masthead-highres

Monday, April 30, 2007

Treehouse Fight Costs Family, Taxpayers $58,000

photo credit: saveourtreehouse.com

The government of Clinton, Mississippi goes after a family's treehouse, after granting a permit to build. Case ends up before the Mississippi Supreme Court.

$58,000 Spent Fighting Over a Treehouse

Two anonymous complaints about a treehouse have cost a Clinton, Mississippi homeowner at least $28,000 in legal fees and local taxpayers about $30,000 in a fight to have a playhouse torn down.

In early 1997, Mary Welch sought and received permission from the city's permit department to build a treehouse - a structure that is not defined by city ordinances - in her front yard. After receiving the two anonymous complaints in 2002, however, Clinton Mayor Rosemary G. Aultman ordered the Welch family to tear the treehouse down. The family appealed the demand to the city's planning and zoning board. Despite not being able to find any ordinance banning such structures, and the fact that 51 out of 54 neighborhood homeowners signed a petition in support of the treehouse, the board still ruled that the treehouse should be restricted from the Welchs' front or side yard. City officials also denied the Welchs' request for a conditional use permit that would have granted a special exemption and allowed the treehouse to remain in place.

The Welch family challenged the planning board's claim in Hinds County Circuit
Court, where Judge Tomie Green ruled in favor of the Welch family. In her ruling, Green pointed out that no city ordinance defines a treehouse. The city board voted to appeal the ruling to the Mississippi Supreme Court in August of 2003. However, the court sided with the Welches and will allow the treehouse to stay.

Despite the Supreme Court's finding that the city's use of the ordinance was "unconstitutionally vague," the city has not offered an apology to the Welch family nor amended the zoning ordnance. The Welch family has accumulated at least $28,000 in legal bills since the controversy began, while the city has spent roughly $30,000 on a case that most Clinton residents did not want pursued. A poll conducted by the Southern Research Group found 76 percent of registered voters in Clinton preferred that city officials resolve the issue by granting the special exemption to the Welch family. Instead, the city remained on a crusade against a treehouse, adding frustration and mounting legal bills to the Welch family while wasting taxpayer dollars.


Sources: Mary Welch, Saveourtreehouse.com, The Clarion-Ledger (July 24, 2003; August 5, 2004)

**Read this story and 99 other all-new outrageous stories of government regulatory abuse in the new fifth edition of the National Center for Public Policy Research's book, Shattered Dreams: One Hundred Stories of Government Abuse.

Download your free PDF copy today here or purchase a print copy online here.**

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:32 PM

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Separation of Church and State?

photo credit: Peyton Knight

A church in downtown Warrenton, Virginia must use local government-mandated wood instead of fiberglass to fully restore its deteriorating steeple - at a cost of $262,000 more for the church.

City Tells Church It Must Spend $262,000

For over 130 years, the Warrenton Baptist Church in Virginia has been recognized by its intricately-carved 65-foot steeple. While the structure has remained strong over the years, time and weather have taken a toll on the shingles, siding and molding. Church members proposed replacing the current wood steeple with a fiberglass replica, but city officials rejected the plan, instead demanding the church pay an estimated $262,000 more than they have budgeted to have the existing steeple fully restored with wood.

The Warrenton Architectural Review Board rejected the fiberglass steeple replacement on the grounds that the material would "clash" with the vintage appearance of the historic district in which the church was located. Church officials appealed the decision to the Warrenton Town Council, but the Council unanimously rejected their appeal. Members of the church then filed suit in the Circuit Court of Fauquier County, arguing that the decision was "arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable."

The church had preferred to spend the funds on charitable works, and even considered relocating. Ultimately, however, it decided to acquiesce to the city's demands.

Sources: Washington Post (February 22, 2004), Fauquier Citizen, Fauquier Times-Democrat

**Read this story and 99 other all-new outrageous stories of government regulatory abuse in the new fifth edition of the National Center for Public Policy Research's book, Shattered Dreams: One Hundred Stories of Government Abuse.

Download your free PDF copy today here or purchase a print copy online here.**
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:31 PM

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Censoring Global Warming Skeptics

"This isn't about censorship, it's a question of quality control."
-Bob Ward, former spokesman for Britain's Royal Society, on a campaign he is organizing to block the DVD release of a British documentary skeptical of the notion that human beings are causing catastrophic global warming

In the mid-1980s, in the first first op-ed I ever had published by a newspaper, I quoted Nelba Blandon, Interior Minister of Nicaragua's Marxist Sandinista regime, saying of the opposition newspaper: "[La Prensa] accused us of supressing freedom of expression. That was a lie and we could not allow them to publish it."

The quote encapsulated the Sandinista attitude toward repression: They not only practiced it, they were so unconcerned about doing so, they didn't recognize it even as they were doing it.

Fast forward two decades. From the the Guardian, April 25:
Dozens of climate scientists are trying to block the DVD release of a controversial Channel 4 programme that claimed global warming is nothing to do with human greenhouse gas emissions.

Sir John Houghton, former head of the Met Office, and Bob May, former president of the Royal Society, are among 37 experts who have called for the DVD to be heavily edited or removed from sale. The film, the Great Global Warming Swindle, was first shown on March 8, and was criticised by scientists as distorted and misleading.

In an open letter to Martin Durkin, head of Wag TV, the independent production company that made the film, the scientists say: "We believe that the misrepresentation of facts and views, both of which occur in your programme, are so serious that repeat broadcasts of the programme, without amendment, are not in the public interest ... In fact, so serious and fundamental are the misrepresentations that the distribution of the DVD of the programme without their removal amounts to nothing more than an exercise in misleading the public."

Myles Allen, a climate scientist at the University of Oxford who signed the letter, said the programme "took a very cavalier attitude to science. There are important issues around climate change that the public should be discussing, but all this programme did was rehash debates that were had and finished in the scientific community 15 years ago."

The programme featured scientists known as climate sceptics, such as Richard Lindzen at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Phillip Stott, emeritus professor at the University of London. It argued that mainstream researchers ignore evidence that counters the consensus that most recent warming is down to human activity. It said there were problems with the computer models that predict future climate change and that solar activity, not greenhouse gas emissions, is to blame for recent warming...

...Dr Allen said: "What Martin Durkin and Channel 4 don't understand is the way science works. Science is about the arguments, not the people who make them."

...The letter was coordinated by Bob Ward, a former press officer with the Royal Society. He said: "This isn't about censorship, it's a question of quality control. We have no objection to the DVD being distributed if all the errors are corrected, but if they correct all the errors then the whole premise of the program will fall to pieces."

Mr Durkin said: "This contemptible attempt at gagging won't work. The reason they want to suppress The Great Global Warming Swindle is because the science has stung them. By comparison look at the mountains of absurd nonsense pedalled in the name of 'manmade climate change'. Too many scientists have staked their reputations and built their careers on global warming. There's a lot riding on this ridiculous theory. The DVD will be on sale shortly at a shop near you."
Bob Ward, John Houghton, Myles Allen and the others who advocate censoring scientific opinion should reconsider the meaning of the statement Allen made in this piece: "Science is about the arguments."

Precisely.

And you can't have arguments if one side can keep the other from speaking.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 9:16 PM

RealClimate's Touchy Censors II

Seems the environmental movement's RealClimate blog's touchy censors are at it again.

A Prometheus commenter says: "It may be real climate, but it sure ain't real science."

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:20 PM

Sheryl Crow's Toilet Paper "Spoof"

The Mother Jones blog says actress (or is she a singer?) Sheryl Crow was just doing a "spoof" when, writing on her blog, she suggested limiting toilet paper use.

April Rabkin of Mother Jones thinks it is funny that the press fell for the "spoof," and refers to those who published Crow's thoughts as "gullibles."

I'm not one, usually, to defend the press, but I read Crow's original blog entry about the toilet paper squares, and I don't see any indication there that she intended it as a spoof at that time, regardless of what she now claims.

If it was a spoof, who was she spoofing? Impractical environmentalists?

In other words, herself?

I don't think the news media is to blame on this one, and I have no idea how one is to tell when Sheryl Crow is joking.

