May 30, 2006

Paul Hackett Defends (But Is Not Representing) Officers in Haditha Deaths: AP

Filed under: OH-02 US House,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:44 pm

June 29: The computer taken from the Veterans Administration has been recovered, and per the FBI, the data was never accessed.
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Paul Hackett must have been very busy today, which is why this has turned in to Paul Hackett Night (see previous post on the Veterans Administration ID theft class action filing).

In a very curious development, Hackett has gotten involved in the story of the Haditha deaths:

Officers Not a Target of Iraq Death Probe
Lawyer says officers not target of investigations into Iraq civilian deaths in Haditha

By THOMAS WATKINS, Associated Press Writer

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Three officers relieved of command from a Marine battalion are not targets of investigations into whether their troops killed as many as two dozen Iraqi civilians and tried to cover it up, the attorney for one of the officers said Tuesday.

Capt. James Kimber learned about the deaths only after the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment returned from Iraq in March, attorney Paul Hackett said.

Separate investigations seek to determine whether the Nov. 19 killings in the western Iraqi city of Haditha were criminal and whether the Marines involved and their commanding officers tried to hide the truth.

The Pentagon has said little publicly. What is known is that a military convoy hit a roadside bomb, killing one Marine. The Marine Corps had initially attributed 15 civilian deaths to the bombing and a firefight with insurgents, eight of whom the Marines reported had been killed.

Rep. John Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat and decorated war veteran who has been briefed by military officials, has said Marines shot and killed unarmed civilians in a taxi at the scene and went into two homes and shot others.

On Tuesday, White House spokesman Tony Snow said President Bush learned of the killings only after a reporter from Time magazine asked questions. Time published an article in March that said the Pentagon was investigating the incident.

The targets of the investigations are about a dozen enlisted Marines, according to Hackett, a Marine reservist and Iraqi war veteran who represents Kimber.

Hackett, who last year narrowly lost a special election for a U.S. House seat in Ohio, said the highest ranking among those under investigation is a staff sergeant who led the four-vehicle convoy that was hit by the bomb.

Kimber, who was nominated for a Bronze Star for valor in Haditha, was relieved of command last month because his subordinates in the battalion’s Lima Company used profanity and criticized the performance of Iraqi security services during an interview with Britain’s Sky News TV, Hackett said.

“My purpose is to separate his name from the alleged war crimes that took place,” Hackett told The Associated Press by telephone. “He’s not under investigation for anything related to what has played out in the press.”

The Pentagon has named two others who were relieved of command: Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, the commander of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, and Capt. Lucas McConnell, who commanded Kilo Company, which was implicated in the killings.

Hackett does not represent either man but said that neither was present for the shootings and that he believes neither is a target of the investigations.

Well Look Who’s Filing a Class-Action Lawsuit against the VA

June 29: The computer stolen from the Veterans Administration has been recovered, and per the FBI, the data was never accessed.
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I’ll have a lot more to say on the Veterans Administration data breach and a number of other alarming developments in the deterioration of financial privacy within a week or so (maybe sooner), but I couldn’t help but call attention to this little tidbit:

Class Action Suit Filed On Behalf Of Veterans

Paul Hackett of Cincinnati and Matthew Page of Walton have filed the suit on behalf of nearly 26 million veterans. The lawsuit requests relief in the form of credit and/or identity theft monitoring, paid for by the VA.

Can’t help but think there might be a little more to this story.
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UPDATE: Obviously I’m not a big thinker. Today’s Enquirer (HT “S.O.B.er” Chuckoblog) takes the spin from Hackett and tells us that he wants $1,000 in damages for each vet plus credit monitoring.

