Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Blogger Relief Day

Via Malkin.

Hugh Hewitt is suggesting a Blogger Relief Day for the citizens of New Orleans.

Check out his blog for more details.

Monday, August 22, 2005

So long, private property rights

I meant to post this earlier, but an emergency trip to New Orleans got in the way.

It seems our government has decided that citizens do not have the right to defend their property. In the case outlined below, a court ruled that a ranch owner had to surrender his property to illegal immigrants. Let's see what NYT has to say about it:

August 19, 2005

Two Illegal Immigrants Win Arizona Ranch in Court Fight

DOUGLAS, Ariz., Aug. 18 - Spent shells litter the ground at what is left of the firing range, and camouflage outfits still hang in a storeroom. Just a few months ago, this ranch was known as Camp Thunderbird, the headquarters of a paramilitary group that promised to use force to keep illegal immigrants from sneaking across the border with Mexico.

Now, in a turnabout, the 70-acre property about two miles from the border is being given to two immigrants whom the group caught trying to enter the United States illegally.

The land transfer is being made to satisfy judgments in a lawsuit in which the immigrants had said that Casey Nethercott, the owner of the ranch and a former leader of the vigilante group Ranch Rescue, had harmed them.

"Certainly it's poetic justice that these undocumented workers own this land," said Morris S. Dees Jr., co-founder and chief trial counsel of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., which represented the immigrants in their lawsuit.

Mr. Dees said the loss of the ranch would "send a pretty important message to those who come to the border to use violence."

The surrender of the ranch comes as the governors of Arizona and New Mexico have declared a state of emergency because of the influx of illegal immigrants and related crime along the border.

Bill Dore, a Douglas resident briefly affiliated with Ranch Rescue who is still active in the border-patrolling Minuteman Project, called the land transfer "ridiculous."

"The illegals are coming over here," Mr. Dore said. "They are getting the American property. Hell, I'd come over, too. Get some American property, make some money from the gringos."

The immigrants getting the ranch, Edwin Alfredo Mancía Gonzáles and Fátima del Socorro Leiva Medina, could not be reached for comment. Kelley Bruner, a lawyer at the law center, said they did not want to speak to the news media but were happy with the outcome.

Ms. Bruner said that Mr. Mancía and Ms. Leiva, who are from El Salvador but are not related, would not live at the ranch and would probably sell it. Mr. Nethercott bought the ranch in 2003 for $120,000.

Mr. Mancía, who lives in Los Angeles, and Ms. Leiva, who lives in the Dallas area, have applied for visas that are available to immigrants who are the victims of certain crimes and who cooperate with the authorities, Ms. Bruner said. She said that until a decision was made on their applications, they could stay and work in the United States on a year-to-year basis.

Mr. Mancía and Ms. Leiva were caught on a ranch in Hebbronville, Tex., in March 2003 by Mr. Nethercott and other members of Ranch Rescue. The two immigrants later accused Mr. Nethercott of threatening them and of hitting Mr. Mancía with a pistol, charges that Mr. Nethercott denied. The immigrants also said the group gave them cookies, water and a blanket and let them go after an hour or so.

The Salvadorans testified against Mr. Nethercott when he was tried by Texas prosecutors. The jury deadlocked on a charge of pistol-whipping but convicted Mr. Nethercott, who had previously served time in California for assault, of gun possession, which is illegal for a felon. He is now serving a five-year sentence in a Texas prison.

Mr. Mancía and Ms. Leiva also filed a lawsuit against Mr. Nethercott; Jack Foote, the founder of Ranch Rescue; and the owner of the Hebbronville ranch, Joe Sutton. The immigrants said the ordeal, in which they feared that they would be killed by the men they thought were soldiers, had left them with post-traumatic stress.

Mr. Sutton settled for $100,000. Mr. Nethercott and Mr. Foote did not defend themselves, so the judge issued default judgments of $850,000 against Mr. Nethercott and $500,000 against Mr. Foote.

Mr. Dees said Mr. Foote appeared to have no substantial assets, but Mr. Nethercott had the ranch. Shortly after the judgment, Mr. Nethercott gave the land to his sister, Robin Albitz, of Prescott, Ariz. The Southern Poverty Law Center sued the siblings, saying the transfer was fraudulent and was meant to avoid the judgment.

Ms. Albitz, a nursing assistant, signed over the land to the two immigrants last week.

"It scared the hell out of her," Margaret Pauline Nethercott, the mother of Mr. Nethercott and Ms. Albitz, said of the lawsuit. "She didn't know she had done anything illegal. We didn't know they had a judgment against my son."

