when nothing is better than something

Byline: | Category: Uncategorized | Posted at: Wednesday, 26 April 2006

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.

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11 Responses to “when nothing is better than something”

  1. Joseph A Nagy Jr Says:

    I wrote a piece in Ameliorations speaking of E.D. I maintain that only the Federal Government actually has this power and that State, County and City use of it is completely illegal and unConstitutional. Its sad that so many judges, though, refuse to hear 5th Amendment arguments over E.D. cases.

  2. Lee Says:

    Did you try looking at the 10th amendment?

    And Bob, I really hope you get elected. Even if I’m outta state.

  3. Joseph A Nagy Jr Says:

    I have, have you?

    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

    The powers not delegated to the US by the Constitution – the 5th Amendment ED power is a power delegated to the US by the Constitution – nor prohibited by it to the States – E.D. is not prohibited by the Constitution therefore it falls to the Federal Gov’t – are reserved to the States respectively – no power in the 5th Amendment is specifically prohibited from the US GOv’t from exercising – or to the people.

    Care to tangle again, mon ami?

  4. Lee Says:

    OK, the 5th amendment says “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

    You say that this listing means that the states and local governments are therefore prohibited from engaging in Eminent Domain.

    The 5th amendment also says in the clause right before it that “nor shall [a person] be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”

    If we were to apply the Constitutional reckoning that you use on the ED clause to the due process clause, that would mean the states are therefore prohibited from depriving someone of “life, liberty, or property” meaning that states could not execute, could not incarcerate, nor could they fine.

    So why would one power (Eminent Domain) be reserved only to the Federal Govt but the other power (imprisonment, fining, execution) listed in the adjacent clause and contained in the same amendment not also be solely reserved?

    Do you want to deny state governments the right to imprison, fine or execute.

  5. Joseph A Nagy Jr Says:

    Article III, Section 2.

    Section 2. The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority;–to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls;–to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction;–to controversies to which the United States shall be a party;–to controversies between two or more states;–between a state and citizens of another state;–between citizens of different states;–between citizens of the same state claiming lands under grants of different states, and between a state, or the citizens thereof, and foreign states, citizens or subjects.

    In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make.

    The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury; and such trial shall be held in the state where the said crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any state, the trial shall be at such place or places as the Congress may by law have directed.

    Emphasis mine.

  6. Joseph A Nagy Jr Says:

    Also, since the Constitution doesn’t consider municipalities (towns, cities, villages, etc.) and their governments, such entities exist at the whim of the state they reside within.

  7. Lee Says:

    I think my point still stands concerning ED.

  8. Joseph A Nagy Jr Says:

    I don’t think so. Due process being a responsibility of both state and federal gov’t is taken care of in Article III, Section 2. ED is only covered in the 5th Amendment and only with regards to the Federal Gov’t. Therefore a states use of E.D. is unConstitutional and illegal, not to mention the use of it by a muncipality (county gov’t or lower) whose very existance is only given by the state itself.

  9. Lee Says:

    If the founders had intended the states to not have ED, they would have listed it in Article I, Section 10.

    It states:

    Section 10. No state shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal; coin money; emit bills of credit; make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts; pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law….

    The rest of the list is here

    As Scalia loves to say, the Constitution clearly says some things, and clearly does not say other things.

    And the section of the Constitution that lists those powers denied to the states clearly does not say anything about eminent domain. And the granting of eminent domain to the Fed Govt in the 5th Amendment does not ungrant that power to the states.

    PS: My last post on this thing, cause I think I proved my point.

  10. Joseph A Nagy Jr Says:

    Because those powers are not addressed anywhere else is why they are addressed in Article I, Section 10.

    Scalia is a freaking idiot. He’s one of the justices (heh, the irony) who voted for the city of New London in Kelo!! You’re going to take his word on what the Constitution says? Please spare me the idiocy. The granting of any right to the Federal government, specifically because of Amendment 10, ungrants that power to the states. Plain and simple.

    I think I’ve proven mine, as well. I imagine it will be up to scholars wiser then us to decide this issue, unfortunately I don’t think we have any wiser then you and I. If there were, we’d have cited them by now, I believe.

  11. Lee Says:

    No, Scalia joined Justice O’Connor’s dissent along with Roberts and Thomas.

    I think you know just about as much concerning the Constitution as you do about Scalia’s position on Kelo.