah. They killed them. They burned and mutilated the bodies and hung the remains from a bridge.

The U.S. left a detainee chained to the floor and and he soiled himself. Then we played loud music and messed with his AIR CONDITIONING.

And who are the bad guys in this comparison? Well according to Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, we are the bad guys. Earlier this week he said

Let me read to you what one FBI agent saw. And I quote from his report:

On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18–24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold. . . . On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor.

If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime—Pol Pot or others— that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.
In trying to defend and justify his comments, Durbin said
What I said is you might conclude this was done by one of those repressive regimes.
Yeah right. You might conclude that before the detainees at Auschwitz were lead off to the gas chamber their Nazi guards played loud music and messed with the AIR CONDITIONING. But beyond that his defense amounts to saying I read a list of things that American personnel did and and concluded that it was no different than the Khmer Rouge. The American Military is no different than the Nazs, the Soviets or the Khmer Rouge. If you ever wondered what was meant by the expression moral equivalence - there it is.

Dick Durbin compared American personnel messing with a detainee's AIR CONDITIONING the most brutally barbaric regimes in recent history. This man has to go. He needs to be removed from the Senate and it needs to happen before the next election. There is no excuse for the comments he made. There is no excuse to refuse to apologize. And were he to offer an apology now, it would be too little to late.

AIR CONDITIONING.

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin has more and a great collection of links.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 04:09 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment


Passing Me By

It seems as though the world is passing me by. At least as far as Hold The Mayo is concerned. I have a mental list of things I want to write about but I don't seem to have the time. I get home from work and its family time until the kids go to bed then I sit down and do work. I'm a long way from being caught up the point where I can take a night off.

So here's a few quick hits in the ten minutes I have.

I've read about the treatment of Gitmo detainees. Loud music, attractive women in your personal space, shaving, removing clothing. That's not torture. You put it the right order and its a date. I'm sure for some of you the being chained to floor part is good too.

Dick Durbin is a dick. In my more cynical moments I'm beginning to believe that you have to be stupid to want to be in the U.S. Senate. Because there seems to be so many idiots who have the job.

Global Warming is still not a man made crisis and there is still no scientific consensus that it is.

Kofi Anan is a crook. That he is the head of the U.N. is kind of appropriate. A corrupt organization should have a corrupt leader.

John Bolton should be confirmed.

The Senate Republicans still seem to have trouble with the concept of leading. (see above.)

I love reading The Bleat. Lileks' charming stories about life with Gnat are so well crafted and enjoyable. I look forward to reading one every morning. But secretly every time I click on the bookmark I'm kind of hoping he is going off on someone or something because he does it so well.

Is not an email campaign to bring down a TV show the metaphorical equivalent of bringing down a skyscraper? Granted, a writer who jumps from a cancelled show usually lands on his feet. But they have a certain poetic symmetry, no?

No. And anyone who tries to make the point deserves to be struck in the face with a thick, wet, cold haddock.

Now there is place to go just get this fix. Be sure to check out Screedblog.

If I have the time and the strength I'll actually write something reasoned and topical. But this all I can muster.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 11:58 AM | Comments (4) | Add Comment


June 11, 2005

The Alphabet Songs

Picked up this meme from Gir over at Your Moosey Fate.

Put your iPod list, (or whatever music thingy you use), in alphabetical order, and list the first song for each letter.

I did it straight from iTunes because it has all the same song as the iPod and the program I use to write this blog has a neat little button that automatically enters and formats the currently playing iTunes song. I've been waiting a long for time to have a use for that button.

“Em Elbmuh” from the album “'Jed'” by Goo Goo Dolls
A Life Of Illusion from the album “Billboard Top Album Rock Hits” by Joe Walsh
Baba O'Rielly by The Who
Cajun
from the album “New Miserable Experience” by Gin Blossoms
Damn from the album “Yourself Or Someone Like You” by Matchbox Twenty
East St. Louis Toodle-oo from the album “A Decade of Steely Dan” by Steely Dan
F.M. from the album “A Decade of Steely Dan” by Steely Dan
Gettin' In Tune from the album “Who's Next” by The Who
Had Enough from the album “'Jed'” by Goo Goo Dolls
I Alone from the album “Throwing Copper” by Live
James Dean from the album “'Jed'” by Goo Goo Dolls
Keep Your Hands To Yourself from the album “Georgia Satellites” by Georgia Satellites
Lawyers, Guns and Money from the album “A Quiet Normal Life - The Best of Warren Zevon” by Warren Zevon
Magic from the album “The Cars Greatest Hits” by The Cars
need you tonight from the album “Coyote Ugly OST” by inxs
On Every Street from the album “On The Night (LIVE)” by Dire Straits
Peaches by Presidents Of The United State
Q
Real World from the album “Yourself Or Someone Like You” by Matchbox Twenty
Satellite from the album “Remember Two Things [Live]” by Dave Matthews Band
T.B.D. from the album “Throwing Copper” by Live
Uncle Salty from the album “Toys In The Attic” by Aerosmith
Vera from the album “The Wall” by Pink Floyd
Waiting for the Worms from the album “The Wall” by Pink Floyd
X
Yet Another Movie from the album “A Momentary Lapse Of Reason” by Pink Floyd
Z

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 04:42 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment


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