June 20, 2006

Kelo New London Update: Eminent Domain Referendum Petitions Submitted to Council

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:52 pm

Wow, that was fast, especially considering all those members of Mayor Sabilia’s “silent majority” who would have snubbed referendum supporters in their signature-gathering attempts (/sarcasm).

From The New London Day (registration required after one day, and paid subscription after seven days; bold is mine):

Petition Asks City To Forgo Seizure Of Last Two Properties
Fort Trumbull group presents 586 signatures to City Council

The Coalition to Save the Fort Trumbull Neighborhood presented a petition to the city Monday, demanding that the City Council rescind its June 5 decision to take possession of the properties of Susette Kelo and the Cristofaro family or put it to a referendum.

Addressing the council Monday night, Michael Cristofaro, who signed and helped circulate the petition along with a dozen others, reiterated his position, saying he would protect his family’s home against an eminent domain takeover regardless of the price the city offered for the property.

“My family will continue to fight the abuse of eminent domain in this city until all property owners’ rights are protected,” he said. “No matter what the outcome of Fort Trumbull is, we won. This city will never use eminent domain against its citizens like they have in Fort Trumbull.”

Kelo also signed the petition, which contained 586 signatures, more than 200 more than the number required to call a referendum. The move comes days before Thursday’s latest state-imposed deadline for the city to reach an agreement with the remaining plaintiffs in Kelo v. City of New London, the U.S. Supreme Court case that was decided in favor of the city and the New London Development Corp., which took Fort Trumbull properties by eminent domain.

City Law Director Thomas Londregan said Monday night that the signatures on the petition will need to be verified by the city clerk in time for the council’s July 3 meeting. If sufficient signatures are verified, he said, he will then decide whether the petition meets the legal requirements for calling a referendum.

….. “I’m apprehensive that attorney Londregan will say it’s not legal,” (co-chairman of the Coalition to Save Fort Trumbull Neild B.) Oldham said. “ … If the city attorney plays games with us, we are prepared to take it to the court.”

It seems pretty impressive that so many signatures were gathered in the space of less than two weeks. It’s also impressive that they got it done ahead of Connecticut Governor Rell’s extended deadline of Thursday, June 22. Unless Council’s majority really thinks it can beat back the referendum, it would appear to put quite a bit of pressure on the majority to reconsider their eviction decision of June 5 or suffer electoral embarrassment.

I have exchanged e-mails with Tom Lacey, the Chairman of the One New London Party, the upstart group that took two seats in the city’s seven-seat City Council, and came within 20 votes of taking a third, in last November’s election. He indicated that his party has been involved in collecting signatures and anticipates the need to gear up for a legal battle based in anticipation of a rejection by Londergan. Information on contributing to One New London is here.

Also, there’s this precious tidbit at the end of The Day’s piece that makes you wonder about the viability of what the city is planning:

Former council member Bill Morse asked the council to reconsider developer Corcoran Jennison’s plans for Fort Trumbull, saying that the hotel and apartments planned for the neighborhood’s revitalization lacked the originality and appeal needed to bring money to New London.

O, M, G. The city’s Council majority may be pursuing what Investors Business Daily (excerpted at this previous post in case the link expires) has called the “tarnished trophy” of an eminent-domain victory for something that won’t work.

And one final question: Given that this relates to the ultimate result of the original “landmark” case disgrace decided by The Supreme Court last year, why isn’t the likely referendum making any news?

UPDATE: Especially since the information is not available online, I thought it would be worthwhile to inform/remind readers of last November’s City Council election results (thanks to New London’s Registrar of Voters Office for faxing the info to me). I will list only the top eight (nineteen ran, seven were seated), their party, and vote total:
- Robert Pero, Republican — 2,143
- William Cornish, One New London — 1,522
- Charles Frink, One New London — 1,490
- Jane Glover, Democrat — 1,417
- Kevin Cavanagh, Democrat — 1,422
- Elizabeth Sabilia, Democrat — 1,386
- Margaret Mary Curtin, Democrat — 1,320
- (not elected) Richard Humphreville, One New London — 1,300

Considering that two One New London candidates leapfrogged every single Democrat in their first try at electoral politics, Mayor Beth (“I’m Number 6″) Sabilia’s breezy claim of majority support for evicting the Kelo holdouts seems unsupportable.

Background: The Kelo New London Collection (a listing of all previous Kelo New London posts)

About Microsoft’s Stock Options Practices during the 1990s

The practice wasn’t backdating; it was allowing shares under option to be purchased at the lowest price during the month. That could be “back” or “forward,” depending on what happened to a company’s share price in the time involved.

But here’s the sound-the-alarm headline and intro to this SiliconValley.com article:

Microsoft rigged options

With the revelation Friday that Microsoft routinely priced workers’ stock options at the low for the month through much of the 1990s, investors now have a new worry: If one of the nation’s biggest companies helped employees get a head start on profits, did other large firms follow suit?

