The latest C-Poll is closed. You can read all about it here!

June 30, 2005

Overly partisan regarding Democrat obstructionism?

A reader suggests that my objections to Democrat obstructionism in the Senate are merely regurgitation of the GOP party line. You can see his comments, and my response, here. Feel free to pitch in on either side of the debate.

June 29, 2005

It's hard to imagine a more ridiculous poll

I know there are many other stupid polls out there, but this one gets my vote for Stupid Poll of the Week (excerpt from June 27 article):
SUV Drivers Not Patriotic, Survey Finds

Ninety percent of people in the market say that people who buy SUVs should not be called patriotic.

Kelley Blue Book's third annual New-Vehicle Buyer Attitude Study found that over the last year the number who said SUV drivers are patriotic dropped 12 percentage points, the group said in a news release.
The misleading article title ought to qualify for some kind of prize as well.

One of the reasons given later in the article for the negative attitude is that SUV use exacerbates our "dependence on foreign oil".

Hey, Blue Book—our "dependence on foreign oil" is wholly due to environmental regulation that locks away most of our domestic oil supply (or regulates access to it to the point where it's not cost effective to go get it).

Here's an idea for your next survey: Are environmental activists unpatriotic for forcing us to turn to foreign suppliers for our oil? How about environmental activists who drive SUVs?

Or how about this: Are polling organizations which consciously use their surveys to negatively affect public opinion about a large segment of the American population unpatriotic?

June 27, 2005

Those Supreme Court hits just keep on coming

Another good one from Scott Ott (excerpt):
Court Allows 10 Commandments on Seized Land

(2005-06-27) -- In a pair of rulings on the constitutionality of the 10 Commandments on government property, the Supreme Court today said the commandments may be displayed on public land if that property has been seized from private owners for 'public purposes' under eminent domain.

The 5-4 decision comes on the heels of this week's court declaration that so-called "private" property is actually government land temporarily under private management until its eventual seizure.
It's starting to look that way, isn't it?

One man's castle...is another man's Costco

More cartoonists are weighing in on last week's USSC eminent domain ruling. Click each image to view the full-size version.

(Credit: Pookie18)

June 24, 2005

As "public good" replaces "public use"...

Click the image to view full-size.

San Diego food nannies on a rampage

The Center for Consumer Freedom reports on some truly remarkable proposals coming from one of the more conservative parts of southern California:
Unbridled obesity panic could soon put the Good Humor Man on ice in San Diego. A group of food scolds, commissioned by the city's Board of Supervisors, has drafted "strategies" for combating childhood obesity which, among many outlandish ideas, include "ordinances restricting mobile junk food vendors from areas frequented by children and youth." Such laws would "expressly apply to ice cream vendors."

It's not just the neighborhood ice cream guy who should be worried. On tap are truly galling calls for zoning restrictions on restaurants, "fat taxes," advertising bans, shutting down drive-thrus, and even absurd odor controls to make food less enticing.

Obesity hysteria manifested itself in the draft's consensus recommendation to "Make prevention and treatment of Childhood Obesity and other related diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, our number one priority in the County, Health and Human Service Agency, and private/public collaboration with dedicated leadership, staffing and resources." [emphasis added] That priority comes at the expense of a consumer's ability to eat, as another consensus point would "Enact strict City and County zoning laws addressing the number of, construction of and conversion of fast food outlets and drive throughs, especially those around schools."

Ideas emanating from "experts" include "ordinances to limit access to fast food outlets and drive throughs during high school and junior high hours." This might mean you literally could not go to a local drive-thru for lunch if there's a school nearby. The "experts" also recommended classifying obesity as a "disease" and suggested that food makers control portion sizes to conform to government standards.


