Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, June 25, 2005
Can State Laws Prevent Eminent Domain Abuse?
Some bloggers think that restrictive state statutes might prevent eminent domain abuse. Like Owen at Boots and Sabers:
    As this ruling states, "for more than a century," the high court has favored "affording legislatures broad latitude in determining what public needs justify the use of the takings power."
That a nice hope. I'll dash it with two words: interstate commerce.

Because believe you me that the first time the City of Podunk wants to hand a nationwide company a set of tract homes and small businesses so it can build a plant or office complex but cannot because the state has restricted it, some cabal of coporate lawyers are gonna shriek that the state's laws restrict interstate commerce.

Dustbury also wrestles with this. I hope I've helped settle the question, although it's not the answer any citizen of this country should enjoy.

Fightin' Words
Spoons sez:
    DC fans are conservative, Marvel fans are liberal. Discuss.
I won't rejoin that, although I encourage you to do so, gentle reader, with all the righteous anger my fellow Marvelites can muster.

I will admit something interesting: I am a Marvelite, and my beautiful wife is a DC chick.

I don't know how our marriage works, but it does. And lest you wonder, my collection is larger than hers.

Friday, June 24, 2005
Book Report: The Last Dance by Ed McBain (2000)
You know, I found this book in the second rank of books on my to-read shelves, so I'm not sure where I got it. Did I inherit it from my aunt? Did I buy it at the 80% off store last autumn? I cannot remember. All I know is that I was disappointed that an Ed McBain book made it to the back of my bookshelves without getting read. So I rectified the error.

This book represents the 50th 87th Precinct novel. Ponder that, if you will, and revere it. Ed McBain has produced fifty of these novels over the course of the last half century or so; considering that this one is five years old and that they're coming fewer than one a year now, it's worth our awe. Like Perry Mason novels, these books hold up well enough for people of a certain age, who remember a life without the Internet. We remember the typewriter and can accept books with reproductions of typewritten reports within them to lend authenticity. Damn kids wouldn't understand.

This book gets away from that and actually mentions the Internet and mentions Steve Carella's age. He's just turned 40, which means I've almost caught up with him. If Ed McBain lives another decade, I'll call Steve Carella a damn kid, and he was 35 when I was 15. Talk about unfair.

The book deals with a number of murders surrounding a revival of a 1920s musical and features a nuanced and ultimately dual-tragic plot. If you stop to think about what the primary (first) murder means, you'll understand. But the boys from the 87th and Fat Ollie Weeks (of the 88th) get their workouts covering the City looking for clues in the brutal winter (that offers relief, even if the characters don't know it, from the brutal summer).

Of course, if you don't know the characters, perhaps the book proves a little hard to follow. Over the last three decades especially, we've come to know Carella, Meyer, Hawes, Brown, Parker, Byrnes, Kling, and Generro (wait, he's not here; don't tell me if I missed the book where he got it). But this series is proving more resilient than a number of television series, for crying out loud, and proves to be an old friend to which one can turn again and again (since books take longer than an hour minus commercials on television or DVD).

Okay, enough late night blathering. I liked the book, not only because it's a good enough book in the genre replete with McBain's poetic touches but also because it's a link to my youth, when I read adult books in my middle school and high school years.

Yet Another Celebrity Murder
The Scientology is strong with this one.

In Case You Have a Life and Want To Be Rid Of It
Begin your self-destruction: the Civilization IV site is up.

Symbols for Republicans Continue to Shamble
From a review of Land of the Dead:
    Then again, maybe you're one of those people who are incapable of running. In director George Romero's parallel universe, "walkers" are the living dead, the zombies who are slowly invading Pittsburgh. They've been doing it since 1968, biting and converting one victim at a time. As the zombies have become increasingly resourceful in tracking human prey, they've also been increasingly potent symbols of the conformity and consumerism that Romero sees as sucking the life out of America.