Others who are similarly perplexed: Matthew Sheffield at Newsbusters and Ace at Ace of Spades.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:26 PM

The Polka Dotted House Gambit

Local preservation officials in a "planned community" outside Atlanta reject homeowner's renovation plan that would add a front stoop to his house.

The Squeaky Wheel, or in this Case, the Polka Dotted House, Gets the Grease

Avondale Estates, a suburb of Atlanta, is recognized as one of America's first planned communities. City officials are known to enforce strict guidelines regarding home improvements.

Some argue that the officials with the city's Historic Preservation Commission, which is the agency that oversees and approves renovations, use government power to impose their personal ideas of good taste, rather than historical accuracy, on the community.

When resident Stan Pike got caught up in a related regulatory nightmare, he found an inventive way to "brush aside" the problem.

Pike owns a second house in Avondale Estates that he was renovating to resell. The house has a previously-built addition with rounded corners, and an architect suggested that Pike build a matching rounded front stoop to balance out the house. The addition had been built in the 1960s with rounded edges because city officials told the previous owner that squared corners would not leave enough lawn between the house and the street. Nonetheless, the Historic Preservation Commission rejected Pike's request because a Commission consultant judged the project as "less appropriate" for the neighborhood.

Two days after the ruling, Avondale Estates residents discovered that Pike had repainted the house lime green with purple polka dots. He further threatened to plant flowers in old toilets and scatter them around the yard in protest of the Historic Planning Commission's rejection of his project. In less than a month, Mayor John Lawson and the City Commission overruled the Historic Preservation Commission, with Lawson saying Pike's plan would not be "substantially detrimental" to the home's appearance. Afterward, Pike said he would repaint the house.

Randall Carlson, a builder who has done work in Avondale Estates, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the city's preservation officials should have their power curtailed: "Most people are not going to do anything that would detract from the value of their home. I think the [commission] should be a last resort, only if people do something way out of line."

As a result of years of complaints, city officials are entertaining changes to allow more flexibility for home alterations and additions. One proposed change would shrink the historical district, while a second one would establish four categories of homes. The strictest guidelines would apply only to homes with the most historical significance.

Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution (May 8, 2003; May 28, 2003; October 14, 2004)

**Read this story and 99 other all-new outrageous stories of government regulatory abuse in the new fifth edition of the National Center for Public Policy Research's book, Shattered Dreams: One Hundred Stories of Government Abuse.

Download your free PDF copy today here or purchase a print copy online here.**

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:38 AM

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Neighbors' Views Trump Homeowner's, When It Comes to Building an Addition

In the name preserving "open space" and the "historic fabric" of Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, a group of preservationist elitists stop a homeowner - for three years - from adding modest additions to her historic home to meet her family's needs.

Arbitrary Regulations Give Neighbors More Power than Homeowner Over Home

Amy Bayer adores her stately home in the Old Town Historic District of Alexandria, Virginia. Built around 1815, its red brick walls and historic architectural design compliment the neighborhood. The only drawback is that the house isn't big enough for her family's needs. Yet when Bayer sought to add onto her home, she discovered that her neighbors believed they should have the final word on her plans. Worse, they possessed the means to create a bureaucratic nightmare for Bayer if she didn't bow to their wishes.

Bayer purchased her home in 1994. In 2001, she decided to build a guest room and a family room to accommodate her children. After consulting the city's design guidelines on home additions, she submitted plans to Alexandria's Board of Architectural Review (BAR), which must grant approval to changes on historic properties. Bayer and her architect were careful to harmonize their plans with the historic fabric of Old Town Alexandria. They kept the plans within the architectural style of the rest of the home and met all regular zoning requirements. While most of her neighbors supported her plans, the neighbors on the side of the property where the addition would be built - Lawrence and Ashley O'Connor - believed the addition would hurt the historic district by "shrink[ing] the limited open space in the neighborhood." While this concern may be true for most Old Town properties, the Bayer property is uncommon because the house sits on a spacious, multi-lot parcel of land. Nonetheless, the BAR rejected Bayer's plans after the O'Connors and local preservationists voiced their opposition at hearings and public forums.

Bayer appealed the BAR decision to Alexandria's City Council, arguing that her home was no different from hundreds of others in Old Town approved for similar improvements in the past. The City Council agreed with Bayer and approved her plans. The O'Connors and the preservationists appealed the decision in state court, contending that the Alexandria City Council failed to use proper standards when it decided the case. In May of 2003, Alexandria Circuit Court Judge Donald Haddock ruled against Bayer and ordered the City Council to rehear the case. At that point, Bayer sought a compromise by seeking BAR permission to build a free-standing addition connected to the house by a covered walkway. This idea was based on the notion that the BAR justified its original denial not with concern for open space, but on the grounds that any "demolition or encapsulation" (the tearing down of walls or closing in of original architecture) of the house - no matter how minor - threatens the goals of the historic district. Bayer offered this compromise despite the fact that the BAR routinely approves "demolition and encapsulation" plans similar to her original plans.

The O'Connors and preservationists again threatened to block Bayer's plans. Not wanting to delay her addition any longer, Bayer capitulated. She submitted yet another new plan to the BAR in January of 2004 that proposed an addition on the opposite side of the house but with the same square footage as the plan submitted three years earlier. The BAR approved this new plan after her opponents dropped their legal challenge.

Three years and tens of thousands of dollars in architectural and legal fees later, Bayer was relieved that construction has finally started on the addition, but she was bitter about how cumbersome and costly Alexandria's arbitrary historic district regulations are for property owners. To help cover the cost of her fight - and highlight the inconsistency of Alexandria's laws - she is considering selling the lot on the northern side of the house (her first choice for the addition) where a brand new house could then be built by a new owner in accordance with historic district regulations. A new structure would completely obstruct the O'Connors' view and leave no remaining open space. The addition to the Bayer home that was denied by the BAR would have left 65 percent of the lot open and green.


Sources: Amy Bayer, The Washington Post (July 3, 2003; September 9, 2003)

**Read this story and 99 other all-new outrageous stories of government regulatory abuse in the new fifth edition of the National Center for Public Policy Research's book, Shattered Dreams: One Hundred Stories of Government Abuse.

Download your free PDF copy today here or purchase a print copy online here.**

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:00 AM

Monday, April 23, 2007

Government Says Yes -- Then Says No

The District of Columbia government halts the building of a new cellular phone tower seven months into its construction, despite having issued permits permitting construction, thereby costing its builder $250 million in various expenses and leaving area residents without adequate cellular service.

Government Approves Building Permit, Then Outlaws Construction

Residents of the Tenleytown neighborhood of northwest Washington, D.C. aren't happy with the quality of cellular phone service in their area. But when construction was started on a new tower that would improve both cellular service and television broadcasts, those same, politically-powerful residents complained to the District of Columbia City Council that the tower would be too tall. The council then halted the construction, at an estimated cost of $250 million to the tower's owner, American Towers Corporation (AT).

In March 2000, 13 city agencies approved a permit for AT to build a 756-foot tower in Tenleytown to improve cellular phone service and serve as a new broadcast tower for several local television stations. The new tower was to be constructed in an area that already contained several broadcast towers.

Seven months after issuing the permits and after the building of the tower was well underway, then-Mayor Anthony Williams ordered a halt to construction. In conjunction with that order, the City Council invalidated AT's permits by passing the "Moratorium on the Construction of Certain Telecommunications Towers Emergency Act of 2001."

The D.C. government did not condemn the AT property or offer to buy the land from AT - officials merely outlawed the completion of the tower. It remains unfinished; standing at nearly 300 feet.

AT sued the District of Columbia and Mayor Williams in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. AT argued that it was victimized by the Tenleytown residents who had the ear of local politicians and who wanted to stop the tower for aesthetic reasons. Although city officials had approved the permit to build the tower, lawyers for the city argued that AT's tower would have been too tall. AT asked for $250 million in damages to permit it to recover money the company had already invested, delayed construction costs, the cost of litigation and projected profits the company would lose by not finishing the tower.

