June 1, 2006

Kelo-New London Update: And Then There Were Four (UPDATED for Reax and the Gov’s Proposal AP Did Not Report)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:40 pm

For the full text of Connecticut Governor Rell’s letter to New London’s mayor and a current map of the situation, go to this June 2 post.
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Two of the six remaining Kelo-New London holdouts have settled with the New London Development Corporation (NLDC).

This evening I’ll look more closely at the situation (see UPDATE below), but for now here are links to:

UPDATE: It’s “interesting,” to say the least, what the AP chose to omit from its report (which it directly sources to The New London Day). Thanks to what they left out of the New London Day’s original coverage, most of the nation will not know that those who settled expressed solidarity with the remaining holdouts, and that Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell has recommended an arrangement that has the potential to break the deadlock.

So before it slips behind The Day’s subscription wall in a week and essentially disappears from cyberspace forever, let me first quote what the two holdouts who settled with the NLDC had to say (either directly or through their spokesperson at The Institute for Justice) about their settlement:

“My family circumstances have changed drastically since I started this battle to keep our family homes several years ago,” Matthew Dery, son of plaintiffs Charles Dery and the late Wilhelmina Dery, said in a statement relayed through Institute for Justice senior attorney Scott Bullock, who argued the plaintiffs’ case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“My father is elderly and can no longer maintain his home on his own. My mother, Wilhelmina Dery, on whose behalf I was primarily fighting, passed away earlier this year. But she was able to spend the rest of her life at her home in which she had lived her entire life. For that fact I am eternally grateful to the Institute for Justice and the many other people and organizations that have supported our fight,” Dery said.

“Even though I have reached a settlement with the city, I completely support the other homeowners in their fight to keep their homes. Moreover, I still firmly believe that what happened to me and the other property owners in Fort Trumbull was terribly wrong. No American should face the loss of their home so that other private interests may benefit.”

Neither Brelesky nor Athenian could be reached by telephone Wednesday night. Athenian stands by the remaining plaintiffs, Bullock said, but was not interested in relocating his house, the only option aside from financial compensation being offered to the former property owners.

By not reporting the holdouts’ full situation that led to their settlement, and by not reporting that those who did settle expressed solidarity with those who haven’t, The Associated Press is in my opinion incorrectly implying that the holdouts were divided, and to an extent that those who settled were always in it for the money anyway.

The AP also chose not to report what appears to be a very big modification to what is being offered to the remaining holdouts:

In her letter to (New London Mayor Elizabeth) Sabilia, Rell said that “state funds that have previously been made available to the City to assist in reaching a financial settlement shall be withdrawn and will be unavailable as to any remaining occupants who have not reached an agreement as of June 15, 2006.”

Rell also recommended that the city offer to relocate the primary residences, but no investment properties, of the remaining plaintiffs to Parcel 4A. Under that proposal, the plaintiffs would be given deeds to the parcel upon which their properties would be relocated, but the deeds would include restrictive covenants that would return them to the city “upon transfer or death of the title holder.” Sabilia previously proposed a plan to cluster the houses on Parcel 4A and allow their former owners life tenancy at Fort Trumbull without ownership.

Governor Rell may have hit on what it takes to settle things once and for all, but you wouldn’t know it unless you read The New London Day’s full report. Plus, Rell wants a deal done in two weeks, which appears to inject a great deal of urgency into the situation, which had been expected by Scott Bullock and others to move into a 90-days-to-eviction phase.

Rell’s recommendation isn’t everything the holdouts want, which is unconditional ownership, but it does give them their titles back during their remaining lives. Rell’s offer would appear to get rid of the odious requirement previously stipulated that the holdouts would have to pay rent on their properties during their life tenancy (if they hold the titles, there is presumably no need to pay rent). Property-rights purists (of which I am one) will be less than pleased that there are any covenants at all on the title, but developers and urban planners will surely be appalled that the holdouts would be getting their titles back in any form.

It will be very interesting to see the reaction of the NLDC, the Council, the holdouts, and The Institute for Justice to Rell’s idea. Too bad AP wasn’t interested in relaying this drama to the rest of us.

Robert Samuelson’s Scathing Critique of Media Immigration Coverage

Samuelson’s language isn’t particularly strong or biting, but his overall critique certainly is.