    The fourth installment in the series (not counting the recent remake of "Dawn of the Dead") is his most unmistakably symbolic movie yet, a savage indictment of the bunker mentality that has zombified the United States in the age of terror.
In the Nixon years, it was conformity and consumerism. In the George W. Bush years, it's the bunker mentality. Undoubtedly, for most of the Clinton years, they represented the restrictive legislators and their government protection limitation. One wonders what the zombies represented between 1992 and 1994. Probably the undead menace of "Republican Democracy" that could erupt at any time and did.

UPDATE: In a later review by the same "critic," War of the Worlds becomes a symbol of Republicans run amok, too.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Agrees with Kelo
PROPERTY RIGHTS: Tear down the castle:
    Conservatives have been trying for years to breathe more life into the constitutional protection of property rights. Many saw the sympathetic cause of the New London homeowners as a foot in the door. But their view could have handcuffed economic development.

    The court's decision may fuel the trend for big box stores to displace little businesses and homes, as in Sunset Hills. But it also will help cities improve their economic health or aesthetics. In essence, the decision is a bow to modernity. There aren't castles anymore.
Bowing to modernity. Apt. All should bow to our new overlords, for whom the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has always been the voice, supporting eminent domain to build ballparks for private companies and to revitalize downtown St. Louis.

There aren't any castles any more for the common man, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch undoubtedly looks forward to the days when the serfs learn their places as bound to the land of their lords.

Thursday, June 23, 2005
Related Query III
So can local governments now take intellectual property rights and give them to others? Because think of how much more profitable a movie theater would be if it didn't have to pay the studios 90% of the ticket price....and how much more tax money for public use the local government would get....

And all that expensive software they need to run? Eminent domain! It's all free!

Related Query II
Does the Supreme Court's Kelo decision mean that my municipal government can determine that food products I have already ingested could better serve the public as fertilizer in the flower bed in the median of the Maryland Heights Expressway and compel me to report, finger in throat, to expel the contents of my stomach for public use?

If so, I hope the soil is very basic as I drink a lot of coffee and don't want to burn the petunias.

Poll Reveals Again The Public Composed of Idiots
Poll: Most want Congress to make sure Internet safe:
    Most Americans believe the government should do more to make the Internet safe, but they don't trust the federal institutions that are largely responsible for creating and enforcing laws online, according to a new industry survey.
From the paragons of efficiency that brought you the Transportation Security Administration.

Don't Worry; The DEA Will Put It To Public Use
A woman at an airport falls prey to larcenous predators: The DEA:
    A Quincy woman carrying $46,950 in cash through Logan International Airport claims she was on the way to see a Texas plastic surgeon when federal drug agents seized the money she planned to use for a procedure on her buttocks and breasts.

    "The agent looked at my buttocks and told me that I do not need an operation," Ileana Valdez, 26, told a federal court yesterday in an affidavit contending she got the cash from selling her Dorchester business and two homes.
As some of you know, if law enforcement thinks you have too much cash on you, they can just take it and hold onto it for you until such time as you successfully sue to get it back.

    DEA Special Agent Anthony Pettigrew said, "This is her version of events on that day. When there's a hearing, DEA will present its version of what happened on that day."
How nice; the DEA doesn't plan to present evidence of wrongdoing. The DEA will present its version of what happened.

Related Query
Can my local government seize my other private possessions now and turn them over to retailers to sell again? Because the city of Maryland Heights could undoubtedly put the sales tax paid by someone else on the things I formerly owned to good, public use.

UPDATE: I'll take Illinois in the pool for the first government to try it.

The End of Private Property
Supreme Court rules: All Your Base Are Belong To Us.

    Local officials, not federal judges, know best in deciding whether a development project will benefit the community, justices said.

    "The city has carefully formulated an economic development that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including -- but by no means limited to -- new jobs and increased tax revenue," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority.
UPDATE: Michelle Malkin rounds up.

Alternate Title: Supreme Court Acts to Solve Housing Bubble Problem

If Only It Were a Safety Issue
Longer Yellow Lights Reduce Accidents.

But longer yellow lights don't balance municipal budgets, so don't expect the cameras to go away.

Last Words, Not Famous
The transcripts and recordings of the last words during airline crashes.

(Link seen on Boots and Sabers.)

Ask The Libertarian a Simple Question
Should cities be ISPs?


