July 30, 2005

Open Source Amendment Project - Promotion.

A very busy morning promoting the petition. It started with writing a press release and emailing it to about 150 media organizations and probably another 50 bloggers. I have barely begun to scratch the surface.From:

Open Source Amendment Project
For Immediate Release:
The Open Source Amendment Project began in response to the Supreme Court decision in the case Kelo v. New London. The Supreme Court ruled in a 5 - 4 decision that the City of New London, CT could take several properties under eminent domain making the actions goal of increasing tax revenue a Constitutionally valid public use under the Fifth Amendment.
The Project began with a draught amendment posted to the weblog Hold The Mayo (www.nomayo.mu.nu) by its author Stephen R. Macklin. The Project then actively sought input from other bloggers interested in protecting property rights. “There are a lot of very smart people on the internet and writing weblogs,” Macklin said. “If that intellectual power can be harnessed we can craft an amendment that will address the damage done to property rights by the Supreme Court in the Kelo decision.”
After much debate via weblog comments at Hold The Mayo and other weblogs, and numerous revisions, The Open Source Amendment Project has released its final amendment and a petition to Congress to amend the Constitution.
To:
The President of the United States.
The Vice President of The United States
The Members of the United States Senate
The Members of the United States House of Representatives
The Members of the United States Supreme Court
In the Declaration of Independence the founders of this great nation wrote, “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.” They also built into the structure of our government a process by which we the people can seek to change the nature and function of our government without abolishing it and beginning again.
We the undersigned agree with our founders that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed and feel that our government has exceeded the bounds of that consent. We believe that the recent decision of the Supreme Court regarding the exercise of eminent domain was reached with complete disregard for the plain language of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. 
We the people therefore ask that the Constitution of the United States be amended to include the following language:

The right to ownership of property being the cornerstone of liberty, no government, or agency thereof, within these United States shall have the authority to take property from any person, corporation, or organization through exercise of eminent domain for other than a public use without just compensation.
Public use shall be understood to be property the government owns or retains the paramount interest in, and the public has a legal right to use. Public use shall be understood to include property the government owns and maintains as a secure facility. Public use shall not be construed to include economic development or increased tax revenue. Public use of such property shall be maintained for a period of not less than 25 years.
Just compensation shall be the higher of twice the average of the price paid for similar property in the preceding six months, or twice the average of the previous 10 recorded similar property transactions. Compensation paid shall be exempt from taxation in any form by any government within these United States.

The Open Source Amendment Project hopes to generate support across the internet to get the amendment to congress. The petition is available online at http://www.petitiononline.com/Property/petition.html

“The process of amending the Constitution is difficult. As it should be. The first hurdle is getting the amendment before Congress. If enough people get behind the effort we should be able to get someone to listen,” Macklin said. “There are 535 elected members of congress. I hope there is at least one with and interest in preserving the property rights of individuals. 

Stephen Macklin is an independent, unpaid, writer of social and political commentary. He can be reached for further comment at blogmail@optonline.net.

One might wonder why I began this effort on a Saturday. Two reasons. First I had the time to do it and second, I wanted to be in editor's inboxes when they get to work on Monday. I'll probably do another round tonight and then some more on Tuesday. If you have any contacts where this might spark some interest let me know. Or better yet, copy the release and send it to them. Your participation is what makes this an open source project. I hop it will be as open source in the promotion as it was in the creation.

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Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 12:31 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment


July 28, 2005

Advice To The Nominee

I am reasonably confident that Judge Roberts doesn't need my advice about how to deal with Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee. But what's the point of even having a blog if you can't presume to offer advice to people far smarter than yourself. There is nothing like a little hubris.

So here it is. Judge Roberts you will undoubtedly be asked all number of questions about how you would have ruled in this case how you might rule on that case. You, of course, will not answer these questions. You will not do so on principle. The problem you will face is that you will dealing with politicians who not only have no principles, the appear to loath and perhaps even fear them.

But it is not without hope. You have at your disposal the judge's favorite tool. Precedent. And not just any precedent. You have the precedent of a sitting Supreme Court Justice. When they ask you these questions, cite the precedent set by Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Quote her responses verbatim.

