masthead-highres

Friday, April 02, 2010

Death by Government

Ace links to one of our papers to demonstrate yet another -- actually, one of the main -- ways our government kills us.


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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:30 PM

Friday, July 17, 2009

Outrage of the Day: Congress Kills Jobs; Doesn't Care

Neither the left nor the right has reason to oppose reform of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, foolish legislation adopted last year with little thought to its ramifications, but Congress won't reform it, and Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) of the House Energy and Commerce Committee continues to refuse to even hold hearings.

CPSIA reform wouldn't end the recession, but it would end some job losses at no greater cost than the passage of the bill. As Congress is going to pay itself anyway, why not?

Carter Wood of the Shopfloor.org blog more details in "CPSIA Update: Jobs Being Destroyed, Congress Looks Away," or visit my Outrage of the Day for March 16, "Waxman Drags Feet on Needed CPSIA Reform."


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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:04 AM

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Chuck Schumer's Hypocrisies

Climate Depot unveils two shocking examples of hypocrisy by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) when it reports that global warming zealot Schumer is seeking federal aid for New York farmers because below-average temperatures are affecting crop yields.

That's my opinion, anyway.

Hypocrisy #1: Schumer has been co-sponsoring climate legislation that would have immense negative economic effects on the American public, supposedly in the interest of preventing global warming. So now he wants to hit up the taxpayers because it's too cold?

Hypocrisy #2: To hear him tell it, Schumer is extremely worried about farmers in New York who lost crops due to below-average temperatures. Federal funds are needed, he says, to mitigate the damage of nature: "We must provide immediate assistance after the unusually low temperatures that destroyed... crops and profits for the season."

But does Schumer do anything when federal laws -- federal laws he supports, such as the Endangered Species Act -- restrict vital water to farmers in the San Joaquin Valley, causing what one California Congressman, Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D), called a "Dust Bowl migration," as thousands of families are moving away from his district, thanks to unemployment nearing 50 percent in some communities.

Schumer calls upon the federal government to act immediately when nature hurts the farmers of his state, but when policies he ardently supportS hurt the farmers of California, he just doesn't care.


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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:02 AM

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Clean Water Restoration Act Information Webpage Created

The National Center for Public Policy Research has created a webpage with links to resources about the Clean Water Restoration Act.

The page has links to resources about CWRA published not only by the National Center, but by a variety of other organizations as well. If you are a columnist, blogger, speaker or talk show host planning to address the issue, you will find plenty of useful information on the page.

As National Center Senior Fellow R.J. Smith noted below, the legislation is scheduled for a markup and vote in the U.S. Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee on June 18.

You can visit the page here.


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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:05 AM

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Clean Water Restoration Act Scheduled for Senate Committee Vote June 18

An important message from National Center for Public Policy Research Senior Fellow R.J. Smith on the Clean Water Restoration Act, which is less about protecting our nation's waters and more about expanding the federal government's power to regulate private property.

From R.J. Smith:
I received an email at 11:05 p.m. last night from Senate Environment and Public Works staff that Senator Barbara Boxer and company are going to bring the Clean Water Restoration Act (CWRA) up for full committee mark-up and vote in their Thursday 18 June business session scheduled for 9:30 a.m. in the EPW Hearing Room, 406 Dirksen.

This is Senator Russ Feingold's S.787, which was introduced on April 2.

With the Democrats having nationalized the financial, banking and automobile industries -- bringing a strong layer of socialism to the key portions of the US economy -- they are now moving to nationalize the American land and water.

Under the Clean Water Act, the Federal government only had the authority to regulate "navigable waters" and control the discharge of pollutants and dredge and fill activities within those navigable waters.

The so-called Clean Water RESTORATION Act restores nothing. That is a hoax. Instead, it removes the restrictive and limiting terms "navigable" waters and unconstitutionally extends the Federal regulatory authority over ALL waters of the United States. This includes the driest desert areas that may only hold water for a few weeks a year during summer monsoon rains. And it includes completely isolated prairie potholes (small ponds and marshes) with no connection whatsoever to any other waters.

Furthermore, the bill will now prohibit ALL activities affecting all waters of the United States. This means that anything a landowner, a business, a county roads department, a waterfowl conservation program undertakes that could conceivably affect anything that is wet -- will be subject to the discretionary jurisdiction of Army Corps or EPA bureaucrats. They will then be able to make the lives of family farmers, ranchers, tree farmers, home builders -- almost anyone and everyone -- literally impossible. They will have the total power to force every farmer or rancher or ordinary business owner to run a gauntlet of permits, red tape, delays -- that will delay projects long enough and cost so much as to essentially shut down or bankrupt even the most necessary and innocuous projects.

There are copious examples of wetlands horror stories over the last 20 years in which people have been imprisoned and fined staggering amounts for simply building their own home, cleaning up dumps, or creating habitat for waterfowl. And that occurred under the CWA restrictions of "navigable waters" and prohibitions only on discharging pollutants and dredge and fill activities.

Once those constraints are removed by the CWRA, life will quickly become a bureaucratic nightmare with no exit -- particularly so throughout all of rural America. This bill would be much more honestly named "The Rural Cleansing Act of 2009."

This will be a tough battle given that the E&PW Committee make up is 12 Ds and 7 Rs (which includes Senators George Voinovich and Lamar Alexander).

It is important that people who are concerned about this enlist the help of the agricultural community, especially county and state farm bureaus. They should notify not only the members of the Senate E&PW but also the Senate Agriculture Committee.

It is also vital to contact Rep. Collin Peterson Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and request that he ask for oversight hearings on the impact of the CWRA on America's farmers and the nation's food production.

They should also request that the farmers and ranchers they know and their county and state farm bureaus and cattlemen's associations contact the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, asking them to strongly oppose the CWRA.
Addendum (6/14/09): For more information on the Clean Water restoration act, please visit our new CWRA information webpage at http://www.nationalcenter.org/CWRA.html.


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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:03 PM

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

U.S. House Holds Kangaroo Hearing to Fool Public About Causes of California Drought

The National Center for Public Policy Research has sent a 'kangaroo' to a hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives Resources Committee on climate change and the California drought.

The kangaroo's appearance will to protest the fact that the hearing is expected to ignore the contribution of environmental regulations in exacerbating the drought, and also the fact that only representatives of government agencies, mostly federal, have been invited to testify.

Our press release explains:
'Kangaroo-Court' Hearing a One-Sided View of California Drought

Regulations Making Water Shortage Worse


For Release: March 31, 2009 10:30 AM

Contact: David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 x11 or
[email protected]


Washington, D.C.: The U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources is holding a one-sided hearing this morning on the California drought that is expected to blame climate change for a critical water shortage while glossing over the role of activist-inspired environmental policies in exacerbating the shortage, according to The National Center for Public Policy Research.

