Monday, June 27, 2005

Follow Up on Kelo v. New London

Initial reaction to the 5-4 decision that massively expanded cities' eminent domain rights was scathing to say the least. One interesting aspect is that this ruling doesn't override any state laws on the subject. It allows it to still happen, unless states make a law that forbids it. Right now Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, South Carolina and Washington all forbid the taking of private land for anything other than urban redevelopment (i.e. blighted - truly blighted - areas only). Meanwhile Sen John Cornyn (R - TX) has introduced a bill to try and blunt the impact of the SCOTUS ruling, but who knows what impact it will have. Because state governments can override the SCOTUS ruling with stricter laws with regard to eminent domain seizures, it's in everybody's best interests to work on their local government officials rather than national ones. It's easier to move a state Senator than a national one, in large part because nobody focuses on them, so constituent letters and the like will be noticed much more than if it were to your US representative.
One key thought that I pulled from Justice Thomas' dissent: "Still worse, it is backwards to adopt a searching standard of constitutional review for nontraditional property interests, such as welfare benefits, while deferring to the legislature’s determination as to what constitutes a public use when it exercises the power of eminent domain, and thereby invades individuals’ traditional rights in real property...Though citizens are safe from the government in their homes, the homes themselves are not."

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Supreme Court: Your Homes Are Not Your Own!

The Supreme Court just issued it's opinion that local governments can kick you out of your home any time they want. It was a close 5-4 decision, but now if your city wants to build a Wal-Mart where you live, you best take the money and run. Really, if a big company comes and offers you top dollar for your property, it might be worth it lest the local government come in and eminent domain you out of it for less. This wasn't a good decision, but at this point there's not much that could be done about it, other than perhaps a law in congress - but because this decision was based on the 5th Amendment, it might take an amendment to fix it.
The breakdown of votes is what was interesting. I figured that the conservative judges would have said yes and the liberals no, but it's reversed:
Against: Rehnquist, Scalia, Thomas, O'Connor
For: Ginsburg, Breyer, Kennedy, Stevens, Souter

Monday, June 20, 2005

Back from Hawaii...

I was in the Sandwich Islands for the past couple of weeks. I know, I know, it's a tough life. While I was there, I heard a lot of dumb commercials on the radio. I normally don't listen to a lot of radio because it's a wasteland. One set of commercials that was particularly bad are the Freddie/Millie SoBe Lean commercials. I can only assume that SoBe is going for the elusive "make fun of Hispanics" demographic. They're difficult to come across, but if any set of commercials could, it's these ones. Take a listen...maybe I'm just smoking crack, but they seem pretty stereotypical to me.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Kenbot, RIP

I have sad news to report, which people have known about for at least a week. Ken Jennings, beloved game show contestant, was given a hard-core smackdown by Brad Rutter in the Jeopardy ultimate tournament of champions.
It was really sad to see. Here was Kenbot, the master of trivia, the real life Cliff Clavin, looking like a deer in the headlights. It was eerie, seeing Ken with the Drew Bledsoe Face (a phrase coined by ESPN's Sports Guy to describe somebody who looked like they were just hit by a truck; so named because Bledsoe was the master of the face) in his natural domain. He should have mopped the floor with those guys, but I wonder if there wasn't a little deck-stacking there. When I used to compete against Jennings in Jeopardy, I was pretty good, but the questions they used were so obscure and so arcane that it's a wonder they got any points. If I was up there, I would have looked like Sean Connery from SNL's Celebrity Jeopardy. It was really too bad, because in his prime it was amazing to see him chew through opponents like the Wehrmacht crossing the Maginot Line. Instead, he looked very human, and while he got second place, he wasn't the same Ken who rolled over opponents by $50,000 an episode during the summer.