Other ideas from the community include:
  • "Discontinue food used for fundraising" in schools.
  • "Pass a Fat tax and Junk Food tax."
  • "Reduce or totally eliminate outdoor advertising countywide promoting fast food outlets, unhealthy foods and beverages, and other messages that disregard healthy lifestyles."
  • "Reduce or eliminate in-store bright, bold eye-catching advertising of unhealthy foods."
  • "Post warning messages on products that have been linked to increasing the risks of diseases such as obesity and heart disease."

"The fundamental maxims of a free government seem to require, that the rights of personal liberty, and private property should be held sacred."

A long time ago (1833, to be exact), in a republic apparently far, far away, Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story had this to say about government respect for private property:
It seems to be the general opinion, fortified by a strong current of judicial opinion, that since the American revolution no state government can be presumed to possess the transcendental sovereignty to take away vested rights of property; to take the property of A. and transfer it to B. by a mere legislative act. A government can scarcely be deemed to be free, where the rights of property are left solely dependent upon a legislative body, without any restraint. The fundamental maxims of a free government seem to require, that the rights of personal liberty, and private property should be held sacred. At least, no court of justice, in this country, would be warranted in assuming, that any state legislature possessed a power to violate and disregard them; or that such a power, so repugnant to the common principles of justice and civil liberty, lurked under any general grant of legislative authority, or ought to be implied from any general expression of the will of the people, in the usual forms of the constitutional delegation of power. The people ought not to be presumed to part with rights, so vital to their security and well-being, without very strong, and positive declarations to that effect.

(Credit: Glenn Reynolds)

"Reverse Robin Hoods"

Excerpts from the Wall Street Journal editorial on the import of yesterday's Supreme Court decision (emphasis added):
No one disputes that this power of "eminent domain" makes sense in limited circumstances; the Constitution's Fifth Amendment explicitly provides for it. But the plain reading of that Amendment's "takings clause" also appears to require that eminent domain be invoked only when land is required for genuine "public use" such as roads. It further requires that the government pay owners "just compensation" in such cases.

The founding fathers added this clause to the Fifth Amendment--which also guarantees "due process" and protects against double jeopardy and self-incrimination--because they understood that there could be no meaningful liberty in a country where the fruits of one's labor are subject to arbitrary government seizure.

That protection was immensely diminished by yesterday's 5-4 decision, which effectively erased the requirement that eminent domain be invoked for "public use."


In his clarifying dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas exposes this logic for the government land grab that it is. He accuses the majority of replacing the Fifth Amendment's "Public Use Clause" with a very different "public purpose" test: "This deferential shift in phraseology enables the Court to hold, against all common sense, that a costly urban-renewal project whose stated purpose is a vague promise of new jobs and increased tax revenue, but which is also suspiciously agreeable to the Pfizer Corporation, is for a 'public use.'"

And in a separate dissent, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor suggested that the use of this power in a reverse Robin Hood fashion--take from the poor, give to the rich--would become the norm, not the exception: "Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."


And it's not just the "public use" requirement of the Fifth Amendment that's undermined by Kelo. So too is the guarantee of "just compensation." Why? Because there is no need to invoke eminent domain if developers are willing to pay what owners themselves consider just compensation.

Just compensation may differ substantially from so-called fair market value given the sentimental and other values many of us attach to our homes and other property. Even eager sellers will be hurt by Kelo, since developers will have every incentive to lowball their bids now that they can freely threaten to invoke eminent domain.

So, in just two weeks, the Supreme Court has rendered two major decisions on the limits of government. In Raich v. Gonzales the Court said there are effectively no limits on what the federal government can do using the Commerce Clause as a justification. In Kelo, it's now ruled that there are effectively no limits on the predations of local governments against private property.

And finally, the moral of the story (emphasis added):
These kinds of judicial encroachments on liberty are precisely why Supreme Court nominations have become such high-stakes battles. If President Bush is truly the "strict constructionist" he professes to be, he will take note of the need to check this disturbing trend should he be presented with a High Court vacancy.