The hearing, entitled "The California Drought: Actions by Federal and State Agencies to Address Impacts on Lands, Fisheries, and Water Users," will be held today, March 31, at 10:30 am in Room 1324, Longworth House Office Building.

Only representatives of government agencies will be permitted to testify at the hearing. Most of the witnesses will be from federal agencies.

To draw attention to the biased nature of the proceedings, The National Center for Public Policy Research will send a representative to the hearing best suited for a kangaroo court - a kangaroo.

"At the height of a California drought and during a serious recession with massive unemployment in California's Central Valley, one would hope that the committee cared enough about agricultural workers and minorities to invite as witnesses actual unemployed farm workers from the scores of communities closing down," remarked R.J. Smith, a Senior Fellow at The National Center for Public Policy Research. "Let's have an open Committee hearing and hear real people discussing the impacts on their lives from government regulations and their massive job losses - instead of more government bureaucrats who are only causing the problem."

California - the nation's largest producer of tomatoes, lettuce, almonds, apricots, strawberries and many other crops - risks agricultural losses of over $2 billion for the upcoming season and $3 billion in total economic losses in 2009. According to a University of California at Davis study, 80,000 jobs could be lost in the Central Valley.

Although global warming is expected to receive much of the blame for this economic disaster, government regulation is a more significant - and preventable cause - of it, according to The National Center for Public Policy Research.

For example, state and federal water officials have sharply cut agricultural water deliveries in California so that more water can go out to sea as part of an effort to protect the Delta Smelt - a three-inch long fish listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. In February, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced a "zero allocation" of water from the Central Valley Project, cutting off the massive federal irrigation system that serves numerous California farms. The supply of water from California's State Water Project is 20 percent of normal.

"By demanding that the water flow into the Pacific Ocean, government meddlers have forced farmers to abandon production, threatening both the nation's fresh food supplies and the jobs of farm workers, many of whom are among the nation's poorest minorities," said Mr. Smith. "Ironically, the cut-off of agricultural water has done nothing to help the Delta Smelt. Every year less water is diverted for agriculture, yet the fish population continues to decline."

The state of California also deserves blame for the water shortage because it has failed to build the water infrastructure necessary for the state's growing population.

Donn Zea, President of the Northern California Water Association, wrote in the March 5th edition of the San Francisco Chronicle that although California's population has doubled over the past 40 years, the state has not meaningfully updated its water storage capacity since 1967. "As a result, when drought hits, we have an amount of water suitable for California in 1960 - not 2009," wrote Mr. Zea.

The Resources Committee - which has a history of promoting global warming alarmism - is expected to explore the dubious link between a modest increase in global temperatures and localized weather patterns devastating California.

"If certain members of the House Natural Resources Committee want the world to believe that a regional drought in an arid area of California is further 'proof' of global warming, then let's hope that they apply the same reasoning to the floods that are ravaging eastern and central North Dakota," remarked Dr. Bonner Cohen, a senior fellow at The National Center for Public Policy Research. "By the thousands, residents of Fargo and Bismarck are trying to protect their cities from the rising waters of the Red and Missouri Rivers. The blocks of ice on the Missouri River north of Bismarck were so huge that explosives were used to blow them up. Will Chairman Rahall invite Fargo's mayor and other North Dakota officials before his committee to testify on how ordinary citizens spent hours in sub-freezing, snowy weather protecting their homes and businesses from the effects of global cooling?"

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a non-profit 501(c)(3) communications and research foundation dedicated to providing free market solutions to today's public policy problems. For more information, visit the National Center's website at www.nationalcenter.org or call (202) 543-4110.

-30-
Here's hoping our 'kangaroo' (actually, a man in a kangaroo costume) is able to draw some attention to government regulations that are needlessly hurting Californians.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:23 AM

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Must Read: Dear AIG, I Quit! by Jake DeSantis

Please read this New York Times reprint of a letter by A.I.G employee Jake DeSantis to A.I.G CEO Edward M. Liddy.

There is much in it that hasn't been revealed by the mainstream press, to its shame (typical).

As I read it, I had this vision, a fantasy, of AIG employees picketing the homes of Members of Congress.

Won't happen.

Too bad.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 9:24 PM

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Outrage of the Day: Sorry, Lady, Let Him Die

I made up the quote in the title, but I might as well not have.

A lady in Britain was given a parking ticket for pulling off the road to resuscitate her four-year-old son.

The local authorities were unmoved by her appeal, saying what she did was unnecessary.

Hat tip: Walter Olson and Scott Greenfield on Twitter.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 6:17 AM

Monday, March 16, 2009

Outrage of the Day: Waxman Drags Feet on Needed CPSIA Reform

Today's Outrage of the Day to Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), for his refusal to hold hearings on the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA), legislation adopted last year (see this blog's prior coverage here and here) that has forced charities and thrift shops to toss out large volumes of used clothing and other goods, caused used bookstores to toss out children's books published before 1985, halted sales of dirt bikes, handmade toys and other children's goods, and more.

Congress adopted this law in apparent response to widespread reports of children ingesting dirt bike parts.

No, not really. Congress adopted adopted this law in part because it has no idea what it is doing (that's what happens when lawmakers vote on bills no one has read, coming from an ideological bias that the bigger government grows, the better we'll be), but that's no excuse for not revisiting the issue now that the truth is kicking many people in the teeth.

Every day this law remains unreformed, jobs get killed and books (some of which are irreplaceable) get tossed away.

You can tell that to Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), though, chairman of the House Committee with jurisdiction, and he'll tell you he'll get to it later.

As Walter Olson put it on his Overlawyered blog:
...Waxman, for his part, has announced his intent to hold no hearing on the law until the Obama Administration installs a new chair at the Consumer Product Safety Commission. That serves the multiple functions of 1) stalling (while more small enterprises are driven out of business and thus are neutralized as political threats); 2) reinforcing the impression that the ball is in someone else’s court on addressing the law’s harms; 3) assisting in orchestrating whatever hearing is eventually held, since he expects an ally of his own to be installed as CPSC chair...
So now, as Overlawyered reports it, ordinary citizens are now planning their own "people's hearing" on the matter, hoping through direct action to get some relief.

It shouldn't be necessary. Congress made a huge mistake. It should admit it, and fix it.

For more on this, visit Overlawyered's CPSIA tag.