Do the math, people: 26.5 million vets (noted in the Enqurer article) times $1,000 per vet is $26.5 billion. Hackett’s fantasyland 30% standard contingency-fee cut of that would be a measly $7.95 billion. When he settles for “only” $50 per vet, he’ll get a paltry $400 million (rounded), and be set for life. He can BUY a Senate seat at that point. Hope Voinovich is paying attention. See comment 2 below. Hackett is a complainant, according to the Enquirer article (he was not identified as such in the WKRC article I originally posted from), and therefore by law is not to benefit from any settlement any more than anyone else in the “class” of 26.5 million vets.
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Separate Hackett Post: Paul Hackett Defends (But Is Not Representing) Officers in Haditha Deaths: AP

KELO Crunch Time Clearly Begins Tomorrow

June 1 UPDATE: And Then There Were Four
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It’s clear from recent headlines that nothing is going to be settled tomorrow in the New London Kelo situation, and, though it won’t be formalized by New London City Council until next week, Kelo Crunch Time will begin. If form holds (“form” meaning that nothing happens until the issue is forced by a deadline or similar time pressure), Crunch Time will last at least 90-plus days before a final resolution occurs.

Did I say “KELO situation” and “KELO Crunch Time”? Yes, because “Kelo” seems to have become a four-letter word that the AP oddly won’t utter:

Deadline approaches but no deal expected in Fort Trumbull dispute
May 30, 2006

NEW LONDON, Conn. –Though facing an eviction deadline Wednesday, the residents whose Fort Trumbull neighborhood has been seized by eminent domain don’t expect anything to happen for nearly a week and expect more legal battles before the case is resolved.

The dispute over the waterfront New London property reached the U.S. Supreme Court last year, when a divided court ruled that the city could take the land for a private development. (Take a look at the pink house at the previous post and tell me what is “waterfront” about it. The Fort Trumbull area as a whole is on the waterfront, but the “disputed property” is most definitely not. — Ed.)

Most of the neighborhood has been razed but a handful of homeowners refuse to leave. They’d be kicked out of their homes if a deal wasn’t reached by Wednesday.

But since the City Council, which would need to approve any action, doesn’t meet until Monday, an attorney for the homeowners says Wednesday’s deadline isn’t set in stone.

“Nothing is going to happen one way or the other tomorrow,” Bullock said.

Neither the excerpt, nor the rest of the article, contains the word “Kelo.” That’s like talking about Norma McCorvey’s unsuccessful attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade without mentioning the case title itself (which of course this article does not fail to do).

Does the AP not want articles about the KELO situation found by search engine users?

I can’t be the only person who thinks that the way the actual situation in New London turns out as a result of the (ahem) KELO decision might reflect on how well thought-out (or not) that KELO decision was in the first place.

As to developments on the ground, assuming Council acts as expected in its meeting next Monday, it looks like a 90-day eviction clock will start ticking shortly thereafter. That clock would run out on roughly Labor Day, well over 13 months after the KELO v. New London case was decided at the Supreme Court.
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UPDATE: Reax from Ken at It Comes in Pints“Unbelievable. I’ve been trying to absorb this all day. I still can’t freakin’ believe this utter nonsense.”

UPDATE 2: Other Reax –

  • The No Kool Aid Zone” the New London thieves are going to continue in their plan to steal the homeowners’ property even though they no longer ‘need’ it. This just defines the word ‘infuriating’.”
  • Atlas Blogged notes that states have been notoriously slow in enacting anti-eminent domain legislation with teeth.

UPDATE 3, May 31, 11 p.m.: Following up on the “waterfront” characterization above, here is the “waterfront” location of Suzette Kelo’s house –

Kelo House

Here is a Google Earth view (don’t know how recent, but it looks like the properties in question are all within the rectangle above and to the left of the Kelo house):

FtTrumbull

Kelo Crunch Time Looms in New London — Part 3: Pre-Crunch Commentary Roundup

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:14 pm

6:15 PM UPDATE: Recent headlines indicate that nothing decisive will occur tomorrow, and that Kelo Crunch Time (expected to last 90-plus days) will begin. Go to this follow-up post for more.

