Eminent domain abuse in Norwood, OH

George Will highlights another clear example of eminent domain abuse in his latest Newsweek column. A few key paragraphs:

The Gambles say that when the city offered them money for their house, they were not interested. “We had everything we wanted, right there,” says Joy, who does not drive but could walk to see her mother in a Norwood nursing home. “We loved that house — that home.”
Past tense. Norwood’s government, in a remarkably incestuous deal, accepted the developer’s offer to pay the cost of the study that — surprise! — enabled the city to declare the neighborhood “blighted” and “deteriorating.” NEWSWEEK reader, stroll around your neighborhood. Do you see any broken sidewalk pavement? Any standing water in a road? Any weeds? Such factors — never mind that sidewalks and roads are government’s responsibility — were cited by the developer’s study to justify Norwood’s forcing the Gambles and their neighbors to sell to the developer so he could build condominiums, office buildings and stores.

Reeling from the life-shattering effects of an uncircumscribed power of eminent domain, the Gambles are hoping for rescue by their state Supreme Court, before which they are represented by the Institute for Justice, a merry band of libertarian litigators. The Gambles have the dignified stoicism of uncomplicated people put upon by sophisticated people nimble with complex sophistries. Carl says, “We’re paying a lot each month for storage” of their possessions that do not fit in his daughter’s basement near the town of Independence, Ky. Independence is what becomes tenuous when property rights become attenuated.

This could happen to you, folks. If you happen to live in Ohio, please read my post on the Ohio eminent domain task force that’s ignoring the major objection to eminent domain abuse: people don’t want the government taking their property and giving it to another private property owner. Ever.
As George Will wrote, “Kelo demonstrated that anyone who owns a modest home or small business owns it only at the sufferance of a local government that might, on a whim of rapacity, seize it to enrich a more attractive potential taxpayer.”
Hat tip: No Left Turns

Ohio eminent domain task force misses the point

5th Amendment textThe Ohio task force on eminent domain has released its preliminary report, and it’s missed the most important point of the exercise. I’m not interested in a fairer procedure for the government to use as it takes my home. I’m not interested in a clearer definition of “blight” that spells out exactly when the government can take my home. You see, I don’t want the government to take my home at all. Why is that so hard to understand?
A local or state government can exercise its eminent domain powers to take private property from its owner, if the government does so for a “public use” and pays “just compensation” (see the Fifth Amendment, at right). Until very recently, the term “public use” meant what you’d expect: building a school, putting in a highway, laying railroad tracks, and other projects that the public has access to.
We used to think of private building projects as a “private use” of property, since the public doesn’t have guaranteed access. But no more. Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Kelo v. New London last summer, the definition of “public use” has expanded to include the government seizing your land and giving it to another private owner for “economic development” (which means the new owner’s project yields higher property taxes than you do, or creates jobs, or some similar rationalization).
Liberals and conservatives alike blew a collective gasket over the ruling, and angry voters have already pressured several state legislatures into passing laws prohibiting these takings through eminent domain.

Eminent domain questions for Blackwell & Petro

I just e-mailed the gubernatorial campaigns of Ken Blackwell and Jim Petro and asked the following question:

Would [candiate name here] support Ohio legislation to permanently prohibit the use of eminent domain for economic development purposes (see Kelo v. New London)?

I realize that the Ohio legislature passed a temporary moratorium on this kind of government taking, which expires in December. I asked instead about a permanent ban.
I’ll let you know how the candidates reply, if at all. My guess is that at least one (and maybe both) will duck the issue and defer to the “Legislative Task Force to Study Eminent Domain and Its Use and Application in the State”, which will release its first report on April 1st.

Abu Ghraib investigation report

Jed Babbin over at National Review Online writes today that he has a copy of the February 26th Army investigation report on the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison. He’s calling for harsh, swift punishment for the perpetrators and their superiors, and I heartily agree.
An exerpt from Babbin’s article:

The investigating officer, Major General Antonio Taguba, found that, “… between October and December 2003, numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted on several detainees … by several members of the military police guard force.” As a result of the investigation, the commanding general of the prison, Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, has been suspended from duty. The report recommends that she be relieved of command for cause. Several suspects are named in the report, including one civilian translator who works for Titan Corporation. The Army Criminal Investigation Division is investigating further, and has already recommended courts martial against some of the perpetrators. Several have confessed, and others have asserted their Fifth Amendment rights. At this writing, six soldiers have been charged with crimes and will be court martialed.

