Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Property Puffery

Given that the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling permitting governments to take private property in the name of higher tax revenue effectively guts federal constitutional protections against condemnation, the policies and practices of local governments on eminent domain are all the more relevant. Peoria is the only city in Arizona, and perhaps the nation, that has a formal eminent domain policy.

On its face, Peoria’s policy acknowledges the “the private property rights guaranteed by the Arizona and United States Constitutions.” The policy takes a step in the right direction by giving limited deference to owner-occupied housing, acknowledging the severe injustice in taking someone’s home by force.

Unfortunately, the policy also goes out of its way to outline procedures for condemning property for “third party development projects” – the very sort of eminent domain abuse at work in the recent Supreme Court decision.

A truly responsible eminent domain policy would forbid, not direct, this sort of legitimized theft.

At the very least, the policy should explicitly reflect the language of the state constitution which states that the authority to take private property only extends to matters of “public use”; it does not allow eminent domain for private use or what the city calls “public purpose.” This means abandoning the sections of the policy that permit the city to give condemned property to third parties and relying strictly on the constitution’s “public use” requirement. The difference between “use” and “purpose” is large; as large as a new condo complex built on top of an old neighborhood.

Peoria City Council Policy on Real Property Acquisition and Eminent Domain

ARS § 12-1111: Purposes for which eminent domain may be exercised

Goldwater Institute Study: Alternatives to Eminent Domain

Monday, July 18, 2005

Disposable Cameras

Is the security camera the panacea of the 21st century?

One could be forgiven for thinking so, given the accolades they win from everyone from terrorism experts to city officials.

Scottsdale puts so much stock in the techno-baubles that it wants to cover six miles of the Loop 101 with 24-hour surveillance.

But if our experiences with terrorism have taught us anything it is that the best security cameras seem to accomplish is provide terrifying footage of missed opportunities to nab the bad guys. Remember the haunting image of Mohamed Atta at Logan Intl.? No doubt you have seen pictures of the seemingly-innocuous hikers boarding the London Tube. These images do nothing to bring back the dead, or prevent future attacks.

The same can be said for cameras on the 101. A camera might help in dispatching police to the scene of an accident, but a patrol car in the break-down lane would be far more effective in actually preventing the crash. Speeders and HOV-lane scofflaws aren’t likely to respond to a tiny camera perched above the 5:00 p.m. mêlée and a ticket that comes weeks later. Perhaps a sign reminding motorists “You are being watched” would make the cameras more effective.

But that still leaves the underlying question untouched: Do you want to be watched? “Sure,” many say, in this age of terrorism. “I have nothing to hide.” But if we get nothing more than evening-news footage of the bad guys when it is already too late to act, why waste our time and money to live in an ineffective police-state? If we want to drop the Iron Curtain on America, let’s do it – these Iron Mini-Blinds just don’t go with the drapes.

As the Cato Institute’s Melanie Scarborough puts it, “If a suicide bomber walks intothe rotunda of the Jefferson Memorial with explosives strapped to his body, a police officer watching at a remote site can do nothing to prevent disaster." Ditto for that jackass doing 90 mph in the right lane.

Thursday, July 14, 2005



"Biased media coverage of terrorism issue

When the bombs went off in London last Wednesday, you heard many broadcasters talking about Londoners showing defiance by continuing with their daily activities. Furthermore, you heard world leaders calling the attack on London as an attack on civilization and the overused phrase, "our way of life." A few years ago, when terrorism hit Saudi Arabia and Morocco, the same sentiment that was seen last week was absent. Many broadcasters covered those two attacks as "just another common event in the Arab/Muslim world--lack of in depth coverage from the "big three"--CNN, FOX, and MSNBC."

Two points:

1) Attacks in the Arab world are not attacks "on our way of life" because they do not practice "our way of life." These are largely patriarchal, backward countries that deny the most basic liberties to their own citizens. You can draw all sorts of reactionary parallelisms to the post-Patriot Act United States, but the fact remains that Western women are not property, we do not summarily execute people in the streets, etc. Can you honestly say that an attack in Saudi Arabia(!) is tantamount to an attack in London, and by extension that society in Saudi Arabia is the same as in London?

2) The coverage of Middle Eastern attacks is prominent because it serves as a convenient way to criticize the Bush administration, or more specifically the Bush Doctrine. Bad news in the Middle East means bad news for the Administration, specifically and generally. These are policy zingers, not news stories. Or are you among the self-proclaimed illuminati who deny a liberal bias in the media? Even Bill Clinton doesn't deny that fact.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Communism in our Time - and our Country


First Plank: Abolition of property in land and the application of all rents of land to public purposes. (Zoning - Model ordinances proposed by Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover widely adopted. Supreme Court ruled "zoning" to be "constitutional" in 1921. Private owners of property required to get permission from government to use their property. Federally owned lands are leased for grazing, mining, timber usages, the fees being paid into the U.S. Treasury.)

