Monthly Archives: May 2007

Eminent Domain’s Impact

I just attended a screening of a documentary film about the impact of Eminent Domain laws on individual citizens. It is called “Greetings from Asbury Park” and was made by someone whose family has for generations resided in my old home town of Asbury Park, New Jersey USA (the formerhome ornear-home of Stephen Crane, Cesar Romero, Bud Abbott, Jack Nicholson, Bruce Springsteen and Danny DeVito, and a formerly elegant and amusement-filled resort town).

The movie focuses on Eminent Domain’s impact on one woman, the 91-year-old Angie, who had spent half her life in her small home in Asbury Park,since arrivingas an immigrant. We see her making phone calls, hiring a lawyerand”storming city hall” to fight for her rights.

When I heard that Christina Eliopouloswas making a film about our shared home town, Ioffered to contribute my home-movie footage that I had filmed beforeAsbury had disintegrated.

Due to corrupt politicians like former Mayor Ray Kramer, whose in-laws were in the demolition businessand were hired to demolish Asbury’s landmarks, and after the city decided to house New Jersey’s mentally ill and welfare-dependent population, andtorarely enforce laws against violent crime and vandalism,yet raise property taxes, most (but not all) of the remaining sane, non-criminal people left town, and vacationers chose other seaside resorts to visit.

This made possible thedemolition of irreplaceable buildings like the gorgeous Mayfair Theatre, which could no longer draw an audience and pay the high property taxes. My brief home movies of its demolition are shown in the documentary.

However, the film is not primarily about the last thirty years of decay and demolition andtheft oftax moneys.It is about the current government efforts to rebuild the townby its use of Eminent Domain laws to drive out the remaining residents by force, and demolish their homes and businesses.

The town had owned the Boardwalk and most of the landmarks and the land under them, whether because former owners couldn’t pay the taxes and left town, or because they were traditionally city-owned structures. Now, a city with no money, it has sold everything to a single developer for “peanuts” and is allowing the use of Eminent Domain laws to force current homeowners and businesses to move out, includingthe famousStone Pony night club. This will make room for a series of million-dollar condominiums that don’t capture any of the flavor of the history of Asbury Park and ignores the potential profitability ofsummer vacationers.

I was surprised and delighted to discover that Dana Berliner, of the anti-eminent-domain Institute for Justice, is featured in the film. (She is the daughter of the former Ayn Rand Institute chairman and writer Michael Berliner). Although there are somecomments by individuals criticizing the city’s redevelopment plan as “Trickle Down Reaganomics” and someone calls for government-funded low-income housing, overall the movie is clearly focused on the injustice of a government taking over private property, in a moving way.

If you’d like to screen the film or donate money to assist in the film’s final editing, distribution and promotion, please contact Kerry Margaret Butch by emailing her atkerrymbutch@yahoo.com. You may also email Christina Eliopoulos at celiop99@mac.com . Say Greg Zeigerson sent you!

Therewill bea screening featuring guest speaker Dana Berliner at the Jersey Shore Arts Center in Ocean Grove, NJ on June 22nd, 2007.

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Racism, Freedom of Speech and Mikko Ellila

Prodos has posted on his blog the English translation of Mikko Ellila’s essay. See http://prodos.thinkertothinker.com/?p=325.

Mikko’s essay has some racist notions. While I totally disagree with those notions, I still uphold his right to freedom of speech. Speech isn’t force. If individual rights are to be respected, everyone must be permitted to express any ideas, no matter how false or unpleasant. Ina freemarketplace of ideas, the best and truest ideas win out in the culture eventually. Once some types of speech are prohibited, any other type of speech can be next. I uphold the right to freedom of speech for Mikko, as well as Don Imus and Howard Stern, as well as Nazis and Klansmen and even Al Gore and John Kerry, despite the degree to which they all offend me. Every dictatorship controls speech because the dictator knows it is in trouble once the people learn the truth.

