Thursday, June 30, 2005

More on Kelo v. City of New London

Not to worry, says the Mayor of Indianapolis.

"City officials use the power of eminent domain very selectively and very carefully," said Indianapolis, Ind., Mayor Bart Peterson, who is also the vice president of the National League of Cities.

"Generally, property is taken only in the context of an overall economic development project that will provide significant benefits to a neighborhood. This usually involves public hearings or some other type of public process," Peterson added. "In addition, the Constitution's 'just compensation' requirement ensures that cities treat property owners fairly, as do state and federal laws that govern the use and limits of eminent domain."

So, in essence, Mayor Peterson is saying, "Trust us. We won't use this newly-enshrined power too often." Yeah, right.

Well, if property owners have nothing to worry about since they will be fairly compensated, why does the state has to use its coercive power to wrest property from private citizens to benefit private developers in the first place? Why don't developers just pay homeowners a fair price for their homes? Why not pay homeowners a little above market value to ensure their cooperation? After all, the developers generally stand to make so much more off the development of property, shouldn't they make it worth the property owner's while? This would be akin to the practice of paying shareholders more than the current value of their shares during a buyout of a publicly-traded company.

Why? Because, in fact, homeowners aren't paid what their property is worth to the private developer. Just who do you think determines the compensation paid to homeowners whose properties are taken? The Keebler Elves?

Brazil's disrespect for IP law

Brazilian Health Minister Humberto Costa says that Brazil's growing HIV/AIDS population needs anti-retroviral drugs. But he doesn't think they, or the Brazilian government, should have to pay for them.

Minister Costa announced recently that Abbott Laboratories of Chicago, maker of the anti-retroviral drug Kaletra, has until the end of the week to offer an acceptable price for it. Otherwise he will order a Brazilian state-run laboratory to begin making a generic version of the drug.

No matter what Costa says, this is patently illegal. It violates the WTO's TRIPs (trade-related intellectual property rights) agreement. Of course, Costa doesn't quite see it that way. He believes he has found a loophole which permits this practice.

Dr. Roger Bate, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, writing on Tech Central Station, thinks this practice "appears to be legal". I disagree. The loophole Costa is using to justify this theft is one which allows developing nations to suspend IP protections in times of health emergencies. An admirable clause indeed, since it allows the world's poorest quick access to life-saving medicines.

However, I think this clause doesn't apply to Brazil in this case for two reasons. First of all, it is a stretch to call Brazil, with the world's eighth-largest economy (larger than Canada, Spain, Australia, or Russia), a "developing" nation.

Second, the spread of HIV/AIDS in Brazil has hardly reached the stage where it can be called a health emergency. According to the Population Research Bureau, 0.1 % of the population between ages 15-40 is infected with HIV. Brazil doesn't even rank in the top 15 countries outside Africa in terms of the spread of HIV.

What Minister Costa is proposing is out-and-out theft. It's too bad such an educated person as Dr. Bate can't see that.

This is disturbing

The Washington Times has this item about a recent test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) by the Chinese.

It's no secret that the Chinese are working to acquire a "blue-water navy" (i.e., one that can project power beyond its littoral). Now, one reason they may be seeking such a capacity may be to defend their Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOCs). With China's voracious and growing appetite for oil, they are jumping into bed with any and all regimes that can help provide energy resources. Sudan, Nigeria, Chad, Turkmenistan. Anyone. Doesn't matter who as long as they can provide oil or gas. Just look at the Chinese National Overseas Oil Corporation's (CNOOC) $2 billion dollar raise on Chevron's bid for Unocal.

So, one could look at this test and say that the Chinese are merely seeking to keep their trade routes open, especially the vital Strait of Malacca between Indonesia (a volatile, almost unstable country) and Malaysia, through which much of China's imported oil passes.

But does anyone think for a second that it hasn't occurred to the Chinese that an SLBM with a range of 6,000 miles might also be a useful tool in countering USPACOM's ability to project power in the region and defend Taiwan from Chinese threats?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

I don't know who is more pathetic...

...The New York Times editorial board or Fatina Abdrabboh, author of a recent column that appeared on the Gray Lady's op-ed page.

