Buffalo BEAST - Buffalo's New Best Fiend

June 29-July 13, 2005

Issue #78

  .....Buffalo's Best Fiend

Independence Day
3rd Party Politics for Fun & Profit

Pataki Leads Carge Against the Talentless
by Matt Taibbi
Last Best Chance
Dragging our Feet on Nuclear Terror
by Alex Zaitchik

Welcome to My Nightmare
Eminent Domain Ruling Leads to Gigantism in B-List Actors

by Ian Murphy


Say it Ain't Soda
Revoking the Bottle Deposit is an Asinine Idea

by Christofurious Riordan


Reid's United States of Europe
Book Review
by Paul Fallon


Just Kill Me
Recruiters are Dying to Talk to Your Kids
by Matt Taibbi


Litigious Idol
Help choose Barnes' new Cellino!


Dear Donny
Romantic Advice from the Secretary of Defense



The Sports Blotter
The Week in Sports Crime

Cover Page
Buffalo in Briefs
Page 3
Kino Korner - Movies
[sic] - Your Letters
The BEAST Blog


ISSUE#78 PDF FILE (right-click & "save target")


Last Issue: (77)

Welcome to my Nightmare
The Supreme Court Rules You’re Gonna Like It!
By Ian Murphy

I used to have this recurring nightmare in which my neighbors and I were enjoying a summer evening block party, when all of a sudden a lone and menacing cloud appeared over the horizon, growing larger, darker and more ominous with every breath. The sky grew pitch black, and fear gripped the crowd. Then, from within the evil cloud, there emerged the recognizable broad grin, bright eyes and coarse laugh lines of a benevolent Jerry Van Dyke. 

“Hey, isn’t that the guy from ‘Coach?’ ” someone shouted, and fears quickly subsided as we all remembered that time when Luther convinced Dobber to eat Craig T. Nelson’s keys. 

Just as quickly as our smiles returned, however, the cloud materialized into an enormous flesh and blood Van Dyke, hell-bent on chaos and destruction. The inexplicably gargantuan beloved TV personality ran amok, kicking over tables of potato salad and hot dogs, crushing cars and house pets with each thunderous step. People scurried in all directions as Van Dyke set to demolishing homes, smashing brick walls with his bare hands. Gas lines broke and ignited, filling the air with soot from burning trees and drywall as my neighbors and I huddled together behind a roof that the giant Van Dyke had thrown the length of a football field. We all trembled with fear as his footsteps neared, shaking the very earth beneath us. Van Dyke’s trademark grin appeared overhead as he threw a pile of money at us and boomed in his familiar stuttering cadence, “LEAVE NOW AND NE-NEVER COME B-BACK! THIS IS BIG LOTS TE-TE-TERRITORY NOW, BITCHES! AND REMEMBER TO SAVE BIG AT BIG LOTS!”

About then I would bolt out of bed, sweating badly and, occasionally, damp with urine. Frantically, I’d fumble in the darkness for my bed lamp, don my spectacles and thumb through my old 4th grade social studies book, which I kept under the bed for such occasions, to calm my soul. 

Chapter one:  The Constitution, we the people, yada, yada, yada, ah, here we go—the Fifth Amendment: “…nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

Phew! My relief was palpable. Big Lots isn’t public, I’d reassure myself; it’s a privately owed company. The framers meant roads and bridges and stuff, maybe a hydroelectric dam or something. I would close my trusty social studies book and sleep well through the night, comforted by the knowledge that a humungous, supernatural Jerry Van Dyke, at the behest of private industry, couldn’t simply level my house to put up a big box retailer.

But sadly, my friends, my nightmare has become all too true, for all of us.

Well, not the part about Jerry Van Dyke.

In a 5 to 4 decision, The Supreme Court ruled on June 23rd, that local governments now have the unquestioned authority to seize whoever’s property they want and likewise do with it whatever they please. We’re not talking about subway systems and hospitals; we are talking about Subway restaurants and Holiday Inns.

Justice John Paul Stevens, in the court’s majority opinion, cited “new jobs and increased tax revenue” as qualification enough for clearly private projects to be considered ones of “public use” under the Fifth Amendment.

The case, Kelo et. al. v. City of New London, dealt with a Connecticut city’s authority to exercise the power of eminent domain over 15 houses on 90 acres of waterfront property to make way for office complexes, upscale housing, and a marina that the city wants built near a $300 million Pfizer research center, currently under construction.

Those in agreement with this decision think Pfizer’s “public use” to be more than just giving old men boners; some economists are calling it  “money.”

Couple the ramifications of this decision with the substantial state and federal subsidies used to entice businesses to come to cities ($67 million for a fucking bait shop?) and what you potentially get is people paying taxes so the city can afford the cost of demolishing their homes and paying them a “just compensation.”

Just compensation might not be bad if you live in a diamond mine, but where property seizures like this are going to occur will be the poorest communities, where local governments can “save big” with slumped property values and ensure large returns through consumption-based taxes, which large retailers, office complexes and sports stadiums would provide. If you think that cash is going to “trickle down” in this environment of manufacturer outsourcing, you are a fucking idiot and you should be shot in the face with a tazer gun.

It’s a bizarre decision, made even more bizarre by the fact that the most liberal justices on the Court voted with the majority. Typical Court villains like Scalia, Thomas and Rehnquist voted against the decision, in a rare exercise of true conservative values. Conversely, Justices we have come to appreciate, like Ginsburg, Breyer, and Souter have sided with the oligarchs, and given ammunition to the right’s paranoid attacks on the judiciary.

The new rule is likely to have a significant impact here in Buffalo, home of the silver bullet mega-project. With obviously corrupt leadership, CEO-stacked control boards, and a near-obsessive compulsion for tax-subsidized mega-projects, there should be little doubt that the same politicians and developers who have held sway for years won’t hesitate to take advantage of this new ruling, and abuse it as long as it remains profitable. If you think crooks like Masiello, Giambra, or Pataki would even think twice before bulldozing your house to curry favor with rich donors, well, you know, the tazer thing I said before. Shit, for fifty bucks Pataki would drive the damn bulldozer himself, and you’d be lucky if you made it outside before the roof fell in.

This isn’t just about a monstrous Jerry Van Dyke violently clearing away city blocks to make way for Big Lots. It is about state control of private property and state power to override individual rights in order to facilitate a corporation’s ability to amass capital at the expense of the poor and powerless. They used to call that fascism.

A nightmare, indeed.

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