masthead-highres

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Canadian Health Care: Another Personal Story

Sally Pipes of the Pacific Research Institute was unlucky enough to appear -- briefly -- in Michael Moore's new movie, Sicko.

As an American who was born and raised in Canada, she knows about the Canadian health care system, and in a much more personal way than Michael Moore, as her op-ed in the Providence Journal Monday makes clear:
In his new movie 'Sicko,' Michael Moore uses a clip of my appearance earlier this year on 'The O'Reilly Factor' to introduce a segment on the glories of Canadian health care. Moore adores the Canadian system. I do not...

...Government-run health care in Canada inevitably devolves into a dehumanizing system of triage, where the weak and the elderly are hastened to their fates by actuarial calculation. Having fought the Canadian health-care bureaucracy on behalf of my ailing mother just two years ago -- she was too old, and too sick, to merit the highest-quality care in the government's eyes -- I can honestly say that Moore's preferred health-care system is something I wouldn't wish on him.

In 1999, my uncle was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. If he'd lived in America, the miracle drug Rituxan might have saved him. But Rituxan wasn't approved for use in Canada, and he lost his battle with cancer.

But don't take my word for it: Even the Toronto Star agrees that Moore's endorsement of Canadian health care is overwrought and factually challenged. And the Star is considered a left-wing newspaper, even by Canadian standards...
The entire piece is worth reading.

Hat tip: Wizbang.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:53 AM

Monday, July 30, 2007

City Condemns Family Home, Citing Lack of Two-Car Garage

Citing a desire for additional tax revenue, the City of Lakewood, OH designated an everyday neighborhood as "blighted" so that it could transfer the property to a high-end real estate developer. The designation threatened to displace an entire community until local citizens fought back and won.

City Condemns Family Home, Citing Lack of Two-Car Garage

Jim and JoAnn Saleet have lived in their home since 1965. They raised their four children there. They relax on its porch while they listen to the Cleveland Indians baseball games on the radio.

The Saleets had planned on leaving the property to their daughter Judy after their deaths, but the City of Lakewood, Ohio has proposed plans that would force the Saleets to instead sell their home to the government so it can be turned over to a real estate developer.

The Saleets live in an area of Lakewood called the West End. Citing its eminent domain power - the government's ability to purchase private property to use for the good of the public - Lakewood Mayor Madeline Cain announced that the city planned on taking the homes of the Saleets and other West End residents. Normally, land taken through eminent domain is used for projects such as building schools or highways. Mayor Cain, however, wants to turn over the land in the Saleets' neighborhood to private corporations seeking to build condominiums and a high-end shopping center. She justifies the use of eminent domain because the increase in tax revenue for the city is a "public use."

In December 2002, the Lakewood City Council officially approved Cain's eminent domain proposal through both a "community development plan" and a finding that labeled the Saleets' neighborhood as "blighted." By designating the area "blighted," city officials could be justified for taking privately-owned land and turning it over to developers, Jeffrey R. Anderson Real Estate, CenterPoint Properties and Heartland Developers, LLC.

The designation of the Saleets' home as blighted, however, is misleading and deceitful. Factors used to classify the West End homes as "blighted" include the lack of a two-car garage and having less than two bathrooms or three bedrooms. Ironically, the homes owned by Mayor Cain, all of the members of the City Council and the vast majority of Lakewood residents would be considered blighted by these standards. But only the West End has been targeted for condemnation by the city.

The Saleets and other families, with the help of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Justice, sued the City of Lakewood in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court in May 2003. Judge Kathleen Ann Sutula ruled against the city's request to dismiss the case in July 2003. Finally, in November of 2003, the citizens of Lakewood rejected the development plan through a referendum vote. Moreover, in March 2004, the citizens approved a second ballot initiative to repeal the blight designation that had threatened the community.

Sources: Institute for Justice, Washington Post (June 22, 2003), Cleveland Plain Dealer, Associated Press (November 5, 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 10:03 AM

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Global Warming Surrender Monkeys

Tom Borelli on CNBC's Squawk Box on July 23.

Tom Borelli has an excellent new column on Townhall.com today on the corporate social responsibility movement, in which corporations seek to appease leftist critics at the expense of stockholders, taxpayers amd the public welfare, while the leftist groups offer their imprimatur in exchange for cash.

Tom's column today, "Serving Caterpillar at the Global Warming Table," focuses on one of these exercises in mutual exploitation, the United States Climate Action Partnership, or USCAP.

As Tom describes it:
...USCAP is comprised of more than twenty companies including corporate titans General Electric, DuPont, PG&E and Caterpillar and is joined by six environmental advocacy groups including Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense and The Nature Conservancy.

USCAP’s goal is “to call on the federal government to quickly enact strong national legislation to require significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.” USCAP is guided by six operating principles but its policy goal is to establish a Kyoto type treaty cap-and-trade regulatory scheme that sets limits for carbon dioxide emissions – a greenhouse gas.

Under cap-and-trade, the government gives or sells to companies a specific amount of carbon dioxide they are allowed to emit (the cap) and if they don’t use their entire allocation (carbon credits), they can sell the unused portion to another business (the trade)...
As Tom notes, a few of the companies that joined USCAP have a proft-seeking motive for doing so, so whatever the state of their citizenship skills, they are at least offering some short-term benefit to their stockholders.

However...
for other companies the profit motive is much less clear or totally absent. Take for example Caterpillar Inc. – the construction and mining equipment and engine company. Judging by statements made by CEO Jim Owens and the negative impact of cap-and-trade on the economy and its customers, Caterpillar’s participation in USCAP is not based on increasing profits.

Caterpillar’s business and future profitability depends on a growing economy and growth in the energy and mining industry. In fact, according to its 10-K filing – a detailed annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) – Caterpillar cites a decline in energy and mining industries as a business risk. “The energy and mining industries are major users of our machines and engines. Decisions to purchase our machines and engines are dependent upon performance of these industries. If demand of output in these industries increases, the demand for our products would likely increase and vice versa.”
As regular readers will remember, Tom and his wife Deneen, a full-time fellow with the National Center's conservative black group Project 21, attended Caterpillar's annual stockholder meeting in June and confronted CEO James Owens directly. A press release at the time described the confrontation:
During the meeting's question-and-answer session, Project 21 Fellow Deneen Borelli questioned Caterpillar executives about whether the company performed a complete cost-benefit analysis on the effects a cap-and-trade policy on carbon emissions would have on Caterpillar, its customers and America's poor prior to the company joining the group, which lobbies for such policies.

"I asked the head of Caterpillar, James Owens, three different times if the company had done a cost-benefit analysis and he said 'no,'" said Ms. Borelli. "He also said that he was not planning to do one in the future. Unfortunately, America will be paying for this incompetence in the form of rising energy costs."

Mr. Owens also acknowledged that he had received and read the letter sent to him by over 70 national and state policy groups and representatives of mining, ranching, forestry, construction and agricultural industries, urging him to withdraw Caterpillar's membership in USCAP. The letter to Mr. Owens is available at www.nationalcenter.org/caterpillar_climate.pdf.

The Congressional Budget Office reported in April that the restrictions sought by USCAP would especially harm the poorest fifth of the U.S. population. As a percentage of wages, the poorest quintile would pay nearly double the costs borne by the richest quintile for energy. In addition, the CBO study found that "current workers and investors in [energy] industries would experience costs in the form of lower wages, job losses, and reduced stock values" as a result of a cap-and-trade emissions policy.

Tom Borelli, senior fellow with The National Center for Public Policy Research and portfolio manager for the Free Enterprise Action Fund, asked Mr. Owens if he had read the CBO report. Mr. Owens responded that he had not.

Ms. Borelli also pointed out to Mr. Owens that Caterpillar's involvement with USCAP had already lost the company at least one major customer, Murray Energy Corporation. Mr. Owens acknowledged this and said he was sorry about it.

"It's outrageous that a CEO would harm his key customers without doing any due diligence to determine the impact on his customers and shareholders," said Dr. Borelli. "This is why shareholders need to demand a debate regarding the impacts of cap-and-trade on their investment. Owens' ignorance on the issue of cap-and-trade could open up his company to shareholder lawsuits."
It is a testament to the power and ruthlessness of liberal special interests that so many major corporations fear them. It says something not very flattering about the corporations as well.

Tom and Deneen have received quite a bit of media coverage (for example, here) for their work alerting the public to the dangerous alliance that is USCAP, and of the cost to the public, especially the disproportionate costs to lower income people of cap and trade" policies to restrict -- and raise the price of -- energy use. Unfortunately, as long cap and trade remains trendy for some, and a source of potential profit for others, it remains a danger to the prosperity of the American people.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:40 PM

Amazonian Tribal Art or Endangered Species?

While secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, Lawrence Small violated federal bird protection regulations when he imported Amazonian tribal art that, unbeknownst to him, contained feathers of endangered birds.

Amazonian Tribal Art or Endangered Species?

The government entrusted Lawrence M. Small, the former secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, with overseeing America's national museums, research centers and libraries and the National Zoo. When he opened his own private art collection, however, Small found himself entangled in allegations that he was violating a federal law related to protected bird species. As punishment for his violation, the government required Small to serve a hard labor sentence of 100 hours, involving planting trees or other such outdoor projects for the community.

Prior to entering public service, Small visited South America several times as a bank executive and became enamored with Amazonian art. In 1998, Small purchased approximately 1,000 pieces of Amazonian tribal art from anthropologist Rosita Herita for roughly $400,000. The collection contained various exotic headdresses, capes, masks and armbands adorned with vibrantly colored feathers. Small contends that he submitted the appropriate permit and legal documentation necessary for the purchase. Small believed none of the feathers nor species included in the collection were protected by the Endangered Species Act.

Photographs of Small's collection were published in Smithsonian magazine in 2000. Officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service later claimed several pictures showed feathers from endangered species, including the Scarlet Macaw, Harpy Eagle and Roseate Spoonbill. Possession of a collection with such feathers constitutes a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Endangered Species Act. Small, who was hired for the Smithsonian position because of his management rather than research skills, argued he had no prior knowledge that some of the feathers came from endangered bird species, and that he sought and acquired the proper documentation for the purchase. Assistant U.S. Attorney Banumathi Rangarajan, however, contended Small could not have been an uninformed buyer because of the extensive amount of research he already performed with regard to the art and the time he spent in South America. Small, responding to the charges against him, commented, "I can state categorically that I [had] no knowledge that any species in the collection [was] listed under the Endangered Species Act or that [I] imported any pieces in the collection other than in a lawful manner."

Small pled guilty to federal misdemeanor charges related to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in January 2004. His position with the Smithsonian was unaffected, but Small was sentenced to two years probation, required to perform 100 hours of community service and submit a letter of apology to five national publications as a result of the incident. Small had hoped to read books on endangered species and to lobby Congress to alter the Migratory Bird Treaty Act as his community service. Instead, in June, 2005, a federal judge ordered Small to perform physical labor on a "project or projects designed to improve the natural environment."

Sources: Washington Post (January 21, 2004; January 22, 2004; January 24, 2004), Associated Press (January 26, 2004), The Washington Examiner (August 1, 2005), U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Archaeology Magazine (September 19, 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 2:36 PM

Friday, July 27, 2007

Family's Land Confiscated to Create Shopping Center

The City of Hampton, VA condemned a local couple's property for a public road. But after taking the property for a meager amount, the city gave most of it to a private retail shopping center.

Family's Land Confiscated to Create Shopping Center

In September of 1999, city officials in Hampton, Virginia declared their intention to take a three-quarter-acre property owned by Frank and Dana Ottofaro. It was only after the City acquired the land from the Ottofaros that the couple discovered that the majority of the property would be transferred to a $129 million private retail development that would include the entertainment club, "Five," as well as McFadden's Salon and a 105,000 square-foot Bass Pro Shop for hunters and fishermen.

The land officials sought to condemn under the city's power of eminent domain was supposedly needed for the construction of a new public road, which was claimed to "serve a public purpose by improving the City's transportation network and by providing improved access to underutilized property within the city of Hampton." To compensate the Ottofaros for their property, the city proposed paying the couple $164,000. The Ottofaros rejected the offer, claiming that similar properties in Hampton were valued at much higher rates. Then they filed a lawsuit against the city to keep their property. At the time, they didn't even know the city wanted their property for a shopping and entertainment center.

The Ottofaros lost the battle for their land in January 2003, when the Suprerne Court of Virginia ruled in favor of the city, and allowed their property to be condemned. The couple was compensated only $170,000 for their land. It was only after reading the ruling that the Ottofaros learned that in reality only 18 percent of the condemned land would be used for the proposed road. The remaining 82 percent of the Ottofaros' former land that was not needed for the construction of the road would instead be transferred to the Hampton Industrial Development Authority, a governmental body that oversees the city's economic development plans. It then planned to lease the land to a shopping mall.

The court's ruling produced a great deal of confusion over the city's ability to transfer the condemned property. In the opinion, Justice Leroy R. Hassell wrote, "The City asserts that the landowners' property was condemned for public use and that the residue of the property will not be transferred to a private entity for a private purpose." In a subsequent paragraph, however, he continues, "According to the record, the City may transfer the residue of the landowners' former property to the Hampton Industrial Development Authority, a political subdivision of the Commonwealth, which will lease the property to a private developer." In effect, the judge's ruling allowed the taking because the property would be leased for a private developer's use - not sold.

Following the ruling the Development Authority, which had entered into a development agreement with Hampton Roads Associates, LLC in November of 1999, was given the go ahead to create the Power Plant of Hampton Roads retail shopping center. The Bass Pro Shop opened in November 2003, joined by numerous other retail shops, hotels and restaurants.

Hampton officials project that the 18 percent of the Ottofaro property that will beused for the new roadway will serve a public benefit by serving an estimated 25,000 vehicles each day by 2018. However, questions of political patronage are raised by the court's ruling on the remainder of the land. John Taylor, president of the Virginia Institute for Public Policy said, "The Ottofaros' case serves as an instructive example of the potential harm inherent in the condemnation power when political entities use broad discretion in its application and commercial development is in play."

Sources: Defenders of Property Rights, Virginia Institute for Public Policy, Bacon's Rebellion (April 28, 2003), Ottofaro v. City of Hampton: January 10, 2003, Virginia Supreme Court Ruling. Hampton-development.com, Daily Press (April 12, 2004), The ChesapeakeBay.com (October 24, 2003),Virginia Business (October 2004), Coliseum Central

**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 5:18 PM

Another Neo-Know-Nothing?

When it comes to the Law of the Sea Treaty, "neo-know-nothings" can be found in some pretty august positions.

Here's part of what Heritage Foundation President Ed Feulner had to say about the Law of the Sea Treaty in a column two years ago:
in Washington, a bad idea never goes away -- it just gets tabled until everyone forgets why it was such a bad idea.

The facts are simple, and they are the same today as they were back in 1982 when President Reagan first rejected the Law of the Sea treaty and Donald Rumsfeld (then a special presidential envoy on the treaty) told the world why: It does not serve our national security interests or our economic interests, and we should make sure it isn’t ratified.

Admittedly, Secretary Rice isn’t the treaty’s only supporter. Last year, it passed the Senate Foreign Relations committee. Even some members of the U.S. military are on board. As Michael Mullen, then vice chief of naval operations, told a House committee, “we must be able to take maximum advantage of the established and widely accepted navigational rights the Law of the Sea Convention codifies to get us to the fight rapidly.”

But, in fact, the Navy stands to gain little from the treaty. As Admiral Mullen also testified, the U.S. already is complying with large parts of the agreement. “If the U.S. becomes a party to the Law of the Sea Convention, we would continue to operate as we have since 1983,” he said. “The Convention’s rules in this regard do not change the rules the Navy has operated under for over 40 years under the predecessor 1958 treaties to which the United States is a party, governing the territorial sea and high seas.”

In other words: Treaty or no treaty, we’ll keep doing what we’re doing.

But while there’s not much for us to gain, there’s plenty to lose.

In October 2003, Defense Department official Mark Esper told the Senate that other nations could use Law of the Sea treaty to curtail American military operations, even though these maneuvers are supposed to be exempt. China, for example, likely would waste no time attempting to use the treaty to stop U.S. naval war games.

It’s not merely the military that’s at risk, though. If ratified, the treaty would create virtual governments that would be outside of American control but would exercise power over American interests. For example, Section 4 of the treaty would establish the International Sea-Bed Authority to exercise executive and judicial control over almost all of the world’s oceans and seabeds -- nearly 70 percent of the planet. Its new authority would have the power to tax American interests engaged in a variety of maritime endeavors. Only U.S. lawmakers ought to be able to decide how -- and how much -- to tax Americans.

If the treaty went into effect, the result would resemble the United Nations: The U.S. would foot the bill for about 25 percent of the organizations the treaty would establish. But, as at the U.N., blocks of non-democratic nations could limit our actions easily.