Hat tip (as if you couldn't guess): http://overlawyered.com.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:12 PM

Thursday, February 19, 2009

New York Times Editorial Covers Up Book Ban

A New York Times editorial published this week has been excoriated by Walter Olson, proprietor of the popular "Overlawyered" blog and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and justly so.

The subject is the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA), a law that went into effect earlier this month and which even now is causing libraries, thrift shops and used book stores to throw away large volumes of used children's clothes and toys and any children's books published before 1985.

Don't take it from me:
If you browse through the racks of children's clothing at area Goodwill stores, you'll notice half the supply is gone - all because of a new law being implemented by the federal government Tuesday morning.
-KPTM FOX 42 News, Omaha, 2/9/09 (Hat tip for the link: Ace of Spades.)

...our realistic choices are:
1. Shut down our children's section, or
2. Ban kids 12 and younger from the library.
-Librarian, Idaho (Hat tip for the link: Ace of Spades.)

Chip Gibson, president and publisher of Random House Children’s Books... 'This is a potential calamity like nothing I’ve ever seen. The implications are quite literally unimaginable,' he said, noting that children’s books could be removed from schools, libraries and stores; nonprofit groups like First Book would lose donations; and retailers, printers, and publishers could ultimately go out of business. 'Books are safe. This is like testing milk for lead. It has to be stopped.'
-Talkback on Publishers Weekly, 1/12/09 (Hat tip for the link: Overlawyered.com.)

'The economy is tough enough right now, and now I'm not allowed to sell dirt bikes?'
-Hitching Post Motorsports (MN) sales manager Andy Buddensiek, as quoted by KARE 11 News, Twin Cities. The Motorcycle Industry Council estimates that $100 million dollars worth of motorbike inventory may have been frozen nationwide. As sales of adult ATVs are unaffected, some worry that children will ride adult ATVs that are too difficult for them to properly handle. (Hat tip for the link: Overlawyered.com.)

...unless the law is modified... handmade children's products will no longer be legal in the U.S.
-Handmade Toy Alliance (Hat tip for the link: Overlawyered.com.)
There are many, many more specific examples of damage this law is doing on Overlawyered.com, some of which are heart-rending.

Here's what the New York Times published:
Unfortunately, the commission has yet to implement important aspects of the new law. The delay has caused confusion and allowed opponents to foment needless fears that the law could injure smaller enterprises like libraries, resale shops and handmade toy businesses. (Emphasis added)
Needless???

Walter Olson at Overlawyered put it this way, in part:
...The Times editorialists warn against “needless fears” that the law “could injure” smaller enterprises. Got that? Not only will they not be driven out of business, they won’t even be “injured”. So small enterprises from coast to coast are just imagining things if they plead desperately for places like the Times to notice that they have already closed down, or will have to do so in the foreseeable future, or have lost thousands of dollars in unsalable inventories. Motorbike dealerships around the country are just imagining things if they think they’re staring at massive losses from the inability to sell their products, even though news-side talent at the New York Times has in fact covered their story well — coverage which the editorial studiously ignores.

For as long as anyone can remember, the New York Times has unthinkingly taken its line on supposed consumer-safety issues from organized groups like Public Citizen and Consumers Union. In this case, the result of such reliance has been to render the nation’s leading newspaper a laughingstock.
It appears the New York Times' belief that regulations have no harmful economic or social benefits is so calcified, it didn't even examine the question of whether anyone was being harmed by CPSIA before declaring news of such harm as being the product of mere "needless fears."

Meanwhile, a significant part of our nation's cultural heritage (children's books published before 1985) is literally been thrown in the dumpster, and many small businesses and charities and the people they serve are being hurt. Some are being hurt quite a lot.

Shame on the New York Times for putting its passion for regulation ahead of the truth.

Cross-posted on Newsbusters

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 7:52 PM

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

First They Banned All the Books

Though in this particular revolution, it appears they are starting with children's books published before 1985.

Possibly that's to get us used to the idea.

To be fair, though, Congress didn't only vote to ban books. The legislation behind this, the Consumer Product Safety Modernization Act of 2008, also eviscerates a significant chunk of our nation's cultural heritage, kills jobs (see the links below for stories about what this is doing to some small businesses), and hurts charities.

(If you hadn't yet heard that used bookstores, thrift shops and other establishments have begun throwing out large numbers of children's books, as well as children's clothes, toys and other goods, read this article by the Manhattan Institute's Walter Olson, and then head over to his superlative website, Overlawyered.com, for more details and updates.)

I checked to see if our fearless leader voted for this bill, but he blew off the vote entirely. His chief-of-staff Rahm Emmanuel, then an Illinois Congressman, was an original co-sponsor in the House, and Rep. Bobby Rush, also of Illinois, was the main sponsor.

In the Senate, the only "no" votes were: Allard (R-CO), Barrasso (R-WY), Bunning (R-KY), Burr (R-NC), Coburn (R-OK), Cochran (R-MS), Corker (R-TN), DeMint (R-SC), Ensign (R-NV), Enzi (R-WY), Kyl (R-AZ), Vitter (R-LA) and Wicker (R-MS).)

Folks, this is what big government gets you. Brace yourselves for more.

P.S. If you sell used clothes on EBay, yard sales, etc., beware. The penalty for breaking this law is fines up to $100,000, prison time, or both. You don't have to harm anyone to go to prison.

Hat tip: Ace of Spades.



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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:53 PM

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Yet Another Way Governments are Killing Jobs

Coyote Blog writes about cases in which local governments have forced people who want to start new businesses to prove their new business is "justified by the marketplace," that is, won't harm their likely competitors too much.

Hat tip: @WalterOlson.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:39 AM

Friday, January 30, 2009

Regulation Expected to Push Gas Stations Out of Business

From Alfred Lee at the Pasadena Star-News, information that new environmental regulations in California will push some gas stations out of out of business:
Dozens, and potentially hundreds, of gas stations around California are choosing to shut down rather than comply with a state mandate that would require owners to purchase new equipment to reduce vapor emissions at the pump.

The requirement, known as Phase II in the state's Enhanced Vapor Recovery Program, is set to go into effect in April. It requires gas station owners to individually purchase tens of thousands of dollars of equipment designed to prevent harmful vapors from escaping into the air when gasoline is pumped.

But smaller retailers say that the requirement puts an unfair burden on businesses that don't sell enough gasoline to offset the extra cost - and that don't contribute much to the problem in the first place.

Among them is George Fasching, who after 31 years of selling gasoline at Fasching's Car Wash in Arcadia, stopped in December.

"I came to the decision that I was too small a volume operator to continue on with the expenses imposed by the bureaucracy of the state," Fasching said.