“The fact that they are involved in it, to me, would say that at that point in time it was considered proper to some degree, and not something done behind closed doors where you shred the paper,” said Howard Silverblatt, a senior index analyst for Standard & Poors. “This is not the end of it.”

Stock options typically give the holder the right to buy company stock at the price on the day they were granted, so they become valuable only if the stock rises. But federal investigators are examining patterns that suggest some companies repeatedly backdated options or took other actions that gave recipients a special deal without disclosing it fully to investors and regulators.

Wait a minute. Many companies allow employees to purchase company shares outright in employee stock purchase plans at the lowest price of the month, and even the lowest price of the quarter in some cases. I’m not aware of any hue and cry about that, and these practices have been in place for decades.

Especially if the options purchase price rules are in sync with the stock ownership plan rules, I’m hard-pressed to see a serious foul in Microsoft’s case, but will withhold judgment (and unlike SiliconValley.com, won’t rush to judgment) until I have more info.

The Supremes Give Property-rights Supporters a Half a Loaf (at Best)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:45 am

And a frustrating half a loaf it is:

The federal government does not have the power to reach far upstream to protect every ditch and wetland in a watershed.

In a ruling restricting federal authority to protect the environment, the US Supreme Court on Monday said the reach of federal regulators under the Clean Water Act is limited. But the high court’s nine justices were unable to reach majority agreement about how and where to draw those limits.

The result is a decision best described as 4-1-4. Four justices agreed that the law called for a restrictive view of the scope of federal jurisdiction to reach remote wetlands. Four other justices concluded that the statute permits the government to take upstream actions to prevent downstream degradation of federal water resources.

At dead center of the court sits Justice Anthony Kennedy, who provided the critical fifth vote on the restrictive side of the case. That action sends the two consolidated cases back to the lower courts where judges must divine a coherent approach to federal jurisdiction from the high court’s splintered decision.

“It is unfortunate that no opinion commands a majority of the court on precisely how to read Congress’ limits on the reach of the Clean Water Act,” writes Chief Justice John Roberts in a concurrence on the restrictive side of the case. “Lower courts and regulated entities will now have to feel their way on a case-by-case basis.”

It’s an improvement, but more than a bit of a cop-out, as Chief Justice Roberts said.

The Army Corps of Engineers and enviro groups have abused The Clean Water Act’s definition of “navigable waters” for decades to include isolated puddles if doing so could impede development. The divided justices (sort of) put a stop to the most extreme nonsense, but didn’t go anywhere near as far as they should have.

In the real world, I believe developers are on the short end of the Supremes’ semi-decision, as enviros and The Army Corps would normally have the deeper legal pockets in all but the most high-profile cases. If you can’t develop properly zoned land as you see fit on the flimsy grounds used by the enviros and the Corps over the years, you essentially don’t own it.

UPDATE: In a subscription-only editorial, The Wall Street Journal expressed similar frustration, with an insight into the “mindset” of Kennedy with worrisome potential beyond this case:

The Supreme Court tiptoed up to the edge of a landmark property-rights ruling yesterday, but in the end it merely dipped a toe in the water without deciding whether to jump in or not.

The vote in the case left little room for doubt about the reason for the Court’s indecision — his name is Justice Anthony Kennedy.

….. In his own separate opinion, Justice Kennedy agreed to vacate the ruling but refused to go as far as the rest of the majority. The result is that the final outcome in both the Rapanos case and Carabell v. U.S., another drainage ditch fiasco also decided yesterday, remains in doubt. On remand, the lower courts could modify their reasoning but uphold their decisions. As Justice Scalia noted in his opinion, Justice Kennedy seemed to “tip a wink” at the government in his concurrence, “inviting it to try its same expansive reading again” as long as it cites Justice Kennedy’s logic.

….. In other words, welcome to the Kennedy Court. It didn’t take a brilliant legal mind to see that, after the confirmations of Justices Alito and Roberts, the protean Justice Kennedy would seek to become the “swing” vote. The Rapanos case illustrates this in spades, with Justice Kennedy trying to define a middle ground between the liberal and conservative minorities on the court.

The result is an opinion that no one else saw fit to join, and yet could well prove controlling in future wetlands cases — assuming anyone can determine just what Justice Kennedy was trying to say. His concurrence is a Kennedy classic, with a hifalutin-sounding “significant nexus” test for lower courts to apply and no shortage of ersatz objectivity and even-handedness.

As Justice Scalia tartly observed, at least the four liberal Justices defer to the Army Corps of Engineers. Justice Kennedy’s opinion essentially rewrites the Clean Water Act, substituting his inventive afflatus for the Congress and the Corps and the rest of the bench — a kind of activist trifecta.

….. Some court-watchers predicted that Justices Roberts and Alito would help draw Anthony Kennedy to the right, lest he feel isolated by the high-powered intellects of the Court’s four conservatives. The good news from yesterday’s ruling is that the Court’s two newest members came down solidly on the side of property rights in their first big environmentalism case. The bad news is that Justice Kennedy lacked the courage of their convictions.

