It was a February night in Central Texas when the ice began to coat the ground. Ice was unusual at Fort Hood. In fact, over the next three years, I remember only one other night when the temperatures dipped below freezing.
Meanwhile, 2,000 miles away at Fort Irwin, California, 3,000 soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Division’s 3rd Brigade were ready to return from a month-long deployment. For the next several days, there was a flight scheduled about every twelve hours to get them there. However, because Killeen, Texas didn’t have any de-icing equipment, this flight had to be delayed.
Of course, soldiers were disappointed—as they had every right to be. Fort Irwin is home to the National Training Center, the U.S. Army’s preeminent maneuver training facility. It’s the only place in America where an entire brigade can operate over realistic distances on the post’s 1,000 square miles. But it’s hard work. Two weeks of long hours, little sleep, a harsh desert environment, and a well-trained mock enemy, sap soldiers of their strength. They were ready to go home.
The commanding general felt his soldiers’ fatigue and demanded that something be done to get his soldiers back to their families in Texas.
De-icing equipment in Dallas or San Antonio couldn’t be brought to Fort Hood, so the decision was made to fly into Dallas instead. But the problem then was how to get the soldiers and their gear the last 200 miles from Dallas to Killeen. At the cost of many thousands of dollars, buses were hired in the middle of the night. At the expense of the disruption of other soldiers’ lives, Army trucks and drivers were pushed into service. The soldiers finally returned home.
But something curious happened between the time the ice fell, and when the stranded soldiers arrived from California. Mr. Sunshine awoke from his nightly slumber, and quickly melted the ice on the tarmac. You see, it was still Central Texas. And while ice occasionally visits, it rarely stays around after the arrival of Mr. Sunshine.
Mid-grade officers had been predicting this eventuality all night long, even as they were pressed into service to arrange a midnight convoy. In fact, to punctuate the point, the stranded, diverted, and convoyed soldiers arrived after the next aircraft had already flown direct from Fort Irwin to Fort Hood, because by then, the ice had already melted.
So why do I tell you this long story? To demonstrate a point: sometimes frantic busyness is an illusion that is less effective than simply doing nothing.
That’s a hard lesson for military professionals to learn. From our youngest days we’re told, “Don’t just stand there; do something.”
Politicians also have trouble learning the lesson that nothing is sometimes better than something. Constituents call with concerns, and they answer them. It’s their job. But sometimes what they do, doesn’t solve the problem. Or, it even makes the problem worse.
Case in point is the Eminent Domain bill now before the Tennessee General Assembly. This is the Legislature’s response to citizen outcry over the Kelo Supreme Court decision handed down last year. What people found most outrageous about that decision was that it allowed a government to take private property and give it to another private owner simply because the new owner would pay more in taxes. In short, anyone could be forced to sell to a higher bidder. Urban home owners and farmers are most at risk of being assaulted by this abuse of government Eminent Domain power. And they’ve demanded that something be done.
However, the bill currently in the Tennessee House, while it’s called an Eminent Domain bill, does nothing to reign in government’s abuses of Eminent Domain. It leaves in place the status quo that allows a city, a county, or the state to take your land and give it to a wealthier landowner.
One amendment to the bill specifically makes such an abuse of power illegal (emphasis added):
[Public use] is limited to the possession, occupation, and enjoyment of the land by the general public or public agencies, use of the land for the creation of functioning of public utilities, or the acquisition of abandoned property. Public use shall not include the public benefits of economic development, including an increase in the tax base, tax revenues, employment or general economic health.
That amendment has been tabled by Jimmy Naifeh’s heavy-handed tactics. He will not allow it to come to a vote, even though the amendment to the bill (and other worthwhile amendments) enjoy support from a majority of legislators and a majority of the people. So Naifeh continues to “roll” the bill, giving him time to peel off supporters of amendments to the legislation.
“Why,” you ask? Because Eminent Domain gives politicians an enormous amount of power. They can take from anyone and give to the wealthy, who, in turn, give to politicians to keep them in office. They also collect more in taxes, which allows the politicians to give away even more pork, buying even more votes.
Jimmy Naifeh recognizes that something must be done about Eminent Domain. The people are demanding it. So he has crafted a piece of junk legislation that has the name “Eminent Domain” in the title, but does nothing to fix the problem. In fact, it’s worse than nothing, because it gives the illusion of doing something.
An ice storm once showed me that doing nothing is sometimes better than doing something. Don’t be fooled by Jimmy Naifeh’s snow job.