April's requirements would have cost him $35,000, he said. Fasching used to sell the gasoline as a convenience for his car wash customers, and blames the new regulations for forcing him to stop.

"It will have some effect on my business, but at least I have the relief that I don't have to deal with these people anymore," he said.

As of the end of December 2008, the South Coast Air Quality Management District had heard back from 3,109 of its 4,500 sites about EVR Phase II.

Seventy-six - or 2.4 percent - indicated they will be shutting down on April 1, 2009 rather than upgrade their sites...
Read the rest here.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:21 AM

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Will Economic Crisis Make Obama Think Twice About Global Warming Regulation?

Senior Fellow Tom Borelli's latest Townhall.com column examines President-elect Obama's attitude toward global warming regulation.

He asks, "Will the economic crisis make Obama think twice about cap-and-trade?, and answers: "There’s no sign yet that it will."

Read it all here.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:16 PM

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Capping Greenhouse Gases: Here's Why Not

Husband David has an op-ed in today's Washington Times as well as other papers on what a cap on greenhouse gas emissions would due to our economy.

An excerpt:
When our economic bus is teetering at the edge of a cliff, it's a bad time to throw on some extra weight.

Yet government-mandated restrictions on carbon emissions would do precisely that, adding enormous additional weight to an economy already reeling. This additional weight shouldn't just be thrown from the bus -- it should be thrown under it.

Most econometric studies agree that restricting greenhouse-gas emissions would slow our already sluggish economy.

A study by the National Association of Manufacturers projected that emissions caps similar to those rejected earlier this year by the U.S. Senate calling for a 63-percent cut in emissions by 2050, would reduce U.S. gross domestic product by up to $269 billion and cost 850,000 jobs by 2014.

The Heritage Foundation estimated such restrictions would result in cumulative GDP losses of up to $4.8 trillion and employment losses of more than 500,000 a year by 2030.

Other studies suggest smaller economic costs: Duke University's Nicholas Institute estimates a GDP loss of $245 billion by 2030 while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates a GDP drop of $238 billion to $983 billion.

Sharp emissions restrictions would also push the costs of energy and other consumer products higher. According to a study conducted by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the restrictions could raise gasoline prices 29 percent, electricity prices 55 percent and natural-gas prices 15 percent by 2015.

The people most vulnerable to such price increases are the poor. A 2007 report by the Congressional Budget Office examining the costs of cutting carbon emissions just 15 percent noted that customers "would face persistently higher prices for products such as electricity and gasoline. Those price increases would be regressive in that poorer households would bear a larger burden relative to their income than wealthier households would." Indeed, the lowest quintile income group would pay nearly double what the highest quintile income group would, as a proportion of income, pay in increased energy costs.

And it appears that all this economic pain would be an utterly meaningless gesture. Patrick Michaels, former president of the American Association of State Climatologists, who is now with the Cato Institute, says reducing U.S. emissions 63 percent would prevent a mere 0.013 degrees Celsius in warming. With emissions from China, India and other developing nations growing at breakneck speed, even this modest benefit would be completely erased.

Some argue that we should undergo this pain anyway to set an example for others to follow. The European Union tried that and now, apparently, they're throwing in their collective recycled-material towel... Read it all here.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 6:38 PM

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Government Pirates: The Assault on Private Property Rights and How We Can Fight It

David Ridenour shared news of a new property rights information resource with the National Center for Public Policy Research's email list last night:
Dear Friend,

I'm writing to tell you about an excellent new book – and exceptional resource – that will be released tomorrow, "Government Pirates: The Assault on Private Property Rights and How We Can Fight It." It was written by my friend Don Corace and I had the privilege of getting an advance peak at the book.

The book details a series of property rights horror stories, some that you've no doubt heard about, such as the Kelo v. City of New London eminent domain case, and some that might be unfamiliar to you.

Corace tells the story, for example, of Jim and Tom Stephanis, who fought the City of Pompano Beach to build a hotel on a 1.3-acre site where their restaurant once stood. They fought the city for 31 years, during which time the Pompano government officials stonewalled the project through bureaucratic shenanigans and frivolous lawsuits. The city even deliberately violated a court order. The Stephanis brothers won nine consecutive lawsuits and numerous appeals before a chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court intervened, ordering an appeals venue change and hand-picking the judges who would hear the case – a highly-irregular and controversial move. This was the turning point in their battle and the Stephanises ultimately lost millions they'd invested in the project. Within a year of their final blow – the U.S. Supreme Court refusing to hear their case – Jim Stephanis suffered a major stroke. Today he works as a wine manager for a liquor store. His brother, Tom, is retired.

Government Pirates provides especially good insights on how government and outside special interests collaborate to take away Americans' property rights. As a successful real estate developer, Corace has seen this process up-close, first-hand.

If you'd like to take a look at sample pages of the book or see where you can tune in to hear Don Corace talking about the book (he'll be on Hannity and Colmes this week, for example), check out the Government Pirates website. Journalists and bloggers can download a press kit or email publisher HarperCollins here. To pre-order Government Pirates right now, go here.

This book is not only a must-read, but a vital reference book for your library. I encourage you not only to purchase it, but to tell others about this truly important contribution to the property rights movement.

Best,

David A. Ridenour
Vice President
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:43 AM

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Weyrich: Congressional Hearings on Land Trusts Needed

Conservative leader par excellence Paul Weyrich has written a column about National Center for Public Policy Research Senior Fellow Dana Joel Gattuso's National Policy Analysis paper, "Conservation Easements: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly."

Paul begins:
Phil Truluck is today Executive Vice President of the Heritage Foundation. He is the right-hand man of Edwin J. (Ed) Feulner, Jr. In 1973 he worked under my supervision. Then as now he is one of the most able and tireless laborers for the cause I ever have known. That year he worked day and night on the liberal's pet cause of that era - namely, land use. Had the land use bill passed the federal government would have been able, in effect, to do away with private property.

Although others took credit for the defeat of that terrible bill, I can state without fear of contradiction that it was Truluck's work that was responsible for the outcome. It is true that this bill has not reared its ugly self for the past 35 years but no bad idea ever dies in Washington. The National Center for Public Policy Research has issued a new study which contends that the federal government has found a new way to restrict the use of private property. A total of 37 million acres throughout the nation is under the control of land trusts. The best known of these is the Nature Conservancy. Dana Joel Gattuso, a senior fellow at the National Center, is author of the report, "Conservation Easements: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly." It seems that the Conservancy approaches land-rich but cash-poor farmers. In return for donating their land for supposed conservation purposes, the land owners are provided with federal and state tax breaks provided they agree never to develop or use the land for anything other than farming or ranching.