It probably won't have any effect in terms of easing your confirmation but it would be lot of fun for the rest of us.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 02:39 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


July 26, 2005

Property Rights Petition Update

The petition is off to a slow start. Very slow. After five days there is a total of 94 signatures (including those names appearing on the petition). Not exactly a blistering pace. Something needs to be done. A few blogs have linked the petition and I am very grateful. But we need more.

So tonight I am issuing a Fox News Challenge. In the spirit of “We Report. You Decide,” I challenge bloggers everywhere to link the petition and let their readers decide.

If you don't think the idea of amending the Constitution in response to Kelo is a good one, link the petition and let your readers decide.

If you like the idea of amending the Constitution in response to Kelo but think this amendment stinks, link the petition and let your readers decide.

If you could care less about the Supreme Court, the Constitution, or property rights link the petition and let your readers decide.

If you like the idea of government taking property from private citizens to sell to corporations and developers, link the petition and let your readers decide.

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July 25, 2005

A Real-Live Worst-Case Scenario

Needing a bit of a break from being a bit of a one topic blogger recently (you have signed the petition haven't you?) I did what bloggers often do and set out looking for something to write about.

My first target was this ariticle found via Greenie Watch. Essentially it outlines that the famous “Hockey Stick” graph that forms the foundation for a lot of global warming theory (see Chasing the Unicorn) is not only faulty but based on falsified statistical analysis.

But then also on Greenie Watch I found a link to this article from the Times Online. It was one of those “Just when I'm getting out. They pull me back in” kind of moments.

Bulldozing thousands of historic Victorian terraces, concreting over green fields, giving the nod to a tower block that will shadow the Houses of Parliament. It's all in a day's work for John Prescott the deputy prime minister, reports Richard Girling
John Prescott has had a busy month. Ten days ago, at a symposium in a hotel near Accrington, his department reaffirmed its determination to flatten thousands of Victorian houses in northern England. On Monday Prescott announced changes to the planning system that would nullify local democracy and accelerate the building of 1.1m homes in London and the southeast. On Wednesday, against the opposition of his own advisers, he gave permission for the tallest block of flats in Europe to be built over shadowing Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.
Prescott is the worst case scenario in the abuse of eminent domain and the sheer horror of central planning. This man's policies make Kelo look like fixing a parking ticket. Dangling cash incentives, Prescott's Pathfinder regeneration plans entice local governments to demolish anything and everything.
However, there was a snag. To earn their Pathfinder grants, local authorities would have to “deliver” demolition quotas. To meet Prescott’s aim of creating “sustainable communities”, people would have to have their homes knocked down. The more typically northern a street — terrace houses, corner shops, pubs — the more certainly it faced the wrecking ball.
Cash-hungry councils immediately issued compulsory purchase orders on grids of historic Victorian terraces. This blighted local markets and created the very conditions — rock-bottom property prices and zero demand — that were supposed to trigger the clearances in the first place. Owners were offered compensation at current market rates which, being depressed by the threat of demolition, gave them no hope of affording another house.
And it would seem that there is no consideration that will stand in the way of this progress.
At nearby Darwen, owners of recently refurbished properties, some of them newly mortgaged with unblemished structural surveys, were informed that their homes were unfit for habitation. It made no difference that English Heritage, the government’s own official adviser, suggested that in general it was more cost- efficient to restore Victorian houses than to replace them; or that Brian Clancy, a past president of the Institution of Structural Engineers, examined in detail a sample of eight condemned Darwen houses and could find nothing wrong with them. One was “an ideal little first-time buyer house”; others were “an absolute palace” and “an absolutely wonderful property”.
I understand it is quite a stretch to get from Kelo to Prescott, but the cliche goes that every journey starts with the first step. We have taken that one step forward. Now we need take two steps back. And while I understand the thinking that this can't happen here and that arguing its possibility would be exercise in dramatics I think the tale of John Prescott underscores the need to protect our property rights. Just because it is unlikely to ever get that bad here, doesn't mean that it can't get worse than it is today.