This was not the first time the law center had taken property from a group on behalf of a client. In 1987, the headquarters of a Ku Klux Klan group in Alabama was given to the mother of a boy whose murder was tied to Klansmen. Property has also been taken from the Aryan Nations and the White Aryan Resistance, Mr. Dees said.

Joseph Jacobson, a lawyer in Austin who represented Mr. Nethercott in the criminal case, said the award was "a vast sum of money for a very small indignity." Mr. Jacobson said the two immigrants were trespassing on Mr. Sutton's ranch and would have been deported had the criminal charges not been filed against Mr. Nethercott.

He criticized the law center for trying to get $60,000 in bail money transferred to the immigrants. While the center said the money was Mr. Nethercott's, Mr. Jacobson said it was actually Ms. Nethercott's, who mortgaged her home to post bail for her son.

Mr. Nethercott and Mr. Foote had a falling out in 2004, and Mr. Foote left Camp Thunderbird, taking Ranch Rescue with him. Mr. Nethercott then formed the Arizona Guard, also based on his ranch.

In April, Mr. Nethercott told an Arizona television station, "We're going to come out here and close the border with machine guns." But by the end of the month, he had started his prison sentence.

Now, only remnants of Camp Thunderbird remain on his ranch, a vast expanse of hard red soil, mesquite and tumbleweed with a house and two bunkhouses. One bunkhouse has a storeroom containing some camouflage suits, sleeping bags, tarps, emergency rations, empty ammunition crates, gun parts and a chemical warfare protection suit.

In one part of the ranch, dirt is piled up to form the backdrop of a firing range. An old water tank, riddled with bullet holes, is on its side. A platform was built as an observation post on the tower that once held the water tank.

Charles Jones, who was hired as a ranch hand about a month before Mr. Nethercott went to prison, put up fences and brought in cattle to graze. He has continued to live on the property with some family members.

But now the cattle are gone, and Mr. Jones has been told that he should prepare to leave. "It makes me sick I did all this work," he said.

Ms. Nethercott said she was not sure whether her son knew that his ranch was being turned over to the immigrants, but that he would be crushed if he did.

"That's his whole life," she said of the ranch. "He'd be heartbroken if he lost it in any way, but this is the worst way."

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Rubbing salt into the wounds

This past June saw a gross travesty of justice known as Kelo v. New London handed down to us by the Supreme Court. In accordance with Kelo, local government may now seize private property and give it to whomever they damn well please, so long as they do it under the vaguely defined guise of "public good." In this case, "public good" translates into "more tax revenue."

To make matters worse for the plaintiffs in the Kelo lawsuit, the city of New London is charging them rent dating back to the time the land was condemned, going all the way back to 2000.
'I'd leave here broke'

Chutzpah is a Yiddish word meaning brazen arrogance. The cliché example is a man who murders his parents and then begs a judge for mercy because he is an orphan.

The city of New London, Conn., deserves a chutzpah award. In 2000, it condemned 15 homes so a developer could build offices, a hotel and convention center. Susette Kelo and her neighbors spent years in a legal battle that culminated in June, when the
U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against them.

That was painful enough. But while the homeowners were battling in court, New London was calculating how much "rent" they owe for living in the houses they were fighting to save. (The city's development corporation gained title to the homes when it condemned them, though the owners refused to sell and haven't collected a cent.)

The homeowners could soon be served with eviction notices, which is justified by the court ruling. But the rent is something else. For some, it comes to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Kelo, whose name is on the landmark case, could owe $57,000. "I'd leave here broke," she told the Fairfield County Weekly. "I could probably get a large-size refrigerator box and live under the bridge."

In a letter to the homeowners' lawyer a year ago, the development corporation justified its behavior by saying, "We know that your clients did not expect to live in city-owned property for free."

Well, they might have expected not to be bullied for exercising their right to be heard in court.

News of the city's heavy handed tactics should add to the unusual national backlash that has followed the Supreme Court's ruling. The court said state and local governments can seize homes, not just for a public purpose such as building roads or schools, but also for someone else's private profit if the city's economic future is at issue.

The court said states can curtail abuses, and legislatures have rushed to do that. Delaware and Alabama passed laws barring the taking of private property for economic development. Similar measures are pending in eight other states and Congress.

The bills have created some strange alliances. Conservatives worry about the loss of property rights. Liberals say the seizures amount to corporate welfare at the expense of low- and middle-income homeowners who lack the power to fight City Hall.

In response, Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell is urging a compromise that would preserve the homes of Kelo and her neighbors.

Unless that happens, they will be evicted - with a rent due. Talk about chutzpah.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Thanks, everyone

First of all, I would like to thank everyone for their well-wishes, support, and prayers regarding my sister.

