"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
September 19-23, 2005
What freedoms have you lost this week?
The last few weeks I have focused on the federal government's regulatory response to Hurricane Katrina. For the previous week, that subject did not get much space. I expect the impact of Hurricane Rita will impel the feds to react and I'll cover that as well. In the meantime, however, I'll return to the normal focus of this column.
September 19, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 180)
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE - Agricultural Marketing Service
In 2002, the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 was passed. Mr. Bush said the bill "will allow farmers and ranchers to plan and operate based on market realities, not government dictates." It is curious, then, that the infamous Farm Bill created the Peanut Standards Board for the "purpose of advising the [Secretary of Agriculture] on quality and handling standards for domestically produced and imported peanuts" and "requires the Secretary to consult with the Board before the Secretary establishes or changes quality and handling standards for peanuts."
If you want a seat on this prestigious council, there is an opening. Of course, if you think those who produce peanuts ought to do so without state interference, you should probably look elsewhere.
COMMISSION ON CIVIL RIGHTS
I use the term "mission creep" to denote instances where a government agency expands the reach of its programs beyond their original authorizing legislative borders. Here, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is sending notice of a conference call for a meeting titled "Health Disparities in Minority Communities in Chicago." How are an individual's rights impacted by the existence of a difference between his quality and quantity of heath and the quality and quantity of heath of an individual from another race?
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION - Federal Aviation Administration
The FAA is proposing a Rule to change the "internal notch diameter" of the "crashworthiness pins on the side-stay of the main landing gear" on certain Airbus aircraft. That's a remarkable degree of asserted control, especially when you consider France already mandated Airbus spread the news and make the changes.
September 20, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 181)
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES - Food and Drug Administration
Why did Sinclair Pharmaceuticals, the company responsible for Decapinol, request to have it reclassified from Class III to Class II? Such a move would impose "special controls to provide reasonable assurance of the safety and effectiveness of the device."
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR - Bureau of Land Management
"To ensure public safety," a number of federal land areas in Nevada will be closed to the public so "an amateur high-altitude rocket launch" event can occur. If you aren't authorized to be in those lands, you can be penalized with "imprisonment for not more than 12 months, or a fine."
NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION
Natural rights anarchists take note!
The final rule is effective December 5, 2005, unless significant adverse comments are received by October 20, 2005. A significant adverse comment is a comment where the commenter explains why the rule would be inappropriate, including challenges to the rule's underlying premise or approach, or would be ineffective or unacceptable without a change.
It's time to start questioning those premises!
September 21, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 182)
Lie of the week: "More than two centuries after our Founding Fathers gathered in 1787 in Philadelphia, our Nation continues to be guided by the Constitution they drafted."
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES - Office of Refugee Resettlement
Someone help me here. What is a 'noncompetitive single source program expansion supplement to an ongoing competitive award' made 'in response to an unsolicited application'? Because the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is about to get one worth $194,000. Furthermore, why is this unsolicited application (are these things just sitting around?) getting money to 'address issues critical to the development and implementation of marriage education programs for refugees'?
Shouldn't marriage be one of those things best left to the people involved?
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
Thank gawd. The EPA has published the Final Rule on how the fungicide boscalid can be used on tangerines. Seven pages of Final Rules.
September 22, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 183)
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION - Maritime Administration
Have you heard of the Merchant Marines, the fleet of commercial vessels that can be 'utilized' as military transport and cargo during times of national emergency? Apparently, that pool of property just isn't enough for the feds. Mr. Clinton signed into law the Maritime Security Act of 1996 and part of that was to 'provide financial assistance of up to $2.1 million per vessel per year to operators of U.S.-flag vessels with approved MSP Operating Agreements.' Mr. Bush signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2004 which continued the Maritime Security Program into the future and 'requires that the Secretary of Transportation, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, establish a fleet of active, commercially viable, militarily useful, privately-owned vessels to meet national defense and other security requirements.'
The cost rises each year all the way to 2012-2015's price tag of $186 million. No more than 60 'U.S.-flag vessels in the foreign commerce of the United States' can get up to '$3.1 million per ship per year.' Make sure to ask your maritime buddies if they are involved in either program and ask them to thank you for your taxing generosity.
The headline says it all: 'Continuation of the National Emergency With Respect to Persons Who Commit, Threaten To Commit, or Support Terrorism.' I wonder how long he (or any chief executive) can keep this up. When was the last time someone asked him to define the time when the national emergency ends? When has he ever given a coherent answer?
September 23, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 184)
Agency for International Development
Two billion dollars in loan guarantees from the United States to the Arab Republic of Egypt. Guess who's more likely to go to jail for not fulfilling their end of the bargain? Not anyone in these governments. If you refuse to pay your 'share' of this aspect of the Emergency Wartime Supplemental Appropriations Act, prepare to meet your friendly IRS agent and a local cop.
FEDERAL RESERVE SYSTEM
I wonder how many perfectly good business plans, product ideas, and entrepreneurial ambitions were delayed, set aside, or given up in the face of the requirement to publicly announce the acquisition and control of 'voting securities or assets of a company . . . that engages either directly or through a subsidiary or other company, in a nonbanking activity'?
NATIONAL FOUNDATION ON THE ARTS AND THE HUMANITIES
I am bothered that this completely expendable government program closes its meetings to the public when the time comes for the 'panel review, discussion, evaluation and recommendation on applications for financial assistance.' This is done because 'trade secrets' and 'information of a personal nature' could be disclosed and therefore it would 'constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.'
I'm not one to disparage the arts and say they are not worth investing in and producing. However, the previous item demonstrates to me that there is, to put it politely, an inconsistency in the protection of privacy in this nation.
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