Let’s be frank: These international bureaucracies don’t work. The United Nations is already dealing with a sex scandal in the Congo, genocide in Sudan and the Oil-for-Food fiasco in Iraq. Why would we want to create more unaccountable international bureaucracies and place them in charge of our oceans?

As former Secretary of State George Shultz noted last year, nations create international organizations to serve their common interests, not to govern them. The current system works well and is in our national interest. That’s why it’s time to sink the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, once and for all.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:17 PM

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Safety of Police More Important than Favors for Donors, Group Says

Project 21 says the safety of police officers is more important an a favor for trial lawyers:
Protecting Police Officers More Important Than Helping Political Donors, Group Says

Congress should not put the lives of law enforcement officials at risk to benefit its trial lawyer contributors, says Deneen Borelli of the national black group Project 21.

Congress is now considering overturning the Tiahrt Amendment, a measure that restricts certain gun data from being shared outside of the law enforcement community. Project 21 members are opposing any action that allows trial lawyers, politicians, criminals and others from accessing federal gun trace information.

"The only possible purpose served by overturning the Tiahrt Amendment is to aid the anti-gun lobby and make it easier for trial lawyers to sue gun manufacturers," said Project 21 fellow Deneen Borelli. "Killing the Tiahrt Amendment would also be a great thing for criminals. Not only could they learn they are the subject of an investigation, but also the identity of special agents and informants."

The Tiahrt Amendment - named after its chief sponsor, Representative Todd Tiahrt (R-KS) - was first enacted in 2003. It amends the appropriations legislation that funds the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) to restrict the sharing of the contents of the Firearms Trace System that is administered by the BATFE's National Trace Center. Under the terms of the amendment, data regarding guns involved in crimes is restricted to domestic and foreign law enforcement and prosecutors as it relates to the investigation and prosecution of specific crimes and for national security, intelligence and counterterrorism purposes. Trace data is also inadmissible in evidence and cannot be subpoenaed.

Project 21's Borelli added: "I am a gun owner. I was appalled when a local newspaper decided to publish my name and the names of other registered gun owners in my area. It was an outrageous violation of my privacy rights. Overturning the Tiahrt Amendment could allow this violation of privacy and safety to occur on a larger and more dangerous scale."

The origin of the Tiahrt Amendment comes from a 2002 court decision that allowed trial lawyers to access the BATFE's trace data to gather information for potential lawsuits against gun manufacturers. Dave Kopel of the Independence Institute has also written about how trace data has been used by special interest groups to overstate gun violence figures.

Amendment supporters also want to protect the confidentiality of the federal database because the release of some information contained in it may compromise investigations and reveal the identities of undercover officers. The Fraternal Order of Police supports the Tiahrt Amendment "because of our concern for the safety of law enforcement officers and the integrity of law enforcement investigations." In 2006, then-BATFE director Carl J. Truscott said the Amendment "protects... sensitive data from indiscriminate disclosure."
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 6:27 PM

Project 21 Applauds FCC Chairman

Project 21 agrees with Chairman Kevin martin of the FCC:
Group Applauds FCC Letter on Fairness Doctrine

Project 21 Chairman Mychal Massie today applauded a statement by FCC Chairman Kevin Martin confirming that the so-called Fairness Doctrine is obsolete.

"It can't make our case any stronger than when the agency that once administered the Fairness Doctrine says it is no longer needed," said Project 21 Chairman Mychal Massie, who has hosted a talk radio show.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin says his agency has no intention of reinstating the Fairness Doctrine it dropped 20 years ago. Furthermore, he says, the need for such regulation "has lessened even further" since it was repealed.

Martin made his comments in a letter written this week to Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN). An amendment introduced by Rep. Pence to prohibit the funding of a new Fairness Doctrine passed by a vote of 309 to 155 in late June. Representative Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), however, intends to re-introduce legislation "to restore the Fairness Doctrine" in coming weeks. President Bush has made it known he will veto any legislation that seeks to reimpose the Fairness Doctrine.

In his letter to Representative Pence, Martin wrote: "[W]ith the continued proliferation of additional sources of information and programming, including satellite broadcasting and the Internet, the need for the Fairness Doctrine has lessened even further since 1987."

"Chairman Martin has succinctly defanged the absurdity and partisanship of those who clamor for a new Fairness Doctrine," added Project 21's Massie. "In the final analysis, the Fairness Doctrine they seem to want is not about fairness and balance as much as about silencing those who disagree with them."

Introduced in 1949 when there were relatively few broadcast outlets, the Fairness Doctrine was administered by the FCC to ensure that no single political viewpoint dominated the airwaves. In 1985, the FCC determined that "a multiplicity of voices in the marketplace assured diversity of opinion" and the Fairness Doctrine was no longer achieving its intended goals and was possibly creating a "chilling effect" on free speech. The FCC repealed the Fairness Doctrine in 1987...
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 6:22 PM

Ward Churchill's Chickens

Dinesh D'Souza has a little fun with Ward Churchill.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 6:19 PM

Neo-Know-Nothings? Law of the Sea Supporter Casts Civility Adrift

A story (paid subscription required) in the National Law Journal this week featured husband David as the lone supporter of U.S. sovereignty against quotes from three supporters of ratification of a treaty many Reaganite conservatives believe would hurt our national defense.

The National Law Journal article is nothing if not objective, beginning with the title "Sea Treaty Cast Adrift by the U.S.; Plenty of Support, but No Approval."

By the very definition of "plenty," there isn't "plenty of support" for the Law of the Sea treaty, because there hasn't been enough to get it approved. "Plenty" implies a surfeit. But more to the point, if there have been polls of public attitudes of the Law of the Sea Treaty, and I know of none, they certainly weren't referenced in the article.

The text commences in an equally fair and balanced manner:
The Law of the Sea Treaty, which established a sweeping legal regime for activities on and under the world's oceans, has been a fixture of international law for nearly three decades. But why, despite broad political, military, industry and environmental support in the United States, has the Senate never ratified it?

Some international law experts say it's unlikely any other treaty has been so widely supported and yet failed to come to a vote in the Senate for so long a period of time.

Today, 153 nation states have acceded to the treaty, including Russia, China, every European Union nation and virtually all U.S. allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

President Bush recently urged the Senate to dust it off and push it through by the end of this congressional session.

Is the small, but tenacious, opposition rooted in traditional conservative mistrust of international legal bodies, such as the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court?

"I think that can be part of it," said treaty opponent David Ridenour, vice president of the National Center for Public Policy Research. "Certainly there are provisions of the treaty that give people reasons to be distrustful."

But that distrust is based on misinterpretations of treaty specifics and poor lawyering, insisted longtime treaty advocate John Norton Moore of the University of Virginia School of Law, director of its Center for National Security and Oceans Law and Policy...
Mr. Moore (a Law of the Sea Treaty negotiator) goes on to refer to treaty opponents as a "a neo-know-nothing movement," evidently referring to the mid-19th century Know-Nothing Party.

(The National Law Journal may have missed the reference, as it did not capitalize the party's name -- possibly its writer and/or editors thought Moore was describing critics as a movement of newly-minted idiots.)

The Know-Nothings, for those of you who have limited your knowledge of history to what they teach in schools and universities, was an anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic political party during the pre-Civil War era.

The slur is reminiscent of comments from the pro-amnesty lobby, which called law-abiding citizens who want to build a wall to protect our border before discussing amnesty for illegal aliens xenophobic immigrant bashers, among other epithets. But heck, even Jimmy Carter's amnesty of Vietnam War draft-dodgers didn't take place until after the war was over.

Peace first; then forgive.

To be fair, Mr. Moore also called some treaty opponents "fine people." If I actually were married to an anti-immigrant Catholic basher, it would be a relief indeed to know he is a fine one. And at the risk of sounding like a newly-mined idiot myself, based on his picture on the University of Virginia website, Mr. Moore looks friendly -- though not chubby -- enough to play Santa Claus. Maybe he didn't really mean it.

I'm posting a bit more of the article below, but you'll have to visit (paid subscription required) the National Law Journal website to see the whole thing:
...The treaty gives states the option of choosing among ITLOS, the International Court of Justice or arbitral tribunals to settle their disputes. The United States is on record as rejecting the two courts and as choosing arbitration once it is a party to the treaty.

States are the main parties before the court or the arbitral tribunals, unless a state authorizes a private party, for example an oil company whose tanker has been seized by a foreign state, to proceed on its own behalf. Private parties have direct access to dispute resolution only in the deep sea-bed mining portion of the treaty. Mining companies sought their own right to sue and arbitrate, which was considered radical at the time, according to Oxman, but now is quite common, particularly under investment treaties.

