Sunday, June 26, 2005

Eminent Domain

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've by now heard of the latest SCOTUS debacle, Kelo v. New London. Eric has a good round-up of posts on the topic, and the entire libertarian blogosphere (Brad, Robert's Libertopia, and T.F. Stern, to note especially) has been abuzz on the topic. Several rants, some articulate, some not, and lots of moaning and groaning about the loss of property rights.

All good, and all needed. But what are we going to do about it? Stephen at Fearless Philosophy for Free Minds (which is getting added to the blogroll as soon as I get back to my broadband connection) has a good start: amend the Constitution to specifically prohibit the use of eminent domain except in transactions where the land will be going to the public good; that is, actually being used by the government for a public project, not to be sold to a private developer. However, this raises a thorny issue. Amending the Consitution is, intentionally, extremely difficult. It requires either a large, populist movement to call for a convention or convince their representatives to support the amendment, or it requires enough Congressmen to have the balls to stand up for their principles and support the amendment. Without either (and preferebly both) of these things, no amendment can ever get started.

While many have called for beginning a letter writing campaign of sorts to Congress, I would like to offer a prediction of apathy and ultimate failure. Congress isn't going to do anything about this situation, because Congress is a left of center institution, especially when looking at things from a libertarian point of view. Even those that are called "right-wing" in Congress are still, more often than not, neo- or theo-cons. As such, they are far more likely to busy their time with passing the flag burning amendment than they are with this particular amendment. Likewise, the populist movement is unlikely to be an effective route, at least any time soon, because of the simple fact that real libertarians are a very small minority in the population.

So if we don't have Congress, and we don't have the majority of the population, what do we have? Like so many smaller government activists before us, we have the states. More specifically, the state legislatures. T.F. and Eric have both related instances of State representatives acting on this or other related issues. The issue is out there, and at least a few representatives are aware of it. The key is getting enough representatives in enough states to recognize the issue so we get a critical mass, where the ideas become propagated through the populace without our (the libertarian blogosphere) direct involvement. This isn't as hard to do as one might think. While this example might be the exception rather than the rule, I think it should be somewhat accurate, at least, for the rest of the country. I know my local newspaper, the Omaha World-Herald, is always running stories on the front of its Midlands section about the latest news coming out of the Unicameral (our legislature). These stories often involve just one or two state senators holding some sort of press conference about a bill they are planning to introduce. In other words, all that is required to get the story out into the world is the convincing of one or two state representatives. Speaking from personal experience, that's a lot easier to do than getting one or two national representatives convinced.

Once the story is out there, I think (I could be very very wrong here...this is where I delve into the very theoretical) that a surprising thing will happen. The same people that elected Reagan will hear the call to arms and stand up once again to be counted. If we are able to get the ideas out there, in the media and in "circulation," so to speak, we will reach a point, sooner rather than later, when we will reach critical mass. When this happens, it's all downhill from there. If we are able to reach critical mass, the hard work is done. The populace has the idea, is sustaining it, and is nurturing it. The amendment might not happen right away, and, if we are able to change the political structure sufficiently, it may not even happen at all as it won't be needed (at least in the short term). But if the idea is out there, the important work has been done; that is, the populace has been made aware of the idea, they have continued discourse on the idea, and they have adopted it as something they see worthy of value.

However, you'll notice the operative words in the above paragraph. "If," "Once," and most importantly, "Hard work." That's what this struggle will be. Hard work. Consider the process it took from the first Enlightened thought to the ultimate fulfillment in the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. Unfortunately I'm on dial-up so I will not be able to look up the exact dates, but I'm willing to wager that it is at least, by the most conservative, strict estimate, 50 years, if not more. As so many have said, we, as bloggers, are the modern day equivalents of those brave souls who set out in their pamphlets with what they felt were good ideas for the betterment of man, and who ended up changing the world. Just as they did, we must be persistent in our efforts. And most importantly, we must, just as they did, be unflinching and unyielding in our struggle. This, for me at least, is the proverbial "line in the sand." Yes, there were many things that upset me before, but none such as this issue before us now. I think that most of you feel the same way, judging by the uproar in the blogosphere. We need to channel this emotion and use it, remember it.

If there were those among us that needed a wake-up call, this should be it. More importantly, the rest of the country may not know it yet, but if our efforts are successful, this court case will be remembered as their wake-up call, as well.

disclaimer: I am typing this while on vacation, and my brain may not be fully functioning. I mean, honestly, you think those damn Supremes would at least have the courtesy to hold off on their huge, watershed ruling until I got back from vacation. I must not have that kind of pull. Anyway, I look forward to having my idea(s) torn apart in the comment section.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Off for a bit

Just when you thought I had returned, I must be going. I'm off to Florida with the family (....yay) until July 2nd. Beach for more than a few days, and then hittin' up the parks in Orlando. Maybe this year I'll actually be able to mooch some booze off of my parents, being college-bound and everything. Anyway, as you may well know, the 2nd is two days before one of the best holidays ever, the birthday of this great nation, the 4th of July! And my family is yet again hosting our extended family's Fourth party! Fireworks, illegally obtained, hopefully, will be the main attraction. As long as there isn't a repeat of a few years ago, where a huge artillery shell went up...came back down, (this is where we implemented the Monty Python egress procedure: "Run away! Run away!") and exploded 15 feet off the ground, almost catching every house in my cul-de-sac on fire. I digress. The point is that if I have time when I get back, expect something along the lines of a "Why America is Great" or "Why I love America" post. And if I don't have time, well, I'll be gone for a bit longer, and you should probably expect something different.