Second Plank: A heavy progressive or graduated income tax. (Corporate Tax Act of 1909. The 16th Amendment, ratified in 1913. The Revenue Act of 1913, section 2, Income Tax. These laws have been purposely misapplied against American citizens to this day.)

Third Plank: Abolition of all rights of inheritance. (Partially accomplished by enactment of various state and federal "estate tax" laws taxing the "privilege" of transfering property after death and gift before death.)

Fourth Plank: CONFISCATION OF THE PROPERTY OF ALL EMIGRANTS AND REBELS. (Various civil asset forfiture laws accomplish this nicely, and legally.)

Fifth Plank: Centralization of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly. (The Federal Reserve Bank, 1913 - the system of privately-owned Federal Reserve banks which maintain a monopoly on the fiat paper money in circulation. Also, the Fed sets interest rates based on ... well, it sets interest rates.)

Sixth Plank: Centralization of the means of communications and transportation in the hands of the State. (Federal Radio Commission, 1927; Federal Communications Commission, 1934; Air Commerce Act of 1926; Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938; Federal Aviation Agency, 1958; becoming part of the Department of Transportation in 1966; Federal Highway Act of 1916 (federal funds made available to States for highway construction); Interstate Highway System, 1944 (funding began 1956); Interstate Commerce Commission given authority by Congress to regulate trucking and carriers on inland waterways, 1935-40; Department of Transportation, 1966.)

Seventh Plank: Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State, the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan. (Department of Agriculture, 1862; Agriculture Adjustment Act of 1933 -- farmers will receive government aid if and only if they relinquish control of farming activities; Tennessee Valley Authority, 1933 with the Hoover Dam completed in 1936.)

Eighth Plank: Equal liability of all to labor. Establishment of industrial armies especially for agriculture. (First labor unions, known as federations, appeared in 1820. National Labor Union established 1866. American Federation of Labor established 1886. Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 placed railways under federal regulation. Department of Labor, 1913. Labor-management negotiations sanctioned under Railway Labor Act of 1926. Civil Works Administration, 1933. National Labor Relations Act of 1935, stated purpose to free inter-state commerce from disruptive strikes by eliminating the cause of the strike. Works Progress Administration 1935. Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, mandated 40-hour work week and time-and-a-half for overtime, set "minimum wage" scale. Civil Rights Act of 1964, effectively the equal liability of all to labor.)

Ninth Plank: Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries, gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equitable distribution of population over the country. (Food processing companies, with the co-operation of the Farmers Home Administration foreclosures, are buying up farms and creating "conglomerates." Moreover, federal "grants-in-aid" effectively destroy the concept of independant local, state, and fedreal governments.)

Tenth Plank: Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children's factory labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production. (Gradual shift from private education to government schools began in the Northern States, early 1800's. 1887: federal money (unconstitutionally) began funding specialized education. Smith-Lever Act of 1914, vocational education; Smith-Hughes Act of 1917 and other relief acts of the 1930's. Federal school lunch program of 1935; National School Lunch Act of 1946. National Defense Education Act of 1958, a reaction to Russia's Sputnik satellite demonstration, provided grants to education specialties. Federal school aid law passed, 1965, greatly enlarged federal role in education, "head-start" programs, textbooks, library books. No Child Left Behind, 2002, gives authority to the federal government to set educational standards.)

(Sources: Encyclopedia Britannica,

Arizona Punk'd

On MTV, "Punk'd" is a hidden camera show that tries to deceive celebrities. Host Ashton Kutcher usually succeeds.

In Arizona, "Punk'd" is the buzzword in an ad campaign that tries to deceive the public, funded by a group calling itself Early Childhood Arizona. Let's hope the real-life version turns out differently.

The campaign promotes state funding of "early childhood development programs," read all-day kindergarten, by drawing questionable connections between the programs and everything from high school dropout rates to poor test scores to the economic success of the bioscience industry in Arizona.

It seems spurious to link all-day kindergarten to far-flung benchmarks like economic growth, let alone the biosciences specifically, when the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has found that by third grade, there are no achievement differences between students who attended half-day kindergarten and those who attended full-day kindergarten. The findings of the NCES study echo the warnings of HeadStart co-founder Ed Zigler: early childhood education cannot solve problems like high school dropout rates and low test scores, as Early Childhood Arizona claims. These problems find their roots after students leave kindergarten, not before.

Early Childhood Arizona advocates a centralized and expanded bureaucracy to oversee early childhood education to "create positive synergy between existing early childhood education programs." But positive synergy is positively useless unless it creates incentives for schools to change, like empowering parents to make choices about their child's education.

If Arizonans believe the claims of Early Childhood Arizona, they, like Kutcher's celebrity marks, will find themselves punk'd.