Despite the United States' election of arbitration, Ridenour and other treaty opponents, such as Jeremy Rabkin of George Mason University School of Law, argue the United States could end up before the court when provisional measures -- similar to temporary injunctions -- are sought by a complaining state. The treaty provides that the court would automatically adjudicate such disputes when states cannot reach agreement on the method of adjudication or arbitration "within two weeks from the date of the request for provisional measures."

"You can imagine many circumstances in which the U.S. would disagree with Syria or Iran and where neither side agrees to arbitrators," said Ridenour. "The tribunal is not packed with a lot of U.S. supporters. One of the problems with these international tribunals is often you have judges from countries that do not have a long tradition of representative democracy."

But that is the "extreme setting" that treaty opponents magnify into a major, but baseless, problem, Moore said.

"All of the general dispute mechanisms are set up specifically for arbitration, like the normal commercial arbitration favored by American industry around the world," he said. At the end of the day, if parties can't agree on the arbitration process, he and others said, it is not unusual to have an appointing authority step in. And, if the United States were a treaty member, said Moore, it could have a judge on ITLOS and be an influential voice in the development of ocean laws.

Opponents also say treaty provisions on protecting the marine environment could become a "backdoor for environmental lawsuits" brought in U.S. courts on issues such as global warming. But supporters counter that U.S. courts are familiar with interpreting treaty obligations and the government wants this treaty because it offers stable rules of law and avenues for stopping environmental damage...
David's concerns about the Treaty, though it doesn't cover all of them, can be found here.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:16 AM

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Welfare for Rural States

Is there anything federal taxpayers aren't required to subsidize?

This story explains that taxpayers help rural cell phone users pay their personal phone bills -- and how some want to "reform" this by changing the lmulti-billion welfare program, instead of the only proper thing, which is to eliminate it ASAP.

Supporters say phone systems are more expensive per capita when people don't live near one another. So what? Land and housing is more expensive in well-populated areas, but urban dwellers don't expect people in Montana, North Dakota or Alaska to pay their mortage bills for them.

Besides, urban dwellers already subsidize rural mail delivery. If cell phones are too expensive, people in rural areas can always write a letter.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:30 PM

Senate Committee Passes a Parade of Pork - Threatens Property Rights

From Peyton Knight:
A cynic might view today's action in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee as a rare example of congressional efficiency. The committee managed to pass a bevy of pork-barrel legislation that simultaneously expands the ever-growing federal estate and threatens the rights of private property owners.

The Committee's timing is curious. Since the Supreme Court's dreadful ruling in "Kelo v. New London," Americans nationwide have clamored for stronger private property rights protections. Americans are also increasingly angry about wasteful spending and pork-barrel earmarks like the infamous "bridge to nowhere."

So it makes perfect nonsense that the Senate Resources Committee would respond with a slew of pork barrel programs that threaten private property rights. Is it any wonder congressional approval ratings are so low?

Among the bills passed today:
- The "National Heritage Areas Partnership Act" (S. 278), a bill that would establish "a system of National Heritage Areas" throughout the country, thereby accelerating the creation of new national heritage areas.

National heritage areas are congressionally designated preservation zones where the National Park Service and select special interest groups (typically organizations in pursuit of a rigid preservationist, anti-property rights agenda) as a partner to manage local land use policy. In other words, they result in federal and special interest land use planning.

The federal government funds the interest groups and the interest groups spend money lobbying local governments for land use restrictions in the heritage area. In addition, the interest groups gain the added muscle of the National Park Service to strengthen their influence.

Entranced by the opportunity to siphon millions of dollars of pork back to their home states and districts, congressmen rarely pay any mind to the negative property rights implications associated with national heritage areas.

Should S. 278 eventually become law, expect congressmen to line up at the trough to get their slice of the national heritage area pie.

- Legislation (S. 289, S. 443, S. 444, S. 800, S. 955) to create five new national heritage areas, including the especially controversial "Journey Through Hallowed Ground."

- Legislation (S. 817, S. 1182) to expand the boundaries and/or increase funding for six existing national heritage areas and corridors. Note that funding for national heritage areas is supposed to terminate after a specified period of time. This is one of the big talking points from the pro-heritage area crowd. They claim that they only need millions of federal dollars over a period of a 10 or 15 years, after which point they'll be self-sufficient and no longer in need of federal support. To date, no heritage area has ever had its federal funding terminated. When they reach their funding expiration, they simply ask Congress to extend their funding, and Congress is only too happy to oblige. As such, heritage areas are permanent drains on federal resources, and on a National Park Service that currently suffers a multi-billion dollar maintenance backlog crisis.

- Legislation (S. 169) to grant land acquisition authority to the federal government to grab land adjacent to 10 existing National Trails.

- Legislation (S. 647) to create a new federal Wilderness Area in the state of Oregon.

- Legislation (H.R. 1100) to grant land acquisition authority to the federal government to expand the boundaries of a National Historic Site.

- Legislation (S. 637, H.R. 407) to "study" the prospect of creating two more national heritage areas.
To contact author Peyton Knight directly,
write him at [email protected]

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 6:58 PM

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Los Angeles Times: The Unfairness Doctrine

Except for the line about "demagoguery," the Los Angeles Times has a good editorial today on the Fairness Doctrine.

Money quote: "Restoring the government's power to monitor broadcasters' fulminations and splice in opposing views seems more likely to tame speech than to enlighten listeners."
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:15 PM

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The First Hurricane in Spain

A Trainwreck in Maxwell has a little fun with a Reuters report (reprinted on Bullwinkle's Blog, which has some fun of its own).

Reuters is claiming that no hurricane hit Spain until 2004.

I doubt readers of this blog will be surprised to read that the claim was made in support of the global warming theory.

A Trainwreck in Maxwell and Bullwinkle Blog have slightly longer memories -- or maybe Reuters is simply following the lead of the new British educational curriculum, which puts the mastery of global warming dogma over learning history.

(My personal theory on that is that the global warming alarmists are getting history out of the classrooms now, so in 20-40 years or so, when the planet may well be in a cooling trend, their grandchildren and great-grandchildren won't ever learn about some of the foolish global warming predictions being made today.)

I'm pleased that my post commemorating the Battle of Trafalgar was able to play a modest role in the fun.

As I've noted before, the strangest subjects can get tied in to the global warming issue.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:57 PM

Sports Arena Hat Trick Penalizes Property Owner

The Detroit government low balled a local landowner for the sale of her property that it deceitfully said would be developed into a parking lot. As it turns out, the land was wanted for a hockey arena - a far more valuable project than a parking lot. The government also acquired the land on behalf of a private businessman, and it then tried to transfer the land to that businessman's firm to build the arena.

Sports Arena Hat Trick Penalizes Property Owner

Detroit property owner Freda Alibri received an offer she couldn't refuse. The Detroit/Wayne County Stadium Authority, a public entity, approached her in 1997 wanting to purchase land she owned. The stadium authority wanted the land for two new sports stadiums and parking lots.

Alibri gladly sold the government the property, but later discovered that some of the parking lot land, which she sold to them at a parking lot price, was instead intended to be the site of a third sports venue that made the land worth a whole lot more. Furthermore, the third venue wasn't even a public project presided over by the Stadium Authority, but rather a private venture. When Alibri protested, she was told to be happy with what she got, but she considers the transaction to be an abuse of the government's power of eminent domain.

The taxpayer-funded Stadium Authority was reportedly acquiring land so new stadiums could be built for both the Detroit Tigers baseball team and the Detroit Lions football team. In addition to property Alibri owned directly on the site of the planned stadiums, she also owned a one-acre parking lot located several blocks away. While the Stadium Authority bought the property she owned directly where the stadiums were to be built for more than $6 million, they also said they needed her parking lot, ostensibly for stadium parking. Alibri sold the lot to the Stadium Authority for $268,498.

It was later discovered that the money the Stadium Authority used to buy Alibri's parking lot was "borrowed" from Mike Ilitch, the owner of the Detroit Tigers and the Detroit Red Wings hockey team. Ilitch owned several properties close to Alibri's parking lot. He was considering building a new hockey arena on the site of the property the Stadium Authority bought from Alibri with his "loan." In 1998, the Stadium Authority tried to repay the loan by transferring Alibri's former property to an Ilitch firm. Alibri cried foul, arguing that she was deceived by the Stadium Authority so Ilitch could cheaply acquire land for his new hockey arena. She estimated her parcel would sell for almost $2 million as land for a prospective arena as opposed to $268,498 for stadium parking.