But the next thing that most often happens is a land flip...
Paul ends the piece with a call upon Congress to hold hearings to expose the way conservation easements are being abused, with an eye toward amending the law to prevent these abuses.

Read the rest of Paul's commentary here.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:36 PM

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Government Land Acquisition on the Sly

Joe Thomas of WCHV in Charlottesville, Virginia has posted a podcast online of his radio interview with National Center for Public Policy Research Senior Fellow Dana Joel Gattuso.

Dana, as many of you know, is the author of the absolutely excellent new paper on conservation easements, "Conservation Easements: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," published by the National Center for Public Policy Research on Tuesday.

If you are among the millions of Americans concerned about the steady growth of government, and you aren't already aware -- as most aren't -- of the explosive growth in conservation easements and how these easements are a door through which governments are exerting greater ownership of and control over private land (typically without the taxpayers knowing about, or any legislature ever voting for, the expansion), then I urge you to read Dana's study.

For a shorter summary of what the issue is all about, I recommend our press release, ably written by Judy Kent, and reproduced below.
Contact: Judy Kent at (703) 759-7476 or email [email protected]

Landowners Beware - The Government's Found a New Way to Control Your Land

Conservation Easements Not What They Used to Be, Says New Report


Washington, D.C.: Under the guise of making more land accessible for the public's use and providing tax relief for land-rich but cash-poor landowners, the government has found a convenient way to restrict the use of private land - often without the original landowner's knowledge. Enter The Nature Conservancy and other large land trust conglomerates that approach farmers or large landowners with what seems like a "win-win" for all involved. In return for donating their land for conservation purposes, the landowners are provided with federal and state tax breaks and agree never to convert, develop or use the land for any purpose other than farming or ranching.

A total of 37 million acres of land throughout the United States are currently under the control of land trusts.

However, according to a new report by the National Center for Public Policy Research titled, "Conservation Easements: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," all-too-often that acquired land, placed under "conservation easements," goes from the land trust right into the governing hands of the largest landowner in the United States, the federal government. Dana Joel Gattuso, author of the report and senior fellow of the National Center, explains these "prearranged flips" provide a back door approach to acquiring land control that is good for the government and the original land trust, but bad for the unsuspecting landowner, who has been kept out of the loop.

How profitable is it for conglomerates like The Nature Conservancy to participate in flips? Gattuso cites their annual report, which states about a fifth of the land trust's annual support and revenues come from the sales of easements to the government. "In one example, The Nature Conservancy bought an easement for $1.26 million, then directly sold it to the federal Bureau of Land Management for $1.4 million," she says. The Nature Conservancy certainly isn't alone, the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, one of that state's largest land trusts, has sold more than 700 of its 850 easements to the state and federal government.

Besides being able to take control over more and more land, "Government agencies like the arrangements because they are able to restrict activity on private property absent public approval, unlike land purchases, zoning laws and other land conservation regulations, which can draw heated opposition - and great angst," Gattuso says. According to a Department of Agriculture report on easements, "conservation easements provide opportunities for public agencies to influence resource use without incurring the political costs of regulation or the full financial costs of outright land acquisition." It is troubling that "easements, absent reforms, could evolve into the prevailing method for government to shift lands unobtrusively from private to public control under a pretense of private stewardship," she states.

This trend toward more government involvement in land trusts troubles Gattuso. While conservation easements "have become the rage in land conservation - rising in number from 740 in 1995 to 6,500 today - so has the role of government and government's influence over land trusts." Initially, the benefits of land trust involvement with easements created the possibility of an effective land stewardship program. "Yet land trusts, particularly the larger organizations, are changing their focus from independent and private approaches, to working in tandem with government agencies in an effort to assist government in controlling private lands," she cautions.

Gattuso says the biggest reason landowners enter into a conservation agreement is to obtain relief from burdensome taxes - especially death taxes, which break up well-managed lands. Tax benefits are extended to everyone, from wealthy landowners who own hundreds of thousands of acres to struggling farmers who have inherited a hundred-acre farm. These easements, however, extend into perpetuity and can become a big concern when future generations inherit the affected land, the report says. Environmentalists presently view this as beneficial, but what is ecologically-beneficial one day, may not be the next. Legal and policy experts agree these binding agreements that extend into perpetuity "ultimately become antiquated and, therefore, useless or even harmful. The rule fails to recognize that conservation needs - as well as definitions of scenic, aesthetic and cultural - change over time, and that the easement may eventually lose any ecological benefit or even become a detriment. Modern views in ecology hold that the environment is in a constant change rather than in search of a stable end-state," Gattuso reports.

Robert J. Smith, also a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research and a foremost authority on property rights, shares Gattuso's concerns. "Short-term conservation easements were once considered a method to protect lands short of fee simple acquisition. But over time they have morphed into perpetual lock up of lands in a single use. This is not only disastrous from an environmental viewpoint, because nature is forever changing - but it is also the antithesis of a free market because they preclude all future choice," he says.

Additional problems with tragic consequences arise when there are different interpretations of what a conservation easement allows. There is no shortage of landowners who offer their own disastrous story of their involvement with conservation easements. As an example, the Property Rights Foundation of America cites the case of a farmer who bought a 42-acre property in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Wanting to build a farmhouse to house three generations of his family, he didn't expect to run into any problem with a conservation easement that had been placed on the land. The easement noted the land could be used only for farming or nature conservation, and for small buildings related to those uses. However, the French and Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust sued to stop the construction, claiming the farmhouse did not fall within the parameters of what was allowed to be built on the land. A judge with the Chester County Court of Common Pleas ruled in favor of the farmer and noted the construction of the farmhouse "does not offend the easement definition of a 'small building' incidental to farming use." Construction on the farmhouse continued and so did the legal stranglehold the Trust held against the family. The Trust appealed the judge's decision all the way to the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court. Ultimately, the tragedy of how these conservation easements can be misunderstood is evidenced by the bulldozing of the family's farmhouse, which destroyed the dreams of three generations of family farmers and 15 years of savings.

The paper, "Conservation Easements: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," by Dana Joel Gattuso is available online at http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA569.html.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a free-market communications and research foundation established in 1982 and located on Capitol Hill.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:18 AM

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

NCPPR's Almasi Comments on CAFE in National Review

In the May 5 print edition of National Review, Fred Schwarz described how the catalytic converter was perfected just as automakers faced potentially crippling federal emissions requirements. Liberals cite this as proof that all that is needed to make technological breakthroughs happen is to give industry a swift regulatory kick in the pants, but this particular development was a happy coincidence. Had a breakthrough - discovered after many frustrating failures - not come when it did, the auto industry could very well have been devastated.

