1) I'm against it, and you should vote for me over John McCain on this basis.2) Some campaign-finance reforms amount to a restriction on free speech, and I'll veto them on that basis.3) I'll sign the bill, let the judges sort it out.4) The bill I just signed bans all those George Soros ads.5) I'm going to sue to get those ads all banned.6) I'm going to support legislation to ban those ads that I already banned, even though they used to be free speech.I think (5) and (6) are new this week.
August 28, 2004
August 27, 2004
At first glance, the numbers seem pretty solid. Using the standard by which the government measures poverty, the numbers do seem to be going up. But how good is that measure? Bravo to Neal Boortz for pointing out that the government's standard for poverty is rather meaningless, because it is based on income alone. Middle and upper-class families that choose to live off of existing savings for a time can easily meet the government's definition of poverty.
Sure enough, the Census Bureau's website confirms that poverty is measured in this way. They say that the standard was established by a 1978 OMB directive, but the directive itself states that it was codifying a practice reaching back to the Johnson administration.
Given this definition of poverty, there is no way to attach any significant meaning to the data. So why announce them at all? It is not intended as a tool for the government to use to determine eligibility for handouts. Quoting the Census Bureau site:
Government aid programs do not have to use the official poverty measure as eligibility criteria.
August 26, 2004
"It's hard to mount an entire campaign against an opponent who has no record, no bedrock values, no consistent positions, no new ideas and only wants to talk about something he hasn't done for 35 years," said Mr. Bush. "So far, the fight has been between me and anti-me...Bush against hate-Bush. From now on, we're looking at a one-man race for the presidency."
Campaign insiders said TV and radio ads will no longer mention the Democrat candidate, but will simply focus on the president's record and his vision for the future.
"I can't change people whose hearts overflow with hatred," said the president. "So I'll just focus on rallying those whose minds are still open. We're going to target what you call your sentient beings."
August 25, 2004
If you're listening to a rock star in order to get your information on who to vote for, you're a bigger moron than they are. Why are we rock stars? Because we're morons. We sleep all day, we play music at night and very rarely do we sit around reading the Washington Journal.
August 24, 2004
Singer and actress Mandy Moore is furious at being "outed" as a secret Republican in the new issue of America's Details magazine. The publication's upcoming September edition lists Adam Sandler, Freddie Prinze Jr., Jessica Simpson, Shannen Doherty and Moore as silent supporters of current US President George W. Bush who don't join the campaign trail and make their political views known, unlike loud and proud Democrats Ben Affleck and Barbra Streisand. However, the A Walk To Remember beauty has angrily denied she supports Bush and his party. Her publicist tells American website Pagesix.Com, "Mandy is not, nor has she ever been, a Republican."
Ellen DeGeneres is getting a promotion — to supreme being. DeGeneres will star as God in a remake of the 1977 comedy "Oh, God!" The original starred George Burns as the creator and John Denver as a supermarket manager tapped as a new prophet by the deity.
"Ellen is a strong comedienne and she has always done material about God and questions about God," said Jerry Weintraub, who produced the original movie and also will oversee the remake.
The Boston Globe reports that teachers are coming to the horrifying realization that they themselves have been terrorizing their students by grading papers with red ink. Many are switching to purple.
"If you see a whole paper of red, it looks pretty frightening," said Sharon Carlson, a health and physical education teacher at John F. Kennedy Middle School in Northampton. "Purple stands out, but it doesn't look as scary as red."
Color psychologists are quick to endorse the idea:
A mix of red and blue, the color purple embodies red's sense of authority but also blue's association with serenity, making it a less negative and more constructive color for correcting student papers, color psychologists said. Purple calls attention to itself without being too aggressive. And because the color is linked to creativity and royalty, it is also more encouraging to students....they said with a straight face.
"The concept of purple as a replacement for red is a pretty good idea," said Leatrice Eiseman, director of the Pantone Color Institute in Carlstadt, N.J., and author of five books on color. "You soften the blow of red. Red is a bit over-the-top in its aggression."
