Friday, June 24, 2005

Eminent domain and The Riverwalk

Would San Antonio have a Riverwalk if cities did not have the power of eminent domain that allows them to take private property (after providing just compensation) for “public use”?
It’s possible that it would because I’m not aware of any big disputes along those lines during its development. But what if one of the property owners back then had stubbornly refused to go along with the city’s plans to transform the San Antonio River into a national tourist destination? Might they have halted the development?

The folks in New London, Conn. are trying to do something that is not terribly different from what San Antonio did many years ago. Here is how the New York Times describes the proposed development:

“...a large-scale plan to replace a faded residential neighborhood with office space for research and development, a conference hotel, new residences and a pedestrian "riverwalk" along the Thames River.”

One defender of the project even cites San Antonio’s Riverwalk as an example of what they are trying to do:

”This is similar to how San Antonio developed the Riverwalk and revitalized the downtown area. The only difference is the city itself used the power of eminent domain rather than delegating to a non-profit. San Antonio only kept a very narrow strip of land along the river while selling the rest, mainly to hotels.”

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in favor of the New London city officials has excited much consternation from both the right and left halve of the blogosphere - JammerBlog: Letter to Sens. Cornyn and Hutchison; All Things Conservative: Don't Get Too Attached; Ranten Raven: Five boobs in black robes; and Off the Kuff: We need a mall where your house is.

But I think alot of their anger is misdirected. As P.M. Bryant of B and B aptly points out, governments have long had the power under the Constitution to seize property for public use. The question before the courts was who gets to decide what “public use” is. Should it be locally elected city officials or the federal courts?
And before you decide who it should be, stop and think that they could be the ones deciding whether or not San Antonio gets to have a Riverwalk.
Personally, I kind of like the Riverwalk and I don’t think there is any question that it has been a tremendous benefit to the entire city even if a large chunk of it was sold off to private developers.
So think about that before you start condemning this particular court decision.

San Antonio Blogger Gathering

The first ever San Antonio Blogger Gathering is taking place tomorrow (Saturday, June 25) from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at McAllister Park pavillion No. 2.
It looks like there may be about 16 people there which is pretty good for a group of folks who only became aware of one another’s existence just recently and have never met in person.

The Ranten Raven has done most of the work to bring this together. It is to be a neutral and non-partisan event open to conservative and liberal bloggers alike - as well as to those strange folks who find other things to blog about besides politics. Check out this web link above for directions and a list of things you can bring.

NBA Champions

NBA Champions
Originally uploaded by mwthomas87.
Congratulations to the NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs!
It could have gone either way, but Tim Duncan stepped up when it mattered the most and sparked a fourth quarter surge that made the difference.
I wasn't sure who would deserve the MVP in the event of a Spurs victory, what with Manu Ginobli's terrific performance in the first two games and Robert Horry's series saving heroics in Game 5. But I think Tim Duncan clearly proved in the end that he is the heart and soul of the team. Now he joins the likes of Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Shaquille O'Neal as the only three-time NBA Finals MVPs. Pretty impressive.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Torching the First Amendment

The Republican-controlled Congress has passed yet another bill to ban flag burning. These things usually die in the Senate, but now that the Republicans have a heftier majority in that body it is not so certain. So we may soon have to go through the process of amending our Constitution over a politically-charged non-issue.

Right now if somebody burns a flag they get disdain and scorn. But in the future they will get disdain, scorn and lots of free publicity! Oh Boy!! I don’t honestly know when the last time there was a U.S. flag burned in protest but I am pretty certain it is a relatively rare and uncommon occurence. In the future there will likely be lots of flags burned by people looking to challenge bans on flag burning.

Since the proper way to dispose of an old flag is by burning it, laws to prevent flag burning will have to be based on intent - which means putting people in jail for expressing unpopular political views. That means altering the First Amendment guarantee of free speech. There is just no other way around it.

Then there is the problem with actually enforcing such a law if it ever comes to pass. Can you only be prosecuted for burning a flag? And if so, how do you define what a flag is? Can you be prosecuted for burning a piece of cloth that looks like a flag? What about a flag printed on paper or terricloth? What about a flag that has only 49 stars? Or a flag that has 14 stripes? What about a flag that uses blue dye No. 8 instead of the official blue dye No. 9 (or whatever)?

And when the Patriot Police finish figuring out how they will enforce this new law what will they go after next? Prosecuting people for not standing during the national anthem? Requiring recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance at every public or private event involving two or more people? Criminalizing other forms of political speech that is critical of the government? The options are endless.

Publicity stunt gone wrong

This is just too funny.

NEW YORK An attempt to erect the world's largest popsicle in a city square ended with a scene straight out of a disaster film - but much stickier.

