The Liberty and Power Lectures (a name inspired by this humble blog) will debut on Wednesday, September 8 at 7:30 in the Ferguson Theater at the University of Alabama. We are starting with a tsunami. Our first speaker is Jimmy Wales, master of Wikipedia, and his topic will be"Liberty, Power, and Wikipedia."
The series, focuses on the relationship between liberty and power in history. Future speakers include Robert Higgs, Scott Horton of Harper's, Steve Horwitz, and Jonathan Bean. For more details on the lectures, see here.
On Imagine you come home from work one day to a notice on your front door that you have 45 days to demolish your house, or the city will do it for you. Oh, and you’re paying for it.
This is happening right now in Montgomery, Ala., and here is how it works: The city decides it doesn’t like your property for one reason or another, so it declares it a “public nuisance.” It mails you a notice that you have 45 days to demolish your property, at your expense, or the city will do it for you (and, of course, bill you).
Your tab with the city will constitute a lien on your property, and if you don’t pay it within 30 days (or pay your installments on time; if you owe over $10,000, you can work out a deal to pay back the city for destroying your home over a period of time, with interest), the city can sell your now-vacant land to the highest bidder.
Alabama law empowers municipalities to do just this. Officials can demolish structures that they determine, “due to poor design, obsolescence, or neglect, have become unsafe to the extent of becoming public nuisances…and [are] causing or may cause a blight or blighting influence on the city and the neighborhoods in which [they are] located.” Keep in mind, so-called standards like “obsolescence” are so vague they can mean anything, so even a well-maintained home that government officials don’t like the look of can be fed to the bulldozers.
While this may sound like eminent domain for private gain, it’s not. This is a completely different section of Alabama’s code that the city of Montgomery is now abusing habitually to tear down homes it does not like in a predominantly African American community — once home to Rosa Parks.
Jim Peera, who fought the city for years to keep a property he was rehabilitating himself — the kind of entrepreneurial private redevelopment that should be encouraged, especially in this economy — obtained copies of demolition records that indicate hundreds of homes and properties have been demolished over the past five years in Montgomery. Some may have posed an immediate threat to public health and safety — but that was certainly not the case with all of them.
“The debate should have provided the conservative defenders of property rights with a perfect example of how the right to own property also protects the 1st Amendment rights of assembly and religion by supporting the building of the mosque.
“Instead, we hear lip service given to the property rights position while demanding that the need to be “sensitive” requires an all-out assault on the building of a mosque, several blocks from “ground zero.”
In my capacity as chair of the Alabama State Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights I am featured today in two Fox stories (print and television). Our committee has been investigating eminent domain as a civil rights issue.
The stories describe how"eminent domain through the back door" has become commonplace in Montgomery, the cradle of the modern civil rights movement. Under this system, Montgomery has demolished homes without the normal due process of conventional eminent domainand often gives little notice. The city alleges that these homes are"blighted" but, as the story on Jimmy McCall shows, at least some are in excellent repair.
Typically, under eminent domain through the back door, the city of Montgomery bills the owner for the cost of demolition and he or she is left with an essentially worthless property. The victims are often low-income blacks, many of whom live near or in Rosa Parks old neighborhood. According to the print version of the story,
Karen Jones testified before a hearing held by Beito's advisory panel, charging that the city demolished her grandparents’ property without proper notice.
“When we got here, like I said, half the house -- the back half of the house was demolished,” Jones said. “I said let me see your paperwork, I need to know what are you doing here, because the taxes are paid on this land, you’re trespassing. And they told me that I couldn't be on the land while they are demolishing the house.”
Jimmy McCall and his attorney Norman Hurst were among more than 100 witnesses and property owners who testified before the same hearing. McCall says he was building a 5000 sq. ft. home out of salvaged and recycled wood. His property sits along a busy thoroughfare. McCall says many have asked him to sell his land but he is always refused.
“It was my dream house and the day they tore it down my wife cried and my little girl cried.” McCall explained.
McCall says he took the city to court to prevent demolition and won in both state and federal courts. McCall also got an injunction forcing the city off his property. Using the blight ordinance, McCall's property was eventually demolished and he was sent the bill.
“I never thought a municipality or any other government agents would go against a court order,” McCall said. ”I never thought they were that bold and arrogant and that they, you know, could just say away with you -- we're gonna do what we want to do and they did it. You know they actually came out and did it.”
Warning of an imminent"Islamic takeover of a paralyzed United States," Peikoff proclaimed that permission to build "should be refused, and if they go ahead and build it, the government should bomb it out of existence, evacuating it first, with no compensation to any of the property owners involved in this monstrosity."
The Florida ACLU is suing a local sheriff to get a citizen's gun returned.
Florida ACLU attorney Barry Butin observes matter-of-factly:"Under the Second Amendment, he has a right to have his guns in his house. He's not a convicted felon. It is unusual for the ACLU. But the ACLU supports all constitutional rights. We don't pick and choose."....
Hat Tip: Brian Doherty at Reason's Hit and Run.
A new book has rocketed to the the top of my already too-long reading list: Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea. It is already winning praise from across the political spectrum ranging from Richard Epstein, the distinguished professor of law at the University of Chicago to Thom Hartmann, an Air America Radio Network host.
The author C. Bradley Thompson, the Executive Director of the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism, has come forward not only to be the academic grave digger of the movement but expose its history beginning with neoconservativism's godfather, Leo Strauss. As someone who once often moved in Straussian circles, he can write with rare authority. I only hope that his"obituary" is not premature.
As one of several prominent examples, it quotes Phillip Dennis, Texas state coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots, who states:"I do think it's a state's right. I believe that if the people in Massachusetts want gay people to get married, then they should allow it, just as people in Utah do not support abortion. They should have the right to vote against that."
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Well if he's such a student of history, has he not understood that, you know, that's the one thing you don't do is engage in a land war in Afghanistan. Alright? Because everyone who has tried over a thousand years of history has failed. And there are reasons for that. There are other ways to engage in Afghanistan without committing more troops.
While she makes some valuable points about the role played by military contractors and waste in driving up costs, she could have said much about the giant elephant in the room: our world empire.
"In some respects this is worse than Bush,"worse than Bush....First, because Obama has claimed the right to assassinate American citizens whom he suspects of 'terrorism,' merely on the grounds of his own suspicion or that of the CIA, something Bush never claimed publicly."