Fred Steinhardt, a condemnation lawyer with clients in the same area, told the Detroit News, "Sweetheart doesn't adequately describe what's going on. They're condemning parking lots so Mr. Ilitch can have parking lots? What's that all about?" If Ilitch's private firm could acquire the land at 1997 prices through the public Stadium Authority, then he would avoid having to buy the property for his hockey arena from individual owners at higher prices in the future. Alibri went to court and got an injunction to stop the deal. She then sued to have her property returned. After a favorable trial court ruling was overturned on appeal, the case was brought before the Michigan Supreme Court. In July 2004, the Court sided with Alibri and returned her land.

Sources: Detroit News (August 14, 2000), Metro Times (April 23, 1997), Alibri v. Detroit/WayneCounty Stadium Authority (Michigan Supreme Court, Lansing, Michigan)

**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 11:11 AM

Law of the Sea Treaty Unconstitutional?

Julian Ku, writing on the Opinion Juris blog, says Article 39 of Annex VI of the Law of the Sea Treaty may be unconstitutional:
I believe this provision, Art. 39 of Annex VI, does raise a real potential constitutional issue. This provision refers to the effect of decisions of the Seabed Disputes Chamber, a portion of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea authorized to settled disputes over seabed rights...

Here is the provision in its entirety:
Article 39 Enforcement of decisions of the Chamber

The decisions of the Chamber shall be enforceable in the territories of the States Parties in the same manner as judgments or orders of the highest court of the State Party in whose territory the enforcement is sought.
As I argued at length here, this provision appears to require U.S. courts to give more than "full faith and credit" to judgments of this international chamber. Rather, it requires a U.S. court to treat such chamber decisions as equivalent to those of the U.S. Supreme Court. As far as I know, no prior treaty has ever committed the U.S. in quite this emphatic way. And I do think this provision raises real and serious U.S. constitutional questions about the excessive delegation of judicial power under Article III...

...[The State Department's] Their solution is to request the Senate attach a declaration to its advise and consent papers declaring this provision is "non-self executing." This means that Congress would have to act to subsequently pass legislation giving effect to this provision.

But even this solution is not free of problems. First of all, UNCLOS art. 309 appears to prohibit any reservations and exceptions, which might be read to nullify any non-self execution declaration. Second of all, even if Congress passed subsequent legislation, this would help (but not completely resolve) the constitutional question of whether Congress can require federal and state courts (and maybe the U.S. Supreme Court) to treat an international tribunal judgment as binding precedent...
Some commenters to his post disagree.

The entire conversation is here.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:08 AM

Thursday, July 19, 2007

'Hush Rush' Crowd is at It Again

Project 21 commends the Administration's opposition to reinstituting the Fairness Doctrine:
Black Group Slams Proposed Resurrection of Radio "Fairness Doctrine"

The Bush Administration is commended for announcing that it would veto any legislation reinstating the so-called "Fairness Doctrine."

The Administration's announcement came following media reports of support for reimposing the Fairness Doctrine by Senators Dianne Feinstein, Dick Durbin, Barbara Boxer, Hillary Clinton, and others. Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) intends to re-introduce legislation "to restore the Fairness Doctrine" in coming weeks. Hinchey's "Media Ownership Reform Act (H.R. 3302)," better known as MORA, had 16 co-sponsors in the 109th Congress, but got nowhere due to GOP control.

"It's the 'Hush Rush' crowd at it again, and it has nothing to do with fairness. They are simply trying to shut down popular radio programs because they disagree with them," said Project 21 Fellow Deneen Borelli. "The Fairness Doctrine is unfair to those who believe in limited government and a free market. If liberal talk shows fail to attract listeners and sponsors, as is the case here, then the problem must lie with their message."

Introduced in 1949 when there were relatively few broadcast outlets, the Federal Communications Commission administered the Fairness Doctrine to ensure that no single political viewpoint dominated the airwaves. In 1985, the FCC determined that "a multiplicity of voices in the marketplace assured diversity of opinion" and Fairness Doctrine was no longer achieving its intended goals and was possibly creating a "chilling effect" on free speech. The FCC rescinded the Fairness Doctrine in 1987.

Recently, liberal lawmakers and their special interest supporters have raised the possibility of reinstituting the Fairness Doctrine because there are more conservative talk shows than liberal ones among profit-driven radio stations. FCC chairman Kevin Martin has publicly opposed bringing the doctrine back, telling Broadcasting and Cable magazine that the absence of it "has made a lot of opportunities like talk radio."

By an overwhelming vote of 309 to 115, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment on June 28 prohibiting the FCC from reinstating the Fairness Doctrine. An attempt to introduce similar legislation in the U.S. Senate on July 13, however, was procedurally blocked by Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL). Senator Durbin last month declared, "it's time to reintroduce the Fairness Doctrine."

Allan B. Hubbard, the director of the White House's National Economic Council, issued a statement on July 13 stating that "the case for the Fairness Doctrine is weaker than ever" and its resurrection "would muzzle political debate and free speech." Hubbard also said President Bush would veto any legislation reinstating the doctrine.

"The Fairness Doctrine is inherently un-American," said Project 21's Geoffrey Moore. "This will do nothing but stifle free speech and prop up a product - liberal talk radio - that cannot succeed on its own."

Project 21's Mark Jordan added: "All of this discussion about the so-called Fairness Doctrine reveals the true character of the liberal/socialist movement. The success of conservative talk radio - which, by the way, is the only real alternative media - has forced the left to face the fact that the majority of listeners aren't buying their hate-America pessimism that permeates the establishment media. The abysmal failure of their own Air America network is proof that faith, optimism and patriotism is what sells in the free market."

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:48 PM

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A 20,000 Percent Tax increase

Professor Bainbridge has the details.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:06 PM

Black Group Calls Senate Leaders "Hypocrites"

Project 21 thinks Harry Reid is a hypocrite:
Black Group Calls Senate Leaders "Hypocrites"

Liberal Senators Complaining About “Obstructionism" on Iraq Legislation Use the Same Tactic to Block Judicial Nominees

Project 21 members say the liberal Senate leadership, which has embarked on an overnight session to "highlight Republican obstructionism" on consideration to legislation to withdraw troops from Iraq, is hypocritical, as these senators have used the same tactics they now condemn to block the confirmation of President Bush's judicial nominations over the past six-and-a-half years.

"The immoral duplicity of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his henchmen once again unambiguously shows there are no depths too low for liberal politicians to plumb," said Project 21 Chairman Mychal Massie. "It is extraordinarily incongruous that, on one hand, Reid would complain about a conservative filibuster against an arbitrary and predetermined withdrawal date in Iraq while he and his gang have stalled on the confirmation of people such as Judge Southwick since the day President Bush announced his judicial first nominees."

Beginning on the morning of Tuesday, July 17 and scheduled to last through the evening of Wednesday, July 18, the Senate is expected to remain in session for debate on a plan to remove U.S. forces from Iraq by May of 2008. Democratic leaders want a simple up-or-down majority vote on the amendment, and are protesting Republican use of Senate rules to require a vote of 60 members to end the debate.

The last all-night session of this sort was held Wednesday, November 12, 2003 to protest Senate liberals requiring 60-vote majorities for confirmation of President Bush’s judicial nominees.

Judicial obstructionism continues, with allegations this week concerning bad faith by Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in scheduling a committee vote on the nomination of Judge Leslie H. Southwick to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Assistant Attorney General Peter Keisler, a nominee to the D.C. Court of Appeals, has waited more than a year for a committee vote on his nomination.

Among major non-judicial nominations, only 66 of 229 of the nominations made since January 7 -- 29 percent -- have received Senate votes.

"It's a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black," added Project 21's Massie, who participated in media events in the U.S. Capitol related to the 2003 judicial all-nighter. "If Harry Reid wants an up-or-down vote on Iraq, he should at least be willing to come to the table with an offer of the same regarding the judicial nominees to our already overworked courts."
Harry Reid has a hypocrisy problem, I think.

I enjoyed this take on Harry Reid's all-nighter, on the new blog The Tygrrrr Express.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:22 AM

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Debunking Nonsense Related to Disaster Losses and Climate Change

From Prometheus, back in November:
Debunking nonsense related to disaster losses and climate change is getting to be a full time job...

Reuters reports: Losses from extreme weather could top $1 trillion in a single year by 2040, a partnership of the United Nations Environment Programme [UNEP] and private finance institutions (UNEP FI) warned on Tuesday...

Bottom line: The UNEP report does not say what the representative of UNEP said it did. Nor does it say what has been reported in the major media, including the Reuters report. This is unfortunate because the UNEP-report has some valuable information on the importance of adaptation in the face of continuing growth in vulnerability to disasters. Effective policy on climate is unlikely to develop if the UN and the media are providing misleading or incorrect analyses.