Just so this post actually has substance, I thought I would point out this Jonah Goldberg NRO column, about Dick Durbin and the left's obsession with comparing those that disagree with them to Hitler. Eric (who I need to link to more; he's a VERY good blogger...and no, I'm not trying to suck up or anything) has blogged on this subject, as well.

Last thing: as a precursor to my forthcoming historical perspective essay, check out Wretchard's latest, about how much things can change in just 40 years. Canada actually had balls, way back did the U.N.

Well, adieu/tschuss/ta-ta for now.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Senator Hagel

Sorry for the lack of posting lately; I'd like to have a good excuse, but I really don't. I've been working some on a lengthy essay about the lack of historical perspective we have in our society today, but that's not going to happen right now. As for any other excuse, I really don't have one, other than laziness, which isn't really an excuse.

So, on to the reason and purpose of this post, which is Sen. Chuck Hagel R-Neb. Now, in order to understand my displeasure with Senator Hagel, you have to know some background about the Senator. He's in his second term as a Senator from the fine state of Nebraska, first elected in 1996 and re-elected in 2002. In his first term, he was a typical freshman GOP Senator from a GOP state...he made a name for himself and didn't make too many waves. In 2002, he campaigned on a platform of solid conservative values, with a maverick streak in that he would not be afraid to "stand up to the Washington establishment."

Soon after being elected, he definitely showed that maverick streak in opposing the Bush Administration in almost every step on the run-up to the Iraq War. Senator Hagel was one of those who said that yes, Saddam was quite obviously a bad guy, and yes, he probably was in violation of some U.N. Resolutions, and yes, maybe he even did have WMDs, but we needed to give the diplomatic process more time (12 years wasn't enough, I guess), and that we should allow the inspectors to fully complete their latest round of inspections.

After the war, Senator Hagel was at least consistent in his criticism of the Administration. In Senator Hagel's eyes, it seemed the Administration could do nothing right. It didn't curb the looters, it didn't have enough forces for policing Iraqi towns, it didn't work to fix the Iraqi infrastructure quick enough, it didn't respond quickly enough to the Abu Ghraib scandal, it didn't have enough troops in country to fight the insurgency, it didn't do a good enough job of integrating the Sunnis, it didn't provide enough armor, it didn't do a good enough job of bringing extremist Shi'ites in, it didn't have enough troops in country for the elections, it over-hyped the elections because of the lack of Sunni representation, etc. etc. etc. At one point, it got so bad that conservative blogs (NRO's The Corner, especially) were beginning to call his appearances on Sunday morning talk shows "Bagels," as he and Sen. Joe Biden D-Del. would appear to create an appearance of diverging views from the two parties, and then basically both say the same thing.

So, one may ask why I am upset about his latest statements, saying the United States is losing the war. After all, it should come as no surprise to me that Sen. Hagel is criticizing the war. And it does not. Senator Hagel has proven time and time again that he has a very sensitive finger to the wind, and that he is quite suave about adjusting his position accordingly. This isn't to say that he is a full-blown politician; he's not to that point yet. But he is, in my eyes at least, rapidly turning into the next iteration of Senator McCain: the token GOP "maverick" that is simply a populist, echoing whatever the latest public opinion polls say.

No, the reason why I am so upset about his recent comments is that Senator Hagel apparently has no sense of historical perspective. To be more specific, Senator Hagel apparently has forgotten his roots, in the military and in Vietnam. Politicians, in the late '60s and early '70s, began to sound more defeatist; this defeatist speech culminated in the abandonment of a U.S. ally in a crucial war (the Cold War), damaging U.S. credibility abroad and setting back the fight in that war by years, to say nothing of the millions we abandoned to re-education camps and firing squads. Most importantly, from a veterans point of view, this abandonment sent a message that the soldiers who fought and died in that war were an ultimately futile and wasted sacrifice.

Now, I'm not saying that Senator Hagel is advocating all or even any of that. All he said is that we are losing the war. But such general statements, especially when they simply aren't true, lead us down the road to the abandonment and ultimate waste. Every statement like his, especially when made by a Senator of his stature and importance, helps bring efforts like the resolution to end the war to the forefront.

And that cannot be allowed to happen. The mistakes of Vietnam cannot be allowed to be repeated in this GWOT.