Protect property rights. Sign the petition.
Osapsmall-1

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Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:42 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


Open Source Amendment Project - Banner

I have been asked for a medium sized banner for the amendment petition. Not wanting to do anything to limit possible promotion opportunities, and since it fits within the project's budget, I am happy to oblige. Here are all three sizes: 2 inch, 5 inch and 8 inch. If you would like a different size, please let me know and I'll make it. The url for the petition is: http://www.petitiononline.com/Property/petition.html


Osapsmall-2

Osapmed

Osap-2

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Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 04:41 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


Will France Get The Message This Time?

Don't mess with Texas.

Congratulations to Lance Armstrong for his seventh Tour de France victory.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 04:20 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


July 22, 2005

Open Source Amendment Petition - Available Online

The Open Source Amendment Project petition is now available online. Tell Everyone.

Osapsmall-1

After days on not getting any response from ipetitions about why when they were actually online the petition was not, I have moved to a new host. If you have put a link to the old site, the new address is http://www.petitiononline.com/Property/petition.html.

Also, before ipetitions melted down, there were two people who managed to sign. I am sorry to say that those names are lost, and you will have to re-sign at the new site.


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Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 08:10 AM | Comments (6) | Add Comment


July 21, 2005

Open Source Amendment Petition

UPDATE: iPetitions was online briefly this morning but the amendment petition was not available. As of 2:00 EDT they are offline again. When I have the chance, I am going to find a new home for the petition. Possibly tonight but more likely on the weekend.

UPDATE: iPetitions seems to be online again (8:32 EDT) but the amendment petition still defaults to the under construction page. I sent them another email begging for a solution. Calling them seems pointless as their voicemail tells you to expect a quicker response to email. I'm willing to wait until noon tomorrow before pulling the plug and going to another site. There are several others available, but they are not as nice looking and some are bit over burdened with advertising.

Stay Tuned.

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Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 09:06 AM | Comments (4) | Add Comment


July 17, 2005

Open Source Amendment Project - Petition

UPDATE:The Official Petition will be available as of Midnight July 18. Original signature (i.e. names that will appear on the petition) will be accepted until then.

UPDATE: This post will be updated as original signatures are added and will be bumped to the top of the page until the online petition is launched.

It is time to move on to the next level. Which means time to stop writing and start promoting. Below is the letter that will be the online petition. This should go live probably mid to late next week depending on the day job.

Any one interested in being an original signatory to the letter let me know in the comments or email.

Osap-1

To:
The President of the United States.
The Vice President of The United States
The Members of the United States Senate
The Members of the United States House of Representatives
The Members of the United States Supreme Court

In the Declaration of Independence the founders of this great nation wrote, “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.” They also built into the structure of our government a process by which we the people can seek to change the nature and function of our government without abolishing it and beginning again.

We the undersigned agree with our founders that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed and feel that our government has exceeded the bounds of that consent. We believe that the recent decision of the Supreme Court regarding the exercise of eminent domain was reached with complete disregard for the plain language of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.

We the people therefore ask that the Constitution of the United States be amended to include the following language:

The right to ownership of property being the cornerstone of liberty, no government, or agency thereof, within these United States shall have the authority to take property from any person, corporation, or organization through exercise of eminent domain for other than a public use without just compensation.
Public use shall be understood to be property the government owns or retains the paramount interest in, and the public has a legal right to use. Public use shall be understood to include property the government owns and maintains as a secure facility. Public use shall not be construed to include economic development or increased tax revenue. Public use of such property shall be maintained for a period of not less than 25 years.
Just compensation shall be the higher of twice the average of the price paid for similar property in the preceding six months, or twice the average of the previous 10 recorded similar property transactions. Compensation paid shall be exempt from taxation in any form by any government within these United States.
Respectfully submitted

Stephen R. Macklin
Fairfield, Connecticut

Eric Cowperthwaite
Elk Grove, California

Dawn Cowperthwaite
Elk Grove, California

Robert W. Jones
Bridgeport, Connecticut

Adrian L. Quince
Novato, California

Robert Bell
Atlanta, GA

Stephen Littau
Glendale, AZ

Lee Merrill
Hudson, NH

Thomas D. Bowler
Nashua, NH

T. F. Stern
Houston, Texas

Robert Flournoy
Virginia Beach, Virginia

(your name here)

Here is a small version of the Open Source graphic that you can use to promote the amendment.