Forget filibusters... Dems seek VETO on Bush judicial nominations

Well, maybe "veto" is too strong a word, but why else would they demand that the president "consult" with the Democrats before submitting nominations?

The attitude of the Democrats, as represented by this quote from Ted Kennedy (D-P.R.Mass.), is breathtaking in its arrogance:
"It doesn't take much to get our consent," Kennedy said. "All the president has to do is seek out his preferred non-ideological choices, ask us about them, and listen to our answers."
Does anyone doubt for a moment that "non-ideological" means "agrees with Democrats on most issues"?

And... how would they have reacted to a similar demand by Republicans during the Clinton administration? We'll never know, because back then the Senate still respected the centuries-old tradition of letting the president decide who he was going to nominate.

Time to condemn, seize blighted Supreme Court

Scott Ott is in his usual fine form in reaction to yesterday's Supreme Court atrocity (original has additional links):
(2005-06-24) -- A day after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that local governments may seize private property to promote economic development, President George Bush said he may soon move to seize the high court under "the executive branch's power of eminent domain."

The 5-4 court decision broadens the reasons for which properties can be taken under the Fifth Amendment beyond the traditional 'public use' (such as schools and highways) to include 'public purposes' such as...
  • increasing tax income to a municipality,

  • returning a favor to a wealthy developer who supported your city council campaign,

  • improving the view of the waterfront from the Mayor's house, or

  • getting rid of grumpy old people who have lived in their homes long enough.

"In the spirit of the new government takeover of American homes and businesses," said President George Bush, "We may have to seize the moment to condemn some aging, faded and blighted elements of the Supreme Court. Then we can replace them with something that will serve public purposes."
Of course, the executive branch has no power to remove justices from the court... but Congress does. Anyone? Anyone?

June 23, 2005

'AN OMINOUS PRECEDENT': Supremes pull the feeding tube from the 5th Amendment

A five-member majority of the U.S. Supreme Court (with O'Connor joining expected dissenters Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas) has declared it sees no constitutional problem with a local government seizing the property of one private entity and turning it over to another private entity whenever that local government deems that such a transaction serves "the public good"—in other words, whenever it pleases.

The Fifth Amendment's protection against illegitimate takings of private property was already on life support, but this decision pretty much finishes it off.

I suppose Stevens, writing for the majority, was trying to make us feel better when he pointed out that local governments could opt not to exercise this perversion of eminent domain power. On the contrary: now that local governments have the green light here, the potential for corruption will know no bounds.

The Times story (linked above) quotes O'Connor:
In a bitter dissent, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said the majority had created an ominous precedent. "The specter of condemnation hangs over all property," she wrote. "Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory."

"Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private property, but the fallout from this decision will not be random," she wrote. "The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms.

"As for the victims," Justice O'Connor went on, "the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more. The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result."
I wish O'Connor would defer to the Founders' intent more often, but I'm still happy to see her on the right side on this one.

The Dems know what's at stake in the coming battles over Supreme Court nominations. I hope the Republicans—especially those who still retain a shred of respect for the Constitution as originally written—understand as well.

Complete text of the decision: PDF, HTML
Commentary from Texas Insider

Click the 'Eminent Domain' link on the sidebar for other C-Pol postings on the subject.

Not that this is keeping me awake at night or anything, but...

...why do some people take the trouble to go to a single-question online poll, just so they can click "Don't know"?

June 22, 2005

An intriguing way to fix the confirmation filibuster problem

From Best of the Web's James Taranto:
The Bolton problem will have to be resolved politically, but it seems clear from this and the dispute over judicial nominees that there is a problem in the confirmation process, and perhaps it's time to start thinking about a long-term constitutional solution. Why not a constitutional amendment that would go something like this:
Section 1. The President's power to fill vacancies during a recess of the Senate shall apply only in the case of a recess lasting ninety days or longer.

Section 2. The Senate shall vote on all presidential appointments within ninety days of the first day the Senate is in session after the President submits an appointment. The Senate's failure to fulfill this obligation shall be construed as consenting to the appointment.