Yes, I know they're dead serious about this. But I also am dead serious in my conviction that the public schools are becoming more and more preoccupied with producing emotionally-shielded wimps who are completely unprepared to face life in the real world. If unregulated free play and red ink on papers are so harmful, how did any of us survive grade school psychologically intact?
August 23, 2004
Do these schools see a difference between recess and a P.E. class?
Concerned about safety and injuries and worried about bullying, violence, self-esteem and lawsuits, school officials have clamped down on the traditional games from years past.
Gone from many blacktops are tag, dodgeball and any game involving bodily contact. In are organized relay races and adult-supervised activities.
The restrictions trouble some early-childhood experts and parents. Recess is usually the only part of the school day where kids can do what they want. Experts say free play helps kids learn how to cooperate, socialize and work out conflicts.But no...in such an unregulated environment we might see the eruption of such unhealthy things as competition, which everyone knows leads to hurt feelings and low self-esteem. We all know that there's nothing like that in the real world, so what's the point in allowing kids to learn about it?
August 22, 2004
As we enter this election season, the struggle for our culture's soul has simultaneously produced passivity and defeatism in some evangelical quarters and a shrill triumphalism in others. Neither response, as Augustine teaches, is the proper Christian response.
We can never retreat into our sanctuaries and neglect our civic responsibility to help set the moral tone of our culture. Leaving your neighbor in ignorance of his folly is inconsistent with the command to love him, and so political and cultural engagement are required for faithful believers. We are, I like to put it, to bring the influence of the City of God into the City of Man, working for justice and righteousness.
August 20, 2004
UPDATE: The reaction of the Kerry campaign itself provides further evidence.
"Despite long-standing negative stereotypes about government work, the research shows that Americans have a favorable impression of the federal government," according to the report, A New Call to Service in an Age of Savvy Altruism. "Our research found that more than 62 percent of the American people we surveyed view the federal government favorably, and 91 percent say that the jobs and duties of federal government workers are 'important' in their lives."
"People often look to the nonprofit sector when they want to make a difference, and not to the federal government."
August 19, 2004
It is sufficiently obvious, that persons and property are the two great subjects on which Governments are to act; and
that the rights of persons, and the rights of property, are the objects, for the protection of which Government was instituted.
These rights cannot well be separated."--James Madison
August 18, 2004
U.S. presidential candidate John Kerry's campaign veered north into Canada on Tuesday as his sister appealed to expatriate Americans to register for their absentee ballots.
With all expectations of a tight election fight this November, the Democrats are looking everywhere for votes, Diana Kerry said during a stop in Calgary.
"We do know that there's going to be battlegrounds in lots of places and we're fighting on every front," said Ms. Kerry, who chairs a group called Americans Overseas for Kerry.
I double-dog dare the Kerry campaign to make a similar appeal to overseas military personnel and their families.
"Nobody wants to bring troops home more than those of us who have fought in foreign wars," Kerry said in speech prepared for delivery to the Veterans of Foreign War. "But it needs to be done at the right time and in a sensible way."
The basic flaw in the Atlantic "alliance" is that, for almost all its participants, the free world is a free lunch: a defence pact of wealthy nations in which only one guy picks up the tab.
I have consistently opposed the effort to extort monetary damages from the American people. As I have argued in the past, the great sacrifices involved in the Civil War represented the requital in blood and treasure for the terrible injustices involved in slavery. In this form the so called "reparations" movement represents an insult to the historic commitment that many Americans made to the end of slavery, which included the sacrifice of their lives.
I have also consistently maintained that the history of slavery, racial segregation and discrimination did real damage to black Americans, left real and persistent material wounds in need of healing.
In various ways through the generations since the end of slavery, America has tried to address this objective fact, but without real success. This was at least in part the rational for many elements of the Great Society programs of the sixties, and for the original and proper concept of affirmative action developed under Republican leadership during the Nixon years.