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Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 06:01 AM | Comments (12) | Add Comment


July 16, 2005

Open Source Amendment Project - Revision 12

I think we have part 1 and part 3 pretty well nailed down. The real difficulty seems to be in the definition of public use. Everyone seems to be in basic agreement as to what public use should be, but coming to a consensus on what the language should be is tough. It is hard because we find ourselves trying to second guess an unpredictable Supreme Court.

The problem is, as our esteemed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales so bluntly put it, “The Constitution is what the Supreme Court says it is.” Gonzales has taken considerable heat for these words particularly since his name has come up as a possible replacement for the retiring Sandra Day O'Conner. The thing is, based on history he's right. What I haven't seen is anything clarifying whether or not he thinks that is the way it should be. Regarldes, how do you write a standard for such a body to follow? How do you craft the language to make it mean what it means and not what the Court wants it to mean?

For example, the language of the First Amendment on the subject of speech is very clear “Congress shalll make no law... abridging freedom of speech.” And yet when congress did precisely that under the guise of campaign finance reform, the Court ruled it Constitutional.

The changes is this revision are mostly focused on the definition of public use. Adding language to clarify and strengthen the general definition taken from the Thomas dissent to Kelo. In fact that was the only section I intended to revise except that I got this comment on Revision 11 from Tuning Spork while I was writing this post.

Also, the more I think about it the more I want to keep that original opening declarative sentence fragment. Since we're finding out that defining public use can be tricky, it might be best to have the reminder that ownership of one's own property is a cornerstone of Liberty. It might help to put the kibosh on some future contorted interpretations of what this amendment is trying to communicate.

I don't think it's akin to the “well-regulated militia” part of the 2nd amendment. Those who misread the 2nd amendment think that the right to keep and bear arms is dependent on the existence of the old-style militias, so in order to argue away property rights they would have to argue that ownership of one's own property is NOT a cornerstone of Liberty. Putting that specific declaration in ends that would-be debate.

When he's right he's right. In this case the misapplication of the declarative clause to the second amendment works in out favor. He also found a problem with the language I took from Thomas! I think we got that fixed.

Revision 12

The right to ownership of property being the cornerstone of liberty, no government, or agency thereof, within these United States shall have the authority to take property from any person, corporation, or organization through exercise of eminent domain for other than a public use without just compensation.

Public use shall be understood to be property the government owns or retains the paramount interest in, and the public has a legal right to use. Public use shall be understood to include property the government owns and maintains as a secure facility. Public use shall not be construed to include economic development or increased tax revenue. Public use of such property shall be maintained for a period of not less than 25 years.

Just compensation shall be the higher of twice the average of the price paid for similar property in the preceding six months, or twice the average of the previous 10 recorded similar property transactions. Compensation paid shall be exempt from taxation in any form by any government within these United States.

Tomorrow I will repost the letter that will form the basis of the petition that will go up some time during the week. Anyone interested in being and original signatory of letter is welcome.
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Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 01:50 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment


Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.

The which Sci-fi character are you quiz is all the rage. I mean when the quiz is blogged by Powerline, Captain's Quarters and Hugh Hewitt to name a few, it's got to be a good one. Right?

I am Jean Luc Picard

An accomplished diplomat who can virtually do no wrong, you sometimes know it is best to rely on the council of others while holding the reins.

There are some words which I have known since I was a schoolboy. “With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censored, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably.” These words were uttered by Judge Aaron Satie -- as a wisdom, and warning. The first time any man's freedom is trodden on, we're all damaged.

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

A fairly apt comparison in many ways, and I do like Earl Grey Tea.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 04:15 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


July 14, 2005

Open Source Amendment Project - Revision 11

Lots of great feedback on Revision 10. Thanks everyone.

Lots of great developments on the eminent domain front all together too. Including the state of Connecticut declaring a moratorium on all eminent domain - including Kelo.

