September 15, 2011

Brooke Shields, Kelo, and Left-Wing Chauvinism

KeloHouseMonumentThis was going to be a quick post about the good news, as announced by the Castle Coalition in a Tuesday press release after being teased a few days earlier by “Little Pink House” author Jeff Benedict, that a Lifetime Channel movie is going to be made about the Kelo vs. New London eminent domain drama.

Then along came “culture blogger” Alyssa Rosenberg over at the hard-left ThinkProgress.

In a narrow sense, this Connecticut standoff culminated in a disgraceful 2005 Supreme Court ruling that governments can use their powers of eminent domain to take property from citizens for a “public purpose,” which includes conveying it to someone else for private redevelopment, instead of for a “public use” (roads, bridges, government buildings, etc.), which is the clear meaning of the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment.

In a much broader sense, of course, the case has never really ended, because the “carefully formulated … economic development plan” the Court’s majority thought it recognized never materialized, and because the land upon which perfectly good homes once stood remains a vacant, media-ignored eyesore more than six years after the decision. As I noted earlier this month, New London’s Fort Trumbull area was recently used as a collection point for storm debris from Hurricane Irene-related winds and rain.

Ms. Rosenberg at ThinkProgress couldn’t resist taking a shot at the celebrity who is taking on the project not only as its lead actress but also, apparently unbeknownst to her (or at least unsaid in her post), as its executive producer, and at the channel on which the movie will appear. In the process, she also displayed complete ignorance of what the Kelo case was all about while predictably posing as a know-it-all (internal link is in original; bolds are mine throughout):

Brooke Shields Goes Anti-Eminent Domain For Lifetime

I’d had the vague sense that Brooke Shields’ career wasn’t in the best place (as Entourage tells me, if she’s involved in a project with Johnny Drama, that’s not a good sign), but I’m sort of depressed, both because of what it means for her talent and what it means for her politics, that she’s starring in an anti-eminent domain movie on Lifetime about the Kelo case. Speaking out about postpartum depression and the idea that seeking treatment for it isn’t shameful is really useful and important. Sparking fears that the government’s going to take your property is a lot less useful.

Is it even worth pointing out to Ms. Rosenberg that those of us who believe the Constitution’s original intent should be followed are not “anti-eminent domain,” but that we are instead against the use of eminent domain to force people to give up their property when a true “public use” is not involved? Oh well, I guess I just did.

Over at Forbes, E.D. Kain hit back (italics are in original):

Now, Lifetime movies are probably not a good sign for any actor’s career, but I think it’s great that a movie is being made about Kelo. Remember, this case was not just about the government taking property to expand much-needed infrastructure, or confiscating condemned, dilapidated property in order to fix it up or turn it into a library. This was about government allowing one private developer to confiscate land from another private party. The government wasn’t taking property for public use (a power granted in the Constitution) but for private development, in what some called a reverse Robin Hood move – robbing from the poor to give to the rich.

Progressives should be deeply bothered by a case like this, and should celebrate the fact that at least a television movie is being made about Kelo. Government should not be in the business of cronyism and theft, and liberals should be up in arms when government enriches private corporations at the expense of ordinary citizens.

With all due respect to Mr. Kain, I don’t believe he fully grasps the strictly opportunistic, utilitarian viewpoint of so-called “progressives,” or their frequent ignorance of what’s really at issue in eminent domain disputes. In separate updates, Ms. Rosenberg demonstrated that viewpoint, as well as her ignorance:

Update: Apparently, this post has given people the impression that I think the Kelo ruling was good. I don’t think it’s good that corporations can manipulate eminent domain for their own benefit. But I don’t think a Lifetime movie is going to differentiate between Kelo and eminent domain as it ought to function. Instead, I think it is likely to take a conservative, totally anti-eminent domain tack that will not further the conversation. I should have made the connection between those two points stronger.

Update: So, looks like this post has become a thing! Look, the original, which appears below, was not well-written or well thought-out, and I regret writing it. That said, I don’t think it’s exceptionally controversial to say that a company with a record of making deeply cheesy and unsubtle movies is perhaps not well-positioned to make a movie about an issue where the issue isn’t keep or ban but reform.

Kelo wasn’t about “corporations” manipulating eminent domain; it’s about governments manipulating eminent domain. It isn’t about “ban or reform”; it’s about banning the practice only when a “public use” under the Fifth Amendment is not involved. As to “how it ought to function,” that’s simple: If the government wants the property for something that doesn’t qualify as a “public use,” it should not be able to compel the property owner to sell — at any price. Attempting to pierce Ms. Rosenberg’s cliched incoherence, it appears that what she wants is really smart people with “the public interest” at heart to be able to use eminent domain when it involves causes she likes, and to prohibit the practice when it doesn’t. For her, the Constitution doesn’t even seem to be in the picture. Under such a purely political arrangement, fears that “the government’s going to take your property” aren’t paranoid. They’re legitimate; there’s nothing to stop them if your property happens to be in the way of (often urban, often Democrat-dominated) governments’ urban-renewal pipe dreams.

