"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
October 3-7, 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.
October 3, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 190)
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS - Copyright Office
The tech geeks among you may remember the fight over and the passing of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in 1998. The law prohibited attempts to "circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access" to copyrighted works. Something I did not know about the law is revealed in this Notice: "the Librarian of Congress may exempt certain classes of works from the prohibition against circumvention."
By doing this, I suspect the bicamerals have widened the federal influence-peddling net to include one of those agencies we hardly think about: the Library of Congress. Imagine the utility of such a determination by the Librarian, especially since the penalty for breaking this law on the first pass scales up to $500,000 and five years in prison. Double both those for subsequent offenses.
Department of Labor - Wage and Hour Division
Residents of American Samoa get blessed with their own Committee that determines what the minimum wage rates will be. Workers in the "government employees, ship maintenance, hotel, tour and travel services as well as miscellaneous activities industry classifications" will get a 5% increase over the next two years. When October 2006 rolls around, the minimum wage for state employees will rise from 2005's $2.77 to $2.91; ship maintenance will skyrocket from $3.34 to $3.51; hotel minimum wages will jump to $3.00 from $2.86; and so on.
October 4, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 191)
This Executive Order, among other actions, extended the lives of the following advisory committees (along with others) until September, 2007:
Federal Advisory Council on Occupational Safety and Health
President's Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities
President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities
President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities
President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sport
DEPARTMENT OF LABOR - Mine Safety and Health Administration
"Because of the inherent dangers present in all mining environments, we are considering regulatory and non-regulatory approaches to address the risks and hazards to miner safety from the use of or impairment from alcohol and other drugs, and are soliciting information from the public to help determine how to proceed."
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE - International Trade Administration
Iranian in-shell raw pistachio exporters have had anti-dumping regulation imposed upon them since at least 2002 and the ITA won't revoke that determination.
Obviously, the fact that California pistachio producers are using the feds to restrict competition is the primary wrong here. However, I cannot help but wonder how the Bush Administration's stance towards Iran affected this and subsequent decisions.
October 5, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 192)
DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY - Coast Guard
If California pistachio interests can persuade a federal agency to protect them, why can't the organizers of a hydroplane race get the Coast Guard to scare off nearby boats? Strait Thunder Performance planned such a race at Port Angeles, Washington State and asked the Coast Guard to impose "special local regulations" on who can enter the raceway and how fast one can travel in the designated spectator area.
Failure to comply "may result in expulsion from the area, citation for failure to comply, or both." Interestingly, this exercise of localized police power by a federal agency "does not have implications for federalism."
COMMITTEE FOR THE IMPLEMENTATION OF TEXTILE AGREEMENTS
On the other side of the ledger, why not have a Committee decide when "certain compacted, plied, ring spun cotton yarns, with yarn counts . . . cannot be supplied by the domestic industry in commercial quantities in a timely manner"? By doing so, the Committee says the yarns are "eligible to enter free of quotas and duties" under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States. Certain restrictions apply . . . cancel only through Act of Congress . . . some purchasing of regulators required.
October 6, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 193)
DEPARTMENT OF LABOR - Employment and Training Administration
Ninety petitions for "worker adjustment assistance" have been filed. This essentially means that overseas competition outperformed these positions and the people in them were fired. If approved, they become eligible to get a supplementary wage and health care, all at everyone else's expense.
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
The EPA says "the annual average toxics performance of gasoline produced or imported beginning in 2002 must be at least as clean as the average performance of the gasoline produced or imported during the three-year period 1998-2000" and is not afraid to bully you petroleum refiners into doing it.
October 7, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 194)
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
The New York Stock Exchange, in order to change one of its internal rules regarding the time clerks and specialists spend working, must first file with the SEC so public comments can be submitted and considered.
Department of Labor - Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs
I'm on a real DoL kick this series.
"OFCCP requires covered federal contractors to obtain gender, race, and ethnicity data on employees and, where possible, on applicants."
Sometimes, regarding the question of who is what gender, race, and ethnic background, I wonder if the people most concerned are located in government rather than the bigoted Hobbesian wilds of private society.
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