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WEEK 26 2005

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Saturday 2 July 2005

Saturday -

Friday 1 July 2005

Friday - off to the beach shortly. Then up to my Dad's for the fourth.

Some Friday puppy blogging!

puppy close up

Friday tokamak blogging.

ITER Fusion Reactor. Looks like they are finally serious about this stuff...

Thursday 30 June  2005

Thursday - so much for the supreme court. Heh. But why stop with just one justice?

On to other, more serious topics: why does The Oasis, 105.5 play "Raspberry Beret" by Prince every single day. Every. Single. Day. I kid you not.

I hate that song. I've always hated that song. Mostly because I hate Prince, but also because the song itself stinks.

And why is there a "p" in Raspberry? Does anyone actually say "Rasp"-"berry"?

Yummmm....Raspberry pie....

In other musical news: someone has compiled a list of  Horribly Depressing Songs. The memorable "Honey" makes the list:

3. Honey Bobby Goldsboro (1968)
The world's wordiest dead wife song, Honey is jammed full of blooming flowers, puffy clouds, singing robins, planted trees, and a puppy, all of which just make you want to swallow a hand grenade.

but was beaten out by "The Christmas Shoes" for first place!

The Christmas Shoes is smug, saccharine and more depressing than the Cure's entire career.

Heh. I've heard TCS, and it really is that bad. The country western stations love it. [via Ghost of a Flea]

Speaking of puppies, my friends are very-tiny-puppy-sitting (and bird sitting) this week...

Did you know that Archibald 'Moonlight' Graham, portrayed in Field of Dreams by Burt Lancaster, was a real person? [ via Geek Press ]

Wednesday 29 June 2005

Wednesday - did a nice long walk this morning. My copy of  'A Modern Course in Aeroelasticity, 4th Edition' arrived yesterday. It seems to have a great deal more in the way of computational aeroelasticity, non-linear aeroelasticty, and controls as applied to aeroelasticty. I'm looking forward to looking through it.

I see that Slashdot has another bad headline for an article about fusion energy:

slashdot header
Slashdot headline.

The headline is wrong because this event has happened already:

ivy mike fusion bomb mushroom cloud
The 'mushroom cloud' from the first (Ivy Mike) fusion bomb

I'm pretty sure that there has been, in any cast, a fusion reactor - a tokamak or whatever - that produced net power, if only for a short while. I can't find the reference right now though.

In any case, all these physics geek's could apparently save a lot of money by going to ebay:

fusion reactor ad
A targeted ad, while searching on Yahoo!

The rattlesnake flag pictured Tuesday, is known as the Gadsden Flag, and it has an very interesting history. Drunken Cretins, heh.

Kelo vs. City of New London, continued, (and I promise to stop after this):

First Some
Humor from Scrappleface:

Court Allows 10 Commandments on Seized Land

by Scott Ott

(2005-06-27) -- In a pair of rulings on the constitutionality of the 10 Commandments on government property, the Supreme Court today said the commandments may be displayed on public land if that property has been seized from private owners for 'public purposes' under eminent domain.

The 5-4 decision comes on the heels of last week's court declaration that so-called "private" property is actually government land temporarily under private management until its eventual seizure.

The majority's actual opinion
, delivered by Justice Stevens. I don't find it as readable as the dissent, and it may be that "dissents" are more exciting by their nature, but basically it indeed says that "public use" really means the broader and more natural interpretation of public use as “public purpose.”, here is a relevant bit:

    Two polar propositions are perfectly clear. On the one hand, it has long been accepted that the sovereign may not take the property of A for the sole purpose of transferring it to another private party B, even though A is paid just compensation. On the other hand, it is equally clear that a State may transfer property from one private party to another if future “use by the public” is the purpose of the taking; the condemnation of land for a railroad with common-carrier duties is a familiar example. Neither of these propositions, however, determines the disposition of this case.