Also, I shouldn’t miss an opportunity to comment about the dissenters: Who in the world appointed Army Corps of Engineers God in first allowing it to rewrite dictionary definition of naviagable waters as it sees fit, and then, by deferring to it, refusing to allow the courts to exercise adult supervision over it?

Moore’s Law Goes from a March to an All-Out Sprint

Filed under: Economy,Marvels — Tom @ 9:28 am

The only “bad” news is that, if the software keeps up, it looks like even really new computers are going to become obsolete very quickly (HT Drudge):

Researchers at I.B.M. and the Georgia Institute of Technology are set to announce today that they have broken the speed record for silicon-based chips with a semiconductor that operates 250 times faster than chips commonly used today.

The achievement is a major step in the evolution of computer semiconductor technology that could eventually lead to faster networks and more powerful electronics at lower prices, said Bernard Meyerson, vice president and chief technologist in I.B.M.’s systems and technology group. He said developments like this one typically found their way into commercial products in 12 to 24 months.

….. Dan Olds, a principal at the Gabriel Consulting Group, a technology consulting firm in Portland, Ore., said the development was significant because it showed that the chip industry had not yet reached its upper limits. “There’s been talk that we’ve started to hit the physical limitations of chip performance,” he said. “The news here is that we’re not coming anywhere near the end in what processors are capable of.”

Gordon Moore, the Intel cofounder who formulated Moore’s Law, is surely smiling. Assuming that the 250 times speed factor holds up, that the commercialization time frame accurate, and that you use Moore’s original assumption that processor speeds would double every 24 months (in the Wiki entry, Moore is reported to have said that his original hypothesis was 24, and that others cut it to 18), actual results will be 14-16 years ahead of theoretical!

UPDATE: OK, maybe 12 years, because of deep-freeze vs. room temperature functionality. Again from the NYT piece:

The researchers, using a cryogenic test station, achieved the speed milestone by “freezing” the chip to 451 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, using liquid helium. That temperature, normally found only in outer space, is just nine degrees above absolute zero, or the temperature at which all movement is thought to cease.

At 500 gigahertz, the technology is 250 times faster than chips in today’s cellphones, which operate at 2 gigahertz. At room temperature, the chips operate at 350 gigahertz, far faster than other chips in commercial use today.

Hey, 350 is still 175 times faster. Whew.

Bizzy’s AM Coffee Biz-Econ-Life Links (062006)

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  • I want to see the real numbers, because this sounds like window-dressing

    Foreclosure figures just released by the Mortgage Bankers Association show that foreclosure activity fell in the first quarter of 2006 over the first quarter of 2005 for all loan categories except subprime loans. The MBA didn’t specify how many of subprime loans were adjustable rate mortgages.

    I believe the percentage of mortgage loans that are subprime is at what is by far an all-time high. A higher foreclosure rate in this category could more than offset (I think “much more than offset”) all of the reported improvements in the other loan types. (UPDATED: See this June 21 4PM post.

  • Here’s another side-effect of the boom that seemed inevitable — “Slowing Sales, Baby Boomers Spur a Glut of McMansions”
  • Bring it on — “S.O.B.er” NixGuy links to a Cincinnati Enquirer story about how wireless phone company Cricket is entering the market with a flat-fee unlimited calling deal at $45 a month.
  • Something I came across while doing research for a comment somewhere elseThis link with tables showing membership in various US Christian demonimations in 1960 and 2002, both in absolute numbers as and on a per-capita basis. Study it for a few minutes, and a lot of the interpretation almost writes itself.
  • Go ahead and try to disagree with this editorial (HT Instapundit) — “Freedom of speech and thought R.I.P.”

Positivity: Miracle Baby, 22 Ounces at Birth, Graduates From High School

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:58 am

There’s an 11-page slideswhow you can go to for more on this remarkable story:

June 15, 2006

SAN DIEGO – A tiny Carlsbad baby beat the odds, and on Thursday night she graduated from Carlsbad High School.

Mary Gorgueiro was called a miracle baby when she was born in August 1987, four months premature and weighing just 22 ounces.

Mary wore her first hat when she was 2 months old. Prior to that, said her mother, Midge, she wore a sock on her head.

“The told us she had a 95 percent chance of not surviving .. that if she did survive, the chances are, she would not be normal,” Midge told NBC 7/39.

After her birth, Mary spent four months in the neonatal intensive care unit. Eventually she did go home, though she was dressed in doll clothes.

The tiny baby survived and thrived after several surgeries. She has no lasting health problems.

“If you have your faith and your trust, you believe, you just go on with it,” said Mary’s father, Gus Gorgueiro.

Mary is now a typical teen who showed off her prom dress for NBC 7/39′s camera and talked about her friends.

“I like to hang out with my friends,” Mary said. “I like to talk online a lot.”

Comments are limited to the totally positive at Positivity posts.