Blue State Red did some serious editing and re-writing. Some of it is really good some of it says essentially the same thing only not quite as well. He was kind enough to take time out of studying for the bar exam to put some thought into it and his help is deeply appreciated. Go there to read his take on it. You will recognize some of it in this revision.

There's another version at Libertarian Leanings that is worth checking out too. A different take on how to define and limit public use.

Meanwhile, Turning Spork is running around stirring the pot by suggesting

Maybe it'd be easier if we focused on Kelo instead of some grand all-purpose definition of “public use”. Why not describe what happened in Kelo -- “Government taking of privately owned property under eminent domain laws for the purpose of selling to another private interest for any reason including economic development” -- and just add “does not qualify as a public use of that land”? It leaves all of the accepted dual-use traditions in place, but bans Kelo-like land grabs, which everyone knows this is all about anyway.

I think its an interesting approach but how does it cover the 99 year lease to Wal-Mart option? That is why I tend to favor a limiting definition of public use.

There was a pretty strong consensus behind eliminating the declarative statement that opened the previous revisions. Most cited the problems caused by the well regulated militia clause of the Second Amendment.

Revision 11

No government, or agency thereof, within these United States shall have the authority to take property from any person, corporation, or organization through exercise of eminent domain for other than a public use without just compensation.

Public use shall be understood to be property the government owns, or the public has a legal right to use. Public use of such property shall be maintained for a period of not less than 25 years.

Just compensation shall be the higher of twice the average of the price paid for similar property in the preceding six months, or twice the average of the previous 10 recorded similar property transactions.Compensation paid shall be exempt from taxation in any form by any government within these United States.

There has been some concern about the compensation calculation being open to manipulation in determining “similar property” and the possiblilty that the result might not be fair. Also that dealing with this would mean more litigation. I don't doubt that any standard for compensation would be open to manipulation that in the end would wind up in the courts. Yes, there will probably be cases in which following the formula precisely and honestly will result in a price that even when doubled might not seem fair. But we have to remember that we are looking for just compensation, not fair..

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Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:02 PM | Comments (6) | Add Comment


July 12, 2005

The Baja Blogger Lunch

Well, none of us are from Baja. I myslef have never even been to Baja. But Ted and Tuning Spork met for lunch at Baja's Mexican Restaurant in Orange, CT. Ted said it best. Its great meeting other bloggers. You already know how they think but you really don't know who they are. Thanks for a truly enjoyable lunch guys.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 04:17 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


July 11, 2005

I Know A Secret

At least I think it is a secret. Two other people also know it and for some reason none of us have blogged it. Until now.

This Munivian is on vacation. His travels are bringing him in close proximity to this Munuvian and this Munuvian. Coincidentally, this Munuvian and this Munuvian are always in close proximity.

The question is, do Tuning Spork and I we let the opportunity pass as Ted passes through?

Absolutely not.

Tomorrow we meet for Mexican.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 04:33 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


July 10, 2005

Open Source Amendment Project - Revision 10

I have given some thought over the course of the day to the comments of Steven Couch and Tom Bowler as well as my own statements that the project will be a success if it is noticed enough to influence state and local decisions regarding eminent domain. The thing is, if the text is not workable as an actual amendment, it never will be heard. Clearly the language regarding ownership and public use needs some revision. Steven Couch is going to take some time off from studying for the bar exam to have a go at it. I don't know the backgrounds of everyone who has contributed but this may be our first input with some legal training behind it!

I also got an excellent suggestion from Brad Warbiany at The Unrepentant Individual. It was one of those V8™ slap to the head why didn't I think of that kind of suggestions.

Also remember, Thomas' dissent to Kelo specifically brought up what he called “common carriers”. These are things like the cable company, water company, etc, which are private entities that are given a monopoly by the government to distribute goods and services. An airport would probably fall directly into that sort of category. And I would think that the support systems of an airport (such as the restaurants/bars/etc in the terminal) would be included in that as well.
So while the kids and some friends splashed around in the pool, I arranged the umbrella to keep the sun off my delicate skin the screen and read the Thomas dissent. This would have been a smart place to start about 9 revisions ago.