AT did not win its case in Superior Court, and the lawsuit was subsequently rejected by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Seeing dim prospects and mounting legal bills in their federal case, AT decided not to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The company's appeals to the D.C. Office of Zoning have been equally unsuccessful.

The District of Columbia then ordered AT to remove the unfinished tower. However, the D.C. Superior Court stayed enforcement of the District's order, while a separate lawsuit brought by AT seeking damages for the unfinished tower is before the court.

Bob Morgan, vice president and general manager of AT, expressed the company's dismay in an op-ed published in the Washington Times. "What seems clear to anyone who gives some serious thought to the situation is that the administration's decision is plainly a matter of favoritism. A few members of a small, politically-important neighborhood start pumping their fists in the air and the administration springs into action."

Not only is AT out millions of dollars, but many Tenleytown residents' cellular phones still don't work well.


Sources: Washington Post (November 1, 2002), Northwest Current (March 19, 2003), Washington Times (October 23, 2000; November 30, 2003)

**Read this story and 99 other all-new outrageous stories of government regulatory abuse in the new fifth edition of the National Center for Public Policy Research's book, Shattered Dreams: One Hundred Stories of Government Abuse.

Download your free PDF copy today here or purchase a print copy online here.**

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:47 PM

Sunday, April 22, 2007

That Billion With a 'B'!

David Hogberg writes,
Think a single-payer health care system will save on costs? Connecticut might make you think twice:
In a year when legislators pledged to cure the state's health care ills, the most ambitious plan of all would have the state fund coverage for everyone in Connecticut under age 65.

But a staggering price tag - as much as $18 billion - left the plan on life support Monday, and legislators are virtually certain to pull the plug.
Since the Connecticut state budget is barely $18 billion, state taxpayers would see a doubling of their burden.

What would a such a plan -- one covering every American under 65 -- cost the nation? Census data shows that Connecticut's under-65 population is just over 3 million, while, in the United States as a whole, it is about 86 times greater, or 259 million. Thus, if Connecticut cost estimates are correct (government estimates on what new public health programs will cost almost always greatly underestimate those costs) and it would cost $18 billion to cover 3 million people, then a "back of the envelope" calculation (18 multiplied by 86) shows that it would cost about $1.548 trillion to cover all 259 million Americans.

That seems like decent savings over the $1.987 trillion the U.S. spent on health care in 2005. The problem is that the $1.548 trillion excludes people 65 and over who are on Medicare. In 2005 Medicare spent $342 billion. Added to $1.548 trillion it equals $1.890 trillion.

That's a savings of $97 billion. Wow. You could almost fund Medicare for four months with that.
To contact author David Hogberg directly,
write him at [email protected]

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:20 AM

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Bob Parks: Responding to Harry Reid

Project 21's Bob Parks has a 9-minute video response to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on the question of U.S. success in Iraq.

Parks tells the troops: "Screw the liberals. You are not losing."

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:46 PM

Mental Health Parity Bill Critiqued

Our health-care guru, David Hogberg, teamed up recently with Paul Gessing of New Mexico's Rio Grande Foundation to critique Senator Pete Domenici's Mental Health Parity Act. The resulting op-ed appeared in The Daily Times of Farmington, New Mexico the other day.

Hogberg and Gessing found Domenici's bill (introduced with Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Ted Kennedy (D-MA)) lacking for a number of reasons:
Although Domenici's desire to help those with mental illness is noble, it has led him to support a proposal that inevitably, if inadvertently, will harm both the mentally ill and the uninsured.

This bill would require that health insurance policies that provide coverage for mental illness must provide it in the same way that they provide benefits for other conditions. Thus, if the co-pay to see a family doctor is $20, then the co-pay to see a psychiatrist must also be $20.

In a free market, the decision of how to cover mental health benefits is left to the insurer and the insured. A mandate to require that mental health coverage be given parity eliminates that freedom. Furthermore, mental health parity is one of the most costly of benefit mandates. Using actuarial data, the Council for Affordable Health Insurance, an insurance industry group, estimates that it can add between five and ten percent to the cost of a health insurance policy.

Few of the likely consequences of imposing a mental health parity mandate are good for employees. Forcing insurance programs to cover mental health the same way they cover physical illnesses and conditions will result in more expensive health insurance. That means more businesses will increase their insurance premiums or drop their insurance altogether, resulting in an increase in the number of uninsured. Another route that businesses might pursue is simply dropping their mental illness coverage from their insurance policies, meaning that employees will have less access to mental health benefits.
Read the whole thing.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:24 AM

Friday, April 20, 2007

Suing for a Lap Dance

A quadriplegic man sues a Florida strip club for failing to provide a handicapped-accessible "lap dance" area.

Lap Dancing Location Leads to Lawsuit

Edward Law, who has been a quadriplegic since a diving accident in 1987, visited the Wildside Adult Sports Cabaret, a strip club in West Palm Beach, Florida, in May and June of 2002. A month later, he sued the club in U.S. District Court. He claimed it had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act because the room reserved for "lap dances" was inaccessible to the disabled. Law claims that the stage where dancers perform is too high and blocks the view from his wheelchair.

In order to get a lap dance, Law did not have to sue the club. Bret Rudowsky, Wildside's general manager, said that because of Law's disability, he would have allowed Law to receive erotic private time with a dancer in other areas of the bar. Before the lawsuit was filed, Rudowsky had never received a complaint from a disabled customer.

Steve Howells of the Advocacy Center for Persons with Disabilities believes that lawsuits should be one of the last resorts used to resolve ADA-related complaints. If a disabled person is unsatisfied with a business' accommodations, Howells says, individuals should complain to the management. Had Law done this, the club would have complied with his request. Instead, Law hired Anthony Brady, Jr., a lawyer who has sued more than 100 companies for ADA violations, to represent him in court. They filed a lawsuit requesting compliance with the law as well as an unspecified amount of money in attorney's fees. Since the only difference between what could be done in and out of court is money, suspicion was raised that the lawsuit was more about personal gain than protecting the rights of the disabled. Law also filed a lawsuit against another West Palm Beach strip club, the Landing Strip. Both of Law's suits were voluntarily dismissed in 2002.

In response to these and other ADA-related lawsuits, including a high-profile suit filed against a hotel owned by actor/director Clint Eastwood, the ADA Notification Act was introduced in February 2003 and reintroduced in June 2005. The bill would require a person to contact a business and explain how it violated the ADA's accessibility provisions before filing a lawsuit. The business would then have 90 days to correct the violation before a lawsuit can be filed.

Sources: Adult Industry News (July 15, 2002), Ragged Edge Online (July 22, 2002), Thethoughtpolice.com, The Washington Times (February 13, 2002)

**Read this story and 99 other all-new outrageous stories of government regulatory abuse in the new fifth edition of the National Center for Public Policy Research's book, Shattered Dreams: One Hundred Stories of Government Abuse.

Download your free PDF copy today here or purchase a print copy online here.**

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 8:59 PM

Thursday, April 19, 2007

ADA Lawsuits Cost Businesses $309.1 Million to Win

To comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the owner of a historic California candy store is forced to build a $14,000 handicapped-accessible entrance ramp.

Candy Store Owner Takes a Licking

Lanny Rose has owned the Cottage of Sweets, a candy store in Carmel, California, for more than 24 years. He says he values every customer who visits his store, noting, "My specialty store is small enough that I make it a point to take care of each of my customers."

Constructed in 1922, the building measures just 325 square feet and is designated as historic. Due to its historical classification, Rose has always been extremely careful not to remodel or alter any structural aspect of the building without the appropriate approvals.

In March of 2003, Rose received a demand that physical changes to his building were necessary. He was being sued over his business' failure to comply with Title III provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Enacted by the federal government in 1990, the ADA - and specifically Title III - prohibits discrimination against the disabled, and requires public places and commercial facilities to meet various "accessibility standards." For Rose, the step leading into his store was the cause of the complaint.