Unfortunately, the government-dominated approaches of the Great Society, which purported to heal and repair the legacy of historical damage, actually widened and deepened the wounds. They undermined the moral foundations of the black community and seriously corrupted the family structure and the incentives to work, savings, investment, and business ownership.
The idea I have often put forward to address this challenge involves a traditionally Republican, conservative and market-oriented approach: removing the tax burden from the black community for a generation or two in order to encourage business ownership, create jobs and support the development of strong economic foundations for working families.
This has the advantage of letting people help themselves, rather then pouring money into government bureaucracies that displace and discourage their own efforts. It takes no money from other citizens, while righting the historic imbalance that results from the truth that black slaves toiled for generations at a tax rate that was effectively 100 percent.
I have also made it clear that while I believe that the descendants of slaves would be helped by this period of tax relief, my firm goal and ultimate objective is to replace the income tax, and thereby free all Americans from this insidious form of tax slavery. It is well known that this is one of the key priorities of the Keyes campaign.
So here's what we have: Mr. Keyes still abhors reparations, but he still favors this idea of removing the tax burden for a generation or two, but the tax relief is for the entire American black community, not just for the descendants of slaves, so it's not really reparations, see?
He persists in his belief that this is win-win for everyone. "It takes no money from other citizens"? Does Mr. Keyes think that Congress would simply write that tax revenue out of the budget and adjust spending accordingly? Or does he think that the anticipated increased economic activity in the black community will more than make up for the lost revenue? Also, as I mentioned in my previous post, what does he think this will do for race relations?
I doubt that this clarification will help Mr. Keyes very much. The conservative activists over at Free Republic are having trouble making heads or tails of what he's trying to say, and that fact doesn't bode well for the rest of the voters he's trying to court.
August 17, 2004
Arguer: Come in.
M: Ah, Is this the right room for an argument?
A: I told you once.
M: No you haven't.
A: Yes I have.
A: Just now.
M: No you didn't.
A: Yes I did.
M: You didn't.
A: I did!
M: You didn't!
A: I'm telling you I did!
M: You did not!!
A: Oh, I'm sorry, just one moment. Is this a five minute argument or the full half hour?
M: Oh, just the five minutes.
A: Ah, thank you. Anyway, I did.
M: You most certainly did not.
A: Look, let's get this thing clear; I quite definitely told you.
M: No you did not.
A: Yes I did.
M: No you didn't.
A: Yes I did.
M: No you didn't.
A: Yes I did.
M: No you didn't.
A: Yes I did.
M: You didn't.
M: Oh look, this isn't an argument.
A: Yes it is.
M: No it isn't. It's just contradiction.
A: No it isn't.
M: It is!
A: It is not.
M: Look, you just contradicted me.
A: I did not.
M: Oh you did!!
A: No, no, no.
M: You did just then.
M: Oh, this is futile!
A: No it isn't.
M: I came here for a good argument.
A: No you didn't; no, you came here for an argument.
M: An argument isn't just contradiction.
A: It can be.
M: No it can't. An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition.
A: No it isn't.
M: Yes it is! It's not just contradiction.
A: Look, if I argue with you, I must take up a contrary position.
M: Yes, but that's not just saying 'No it isn't.'
A: Yes it is!
M: No it isn't!
M: Argument is an intellectual process. Contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of any statement the other person makes.
A: No it isn't.
M: It is.
A: Not at all.
And on it goes...
Being myself a crusader against apostrophe abuse, I couldn't help but notice a little faux pas by Kilpatrick near the end of his essay:
In "The Copyeditor's Handbook" (University of California Press), editor Amy Einsohn offers sensible rules for the comma, but she cuts us some slack. After we have mastered the do's and don'ts, she says, "we need to ask ourselves whether the presence or absence of a comma will best serve the writer's purpose and the reader's needs."