Somehow, they get a whole story out of it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Book Report: Appaloosa by Robert B. Parker (2005)
As you know, I buy every Robert B. Parker book immediately, although in the recent years and with the recent novels, "immediately" has come to mean the week of release, sometimes the month of release instead of the day. So I got this book within a week of its hitting the shelves and the Amazon shipping room.

Like Phil Connors at the end of Groundhog Day, I have to admit to my perfect woman that something's different, and anything different is good. The protagonist is not the biggest, baddest gun in town who happens to be co-dependent to a slut and a Korean War veteran. Instead, the first person narrator is the sidekick, and damned if that ain't enough difference.

Virgil Cole, the toughest marshal-for-hire in the business, and his sidekick Everett "I" Cole come to Appaloosa at the behest of the local aldermen to handle the local band of rowdies who killed the last marshal. As they move into town and onto the badmen, a new woman shows up in town and draws the codependency of the formerly impervious Cole even though she's a flighty Jewess woman. The tandem of Cole and "I" capture the leader of the murderous band and see him through to a conviction, but his lackeys hire the other baddest guns in the west to concoct an escape with the woman as a hostage and....

Well, I won't get into detail since my beautiful wife has yet to read the book. However, the book really breaks out of the doldrums into which the Parker books have fallen, amongst the Jesse Stone, Sunny Randall, and Spenser novels. This book represents what Potshot and Gunman's Rhapsody could have been. It's The Searchers, Sherlock Holmes, and slightly the Spenser novels intermingled in a way that freshens the Parkerverse. It lacks a number of cookie-cut features of the Parkerverse, such as the Korean War service and the tough good gay guy; not that there's anything wrong with those, but they're too much a part of Parkers' other works to really add to those other works. I admit that sometime in the midst of the novel, I didn't know where it was going, and I was interested in being surprised. And felt the book was capable of it.

My only complaint with the book is that it ends rather abruptly. The last sixth of the book runs very quickly and the ending, although satisfying, provides the satisfaction of a Chinese meal. Sure, it's good, but I am going to be hungry later.

Perhaps that's the intention, as the further adventures remain available for Parker to write.

Also, gentle reader, note that this is the 50th book I have read and reported for you this year. I fully expect my store-bought-and-amateur-calligraphed-certificate and coupon for a free Dairy Queen Sundae from each of you. Considering my annual goal is 70 books this year, perhaps I could afford at this time to try Sartre's Being and Nothingness, Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, or Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury again. Fortunately, though, for both of us, my aunt left me more pressing suspense and horror novels.

I'm Not a Fan of French Wine, But....
I certainly don't embrace invoking the Bioterrorism Act:
    Washington is demanding a new wine accord by July 15 to replace one which expired in 2003 and which would enshrine American wine-making practices banned in Europe.

    These include adding oak wood chips to barrels of wine to hasten the ageing process, adding water to must (the grape juice before fermentation is complete), and the use of ion extractors to reduce acidity.

    Representatives of struggling French wine producers appealed at the international Vinexpo wine fair in southwestern Bordeaux this week to Agriculture Minister Dominique Bussereau and External Trade Minister Christine Lagarde to protect their interests in the negotiations.

    European Union officials, pushed by traditionalists, are so far refusing to extend a current dispensation allowing the American practices, but US officials say that if no agreement is reached they will tighten application of the Bioterrorism Act.

    This law, introduced after the September 11 2001 attacks in the United States, covers imports of all food and drink.
That's a creative application of legislation. Which means it's poor legislation.

Pass a good law, prevent or punish a specific act. Pass the normal legislation, and the creative applications never stop.

(Submitted to the Outside the Beltway Traffic Jam.)

Interesting word choice, Mr. Blankley:
    Although this is a heavily researched book that includes amongst its sources almost a hundred people who are or were personally close to Mrs. Clinton, this is not a peek through a keyhole. Instead, it is a peek -- and more than a peek -- into the mind of Hillary. And, whether you like or hate Hillary, the inside of her mind is a fascinating place in which to rove about.
Now I know I will look for Hillary to be bushed from how politics have gored her.

(Link seen on Power Line.)