So with the help of Clarence Thomas I had another go at the thing. I took out some language that seemed unnecessary and really only served to thumb our noses at the court for Kelo. I lifted Thomas's definition of public use and added our time requirement. I came very close to eliminating the rhetorical flourish of the opening clause and just starting at “No government....” Any opinions one way or another? I am inclined to delete it based in large part on this citation from the Thomas dissent:

“It cannot be presumed that any clause in the constitution is intended to be without effect”); Myers v. United States, 272 U.S. 52, 151 (1926).
We have debated whether or not the opening clause could be construed as conferring an entitlement to property. I don't believe it does, but I do wonder if it adds anything to the protection of property from government power that is the purpose of the amendment.

Revision 10

The right to ownership of property being the cornerstone of liberty, no government or agency of government within these United States shall have the authority to take property from a private citizen, corporation, or organization for other than a public use without just compensation.

Public use shall be understood to be property the government owns, or the public has a legal right to use. Public use of such property shall be maintained for a period of not less than 50 years.

Just compensation shall be higher of the twice average of either the price paid for similar property in the preceding six months or the average of the previous 10 recorded similar property transactions. Compensation paid shall be exempt from taxation in any form by any government within these United States.

Revision 10.1
No government or agency of government within these United States shall have the authority to take property from a private citizen, corporation, or organization for other than a public use without just compensation.

Public use shall be understood to be property the government owns, or the public has a legal right to use. Public use of such property shall be maintained for a period of not less than 50 years.

Just compensation shall be higher of the twice average of either the price paid for similar property in the preceding six months or the average of the previous 10 recorded similar property transactions. Compensation paid shall be exempt from taxation in any form by any government within these United States.

As of now, unless someone has compelling reasons otherwise, I am considering 10.1 the current version.
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Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 12:40 PM | Comments (16) | Add Comment


Open Source Amendment Project - Update

There is still ongoing debate about the language of the proposed amendment. Steven Couch at Blue State Red thinks the language may be too restrictive. Specifically he thinks the current language would make a project like an airport impossible. And he has a point.

Consider the instance of a new airport. This proposed text works just fine for setting out the runways, and perhaps, the terminals, but problems arise elsewhere. Presumably, businesses would want - at a minimum - to lease space on the site. Vendors would want to lease space in the terminals for the sale of food, books, and other things one finds in an airport. More importantly, though, the government would be precluded from leasing space to airlines for hangars and maintenance facilities. Such a condition would render the airport functionally useless.
My first response to this was that perhaps an airport should be a private enterprise to begin with. And while I think that should be the case, I don't think it is a realistic enough idea in our current culture and it is certainly too much baggage to tie to an amendment on eminent domain. I also have little doubt that a way could be found to do an airport within this law. But I am not a lawyer.

Tom Bowler of Libertarian Leanings seems in this case to be leaning toward the government and agreeing with Stephen Couch. I have invited both to submit language that would address their concerns. But that does not leave the door open for the court to put us right back where we are today.

My preference is to err on the side of being too restrictive for two reasons. First, the Supreme Court has historically displayed a willingness if not an eagerness to minimize the limitations placed on government by the Constitution. The likelihood of the court weakening the amendment is very real. Given that it is better to start as strong and restrictive as possible. Second, though it is my intention to take this project as far as I can, I have said repeatedly that I don't foresee this or any amendment like it being enacted. What I do hope to accomplish is to send a loud and clear message that the decision in the Kelo case went to far and that measures must be taken to roll it back. There are already states and municipalities that have laws on the books prohibiting a Kelo taking. And there are as many if not more proposed laws on the table across the country to do so as well. Whatever notice and coverage this project can get, will help to support those efforts.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 07:37 AM | Comments (3) | Add Comment


Why I'll Never Edit The L.A. Times

Here's a story from the L.A. Times that I probably would have edited slightly differently. Which explains why I don't work there as an editor.

SEAL Was Executed, Purported Militant Terrorist Says
U.S. military calls for proof. The search for the commando continues in eastern Afghanistan.

By Paul Watson and Wesal Zaman, Special to The Times

KABUL, Afghanistan — The U.S. military said it had no evidence to support a Taliban claim Saturday that its militia terrorists executed brutally beheaded an American special operations commando who has been missing for nearly two weeks in remote eastern Afghanistan.