    As for the first proposition, the City would no doubt be forbidden from taking petitioners’ land for the purpose of conferring a private benefit on a particular private party. See Midkiff, 467 U.S., at 245 (“A purely private taking could not withstand the scrutiny of the public use requirement; it would serve no legitimate purpose of government and would thus be void”); Missouri Pacific R. Co. v. Nebraska, 164 U.S. 403 (1896).5 Nor would the City be allowed to take property under the mere pretext of a public purpose, when its actual purpose was to bestow a private benefit. The takings before us, however, would be executed pursuant to a “carefully considered” development plan. 268 Conn., at 54, 843 A. 2d, at 536. The trial judge and all the members of the Supreme Court of Connecticut agreed that there was no evidence of an illegitimate purpose in this case.6 Therefore, as was true of the statute challenged in Midkiff, 467 U.S., at 245, the City’s development plan was not adopted “to benefit a particular class of identifiable individuals.”

    On the other hand, this is not a case in which the City is planning to open the condemned land–at least not in its entirety–to use by the general public. Nor will the private lessees of the land in any sense be required to operate like common carriers, making their services available to all comers. But although such a projected use would be sufficient to satisfy the public use requirement, this “Court long ago rejected any literal requirement that condemned property be put into use for the general public.” Id., at 244. Indeed, while many state courts in the mid-19th century endorsed “use by the public” as the proper definition of public use, that narrow view steadily eroded over time. Not only was the “use by the public” test difficult to administer (e.g., what proportion of the public need have access to the property? at what price?),7 but it proved to be impractical given the diverse and always evolving needs of society.8 Accordingly, when this Court began applying the Fifth Amendment to the States at the close of the 19th century, it embraced the broader and more natural interpretation of public use as “public purpose.” See, e.g., Fallbrook Irrigation Dist. v. Bradley, 164 U.S. 112, 158—164 (1896). Thus, in a case upholding a mining company’s use of an aerial bucket line to transport ore over property it did not own, Justice Holmes’ opinion for the Court stressed “the inadequacy of use by the general public as a universal test.” Strickley v. Highland Boy Gold Mining Co., 200 U.S. 527, 531 (1906).9 We have repeatedly and consistently rejected that narrow test ever since.10

Some Other Opinions:

Orin Kerr, who disagreed with the decision, posted:
 1. The opinions in Kelo remind me a lot of the opinions in Gonzales v. Raich. The Court has once again reaffirmed the academic common wisdom — in Raich, that the commerce clause power is virtually limitless, and in Kelo, that almost everything is a public use. Both cases involved the same type of line-drawing challenge, in which the Constitution requires a line to be drawn but it's pretty hard to draw such a line in practice. (It's difficult to distinguish interstate commerce from intrastate commerce and commerce from non-commerce, and it's difficult to distinguish public use from private use.) In both cases, the Stevens majority opinion recognized that a line existed in theory, but put it so far out of the way that it won't bother anyone.
(emphasis mine.)

On the other hand, lawyer blogger Ann Althouse agrees with the decision, and apparently thinks that there is a clear line ( or perhaps a warning of a future line?) and gets 106 comments on her post:
There is a message here for local government: if you go further than the City of New London did in Kelo, you will get tied up in legislation.

A line drawing challenge indeed, when two lawyers already disagree. I have to say: thinking of it as a "full employment act" for lawyers and judges hasn't ameliorated the pain a bit. Bah. 

Tuesday 28 June 2005

Tuesday - my sister talked to a local wildlife expert. His take: it wasn't a diamondback rattlesnake, because there are none in northern Nevada. So, judging from her description, the expert said that it was probably a harmless (to humans, anyway) ground snake of some sort. However, there are rattler's about, their markings being rather dull and nondescript. So, I think that my advice about education is still apt.