Merriam-Webster accepts this plural form of "do" but, apostrophe purist that I am, I consider it to be an abomination. It's the old "slippery slope", you know: allow the apostrophe in one plural word, and pretty soon you'll be seeing word's like it everywhere! The radical Islamists will see it as yet another example of infidel weakness and decadence! As Kilpatrick says: Aaargh!
But life goes on, and I will survive.
Prompted by a reporter's question, Keyes gave a brief tutorial on Roman history and said that in regard to reparations for slavery, the U.S. should do what the Romans did: "When a city had been devastated [in the Roman empire], for a certain length of time--a generation or two--they exempted the damaged city from taxation."Keyes proposed that for a generation or two, African-Americans of slave heritage should be exempted from federal taxes--federal because slavery "was an egregious failure on the part of the federal establishment."
August 16, 2004
Such practices clearly violate both the spirit and the letter of the fifth amendment, which permits property seizures (with just compensation, of course) only for the purpose of legitimate "public use" -- meaning roads, firehouses, schools, and other things needed in order for the local government to perform its essential, legitimate duties. Kilpatrick notes that public officials, in an attempt to justify the abuses, have subtly altered the plain meaning of "public use":
The terms "public purpose" and "public benefit" surely encompass the noble goals of more jobs and more tax revenue, so it is natural that officials prefer this spin on the fifth amendment.
In words every schoolboy can understand, the amendment says that government may not take private property for "public use" without payment of just compensation. The key words are "public use." They are not difficult words. They are simple words. Their definition requires no law degrees.
Notice that the Constitution does not speak gauzily of "public purpose" or "public benefit." It speaks with perfect clarity of "public use." Except for the power to declare war, the power of eminent domain is the most essential and most dangerous of all powers vested in government. It is perilous precisely because it is most often employed by good men seeking to do good.
The good news is that the Michigan ruling may be only the beginning of a sustained challenge to this corrupt interpretation. Kilpatrick reports that a Connecticut plaintiff is petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of another private-to-private land seizure.
Here's to hoping that the Supremes accept the case, and that they have the good sense to restore reason and sanity to the fifth.
August 11, 2004
What do Herod, Pharaoh, King George, slave owners have in common? They're all conservatives!
At least Jesse Jackson says they are. And according to the simplistic, grade-school definitions of liberal (upsetters of the status quo) and conservative (preservers of the status quo), he has a point, sort of. But those terms in the Real World™ are much more complex than what we were taught in grade school, else Jackson would have to admit that Hitler was a liberal as well.
Check out Joe Carter's amusing deconstruction of Jackson's essay. He noticed that by Jackson's reckoning, Washington and Jeffersons were both liberal and conservative.
Rev. Jackson never fails to entertain.
August 10, 2004
Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry Saturday carried his "help is on the way" theme to those affected in some way by diseases and conditions that could be improved by stem cell research, pledging to lift a partial ban President Bush put on the research three years ago.
Bush issued an executive order on August 7, 2001, limiting federal funding to projects using existing lines of fetal stem cells, a position supported by his party's fundamentalist Christian and conservative faction.
So, what have we learned up to this point?
- Kerry offers hope to those whose medical condition could be improved by embryonic stem cell research [ESCR].
- In paragraph one (bold type in the original), we see that President Bush imposed a "partial ban" on this research.
- In paragraph two, we see that it wasn't actually a ban on the research; it was a ban on federal funding of the research (which is the actual case).
- Bush imposed this ban to please certain unsavory factions of his party.
- Kerry opposes this ban to please..... oh, wait. There's no mention of Kerry's desire to please certain constituencies on the left, so his motives must be pure.
There is plenty more red meat in the article. In what was almost certainly meant to be the sound-bite line of his speech, Kerry declared, "Here in America we don't sacrifice science for ideology."
Remember, this is a CNN article, so we know he couldn't possibly be referring to the way the pro-aborts sacrifice the overwhelming biological evidence of human life in the womb in favor of the ideology of "choice".