Mullah Latif Hakimi, who says he is a spokesman for the Islamic extremist terrorist group, said in a telephone interview that the Navy SEAL commando's body was dumped in a mountainous region of Kunar province.

The American soldier “was arrested by us exactly nine days before today,” said Hakimi, who was reached by telephone Saturday at an undisclosed location. “The soldier's throat was cut with a knife from the front and his hands were tied.”

The mullah said he was unable to identify the commando or provide details to prove he had been killed. He said proof would be posted on a website today.

The commando was among a four-man Navy SEAL team that went missing during a clash with militants terrorists June 28. A wounded member of the team, who had taken shelter in the home of an Afghan village elder, was rescued four days after the SEALs called for help. The Pentagon said Tuesday that the bodies of two other Navy SEALs had been recovered.

A support team of 16 American troops sent to evacuate the Navy SEAL team died June 28 when suspected Taliban guerrillas terrorists shot down the special forces' MH-47 transport helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade.

Calling the execution claim unsubstantiated, Lt. Cindy Moore, a spokeswoman for the U.S. military, said a search operation for the missing SEAL “is still ongoing.”

Moore refused to say whether the U.S. military had any evidence that the missing commando was alive, citing “operational security.”

Hundreds of U.S. and Afghan troops, backed by air power, are reportedly involved in the search.

Hakimi said that the commando's body was left on a mountainside for Afghan or American soldiers to collect. The American was killed under a religious edict issued before U.S. forces invaded to topple the Taliban in the fall of 2001, Hakimi said.

“This American soldier was slaughtered because of Muslim scholars' orders and that is why we didn't need any trial for his murder,” the mullah said.

Hakimi had contacted Associated Press to report that the helicopter had been shot down before the U.S. military released news of the crash. He also said Taliban fighters terrorists had captured “a high-ranking American” near the crash site.

But he has provided no evidence, such as photographs or videotape, to prove that the Taliban terrorists captured the fourth commando alive.

“The picture and the proof of his murder is not my job, or my responsibility, but it may be shown in our website,” Hakimi said Saturday.

In its report, AP cautioned that Hakimi often called foreign news agencies with claims that have “frequently proven exaggerated or untrue, and his exact tie to the Taliban leadership cannot be independently verified.”

Taliban and allied fighters terrorists have intensified their war against U.S. and Afghan forces since March. At least 50 American soldiers have died under hostile fire in Afghanistan this year.

As I was going through making my edits, a couple of statements stood out that require further emphasis. In fact had I been the editor, they would have been the focus of the story.
“This American soldier was slaughtered because of Muslim scholars' orders and that is why we didn't need any trial for his murder,” the mullah said.
I think I'd like to spray paint this on the side of Dick Durbin's house in 3 foot tall letters. Maybe Teddy Kennedy's place too. And does anyone have an address for Pelosi and Boxer?

Also of note was this quote which is a surprisingly blunt and honest statement that I am quite frankly made it into print

“The picture and the proof of his murder is not my job, or my responsibility, but it may be shown in our website,” Hakimi said Saturday. (emphasis added)
We should thank Hakimi for providing such a clear understanding of our enemy. But why do I think no one will notice?

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 06:00 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


July 09, 2005

Open Source Amendment Project - Petition

I have looked at several sights that offer hosting of petitions but have not made a decision as to which one to use. If anyone has any experience or recommendations they will be most welcome. I have composed the letter that will form the basis if the petition to amend the Constitution. I am looking for two thing. Name, city, state of anyone who would like to be an original signatory of the letter and support in getting the word the out for people to sign.

Thus far, this effort has escaped notice by any of the really big blogs but it is starting to spread. If we can make it large enough that the big blogs don't ignore it, we may be able to make it large enough that Congress can't completely ignore it. If we only get the official attention of one of 535, we will have achieved an enormous victory not only for property rights but for the power of the blogoshpere to impact national debate.

Osap-1

To:
The President of the United States.
The Vice President of The United States
The Members of the United States Senate
The Members of the United States House of Representatives
The Members of the United States Supreme Court

In the Declaration of Independence the founders of this great nation wrote, “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.” They also built into the structure of our government a process by which we the people can seek to change the nature and function of our government without abolishing it and beginning again.

