"There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers." ~ Richard Feynman
Federal Register Watch
Federal Register Watch
August 22 - 26, 2005
What freedoms have you lost this week?
Monday, August 22, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 161)
DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY - Coast Guard
The details of this Final Rule aren't as interesting as its larger implications. Sure, the Coast Guard wants to extend a security perimeter 50 yards into the waters around Oakland Estuary in Alameda , California . There may be legitimate security threats in that area. What bothers me are the penalties imposed if you enter these zones. Violating these zones can mean civil fines up to $32,500, criminal fines up to $250,000 and no more than 6 years of jail, and "in rem liability against the offending vessel." That's assuming you aren't busted with a "dangerous weapon" in your possession or aren't "caus[ing] bodily injury or fear of imminent bodily injury" to the people in charge of the zone.
DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY - Coast Guard
An example of federal micro-management of local government: a three-page Proposed Rule to clean up the regulatory mess left behind after the last Rule concerning the operation of a bridge in Oregon . Operating times, auditory signals for mariners, and some other details have to go through the federal paper warehouse in order for Multnomah County (the "owner" of the bridge) to get to work on repairs.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 162)
DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY - Transportation Security Administration
Remember a few years back when the stink was raised about allowing pilots to carry a gun with them during a flight in case they have to defend the flight cabin from attackers? In order to move forward, the TSA must collect information from the pilots (and others) who want to be these so-called Federal Flight Deck Officers. But before they can collect this information, there must be a "valid OMB control number" on the paperwork . . . and the last OMB number has apparently expired. The federal government issues licenses to itself. I can't imagine two federal agencies getting involved in a process I know I loathe.
SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION
[Disaster Declaration No. 10164] and [Disaster Declaration 10163]
How sweet it must be to those "Private Non-Profit organizations that provide essential services of a governmental nature" when they get special government loan rates of 4.75% (if they have credit elsewhere) and 4.00% (if they don't) to do their work. Both of these areas are administered from the U.S. Small Business Administration Disaster Area Office 3 in Fort Worth , Texas . I hope these organizations thank every federal taxpayer they meet for their forced generosity.
[ http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/01jan20051800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2005/05-16697.htm ] and [ http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/01jan20051800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2005/05-16696.htm ]
Wednesday August 24, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 163)
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES - Administration on Aging
Do you live in Washington , DC ? Got nothing to do on Tuesday, September 20? Drop by The Washington Court Hotel 's Atrium Ballroom for the "seventh Policy Committee meeting concerning planning for the 2005 White House Conference on Aging." Sounds like a hot date: middle-aged and older folks talking about talking about upcoming talks on getting older. I suppose they'll all age a little during this timeframe.
I doubt anyone could convince me the executive branch of the federal government needs to hold seven conferences on aging. But let's say there is a valid Constitutional reason to do this. Must a meeting about a meeting be held at the Washington Court Hotel ? The Atrium Ballroom is one of the largest events rooms in a "luxury hotel" with "superlative service." The Hotel self-identifies as having the "most versatile and luxurious meeting facilities in Washington , DC " that are "[c]ontemporary, convenient and distinctive." And every American reading this will be footing some part of a bill very few of us would even seriously contemplate paying for our own activities.
DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY
While the above meeting (about a meeting, etc.) might drive many of us to shed tears of boredom, I don't think the same would apply to the next one I found. A public meeting will be held on Thursday, September 8 for the President's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform. This will be the Panel's 11th meeting. Unfortunately, the masters have decided "no public comments will be heard" while the meeting is in progress. But feel free to write comments to:
The President's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform
1440 New York Avenue NW., Suite 2100
Washington , DC 20220
If you write, be aware that "[a]ll written comments will be made available to the public."
Thursday, August 25, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 164)
DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY - Internal Revenue Service
Speaking of that federal devil, here's something the above Panel might consider looking into streamlining:
"...final regulations under section 951(a) of the Internal Revenue Code (Code) that provide guidance for determining a United States shareholder's pro rata share of a controlled foreign corporation's (CFC's) subpart F income, previously excluded subpart F income withdrawn from investment in less developed countries, and previously excluded subpart F income withdrawn from foreign base company shipping operations."
The mind spins.
Department of Transportation - Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
The FMCSA has published its Final Rule "governing hours of service for commercial motor vehicle drivers." This monster is 96 pages long and covers so much ground it has a table of abbreviations ranging from BMI (Body Mass Index) to PATT (Parents Against Tired Truckers). I've never paid much attention to the commercial trucking job market, but if it's treated like this, I'm never going to consider it.
Friday, August 26, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 165)
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE - Antitrust Division
Cruise through the dusty digital halls of libertarian-minded debate long enough and your eyes will fall across an argument where the authoritarian asserts that in the absence of the State's very visible and guiding hand, there would be chaos in each market as individuals and business fight to establish standards. The libertarian, in nearly all cases, is likely to point to what are implied as free market responses to clashing standards, such as the formation of independent organizations like the American National Standards Institute ( ANSI ) that are established to settle these squabbles.
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) is one such organization. According to its website, it's a significant player in the engineering and technology community. I'll let the reader determine just how significant this reach is on the reader's time. I wish to point out this DoJ notice because the ASME has "disclos[ed] additions or changes to its standards development activities"; has "revised, added, or deleted several consensus committee charters"; and has also "published several new standards."
Why file "written notifications simultaneously with the Attorney General and the Federal Trade Commission" to disclose this news? To reduce the damages possible under antitrust law! Yes, the National Cooperative Research and Production Act of 1993 has apparently made standards organizations criminally liable for doing their jobs.
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