Another of my sibling's wrote that, in their understanding, the venom in younger and smaller snakes is indeed no stronger, but that they lack the control (experience?) to inject just a small amount of venom. Possibly, but I would think that even an experienced snake would use the maximum amount of venom (if it could) when confronted with repulsing a creature as large as a human. Even a child of 50 or 60 pounds has a weight dozens of time's larger that of even a good sized snake. So, big or small, you are likely to get just as sick.

don't tread on me flag
Applicable to the paragraphs above, and below.

Kelo vs. City of New London

Kelo is a case where a city used the power of eminent domain to seize a number of homes, including Charles and Suzette Kelo's.

Generally we are used to this power being used to do things like route roads, train tracks, to build dams & airports, to create city, state, and national parks, and so on. All governments reserve this sort of power to themselves - the US is no different than any other here.

This power is outlined in the Constitution, as I understand it, in the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment:

“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb, nor shall 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; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” (Emphasis added.) 

The argument turns on what "public use" means.
The Supreme Court said "yes", in a split decision, 5:4.

Here is the dissent of Justice Clarence Thomas. It's actually quite readable - perhaps it is my late blooming interest in American History, but I found it thoughtful and interesting. Here are the first two paragraphs:

 Justice Thomas, dissenting.

    Long ago, William Blackstone wrote that “the law of the land … postpone[s] even public necessity to the sacred and inviolable rights of private property.” 1 Commentaries on the Laws of England 134—135 (1765) (hereinafter Blackstone). The Framers embodied that principle in the Constitution, allowing the government to take property not for “public necessity,” but instead for “public use.” Amdt. 5. Defying this understanding, the Court replaces the Public Use Clause with a “ ‘[P]ublic [P]urpose’ ” Clause, ante, at 9—10 (or perhaps the “Diverse and Always Evolving Needs of Society” Clause, ante, at 8 (capitalization added)), a restriction that is satisfied, the Court instructs, so long as the purpose is “legitimate” and the means “not irrational,” ante, at 17 (internal quotation marks omitted). This deferential shift in phraseology enables the Court to hold, against all common sense, that a costly urban-renewal project whose stated purpose is a vague promise of new jobs and increased tax revenue, but which is also suspiciously agreeable to the Pfizer Corporation, is for a “public use.”

    I cannot agree. If such “economic development” takings are for a “public use,” any taking is, and the Court has erased the Public Use Clause from our Constitution, as Justice O’Connor powerfully argues in dissent. Ante, at 1—2, 8—13. I do not believe that this Court can eliminate liberties expressly enumerated in the Constitution and therefore join her dissenting opinion. Regrettably, however, the Court’s error runs deeper than this. Today’s decision is simply the latest in a string of our cases construing the Public Use Clause to be a virtual nullity, without the slightest nod to its original meaning. In my view, the Public Use Clause, originally understood, is a meaningful limit on the government’s eminent domain power. Our cases have strayed from the Clause’s original meaning, and I would reconsider them.

Down towards the bottom there is this line:

Something has gone seriously awry with this Court’s interpretation of the Constitution.

An Aside: You can get this opinion on a T-shirt!

Thomas Kelo Quote T-Shirt
Click image to order your T-shirt today!

Another aside: If you are, as I am, a fan of the "Sackett" westerns, then you will recognize the references to "Blackstone" as being a famous and important book of law that various cowboy's carried in their saddlebags, and read around the campfire for self improvement.

I often go to Instapundit, which is a law professors blog, so some of these references I probably found there. Here is an early, June 23rd, archive roundup posting.

Many others are from The Volokh Conspiracy, which is a group blog of lawyers.

There is a web page, Scotusblog, ( SCOTUS being an acronym for Supreme Court Of The United States) that has recently been created. It contains numerous posts - mostly by lawyers - on the various recent court decisions.

Monday 27 June 2005

Monday - in an synchronic incident, Exclamation Mark has a link to a website Photo's of Pregnant Animals that contains, well,  pictures of pregnant animals. All sorts of animals. Pregnant flying bats. Weird. So I am sending them my picture of the pregnant Antelope Squirrel from last week.