Section 3. The provisions of this Article shall take effect at the beginning of the next Presidential term after the ratification of this Article.
The effect of this would be to render ineffective all of the obstructionist tactics--blue slips, delayed committee hearings, filibusters--that Republicans used to block nominees during the Clinton years and Democrats are using now, while having no effect on the Senate's constitutional prerogative to set its own rules vis-à-vis legislation. Section 3, by deferring the change until the next presidential term, would avoid any consideration of short-term partisan advantage.
This seems like an excellent solution. But, as Taranto later points out, such a constitutional amendment might have trouble getting past the Senate, given that it would shift some power to the president.

McCain? Dream on, MSM

The summer heat has apparently gotten to whichever AP reporter produced this gem:
THE BIGGER THEY ARE: Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican John McCain are considered the front-runners for their parties' presidential nominations in 2008. "They're 800-pound gorillas," says one Democratic consultant.
Then again, the AP is just passing along what "one Democratic consultant" wishes would happen.

Unless some seismic shift happens in the GOP base, there is no way that McCain will make it past the primaries.

800-pound gorilla? About 750 pounds of that is an ego that gets stroked regularly by media reports like this.

UPDATE: Howard Fineman also sees McCain as the media candidate:
So here’s the question: Why is this McCain’s Moment? There are lots of reasons. For one — and this is not a new observation — we in the so-called Mainstream Media can’t get enough of the guy. He’s got an inspiring personal story, of course, but that’s only part of it. McCain, quite simply, is good copy. He knows precisely where to stand on which issues to generate publicity. Battered between right and left, the Mainstream Media is drawn to him because he’s unpredictable, because he is alternately and equally critical of both parties, castigating Democrats for standing in the way of Bolton’s nomination one minute and aiming harsh words at Bush political allies the next.
You can bet good money that McCain's occasional criticisms of Dems are not the reason that the media are so enamored of him.

Fineman also believes that McCain (with all of that aforementioned ego-stroking he gets) is willing to run as an independent in the almost certain event of his overwhelming rejection in the GOP primaries:
The emerging shape of the 2008 field is another reason for McCain’s Moment. With Dick Cheney not running to succeed Bush, it is wide open, with perhaps eight or nine potential candidates at the starting gate — and McCain is the best known. As for Bush, he has no favorite heir apparent, I’m told — unless his brother decides to run. I am told by GOP insiders that Rove and Bush are taking a hands-off approach to managing this. They certainly are letting their putative favorite, Sen. Bill Frist, twist in the wind. One theory is that Bush and Rove couldn’t abide McCain. I’m not convinced that that’s true. Their overall objective is to have a Republican succeed Bush; even McCain would be better than another wave of Clintons in January 2009 rummaging through the fresh, unshredded records of Bush’s years in the Oval Office.

But McCain can take it either way. If he can’t get the Dobson-Rove Republicans — if Dr. James Dobson is able to successfully shout “no!” from his mountaintop in Colorado — then McCain could run as an independent. Were he to do so, he would probably siphon more votes from the Republican nominee than the Democrat — good news for any Democratic nominee, but especially for a divisive figure such as Hillary Rodham Clinton. Remember 1992?
Rush Limbaugh on today's show makes the common-sense observation that the media promotion of McCain can reasonably be interpreted as a ploy to split the Republican vote (as in 1912 and 1992). With that in mind, it's no surprise to see that Democrat leaders have so many kind words for McCain.

June 17, 2005

If laws were really written this way...

...most people now making their living as lawyers would have to find another line of work.
"Laws are made for men of ordinary understanding and should, therefore, be construed by the ordinary rules of common sense. Their meaning is not to be sought for in metaphysical subtleties which may make anything mean everything or nothing at pleasure."

— Thomas Jefferson

(Credit: The Federalist Patriot's Founders Quote Daily. Click for subscription info.)