To Rose's surprise, he and several other local business owners were being sued by Joseph Tacl, a 52-year-old handicapped man who had visited Carmel in 2002. Along with the Cottage of Sweets, Tacl - who became disabled in a car accident in 1993 - sued seven other downtown Carmel shops, claiming "numerous architectural barriers" prevented him from "fully and safely" visiting them. Gene Zweben, Tacl's attorney, called Carmel one of California's "least accessible towns." Zweben said the defendants in the cases were "businesses that my client had attempted to go to but was discriminated against because he wasn't able to go inside the way everybody else can."

Rose does not recall Tacl's visit, but says he and his employees have always tried to cater to the needs of handicapped customers seeking to patronize the store. He said, "We have our own store policy where we will go outside to assist our handicapped patrons into the store. We try to be helpful and give all the assistance that we can."

Those efforts apparently were unknown or not enough for Tacl. In his complaint to the U.S. District Court for Northern California in San Jose, Tacl claimed he received "unlawful discrimination and unfair treatment." As part of the settlement eventually reached by the parties, Rose was forced to undertake a $14,000 construction project to transform the store's circular step into a slightly ramped walkway that complies with ADA's Title III provisions. Rose's insurance company, The Hartford, also paid Tacl monetary damages. Neither side will disclose the exact amount paid in damages.

It turns out Tacl is no novice when it comes to filing ADA complaints. As of April of 2003, Tacl had filed nearly 100 lawsuits against businesses in Northern California. This identifies the potential for abuse of the law. "The ADA is supposed to provide protection for the disabled, not provide an incentive or an excuse for people to sue a small business owner," says Representative Sam Graves (R-MO). "Every time this law is abused and a frivolous lawsuit is filed, small businesses and their employees are left to pay the bill." Representative Graves' office says that during the ADA's first eight years, businesses prevailed in 92 percent of ADA cases, for a total cost to them of $309.1 million, or approximately $25,000 per lawsuit.

Sources: Statement of Representative Sam Graves (R-MO) (April 28, 2003), Carmel Pine Cone (April 4-10, 2003; July 23, 2004), The Cottage of Sweets, Gene Zweben, Lanny Rose, MonterreyHerald.com (April 4, 2003), U.S. Department of Justice

**Read this story and 99 other all-new outrageous stories of government regulatory abuse in the new fifth edition of the National Center for Public Policy Research's book, Shattered Dreams: One Hundred Stories of Government Abuse.

Download your free PDF copy today here or purchase a print copy online here.**

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:00 AM

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Hogberg Praises Bush Health Plan

The National Center for Public Policy Research's David Hogberg participated in a debate at PublicSquare.net over President Bush's health insurance tax proposal. The first entry was written by Karen Davis of the Commonwealth Fund and the second by David W. Howard, professor at Emory University.

In David Hogberg's entry (the third and final one), David explained why he is enthusiastic about the Bush proposal:
In 1973, Martin Feldstein published a seminal article entitled "The Welfare Loss of Excess Health Insurance." He argued that too many Americans were over-insured and, as a result, purchased excess health care. Since then, a bevy of research has reinforced Feldstein's conclusion. The biggest cause of over-consumption of health insurance is the federal tax subsidy. Since, under federal tax law, an extra dollar of income is taxed at the marginal rate and health insurance is tax-free, as workers move up the income ladder they have greater incentive to have their employer reimburse them with greater health insurance benefits than with higher wages. This leads to gold-plated "comprehensive" policies that impose few, if any, demand restraints on the use of health care.

Bush's proposal dramatically alters that incentive. Under his plan, an individual gets a standard health insurance tax deduction of $7,500, while a family gets one of $15,000. However, as long as an individual or family purchases insurance, they get the full deduction no matter how much insurance they buy. Thus, they have an incentive to buy policies that cost less than the deduction, since they get to keep the difference tax-free.

This means that people will be inclined to move away from comprehensive policies and more toward ones with high deductibles and health savings accounts (HSAs). With more people paying for more health care out of their own pockets, they will behave more like consumers and discriminate between health care that is truly necessary and that which is not. This, in turn, will put pressure on providers to attract customers and to innovate in ways that will reduce prices and increase quality.

In short, Bush's proposal seeks to reduce Americans' demand for health insurance while simultaneously reducing their demand for health care. A reduction in demand will lead to a reduction in the price of health insurance, making it more affordable for both the uninsured and those who are currently covered.
Read it all here.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:41 PM

Remembering the Doolittle Raid

National Review reminds us that today was the 65th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid.

If you have children still at home who don't know what that was, get them this. As a child, I checked it out repeatedly from my grade school library -- it's riveting. Good for upper elementary students through adults. Highly recommended.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:14 PM

Smelling Delicious a Civil Offense in New York City

Coffee company spends over $30,000 fighting New York City's air pollution citation for smell of roasted coffee.

In New York City, Smelling Delicious Can Get You Fined

New York City's Gillies Coffee Co., founded in 1840 and one of the oldest coffee merchants in the United States, has built its reputation on its own delicious, fragrant brand of coffee. But not everyone likes the aroma of freshly-brewed coffee: New York City's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has cited Gillies for "polluting" the air - in an industrial area - with the smell of roasting coffee.

Incredibly, the DEP ruled that the "fugitive odors" coming from the Brooklyn business - namely, the smell of roasting coffee - is an illegal air pollutant that violates the New York City Air Pollution Control Code. Hy Chabbott, the co-owner of Gillies, has agreed to pay the $400 fine but says it will be impossible for the company to meet the DEP's demand that they completely eliminate the coffee smell in the future.

"Research has shown that coffee smells like coffee. There is nothing that can reasonably be done to separate the natural smell of already roasted coffee from a coffee business," explained Donald Schoenholt, president of Gillies. "Under the current interpretation [of the NYC Air Pollution Control Code]," Schoenholt asserted, "shoe stores, barber shops, doctor's offices and flower shops are all in violation of the law."

Gillies was convicted of the violation on April 2, 2003 by the city's Environmental Control Board, the municipal administrative court run by the DEP. The matter cost the company over $30,000 on legal bills. Schoenholt is constantly aware that his company could be fined again, because the law has not been taken off the books.

"Once it has been established that you are a polluter either through conviction or because you admit guilt by paying a fine," Schoenholt told the Tea & Coffee Trade Journal, "you are on the slippery slope. It's only a matter of time before you're forced to move your business from New York City."

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, New York City's DEP has also fined pickle companies, bagel bakeries, and doughnut shops for aroma violations.

Schoenholt says: "It's really hard to live like this as a business owner. I don't know if I'm going to be in business in one year, in five years. I can't really put a dollar amount on the harm that's been done."

Sources: Reuters (April 22, 2003), Donald Schoenholt, Tea & Coffee Trade Journal, Philadelphia Inquirer (April 26, 2003)

**Read this story and 99 other all-new outrageous stories of government regulatory abuse in the new fifth edition of the National Center for Public Policy Research's book, Shattered Dreams: One Hundred Stories of Government Abuse.

Download your free PDF copy today here or purchase a print copy online here.**

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 9:29 PM

On the Eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five

In honor of our forefathers, and an anniversary worth remembering, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Paul Revere's Ride.

If you haven't read it lately, take a moment to read it again. It's worth recalling that the very birth of this nation was a close-run thing. We have much to be thankful for.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:12 PM

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Smoking Bans Hurt Neighborhood Restaurants and Bars

New York's smoking ban causes the closure of a popular Buffalo bar and restaurant, leaving nearly 20 employees without work.

Small Neighborhood Restaurants and Bars Hurt Most by Smoking Bans

The Royal Pheasant, a popular bar and restaurant in Buffalo, New York since 1944, has permanently closed its doors.

Owner Jacqueline O'Brien says her establishment was forced out of business by a drastic decline in customers attributed to a statewide smoking ban. Like many other New York restaurant and bar owners, O'Brien contends that such establishments have the right to decide its own smoking policies.

The closing of the Royal Pheasant forced nearly 20 people out of work. While the smoking ban contains a provision allowing businesses to apply for a waiver, very few establishments have actually been able to acquire one.

Besides the Royal Pheasant, nine other Erie County bars and restaurants closed soon after the ban went into place. Small neighborhood restaurants have been the most adversely affected by the ban. Patrick H. Hoak of the Innkeepers Association of Western New York has reported that some of the smaller bars and restaurants that have not closed have experienced drops in sales of 50 percent.

