Thursday, February 28, 2008

Let The Kids Play

It would be wrong to say that this is anti-semitism. Wrong. Absolutely. Right?

Except that in Colorado, the governing body which oversees the high school basketball championships, the Colorado High School Activities Association, has been unwilling to allow a schedule change in the playoffs. The schedule change was requested by the Herzl/Rocky Mountain Hebrew Academy, a Jewish Day School, which is one game away from the Regional Finals. The Regional Finals are scheduled for March 8, during the day. March 8, 2008, is a Saturday.

In the Jewish religion, the sabbath always starts on Friday at sundown and concludes on Saturday at sundown. For observant Jews, there is no question about what happens. There is no work, there is no sports. Many observant Jews will not even turn on lights.

Now, the CHSAA has stated in some press reports that they are unwilling to make a schedule change because they have a by-law which prohibits games from being held on Sunday. Some of these reports have indicated that this rule was to prevent 7-day a week coaching and playing schedules. However, other reports, including one from the AP, have suggested that this was adopted as for religious grounds because the Christian sabbath is Sunday.

Now, if they want to adhere to their rules, and keep the Christian sabbath holy, then it still does not explain why they are unwilling to move the time of the game. All it would take is for the tip off to moved to a reasonable time after sunset. (A quick check of sunset time in Denver area indicates that sunset would be at 6:00 p.m. Assuming that this team is religious enough to do Havdallah at 7:02 p.m.) Why not start the game at ... say... 8:00 p.m. on Saturday night.

The argument against accommodation, put forth in one place by Denver Post columnist Neil Devlin, is essentially this: too bad, you knew it could happen when you signed on. His opinion is that since they Herzl/RMA knew that they might make the playoffs when they agreed to enter the league, they should not be able to get any accommodation. So let's see, the choice is to be a part of the community of teams or not be able to compete at all. Does that make sense?

Either the CHSAA is heartless and uncaring or ... they are something worse. Either way, it seems unreasonable for them to not allow a schedule change that would comply with their by-laws. Of course, maybe they're just afraid of seeing the Herzl/RMA going deeper into the playoffs.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

If This Ad Is Accurate..

Then I cannot in good conscience vote for this man.

This man wants to run the most powerful nation on the planet. And he wants to do it by gutting defense, placing idealism over practicality and morality, and ignoring the state of the world.

Do I want a better president in office than the one I have right now? Of course I do. But do I want one who will gut our ability to directly influence hostile situations around the world and at home? Do I want one who has decided that the U.S.'s best interest is to cut and run from a war? Do I want one, who the more I listen to his foreign policy talks, sounds more and more like Jimmy Carter?

I have theory about peacemakers. Peacemakers can only make a "good peace" because they have the credibility to make the peace. That credibility does not come from simply opposing the horrors of war, the military industrial complex, and the Republican Party. Who fashioned the peace? Wilson or FDR? Begin or Peres?

How successful was this tact for Carter during the period of 1976 to 1980. Yes he cancelled a slew of programs. He failed to do what was necessary to rebuild the post-Vietnam U.S. military, leaving it incapable exerting power effectively when we needed it.

Grrrrr. What is it with the Democratic party? Are they trying to force me to vote for a Republican? They figured that Kerry was not wishwashy enough on the war so they decided to throw up Surrender-crat?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Going To Extremes (Or Why California Prop 98 is a bad idea)

Call me crazy, but I kind of hate California's system of placing so many issues up for a referundum. Don't we pay legislators to act on our behalf? A very conservative friend of mine made the comment that this direct democracy practice is something that was never really intended by the Founding Fathers. Some may debate this, but I seem to agree with it. Consider the fact that they installed the Electoral College as the means by which the President is actually elected.

In any event, there are two ballot initiatives which will be decided by California voters this summer. They are Propositions 98 and 99. Both are addressing the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court's Kelo ruling. In Kelo v. City of New London, the U.S. Supreme Court arrived at the conclusion that the right of eminent domain can be used by states, or municipalities, could use the right of eminent domain so long as the use could be deemed for "public use". The reason that Kelo arouses so many problems is that in the Kelo case, the City of New London used the right of eminent domain to take private property and transfer the property to another private entity. The Supreme Court found that the City was not simply redistributing private property for the benefit of a private entity. Instead, the City was using the right in order to achieve a public good through its redevelopment plan which the City showed was necessary in order to revitalize (i.e. gentrify) parts of the city which had fallen on hard times.

Now, the court reached this reading through extensions of other cases, but many groups, especially conservative groups have been infuriated by this decision. (For my part, I think that the Court decision went too far and allowed for the powers of eminent domain to be expanded further than I think is consistent with the Constitution and its traditional uses.)

In response to this, Proposition 98 was created by a group called Californians for Property Rights Protection.

  1. Bar state and local governments from condemning or damaging private property for private uses;
  2. Prohibit rent control and similar measures;
  3. Prohibit deference to government in property rights cases;
  4. Define “just compensation;”
  5. Require an award of attorneys fees and costs if a property owner obtains a judgment for more than the amount offered by the government; and
  6. Require government to offer to original owner of condemned property the right to repurchase property at condemned price when property is put to substantially different use than was publicly stated

This group has, in my opinion, gone to the opposite extreme of the Kelo ruling. Instead of simply limiting state and local governments from using eminent domain to obtain private property for private uses, they have gone on to tack on extra measures which make it harder for the government to use the right where it clearly could be used and prevents localities from regulating the rental market. A review of the language have also suggested that Prop 98 could have a detrimental impact on environmental planning and water resources. The legislative analysis, while not definitely coming down against it, warns that because of the language in the proposition, it could have unforseen consequences to other government programs.

