Soup Kitchen Cited for Giving Illegal Meals

The Connecticut Department of Public Health cited a St. Vincent de Paul Soup Kitchen because it was feeding people with “some donated food served on site is not prepared in licensed kitchens.”  Like most charitable organizations that feed the poor, some of the food given away by the soup kitchen was prepared and donated by people who just want to help.  It’s these people who are the “unlicensed kitchens.”  The government is threatening to shut down the soup kitchen.

Lawsuit Claims High Occupancy Vehicle Lanes are Racist

I’m not making this up.  As further proof that lawyers deserve their bad reputation, and the U.S. has become “bizarro world,” I give you Arlington County, Virginia vs. the Federal Highway Administration and the Virginia Department of Transportation.  The lawsuit alleges that the government defendants did not conduct a proper environmental analysis and that “their actions also constituted civil rights violations as they discriminated against minority and low income communities.”

A lawsuit filed by Arlington County last month claims the lanes benefit wealthy white people and discriminates against minorities. While the only rule to get in the HOV lanes on Interstate 395 is you must have three people in the car, Arlington claims adding HOT lanes would cut out poor and minorities by defacto.

Swimming Pool Law Imposes Million Dollar Fines & Jail Time

More evidence that are lawmakers are completely nuts.  It’s called the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act.  It was enacted by Congress and signed by President Bush on December 19, 2007.  The law is designed to prevent the tragic and hidden hazard of drain entrapments and eviscerations in pools and spas, the law became effective on December 19, 2008.  Under the law, all public pools and spas must have ASME/ANSI A112.19.8-2007 compliant drain covers installed and a second anti-entrapment system installed, when there is a single main drain other than an unblockable drain.

See the Arizona Republic’s story called “New drain-safety law may close some pools.”

Supporters of the act have said that in the past 20 years, at least 36 children have died and 147 others were injured after becoming trapped underwater by the suction of a pool or hot-tub drain.

Fred Wagner, president of Poolman, a pool-service company in Phoenix, said several of his clients including Vogel Place Condominiums in north Phoenix are closing their pool “because they don’t have the money to bring them up to standards.” Others are ignoring the law and taking serious liability risks, he said.

The government cannot regulate everything that might cause harm.  Why single out the pools for big brother regulation when there are many other activities that result in more deaths and injuries?  For example, an average of 24 people die each year from fires caused by Christmas trees versus 1.8 children a year who die from getting caught in pool drains.  Wouldn’t more lives be saved if everybody who gets a natural Christmas tree has to install a heat activated sprinkler system over the tree?

Besides the fact that governmental regulation takes away our freedom, it also causes unintended adverse consequences such as closing public pools and causing organizations to simply not build a new pool.

The Billings City Council . . . killed plans for a pool in Sahara Park in the Heights. . . . City Administrator Tina Volek said the city wasn’t willing to accept the financial risk and legal liability of owning a large aquatic center.

The government is now criminalizing ordinary citizen activity.  See the letter from the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission dated September 11, 2009, sent to six public pools in Ohio recently.  The letter states:

you and the pool or spa owner could be subject to fines of $100,000 for each violation up to a maximum of $15 million for any related series of violations, imprisonment for not more than five (5) years, and/or forfeiture of assets, pursuant to Sections 20 and 21 of the CPSA, 15 U.S.C. §§ 2069 and 2070.

US Department of Labor Says Unpaid Interns Illegal

Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, posted a story on his blog about his desire to hire a number of unpaid interns.  The Department of Labor said he must pay the interns.  Result:  no interns who would have had the opportunity to work for a sports franchise, learn some new skills and pad their resume.  Again, we see “we are from the government and are here to help you” in action.

I wanted to assemble a group of unpaid interns that would acquire video, write game reports, track unique stats, do interviews, interact with fans, and then compile all of this incremental media and provide it free to any and every outlet we could think of. If a middle school newspaper or website wanted up to the minute Mavs reports, check. We had em. Social networks ? All the content you need. Of course we would update our Mavs.com, mavswiki.com, friends.mavs.com websites and offer the content to any and every blogger out there. . . .

“The law says that interns have to be paid unless they are perfoming work that is of no value to the organization; ie., helps them in some way but we get no benefit from their work. Thus we would have to create work that is useless to us if we choose not to pay them.   How silly is that?” . . .