As to Ms. Rosenberg’s (and unfortunately, even Mr. Kain’s) cheap shots, let’s start with where the movie will appear. Lifetime’s ranking as the #16 cable network in 2010 isn’t stellar. But to consider Ms. Shields’s involvement as some kind of indication that she is in the twilight of her career verges on the ridiculous. Her latest career move — starring as Morticia in the Broadway musical “The Addams Family” – has received strong reviews, and has her booked until the end of the year. “Her talent” appears to be just fine, Ms. Rosenberg.

The fact that Ms. Shields is taking on the executive producer’s role in addition to starring as Susette Kelo would seem to indicate that this is a project she believes in, i.e., a movie she feels needs to be made regardless of the size of the dollar signs involved. Alyssa Rosenberg clearly has a problem with what Ms. Shields is doing because of what it says about “her politics.” I’ll bet that she never once criticized actresses like Reese Witherspoon or Meryl Streep when they starred in the anti-Bush “Rendition,” even though it failed to break even on production costs alone (i.e., marketing and distribution sent it deep into the red) and nobody ever thought it would make money. I’ll also bet that we never heard a peep from her when Brian DePalma dumped an estimated $5 million into “Redacted,” which grossed less than $800,000 worldwide. (I searched for evidence of either and found none. Ms. Rosenberg is free to let me know if I’m wrong.)

In the eyes of “progressives,” when Streep, Witherspoon, DePalma, and others dove into doomed-from-the-start antiwar, anti-Bush projects, they were dedicated idealists (I’ll leave the discussions about where their respective careers are going to others). But when Brooke Shields wants to make a film about how an authoritarian government which clearly didn’t know what it was doing was able to eject people from their homes, and about how those who are supposed to make sure our Constitution is followed utterly failed to carry out their constitutional duty to protect citizens against unlawful state encroachment, well, she’s an over-the-hill actress who’s engaging in an activity that’s “a lot less useful.” The double standard could hardly be more obvious.

I look forward to seeing the product of the efforts of Ms. Shields and others involved, and hope that it serves to get around the near-total establishment press blackout on post-Kelo developments during the past six years.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

WaPo Changes AttackWatch.com-Related Post Title to Make It About ‘Conservative’ Instead of General Ridicule (See Update)

ObamaAttackWatch0911The Obama administration and the Obama campaign aren’t the only ones who should be embarrassed by the AttackWatch.com snitch site Obama for America recently created. As demonstrated last night in a series of Associated Press searches (not in quotes) which resulted in nothing relevant and still don’t (here on “attackwatch.com”; here on “Attack Watch”; here on “Obama campaign”; and here on “Obama for America”), the establishment press has mostly ignored Attack Watch and its authoritarian aroma.

When not ignoring it, the press has mischaracterized those who are ridiculing it. A particularly embarrassing case in point occurred yesterday at the Washington Post’s “Blogpost” blog. After posting an item by Elizabeth Flock headlined “Attack Watch, new Obama campaign site to ‘fight smears,’ becomes laughing stock of the Internet,” the Post replaced the headline’s last two words with “conservatives” — quite inaccurately, it turns out.

Evidence that “the Internet” was used in the original headline includes the fact that the word is still in the post’s URL, or web address:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/blogpost/post/attack-watch-new-obama-campaign-site-to-fight-smears-becomes-laughing-stock-of-the-internet/2011/09/14/gIQAspHDSK_blog.html

At most blogs, a post’s URL is determined when the writer clicks on the “publish” button. At that point, the blog program creates a hyphenated string containing the key words in the post’s headline. Unless WaPo’s software is unique (highly doubtful), “Internet” was in the original headline.

Additionally, a Google Web search on the last five words of the “Internet” version of the headline returns a couple of items posted by people who saw and noted it in its original form at The Augur’s Well blog and at a tweet by LaborUnionReport.

Flock’s post shows that a more generalized description of critics was more appropriate:

As the 2012 presidential campaign heats up, President Obama’s campaign team has set up a new Web site, AttackWatch.com, to challenge negative statements about the president made by Republican presidential candidates and conservatives.