Schwarz sees the development of the catalytic converter as another step in the march of science that will, in time, bring about the changes some people hastily want to mandate.

Schwarz’s article is great but for the one line. Schwarz calls newly-mandated Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards "feasible." Hardly. They are most likely to make cars and trucks smaller, lighter and subsequently more dangerous in the short-term before (in the minds of the regulatory crowd) the long-hidden formula to fuel cars with water is unveiled.

National Center for Public Policy Research Executive Director David Almasi explained one of the problems with increased CAFE standards in a letter to the editor that now has been printed in the May 19 National Review (print edition). David's letter is reprinted in its entirety below:
Fred Schwarz is right to predict that science will achieve regulatory goals at its own pace ("Machina ex Machina," May 5).

He also says that "[current] CAFE standards are quite feasible, and while opponents have criticized them on economic grounds, at least no engineering miracles will be required." True - but the biggest problem with the Corporate Average Fuel Economy system concerns safety, not economics or engineering. By historical precedent the easiest way for automakers to meet higher fuel-efficiency requirements is to make cars and trucks smaller, lighter and inherently less safe. A 2002 study by the National Academy of Sciences estimated between 1,300 and 2,600 accident-related deaths each year can be attributed to CAFE standards.
It’s also the case that these new CAFE standards will raise the price of new vehicles large enough for family use by thousands of dollars. If you don’t like paying an extra buck a gallon for gasoline, just wait until you have to spend an extra ten grand for the car.

Thanks, Congress.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:52 PM

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

EPA Jeopardizes Children in Potentially Dangerous Sludge Experiments

Project 21's Deneen Borelli is not happy about the EPA and other federal agencies conducting de facto experiments on families in poor, black families:
EPA Sludge Tests a "Modern-Day Tuskegee Experiment"

Children in Poor Black Neighborhoods Potentially Imperiled by EPA Studies


For Release: Immediate
Contact: David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 x11 or
[email protected]

Washington, D.C.: Revelations that the federal government conducted potentially dangerous sludge-related experiments on children in Baltimore is condemned by Project 21 black leadership network fellow Deneen Borelli, who is demanding more answers about the origins of the experiment and wants to know how much other reckless policymaking is permeating federal agencies.

The Associated Press reported April 13 that researchers using federal grant money selected nine families in poor, black Baltimore neighborhoods to test if sludge could reduce child health risks from lead. Sludge derived from human and industrial waste was tilled into the families' yards and grass was planted over it.

The AP story said families were told that lead found in the soil in their yards posed a health risk and that the sludge was safe. The study, the findings of were published in 2005, did find that sludge bonded with the harmful metals lead, cadmium and zinc in the soil. However, concerns about the health risk of the sludge appear to have been overlooked, and no follow-up medical examinations of the families were reported.

The AP says, "epidemiological studies have never been done to show whether spreading sludge on land is safe."

A similar experiment was done in a poor, primarily black neighborhood in East St. Louis, IL.

"This is no less than a modern-day Tuskegee Experiment," said Borelli. "The government appears to have clearly failed - in the case of the EPA - in its mission 'to protect human health and safeguard the environment.' In fact, it is failure on both counts. For federal bureaucrats at EPA and HUD to knowingly allow this experiment to take place and jeopardize the health of children and adults is outrageous."

In 1993, the EPA began allowing Class B sludge containing human feces, medical waste and assorted chemicals to be used on farmland, in national forests and for mine reclamation efforts. EPA managers have been hostile to critics who questioned whether the sludge is safe. The hostility included angry calls and letters to public critics and unfounded ethics complaints imperiling the careers of critics within the agency. EPA scientists David Lewis and William Markus, who spoke out about the unknown potential dangers of Class B sludge, were retaliated against by their superiors, but later sued the EPA and won a $100,000 settlement.

In March a federal judge ordered the U.S. Department of Agriculture to compensate Georgia farmer Andy McElmurray because sludge used in his fields to grow corn and cotton to feed livestock contained extremely high levels of arsenic, toxic heavy metals and PCBs. U.S. District Judge Anthony Alaimo wrote that government-endorsed data on the sludge was "unreliable, incomplete and, in some cases, fudged." Judge Alaimo further wrote, "senior EPA officials took extraordinary steps to quash scientific dissent."

Borelli wants to know if there are other issues championed by the agency in which necessary assessment was bypassed to meet desired political goals.

"One can't help but compare the scandal in Baltimore to global warming policy promoted by environmental activists and many of their supporters in the government bureaucracy," added Project 21's Borelli. "In the case of the EPA, the agency's lack of sound analysis regarding climate change will undoubtedly lead to dire economic consequences. For instance, the American Council For Capital Formation predicts '...the United States would lose between 1.2 and 1.8 million jobs in 2020' and that the 'primary cause of job losses would be lower industrial output due to higher energy prices, the high cost of complying with required emissions cuts, and greater competition from overseas manufacturers with lower energy costs.' We can't be allowed to run headlong into a crisis without proper scientific evidence. In Baltimore and the nation as a whole, it looks as if the government is putting policy goals ahead of public welfare."

Between 1932 and 1972, the U.S. Public Health Service conducted a study on the effects of syphilis on black men. In the process, researchers intentionally denied full knowledge and treatment for the debilitating sexually transmitted disease to the 399 black men studied. Called the Tuskegee Experiment because government researchers used the renowned black institution's medical facilities, the race-based study led to the deaths of 128 of the study's subjects while 59 wives and children contracted or were born with syphilis.

The AP story was written by John Heilprin and Kevin S. Viney.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:49 AM

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Eliot Spitzer's Bigger Scandal

Senior Fellow Tom Borelli looks at an Eliot Spitzer scandal even larger than the one that caused him to resign as governor of New York State.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:11 AM

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Second Look at Levee Rehabilitation

Peyton Knight penned this letter to the New York Times in response to a February 27 op-ed by Alex Prud'homme, "There Will Be Floods." The Times did not print it, so I'll give it some exposure here:
Alex Prud'homme paints a scary picture of America's antiquated system of levees and fingers two culprits: a backlogged Army Corps of Engineers and lax wetlands protection due to a recent Supreme Court ruling on the Clean Water Act. There are two contradictions here.

He invokes the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe, yet fails to mention that it was a wetlands protection lawsuit, filed by an environmental group, which prevented a massive hurricane barrier from being built 30 years ago. As Joseph Towers, former Army Corps chief counsel in the New Orleans district, lamented, "If we had built the barriers, New Orleans would not be flooded."