He takes the WORMs (Worn-Out Reactionary Media, known to most as The Mainstream Media) to task, certainly including his own paper, in a definite read-the-whole-thing-and-save-it piece:

What You Don’t Know About the Immigration Bill

The Senate passed legislation last week that Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) hailed as “the most far-reaching immigration reform in our history.” You might think that the first question anyone would ask is how much it would actually increase or decrease legal immigration. But no. After the Senate approved the bill by 62 to 36, you could not find the answer in the news columns of The Post, the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. Yet the estimates do exist and are fairly startling. By rough projections, the Senate bill would double the legal immigration that would occur during the next two decades from about 20 million (under present law) to about 40 million.

One job of journalism is to inform the public about what our political leaders are doing. In this case, we failed. The Senate bill’s sponsors didn’t publicize its full impact on legal immigration, and we didn’t fill the void. It’s safe to say that few Americans know what the bill would do because no one has told them. Indeed, I suspect that many senators who voted for the legislation don’t have a clue as to the potential overall increase in immigration.

Democracy doesn’t work well without good information. Here is a classic case. It is interesting to contrast these immigration projections with a recent survey done by the Pew Research Center. The poll asked whether the present level of legal immigration should be changed. The response: 40 percent favored a decrease, 37 percent would hold it steady and 17 percent wanted an increase. There seems to be scant support for a doubling. If the large immigration projections had been in the news, would the Senate have done what it did? Possibly, though I doubt it.

But if it had, senators would have had to defend what they were doing as sound public policy. That’s the real point. They would have had to debate whether such high levels of immigration are good or bad for the country rather than adopting a measure whose largest consequences are unintended or not understood. What arguments would they have used?

….. The doubling of legal immigration under the Senate bill that I cited at the outset comes from a previously unreported estimate made by White House economists. Because the president praised the Senate bill, the administration implicitly favors a big immigration expansion. The White House estimate could be low. Robert Rector of the conservative Heritage Foundation has a higher figure. The CBO has a projection that the White House describes as close to its own. But all the forecasts envision huge increases, diverging only because they make different assumptions of how the Senate bill would operate in practice.

….. One obvious question is why most of the news media missed the larger immigration story. On May 15 Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama held a news conference with Heritage’s Rector to announce their immigration projections and the estimated impact on the federal budget. Most national media didn’t report the news conference. The next day the CBO released its budget and immigration estimates. These, too, were largely unreported, though the Wall Street Journal later discussed the figures in a story on the bill’s possible budget costs.

Rector’s explanation is that the media’s “liberal” bias creates a pro-immigration slant. I think it’s more complicated. …..

But note the irony: The White House’s projected increases of legal immigration (20 million) are about twice the level of existing illegal immigrants (estimated between 10 million and 12 million). Yet, coverage overlooks the former. Here, I think, Rector has a point. Whether or not the bias is “liberal,” groupthink is a powerful force in journalism. Immigration is considered noble. People who critically examine its value or worry about its social effects are subtly considered small-minded, stupid or bigoted. The result is selective journalism that reflects poorly on our craft and detracts from democratic dialogue.

I know I wasn’t aware of the increases in the number of legal immigrants allowed. I personally don’t have problem with going from 1 million to 2 million per year, as long as that 2 million does NOT include those who are here illegally butting in line in any way, shape, or form. The 1 million figure was, I believe, established decades ago when the USA’s population was well below 200 million, so doubling it would be roughly a matter of proportionality, and would be a number we could easily absorb and assimilate (again this is assuming all are going through the full-blown legal process of becoming citizens).

If it’s really Rector’s number of 3 million, I think that’s going overboard.

Samuelson’s point is that this is a debate we should have had, and didn’t. The whole discussion of immigration during the past few months has had an air of unreality to it that Samuelson has done a public service by exposing and explaining, and by exploring the less-than-noble motivations involved.
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June 2 Update: Porkopolis notices that the WaPo decided to address at least one of Samuelson’s complaints the day after his column appeared in this article: “Senate Bill Would Add 20 Million Legal Immigrants, Report Says.” That’s better, but not good enough. It takes five pararaphs before you learn that the 20 million is ON TOP OF the 950,000 legal immigrants who become citizens each year under current law. Better headline — “Report: Senate Bill Would Lead to Additional 20 Million Legal Immigrants.” 10 more characters, infinite improvement in communication.

Cheap Shot of the Day, Courtesy of AP

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance — Tom @ 1:22 pm

This is the first paragraph of the AP’s unattributed report on the good month for retail sales:

NEW YORK (AP) — Consumers apparently shook off their worries about higher gas prices during May, shopping with enthusiasm at apparel stores and malls and giving many retailers better-than-expected results. A big exception was Wal-Mart Stores Inc., whose low-income consumers are feeling the biggest financial squeeze from $3-a-gallon gas.