Sadly, they have all been in vain.

After a series of bone scans, CAT scans, and MRI's, we have learned the true extent of the spread of cancer. In addition to the breast cancer and the bone cancer, which we already know about, there have been additional complications. The cancer has spread to the lymphatic system, to the spinal cord, and to the liver. According to the doctors, the prognosis is terminal. At this point, it's just a matter of time.



I would like to apologize for the sparcity of posts lately - especially on my end. Between work, school, and what seems like one family crisis after another, some things just had to be put on the back burner. Sadly, this blog is one of those things I had to put aside for the time being. Even my own blog has suffered from very light posting.

Rest assured, things will be returning to some semblence of normalcy in the very near future. Thanks for your patience.


Monday, August 08, 2005

Kelo's Implications Are Horrendous

Interesting commentary from Paul Craig Roberts on further potential dangers of the Kelo decision. Cross posted at the Liberty Zone.

Here's an exerpt:

In 1981, General Motors used eminent domain against the Detroit ethnic suburb of Poletown. To make space for a GM assembly plant, 1,400 homes, 140 businesses and several churches were destroyed. Today, the exemplar of this practice is Wal-Mart.

What if Poletown had been a Chrysler plant that GM wanted to eliminate as a competitor? Under the Kelo ruling, if GM could show that its cars are more successful and produce higher taxable profits than Chrysler's, and the eminent domain authority is not in Chrysler's pocket, GM could prevail.

Today, Toyota, for example, could seek to condemn Ford's River Rouge plant, which is known to be largely obsolete, in order to obtain the site for its own economic use. There appears to be nothing in Kelo to prevent this outcome.

Note some of the implications: According to economic theory, monopoly profits are higher than competitive profits. Kelo becomes a way to get around antitrust laws and increase concentration in the name of public benefit.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Dis Me Getting All Huhu

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has just reversed a 1993 Federal Court ruling which upheld the right of Kamehameha Schools to admit only ethnic Hawaiian students. According to the 9th Circuit Court, the Hawaiians only policy represents unlawful racial discrimination.

I disagree, but not for the reasons you might think.

Some people feel that ethnic Hawaiians, like many indigenous people, Native Americans, etc., are entitled to a break. The Kamehameha Schools represent a relatively low cost, high quality option for a people who were exploited in the past and may not have had many options. Arguably, that was true when Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop founded the schools to meet a specific need within a specific historical context. Whether it remains true in modern times is a debate that I'm reallly not interested in.

Moreover, many would argue that opportunities exist for non-Hawaiian students in Hawaii which are just as valid. Case in point is the equally prestigious Punahou School, which is open to all ethnic groups on Oahu and in the past has been an opportunity for folks who were neither native Hawaiians nor of white missionary stock. These days they will give special consideration to ethnic Hawaiians, but are equal opportunity, according to their website. Again, That's not a debate that I care to address.

I mean really, I'm a brat which means my haole ass went to Radford, so screw 'em. ;)

But that's not what bothers me. What bothers me is that Kam is a private school. Did you catch that? I said private, son! And as a private school they ought to be able to admit whoever the hell they want to admit for whatever reason they see fit. They should be able to hang a big sign in front of their Kapalama Campus that says "Kanakas only! All Haoles, Pakes, BukBuks, Portugee, Japanee, and Popolos stay away and sully us not with your non-ethnic-Hawaiian stench," should they choose to do so. Granted that would be overtly racist and bad for enrollment, but as a private school they at least should have the legal right to do so.

Since when does a Federal court get to tell a private organization what to do? That's what this really boils down to. If it were a public school such as Radford, McKinney, or Castle (all considered good schools on the island, at least as far as public schools go), that'd be a different story.

This is not Brown V. Board.

Is there an inverse to taxation without representation? Because that's what this sounds like. The Kam schools are funded partially by tuition, for which financial aid is available, partially by money from Princess Pauahi's estate, and partially by lease revenue, as the Kam Schools represent the largest private landowner in the State of Hawaii. So taxpayers didn't pay for this, but the Government (through the 9th Circuit Court) is going and tell them how to run things anyway? What's that about?

So do we now as citizens no longer have the right to determine how our private money is spent?

EDIT: As I was posting this, a coworker came up and saw "Kamehameha" highlighted in blue and asked me if I was writing about Dragonball Z. Apparently, there is a character in Dragonball Z named Kamehameha and my coworker goes, "you mean there's a Kamehameha besides the one in Dragonball Z?" This was a grown man that asked me this!


No wonder our rights are being taken away. We are too damned culturally illiterate to know a damn thing about anything!