In addition, the Supreme Court ruling Prud'homme bemoans (Rapanos v. U.S.) should enhance the Corps' ability to focus on backlogged projects. Now the agency can spend less time regulating every isolated wet area in the country and focus on more pressing projects like levee rehabilitation.
-Peyton Knight
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:00 PM

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Government Health Care Threatens Burgers and Fries?

Three Mississippi state lawmakers have introduced legislation to ban Mississippi restaurants from serving food to obese people.

We've written before how government bans on tobacco use in bars and resturants have reduced customer traffic in those establishments (here and here, for example). One can only imagine how few customers restaurants would have if they had to do height and weight checks on all patrons at the door.

As reported in the Junkfood Science blog, the bill's lead author, Republican W. T. Mayhall, Jr., says one of the reasons he wrote the bill is to "call attention to the serious problem of obesity and what it is costing the Medicare system."

I'm well aware of the way government health care systems deny people access to health care through waiting lines, cancelled operations, rationing of expensive drugs, etc. (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here for some examples), but this is perhaps the first case of it threatening access to burgers and fries.

Doggone government health care fanatics not only want to end our lives early, they want to cut out half the fun of what life we'll have left!

But perhaps I fret needlessly. The bill bans serving food to obese people, but says nothing about serving alcohol.

Hat tip: Q and O.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:01 AM

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Seven Million Americans Can't Afford Health Insurance...

and it's the government's fault.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:57 PM

Sunday, October 14, 2007

World's Worst Neighbor

Parents in Brooklyn were threatened with a $300 fine by New York City because their six-year-old daughter drew a chalk flower on the family' front stoop.

It seems a contender for the title of "world's worst neighbor" called the city on the family, claiming the flower -- soon washed away by rain -- qualified as "graffiti."

The good news is that city officials, after learning the full details, sided with the family. No fine will be imposed.

There is, apparently, some sanity in government.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:20 AM

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Possibly Non-Existent Mouse Shatters Family's Dreams

A Wyoming family's dream to build an indoor horse-riding arena on their property is on hold because the area on which they want to build is designated critical habitat for Preble's Meadow Jumping Mouse - whose existence as a separate, identifiable species is being debated.

Possibly Non-Existent Mouse Shatters Family's Dreams

When Jim and Amy LeSatz inherited property in Chugwater, Wyoming from Amy's grandfather in 1998, they had visions of building their own indoor horse-riding arena. They planned to raise and train horses and host clinics for other horse owners. Instead, the LeSatzes are forced to continue to use an arena 25 miles away because of Endangered Species Act restrictions designed to protect the Preble's Meadow Jumping Mouse - an animal whose very existence is currently under debate.

The Preble's Meadow Jumping Mouse was listed as a threatened species under the ESA in May of 1998. As the LeSatzes began formulating their plans to build their own riding arena, they found the only suitable area where it could be built was among 31,000 acres designated as critical habitat for the mouse. The host of restrictions governing the use of the land made development too costly. Therefore, the LeSatzes must chauffeur their horses back and forth to the existing indoor arena. The cost to rent the arena and transport the horses - something they've had to do for nearly seven years - continues to be significant. The LeSatzes believe that constructing their own arena would dramatically ease these escalating costs. Thus far, however, the critical habitat designation for the mouse has prevented that from happening.

This situation may change as research puts the very existence of the species in question. New research by Rob Roy Ramey II, former curator at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, indicates that the mouse never really existed. Instead, he argues the mouse is genetically identical to another species, the Bear Lodge Meadow Jumping Mouse, which is common enough that threatened status or critical habitat designations aren't necessary. But Ralph Morgenweck, regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Denver, says the new research doesn't mandate immediate changes, saying "we're trying to be deliberate in our work, trying to get the best science we can and review of the science we do have, in making this decision [to de-list]." LeSatz is not happy with the delays: "Jim and I have always been good stewards of the land. We covet it. Once they de-list the mouse, we can finally begin our plans to build our own arena."

Coincidentally (or not), environmental groups are now asking for the protection of the Bear Lodge Mouse - which is known to reside in areas as far north as South Dakota and as far south as Colorado Springs - based on claims that it suffers from habitat degradation similar to what has been alleged for the Preble's Mouse. This is disputed by Kent Holsinger, an attorney for Coloradans for Water Conservation and Development. Holsinger requested the de-listing of the Preble's Mouse, and claims: "The bottom line is, [critical habitat designation] has been a wonderful tool for environmental groups to try to stop things."

Commenting on her family's enduring hardships, Amy LeSatz said, "A tiny little mouse comes in and changes your whole perspective. I've had more of an education in endangered species than I've ever wanted." FWS officials said they hoped to resolve the issue of whether to de-list the Preble Mouse by 2006, but the year came and went without a determination. Plans for the LeSatz family's riding arena remain on hold. Meanwhile, radical greens have been able to force the Denver Museum to terminate Dr. Ramey because he dared to do genetic research on the true status of the mouse.

Sources: CNNnews.com (June 11, 2004), Associated Press (June 11, 2004), Amy LeSatz, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

**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 1:25 AM

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Missouri River Plan Hurt Local Residents

In an effort to protect endangered birds and fish, a federal judge restricted the amount of dammed water allowed to flow into the Missouri River. As a result, water levels became too shallow for regional farmers to ship goods by barge, forcing them to use more costly transportation alternatives.

Missouri River Plan Hurt Local Residents

Citing the need for lower water levels to protect the endangered Least Tern, Piping Plover and Pallid Sturgeon, a coalition of environmental groups sued the government to restrict the amount of dammed water that would be permitted to flow into the Missouri River.

Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon, commenting on the region's economic reliance on the river, noted that "water for Missouri is like blood for our bodies; the flow of the Missouri River helps keep our economy alive."

Though she acknowledged the economic hardship that would result, a federal judge ruled the well-being of these protected birds and fish outweighed human concerns.

Noting, "there is no dollar value that can be placed on the extinction of an animal species," U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Gladys Kessler ordered a reluctant U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reduce the flow of the Missouri River beginning in July of 2003. While the Corps initially refused to obey the order and was cited in contempt of court, Kessler's decision was later sustained on appeal and water levels were dropped in August.

Almost immediately, the reduction in flow caused the river level in Kansas City, Missouri to fall by six feet. This virtually eliminated the ability of barges to operate on the Missouri River and forced local farmers to seek more costly alternatives, such as air, rail and road, to transport their products. Transporting goods by barge makes good economic sense for farmers. An average 15-ton barge can carry the equivalent of 870 truck payloads.