Yeah, only the poor shop at Wal-Mart. Everyone else shops somewhere else. You didn’t know? (/sarcasm)

Cross-posted at Newsbusters.org.

Those Waiting for a Housing Bubble Are Going to Have to Keep Waiting

Filed under: Economy — Tom @ 1:08 pm

The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO) released their report on 1st Quarter 2006 housing prices today.

Businesss pundits with text at the ready for that “surely imminent” housing bubble are going to have to keep it on ice for now (the link to the full 75-page PDF report is at the first item under “What’s New” at OFHEO’s home page):

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. home prices were 12.54 percent higher in the first quarter of 2006 than they were one year earlier. Appreciation for the most recent quarter was 2.03 percent, or an annualized rate of 8.12 percent. The quarterly rate is about one percentage point below the rate from the previous quarter and is the lowest rate since the first quarter of 2004. The figures were released today by OFHEO Acting Director James Lockhart, as part of the House Price Index (HPI), a quarterly report analyzing housing price appreciation trends.

Here are the quarterly results for the last 5 years:

5yr1Q06

Every region had positive appreciation in the quarter:

Regions1Q06

Your humble servant reviewed the state and metro-area data, and found that:

  • Only two states had drops in the quarter (SD and IA), and those drops were 0.13% and 0.41%, respectively.
  • Roughly 50 of the roughly 275 Metropolitan areas had decreases. Most were less than 1%. Trouble spots were where you’d expect them — in Midwestern areas affected by auto industry troubles, and in parts of California that had probably overheated previously.
  • Don’t forget that the fall and winter quarters are usually weaker than spring and summer. 1q2006′s appreciation is actually greater than 1q2004′s, so it could be that a longer-term slowdown in home-price appreciation hasn’t even begun.

Of course, there could be a bit of trouble on the horizon with Fed interest rate changes and the increase in foreclosures mentioned here, but there are no signs of pervasive decay. In fact, it’s the opposite, as OFHEO noted:

“These data show average housing prices still growing stronger than some might have expected,” said Lockhart. “They do indicate, however, that price growth is moderating in some parts of the country, particularly in areas where prices have been rising the most.”

We’ll take that.

Steve Forbes on Net Neutrality: “A net disaster”

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:27 am

From Forbes’ June 5 issue (subscription may be required):

….. The major U.S. telecom firms, such as Verizon and AT&T, are pouring billions of dollars into building extensive fiber-optic networks. Among other things, they are beginning to provide television programming to compete with cable companies, which, in turn, are going into the telephone business. The telecoms also want to offer new services with which providers, for a fee, could have certain kinds of traffic move faster than others. It would be similar to sending a letter via FedEx versus traditional mail. You pay a premium to FedEx for speed and reliability. But net neutrality regulations would bar this kind of tiering.

Why are outfits like Google pushing the U.S. Congress and the Federal Communications Commission to bar such practices? Because they fear that Verizon et al. could discriminate against them by arbitrarily charging them higher prices or by not offering them on their networks.

Networkers shouldn’t be permitted to discriminate against particular Web sites or services, but they should otherwise be free to do as they see fit. Only in this way will the necessary investments be made to bring us out of our high-tech Stone Age.

Net neutrality would discourage the kind of investments Verizon and others are making. It would be equivalent to the disastrous 1996 Telecommunications Act, which forced the telecoms to provide access to competitors at below-market prices, a critical reason that we haven’t developed broadband the way numerous other countries, such as South Korea and Japan, have. Experts say we are technologically years behind. Net neutrality would require voluminous regulations to ensure that all traffic is priced the same.

Even today there’s not true net neutrality. People and companies have developed elaborate firewalls and filters to combat viruses. Individuals pay premiums to get DSL.

Net neutrality would be a net disaster.

The analogy of the net neutrality crowd has been slow and fast lanes on a highway. The better analogy is the difference between using a bike, a car, or a jet to get where your going. Why shouldn’t you be willing to pay more to get there by car or jet? And how many cars or jets would be available if providers were only allowed to charge bicycle prices? Technology would, as Forbes indicated, stay in the Stone Age.

Welcoming Project Logic Back to the Alliance

Filed under: News from Other Sites — Tom @ 9:15 am

Eric, the blogger formerly and currently known as Project Logic, has completed his five-month stint with Congresswoman Jean Schmidt. Having surely garnered oodles of filthy lucre, he is now returning to the virtually unpaid blogosphere, and is making sure that once again the southernmost tip of Ohio is securely in the hands of the S.O.B. Alliance.