Obama for America national field director Jeremy Bird told ABC News that the site’s goal is to offer “resources to fight back” against attacks. Mostly, that means fact checking statements from the likes of GOP presidential contenders Mitt Romney and Rick Perry and conservative commentator Glenn Beck and offering evidence to the contrary. The site is designed in bold red and black colors, and uses statements like “support the truth” and “fight the smears.”

The response to the site has been less than stellar.

Tommy Christopher of Mediaite noted sarcastically of the site, “Great. Sounds like a terrific content-generating resource for right-wing bloggers, too. Everybody wins!”

While the initiative is reminiscent of a similar online effort launched during the 2008 campaign, called Fight the Smears, the intimidating design and language of the new site seems to be what’s causing a bigger ruckus.

Fight the Smears looked and felt far less scary …

Last time I checked, Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher was not anywhere near conservative. In fact, Christopher has come in for a bit of media bias-related criticism at NewsBusters.

As for the old “Fight the Smears” being “less scary,” that has less to do with the site having been designed differently than the fact that its beneficiary was a presidential contender, not the President of the United States. Though the old site betrayed the candidate’s authoritarian tendencies, which was scary in a very real sense, at least the candidate didn’t have the full scope of the federal government’s resources at his disposal. Now he does — and yes, humor and ridicule aside, the fact that he’s allowing his campaign to flaunt its intimidation, albeit ineptly, is indeed scarier.

It seems that the Post’s headline writers simply couldn’t stand the idea that Obama’s snitch has been attacked from all sides; so it wanted to pretend that it was only coming from conservatives. It’s not.

One of the commenters at the WaPo blog post had an even stronger point about the paper’s degree of interest in the story:

Pravda on the Potomac buries this story on a blog. If a Republican pulled this fascist sheet it would be front page news for months.

Exactly.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

________________________________________________

UPDATE, Sept. 16: Tommy Christopher contacted NewsBusters (effort appreciated), noting the following –

… the original version of the WaPo article did not contain that quote from me, it only sourced conservatives. The quote from my piece was added after the headline change. Second, while I was happy to get the link, that quote was not representative of my piece, which was a balanced take on the site’s merits, and was written before I’d seen any of the reactions to it.

Okay, so the WaPo item was conservatives-only when the title said “Internet,” and then had a non-conservative “balanced take” reaction when the title was changed to make the story about “conservatives.” “Gang that couldn’t shoot straight” comes to mind.

Additionally, non-conservative, usually plays-it-straight Jake Tapper has weighed in with “The Problem with the Obama Campaign’s ‘AttackWatch’ Website.”

Unemployment Claims: 428K SA, Up from Previous Week’s Upwardly Revised 417K; NSA Claims Only 5% Below 2010

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:45 am

From the Department of Labor — Ouch:

SEASONALLY ADJUSTED DATA

In the week ending September 10, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 428,000, an increase of 11,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 417,000. The 4-week moving average was 419,500, an increase of 4,000 from the previous week’s revised average of 415,500. …

UNADJUSTED DATA

The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 325,999 in the week ending September 10, a decrease of 22,495 from the previous week. There were 341,791 initial claims in the comparable week in 2010.

More shortly.

UPDATE: Grim –

UnempClaims4wkMovingAvg091011

UPDATE 2: Expectations and media reax roundup –

  • Business Insider’s email — 412K
  • Bloomberg — 411K, with an “unexpectedly” sighting.
  • Reuters — 410K, with an “unexpectedly” sighting, and a “surprise” headline (“Jobless claims post surprise increase last week”)
  • AP’s reax — “It’s a sign that the job market remains depressed.” Ya don’t say?

But taxing “the rich” will solve all of this. (/sarc).

UPDATE 3: Blog reax –

  • Ed Morrissey at Hot Air: ” I’d guess that the economy may have slowed even further in Q3 than Q2, and since we’re at 1% GDP growth in Q2, that’s bad news for the US and the Obama administration.”
  • Zero Hedge (analyst’s reax to unemployment claims and other weak data coming out today): “We got a lot of data that cannot be spun in any way other than we are continuing to see weakness, we are continuing to see a complete dearth of growth and frankly, it’s not a surprise.”

Latest Pajamas Media Column (‘Food Stamps: A Microcosm of Out-of-Control Government’) Is Up

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:14 am

It’s here.

It will go up here at BizzyBlog on Saturday (link won’t work until then) after the blackout expires.

___________________________________________

Left on the cutting-room floor: On the fraud front, the following Dayton Daily News excerpt expands on the point made in the column about the widespread “loss” of food stamp cards, except that the headline doesn’t really require a question mark –

Is Ohio replacing food stamp cards being sold or traded for drugs?
More than 200,000 electronic food stamps annually replaced by Ohio

In the last two years, nearly 51,000 electronic food stamp cards were reported stolen or lost in the Miami Valley area, reflecting a larger statewide trend of Ohio annually replacing more than 200,000 cards to recipients.