June 1: UPDATE: And Then There Were Four

Note: Tomorrow, May 31, is what I am calling Kelo Crunch Day, the deadline set by the New London City Council and the New London development Corporation (NLDC) for the Kelo holdouts to either accept their “offer” (moving the houses to a different parcel and paying rent for the rest of their lives) or face eviction and the assessment of $946,000 in back rents, taxes, and fees. Go to “Kelo Crunch Time” Part 1 and Part 2 from last week for more immediate background, and explore the previous post links at the bottom of this entry for a deeper look at what has happened to the real people impacted by Kelo v. New London since the Supreme Court’s decision.

New London House 0605

This home in New London, Conn., is one of several at the
center of last year’s Supreme Court ruling.
(AP Photo originally posted at
MSNBC.com in June of last year)

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Rick Green at the Hartford Courant Challenges the Governor to Lead

In his May 26 column, Green said, in essence, that Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell needs to do the right thing, and noted how easily the matter could be resolved:

Is Gov. Rell Really Set To Rumble?

Big Brother wants their homes and all our governor can say to these New London property owners is let’s “redouble” efforts to prevent this.

How about: You kick them out of their homes, New London, I take away the state money for your pretty waterfront condos and boutique hotel.

….. It seems the governor thinks these holdouts just want to shake down New London for more money. Her mediator, Robert Albright, “has to move beyond these discussions of who wants to sell,” said Scott Bullock, lawyer for the Fort Trumbull residents.

“They want the title to their property. They want to hold on to their homes,” said Bullock, senior attorney with the Virginia-based Institute for Justice.

Giving the residents back their homes won’t interfere with the development, Bullock said, because residents with homes in the way are willing to have their buildings moved to a small portion of the property, known as parcel 4A, where no immediate construction is planned.

So what’s at stake isn’t the future of the Fort Trumbull project. But after eight years, this ugly eminent domain fight might teach us something.

It’s whether our top leader is really a leader.

Dissenting New London Councilman Speaks Out

In a May 23 Letter to the Editor, Councilman Charles Frink made a strong argument that what the City and the NLDC’s believe they are entitled to collect from the holdouts if they don’t give in is vastly overstated, and that in any event the holdouts should get what they want (New London Day link requires registration, and requires subscription after 7 days):

Fort Trumbull Tax Issue Might Be Fictitious

….. if my information is correct, the figure of $946,143 for past-due-taxes, use and occupancy fees, and rent from third parties, is, at the very least, grossly exaggerated and may be entirely fictitious.

Since the obligation to pay property taxes rests with the owner(s), and the titles to the properties of the Fort Trumbull residents were taken from them by eminent domain and have not been returned, those residents do not owe a penny of past taxes. As for use and occupancy fees and third-party rents, a pre-trial agreement stipulated that these fees would be waived and rents not claimed during the period of litigation, which ended in June of 2005. A court might hold that these monies are owed since that date, but the amount would be a small fraction of the quoted figure.

The situation could be settled promptly if the council would adopt the compromise proposed by Bill Cornish and me:
• Return the titles to the residents.
• Cluster the remaining houses on parcel 4A.
• Agree that the residents would pay taxes back to last July.
• Agree to no further litigation.

Any other course of action promises further delay and dissension.

It is pretty unique to owe property taxes on property you don’t even have the title to.

The New London Day Weighs In

In an unsigned Sunday editorial (as with the previous item, registration is required, and subscription is required after 7 days) that I believe surprised almost no one, The Day said that the Council and the NLDC should get their way:

Giving back the titles to the affected properties and leaving them all in place is not a reasonable option. It is time to move on.

Mayor Elizabeth Sabilia’s proposal to relocate buildings to the northern part of Parcel 1-A (Note: I believe they mean 4-A — Ed.) and give the people lifetime uses of the dwellings is a sincere and accommodating proposal. It may well have placed additional pressures on all the parties — including the former property owners and the governor’s office — to press with renewed vigor to settle the matter.