Unintentional Irony Alert
Found in a column by John Stossel:
    "No matter how hard women work, or whatever they achieve in terms of advancement in their own professions and degrees, they will not be compensated equitably!" shouted Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., at a "wage equity" rally in Washington, D.C.
Undoubtedly, the distinguished gentleperson is upset she makes $118,575 and her male colleagues make $158,100.

(Link seen on Outside the Beltway.)

Creve Coeur Handles Its Budget Surplus
What do you do if you're a local government with a surplus? Turn it into a deficit! But Creve Coeur, Missouri, is rather blatant about it:
    The Creve Coeur City Council is considering the proposed budget that begins July 1 and ends June 30, 2006.

    The council is expected to vote on the proposed budget at its June 27 meeting.

    The proposed budget for all funds shows revenues at $16.8 million and expenditures at $16 million. The apparent $800,000 surplus actually will be routed to long-term personnel funds, leaving the city with a $300,000 deficit in the general fund.
Uh oh! Deficit! You know what that means! Time to raise taxes:
    The proposed budget includes a modest raise in what residents pay the city through their personal property taxes. Perkins said residents currently pay 7 cents per $100 assessed valuation. He said the city has not determined the amount of the increase but expects it will be between 8 and 9 cents.

    Perkins said although an exact amount has not been determined because information from the county assessor's office has not arrived, the city is looking at personal property tax numbers that would translate to about $13 a year more for a home valued at $350,000. The money would generate about $140,000 more for the city.

    Other taxes in the city have gone up in recent years. The city's utility tax, after decades of being at less than 5 percent, increased to 6 percent last year and will rise to 7 percent July 1.

    Some businesses in the Olive Boulevard Transportation Development District increased their sales tax by one-half percent. The money will be used to pay for roadway and other improvements in the district. The city will not receive money from that increase.

    Perkins said the city has begun looking into whether it should consider increasing its tax on business licenses. He said the matter will be reviewed by the city's economic development and finance committees, but the issue is not part of the proposed budget for 2006.
  • Personal property taxes--that is, cars and things that apartment dwellers pay, too

  • Sales taxes

  • Business license costs

Creve Coeur is on its way to becoming the perfect municipal government. An efficient tax raising and expending machine.

Perfect Fusion
The Carnival of Vanities. This week with cat pictures.

Blog nirvana.

Interesting Theory
Why are poll numbers for the Iraq war slipping? According to Harold Meyerson in the Washington Post, the obvious answer is:

Not enough hippies:
    In the absence of an antiwar movement, the American people have turned against the war in Iraq. Those two facts, I suspect, are connected.
He also goes on to use the term "U.N. aegis" without sarcasm, which indicates that the word does not mean what he thinks it means.

The aegis was Zeus's shield, and as the residents of Rwanda and Srebrenica could attest (if they weren't dead) that the U.N. cannot defend anyone but its leaders. The aegis was not Zeus's proclivity to come down from on high and copulate with underage natives, which is a trait UN peacekeepers do share with the lord of the thunderbolt.

(Submitted to the Outside the Beltway Traffic Jam.)

Everyone Loves Government Bailouts
American Airlines management, unions stand together on pensions:
    Keep those pension checks coming.

    That will be the battle cry today of some 300 American Airlines employees, who plan to flood the halls of Congress and lobby for pension reform. Airline management and key unions say they are united in preserving employee pensions, a benefit that's been waylaid at other passenger carriers that have succumbed to bankruptcy.
I bet they can all agree that the lush government teat can do everything: Keep those checks coming to employees, and remove obligations from the company and its management.

Remind me to offer a pension plan that I cannot afford to anyone I hire; after all, if I get big enough and bankrupt enough, I won't have to follow through on my contractual obligations, either.

Banned in Illinois
A story about a biofeedback video game as part of therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder:
    Once a week, Pfc. Joshua Frey, a Marine who spent several months in Fallujah before he was shot Dec. 12, heads to a darkened office in the Naval Medical Center here and places a headset over his eyes.