...unsound analyses only provide fodder for those skeptical of action on climate change.
Consider me foddered.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:45 PM

Ohio Supreme Court Smacks Down Effort to Eject Families from Homes

The City of Norwood, Ohio designated a community of 99 well-maintained homes and businesses as "blighted" so that a real estate developer could build offices, condominiums and stores in its place. Although the vast majority of the community had been cleared, a group of affected homeowners challenged the city's abusive condemnation of their property and won in the state's Supreme Court.

Ohio Supreme Court Smacks Down Effort to Eject Families from Homes

Carl and Joy Gamble lived on Atlantic Avenue in Norwood, Ohio for more than 35 years, but real estate developer Jeffrey R. Anderson wanted them and their neighbors out. Anderson wanted to add the Rookwood Exchange - a new community that was to include condominiums, offices and stores - to his neighboring Rookwood Commons development. To displace the Gambles and other community residents, Anderson convinced city officials that the Gambles' community was "blighted."

Anderson paid for an August, 2003 study that declared 99 homes and small businesses in the community as "blighted." Designations were based on factors such as broken pavement on sidewalks, standing water on roads and the subjective determination that streets were of poor design.

With a designation of "blight," the city is equipped with the power to condemn any land in the neighborhood. The properties were condemned and were turned over for Anderson's use.

In reality, the Atlantic Avenue neighborhood is far from blighted. It is populated with well-maintained homes. In fact, the study Anderson requested indicated that not one house was dilapidated or had an owner who was delinquent in tax payments.

Norwood City Councilman Will DeLuca conceded, "We all agree that we're not going to find houses with broken windows, gutters falling down and your typical blight." Of the 99 properties, the City cleared all of them except for one business and two homes - including the Gambles' - whose owners have refused to sell their property. Joy Gamble says she has no desire to move: "We are not interested in selling our home... We just want to be left alone to enjoy what is rightfully ours. The city shouldn't try to take our home just so a developer can make money off of our land."

The Gambles and eight other community homeowners filed suit against the city of Norwood in September of 2003 to remove the "blighted" distinction from their homes. Berliner, the homeowners' attorney, regards the "blighted" label as misleading. She argues, "This is a thriving, mixed-use neighborhood. [It's] conveniently located and highly desirable, that's why the city wants it and that's why [the developer] wants to build there." Tim Burke, the lawyer for Anderson and the City of Norwood, disagrees, arguing that Rockwood Exchange is a public purpose. "It does create a beneficial use. It does benefit public welfare."

In December of 2003, the trial court dismissed the blight challenge. Although the Ohio Court of Appeals sent the case back to a lower court for review, the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas ruled in favor of the city's application of eminent domain. On appeal, the Court of Appeals for Hamilton County ruled in January of 2005 that the development group headed by Jeffrey Anderson was free to demolish the Gambles' home. However, although the Gambles were forced to move out, the Ohio Supreme Court granted a stay to the demolition, and agreed to hear the case.

On behalf of the property owners, Institute for Justice attorney Dana Berliner argued the case before the Ohio Supreme Court on January 11, 2006.

On July 26, 2006, as an Institute for Justice press release put it, "The Ohio Supreme Court unanimously held that the City of Norwood could not use eminent domain to take Carl and Joy Gamble's home of 35 years, as well as the rental home of Joe Horney and tutoring center owned by Matthew Burton and Sanae Ichikawa Burton, for private development - specifically, a complex of chain stores, condominiums and office space planned by millionaire developer Jeffrey Anderson and his Rookwood Partners."

The Institute further noted that "the Ohio Supreme Court explicitly rejected the U.S. Supreme Court's infamous Kelo decision of June 2005, in which that Court held that local governments can take property from one person and transfer it to another because the new owner might produce more taxes or more jobs than the current one."

Sources: Cincinnati Enquirer (March 25, 2003; September 10, 2003; September 24, 2003; June 15, 2004), Business Courier (April 12, 2004), Institute for Justice, Tech Central Station (October 1, 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 10:44 PM

There's a Difference Between Racism and Ignorance, Says Project 21 Chairman

A white person wary of black teens in baggy jeans is not necessarily a racist, says Project 21 Chairman Mychal Massie in an article about continuing racism faced by blacks, especially black males, in New York state's Journal News by Dwight R. Worley (excerpted):
Bevolyn Williams-Harold watched her son sing and dance as he took part in a radio station promotion at The Westchester shopping mall in White Plains. She chatted briefly with the other mothers as their children played musical chairs and other games.

As the event continued, two black teenage boys dressed in baggy jeans walked through the food court laughing loudly. "The parents who were chattering just stopped talking and stared at these two young men," Williams-Harold said of that moment in October. "You kind of felt the tension."

The same white women who talked with her, seemingly oblivious to her dark skin, froze at the mere sight of the black boys.

She thought of her 7-year-old son, Jourdan, a first-grader at George Washington Elementary in White Plains, and wondered how long it would be before they cringed at the sight of him. She also considers the avalanche of obstacles he would face throughout his life as such negative perceptions provoked unfounded fears.

"Black men have a hard time in this country. It's a difficult road to walk," said Williams-Harold, a 40-year-old freelance writer who lives in White Plains. "I want people to understand how difficult it is to raise a black child and the added difficulty with a black male child."

Williams-Harold embodies an attitude common among many black men and women. While the notion of overt racism and discrimination seems outdated given advances in civil rights and changes in social attitudes, many blacks say there is still evidence of racism in their everyday lives...

...But the progressive attitudes most people believe they have seem to disappear when it comes to close encounters with black men, said Ernest Prince of Katonah.

Prince said he is often followed around stores by security staff and clerks when he shops, whether he's wearing sweats or a three-piece suit.

Such tales are a frequent complaint of young black men, whom merchants say often come into stores in groups and look suspicious. But Prince is 64 and president of the Urban League of Westchester County.

"They just automatically assumed black man - criminal," Prince said. "They don't see me, they just see black."

But that rush to judgment can cut both ways, and often does when blacks demonize whites, said Mychal Massie, the outspoken chairman of Project 21, a black conservative think tank in Washington.

Massie cited the controversy surrounding the rape case at Duke University, in which a group of white athletes were accused of raping a black exotic dancer. Serious doubts about the truthfulness of the woman's account have since been raised, but not before the men involved were tarnished with charges of racism, Massie said.

"There's a difference between racism and ignorance," he said. "Just because ... a person is put off by the sloppy gangster-style dress that we see so many of our young people, especially young black people, wearing, it does not make them racist. I don't believe that white people get up in the morning thinking about what they can do to oppress black people or hold black people down."

But as with the reactions by the women in the mall, Williams-Harold said, racism can be conscious or subconscious, and she believes it is more pervasive than many would like to admit...

...But Massie maintains that concerns about racism are often overblown, and suggests individual behavior and performance are key...
Read it all here.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:07 PM

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Should Most of America's Kids Be on the Dole?

See where you stand regarding the current debate on health insurance coverage for children, and then see who agrees with you:
1) Is it appropriate to require taxpayers to provide health insurance for more than 45 percent of the children in the United States?

2) Is it a good idea to force the taxpayers to buy health insurance for children who already have it?

3) Should the poor pay for health insurance for the middle class?
If you said "yes" to all three, above, you'll love the Senate Finance Committee's proposal to expand SCHIP, the federal government's State Children’s Health Insurance Program, and agree with Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA), and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who chided President Bush for threatening to veto it.

Grassley and Hatch went to far as to claim Bush's veto threat is "disappointing, even a little unbelievable," because President Bush had yet to read the fine print on a plan to put the middle class on the dole. Philosophical opposition to the very notion of expanding the welfare state apparently is beyond the pale in some quarters of the Republican Senate these days.

Brian Golden, who works for the Administration, had an excellent op-ed in the Boston Herald Saturday explaining what appears to be the Administration's perspective. It's worth reading the whole thing, but here's an excerpt:
In Washington, Congress is poised to debate renewal of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). This program... was created to provide federal funding for health insurance for children in low-income families...

...There are calls on Capitol Hill for a massive expansion of SCHIP that would provide publicly subsidized insurance not just to low-income children but to higher-income children and adults, most of whom already have private insurance.

There are those in Congress who are seeking the end of private insurance and have acknowledged that expanding SCHIP is motivated by a desire for a national government-run health care program. Toward this end, there is a proposal to cover children in families of four earning up to $82,600 annually at a cost of an additional $50 billion. Without a clear demonstration of necessity or how we will finance it, this would make 71 percent of American children eligible for public assistance.