The 25-foot-tall, 17 1/2-ton treat of frozen Snapple juice melted faster than expected Tuesday, flooding Union Square in downtown Manhattan with kiwi-strawberry-flavored fluid that sent pedestrians scurrying for higher ground.

Firefighters closed off several streets and used hoses to wash away the sugary goo.

The stunt might have worked if they had just used water with red food coloring. But I imagine the freezing point for the heavily sugared Snapple juice is a bit lower than they expected.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Statute of limitations on illegal immigration

There was an excellent article in the Washington Post over the weekend making the case for a statute of limitations on deportation.

We used to have one policy that is worth revisiting: a time limit -- a statute of limitations -- on prosecuting unauthorized presence... nearly all offenses, civil and criminal, carry statutes of limitations... It is not the best use of the government's resources to pursue old cases in which the evidence is stale or difficult to obtain....
A statute of limitations on unlawful entry is therefore not anachronistic but consistent with basic legal and moral principles. It does not condone or reward illegal immigration: Unauthorized presence would remain a violation of the law and continue to carry the risk of apprehension and removal, at least for some period of time. But it would allow us to recognize that the undocumented become, for better or worse, members of the community, and to accept them as such.

I can remember reading about cases in the past where elderly grandmothers who have been in this country longer than I have were picked up by the INS and threatened with deportation. Surely there must be some kind of common sense way to deal with such potential travesties and a statute of limitations is it. I don’t know how long it should be, but I have no doubt that our INS would be better serving the public interest by pursuing recently arrived illegals rather than going after people who have established themselves in their communities.

There was another case I remember when I was in Lubbock about a woman from the Phillippines who was picked up by the INS and threatened with deportation despite the fact that she was married to a U.S. serviceman and had four small children at home. It had to be one of the most monumentally stupid things the INS had ever done. They were just begging to get bad publicity. Every night on the news and in the paper you would see images of this Army officer at home trying to take care of his four children ages 9 months, 2, 4, and 6, while their mother who had come to this county as a child 12 years earlier was sitting in lockup somewhere.
I don’t know how the case was eventually resolved but I don’t think she was deported. Fortunately for her this happened back before Republican ideologues took over every branch of the government so I believe that cooler heads eventually prevailed. Today it would probably have turned out quite differently.

But at least not all right-wingers are on the wrong side of this issue. I was surprised to see a rare column by Charles Krauthammer the other day that I can actually agree with.
So maybe there is hope on this issue.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Fatherhood squared

A little more than two years ago life changed for my wife and I when we learned that we were going to have our first child. After 13 years of marriage with no luck at having children of our own we were beginning to think that it wasn’t meant to be. But then Nathan came along and now he will be turning two in just another couple of months.

Being parents has been a real joy for us. Perhaps because we were forced to wait so long to experience it we are enjoying it more, but regardless of the reason I can’t wait to go home each day and be with my family. So I fully expect it will only get better the second time around. My wife and I are expecting our second child in November. And we just found out the other day that it’s a little girl.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Downing Street Memos

My friend Bill does a good job summarizing
the conservative blogoshpere’s reaction to the Downing Street Memo documents that were first published last month in the Sunday Times in London. But I’ll go ahead and summarize it just a bit further:

It’s no big deal, it’s all old news and it’s probably fake anyway!

The significance of these memos is hard to overstate because they give us an insider’s view of the deception that went into the Bush administration’s pre-war planning. They spell out many of the things that the Bush administration’s critics have long suspected but could never prove - that Bush was intent on invading Iraq regardless of what intelligence reports said about Saddam’s WMD capabilities.
The memos are the closest thing we have to the Watergate tapes of the Nixon era. So it is not a surprise that Bush backers will try to downplay their significance in order to continue living in their fantasy world. The latest effort to declare the memos “fakes” is probably the most humorous and easily debunked. I’m sure that if pressed, these folks will tell you that these documents were faked as well.
Nevertheless it is an all too common tactic on the right today and it helps keep a certain segment of their supporters in line - particularly those who refuse to read anything in the biased MainStreamMedia and get all their news and information from right-wing blogs and talk radio.

But it is difficult to maintain that charade when top government officials just won’t cooperate.

Two senior British government officials today acknowledged as authentic a series of 2002 pre-Iraq war memos stating that Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons program was "effectively frozen" and that there was "no recent evidence" of Iraqi ties to international terrorism—private conclusions that contradicted two key pillars of the Bush administration's  public case for the invasion in March 2003.

For people who were opposed to Bush’s rush to war from the beginning, these memos simply confirm our worst suspicions. The Bush administration took advantage of the 9/11 tragedy to pursue an unrelated foreign policy objective that has proved to be much more costly in both lives and dollars than they ever expected.