Sources: The Buffalo News (December 9, 2003; January 25, 2004; October 2, 2004), Innkeepers Association of Western New York, New York State Department of Health

**Read this story and 99 other all-new outrageous stories of government regulatory abuse in the new fifth edition of the National Center for Public Policy Research's book, Shattered Dreams: One Hundred Stories of Government Abuse.

Download your free PDF copy today here or purchase a print copy online here.**

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:00 AM

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Global Warming Argument: Win It, Don't Spin It (If You Can)

A for-profit public relations agency sent me a link and an excerpt to the story "Thanks for the Facts. Now Sell Them" by Matthew C. Nisbet and Chris Mooney in Sunday's Washington Post, with the suggestion that I might like to blog about it.

The authors (who appear to assume all scientists share the same point of view about human impacts on climate and President Bush's decision to limit the amount of federal funding on embryonic stems cells) call upon scientists to spend less time explaining facts and more time engaging in public relations.

For example:
Global warming is another issue on which scientists continually fail to reach key segments of the public. The real inconvenient truth here is that scientists aren't doing a good job of packaging what they know. No matter how solid the science gets, there remain "two Americas" on the subject: A strong majority of Republicans discount the science and the issue's urgency, while an overwhelming number of Democrats believe the opposite. Once again, the facts aren't driving opinions here. Instead, selective interpretations -- delivered via fragmented media and resonating with the public's partisan prejudices -- are winning out.

Thus, despite ever-increasing scientific consensus, prominent GOP leaders such as Sen. James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma still use conservative media outlets to describe climate science as too "uncertain" to justify action. If scientists and their defenders seek to answer such charges by explaining how much we know, they become enmeshed in the technical details (for instance, does climate change really contribute to more intense hurricanes?). And this only creates new opportunities for Inhofe and his flat-earth friends to sow doubt.

So once again, scientists and their allies would be better off shifting their emphasis, as well as the messenger. For example, church leaders can speak to the evangelical community about the necessity of environmental stewardship (a message that's already being delivered from some pulpits), even as business leaders can speak to fiscally oriented conservatives about the economic opportunities there for the plucking if Congress passes a system for trading carbon dioxide emission credits.
Two observations:
1) I think it is odd that these global warming theory advocates claim the science backing their point of view is "solid," and yet argue that scientists shouldn't spend time educating people about its alleged solidity. If their case is as strong as they pretend, presenting it should be a winning hand, not an "opportunit[y] for Inhofe and his flat-earth friends" (of which I am pleased to be one) to "sow doubt."

If you guys can win the argument, win it, don't spin it.

2) If the authors truly believe fiscal conservatives are intrigued by the notion of a federally-mandated carbon market, and/or are likely to be seduced by "business leaders" who want to exploit a carbon-trading system for their own personal and corporate profit, they don't have the slightest inkling of what fiscal conservatives believe.

In reality, corporate sell-outs nauseate us. Nausea is bad way to start to a seduction.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:05 PM

Smoking Bans Hurt Small Business

Delaware's indoor public smoking ban cost one establishment 70 percent of its business and a $350 fine from the state's health department.

Small Business in Financial Trouble After Delaware Smoking Law Forces Patrons Across State Lines

The Delaware legislature has outlawed smoking in all public enclosed indoor areas. This ban extends to bars, restaurants, nursing homes, prisons and all other publicly owned buildings.

The ban economically endangers many local establishments, such as Desiree Mulford's Breakers Bar and Billiards in Newark. Many of Mulford's customers have taken their business to neighboring states, where they can still enjoy smoking indoors. "I'm ten minutes from the Maryland line," said Mulford. "Not only do smokers go, but the nonsmokers go, too. They want to go where the crowds are."

While 25 percent of Delaware's population smokes, Delaware bar owners estimate that about 80 percent of their patrons do.

After a 70 percent decrease in business, Mulford decided to allow smoking at Breakers despite the new law. "For every one person I lost because there was smoking here, I gained ten," she said. But things changed after these practices were published in a newspaper article, and Breakers received a $350 fine from the Delaware Division of Public Health. Mulford began to receive registered letters from the state that described complaints it had received and unannounced visits state officials had made. The bar's previously-approved permits to construct a kitchen were revoked as a result of the decision not to enforce the ban. This compelled Mulford and her business partner to enforce it once more. After reinstating the ban, they lost more than 50 percent of their business and had to stop paying themselves just to keep the bar open.

The Delaware House of Representatives passed an amendment to their Clean Indoor Air Act in March of 2003. In an effort to help small businesses, this legislation would have allowed smoking in some bars. But strong campaigning by anti-smoking activists led to the bill's defeat in the state senate by a two-to-one margin. Delaware's Governor Ruth Ann Minner was also strongly opposed to the amendment despite the crippling effect the bill has had on some local businesses.

Dwindling crowds are making it difficult for Desiree Mulford's business to survive. She considered closing Breakers and opening a restaurant and nightclub in New Jersey, but New Jersey adopted a ban on smoking in public buildings, except gambling areas in casinos, in January 2006.

Sources: Desiree Mulford, Washington Post (July 7, 2003), Baltimore Sun (June 22, 2003), Associated Press (January 27, 2003), News Journal (April 9, 2003; June 1, 2003), The Record, Smokefreeworld.com

**Read this story and 99 other all-new outrageous stories of government regulatory abuse in the new fifth edition of the National Center for Public Policy Research's book, Shattered Dreams: One Hundred Stories of Government Abuse.

Download your free PDF copy today here or purchase a print copy online here.**

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:08 PM

100 Tales of Dangerous Government

Today begins a new blog series: Reprinting stories from the new, fifth edition of the National Center for Public Policy Research's book, Shattered Dreams: One Hundred Stories of Government Abuse.

Visit the blog every weekday for more stories or, if you just can't wait, purchase a print copy online for just $15 here, including postage and handling.

Because we want to get the important message of this book -- that excessive regulation harms people and communities -- to as many people as possible, we've also made available free PDF copies here. You can download the entire book, identical to the print edition, read it yourself, and share as many copies as you like with others. You can even post copies on your own blog or website if you like (just don't change the PDF, please!)

Here's more about the book:
"The fight for freedom begins at home. It's good to know The National Center for Public Policy Research is standing guard."
-Ted Nugent, from the Foreword

"The National Center for Public Policy Research is fighting for the freedom of all Americans. It is doing an excellent service in bringing these victims and their stories to light. Shattered Dreams is a must read for all patriots and policy makers who care deeply about America's future and yearn to right her path."
-Judge Andrew Napolitano, from the Introduction

Government Gone Wild!!!
100 Tales of Outrage to Make Your Blood Boil


As Ronald Reagan once said, the nine scariest words in the English language are, "I'm from the government and I'm here to help." And an important new book, just out from the National Center for Public Policy Research, shows how on the mark the Gipper was. SHATTERED DREAMS: ONE HUNDRED STORIES OF GOVERNMENT ABUSE gives a hundred reasons why government left unchecked can harm even innocent, law-abiding citizens.

With a foreword by Ted Nugent and an introduction by Judge Andrew P. Napolitano, SHATTERED DREAMS serves a cautionary note against those who would expand government's powers and increase its scope over our lives and livelihoods. A team of researchers and experts at the NCPPR provide a rap sheet of government's regulatory missteps, from the merely comic (like the Minnesota girl harassed for running an unlicensed lemonade stand) to the truly horrific (children ripped from the loving arms of parents whose only crime was wanting a quality education for their kids).

SHATTERED DREAMS paints a picture of government at all levels that too often is arbitrary, irrational, petty, vindictive, capricious, shortsighted, avaricious, and nasty. And the book shows these government abuses taking a significant toll in human terms-not just incurring heavy costs, but often destroying lives, wrecking communities, and occasionally even imperiling national security. The NCPPR team provides example after blood-curdling example of government breaking the law it sets, terrorizing innocent, law-abiding citizens.

SHATTERED DREAMS offers short, easily accessible tales, written in a lively style that shines a spotlight on a host of corrupt and dangerous government practices, and a slew of preposterous, ineffective, and costly regulations.