SCHIP has already begun to stray from its original target - the 37 percent of children who live in families of four earning $41,300 or less. Due to expansion of SCHIP that has already occurred, 45 percent of American children are covered through SCHIP or Medicaid. Additional expansion of SCHIP poses a real risk. Many people would give up private insurance as they move to government health care. In fact, a study estimated that as many as half the children enrolled in SCHIP had dropped private coverage. This increases the burden on taxpayers...
The debate about SCHIP expansion is more than a debate over SCHIP expansion -- its a debate about the our nation's philosophy of government.

Where do you stand?

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:58 PM

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Socialized Medicine by Stealth: Panel Calls SCHIP Expansion 'Bad for Kids, Families, and Taxpayers'

The Senate Finance Committee moved this week to expand the role of government in our health care system by expanding SCHIP (the program that gives government health care to children in families with too much money to qualify them for Medicaid) to families with higher incomes. Our Ryan Balis provides a timely report on a conference sponsored by two conservative organizations about SCHIP -- and why spending an additional $35 billion on it funded by a tax on dispropropriately lower-income people is a bad idea:
Proposals before Congress to radically expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) are the camel's nose under the tent on the way to establishing universal, government-run health coverage in America. This was the central message at a luncheon Friday on Capitol Hill co-sponsored by The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and The Heritage Foundation.

Congress authorized SCHIP in 1997 to provide health coverage for poor, uninsured children whose families cannot qualify for state Medicaid coverage (because their earnings are above Medicaid's income limits) but who also cannot afford private insurance. Present reauthorization efforts in Congress would massively increase eligibility and access to cover millions more children, thus expanding the role of the federal government and creating a new federal entitlement program. (See www.heritage.org/Research/HealthCare/wm1540.cfm for specifics regarding current federal proposals.)

On hand to discuss the pitfalls of expansion were U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Maryland House Del. Adelaide "Addie" Eckardt (R-Eastern Shore), Nina Owcharenko of The Heritage Foundation and Christie Raniszewski Herrera of ALEC, who moderated the discussion.

The reauthorization of the SCHIP has given those in Congress favoring government-managed health care an opportunity to establish a new federal entitlement. "[SCHIP] was designed to be a block grant program with a money transfer - a block grant transfer to the state - to fill a designated, defined and specific need," said Rep. Marsha Blackburn. "Now what we have is the liberal left push to implement Medicare for everybody or universal health care or what certainly is a socialistic health care system. So, what they're trying to do is say well let's just make SCHIP an entitlement."

Blackburn explained that making SCHIP an entitlement has long-term implications: "Ronald Reagan has told us everything we need to know about an entitlement. His comment was there is nothing so close to eternal life on Earth as a federal government program. Once you got it you got it, and it ain't going away."

If SCHIP reauthorized includes expanded coverage, Blackburn warned, private health insurance rates would increase. "As more things are made free, somebody else is paying the cost: it is the taxpayer and it those that are buying private health insurance," she said. Expanding SCHIP "walks us closer to socialized medicine."

Maryland Del. Addie Eckardt talked about her state's response to SCHIP. Echoing Rep. Blackburn's warning about costs, Del. Eckardt said, "If we continue to expand the children's health program... you take more of the people that are eligible... in the private market and, thus, we increase the cost."

Eckardt also spoke about long waiting lists in her state and the many people who are unable to get the kind of care they need. The lesson to consider when thinking of expanding government health coverage is: "You are again creating a situation where some people get access to health care and others will not," warned Eckhardt.

Picking back up at the federal level, senior policy analyst Nina Owcharenko of The Heritage Foundation outlined the major implications of expanding SCHIP and presented market-based alternatives for increasing health insurance coverage.

If Congress adopts many of the provisions now under consideration in SCHIP's reauthorization, some 71 percent of U.S. children would be eligible for coverage. Owcharenko argued this will "increase dependency on the federal government for health care. There is no doubt."

Owcharenko continued: "71 percent of children being eligible for a government health care program seems a lot to me. And I think it's staggering to think about the implications that... in the future that once these children are 18 they know nothing else but a government run health care program. So what are they going to expect when they're 25, when they're 40?: To have a government-run health care program."

The other major implication is that the bills would displace private health coverage. By expanding eligibility, the "crowd-out" effect concerning private health coverage could be 25 to 50 percent. "That's significant," argues Owcharenko. "That means that for the children that have private coverage that now enroll in SCHIP, somebody is going to lose private coverage because of it." Moreover, "With fewer people in the private market, the more expensive it's going to be for us to have private health insurance."

Finally, at the macro level, expanding coverage will burden taxpayers. "This isn't free lunch. Taxpayers are going to have to pay for it," said Owcharenko. "When...the mission of the program is to find every eligible child and enroll them you certainly are going to break the bank on that."

Owcharenko continued: "The worry is that these proposals are talking about we need to find and enroll all eligible children. That seems to be the big bumper sticker now... But when on Earth did we decide that we're going to seek out every child that may be eligible and then force them on a government health care program and then pay for it in a vacuum?"

Instead of expanding a federal health care program, Owcharenko suggested moving away from government dependency and toward a consumer-oriented and market-based health care system. Suggestions include cost-sharing arrangements in which recipients pay for a portion of the coverage and a tax credit for low-income families to afford private coverage.

As Owcharenko points out, flexible market-based reforms would give "families the power and control to say 'I want to take this much from SCHIP and enroll my kid in my private plan. I don't care what the state thinks about the private plan. This is the plan that works for my family, and I want my kid on it.'"
To contact author Ryan Balis directly,
write him at [email protected]

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:51 PM

Silly Global Warming News

Barbra Streisand, who, according to a spokesman, has been funding efforts "to deal with" climate change since the late 1980s, was travelling around Manchester, England in "a limousine accompanied by her entourage in 13 tractor-style trailer trucks, before being whisked to London on her private jet."

Source: The Daily Mail.

Hat tip: Marc Morano
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:32 PM

"A Virtual Blank Check to Condemn Private Property"

In a case that received a national outcry against property rights abuse, Susette Kelo took the City of New London, Connecticut all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Kelo fought to save her dream home whose property the city government wanted transferred, not for public use, but to benefit the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

Supreme Court Rules Governments Can Take One Property Owner's Land and Give It to Another

There were families who lived on Walbach Street in the historic Fort Trumbull neighborhood of New London, Connecticut, whose members had resided there since 1895. Susette Kelo, who purchased her dream home there in 1997, does not boast such a lineage, but has nonetheless been overjoyed with her view of Montauk Point and Fisher's Island. But these happy times may soon be over. Since the fall of 2000, Kelo and other residents have been engaged in a fight to save their homes from a redevelopment plan that advances private business interests.

On the day before Thanksgiving in 2000, Kelo and her neighbors were informed their community would be taken from them and demolished under the city's power of eminent domain. Rather than building a hospital, road, park or other public necessity usually associated with eminent domain evictions, the land is instead being redeveloped to benefit the Pfizer pharmaceutical company - which first moved into the area in 1998 - and other non-public businesses. These plans are being executed by the New London Development Corporation (NLDC), which is exercising the city's power to implement eminent domain decisions as part of a transfer of authority authorized by New London city officials in January 2000. In addition, the NLDC has final authority to make decisions with regard to contractors.

Among the proposed redevelopment plans is an expansion of the existing Pfizer campus, the construction of a new hotel and athletic club and a new high-end housing development. Prior to the announcement of the NLDC's redevelopment efforts, the historic Fort Trumbull area was regarded as one of the poorest communities in Connecticut. It was also listed in 2000 by the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation as one of the state's most threatened historic places. While NLDC president Claire Gaudiani contends the overall goal of her group is to enact urban planning promoting "social justice," she has not specified how exactly the NLDC's plan to expand private businesses and build luxury homes translates into positive change for the area's lower classes.

Kelo and her neighbors believe the NLDC is engaging in an unconstitutional abuse of eminent domain powers. In addition, they argue the economic redevelopment plan, as currently designed, seeks to benefit only the rich and politically powerful. For example, the Italian Dramatic Club - a prestigious social club with influential members located within the proposed redevelopment area - was spared demolition. Private homeowners were not granted exemptions.

Political and economic patronage also seems to resonate throughout the NLDC's proposal. George M. Milne, Jr., is a member of the NLDC's board of directors. When the proposal was being developed, Milne was Pfizer's senior executive vice president for global research and development. A significant portion of the redevelopment plan calls for the creation of a bioscience research park to accommodate Pfizer research partners and related businesses. The NLDC plan also includes the creation of a conference center and hotels. Milne retired from Pfizer in 2002.