The governor, who is running for election, has tried to balance the interests of the former property owners with the need to complete a state project that would provide an enhanced tax base and a new center of economic activity for New London.

Beside the additional compensation and possible home relocations, there also may be other options. Perhaps some property owners could get new housing among some 64 units planned in the area. That is a fitting subject for negotiation.

But time truly is running out. The City Council has set a deadline of May 31, Wednesday, for the parties to reach a settlement. After that, the individuals would be subject to paying back taxes, give-backs on rents they collected since the Supreme Court decision and paying rent for their occupancy of the buildings. The former owners agreed to those stipulations in a court case before the matter was settled by the Supreme Court.

The Day editorial did not address why moving the houses AND giving back the titles, which is the holdouts’ compromise offer, is not acceptable. And The Day must know that none of the holdouts is the least bit interested in “new housing.” I also question the accuracy of The Day’s claim in the final sentence of the excerpt, given that Councilman Frink above stated that “a pre-trial agreement stipulated that these fees would be waived and rents not claimed during the period of litigation, which ended in June of 2005.” E-mail me if you can help to clarify this.

An AP Downplay?

Maybe it’s me, but The Associated Press’s National News Calendar (backup link here) for this week didn’t seem to be interested in calling attention to the situation: “New London, Conn. — Deadline for home sales in the city’s Fort Trumbull section as part of eminent domain proceedings.” Seems like it would have been appropriate to relate this to the Supreme Court Kelo case, don’t you think? If I hadn’t added “Fort Trumbull” to my Google Alerts I would have missed this; a lot of other people probably did. Maybe that’s the point.

My Take

The fact that New London’s City Council and the New London Development Corporation (NLDC) won’t even move the houses and return the titles tells me that this is, to them, about a lot more than the Fort Trumbull project. I believe that it has nothing to do with reason, or fairness, or equity. Instead I believe that it’s all about putting a win in the eminent domain tyrants’ column, and finishing the messy (and in their minds, mandated) job of property confiscation that the Kelo decision enabled. They don’t want to be seen as the group that couldn’t finish the job of eviction even with a landmark Supreme Court decision buttressing their cause.

If this out-of-control pride is all that is keeping Council and the NLDC from a entering into what from here seems to be a perfectly reasonable settlement, shame on them. If it is a legal option, I believe that Governor Rell needs to threaten to pull the state money earmarked for the project, and be willing to back up that threat, even if it holds up continuation of the NLDC’s development plan.

Developers and city fathers everywhere will be watching to see who blinks, and what Governor Rell does. Hopefully, so will the rest of America.
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UPDATE: You would think that this item is unrelated, but maybe not — New London High School football coach Jack Cochran has a nasty habit of running up the score against his opponents, and, regardless of the score, will not take out his first team until the opposition puts in its second team. In response, effective this year, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference passed a rule (which I strongly disagree with, for what it’s worth, as does the writer at the linked article) that a victory margin of 50 or more points earns the winning coach a suspension for the next game. Given how the City Council, the NLDC, and the local paper are treating the badly outgunned Kelo holdouts, it makes you wonder how many of them played football under Cochran, or share his run-up-the-score philosophy.

UPDATE 2: Just this morning, a Hartford Courant editorial (“Stop Shameful Eviction Plan”) came out firmly for the holdouts:

The New London City Council has ignored reasonable compromise, including the residents’ willingness to move their homes to a neighborhood site that wouldn’t interfere with the city’s plans.

….. (Gov. Rell) should use her power to insist that the development plan be revised to include the remaining homes. The state’s heavy investment in Fort Trumbull, its museum and the river walk give her the clout to insist on changes in the plans forged during the Rowland administration.

She alone can prevent this mistake from compounding.

What an image for Connecticut – to be a national example of how not to treat homeowners.

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Selected Previous Property Rights Posts:

The NY Times Gets the New Treasury Pick Wrong, and Reveals Its Paranoia in the Process

The New Times’ prediction for who would be the next Treasury Secretary to replace the departing John Snow totally blew up — They predicted it would be former Commerce Secretary Don Evans.