Each entry is backed up with extensive research and source notes. The book breaks down into a wide variety of sections. One shows the folly of taking endangered species protection to extremes. Another provides a mind-numbing catalog of eminent domain abuses. Still others detail the assault on private property rights or on Americans' abilities to engage in routine commercial activities.

Next time you hear someone in the news call for government "to act," keep in mind that its actions often bring with them dire consequences for ordinary (and innocent) Americans. SHATTERED DREAMS shows just how dangerous government can be, even in a "free" society.

Quotes About the Fifth Edition of Shattered Dreams:

"Wherever unaccountable, unelected bureaucrats enforce an increasing number of unconstitutional rules and regulations, the human cost is high. Shattered Dreams should alarm every citizen about the real and potential abuse by their own government."

-Reagan Administration Attorney General Edwin Meese, III
Ronald Reagan Distinguished Fellow, The Heritage Foundation


"Most Americans are unaware of the massive attacks on our property rights and other personal liberties, and for a good reason; they are being confiscated bit by bit in a relatively unnoticeable way. The fifth edition of Shattered Dreams gives us case by case documentation of this unpleasant process."
-Walter E. Williams
John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics, George Mason University; Nationally syndicated columnist

"The National Center for Public Policy Research has performed a great service by cataloging the ways in which the growth of the regulatory state threatens our natural rights to 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.' Anyone who wishes to understand how paternalistic government is crushing liberty needs to read this book!"
-Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX)

"It is inconceivable that the founders of our great republic would approve of modern government's meddling into ordinary Americans' daily lives. Shattered Dreams is a stunning, retail-level case study of the inequitable application of government power. Indeed, this book shows why far too many of today's wrongful federal and state regulations not only undermine constitutionally protected liberties in an abstract sense but also ruin the lives of countless numbers of Americans."

-Mark Levin, Nationally-syndicated radio talk show host and president of Landmark Legal Foundation

"Big government is wasteful, inefficient, sinister - and funny. Half of the tales of regulatory abuse in "Shattered Dreams" are hilariously absurd - like the little girl whose lemonade stand was deemed illegal and shut down because she had not applied for a $60 license. But funny or sinister -and other stories show regulatory abuse destroying lives and fortunes - this book reveals how Big Regulation increasingly throttles our freedom. Ignore it - and the laugh will be on you."
-John O'Sullivan, Author and Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute

"This collection of sometimes-funny, often-shocking horror stories should leave readers with one clear lesson: When Big Government comes knocking, don't be afraid. Be very afraid."
-Deroy Murdock, Nationally-syndicated columnist and
Senior Fellow, Atlas Economic Research Foundation; Distinguished Fellow, National Center for Public Policy Research


"Communities I represent in California, including Colton and Fontana, have been unable to move ahead with important development opportunities. Burdensome restrictions to protect an insect - the Delhi Sands Flower-Loving Fly - have prevented projects that could revitalize our cities, boost economic development and provide jobs for area residents."
-Congressman Joe Baca (D-CA)

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:20 PM

Friday, April 13, 2007

Birds 'Struggle to Cope' ...With More Plentiful Food?

Birds harmed by global warming? That's what the British Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and a headline writer for this story want you to believe:
Birds 'Struggle to Cope' with Climate Change

Birds are finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the changing British climate, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has warned.

Milder winters and cold snaps are affecting feeding routines and altering migratory patterns.

As a result, the number of birds counted by participants in January's Big Garden Birdwatch was down, with some breeds hitting a five-year low.

The charity noted that warmer weather had meant that many birds were able to feed in the countryside and were therefore not visiting garden bird tables as frequently.
In other words, nature is providing more food for the birds. Increased food availability is probably not something the birds themselves regard as a "struggle to cope."
Ruth Davis, head of climate change policy at the RSPB, also said that the survey only provided a very brief snapshot, as the figures were gathered over a single weekend.

But she cautioned that birds were feeling the impact of climate change and urged everyone to think about how their lives damaged the environment.
Yes, a weekend's worth of data should be enough to convince anybody. Why, that's a full two days!
"Although the mild winter seems to have provided more food for songbirds in the countryside this year, as changes to our climate become more extreme, many birds will struggle to cope with the altered weather patterns," Ms. Davis warned...
The birds are thriving. There is no evidence in thi entire story that birds are struggling in any way whatsoever.

Read the entire story here if you don't believe a headline and a thesis can be this far removed from what the facts in the story truly reveal.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:07 PM

Don Imus is "Right-Wing"?

Says the Independent:
The right-wing US broadcasters who fill the air with invective operate way beyond the conventions of good taste. But now one of them has gone too far.
Who knew?

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:22 PM

Which Congressional Committees Are Chaired by Leninists?

Laurie Kellman writes for the Associated Press today:
Democratically chaired congressional committees want... e-mails for their probe of the firings of eight federal prosecutors.
This would be as opposed to what? Congressional Committees chaired by communists following a revolution?

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:35 PM

Eugene Robinson: White People Can't Talk

In the Washington Post today, in-house columnist Eugene Robinson diminishes everything the true civil rights leaders fought for.

Eugene Robinson: "Why Imus Had to Go":
...For young black hip-hop artists to use such language [as "nappy-headed hos"] to demean black women is similarly deplorable -- and, I would argue, even more damaging. But come on, people, don't deceive yourselves that it's precisely the same thing. Don't pretend that 388 years of history -- since the first shackled African slaves arrived at Jamestown -- never happened. The First Amendment notwithstanding, it has always been the case that some speech has been off-limits to some people. I remember a time when black people couldn't say "I'd like to vote, please." Now, white people can't say "nappy-headed hos." You'll survive...
For Martin Luther King, Jr., it was about equality. For Eugene Robinson, it's about retribution. (Witness Robinson's evident satisfaction that there's something -- he believes -- white people are not permitted to do.)

Contrast Robinson's "blacks get to say awful things about blacks but white people can't" philosophy with Martin Luther King preaching about the importance of the content of character.

Imagine if Martin Luther King's earth-moving 1963 speech had instead have had a theme of, a la Eugene Robinson, "you've been mean to us for centuries; now we're going to be mean to you for a while."

It's hard to believe the civil rights movement would have uplifted the nation with that call to keep our civil ethics in the gutter, isn't it?

People of character do not call young ladies "whores." Even black people of character. Even people who spell and pronounce it properly.

Robinson furthermore mixes his issues in ways that betray the sloppiness of his reasoning process. Black people could always say "I'd like to vote, please." The fact that black men couldn't vote until 137 years ago was not about free speech, but suffrage. Likewise, the fact that landless white men couldn't vote in America until 200-151 years ago (depending on state of residence), or black or white women until a mere 87 years ago.

It's worth noting, too, that Don Imus was penalized because his employer chose to penalize him. How many white people have high-profile broadcasting positions? How many black broadcasters today believe saying "nappy-headed hos" on the air would strengthen their negotiating position at contract time? Not very many, I bet.

Yet black and -- sorry, Mr. Robinson -- white people all over America have been saying "nappy-headed hos" by the thousands for a week now, yet there are no reports of anyone other than Don Imus being fired for it.

The true issue here is civility. We all ought to be civil to one another, we all were endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights, and we all ought to realize -- as Eugene Robinson apparently does not -- that one bad turn does not deserve another.

Addendum: I read a few other Eugene Robinson columns while having lunch.

Commenting on the story that Strom Thurmond's first cousin twice removed "owned" Al Sharpton's great-grandfather, Robinson writes: "Sharpton learned for the first time that his name came from Alexander Sharpton, a rich Edgefield County slave owner. Nothing unusual there -- that's the way we got our surnames, from our ancestors' owners..."

Who is "we"? It sounds like he means Sharpton, himself, and his readers. Does he write his column thinking only of readers who are descended from American slaves? (Never mind that a substantial part of the population, including the descendants of slaves, got their surname from their husbands.)

In a column on President Bush, Robinson strikes a blow against dividing people into simple categories: "A president who reduces the near-infinite variety of humankind to 'with us' or 'against us' has mired the nation..."