Authorities said the extent of food stamp abuse and the financial impact in Ohio is unknown because the activity often goes undetected. But they fear the behavior is widespread, and say that many cards are being trafficked or misused, resulting in the waste of taxpayer dollars.

One of the 26,224 electronic food stamp cards reported lost or stolen in the Miami Valley area last year belonged to Timothy Slusher’s sister. Slusher, 31, of Dayton, told the Dayton Daily News he illegally sold his sister’s Electronic Benefit Transfer card, or food stamp card, to a small store in exchange for $120 in cash — a common method used to defraud the assistance program.

The state replaced 485,880 food stamp cards that were reported stolen or lost in 2009 and 2010, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Of these, about 50,950 belonged to residents in Butler, Greene, Miami, Montgomery and Warren counties.

Ohio had 2.07 million active food stamp accounts in the last two years, including 211,275 in the five-county region. This translates into the state replacing one-quarter of EBT cards given to recipients.

… From January to April of this year, Ohio paid out about $986 million in food stamp reimbursements to grocery stores and other businesses that sell food products, according to the state. (Note: That’s an annual rate of just under $3 billion per year. — Ed.) On average, about 113,300 residents in Butler, Greene, Miami, Montgomery and Warren counties received food stamp assistance each month in 2010.

That there is widespread fraud is drop-dead obvious. Do people using other forms of plastic (credit cards, debit cards, gift cards) lose 25% of such cards in any given year? Of course not. The guess here is that it’s less than 5%. So it would appear that over 20% of Food Stamp cards are being used for transactions not involving food. Multiply that against Ohio’s annual food stamp expenditure of almost $3 billion, and that’s $600 million or more lost to fraud — even before looking at people receiving food stamps who really shouldn’t be because the program’s eligibility requirements have become too loose, allowing those with adequate resources to get through bouts of unemployment to qualify.

Positivity: Country Music Star to Join Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network as National Spokesperson

Filed under: Life-Based News,Positivity — Tom @ 5:59 am

From St. Petersburg, Florida:

Sept. 14, 2011

Terri Schiavo’s Life & Hope Network, a foundation created by her parents and siblings following her death by starvation in 2005, announced today that country music star Collin Raye will serve as their national spokesperson.

“I am truly honored and humbled to be representing those who have no voice and appreciate the opportunity to help families and loved ones who are in similar situations like those of Terri Schiavo,” said Raye.

Collin Raye charted 16 #1 hits through the 1990′s and his career includes 24 top ten hits. Raye has sold over eight million albums and has been nominated five times as country music’s Male Vocalist of the Year. In 2001, he was presented with the Humanitarian of the Year award by country music legend Clint Black.

Bobby Schindler, the executive co-director of the Life & Hope Network and brother of Terri Schiavo is excited to have Collin Raye as their national spokesperson: “With Collin’s help, we hope to reach many more families in need of our network of attorneys and doctors who are dedicated to protecting the rights of vulnerable, disabled and elderly persons who are at risk of being denied the medical care that they deserve.”

Terri Schiavo was dehydrated and starved to death after her husband won the right in court to remove her feeding tube. In March of 2005, almost 14 days after the tube was removed and all legal options to save her were exhausted by her family, Terri passed away. Since the inception of the Life & Hope Network, over 1,000 families have contacted the group to ask for assistance and the group has brought their message to nine countries, 42 states and 30 universities.

“There has been a growing number of families faced with the same situations as Terri’s family in recent years and the number is sure to continue to grow as the passage of Obamacare takes away medical decision from families and doctors and put them into the hands of bureaucrats,” said Raye.

“This is about the future of what’s going on in this country and how we can help the disabled, the physically and cognitively impaired, and the elderly. Every life is precious,” Raye added.

Raye shares his own, personal family experience with end of life issues in the heartbreaking death of his 10-year-old granddaughter, who died last year as a result of an undiagnosed neurological condition.

“As Terri said when she was healthy, where there’s life there’s hope. In my granddaughter’s illness we were blessed to have the support and care of wonderful doctors and healthcare workers. It is my hope to be a voice for those who are suffering and need help obtaining the proper care and medical attention that every one of us deserves regardless of age, creed, color, or cognitive ability,” Raye said.

Terri’s Life & Hope Network has launched a nationwide effort to establish a “Safe Haven” network where hospitals and nursing homes pledge to never withhold medical care, food, or water from any patient. …

Go here for the rest of the announcement.