and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
July #2

Menu for this summertime barbecue
includes judges, voters and editors
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, July 14, 2005

It is said that every now and then we should consider the meaning of life. We're told to ask ourselves: When am I happy, what do I do that makes me feel joy?

I can answer that. The meaning of life is lying in a hammock with a cold glass of lemonade and a good book. And of course, relative to my job, annoying opponents is always lots of fun.

This week's work project, a property-rights coalition, doesn't seem to have many opponents.

Rep. Brad Jones, R-North Reading, the Massachusetts House minority leader, has both Republicans and Democrats signed on to "a resolution supporting private property rights in Massachusetts and protecting them from abuse of the right of taking by eminent domain." Legislation is expected to be filed this week.

In a way, it's a joy to work with a variety of activists from across the political spectrum on an issue that threatens us all.

But meaning of life-wise, I need to follow my bliss and be combative. Guess I'll respond to some recent e-mail about my weekly column.

First, I apologize for using sarcasm to make a point on the eminent domain issue. I've warned other activists not to do that, since some readers' minds are literal and they think you are serious.

I know that the federal government cannot take the city of Fall River by eminent domain and give it to the liquefied natural gas companies; this would take a vote by local officials. And I'm sure they couldn't be bribed enough to turn over the city, then leave and never come back.

Similarly, the Gloucester City Council wouldn't offer parts of that city to the LNG companies looking for a northeastern Massachusetts site so that the facilities wouldn't have to be 10 miles or more offshore. However, to my point: If they did, the U.S. Supreme Court wouldn't have a problem with it.

It can easily be argued that providing natural gas to the region is worth more than having homes on Marblehead Neck. After all, it wasn't long ago that the entire island was a cow pasture. I note its suitability for "a public purpose" only because a lot of the Neckers probably voted for the recent Proposition 21/2 overrides in town.

It's the rich who can afford the taxes and who hope to make my town into Weston with a harbor. But will they still keep the "Marblehead Celebrates Diversity" sign at the Salem line when people on fixed incomes have been driven out? Face it, I'm as diverse as it gets here.

The Massachusetts League of Women Voters didn't like my column exposing its liberal bent. But the strongest argument it could muster was that I didn't know much about the organization because I addressed its members as "ladies," apparently, it wrote, not knowing that men can join too.

Heck, I knew that men can join. But I didn't mention it because I figure they aren't real men. As Governor Schwarzenegger might say, only girly men would join a group that had the word "women" in its title. Real men would insist the name be changed to League of Voters.

Well, wouldn't they?

Yes, I'm sure seat belts save lives. News stories about accidents often mention that survivors were wearing them and the deceased were not. But that just makes me wonder: If there is no mention of seat belts, does that mean the survivors were not wearing them, and the deceased were? I think to be consistent, reporters should always tell us, either way.

Which reminds me of something else that I haven't yet addressed: News accounts of accidents and crimes should mention if those involved were in the country illegally. Also, we've been reading about the difficulty of getting low-paid public defenders to take on the large number of indigent people accused of crimes. I wonder how many of them are here illegally.

This information would also be useful when discussing overcrowded hospital emergency rooms, and special education costs.

Any reason we shouldn't be told? Any reason a person wouldn't be asked for valid identification before getting government services, so that records can be kept?

When did illegal aliens become so politically correct, and illegal behavior protected? I don't get it.

Speaking of political correctness: In a recent column I wrote that if there are no property rights, we might as well give the country back to the Indians a longstanding common phrase. An editor changed that to "back to the native Americans."

I know that "Indians" is incorrect, since Columbus was lost. But aren't most of us who were born here native Americans?

When I was a kid playing cowboys and Indians, I preferred being an Indian they seemed more wild and free, which was a value to me then, relative to the meaning of life. Freedom is still a value, and worth arguing for.

And at the end of the day, the new Harry Potter book will soon be sharing my hammock. Oh summer joy!

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem News, Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, (Lawrence) Eagle-Tribune, and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence Journal and other newspapers.