The near-infinite variety of humankind came down to just two groups when you wrote that blacks can say "nappy-headed hos" and whites can't, Mr. Robinson. "With us" or "against us," indeed.

And on global warming: "The first half of January 2007 was so balmy in the Northeast that crocuses bloomed."

And the middle of April is so cold they may cancel the Boston Marathon. The point?

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:20 PM

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Thoughts on a Don Imus Wannabee

Taking cues from Don Imus, Pat Oliphant, Jeff Danziger and the New York Times syndicate, Ted Rall, the Palestinian press, Julian Bond, Bellevue Community College in Seattle, the Universal Press Syndicate, someone at USA Today's website, Ann "Money-Maker" Coulter, radio host John "Sly" Sylvester and the Mid-West Broadcast Group, and especially Garry Trudeau (among others), leftie blogger TBogg decided the other day to call our Secretary of State "Brown Sugar."

I wonder if the thought of a successful black woman genuinely makes Mr. TBogg think of people who sleep their way to the top. It is equally likely that this was a ploy for attention. Or, perhaps, TBogg just says nasty things, but is not particularly original.

I asked Project 21 Chairman Mychal Massie and Project 21 Fellow Deneen Borelli what they think of it.
Mychal Massie: "These comments meant to be insulting, calcify that which we have long known -- for liberals, it isn't what you say that matters, it's who you say it about. Imus's sin was clearly who he chose to comment about -- had he directed his insults at Dr. Rice or Justice Thomas not only would there have been no penalty or outcry from the cacophony of race-mongers we now hear, but we would be the only ones talking about it."

Deneen Borelli: "This Don Imus impersonator is ignorant of the fact that Dr. Condoleezza Rice is a successful black female, currently the Secretary of State, former National Security Advisor, former Stanford University Provost, has several honorary doctorates, served on numerous boards, is a concert pianist and is fluent in several languages. Cheap insults will never diminish her accomplishments."
I agree with both.

It does seem that, for many on the left, it's not what you say, but who you say it about. (It's also who says it. Rush Limbaugh can't even say the media wishes a black quarterback well, while rap singers and their corporate backers can say and promote atrocious filth.)

But Deneen is right, also. It's ludicrious for Trudeau and TBogg and others to imply that Condoleezza Rice owes her influence not to accomplishments, but to her alleged personal relationship with a man. They make fools of themselves.

Others blogging this include:
Gay Patriot

The Mahablog

Riehl World View

Blog-o-Fascists

186k Per Second

The Wiccan Warrior

Neptunus Lex

lgf

Gateway Pundit

Confederate Yankee

Villainous Company

captaincox.com

Right Wing News
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:53 PM

Monday, April 09, 2007

Global Warming Media Bias: Power Line Nails It

John Hinderaker at Power Line takes apart an AP wire story on global warming by Cain Burdeau.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:14 PM

Friday, April 06, 2007

Newt Gingrich on the Environment

The Washington Post makes what it calls a Newt Gingrich-John Kerry "debate on the environment" sound like a clash of ideological opposites, but Newt Gingrich aspired to be a handmaiden of the environmentalists while Gingrich was Speaker of the House.

The love was unrequited. The environmentalists attacked Gingrich anyway. (They raise money demonizing Republicans.) In private, though, the environmentalists had more luck getting meetings with Speaker Gingrich than conservatives working on environmental issues ever did.

The Gingrich-Kerry "debate" event's announcement itself says the two men will explore "the ways in which Congress might be able to resolve its differences on this long-range issue through institutional change, new analytic techniques, and legislative innovation."

I expect a conversation in which Gingrich and Kerry discuss ways of getting around people in Congress who support the Fifth Amendment, sound science, and a government at least a smidgeon smaller than the Earth the gaians worship.

For those who don't recall -- which will be many of you, since the press didn't cover much of this during Gingrich's speakership (it didn't fit its template) -- a short trip down memory lane:
Newt Gingrich co-sponsored H.R. 341 during the 1993-94 Congress, a bill offered by Rep. Gerry Studds (D-MA) that would not only have re-authorized the Endangered Species Act but would have strengthened it in ways that increase the potential for government abuse of landowners.

When Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-KS) sponsored a property rights bill, S. 605, that would have required the government to compensate property owners if by regulatory action the value of their property is diminished by one-third or more, Gingrich urged him not to bring it up for a vote on the floor. At the time, even Democrat pollster Celinda Lake's surveys showed the issue to be a winning one with the public. A Times Mirror poll the prior year found that 66 percent of the public supported compensation for regulatory takings of private property. A Polling Company poll at the time found that 72 percent of the public believed private property owners should be compensated for any losses in property values resulting from government regulation.

Gingrich co-sponsored legislation to create a National Institute on the Environment -- an agency that would inevitably have become yet another government-funded body requiring the "discovery" of new environmental risks -- to justify its existence. It eventually would have served as little more than a funnel for government money to environmental causes, and have resulted in even more burdensome regulations on people and the economy.

Gingrich co-sponsored H.R. 987, a bill that established additional Wilderness Areas in the Tongass National Forest, making sustainable forestry uneconomic in a high unemployment area.

Gingrich voted for the Montana Wilderness Act (H.R. 2473), setting aside 1.6 million acres in Montana for Wilderness Areas (the federal government already “owned” 27.6 percent of Montana).

As Speaker, Gingrich set up a House Task Force on the Environment, which was designed to serve as a Rules Committee of sorts for all environmental legislation -- no environmental legislation was to move in the House without the approval of the new Task Force. (This was an effort to end-run conservatives.) Gingrich then appointed Representative Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), who has liberal views on environmental issues (a 92% rating from the liberal League of Conservation Voters at the time of his appointment, a rating higher than more than 50 percent of the Democrats in the House at the time), to co-chair it. Then Gingrich gave Republicans with views similar to those of liberal environmental organizations equal representation on the task force with Republicans holding conservative/limited-government views, even though the liberal Republicans were a tiny minority within the Republican caucus.

Newt Gingrich was one of the most green Republicans before he became Minority Whip in March 1989, based on the ratings in the League of Conservation Voters' National Environmental Scorecard. Gingrich's LCV ratings were as follows: 1979-80, 45%; 1981-82, 48%; 1983-84, 23%; 1985-86, 33%; and 1987-88, 50%. After his election to leadership in 1989, Gingrich's LCV rating dropped dramatically -- perhaps because he realized that his further rise in leadership depended on the good will of the members of his own party. His ratings for the Congressional sessions immediately afterward were: 1989-90, 12%; 1991-92, 7%; and 1993-94, 13%.

From the April 30, 1996 Greenwire, then-Speaker Gingrich on then-Majority Whip Tom DeLay, the latter a reliable limited-government sound science conservative on environmental and regulatory issues: "I think that Tom at times represents a different view of the environment than I do."
I don't dislike Newt Gingrich. A lot of his ideas are sound (maybe most of them, but when talking about the unpredictable Newt Gingrich, that's a scary thing to commit to). I haven't followed the progress of Gingrich's environmental views much since he left Congress, but they are probably nuanced to the nth degree, and they probably aren't very different from they were ten years ago.

Newt Gingrich has never before spoken for the conservative movement on environmental issues, and it is unlikely that he's going to start now.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:34 PM

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Trouble Is, There's Nothing Funny About This Red Skelton

Husband David wonders:
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton's ban of the phrase "global war on terror" from legislative dictionaries is reminiscent of censorship practiced in the old Soviet Union (increasingly, the new one -- Russia -- too).

Would that make him Red Skelton?
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 6:28 PM

Sacrifice is for the Proletariat

From the London Evening Standard comes news of one politically-correct ultra-green media darling taking a helicopter to visit another politically-correct ultra-green media darling, when taking a train would have taken only two hours.

Hat tip: Greenie Watch.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:38 PM

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

60 Minutes Does Health Care III: CBS Responds to Our Criticism

CBS News, via its blog, has responded to the National Center for Public Policy Research's critique (covered here yesterday) of its 60 Minutes show Sunday.