OK, everybody makes mistakes, but its’ teh premise of this one that’s so remarkable (HTs Don Luskin and TimesWatch via “S.O.B.er” Porkopolis):

…That Mr. Evans is even being considered underscores the shift in focus of the search from Wall Street outsiders to Bush insiders. …Administration allies said that senior officials had made overtures to prominent executives on Wall Street, including Henry M. Paulson Jr., the chairman of Goldman Sachs.

…But Mr. Paulson and other executives expressed little interest in taking the post, in part because neither Mr. Snow nor his predecessor, Paul H. O’Neill, had any substantial role in shaping economic policy.

The real power to set priorities, whether it was cutting taxes in 2001 and 2003 or the failed effort to overhaul Social Security in 2005, has always been held by a small circle of advisers in the White House, including Vice President Dick Cheney.

This would seem to indicate that The Times needs to admit that this Cheney-led cabal, this “small circle of advisers” (implication: operating in the dark, beyond the reach of accountability, cooking up sinister plans to ruin us all) doesn’t set economic priorities — otherwise Paulson, according to Times’ own reporting, would not have taken the job. Don’t buy tomorrow’s paper expecting to see that admission.

I Must Have Been Absent the Day “Steely Resolve” Got Redefined

Filed under: Corporate Outrage,Economy — Tom @ 2:05 pm

This is what ousted Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina thinks is heroism (or is it heroine-ism?), based on this book excerpt noted at Business Week (subscription required; appears on Page 11 of June 5 print edition):

An excerpt of the book handed out at the show offers a glimpse of Fiorina’s steely resolve even as a young executive. At AT&T (T ) early in her career, she writes, a colleague arranged a business lunch at a strip club where women “would dress in completely see-through baby-doll negligees and dance on top of the tables while the patrons ate.” Fiorina insisted on going, and the next day at the office, she writes, “the balance of power had shifted perceptibly. I had shown…that I would not be intimidated, even if I was terrified.”

I’m sure women managers who are still subjected to coercion to attend these “business lunches” are REALLY grateful for your show of “steely resolve,” Carly.

Quote of the Day: On Enron, and Who’s to Blame

Something has been missing from the coverage of the convictions of Enron bigwigs Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling.

Certainly they were the primary perpetrators. But others were either in on it or were incredibly, and perhaps willfully, ignorant.

A Toledo Blade editorial at least gets into the neighborhood (bold is mine):

Enron’s financial structure, with its byzantine network of bookkeeping contortions designed to hide losses, was a house-of-cards so intentionally complicated that almost no one questioned whether it was legal, especially since it appeared to be so profitable.

Moreover, it should be a resounding repudiation of what some on Wall Street in the late 1990s were calling the “new economy,” a business model in which the appearance of making money mattered more than reality. That was the ultimate Enron bluff.

Now that a jury has seen through their ruse and rendered a just verdict, Lay and Skilling will discover that while crime may be profitable in the short run, it usually doesn’t pay in the end.

The people who claimed to understand what Enron was doing clearly didn’t, yet pretended to. That would include the partners from Arthur Andersen, stock analysts, and many others. Most have paid some kind of price in the courts.

One who hasn’t, and who should be wearing a bag over his head, is New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who, in a Fortune article in May 1999, essentially called Enron an exemplar for “the millennial economy.” Krugman’s receipt of $50 grand in return for that level of PR may well have played a part in delaying Enron’s reckoning well beyond when it should have occurred, in the process increasing shareholder, creditor, and retirement-plan participant losses. As Andrew Sullivan said at the time, “They got exactly the kind of puff-piece in a magazine like Fortune that helped perpetuate their scam. And Krugman was the author.”

Krugman should have asked himself what the correlation was, if any, between the payment and the services rendered, but it appears that he either didn’t ask, didn’t care, or has/had a highly-inflated view of his value. Thanks, Paul. (Here is his defense.)