Kerry goes on to make an absurd comparison:
"We know that progress has always brought with it the worry that this time, we have gone too far," Kerry said. "Believe it or not, there was a time when some questioned the morality of heart transplants. Not too long ago, we heard the same kind of arguments against the biotechnology research that now saves stroke victims and those with leukemia."
The donor is not alive at the time of the transplant, Senator. To my knowledge, neither is the donor hurried on his way (at least in America). Similarly, none of the biotech research "that now saves stroke victims and those with leukemia" required the premeditated death of a single soul in order to advance the research.
I dare the Senator to publicly use this argument in favor of animal experimentation.
The very fact that Mr. Kerry would never do so should be sufficient to give the lie to item #5 above.
To nobody's surprise, the article's author does a cut-and-paste reminder that Nancy Reagan and Ron Reagan both support ESCR. Yawn.
So, we see here a prime specimen of the usual left/media template for reporting on the great issues of our day:
- The Democrat is a selfless humanitarian
- The Republican is a lackey for those in the farthest reaches of his party
Pro-life voters need to keep in mind this election year that if John Kerry is elected, Roe will almost assuredly be preserved and abortion will probably remain legal for decades. That means every vote for Kerry and every vote not cast for President Bush (i.e., for a third-party candidate or by citizens who abstain from voting) is a vote to keep abortion legal for as many as thirty years.If we truly want to see Roe thrown in the trash heap of history right next to the Dred Scott decision, we can't let that happen.It is up to you to elect a pro-life president this November. It is up to you to re-elect President Bush. Women and unborn children are counting on you.
August 9, 2004
Scientists change their minds when data contradicts their modelsÂ?except in one area, the relatively new scientific discipline known as climatology.
If the climate models that predict massive rises in temperature over the next century are correct, the atmosphere should warm before the surface. But atmospheric data from both satellites and weather balloons show only a trifling rise in temperature over the past couple of decades, while the surface temperature has been rising steadily. In 2000, a National Research Council study confirmed the data's discrepancy with the model.
The proper scientific response would be to reexamine the models and adjust them to fit reality. But that hasn't happened in climatology. Instead, there have been repeated attempts to manipulate the satellite data fit the models.
August 8, 2004
'There's glory for you!'
'I don't know what you mean by "glory",' Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. 'Of course you don't -- till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!"'
'But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument",' Alice objected.'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'
'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'
'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master -- that's all.'
Alice was too much puzzled to say anything...
This surreal exchange is what comes to mind when I ponder the current state of our First Amendment freedoms. The McCain-Feingold campaign finance 'reform' law has done violent damage to our freedom of speech (particularly in the sixty days prior to election day), but somehow the Supreme sees no constitutional evil there. Imagine Supreme Court Justice Humpty Dumpty trying to explain the amendment:
'When I say abridging the freedom of speech, it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less...'
Paul Jacobs of U.S. Term Limits may be a little bit over the top when he calls this "our first election without the First Amendment", but one can easily understand the frustration that gave rise to such hyperbole.
August 6, 2004
If you listen enough to the rhetoric of the left, you know the party line that Antonin Scalia is Public Enemy #1, and that Clarence Thomas routinely takes his marching orders from him. I hadn't really pondered the question of which justice has the greatest fealty to the 'strict construction' philosophy of constitutional interpretation (to paraphrase Horton the elephant, the Constitution says what it means and means what it says -- no ifs, ands, buts, penumbras or emanations about it). If someone had buttonholed me on the street and demanded an answer, I might have said Scalia, since he's the one who gets all of the press (Thomas doesn't actually exist, since everyone in the media knows that there's no such thing as a black conservative).
As it turns out, though, a law.com article reveals that Thomas boldly and routinely goes where Scalia is often reluctant to go. In his biography of Thomas, Ken Foskett quotes Scalia as saying that Thomas "doesn't believe in stare decisis, period." Foskett considers this to be a "bombshell", although Steve at Southern Appeal says the fact is well-known in the legal community.