Now I'm part of the weirdness.

I received an email written by my sister, who thinks that she may have seen a small western diamondback rattlesnake in her backyard. She has a small child, so this is a not unreasonable thing for her to worry about...

My response was, basically, that education was her best choice:


I got your email, forwarded from Dad.

Mike and I have seen small rattler's on our hiking trips, and the rattle is VERY noticeable. If you didn't hear it, then it may well have been one of those impersonator snakes, that try to look fierce to scare off birds and coyotes. (I forget the exact scientific term, but you get the drift)

If I had a young child the above wouldn't make me feel particularly safe - because it could easily have been a venomous snake - probably a visit to a local nature park to familiarize ZZZZ with them and to remove the attraction of the unknown might help? I'm sure there ARE rattler's about, in desert country, so it's probably a good idea.

I'm not sure what else to tell you, except that snakes really don't want to mess with people. The rattle is to force you to hesitate so that they can get away.

I have read that smaller snakes are NOT more venomous than big snakes, it's just one of those urban legends.

I've been walking in the desert about here, taking pics of various creatures. Birds, squirrels, rabbits, and so on. It's funny, once you start looking for photo opportunities, there seem to be a lot more of them. I don't have the photographers trained eye, but I can see how it would eventually develop.


I haven't said much about the recent Supreme Court rulings, because, well, I am no lawyer and who cares what I say? But I do find them very disturbing.

Ashcroft vs. Raich
A recent case was 'Ashcroft vs. Raich', where the federal government was going after people growing marijuana at home for medicinal purposes ( yeah, right.). It's interesting to me because I've wondered for a while why the feds could pass drug laws prohibiting almost anything  now, but had to have a constitutional amendment prohibiting alcohol way back when.

The answer is simple: control of interstate commerce was already extant in the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, specifically placed there to avoid problems with interstate tariffs and tolls that had plagued the Confederation of States. The Supreme Court made a ruling in the case of 'Wickard vs Filburn' in 1940 that intrastate commerce (wheat farming, even if not grown for sale!) could affect interstate commerce (since the farmer therefore might not buy wheat that might have been grown out of state!), therefore it was controlled as well.  (More detail here.)

The current ruling ( Gonzales is the current attorney general of the United States, but the case started under Ashcroft ) extends that ruling even further - pot, a substance that cannot by law be sold in commerce, that was grown by and consumed on the premises of an individual under the direct supervision of the State of California, is now classed as 'interstate commerce'.

I should probably say that I have no big problem with drug laws in general, but find this distortion and expansion of the law very disturbing.  What, now, is the limit to the reach of such a law?

I don't like 'slippery slopes' arguments, but the historical record is clear - you can read it at the link above - after about a hundred years of fairly strict constitutionalism the succeeding courts have given this one small line increasing amounts of power and influence, until we get decisions like Raich. One can argue that the federal government needed this power, that it has been used mainly for good, and so on. But, even granting this, it seems to me that it is up to the various congresses and states to legislate this power into existence, at the behest of (or at least with the permission of), the voters, rather than for a few lawyers to conjure it up out of thin air, good intentions not withstanding.

Sunday 26 June 2005

Sunday - can't say that I did a lot. Picked up a larger flash memory card for the OptioWP at Costco, and a couple of other items.

Also I went to see 'Batman Begins'. It was fun, fairly well done. The actor playing Batman, Christian Bale, did a good job, and the token romantic interest was played by Kate Holmes, in what amounts little more than a bit part. Michael Caine had a much bigger part as Alfred, the butler.

The audience liked the movie as well - they clapped at the end. Odd, it never occurred to me to do that but it was apparently spontaneous with others - I can't remember the last movie I heard that happen in.

Picture of the Week
Old Caboose, 308, in black and white

Photo Notes: The old caboose.

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