In a nutshell, The National Center's David Hogberg had complained that the 60 Minutes broadcast relied upon unrepresentative, artifically-high data to determine the price seniors are paying for drugs under Medicare. Second, David said 60 Minutes falsely claimed the Veterans Administration derives its prices by negotiation with drug companies, not telling viewers the VA uses strict price controls. Viewers were expected to conclude that VA-like negotiations by Medicare would result in lower drug prices for Medicare recipients. The critical phrase "price controls" never came up.

David also complained that the 60 Minutes broadcast failed to tell viewers that Families USA, which issued the study, "is a left-wing organization with an agenda of increasing government involvement in health care."

CBS Blogger Brian Montopoli interviewed the producer of the 60 Minutes segment, Ira Rosen, who said he "stands by the story" (that's what journalists always say -- they don't even bother to alter the wording).

Rosen also said of the Families USA-supplied prescription drug data The National Center's David Hogberg called "unrepresentative": "Families USA data is represented nationally."

That's an odd way to word it and literally meaningless, but if we assume he meant that it is perfectly appropriate to take price data from two counties that are above-average in wealth (one of which is the fourth-richest county in the USA) and report that the data is representative of drug prices under Medicare in the entire country, well, all we can say is that we see why Ira Rosen went into journalism instead of statistics.

Of David Hogberg's criticism that the program misrepresented the way the Veterans Administration arrives at prices for drugs, the CBS Blog was silent.

Of David's charge that 60 Minutes should have told viewers that Families USA is a very liberal organization, the CBS Blog said:
The Center also complained that "60 Minutes" identified Families USA as a non-partisan group, calling it "a left-wing organization with an agenda of increasing government involvement in health care."

"We are non-partisan – I want to be clear about that," said [Families USA Executive Director Ron] Pollack. "We have never supported or opposed any political candidate for any office, ever. I don't know how I could be more resolute about this. And indeed, our tax exempt status requires us to be." Pollack said that the vast majority of the group's finding comes from non-partisan foundations, though it has received a "tiny proportion of funding" from George Soros.
I have no reason to doubt that Ron Pollack is right when he says Families USA is non-partisan, but that's a red herring. The National Center for Public Policy Research did not say that CBS should have told viewers that Families USA supports candidates of one particular political party for public office, we said viewers should have been told that Families USA is "a left-wing organization with an agenda of increasing government involvement in health care." When CBS decided to call Families USA a "non-partisan health care watchog group" without saying anything about its leftism, viewers were misled. What possible reason, other than bias, would 60 Minutes have had to do that?

Interestingly, while CBS called Families USA a "non-partisan health care watchog group," it called the National Center for Public Policy Research "a conservative group called The National Center For Public Policy Research." The National Center is conservative, but it has the same tax status as Families USA -- and has an equal claim to be called "non-partisan" by CBS.

What's different, apparently, is the way CBS News views the two organizations.

CBS does deserve credit, at least, for mentioning the National Center's concerns -- first expressed to 60 Minutes five times before the show was broadcast, when there was still time for corrections that were never made -- on its blog. If only the blog had more readers than the broadcast.

For those who might wish to view it, the 60 Minutes segment in question is linked to on the CBS blog.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:19 PM

Some Of Us Still Hope They Cure Cancer

I guess curing diseases, developing new drugs, investigating outer space, charting our DNA, etc. isn't so important to the news media anymore.

The science news is all about global warming.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:24 PM

Monday, April 02, 2007

60 Minutes Does Health Care II

The National Center for Public Policy Research's health care senior policy analyst, David Hogberg, contacted the CBS television show "60 Minutes" five times last week -- by telephone, fax and e-mail -- to warn the show's producers that a report by the leftie big-government health care lobby group Families USA, which 60 Minutes planned to highlight in Sunday's show, rested on faulty data.

The Families USA report made certain claims in support of calls that Medicare be permitted to "negotiate (read: dictate) drug prices to drug companies. An
analysis
David completed for the National Center in January, and which he made available to 60 Minutes, called the Families USA study "nonsense."

As David explained in a National Center press release today:
The Medicare drug price data used in the [Families USA] report to compare Medicare drug costs to the VA's drug costs come from only two counties - Montgomery County, Maryland and Hamilton County, Ohio. Based on median household income, both counties are above the national average. Montgomery County, for instance, is the fourth-richest county in the nation. Since wealthier areas, on average, tend to pay higher prices, Families USA's use of these counties as the source of their sample data all but guarantees that the Medicare drug prices data in their study will be exaggeratedly high.
In an e-mail last week, David Hogberg warned 60 Minutes producers, "I want to emphasize that if you use the report in your segment, in the interest of journalistic objectivity you should have someone on the segment disputing its findings."

When the report aired, however, the 60 Minutes segment did not feature anyone disputing the Families USA report.

David described the show further in an American Spectator op-ed published today:
Reporter Steve Kroft... stated, "Families USA reported in a January study that Medicare patients are being charged nearly 60 percent more for the top twenty drugs than veterans pay under a program run by the Veterans Administration." Yet Montgomery County, one of the two counties used in the study, had a median household income more than 80 percent greater than the median income for all of the U.S. Did Kroft note that? Of course not! He simply sucked up to Ron Pollack of Families USA by lobbing him a softball: "And this [the lower VA price] is because the VA negotiates with the drug companies on price?" "That's correct," replied Pollack.

But the VA only negotiates the price of a drug after the drug company has agreed to the VA's price control. If a drug company does not agree to sell its drug to the VA for 24% less than the average commercial price, then the VA does not include the drug on its formulary and, thus, VA patients do not have access to it. Once the drug company has agreed to an initial price control, then the VA tries to negotiate the price down further.

60 Minutes also misled viewers about the political ideologies driving Families USA. In the segment, Steve Kroft called the group a "non-partisan health care watchdog group." In fact, the group's executive staff and board of directors are filled with current and former Democrat politicians, Clinton Administration appointees and union executives who disproportionately fund Democrat candidates.
"Families USA was made out to be a disinterested, objective organization," David said in the press release. "It completely obscures the fact that Families USA is a left-wing organization with an agenda of increasing government involvement in health care. Apparently, they are all too happy to flack for any left-wing interest group."

Bias on drug issues may be standard procedure at the broadcast networks. A report by Ken Shepherd and Amy Menefee of the Business and Media Institute (part of the Media Research Center, which hosts Newsbusters, where this blog post has been cross-posted) examined 132 stories on the ABC, CBS, and NBC evening newcasts during nine months in 2006 and noted that "nearly 80 percent of the stories excluded the viewpoint of the pharmaceutical industry, failing to include either a company statement or a company spokesman."

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:22 PM

On Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency

The Supreme Court's decision is a victory for the bad guys in the battle over whether the American people will be governed by accountable elected officials or unaccountable judges. Unable to convince the Senate to vote upon, let alone ratify, the Kyoto global warming treaty, the left has adopted the Kyoto-by-stealth strategy of asking judges to force its version of science into the pocketbooks of the American people.

Shame on them. And shame on the five Justices who agreed to do so today.

We learn from Justice Stevens today that carbon dioxide is 'the most important... greenhouse gas.' Science cannot confirm the Justice's confident statement. The role of water vapor, the most plentiful greenhouse gas, is not yet understood. Nor is the role of carbon dioxide understood. Such uncertainty, among many others, is the reason scientists annually request and spend several billion dollars of funds supplied by hardworking U.S. taxpayers for research into climate change. Can the taxpayers now expect relief?

We shall see how many groups on the political left today ask: 'How many peer-reviewed papers has Justice Stevens published?'

U.S. policies relating to the alleged threat of global warming should, as Justices Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito said in their dissent, be determined by the Congress and the Chief Executive. As the dissenting Justices also observed, '[Global warming] is not a problem that... has escaped the attention of policymakers in the Executive and Legislative Branches of our Government, who continue to consider regulatory, legislative and treaty-based means of addressing global climate change.'

The Supreme Court should have stayed out of the way. The legislative and executive branches are empowered by the Constitution with the duty of setting environmental policies, and, unlike our rapacious judicial branch, also are accountable to the American people.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 6:00 PM

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