Welcome back!

Poll of the Morning: Kelo-New London-Fort Trumbull Standoff

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:55 am

UPDATE: And Then There Were Four
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I know it’s only an online poll. But since it’s The New London Day’s poll, and because The Day doesn’t appear to be a Google News source, it’s at least somewhat likely to reflect local sentiment.

Here’s the online poll result (no, you can’t register and vote; link either does or will soon require registration, and will require subscription after 7 days):

Day Poll

That’s 78% No (backing the holdouts), and 22% Yes.

Here’s another reason you can feel confident that mostly locals voted — coverage of yesterday’s deadline passage was virtually non-existent, based on this Google News search (only the item noted with 13 stories had anything to do with the Kelo-New London situation; all other “Trumbull” stories of the 676 total stories found were either unrelated or weren’t reporting on what happened or what was to happen on May 31):

Goog Trumbull

Bizzy’s AM Coffee Biz-Econ-Life Links (060106)

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:05 am

Free Links:

  • The Skeptical Optimist provides some needed perspective on fuel costs:

    Fuel Costs 1982-2005

  • I can identify with this — “Some Cell Phone Owners Spurn Gadgetry.” Maybe a picture or a text message or two every once and a while would be nice, but otherwise I’m rebelling against the complexity.
  • Speaking of gadgetry, this seems like a good idea for creating more problem gamblers — “Las Vegas Sands to Unveil Mobile Gambling.” “Las Vegas Sands Corp. (LVS) said Thursday it will be the first Nevada company to introduce mobile gambling devices at its casinos. The owner of The Venetian hotel-casino said it would introduce games such as black jack, roulette, poker and slots as early as this year on handheld devices.”
  • That about says it all for the French — “French bottom line: farm subsidies trump free trade”
  • I’d like to know how we’re going to remain competitive as a country with these results (HT Manufacturers’ Blog) from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in science proficiency. There’s lots to explore if you’re inclined, but not a lot of it encouraging. The Manufacturers’ Blog uses the results as a reason to get looser with immigration rules for talented scientists and engineers. It’s hard to dispute the need, and it’s also hard to deny that we can’t (or won’t?) develop enough sharp people ourselves.
  • John Hawkins lists 22 problems with the Senate’s Illegal Immigration Bill — I don’t even think he had to work up a sweat.

Positivity: Marines Thank Nursing Home Residents for Writing

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:01 am

I would suggest that mutual thanks were in order (HT “S.O.B.er” Made 4 the Internet):

Marines say thanks for writing
Retirement community residents sent troops cards, letters of support
Tuesday, May 23, 2006

With the Marines’ Hymn playing in the background, Lance Cpl. Chad McMahon entered the room to applause.

It was similar to many ceremonies where civilians welcome home or show their appreciation for U.S. servicemen and women. Except McMahon was the one saying “thanks” yesterday at First Community Village in Upper Arlington. The retirement community’s residents have sent cards and letters of support to troops serving in Iraq.

“I’m so proud of them,” Lena Legue, 96, said after playing the Marines’ Hymn on a harmonica.

McMahon, 22, of Dublin, joined members of the Marine Corps Family Support Community to thank the residents for the homemade cards they sent to troops in March.

“All I can say is thank you,” McMahon said. “We appreciate it and thank you. I can’t say it enough.”

The residents used construction paper, markers and stamps to design their cards with help from the activities staff.

They offered warm words: Please get back safely. God bless America. Thank you for your service.

There was even a Go Bucks card.

“We get letters every month telling us how wonderful these notes and cards make them feel,” said Michele Gire, president of the support group.

Gire, of Centerburg, shared stories about her three sons, all active-duty Marines. Two have served in Iraq.

“You guys are very wonderful,” she told residents. “You’re very positive, and that is what these guys need.”

The Marine Corps Family Support Community was established in 2003 and has chapters throughout Ohio. The group offers chat nights and events for families, and sends care packages and letters to active military personnel.

The First Community crowd included veterans and many with military relatives.

….. “It’s a community outreach program,” she said. “It gives them an opportunity to feel like they’re making a difference.”

Dennis Benson, a Worthington resident and member of the Family Support Community, organized Monday’s program. His son is back in the U.S. after two tours in Iraq.

He personally thanked every resident in attendance. “I was delighted,” he said. “You look at their eyes, you look at the smiles … it was very warm. Everyone appreciated it.”