Friday, January 27, 2006

Nobles: BB&T Corp., for choosing not to abet the government’s taking of private property.

The idea of eminent domain, where the government can legally obtain private property, goes back a long way. It is mentioned in the Fifth Amendment, which states that private property cannot be taken for public use without just compensation. In a 5-4 ruling last summer, the Supreme Court turned that right on its head when it allowed a city to take private property for commercial use. In other words, if a city thinks a strip mall would help its economy, it can legally take property to build it. Commercial developers then come in, as property owners are driven out.

And so Washington’s second-largest bank announced this week that it will not lend money to developers that plan to build on property obtained in this underhanded way. “The idea that a citizen’s property can be taken by the government solely for private use is extremely misguided,” said BB&T Chairman John Allison. “In fact, it’s just plain wrong.” Good for them, especially since no one would have raised much of a fuss if BB&T had continued on like every other bank in the country.

For standing on principle, BB&T Corp. is the Noble of the week.

Knaves: Los Angeles Times columnist Joel Stein, whose juvenile moralizing makes him the butt of the joke.

As a humorist, Mr. Stein should know how to package a political commentary in comical language. When done correctly, humor can serve to make one’s point all the more poignant. When not, like in Mr. Stein’s Jan. 24 column, it’s just juvenile garbage.

In “Warriors and Wusses,” Mr. Stein’s serious point is that he doesn’t support the troops. In fact, he’s very serious about this. “The truth is that people who pull triggers are ultimately responsible [for killing], whether they’re following orders or not,” he writes. Then his punchline: “An army of people ignoring their morality … is also Jack Abramoff’s pet name for the House of Representatives.” Did Mr. Stein just compare U.S. soldiers to corrupt politicians? Yes he did.

Maybe this is what constitutes humor on the Left Coast. Or maybe, and much more likely, Mr. Stein misses the mark — comically speaking — because he just doesn’t know what he’s talking about. On Hugh Hewitt’s radio program, Mr. Stein conceded that he doesn’t know anyone in uniform, has never read a book on the military, and that, with this in mind, perhaps he could have been clearer.

For writing an unfunny and morally obtuse column, Mr. Stein is the Knave of the week.

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