"The censor believes that he can hold back the mighty traffic of life with a tin whistle and a raised right hand. For after all, it is life with which he quarrels." ~ Heywood Broun
Federal Register Watch
Federal Register Watch
by Nick Ebinger
January 5 - 9, 2004
What freedoms have you lost this week?
The Federal Register is the official daily publication for Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of Federal agencies and organizations, as well as Executive Orders and other Presidential Documents. This column attempts to summarize the highlights (or lowlights) of the Federal Register during the preceding week.
Instructions for subscribing to the Federal Register can be found at the end of the column.
MONDAY, JANUARY 5:
DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY - "VHERE AHR YOUR PAY-PERS?!"
As has been covered fairly extensively, even in the mainstream press, the Department of Homeland Security is now photographing and fingerprinting any non-U.S. citizen who enters the United States on a visa. This program, the United States Visitor and Immigrant Status and Indicator Technology Program (acronym: "US-VISIT" - awful, just awful!), justifiably provoked immediate outrage among civil libertarians.
After the program was announced, a Brazilian judge decried the entry requirements as "absolutely brutal, threatening human rights, violating human dignity, xenophobic and worthy of the worst horrors committed by the Nazis." The ridiculous hyperbole aside, it at least seemed that the judge was in the right to condemn the program . . . but he then proceeded to mandate identical requirements for Americans entering Brazil , in a tit-for-tat retaliation. This hypocrisy is augmented by the fact that in Brazil , all residents are required to carry ID cards with a photograph, thumb print, full name and parents' names, national status and a serial number.
The state inevitably abuses any power it has to collect data on the people within its borders. (Remember when the government promised that Social Security numbers would only be used by the Social Security Administration?) The excuses and rationalizations for additional uses of personal information by the state snowball, as its policies increasingly resemble those of the old Warsaw Pact countries.
INTERNATIONAL TRADE ADMINISTRATION (DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE) - BOYCOTT PASTA; BUY FREEDOM NOODLES!
As I first reported several months ago, the Department of Commerce has been harassing pasta importers and Italian pasta producers, all in an effort to assess them (and, by extension, their customers here) duties on their products. Their rationale is that the pasta is being sold for "less than fair value."
Any duty placed on an imported product involves an unfair value, as it represents the forced redistribution of resources from one group to another (in this instance, from American consumers to American producers). Fair value can only arise from the free market.
TUESDAY, JANUARY 6:
CENTERS FOR MEDICARE AND MEDICAID SERVICES (CMS) - INCREASED PRESCRIPTION DRUG COSTS
The CMS is increasing recordkeeping requirements for drug manufacturers from three to ten years. Rather than lower the price of medicine for Americans, the federal government's programs add to the onerous regulatory burden imposed upon pharmaceutical companies, thus raising the price of drugs.
OFFICE OF THE WHITE HOUSE - CONTINUATION OF THE TRIPOLITANIAN HYSTERIA
President Bush here continues the "national emergency with respect to Libya ," his assessment backed by the usual vague Homeland-speak of his administration. He all but acknowledges that the state of Libya no longer backs terrorist attacks against the West, but then asserts its "role with respect to terrorism" as one of the reasons he's continuing this "national emergency."
His other two justifications are Libya 's "poor human rights record" (our allies Suharto, Saddam and Stalin were any better on this one?) and its "pursuit of weapons of mass destruction" (WWI-vintage mustard gas, and a handful of spare parts of nuclear-related devices).
All that this half-hearted continuation-with-a-bullet means is that Libya no longer represents a threat to individuals in the United States (if it ever really did), but Dubya's keeping it on the Axis of Evil Backburner just in case he runs out of countries to invade.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 9:
NATIONAL TELECOMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION ADMINISTRATION - A NEOCON LOOK AT SPECTRUM POLICY
The NTIA is releasing Bush's memorandum on the federal government's spectrum policy in the 21st century. (Think he even read it?)
The state cannot be trusted with monopoly control over bandwith allocation. It asserted for itself this prerogative early on, and, until the mid-90s, only 30% of the spectrum was exclusively reserved for the private sector. It has since sold off some of this bandwidth (although one of the major companies went bankrupt in the process), but who doubts that the Bush White House will reverse this trend? It certainly pursues expansive government policies in every other instance.
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