The U.S. Department of Labor has outlined a list of criteria that ALL must be met in order for an internship to be unpaid.

  1. The training, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to that which would be given in a vocational school;
  2. The training is for the benefit of the trainee;
  3. The trainees do not displace regular employees, but work under close observation;
  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees and on occasion the employer’s operations may actually be impeded;
  5. The trainees are not necessarily entitled to a job at the completion of the training period; and
  6. The employer and the trainee understand that the trainees are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.

IRS to Audit 6,000 Companies for Employment Tax Compliance

The IRS announced that 6, 000 businesses will soon hear the dreaded words, “we are from the government and we are here to help audit you.”  The purpose of the audits is to determine if the victims companies report and pay all employment taxes used to fund Social Security and Medicare.  The random audits will begin February 2010.

Health-Care Reform and the Constitution

The Wall St. Journal has a column written by former Judge Andrew Napolitano.  The column begins:

Last week, I asked South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn, the third-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, where in the Constitution it authorizes the federal government to regulate the delivery of health care. He replied: “There’s nothing in the Constitution that says that the federal government has anything to do with most of the stuff we do.” Then he shot back: “How about [you] show me where in the Constitution it prohibits the federal government from doing this?”

Rep. Clyburn, like many of his colleagues, seems to have conveniently forgotten that the federal government has only specific enumerated powers. He also seems to have overlooked the Ninth and 10th Amendments, which limit Congress’s powers only to those granted in the Constitution.

A Destructive Toy Story Made in Washington

We have all heard the statement “we are from the government and are here to help you.”  On February 10, 2009, a new law called the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act became effective.  This is a perfect example of the federal government fixing something that was not broken and costing billions of dollars and the loss of many jobs.

Walter Olson has a column about this new and awful law in today’s Wall St. Journal.  Mr. Olson says “A dubious safety law is hammering small business, but Congress refuses to fix the mess it created in 2008.”  Mr. Olson has written about the CPSIA controversy extensively on  his blog called Overlawyered.com.

This law has saddled businesses with billions of dollars in losses on T-shirts, bath toys and other items that were lawful to sell one day and unlawful the next. It has induced thrift and secondhand stores to trash mountains of outgrown blue jeans, bicycles and board games for fear there might be trivial, harmless—but suddenly illegal—quantities of lead in their zippers and valves or phthalates in their plastic spinners. (Phthalates are substances that add flexibility to plastic.) Even classic children’s books are at risk: Because lead was not definitively removed from printing inks until 1985, the CPSC has advised that only kids’ books printed after that date should be considered safe to resell.

Windmills Are Killing Our Birds

A Wall St. Journal story dated September 7, 2009, is about a subject of which I was completely unaware.  It describes the double standard with respect to the enforcement of a federal law called the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.  The law makes it illegal to kill certain protected birds.  Apparently the U.S. government cares more about who is doing the killing rather than if any birds are killed.

The reporter claims there is “One standard for oil companies, another for green energy sources.”  Consider the following two examples of enforcement of the law against “big” energy offenders:

On Aug. 13, ExxonMobil pleaded guilty in federal court to killing 85 birds that had come into contact with crude oil or other pollutants in uncovered tanks or waste-water facilities on its properties. . . . The company agreed to pay $600,000 in fines and fees.

In July . . .  the Oregon-based electric utility PacifiCorp paid $1.4 million in fines and restitution for killing 232 eagles in Wyoming over the past two years. The birds were electrocuted by poorly-designed power lines.

There is one well-known green energy source that gets a free pass even though it kills tens of thousands of protected birds every year.  Despite studies and evidence that windmills and birds do not mix, the Department of Justice has not gone after any windmill owners for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

A July 2008 study of the wind farm at Altamont Pass, Calif., estimated that its turbines kill an average of 80 golden eagles per year. The study, funded by the Alameda County Community Development Agency, also estimated that about 10,000 birds—nearly all protected by the migratory bird act—are being whacked every year at Altamont.

Another example of justice being blind, i.e., deaf, dumb and blind.

Perils of Running a Business From Home

Many people who have lost their jobs during the current recession have started a home-based business.  A US News & World Report article describes “How the IRS and local governments can make life difficult for home-based entrepreneurs.”

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