Get a move on, guys. You’re already way late.

Karpinski is defending herself by passing the blame to others. She told the New York Times that, ” … she knew nothing about the abuse until weeks after it occurred and that she was “sickened” by the pictures. She said the prison cellblock where the abuse occurred was under the tight control of Army military intelligence officers who may have encouraged the abuse.”

Karpinski, you sniveling coward. You’re a general officer. You’re expected to have the competence and common sense required to make sure that if bad things happen in your command, somebody will tell you and thus allow you to stop those bad things. Do you really hope to convince us that you had no idea that your POWs were being mistreated, and it’s all because your troops think you’re either too mean or too stupid to be told about these abuses taking place right under your nose? I don’t buy it, babe.
But let’s say you’re incompetent and devoid of common sense; even an utter bonehead wearing stars on her collar knows to walk around the place at random times to put her own eyeballs on the situation … if for no other reason than craven fear for her own career.
At best you slacked off in a combat zone, and the situation has now bitten you in the butt. Pretend you’re an officer with a sense of honor. Take your lumps.
And don’t worry about your money; you’ll have book and TV deals thrown your way before the summer’s out. Based on the judgment you’ve shown so far, I have no doubt you’ll jump right aboard that gravy train.

Though Karpinski is clearly culpable, she shouldn’t shoulder all the blame. Others clearly should — and will — share it.
Taguba’s report recommends that Col. Tom Pappas, the military intelligence chief at Abu Graib, receive a General Officer’s Memorandum of Reprimand, and be investigated for possible criminal prosecution. Taguba’s report strongly recommends that Pappas, and his subordinate, Lt. Col. Steve Jordan, be subjected to disciplinary action. Two civilians working with them — Steven Stephanowicz and John Israel, both employees of the CACI firm — are also recommended for possible prosecution.

If convicted, Karpinski, Pappas, and Jordan should spend long terms in Fort Leavenworth after being stripped of their rank and dishonorably discharged.

UPDATE: Castle Argghhh has a copy of the Taguba report on the UCMJ Article 15-6 investigation of the 800th Military Police Brigade.

U.S. military police investigated for prisoner abuse in Iraq

Reports are surfacing of photos showing Iraqi prisoner abuse by US troops.
If this is true, then the guys who did it need to be punished severely, and the officers who should have prevented this should be tossed in jail, not just forced into retirement with a letter of reprimand. If General Karpinski’s culpable, nail her too. Don’t tell me that the guards never heard of the Geneva Conventions, or my BS-o-meter will peg out at 100%.
An investigation’s been brewing since January, but there had better not be a late and hasty whitewash on this one now that somebody finally lifted up the flat slimy rock it’s been hidden under. This is one retired officer who isn’t afraid to raise an unholy stink if the Army scapegoats the enlisted troops and gives the officers a slap on the wrist.
This little blurb from the UK Daily Mail (transcribed by Drudge) really frosted my giblets:

CBS executives received an appeal from the chairman of the military Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, two weeks ago to hold the story because of the dangers of a backlash against soldiers in Iraq from outraged insurgents.

If CBS is being up-front here, then shame on you, General Myers. If you failed to drop the hammer on the wrongdoers by mid-April in an explosive and obviously critical investigation that started in January, then it’s your fault if the enemy’s spine stiffens with the news of our inexcusable behavior.
How in God’s name is the Arab world going to believe our claims to occupy the moral high ground when our troops do inexcusable things like this, and the brass sits idly by?

UPDATE: The reports say the abuses happened in Abu Ghraib Prison, which Saddam used as one of his main torture facilities. Why is Abu Graib still standing, much less being used by American troops to hold Iraqis? Our using it now is about on a par with using Buchenwald as a prison for Germans after WWII (thank God we didn’t). I can almost hear the REMF brass talking it over after Baghdad fell: “Hmm, Abu Ghraib’s nice and convenient and ready to go … shame to let it go to waste.” This mess doesn’t pass the sniff test, folks.
UPDATE 2: The Taguba Report on the criminal investigation at Abu Ghraib is now available.
UPDATE 3: Islamists have beheaded American hostage Nick Berg, and claim it’s retaliation for Iraqi prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib. I’m not buying it.