Stare decisis, Latin for "to stand by decided matters", refers to the doctrine that gives weight to judicial precedents. If there is a string of Supreme Court decisions on a matter, Scalia is much more likely to uphold the issue on the basis of the precedents, even if he is uneasy with the soundness of the constitutional reasoning behind the precedents.
Thomas, on the other hand, believes that if a previous decision is constitutionally suspect, it has no weight whatsoever. Continuing Scalia's quote:
"If a constitutional line of authority is wrong, he would say let's get it right," says Scalia. "I wouldn't do that."
I understand even more now why the left hates Thomas so much. Not only is he conservative, he's also one of the best friends the Constitution has had in recent generations.
(Credit: The Corner)
August 5, 2004
According to an unnamed law professor at the University of Missouri (MU), federal judges in the midwest today are "racing their colleagues for the prize" of overturning the Missouri state constitutional amendment passed this week which defines marriage as a monogamous heterosexual union."The average citizen cannot comprehend the visceral thrill of taking pen in hand and reversing the so-called 'will of the people' with a flick of the wrist," said the MU professor. "It is the juice of the judiciary. There is nothing sweeter than saying 'a million commoners are wrong and I'm right'. It makes me wish I were behind the bench rather than the law school lectern. I'm so jealous."
Illinois Republicans chose Alan Keyes as their candidate today to run against heavily favored Barack Obama, the up-and-coming Democratic Party star.
Keyes does not currently live in Illinois, and never has. He'll be doing what Hillary did in New York, fulfilling the letter of the residency requirements (i.e. resident of the state as of election day). Apart from that, Keyes ought to liven up the debate quite a bit, and will defuse the Dems' ability to play up Obama's race (half-African).
UPDATE: Illinois blogger Greg isn't too thrilled with this prospect:
I've dealt with Keyes personally... His ego is too big for the Senate, Presidency and probably God...Also, John (PolicyGuy) mentions two more relevant points in a private e-mail:
1. Keyes has not actually committed to running--he will get back with the committee on Sunday or Monday.
Stupid move by the party. He could let them hang out to dry.
2. He was quite clear, in 2000, that Hillary's move was a threat to federalism. See today's Chicago Tribune article (intrusive registration required) for a quote he gave FNC. It will come back to haunt him should he decide to run.
For more than a quarter of a century, Republican platforms have been forged in an intense debate, often against the presidential candidate's wishes. The pattern was set in 1976, when Sen. Jesse Helms led Reagan forces against President Gerald Ford. In 1984, when Ronald Reagan was seeking re-election, then House Republican Whip Trent Lott as platform chairman resisted White House efforts to equivocate on taxes and abortion. In 1996, Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois threatened to resign as chairman if candidate Bob Dole interfered.
Novak says that the Democrats' platform was also predetermined this year, but at least they went through the charade of a traditional debate.
What is the difference between a prewritten party platform adopted without meaningful debate saying "The Republican Party believes [insert Bush administration opinion here]", and a politician who knows nothing but his own agenda going on a Sunday morning talk show and saying "The American people believe [insert politician's pet issue here]"?
If what Novak says about the GOP platform is true, shame on the Bush administration for its heavyhanded tactics. If someone out there has a spin that they can put on this that will make it look better, I'm all ears.
UPDATE: Before anyone says it, I realize that the party platforms of both parties have little relevance to Real Life, and that as such the specifics of the platform don't really matter. Perhaps this is just another instance of the Bush administration controlling the message -- they don't want an off-the-reservation platform committee giving the Dems (and their buddies in the media) any talking points. I can see this from a strategery point of view. However, a party ought to espouse a set of core principles that will survive long after the current candidate has moved on to other things. Is it really up to the candidate to tell the party what those principles are?