For a vision of a world without freedom of speech, see Ray Bradbury’s novel “Fahrenheit 451”. (Incidentally, Ray Bradbury has expressed anger at Michael Moore for stealing and distorting his title without permission,for Moore’s so-calleddocumentary film with a similar title).

Having defended Mikko’s right to write anything he wants, I will now comment on why I disagree with his essay. Mikko’s essay suggests that members of a race share the same traits. Even if some members of the same race share certain traits,it isvirtually never true that all members do,unless it is a meaningless and irrelevant physical trait that defines the race such as skin color.

In life, one deals with one person at a time, not all members of a race. (Even when addressing a group, you are addressing each individual in the group.)Each person creates his own personality, and achieves what he is able to or wishes to, based on the choices he makes and actions he takes within the context of his level of freedom, knowledge and ability, and the limitations imposed on him by his circumstances. Each person is an individual and his race is irrelevant. What he shares or doesn’t share with other members of his race has no bearing on howyou interact with him.

If you recognize reality, you treateach person as an original, unique,irreplaceable self-created individual. There is no collective mind, only individual minds. (There is a Collective Soul, but that’s just a rock group, who has admitted to taking its name from a line in Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead.”)

Individualism is the only way to fight and end racism. Taking each person as unique and respecting each person’s rights equallyleaves no room for considering other members of his group. Capitalism is the only system that rewards individual effort and allows anyone to achieve what he can on his own initiative,regardless of any facts about any other members of his race or group. Individualism and Capitalism are the means to end racism.

For a more eloquent discussion of these issues, please see Ayn Rand’s essay “Racism” in her book “The Virtue of Selfishness” excerpted at http://freedomkeys.com/ar-racism.htm..

See alsoGeorge Reisman’s Essay “Capitalism: The Cure for Racism” excerpted at http://www.capitalism.net/excerpts/1-931089-07-8.pdf and available at http://www.capitalism.net/gr_pamph.htm.

See also Peter Schwartz’s essay “The Racism of Diversity” at http://www.capmag.com/article.asp?ID=3399

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Free Speech Threatened; Blogger Persecuted

One of our http://ThinkertoThinker.com bloggers, named Mikko Ellila, is having his right to freedom of speech threatened by Finnish authorities. Although I cannot read Finnish, I completely support Mikko’s right to express any opinions and present any facts.

His blog is at http://mikkoellila.thinkertothinker.com/

Prodos’ May 3, 2007 blog post details the issue: http://prodos.thinkertothinker.com/

Mikkos wrote to Prodos the following:

“I am writing to you because I received a letter from the municipal
police department saying they want to interrogate me because of the
anti-Muslim, pro-Israeli, pro-European, pro-American posts in my
blog. According to the letter, I am suspected of hate speech merely
because I have pointed out that Islam is a fascist ideology that
advocates killing Jews, atheists, homosexuals etc. …

This is a very important symbolic case, the first of its kind in
Finland. Noone has ever been interrogated before in this country for
blog posts criticising Islam. Probably thousands of people will befollowingthis case already before I will visit the police station for the interrogation next Monday, because I have told about the
ongoing police investigation to several other bloggers whose pages
get thousands of visitors per day.”

Some action that you can take on behalf of freedom of speech and Mikkos Ellila, action that blogger Baron Bodisseyrecommends, includes:

Contact the Finnish authorities. The Finnish embassy has a handy US map with state-by-state contact information here: http://www.finland.org/en/

Here’s the main contact info for their embassy in Washington:

Embassy of Finland
3301 Massachusetts Avenue N.W.
Washington D.C. 20008
U.S.A

Tel. +1-202-298 5800
Fax: +1-202-298 6030
E-mail: sanomat.was@formin.fi
Homepage: www.finland.org

Per Baron Bodissey: “Don’t be shy: remind the Finnish authorities how highly-regarded free speech is in their country. It seems that they may have forgotten that.”

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