Monday, November 23, 2009

Rare Victory For Renters in Iowa

A recently delivered opinion of the Iowa Supreme Court does a bit to redress the power inequity between landlords and tenants that's worth a nod.

We here in the Dougloid Towers are not unsympathetic to the problems of tenants, as we grew up in apartments, and lived in apartments and rental properties until fairly recently. It's worth remarking that the single best reason for owning your own place is that you can drive by the landlord's crib as many times as you like making obscene gestures and pig type oinking and grunting. "F**k 'em if they can't take a joke!" as my old crew chief Wayne Hawkins used to say.

In War Eagle Village Apartments v. Plummer, no. 07-1217 (Nov. 20, 2009), a tenant was short on the rent and the landlord instituted an eviction proceeding. The landlord followed the procedure, sending a certified letter to the tenant which she never received, and a hearing was had a week later-at which point a default judgment and a writ of removal were issued.

Plummer appealed, contending that the statutory scheme embodied in Iowa Code in Iowa Code section 562A.29A was a violation of due process. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the scheme established was insufficient to give a person notice and an opportunity to be heard.

The Court states, "There is no set of facts under which the FED statutory notice scheme could be found to provide adequate notice. When receipt in time to meaningfully respond is unlikely, a statutory scheme that deems service complete upon mailing if the notice is by its very terms not reasonably calculated to give adequate notice to tenants that a hearing on their eviction has been scheduled. Given the statutory requirement that a hearing be held no later than seven days fron the order scheduling a hearing, Iowa Code section 562A.29A(2) is unconstitutional on its face."

image courtesy of the Independent.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Channeling Sputnik

From Radio and TV News, Feb, 1958.

The first announcement by Radio Moscow indicated that there were two transmitters in the satellite (launched October 4, 1957-ed.), one operating at 20.005 mhz and the other at 40.002 mhz. The pulse of each signal was 0.3 seconds, followed by a pause of similar length during which the other signals were transmitted. On Oct. 8 the signals were not received for several hours. Later, signals resumed but became continuous. The transmitter was specified to be 1 watt. U.S. Monitors agreed that the signals were modulated with telemetry data.Appropriate instruments within the satellite reported on atmospheric pressure and density. Also, information on micrometeorite bombardment was probably transmitted.

First U.S. radio reception of the satellite's signals was reported by RCA Communications, Inc. at Riverhead, L.I. The observation occurred at 8:07 p.m. EDT October 4, the day of the launching. At 8:15 the signal was strongest from the south. First reception at the Naval Research Laboratoryin Washington, D.C. was at 8:30 p.m. By October 6, six of ten Minitrack stations had been converted from 108 mhz-the frequency to be used by U.S. satellites-to 20 and 40 mhz to track the USSR satellite.

Radio reception was soon general and reports of continuous monitoring were received from Antarctic IGY (International Geophysical Year-ed.) stations including the South Pole-which is in a position to hear the satellite on virtually every passage-as well as from IGY drifting station A, an ice floe located about 500 miles from the North Pole.

Reports from the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station indicated that the satellite's radio signals cut in abruptly but faded out gradually and that there were numerous variations in signal strength, duration and pulse rate.

The USSR was reported to be encouraging amateur assistance, offering special cards to hams reporting receipt of the satellite's radio signals.

Radio Moscow announced on October 26 that the satellite's radio had used up its power and had stopped working. On the same day, the Naval Research Laboratory reported that no signals had been received by Minitrack stations since 5:50 p.m. EDT, October 25, and that no other information had been relayed to NRL from other receiver sources since 7:10 p.m. EDT October 25.

Thus, after 3 weeks of continuous operation, space's first radio transmitter had gone dead.

Editor's note.

This was big stuff when I was a kid. We all watched with bated breath as the Navy launched Vanguard TV3 on December 6, 1957 , which got about ten feet off the deck and exploded in a spectacular fireball. There is a fascinating history of the Vanguard program by Constance Green and Milton Lomask located here, and it's well worth reading-not the least important part is the foreword by the Lone Eagle, Charles Lindbergh.

In 1958 the Army strapped its first Explorer 1 satellite to the nose of a Juno 1 rocket , followed thereafter by the first successful Vanguard launch of what Premier Khrushchev snidely referred to as a grapefruit, weighing only a few pounds. TV4, equipped with solar cells, transmitted until 1964 and is still happily tooling along in earth orbit today, 51 years later.

As technology goes, about all Sputnik 1 did was thumb its nose at Uncle Sugar for three weeks, until its tiresome bleat "I'm here! I'm here!" went dead. Shortly thereafter, Sputnik 1 burned up in earth's atmosphere on January 4, 1958.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New London Confidential

I think we're all familiar with the Supreme Court's infamous Kelo v. City of New London decision, in which the Supreme Court held that as long as a taking of private property bore an (arguably) rational relationship to a legitimate governmental purpose, eminent domain could be used to kick people out in the street in the name of government making nice to their corporate masters.

A subject of a book (The Little Pink House, written by Jeff Benedict) is the story of one of the litigants, a paramedic named Susette Kelo, and her efforts to save her home-which ultimately proved unsuccessful. The images are of the Pfizer research center-shore looks nice, don't it?-the vacant lot where Susette Kelo's home once stood, an aerial view of where the Fort Trumbull neighborhood used to be, and Susette Kelo in front of the home taken from her.

The stated reason for the condemnation was that surely pharmaceutical giant Pfizer would make better use of the land than the owners of the homes had, why, they'd even build a wonderful research center and there'd be a high toned hotel, rich folks' condos, and no more of these rundown homes and their pesky landowners clogging up that delicious waterfront property.

Parenthetically, the dissents of Justices O'Connor and Thomas are worth sober consideration.

It's something that today's generation of anti Obama conspiracy theorists, Birthers, Tenthers, gun toting cranks, Palinidiots and tea baggers seem to have forgotten all about-yet the decision remains as a vivid reminder of how onerous the abuse of governmental power can be. It's to these folk's discredit-here's a real story of economic imperialism and government trampling property rights, and they wouldn't even have had to make anything up about Evil Negro Barack.

Justice Thomas:

The consequences of today’s decision are not difficult to predict, and promise to be harmful. So-called “urban renewal” programs provide some compensation for the properties they take, but no compensation is possible for the subjective value of these lands to the individuals displaced and the indignity inflicted by uprooting them from their homes. Allowing the government to take property solely for public purposes is bad enough, but extending the concept of public purpose to encompass any economically beneficial goal guarantees that these losses will fall disproportionately on poor communities. Those communities are not only systematically less likely to put their lands to the highest and best social use, but are also the least politically powerful. If ever there were justification for intrusive judicial review of constitutional provisions that protect “discrete and insular minorities,” surely that principle would apply with great force to the powerless groups and individuals the Public Use Clause protects. The deferential standard this Court has adopted for the Public Use Clause is therefore deeply perverse. It encourages “those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms” to victimize the weak.

"But Sparky!" you say, "W-w-what's all this have to do with this 12th of November, 2009?"

Quite simple, little feller. It was announced a couple of days ago that those wonderful folks at Pfizer, having gobbled up Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, will close the New London research facility and plans to shed nearly 20,000 of those high paying jobs for which Kelo and others were turfed out of their houses.

Thanks, Pfizer.