We the undersigned agree with our founders that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed and feel that our government has exceeded the bounds of that consent. We believe that the recent decision of the Supreme Court regarding the exercise of eminent domain was reached with complete disregard for the plain language of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.

We the people therefore ask that the Constitution of the United States be amended to include the following language:

The right to ownership of property being the cornerstone of liberty, no government body within these United States shall have the authority to take property from one private citizen, corporation, or organization to be given, sold, leased, rented, or otherwise conveyed in any form 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 understood to be property entirely owned, maintained and operated by government for a period of not less than 50 years.

Just Compensation shall be higher of the twice average of either the price paid for similar property in the preceding six months or the average of the previous 10 recorded similar property transactions. Compensation paid shall be exempt from taxation in any form by any government within these United States.

Respectfully submitted

Stephen R. Macklin
Fairfield, Connecticut

(your name here)

Here is a small version of the Open Source graphic that you can use to promote the amendment. The petition will be online by Wednesday or Thursday and names for original signatories will be accepted until then.

Revision 9
Revision 8
Revision 7
Revision 6
Revision 5
Revision 4
Revision 3
Revision 2
Revision 1
Draught

UPDATE: Further revisions are under way. The letter and the petition will be on hold until further notice

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 08:19 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


July 08, 2005

With Britton Today - And Every Day

Ukflag

We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds. We shall fight in the fields, and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender. Sir Winston Churchill

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 06:59 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


Welcome To Jurassic Park

Well, not exactly.

Nobody got eaten.

The boy and I took the trip to Dinosaur State Park today. This was a highly anticipated trip for a boy is on his second copy of the 2 disc dvd of Walking With Dinosaurs. This is not a passing fascination for him. Unlike the fleeting obsession with the Disney character of the moment dinosaurs have been it for about 3 years. To provide just a little perspective, he was awed by the dinosaur footprints stenciled on the sidewalk.

The exhibits under the geodesic dome were limited but interesting. At least they would have been if we had seen them at less than a full run. (I have found out more searching out links for this post than I was able to read in the museum.) He did slow down at a couple of exhibits long enough for me to snap a few photos. They just happened to have on display the fossilized skeleton of on of his favorite dinosaurs, coelophysus.

Coelophysis

He was also fairly impressed with the main attraction of the bid diorama that takes up most of the dome, Dilophosaurus,

Dilophosaurus

The main attraction however was the casting area. If you bring with you 10 pounds of plaster of paris, a bucket to mix it in some rags and some cooking oil, you can make your own plaster cast of a Eubrontes track.

(pronounced you-BRONT-tees) Eubrontes giganteus is a dinosaur known only from its fossilized, three-toed footprints, an ichnogenus. Eubrontes means “true thunder.” The sandstone tracks range from 10-16 inches (25.5-41 cm) long and they are spaced 3.5-4.5 feet (1-1.4 m) apart. These sizes indicate that the dinosaur who made the prints was about 5 feet (1.5 m) tall at the hip (about the size of Dilophosaurus). The shape and pattern of the prints indicate that it was a theropod, a bipedal meat-eater. The tracks date from about 200 million years ago, during the early Jurassic period. Eubrontes trackways were found in Connecticut, USA. Geologist Edward Hitchcock named them in 1845. No fossilized bones have been found in the vicinity, but over 2,000 tracks have been uncovered in what is now Dinosaur State Park. Eubrontes is the state fossil of Connecticut.
I was worried that we would not be able to make a casting due to the fact that it had been raining all night and was lightly raining when we arrived. But the rain let up so we gave it a go. The park provides a metal ring that you put around the print as a form, They have water available and well as Mike who was wonderfully helpful. It did start to rain while we were waiting for the plaster to dry but luckily we had brought an umbrella with us. Rain would not have been good for the plaster. It took a little longer than normal but eventually the plaster dried and we had our very own cast of the official State Fossil of Connecticut.

Plaster-Cast-1

We dropped a quick $30 at the gift shop and were on our way home.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 02:42 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


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