[T]he opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional and what not, not only for themselves, in their own sphere of action, but for the Legislature and Executive also in their spheres, would make the Judiciary a despotic branch.-- Thomas Jefferson
August 4, 2004
For a long time, I couldn't imagine how business leaders could support Democratic candidates, given that the Democrats have shown themselves consistently (in both rhetoric and policy) to be hostile to business. I eventually came to understand how it might happen. I see three classes of business leaders that might find themselves sufficiently motivated to support Democrats:
- Ideologically leftist business owners. These are the True Believers, those who might have preferred to vote for Nader, or Kucinich, or Dean, but in general are willing to vote Democrat in spite of the damage the party does to business. Perhaps they see their business chiefly as a means of generating revenue that can be plowed into their favorite causes. Probably account for the smallest percentage of Kerry big-business contributors.
- Darwinian business owners. These folks recognize the fiercely competitive nature of business, and noticed that the government can be used as a weapon against one's competitors (e.g. through antitrust allegations). Their money goes to the party most willing to use the coercive power of the government in this way. The GOP is not blameless in this, but the advantage goes to the Democrats here.
- Pragmatic business owners. These folks for the most part might wish that the government would just leave them alone, but recognize that this will never happen, so they tend to give money to both parties... so their bases are covered no matter who wins. Kind of a protection racket.
FWIW, a few of the Bush campaign's big-business supporters can be found here.
August 3, 2004
August 2, 2004
Detroit was seizing the property of private entities for the benefit of another private entity. Amazingly, the Michigan Supremes upheld the seizure.
In the 23 years following the Poletown case, this odious use of eminent domain powers has become pandemic. We are no longer surprised to see stories of local governments seizing property from the politically powerless and turning it over to businesses who promise either more jobs (resulting in political capital for the officeholders) or more property taxes (which the officeholders also seem to like).
The U.S. Constitution's fifth amendment implies that the only legitimate reason for government to compel the sale of private property is because the land is needed for some genuine public use that the government is supposed to provide for -- roads and other such infrastructure, necessary government offices, public schools (not that education is supposed to be a government function, but I digress). It does not allow the government to force retirees and small businesses out for the benefit of GM, Ikea, Wal-Mart and the like.
Apparently, somebody finally noticed that the "Poletown standard" also violated the Michigan constitution. The current Michigan Supremes used the occasion of a new eminent domain case to unanimously overturn the Poletown ruling (emphasis added):
"The county is without constitutional authority to condemn the properties," the court's opinion read. All seven justices voted to overturn Poletown, although three dissented over some technical aspects that do not affect the main ruling.
Justice Robert Young, who wrote the lead opinion, called the 1981 case allowing Detroit's Poletown neighborhood to be cleared for a GM plant a "radical departure from fundamental constitutional principles."
"We overrule Poletown," Young wrote, "in order to vindicate our constitution, protect the people's property rights and preserve the legitimacy of the judicial branch as the expositor, not creator, of fundamental law."
The judicial branch is "the expositor [i.e. explainer], not creator, of fundamental law". When is the last time we heard that from a court? Will we ever hear it again from a working majority of the U.S. Supreme Court?
We can't leave this story without noting the reaction of Wayne County (defendant in the current case) to the ruling:
[A] spokesman for Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano issued a statement saying that "the Michigan Supreme Court's decision to change Michigan law and divest municipalities from their ability to create jobs for their citizens is a disappointment not only for Wayne County, but for all of the Michigan communities struggling to address these difficult economic times."
According to Wayne County, the land seizure in question was for the purpose of "creating jobs" -- and apparently they could only be created right where some people were already living. This whole idea of the government "creating jobs" is worth another essay...some time. Meanwhile, I'll just repeat my cynical observation that government "job creation" initiatives are scarcely distinguishable from vote buying schemes. Sigh.
UPDATE: PolicyGuy (Hi, John!) gives more details on the story and on its implications.