    He attaches biofeedback sensors to his arms, hands and chest, grabs hold of a joystick and enters a video game version of the Iraq war. As he moves through a "virtual" Fallujah, he encounters sniper fire, explosions and insurgents lurking in shadows. A Navy psychologist checks readouts from a flat-screen monitor showing the Marine's heart rate, breathing, hand perspiration and skin temperature.

    But for Frey and the U.S. military, this is no game. It is part of a potentially groundbreaking approach to treating the effects of severe combat stress, in Iraq and elsewhere.
A game with explosions and gun fire that's designed to make people saner? Surely, Illinois Governor "Bod" Blagojevich's head must be spinning, pending a catastrophic failure akin to supercomputers whose logic circuits Captain Kirk fried routinely through paradox.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Unbalanced Powers
So in St. Charles County, Missouri, we have this bit of foolishness:
    St. Charles County Executive Joe Ortwerth says he will veto legislation that would allow voters to decide whether the County Council should have the power to stop his office from filing lawsuits against other political entities.
This is the equivalent of the President of the United States vetoing a constitutional amendment.

What's the reason? Oh, of course:
    "The council's action is designed to breach the separation of powers," Ortwerth said. "I am going to defend the prerogative of the executive branch."
He's going to defend the prerogative of the executive branch from the will of the people. From whence its prerogative stems. Or from whence we used to delude ourselves government power comes; I guess current government "leaders" are stripping those scales from our eyes. Government power stems from government.

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Turns To Its Classifieds As News Source
Sure, some periodicals put headlines on press releases and run them as news. But the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel goes further and innovatively turns to its classified ads as a news source:
    From a pale pink velvet fringed chaise to wrought iron patio furniture, the earthly belongings of Milwaukee restaurateur Sally Papia and her daughter will be sold piece-by-piece this week in an estate sale described in a classified advertisement as of one of the area's finest in 33 years.
I wonder how much that cost, but I am cynical.

Howard Dean Ducks the Question
Not a refutation: Dick Cheney says:
    "I've never been able to understand his appeal. Maybe his mother loved him, but I've never met anybody who does. He's never won anything, as best I can tell," Cheney said in an interview on Fox News Channel's "Hannity & Colmes."
Howard Dean responds:
    Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean, responding to criticism from the vice president, said he doesn't "care if Dick Cheney likes my mother or not."
Um, the only aspersion Dick Cheney cast against Mrs. Dean was that she might have loved Howard Dean. That's hardly an insult against Mrs. Dean, no matter how the press or Howard Dean want to portray it.

San Francisco Wants to Sterilize Undesireables
The Summer of the Pit Bull continues in San Francisco:
    San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom endorsed a series of measures Monday he hopes will reduce the likelihood of attacks by aggressive and dangerous dogs in the city, including spaying and neutering regulations, a ban on backyard breeding, and imposing fines on irresponsible canine owners.

    The city can enact some new policies right away; others that regulate specific breeds, however, would require a change in state law first.

    The primary target of the city's crackdown will be pit bulls and pit bull mixes, which are responsible for at least half the vicious dog cases handled by city authorities. City officials don't want to ban pit bulls but are seeking to regulate them.

Book Report: The Enforcer by Wesley Morgan (1976)
Yes, this book is the novelization of the Dirty Harry movie of the same name. I know, you're thinking that I am not a very serious reader of true literature and that I should have my English degree revoked for bothering with a mid 1970s movie tie in (as opposed to the high art represented by Harry Potter books in the twenty-first century). But I read a lot of things, and besides, this only cost me 95 cents at Downtown Books in Milwaukee, so I got it, and that's the last we'll hear of it.

So I read the book having watched the movie first, which follows the pattern of creation for the book. Unlike regular movies, where you watch them to see how they differ from the book from which the movie sprung (whoops, I need a helping verb there; I mean done sprung), these novelizations use the movie itself as source material, so the writers of these books either give or take away things from the movie rather than the screenwriters doing the opposite. In a lot of my youth, I've read novelizations before seeing the movie, so my comparative experience always favored the book anyway. This time, though, it's different.