Kelo and her neighbors filed a lawsuit against the NLDC. Their case was heard before the Connecticut Supreme Court in December 2002. By a 4-3 majority, in March 2004 the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled against the Fort Trumbull homeowners. Their lawyer, Scott Bullock of the Institute for Justice, warned that, "If allowed to stand, this decision gives local officials a virtual blank check to condemn private property at the whim of private parties."

The residents appealed their case to the U.S. Supreme Court. But in a very controversial decision, a slim 5-4 majority established a troublesome and perhaps far-reaching precedent by siding with NLDC. The Court's decision effectively expanded the power of eminent domain to permit local governments to clear homes and businesses for private development.

"Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded - i.e., given to an owner who will use it in a way that the legislature deems more beneficial to the public - in the process," Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote in her sharply-critical dissent. "Nothing is to prevent the State from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory."

The U.S. Supreme Court denied the Institute for Justice's request for a rehearing in August 2005. In September, Fort Trumbull residents received eviction notices. Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell intervened on the residents' behalf, according to Kelo, but a statewide moratorium on eminent domain takings, which NLDC voluntarily agreed to, applied only to new takings. The state legislature did not act to address eminent domain abuse, and the city government gave the remaining residents a May 31, 2006 deadline to accept a settlement or be evicted.

Exhausted, and faced with forever losing her home, Kelo reached a compromise with the City of New London in June 2006. The agreement saves Kelo's home, though it will have to be moved to another neighborhood. Kelo says she submitted the same compromise agreement "years ago but was turned down flat" by the NLDC. "I am not happy about giving up my property, but I am very glad that my home, which means so much to me, will not be demolished and I will remain living in it," says Kelo.

Sources: New London Development Corporation, The Heartland Institute (September/October 2001), Pfizer, The Institute for Justice, Reason Magazine (2004-2005 coverage), Washington Times (2004-2006 coverage), Hartford Courant (2004-2006 coverage), Tom Blumer's BizzyBlog (June 30, 2006)

**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 3:23 PM

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Emergency Room Care Quality Harmed by 1986 Federal Law

John S. O'Shea, M.D. of the Heritage Foundation has a new paper on emergency health care access for low-income individuals that explains how a federal law adopted in 1986 is "a major barrier to timely and appropriate emergency medical care" for uninsured people needing hospital emergency room care.

O'Shea begins:
There is a deepening crisis in America's hospital emergency rooms. More and more patients are show ing up for care without the ability to pay for it. The burden on taxpayers and private insurance policy holders is increasing, and doctors and nurses are often overworked while operating in an environment of complex and confusing overregulation, increased litigation, and rising costs.

Moreover, the main federal law that governs the provision of emergency medicine is outdated and counterproductive. It undermines the provision of efficient medical care for all patients, especially for those who are uninsured or underinsured—the very group the law was meant to protect...

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) is another example of federal legislation that hurts the very people that it was meant to protect: low-income patients in need of emergency medical services. Enacted in 1986, the law is a congressional response to well-publicized cases in which patients were refused immediate medical treatment based on their inability to pay.

However, EMTALA does not even begin to address the underlying causes of the problem, such as the lack of affordable health insurance and the substandard performance of Medicaid as a health care delivery program for the poor and the indigent... Worse, the law itself is a major barrier to timely and appropriate emergency medical care.

Policymakers need to undertake urgent reform of the emergency medical system, especially in the face of an increasing need for disaster preparedness.

For a variety of reasons, the outright repeal of EMTALA is highly unlikely. Nonetheless, federal and state policymakers can mitigate the law's deficiencies and transcend the problems that it was originally designed to resolve....
And ultimately recommends:
...If Americans could own and control their personal health insurance and carry it with them from job to job, uninsurance would rapidly decline, and uncompensated care resulting from uninsurance would be dramatically reduced, making EMTALA largely irrelevant. Assuming that EMTALA remains on the books for the foreseeable future, Congress could make changes in emergency care — by granting limited relief from medical liability and increasing the reimbursement for physicians who perform these services—that would ease the burden on doctors and hospitals that serve patients seeking urgent care under often difficult circumstances. State legislators could also relieve the medical liability of such medical personnel.

Meanwhile, state officials working with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services could change how public funds are used to care for the uninsured, transforming uncompensated care subsidies to hospitals and other health care facilities into direct assistance to the uninsured that would enable them to buy private coverage that meets their personal needs.

Policymakers could shift health policy to a value-based system that emphasizes personal freedom and expands private health care coverage. Such a system, driven by free-market principles of con sumer choice and competition, will yield much better value than one driven by reams of outdated regulation, misguided government subsidies, and the good will of doctors and other medical professionals who provide "free" care in today's professionally discouraging environment.
Read it all here.

Hat tip: Dakota Voice.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 8:57 PM

Let It Sit, Mayor Bloomberg, Let it Sit

Showdown in New York: Spurred in part by information in a new report by New York State Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky (D), the state legislature is worrying that Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to charge drivers $8 to enter lower Manhattan on weekdays would put a disproportionate burden on low and middle-income drivers.

Mayor Bloomberg has other priorities, namely, the $500 million in tax dollars the Bush Administration has promised New York if the driving restrictions are adopted by next Monday. As reported in the New York Times:
"With this window of opportunity rapidly closing, it’s imperative that our state leaders put aside their competing interests and come together on this issue,” the mayor said. “To leave this half a billion dollars just sitting on the table would be absolutely ridiculous."
"Sitting on the table" is mayor-speak for not requiring the residents of the other 49 states to subsidize a new transportation bureaucracy in New York City-- a bureaucracy that, apparently, would hurt low and middle-income people.

Not incidentally, the $8 toll is unlikely to relieve traffic congestion. Assemblyman Brodsky's report says it would increase driving speeds an average of one sixth of one mile per hour. By comparison, a typical comfortable walking speed for a healthy adult is three miles per hour.

I previously blogged about this here.

Addendum: Streetsblog, which has a different take on this issue than I do, has a link to Assemblyman Brodsky's full report in a post today.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:33 PM

Monday, July 09, 2007

Robert F. Kennedy Calls for Criminalizing Differences of Opinion

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. announces that politicians who disagree with him on climate issues are committing "treason."

As reported by Newsday, speaking at Al Gore's Live Earth in new Jersey, Kennedy shouted "This is treason. And we need to start treating them as traitors."

From Manufacturer's Blog comes this longer quotation:
Now you've heard today a lot of people say that there are many little things that you all can do today to avert climate change on your own. But I will tell you this, it is more important than buying compact fluorescent light bulbs or than buying a fuel efficient automobile. The most important thing you can do is to get involved in the political process and get rid of all of these rotten politicians that we have in Washington D.C. -- who are nothing more than corporate toadies for companies like Exxon and Southern Company, these villainous companies that consistently put their private financial interest ahead of American interest and ahead of the interest of all of humanity. This is treason and we need to start treating them now as traitors.
The Constitution of the United States defines treason thusly:
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.
One of the penalties for treason, of course, is death.

Kennedy often seems angry. I guess being born into a wealthy, privileged family and given a name that guaranteed he'd never have to work one-tenth as hard as anyone else for the same degree of success wasn't enough for him. Either that, or those very things convinced him that he deserves to get his way all the time.

Treason aside, given the many, many factual inaccuracies in Kennedy's Live Earth speech, it's amusing to consider the professions for which Kennedy's temperament would have qualified him had he instead been born "Elmer Sludge, Jr."

P.S. Brad Blog guest blogger Alan Breslauer, who apparently agrees with Kennedy's call to hyper-criminalize scientific and public policy differences, has a video and transcript of Kennedy's remarks here. Addendum, 7/10: Never mind; Brad Blog had to remove the video from its site. Apparently, its proprietors forgot about the little detail called "copyright" -- which they didn't have.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:03 PM

Best Live Earth Comment Award

...goes to Lubos Motl, who quipped:
Hundreds of musicians have demonstrated that there is much stronger consensus about global warming among rock musicians than among scientists...
And yes, he's a scientist, so he can say so.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:11 PM

Thursday, July 05, 2007

"Sicko" Presents False View of Cuba's Health System

Our Ryan Balis compares the reality of the Cuban health care system with the way it is portrayed in Michael Moore's movie, "Sicko."

Says Ryan: "The film's underlying push is to, in Moore's words, 'ignite a fire for free, universal health care.' When this premise is examined, the rosy myth of socialized medicine's achievement in Cuba is crushed."
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 9:09 PM

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