If you have been reading this blog at all, you may note that I am a tenant's side attorney. Although I see the arguments against rent control, the benefits that are promised do not seem to be born out. Rent control in San Francisco came out to deal with a problem: ensuring that there is affordable housing in San Francisco. In those buildings where rent control does not apply, I see landlord's regularly taking advantage of their position to raise the rents as much as possible. I am not trying to deprive anyone of their property right, but at the same time, there needs to be a limit on how much rents can be changed simply because of the imbalance in power between a landlord and a tenant. Furthermore, for those who take the position that rent control makes it impossible get rid of "bad tenants", I think that they are not looking at the rent control laws carefully enough. If the tenant is not paying the rent, then by all means evict them. If they are causing a nuisance, there is the unlawful detainer scheme (which a California landlord is required to use even when there is no rent control). The benefits, in my opinion, of Rent Control is that it levels the playing field, forcing landlords to be upfront about what they are trying to do. Furthermore, if you follows the rules in the Rent Ordinance, then it lays out exactly what needs to be done and what will give rise to doing it.

Is rent control right for every area? Probably not. Is it appropriate for San Francisco and the other areas which have adopted it, probably yes. To me, in this regard, is that the local municipality adopted it is telling. The people who lived in that area approved it instead of having of the State government forcing a one size fits all solution for something that really is a local problem.

Now, there is the competing ballot measure, Proposition 99. Proposition 99, backed by a group called Eminent Domain Reform, suffers from not going far enough. Instead of protecting small businesses, family farms, and homeowners, it only seems to protect the single-family homeowners. On the flip side, it would allow Eminent Domain to be used for things such as conservation activities and allow localities to determine what works best for them as far as utliziing their police powers.

In my opinion, the correct ballot initiate would deal solely with the power of eminent domain. It would cover all property, regardless of size, and mandate that the use of eminent domain could not include transferring private property from one entity to another private entity. Eminent Domain is meant to allow the government to use an extraordinary power to for public use. To me, it seems counter-intuitive to say that public use can include a private entity's gain, simply because the economy may improve.

Basically, Prop 98 goes to far. It potentially prevents state and local governments from using the right to eminent domain for the public good because of tilting the scales too far in favor of individual property rights. Please vote no on it.

Prop 99, on other hand, does not go far enough to protect property rights. Please vote no on it.

There needs to be some reforms of the eminent domain system here in California. Neither of the options that the interest groups have provided us is worthy of this state. Maybe then the Legislature will stop passing the buck and start doing what they are supposed to be doing.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I Could Not Resist

This is a threat?

Seriously, I expect loony words to spout from the mouth of anyone associated with Hezbollah, but their latest announcment has me scratching my head.

As you may have heard, someone arranged for one Hezbollah's leaders, Imad Mughniyeh, to meet his maker. While many out there may not know his name, you probably have heard of some of the operations which he oversaw, planned, and/or approved, including the Marine Barracks bombing at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in 1983 which resulted in 241 dead Marines, the attack on the U.S. Embassy Annex in Beirut in 1984, and the architect of the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 in 1985. He has also been linked with kidnappings of Terry Waite, Col. William Buckley (who died in captivity), as well as the Karine A incident in 2002.

At the memorial service, the current Hezbollah leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah (who coincidentally made his remarks via video because he is in hiding), told the crowd of terrorist sympathizers that Israel "[has] crossed the border...With this murder, its timing, location and method -- Zionists, if you want this kind of open war, let the whole world listen: Let this war be open."

[Note: At this time, no one has claimed responsibility for Mughniyeh's belated departure from planet Earth. Although Israel has denied responsibility]

So let me get something clear. Prior to the death of Mughniyeh, the war was not open. The fact that Hezbollah regularly bombards Israeli communities with rockets was.... covert? That Hezbollah operations which have resulted in taking IDF soldiers hostage... have been secret?

Frankly, I cannot imagine a Western-style democracy (such as the U.S. and Israel), would do anything but welcome "open war". Seems like if Hezbollah is doing anything more than simply pandering to the crowd (i.e. actually thinking of mounting something more than a guerrilla campaign) the Chiefs over at the IDF would do welcome that change in policy. All those nice targets for conventional air, artillery, and tank fire to shoot at without worrying about Hezbollah hiding amongst the civilians.

Too bad it is unlikely that Hezbollah will actually do that, but it would be refreshing to see an Islamic terrorist group stop hiding amongst non-combatants.

So lets see. Continual attacks on Israel. Check. Taking Israeli citizens hostage. Check. Encouraging other terrorist entities to launch indiscriminate attacks on Israel. Check. How is that not an "open war"?

So That's What Happened In That Red Cross Case...

So if you have been popping in occasionally, there are times when I comment on cases which jump out at me. One of them was the case filed by Johnson and Johnson against the American Red Cross for trademark infringement.

Sometimes I see these cases pop up once on the web and then I never see them again. (Alright, part of it is I am too lazy and cheap to pay the PACER costs that would allow me to get extra access to the online dockets. If you want to do that, fine. If you want me to do that, then someone needs to start sending checks. :)).

Anyways, it appears that the Red Cross has prevailed so far in the opening rounds. The case is being heard before Judge Rakoff of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Back on November 6, 2007, Judge Rakoff partially granted the Red Cross' motion to dismiss. Although the case was not entirely dismissed, Judge Rakoff dismissed with prejudice Johnson and Johnson's claims of promissory estoppel (which is a large part of the Johnson and Johnson's claim).

What remains of the Johnson and Johnson case is a claim based upon a criminal statue which restricts the use of the Greek Cross in red on a white field (i.e. the Red Cross that is used by Christian aid organizations). Now while I have not actually read this particular statute, others who have posted on this case have indicated that it exempts the American Red Cross, so things are not looking so good for the plaintiffs in this one.