In the column, entitled Veiled Praise, Ms. Abdrabboh, a student at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, recounts a recent episode at the gym where she works out in Cambridge. In her column, Ms. Abdrabboh writes that she felt "more self-conscious than usual" that day. She attributes this to the fact that she works out in her hijjab (head scarf). During her workout she writes how "[e]very television in the gym highlighted some aspect of America's conflict with the Muslim world: the war in Iraq, allegations that American soldiers had desecrated the Koran, prisoner abuse at Guantánamo Bay, President Bush urging support of the Patriot Act".

Ok. Let's stop right there. America's conflict with the Muslim world? Sorry, Ms. Abdrabboh, but it's the Muslim world that has the conflict with America. America has done more to help Muslims than any other government - including the governments of all the Muslim nations. Lebanon, Kuwait, Somalia, Bosnia, Iraq. Americans died helping, or trying to help, all these countries stop the bloodshed within their own borders. To that list I would add Turkey's membership in NATO, and billions in military and foreign aid to Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Don't even get me started on the Koran "abuse" incident. The whole thing was completely overblown and let's leave it at that. And what the heck has the Patriot Act got to do with anything?

Oh, one other small point: it was Muslims that attacked America on September 11, not the other way around.

Ms. Abdrabboh continues on with a case of the vapors a la Nancy Hopkins (the MIT biologist who was so offended by Lawrence Summers' suggestion that innate differences between the sexes might explain women's lack of achievement in the sciences). Ms. Abdrabboh writes that the "stares just intensified my alienation as an Arab Muslim in what is supposed to be my country". She says she was "not sure if the blood rushing to my head was caused by the elliptical trainer or by the news coverage." (An aside: that is just crappy writing. How the heck did she get into Harvard?)

She goes on to relate how she finished her session on the elliptical trainer and moved on to the treadmill, where, unbeknownst to her, she dropped her keys. Her workout is interrupted by none other than Al Gore, who had interrupted his own workout to pick up her keys and hand them to her. Ms. Abdrabboh's reaction?

"It was nothing more than a kind gesture, but at that moment Mr. Gore's act represented all that I yearned for — acceptance and acknowledgment.

There in front of me, he stood for a part of America that has not made itself well known to 10 million Arab and Muslim-Americans, many of whom are becoming increasingly withdrawn and reclusive because of the everyday hostility they feel."

I'm sorry but the nerve of some people never ceases to amaze me. Here is a young woman, studying at the one of premier universities in the world (which happens to be American), with a bright future ahead of her, and all she can do is resort to imagined victimization. Notice, she never says that anyone physically or verbally assaulted her. Just that she "felt" that people were staring at her. I don't know. Maybe she had toilet paper stuck to her shoe.

Personally, I think Ms. Abdrabboh feels guilty for being a citizen of the country that has been targeted by her co-religionists. Rather than speak out against their crimes, she turns herself into the victim to dampen her own guilt. If she didn't, she might have to accept the fact that she comes from a part of the world with a lot of bad people and accept the fact that she herself is not doing anything to change it.

Maybe if she and her 10 million (a figure that is exaggerated; I believe America's Arab-American population numbers around 7 million) fellow Arab-Americans wouldn't feel such hostility (if indeed it does exist - a big if) if they stood up and denounced terrorism instead of talking out of both sides of their mouths on the issue.

Or perhaps Americans are hostile to hyper-sensitive twerps that seem to live only to tell us what awful people we are, all the while enjoying the freedom and opportunity found only in our society. She's like a freeloader that shows up at your door, enters without knocking, goes straight for the fridge and grabs a beer - only to complain that you don't have any Heineken.

Plenty of other bloggers and columnists - notably Jonah Goldberg on National Review Online - have lampooned this garbage far better than I ever could. A simple Google search of "Fatina Abdrabboh" will yield plenty of results. Ankle Biting pundits exposes Ms. Abdrabboh's past efforts at claiming victimhood. It's quite a list. Hey, Fatina, if things are so bad in America, leave! I'm sure Canada or France would love to have you.

But, to return to the title of this piece, the fact that the New York Times printed this drivel on their op-ed page says as much about the Times as it does about Fatina Abdrabboh. I mean, this column might (and I stress might) have been worth printing if Al Gore and his Secret Service detail had rescued Ms. Abdrabboh from a pack of wilding skinheads.

But, all that happened is that this privileged twit dropped her keys during a fit of self-induced paranoia and anxiety, and a nice man picked them up and handed them to her. She then tries to turn this into some kind of metaphor for her own American experience. The whole episode is hardly worth a diary or blog entry, much less a spot on the Times' op-ed page.