I've seen the series of movies and it's through their prisms that I look at the book and say: eh, it wasn't bad, but it certainly tried to soften up Harry. I will have to review the movie again, but I don't remember Harry crying at any point, nor did I detect the facial expressions on Harry that the author puts there. Still, perhaps he had one of those new Videocassette Recorder things and was pausing while he typed the manuscript on his Smith-Corona, but most likely he was trying to add something to attract a wider audience, the subtly different audience who did not follow Dirty Harry in the movies nor Clint Eastwood and who wanted more characterization. Well, that's a laudable goal. He didn't really succeed.

Aside from the inner sentimentalism added to Harry, the additional characterization-through-a-paragraph-of-exposition trick doesn't work. All minor characters get one or two paragraphs of explanation for their behavior, but that's it. The author's limitations included fidelity to the filmed scenes, and this author doesn't seem to stray far-or any--from the scenes filmed. And he adds that paragraph to give depth to the characters. Ultimately, it doesn't bring additional meaning to the source material. Perhaps he could have added scenes that did not run counter to the story or he could have added more interior dialogue to each character than the single paragraph, but hell, man, he was probably just banging it out for a paragraph.

I guess we can't all be Tom Stoppard, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead isn't exactly a direct novelization of Hamlet, but its techniques could serve those trying to write novelizations on movies. But that might double the actual writing time from four hours to eight or ten, which eats into the profit.

So would I recommend it? Sure, if you're a collector, a voracious reader, or someone like me who dabbles in these things for the curiousities that lie outside of the actual text.

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Math
Headline: Senate again refuses to confirm Bolton. According to the crack mathematical theorists at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the 38 Senators who voted against cloiture--the end of the debate, and not actually for or against Bolton's appointment--is enough to cast the action as though the entire Senate had refused to confirm Bolton.

To express this algebraically:


Compare and contrast this to any action of conservative legislators or leaders, whose mere majority election or decision does not give a mandate for conservatives to speak for all members of a given group.

Update: Apparently, the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune has the same mathematicians: Bolton nomination again blocked by Senate

Monday, June 20, 2005
San Francisco Chronicle Misleads
Headline, San Francisco Chronicle: Dems Vote Down Bolton:

SFGate Headline

Well, except the Democrats just voted to keep Bolton for coming to a vote because the Republicans would have confirmed him.

But that's just nuance.

(Submitted to the Outside the Beltway Traffic Jam.)

A Pair of Solitaire
I'm glad I am neither a politician nor a celebrity flogging a product. Regardless of what you think of this blog's quality, gentle reader, it vapidousity falls below the common watermark of truly inspired.

For example, Jane Seymour on filming her first topless scene at 54:
    "But I wanted to appeal to this generation. The script was the funniest thing I'd ever read. I thought the topless scene in particular was the funniest moment in the whole movie. Despite my anxiety I recognised this to be a great role."
Inadvertent condescension to this generation and a skewed sense of humor that finds Owen Wilson tearing the shirt and bra off of Jane Seymour the funniest moment in a movie in which Owen Wilson appears?


UPDATE: Double ew.

Fun With Statistics
From the story "Supporters of increasing tax on cigarettes quietly push on", we get this insightful statistical analysis from the Associated Press:
    The "why" goes something like this: Missouri has the third-highest smoking rate in the nation, spends the third-lowest amount on anti-tobacco efforts and charges the third-lowest cigarette tax.

    The correlation is no coincidence.
No wonder polisybodies like statistics. Unlike real science, statistics are just like language--they can say whatever you want, and you can deconstruct the meaning of the numbers-as-text to imbue them with whatever liberation (of citizens' money-as-tax) theory you espouse.

With a Title Like This
what can one do but weep?

The sad, slow fall of Atari

On the other hand, their stock is cheap, and I should Peter Lynch some of their stock (buy what you know and like). After all, it worked with my investment in Victoria's Secret....

Sunday, June 19, 2005
Working Theory
Apparently, our home is the air conditioning unit for the entire St. Louis area.

Whenever we turn the air conditioner on, the daily high temperatures drop. When the high temperatures drop, we turn off the air conditioner and open the which point the daily high temperatures rise.....

To say Noggle, one first must be able to say the "Nah."