June 16, 2005

Somebody stop me before I -- Ooooo, doughnuts!

The Onion's Philip Von Zweck does a masterful job of showing the absurdity of the popular notion that most overweight people became so through the negligence of others, and that the solution does not lie in personal responsibility, but in the action of others (the government, the scientific community, etc.).

(Credit: Center for Consumer Freedom)

Who needs the rest of the Constitution when the "commerce clause" permits everything?

Our Living Constitution™ has evolved some more, as evidenced by this excerpt from an AP dispatch:
Central Texas Cave Bugs Protected

The U.S. Supreme Court has handed a victory to endangered beetle in Travis County.

The highest court in the land refused to hear the case involving Central Texas cave bugs. And that's good news for the bugs.

But the refusal eats holes in arguments by property rights advocates that endangered species protection is unjustly applied.

The case challenged the Endangered Species Act as it is used under the Commerce Clause, which gives Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce.

In the case -- GDF Realty Investments versus Gale Norton, Secretary of the Interior -- property rights advocates argued the clause was being erroneously applied to species found in a single state.

An area near Ranch Road 620 and 2222 might have looked very different had developers gotten their way in the 1980s.

Plans included a Wal-Mart and apartments worth about $60 million.

But at the time, environmentalists found a few species of cave-dwelling beetles and spiders in the area.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials halted plans using the Endangered Species Act.

Environmentalists said disturbing that habitat could threaten interstate commerce.
This story is absurd on so many levels... where to begin?

The Constitution's "Commerce Clause" comes from Article I, Section 8, and reads as follows:
The Congress shall have Power...To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States...
I guess it's no use pointing out any more the fact that "among the several states" means "between the several states", and that it refers to actual commerce, not to things that have some second-, third-, or fourth-hand "nexus" to interstate commerce. The federal government is empowered to act as a "referee" between the states, essentially to make sure that one state doesn't act to unfairly restrict the flow of goods from another state. An obvious example from the time the Constitution was written would be a coastal state charging unreasonable fees to businesses which were trying to get their goods to port from a landlocked state. So, in this view, any time an actual commerce issue transcended the jurisdiction of a single state, the federal government could act.

How times have changed.

Case law has permitted the Commerce Clause to evolve so that it encompasses just about anything that Congress wishes to regulate. All a bill's proponent has to demonstrate (if he/she even bothers to try) is that [the thing to be regulated] has some "nexus" (or connection) to interstate commerce, no matter how strained. Thus we have such things as the Endangered Species Act consitutionally justified through the Commerce Clause.

We also have newspapers reporting: "Environmentalists said disturbing that habitat could threaten interstate commerce."

Even given the way the Commerce Clause has evolved, how could anybody argue this with a straight face? One could more reasonably argue that the commerce being threatened by enforcement of the ESA was that of Wal-Mart and the apartment complex (but even then we're not talking interstate commerce as originally defined).

It's pathetic that the plaintiffs had to concede this twisted definition of interstate commerce. They were reduced to arguing that the cave beetle was found only in a single state, so it wasn't really interstate commerce, and thus the ESA could not be enforced in this case. In truth, not only was it not interstate, it also wasn't commerce at all.

Time and time again we've seen the majority of the justices on the Supreme Court demonstrate that despite their oath to the Constitution, they do not believe that the document means what it says.

In fact, one could argue that they are the Jesus Seminar of constitutional scholarship. They spend their time expunging from the Constitution those portions that are not consistent with their view of what the Constitution is all about, and put their ideological spin on whatever remains.

All Congress must do is ritually invoke one of the remaining, properly-spun clauses (especially the aforementioned Commerce Clause or the General Welfare Clause), and the Supremes are happy.


UPDATE: If you're really in the mood to see your head explode, check out the arguments the Bush DOJ uses to persuade the SCOTUS to refuse the case.