It should also be noted that Krugman predicted (HT to Don Luskin for finding the quote) that the Enron story would turn out to be as big as 9/11 (statement referred to here by Instapundit). Don’t think so, Paul.

Bizzy’s AM Coffee Biz-Econ-Life Links (053006)

Free Links:

  • “Speculative,” sort of like their news — Both The New York Times and The Tribune Company had their debt downgraded by Moody’s last week. Each carries a debt rating described as “a moderate credit risk that may have speculative characteristics.” Thomas Lifson at The American Thinker notes that thanks to a two-tiered shareholder setup at The New York Times, only the family can fire Chief Exec “Pinch” Sulzberger and end his obvious and suicidal campaign against any and all things associated with George Bush. If a 50% dive in share value in just over two years (from $49.13 on Feb. 11, 2004 to last Friday’s close at $24.46) representing a $3.5 billion reduction in market value isn’t enough to justify action, I don’t know what is. Though Tribune Company stock hasn’t dropped quite as much, the company is paying dearly for the biased coverage and unprofessional conduct exhibited on a nearly daily basis at what is supposed to be one of its crown jewels, The Los Angeles Times.
  • Every single car that qualified for the 2006 Indy 500 was a Honda.
  • Counterfeit Intel-based Macs have surfaced in Asia — Though he has always been concerned about the disrespect for intellectual property rights in other countries, Tom Yager at InfoWorld now sees it as a threat to tech companies’ very ability to succeed in growing markets.
  • “You used WHAT for pictures, Grandpa?” — Canon is considering joining rival Nikon in getting out of the film camera business (HT Techdirt).
  • I personally think the drinking age should be 18, but I’m still extremely disappointed that this is a problem46 of 74 businesses that sell alcoholic beverages in Warren County, OH, where your humble servant lives, were caught selling to minors without asking for ID, some of them doing so multiple times.
  • In an article about drunk driving in Metro Columbus (OH), we learn that “Out of the estimated 60,000 Hispanic people in Franklin County, authorities believe as many as two-thirds are in this country illegally. As a result, police say many don’t show up for their court dates. That means they don’t get the mandatory alcohol treatment programs that could help solve the problem.” 40,000 illegals. In one county. In the Midwest. I’m thinking that the nationwide estimate of 12 million is low — very low. And this is a population group that in at least one big city has “issues” with alcohol, a group that the CDC described in a 1995 study thusly (anyone with more recent info to support or refute the following information is welcome to send it): “Compared with non-Latino whites ….. Latino men were significantly more likely to be binge drinkers …..” Just, great.
  • Thanks to a state-mandated tuition cap, for the first time in years, The University of Cincinnati won’t be able to just shove 9%-10% tuition increases down the throats of its students and parents. Having to “scrape by” on a tuition increase of “only” 5.4%, the University finds it has to cut costs by $22 million, or about 5.5%, to break even. Given the accumulated bloat, that should be easy, but of course they’re making it sound like root canal surgery.
  • I love this police work

    A DNA match and the ruse of “free money” from a fake lawsuit settlement helped police identify and arrest a suspect in the 1987 homicide of 11-year-old Tina Dukes.

    Cincinnati police homicide investigators arrested Chris Ballard, 44, of Dayton, Wednesday and charged him with aggravated murder in the death of the West End girl. She was a fifth-grader at Hays Elementary School.

    After identifying Ballard as a suspect, investigators spent about a week looking for the former convict.

    They then dangled a carrot to lure him into custody by telling Ballard’s relatives that he was eligible for “300 and some change” from the settlement of a class-action suit in Pickaway County, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said Thursday.

    Ballard was arrested when he showed up in Cincinnati to claim his money.

Positivity: 15 Year-Old Stops Intruder

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:04 am

Yes, Javaris Granger’s saving of himelf and the rest of his family from a violent intruder is a positive story (HT Weapons of Mass Discussion):

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