Friday, June 24, 2005

That sure didn't take long

Minutes after finishing my post on Kelo v. City of New London, James Taranto's Best of the Web provided this bit:

"After celebrating the Supreme Court's decision yesterday to effectively give local governments carte blanche to seize land for private development, some local officials began quickly moving to use their new unlimited authority. Officials in the beachfront town of Freeport, Texas, announced they would move forward with plans to commandeer property owned by two seafood companies in order to allow the construction of a 900-slip private marina. Freeport will even be loaning the developers $6 million to finance the project, and if it fails the town won't be getting its money back. What is certain is that the displacement of the two seafood companies will cost scores of jobs."

(Sometimes I think that instead of taking the trouble to actually blog, I should just post a daily link to Taranto. He can make the rest of us bloggers feel so inadequate.)

Kelo v. City of New London

Anyone who owns a home, or dreams of owning one, should be profoundly disappointed by the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling in favor of the City of New London. Basically, the Court affirmed the right of your town or county to take your house to make way for a Target, an Ikea or a Best Buy.

It should come as no suprise that the split went Stevens (writing for the majority), Ginsburg, Breyer, Souter and Kennedy (the last two living proof that with the power to appoint Supreme Court Justices, a President doesn't always get what he bargained for) in favor; of course, leaving Rehnquist, Scalia, Thomas, and O'Connor against.

I am too tired and don't feel like working myself into a lather, so I haven't read Stevens' opinion. I have only read the news write-ups about it. As I understand it, the majority bloc did for the power of eminent domain (or takings clause) what Congress has done for the interstate-commerce clause: twisted it to mean pretty darn much whatever they say it means.

The traditional interpretation of eminent domain was that state and local governments could only take your property (traditionally land and/or a home) in order to benefit "public use". Throughout our country's history this had been interpreted to mean that eminent domain would be invoked in cases of public works (roads, bridges, schools, airports and the like).

In all cases of eminent domain, the appropriating entity must compensate the owner fairly. In Kelo, compensation was never the issue. It was understood that most people, fairly compensated or not, usually didn't want to give up their homes. At issue is the definition of "public use".

In Kelo, a narrowly-divided Supreme Court expanded this interpretation to include state and local government taking of private property for private development. In other words, your town could take your home, against your wishes, and allow a Starbucks to be built on what had previously been your land. This represents a radical departure from the previous interpretation since now the creation of private sector jobs and tax revenues is deemed to benefit public use.

I usually eschew "slippery slope" arguments but one seems a propos here. Just how many jobs must be created in order for it to be deemed a benefit to public use? If you and your wife are both employed, would the creation of three jobs be considered enough to justify a public taking?

In truth, not having read the majority opinion, I don't know if the Court enunciated any criteria in this area. I read nothing of the sort in any of the news pieces I read on the subject. This decision can only be seen as a drastic setback for private property rights. Combined with the Court's ruling in the Gonzalez v. Raich medical marijuana case, which brought back a more expansive view of the interstate-commerce clause, these rulings represent a blow to those citizens in our country who would like to see the power of government limited.

Well, at least Scalia got this one right. I still have a hard time believing he voted to uphold Gonzalez v. Raich.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Some people....

The nerve of some armchair diplomats is breath-taking. Take Madeleine Albright (please!). You remember her, right? She was the first woman Secretary of State - and an embarrassment to the United States. Recall that she was the one who danced with Kim Jong-Il in Pyongyang.

Ms. Albright also discovered her Jewish ancestry during her tenure at Foggy Bottom. Perhaps that explains her astonishing chutzpah.

Thanks to James Taranto's invaluable Best of the Web for highlighting comments Ms. Albright made about the Bush administration's diplomatic failings in sub-Saharan Africa:

"She decried the country's lack of support for sub-Saharan black Africa, calling Rwanda a 'volcanic' genocide [which occurred during the Clinton administration, while Madeleine was Ambassador to the UN recall] and the current situation in the Darfur region of Sudan a 'rolling genocide' that the United States must get involved in.

'There's no excuse. The money we spend in one year in Iraq would pay for 20 years of helping Africa,' she said.