June 15, 2005

The best thing a father can do for his kids is to love his wife

...unlike Larry King and Donald Trump, two of four men selected by some joke of an organization called the National Father's Day Council as this year's fathers of the year. The New York Post didn't miss the irony:
"These fathers play a vital role in the lives of their children," said Rich Wurtzburger, chairman of the committee that selected the honorees.

He said King and Trump had shown "great dedication to raising their families."

King, 71, is the father of six kids and has been married seven times.

Asked how a serial husband could be heralded as a great dad, Wurtzburger told The Post:

"The award here is for 'Father of the Year,' not 'Husband of the Year.' You can see that he is very close to each of his kids."

Wurtzburger was close-mouthed when asked about Trump's dalliance with Georgia Peach Marla Maples — while he was still married to Ivana Trump and had three small kids.

"No comment. I don't know anything about that," he said.

Now the Left will really, REALLY hate Bernard Goldberg

First Bias, and now this.

June 9, 2005

The Left's do-gooders ignore the real issue re: Africa

Mark Steyn has the lowdown on the trendy leftists (such as those putting on the "Live8" concert to coincide with the G8 summit) who think Africa's biggest problem is western stinginess rather than the hopeless corruption of that continent's governments.
The issue in Africa in every one of its crises - from economic liberty to Aids - is government. Until the do-gooders get serious about that, their efforts will remain a silly distraction.

June 7, 2005

The perfect crime: Teen couple kills unborn twins, only father is prosecuted

AP, June 7 (emphasis added):
A 19-year-old East Texas man faces a life prison sentence for causing his teenage girlfriend to miscarry twins, even though she wanted to end the pregnancy.

Gerardo Flores was accused of causing the miscarriage by stepping on his girlfriend's stomach. He was prosecuted under the state's new fetal protection law.

Erica Basoria acknowledged asking Flores to help end her pregnancy. But the 17-year-old can't be prosecuted because of her legal right to abortion.
The legal system (by declining to prosecute the girlfriend) is calling this act an abortion -- so (carrying the logic to its conclusion) the worst this guy could be accused of is performing a legal act (abortion) with the mother's consent and participation but without a license.... and for that he gets a life sentence.

For the record, I think the mother should have been prosecuted as well, but those wiley feminists have succeeded in putting the entire legal burden on the father. I don't know if this is what they intended from the beginning, but I doubt they are displeased with the result.

This is adding evil to evil.

June 3, 2005

EU implosion, update #3

The tide seems to be turning against the political integration of Europe. In just a few days, we've seen voters in France and Holland give the smackdown to their elites by voting down the atrocity known as the EU constitution, and the Financial Times reports that polls in Denmark and the Czech Republic aren't very promising. (We also have news that a minister in the Italian government is publicly suggesting that Italy consider dumping the euro and going back to the lira, but grumbling on that front is a side issue.)

The European elites, seeing which way the wind is blowing, appear ready to discard the document and start over again with a governing model that does much more to respect individual liberty as well as the sovereignty of member states.

Just kidding. They're realizing the folly of asking what their subjects think of this new superstate, so for the time being they may simply stop asking. Denmark, Portugal, Britain and Ireland are all considering postponing referenda in an attempt to diffuse some of the anti-union momentum.

The FT article also reports that:

Gerhard Schröder, German chancellor, is spearheading an attempt to keep the ratification process on track and is scheduled to meet Jacques Chirac, French president, in Berlin on Saturday.
Am I reading this correctly? He seems to be suggesting that overwhelming public disapproval of the treaty shouldn't stand in the way of its ratification. Are the referenda a required prerequisite to ratification? If not, then why have they been held? Were the elites so insulated from public opinion ("Everyone I know is for ratification") that they truly were surprised by these results?

And to think that many on the American left wonder why we don't try harder to be like Europe.

UPDATE: Looks like the Germans are having second thoughts about the euro as well.

All "EU implosion update" posts