In the spring of 2004, towing companies normally serving Sioux City, Iowa announced they would not be able to deliver the 50 to 60 regular bargeloads of fertilizer due to uncertain river depths. Big Soo Terminal manager Kevin Knepper lamented: "We have lost our spring and the most profitable season. It's just too late to get up and running and make any money... [W]e're [now] concerned the rail industry will not be able to service the additional tonnage that we're going to need to move this spring."

As a result of a diminished Missouri River, pollution and other environmental harm became an unintended and pressing concern for the region. Nixon predicted "the increased congestion and air pollution stemming from the loss of river transportation [will] be immense." Within weeks of the river dropping to levels not seen since the dustbowl era, water temperature rose to a point nearly exceeding Missouri water quality standards.

Although Kessler's decision in 2003 had been upheld, a different federal judge assigned to the river litigation has since ruled differently. In June 2004, U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson in Minneapolis ruled in favor of the Corps and blocked the contempt citation.

Sources: Associated Press (June 21, 2004; February 17, 2005; May 25, 2005), Sioux City Journal (February 28, 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 1:46 AM

Saturday, August 04, 2007

City Evicts Houseboat Resident for a "Biting" Wiener Dog

One maverick resident of Riviera Beach, FL discovered the price of obstructing the city government's waterfront redevelopment plan, which would uproot thousands of local residents and businesses to benefit a private development company: repeated harassment by city henchmen, arrest, eviction from his houseboat and a ridiculous order to muzzle his supposedly biting wiener dog.

City Evicts Houseboat Resident for a "Biting" Wiener Dog

Fane Lozman is accustomed to heat. He lives on a two-story houseboat docked on Slip 452 of Florida's Riviera Beach Municipal Marina. The area once served as a fishing village and is universally known for its hot and humid summers. But Lozman's challenge to the City of Riviera Beach's plan to uproot thousands of residents for part of an economic development plan landed him in a different kind of heat - the thuggish political payback sort.

In May 2006, at the request of Mayor Michael Brown, the Riviera Beach City Council hastily approved a $2.4 billion economic redevelopment plan for a 400-acre area on the Municipal Marina, which is owned and operated by the City of Riviera Beach. It did so knowing that then-Governor Jeb Bush would soon sign into law new state property protections that would prohibit the use of eminent domain for economic purposes. Nevertheless, as the Palm Beach Post reported, "A condition of the agreement was the city's promise to use eminent domain on behalf of Viking."

Lozman and thousands of other Riviera residents, private home and business owners were at risk of being evicted so that Viking Inlet Harbor Properties, a private company, could build a hotel, condos, restaurants and an aquarium on the waterfront. In addition to Viking, Wayne Huizenga, owner of the Miami Dolphins professional football team, stood to benefit because of his heavy investment in the project.

Lozman believed that the city was abusing its powers of eminent domain by seizing property to transfer it to a private company. In June 2006, Lozman sued the city for inadequately notifying the public of its development plan.

After Lozman filed the lawsuit, the city and, literally, the city's henchmen, harassed Lozman repeatedly. One month alone, George Carter, the marina operator where Lozman's boat is docked and a longtime city employee, called the police on Lozman at least six times for dubious violations. Responding to one such call by Carter in August 2006, police threatened to arrest Lozman for changing a door on his own private boat, which Hurricane Wilma had damaged, before the arrival of another approaching storm.

"[Carter] doesn't want me doing work on my boat," Lozman explained. "But there's no rule against it. He's just going after me because of what I'm doing with the city. He's good friends with Mayor [Michael] Brown. They've got him doing this to me."

In July 2006, Carter ordered Lozman to muzzle his dog, a ten-pound Dachshund "wiener dog" named Lady, to prevent it from biting. Though the dog was leashed and had never hurt anyone, Carter claimed that two people had complained that the dog lunged towards them. "If your dog was to bite someone the liability may be a problem for the marina," wrote Carter. If Lozman did not comply, "The city must ask you to vacate the marina at the end of this month."

Despite the threat, Lozman refused to follow the order because the extreme summer heat would kill Lady. As Lozman explained, "It's 110 degrees heat out here, and this dog has a black coat, and she has to pant when it's hot. She would drop dead of a heat stroke."

On August 11, 2006, the city sent Lozman an eviction notice, citing insubordination. The letter claimed Lozman "knowingly put the City of Riviera Beach in a defenseless position if [his] dog was to bite someone." It continued, "Mr. Lozman, we both know it's not if, but when the dog bites someone."

Lozman had until the end of August to move his boat. But refusing to be bullied into submission, Lozman filed another suit against the city on First Amendment grounds, contending that his eviction from a public area was, in effect, politically-motivated retaliation for obstructing the city's waterfront redevelopment plan.

"What about these mom-and-pop people who live here [in Riviera]?," asked Lozman.
"[The city is] going to turn this place into a giant megayacht marina for only the richest people. So I could have either thrown up my hands or fight a rotten group of corrupt a**holes."

In November 2006, Lozman was arrested at Riviera Beach City Hall for disorderly conduct, trespassing and resisting arrest without violence. During the public comment portion of a City Council meeting, Lozman had spoken out against public corruption. Councilwoman Liz Wade ordered police to forcibly remove Lozman from the hearing room.

"It is outrageous that a citizen gets arrested because he chooses to participate in a public meeting," said Lozman. Florida prosecutors eventually dropped the arrest charges, citing difficulty of prosecution.

Meanwhile, Lozman continued his suit against being wrongfully evicted from the Municipal Marina. In March 2007, Florida's 15th Circuit Court ruled in favor of Lozman. A jury determined that Lozman's protected speech "was a substantial or motivating factor" in Riviera Beach City's decision to evict Lozman. "This is a victory for all Americans," said Lozman after the ruling. "What makes America beautiful is our freedoms."

Lozman is currently seeking damages from the city. Meanwhile, the City of Riviera Beach abandoned its plans to use eminent domain as part of its multi-billion dollar redevelopment plan. Because of Florida's 2006 legislative action limiting municipalities' eminent domain powers, as well as an unfavorable real estate market, Viking Inlet Harbor Properties has stopped work on the redevelopment project and is considering a scaled down plan that does not rely upon the use of eminent domain.

Sources: Broward-Palm Beach New Times (August 10, 2006, August 24, 2006, March 8, 2007), City of Riviera Beach v. Fane Lozman (Circuit Court of the 15th Judicial Circuit, Palm Beach County, FL, March 2, 2007), Palm Beach Post (May 9, 2006, June 25, 2006, October 20, 2006, January 23, 2007, February 17, 2007, March 7, 2007)

**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 12:05 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.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:03 AM

Saturday, July 28, 2007

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.

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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.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:18 PM

Sunday, July 22, 2007

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.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:11 AM

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

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

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