This, in and of itself, would be bad enough, but contrast her bemoaning of the Bush adminstration's diplomacy in Africa with her own thoughts on the then-nascent "rolling genocide" (to use her term) in Darfur taken from a 2000 op-ed column by The Washington Post's Sebastian Mallaby:

"In a meeting last December, Albright suggested that, much as she deplored the country's suffering, 'The human rights situation in Sudan is not marketable to the American people.' Sudan's Muslim government may condone the enslavement of black people from the south; it may have pursued a war that has cost nearly two million lives; it may regularly bomb schools and hospitals. But Albright and one of her officials declined to call this 'genocide,' explaining that this might require the United States to do more about it."

The idea that she thought the Clinton administration had to "market" the idea that the US take action in a humanitarian crisis such as that in Darfur is simply repugnant. Americans know a wrong when they see it; they don't have to be sold on the idea of righting a grievous wrong.

For my money, Madeleine Albright has to rank as one of the worst Secretaries of State of all time, and certainly would be in the running for worst of the 20th century.

(For those interested, the latest National Review has an excellent article showing that the Bush administration has tried to do more about the slaughter in Darfur than just about any other country. In fact, it is the Europeans in the UN, most notably (wait for it) the French, who refuse to even consider threatening sanctions - much less sending in a peacekeeping force to supplement the African Union's woefully inadequate presence.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The truth about the Democrat's filibusters

I know you will be shocked (shocked!) to learn that the Democrats in the Senate and the mainstream media have not been telling the truth about the filibuster of judicial nominees. So, here it is.

There is no long or honored tradition of using the filibuster in the Senate, and certainly not to block judicial nominees. In fact, the filibuster has almost always been used as an obstructionist tactic to block legislation that otherwise enjoys popular support . Recall Strom Thurmond's record filibuster of a 1957 civil rights bill.

The key difference here is that Thurmond actually took to the floor and spoke at length, without yielding, to block any other business from coming before the Senate. That is a "real" filibuster. Unlike today's filibuster in which all a Senator must do is signal his intent to filibuster (the so-called "gentleman's filibuster"). This is kind of like the batter signaling his "intent" to hit a home run and then just running around the bases and tagging home. That's ridiculous. The other team doesn't just accept the batter's intent. They make him go through the hard work of actually hitting the ball over the fence.

The first filibuster of a judicial nominee was in 1968 when Abe Fortas' nomination as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was filibustered. In addition to his nomination being opposed on ideological grounds, Fortas had serious ethical questions surrounding him as well. Opponents of Fortas' nomination wanted time to air these charges, so they filibustered. The two things to bear in mind about this filibuster are: (1) Fortas' opponents never intended to prevent his nomination from coming to the floor for an up-or-down vote; and (2) Fortas did not have the support of a majority of the Senate. In fact, the cloture vote (a motion to end debate, i.e., end the filibuster) garnered just 45 votes, far short of the required 60. Lyndon Johnson withdrew the nomination.

The filibuster did not raise its ugly head again until the Clinton administration. In 1996 Bill Clinton nominated a district-court judge named Richard Paez to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (the same circuit that told us that we had to remove the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance). In 1998 he nominated a San Francisco lawyer named Marsha Berzon to the same court.

Republicans, who were the majority at the time (just as they are now), wanted to block these nominations. The nominations were held up in committee until 1999 when Senate Democrats and President Clinton complained about the stalled nominations. Sens. Orrin Hatch and Arlen Specter then sided with Senate Democrats on the Judiciary Committee to approve the nominations and send them to a floor vote.

Now, here is where today's Democrats are caught in a lie. Paez and Berzon were never filibustered (contrary to the claims of Sen. Charles Schumer, among others). New Hampshire Republican Bob Smith tried to filibuster the nominations but his motions were defeated (85-14 in the case of Paez, and 86-13 for Berzon). Both nominees were subsequently approved.

Fast forward to 2003. The Democrats, still the minority, decided it was their prerogative to veto the President's judicial nominees. So, they began to use the filibuster. The Democrats have blocked 10 nominees from receiving up-or-down votes.

There are, I believe, three key differences between the 1968 Fortas filibuster, the 1999 non-filibusters of Paez and Berzon, and the 2003 filibuster of Bush's 10 judicial nominees.

First, in the case of the Fortas filibuster, the intent was not to block Fortas' nomination from ever reaching the floor. The intent was to allow for more time to study the nomination so that more information about Fortas could be brought to light prior to a floor vote. This is patently not the case with Bush's nominees. Witness this exchange between Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Robert Bennett of Utah over the Priscilla Owen nomination:

Bennett: "I ask unanimous consent that there be an additional six hours for debate on the Owen nomination."
Reid: "I object."
Bennett: "I modify the request to ten additional hours."
Presiding officer of the Senate asks if there are any objections.
Reid: "Yes. There are more productive things that could be done during those ten hours."
Bennett: "I ask if any number of hours would be sufficient for the Senator from Nevada."
Reid: "There is not a number in the universe that would be sufficient."

