Sunday, June 26, 2005

Now They Can Seize Your Property

from Counterpunch, June 26, 05


So much for the right to die in your own home, smoking a joint to take your mind off the pain. Thanks to the liberals on the U.S. Supreme Court, the feds can haul you to prison from from your death bed for smoking medical marijuana and any local authority RAZE YOUR HOUSE AND GIVE THE LAND TO WAL-MART for a parking lot.

On June 6, by a vote of 6-3, the Court ruled that Federal authorities may prosecute sick people who smoke pot on doctors' orders. The court’s apex liberal, Stevens, wrote the majority decision. The conservative Sandra Day O’Connor wrote the dissent, saying that the court was overreaching to endorse "making it a federal crime to grow small amounts of marijuana in one's own home for one's own medicinal use”.

Ranged with Stevens in the majority were Ginsburg and Breyer, along with Kennedy (regarded as more conservative than this first trio), plus the supposed libertarian, Souter and Scalia, the most conceited judge in America. Of course Scalia had to file his own opinion proffering a "more nuanced" analysis, to the general effect that Congress had the right to pass “necessary and proper laws”.

Then, on June 23, the Court’s liberals, plus Souter and Kennedy decreed that between private property rights on the one side, and big-time developers with the city council in their pockets on the other, the latter wins every time.

The issue was one of eminent domain. Stevens wrote the majority opinion, declaring blandly that promoting economic development [translation, a Walmart in every neighborhood] is a traditional and long-accepted function of government," and that if the underpinning of a public authority wielding the bludgeon of eminent domain is “public purpose”, then "Clearly, there is no basis for exempting economic development from our traditionally broad understanding of public purpose."

“Traditionally broad” just about sums it up. In the case of General Motors, as George Corsetti recalled on this site a while ago the “public purpose” invoked by GM’s gofer, Mayor Coleman Young of Detroit, was to destroy a Polish community to turn the land over to GM for a new plant.

Stevens said that state legislatures and courts were best at "discerning local public needs". *(After you’re done with this Diary, you can find Corsetti’s comments on the decision, here on our site this weekend.) And, once again, O’Connor wrote the dissent, a fine one, in which she stated that "The government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more” and “Who among us can say she already makes the most productive or attractive use of her property?"

O’Connor added: "The specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory."

Thomas also wrote an excellent dissent which I’m sure had Jane Jacobs nodding approval. He called the decision "far-reaching and dangerous," and noting correctly that those displaced by urban renewal and "slum clearance" over the years have tended to be lower-income members of minority groups. "The court has erased the Public Use Clause from our Constitution".

Liberals love eminent domain, as much as conservatives love the death penalty, and like many liberal passions it destroys far more lives than the gas chamber or the lethal needle.

The case on which the Court ruled was known as Kelo v. City of New London. In the decorous prose of Linda Greenhouse in the New York Times, it concerned “a large-scale plan to replace a faded residential neighborhood with office space for research and development, a conference hotel, new residences and a pedestrian "riverwalk" along the Thames River. The project, to be leased and built by private developers, is designed to derive maximum benefit for the city from a $350 million research center built nearby by Pfizer Inc., the big pharmaceutical company.”

I assume every CounterPuncher can figure out what this really means. God help all “faded residential neighborhoods”. Well, if the poor folks work really hard maybe they’ll be able to go live in the Grand Hyatt or Towne Plaza raised on the rubble of their homes.
That GM plant in Detroit? The city said it would clear 465 acres of land in the center of Detroit, 1,500 homes, 144 businesses, 16 churches, a school and a hospital. Some 3,500 were forced out--and turn it over to GM which would build a new Cadillac factory that would employ 6,500 workers.

As Corsetti wrote,

“Ultimately, all 465 acres of Poletown was cleared and GM built the plant. The auto plant opening was delayed a year and employed less than half the promised 6,500 workers. By one account more jobs were lost from the destruction of Poletown than were created by the factory. The city also believed that the new plant would attract other, feeder plants, nearby. They never materialized, and with tax abatements and other incentives, it was a fiscal disaster for the city.”


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