In other words, Senate Democrats fully intended to block this nomination from ever receiving an up-or-down vote. This wasn't about the advise and consent role. It was about obstructionism and denying the President his choices for the federal bench, pure and simple.

Second, the Democrats are the minority party. While the Constitution and Senate rules respect the minority, they clearly do not give them the power to block nominees from an up-or-down vote. Respect for the minority should not result in tyranny by the minority (something which is occurring more and more in our society). One of the perks of winning elections is that the winners (i.e., the Republicans) get to try and enact their policies and nominate people they believe will help them do that.

Third, the filibustered nominees enjoy majority support. In other words, were their nominations ever sent to the floor, they would be confirmed. This is what is most galling about this whole episode and stands in stark contrast to the Fortas "precedent". If a Senator objects to a nominee then he should vote not to confirm that nominee. If he wants to defeat an nominee, then he should convince 49 of his colleagues to do likewise. To do otherwise is cowardly.

Oh, and the fabulous compromise hammered out by the "McCain Seven"? Yeah, that lasted a long time. Democrats are at it again. Now they are filibustering John Bolton's nomination to be Ambassador to the U.N. Color me shocked!

Saturday, June 11, 2005


I love it when a national figure says something that I have been saying for some time. Follows is an excerpt from a column by former Clinton adviser Dick Morris:

"Frist just needs to end the 'virtual' filibuster and make the Democrats stage a real one, replete with quorum calls, 24/7 sessions and truly endless debate covered word for word by C-SPAN for all the nation to see - and ridicule." (emphasis added)

Morris makes the same point that I have made in several different posts - namely that the "filibusters" that everyone is so excised about aren´t really filibusters at all. Why the Republicans wouldn´t call the Democrats bluff on this remains a mystery to me.

Thanks for backing me up on this one, Dick!

Why doesn't some prominent Republican sue Howard Dean?

If I were a public figure, I'd sue him for slander.

The "never made an honest living" comment really chaps my hide. How dare he?! With one sound-bite, Dr. Dean has insulted the work ethic and integrity of millions of Americans.

As for the quote about the Republicans being a "white, Christian party", I'm sure this would come as news to people like Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, Elaine Chao, and Carlos Gutierrez (none of whom are white in the sense meant by Dean); or Paul Wolfowitz, William Kristol and Ken Melhman (who aren't Christian).

On the other hand, Howard Dean is a dream DNC chairman from a Republican standpoint. Not only is he alienating the very people the Democrats need to reach out to (the so-called "values voters"), he is so busy putting his foot in his mouth that the Democrats are lagging far behind the Republicans in fundraising. This is going to make it very hard for Democrats to fulfill Nancy Pelosi's (D., The Moon) prediction that her party will capture both houses of Congress in next year's mid-term election.

Who's the dunce?

This is rich. It's almost too good to be true!

For nigh on six years now the Left has repeated over and over that George Bush is dumb. They've repeated it so loudly and so often that it has become part of conventional wisdom. George Bush was presumed to have used his family connections and legacy status to win acceptance to Yale. John Kerry, on the other hand, with his erudition and French-ness was presumed to be the intellectually superior candidate.

Now the Boston Globe has revealed this:

"...Kerry received four times the number of Ds in his freshman year alone (than Bush received in four years of college) - one each in geology, and political science and two in history classes..."

Who's the dunce again?

Friday, June 10, 2005

Long Time, No Blog

For my readers out there, I just wanted to add a quick note to let you know that I am alive and well. I'm on the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores. The Azores, a Portuguese territory, are an island chain in the Atlantic. Just find Spain and Portugal on your map and then look to the left in the Atlantic.

Before that I was home for the month of May. I don't blog much at home since I am usually trying to catch up with friends and family and take care of all the little administrative details of my life. I generally do most of my blogging from the road. Unfortunately, the hotel here in Ponta Delgada (the capital of the Azores) doesn't have internet. Hence the lack of posts. I'm hopeful that next week will be a little slower and I'll get a chance to post.

I'm here until next Friday. I'll be home for almost a week and then I'm off to Frankfurt.