"The basic test of freedom is perhaps less in what we are free to do than in what we are free not to do." ~ Eric Hoffer
Federal Register Watch
October 24-28, 2005
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.
October 24, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 204)
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE - Economic Development Administration
"Pursuant to Section 251 of the Trade Act of 1974 (19 U.S.C. 2341 et seq.), the Economic Development Administration (EDA) has received petitions for certification of eligibility to apply for Trade Adjustment Assistance from the firms listed below. EDA has initiated separate investigations to determine whether increased imports into the United States of articles like or directly competitive with those produced by each firm contributed importantly to the total or partial separation of the firm's workers, or threat thereof, and to a decrease in sales or production of each petitioning firm."
It looks like going to the EDA may be one of the first steps protectionist businessmen take in order to use the state to gain competitive advantage over foreign rivals. The breadth of products on this list is wide indeed: rubber gaskets, fresh meat, plastic injection molding, woodworking accessories, pottery wheels, and other things.
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
The Kimberly Clark Corporation is one of four companies mentioned in this Proposed Rule for volatile organic compound emissions regulations. Each company, under the revised Connecticut State Implementation Plan, will have new emissions rules imposed upon them. Under the rubric of "reasonably available control technology," these businesses will have to proceed with such things as "VOC content limits for topcoats and sealers and for spray-booth cleaning"; the prohibition "of conventional air-spray guns except under specified limited conditions"; "continue to research and test low VOC-content additives for its manufacturing process"; "conduct emissions testing, and submit testing results to [Department of Environmental Protection, Connecticut]."
"Sixty years ago, the United Nations was created to spread hope and liberty, fight poverty and disease, and help secure human rights and human dignity for people everywhere. On United Nations Day, we recommit ourselves to the ideals on which this organization was founded."
How perverse is this statement?
October 25, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 205)
DEPARTMENT OF STATE
When the folks at State opened a public request for comment "on the introduction of the electronic passport," they "received a total of 2,335 comments" with the following breakdown:
2019 comments had security and privacy concerns
171 had general objections to data chips and/or Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
85 were generally against
52 communicated concerns about general technology
8 voiced religious objections
Thus, 98.5% of the comments were negative and a mere 1% were positive. So what does the Final Rule state later?
"The Department intends to begin the electronic passport program in December 2005 . . . [b]y October 2006, all U.S. passports, with the exception of a small number of emergency passports issued by U.S. embassies or consulates, will be electronic passports."
The United States Department of State: Responding to Your Concerns!
Securities and Exchange Commission
This is a thirteen page "proposed interpretation" for "Section 28(e) of the Exchange Act establishes a safe harbor that allows money managers to use client funds to purchase "brokerage and research services'' for their managed accounts under certain circumstances without breaching their fiduciary duties to clients."
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION - Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration
If a pipeline operator uses "a process of managing the effects of external corrosion, internal corrosion, or stress corrosion cracking on pipelines made primarily of steel or iron" (otherwise known as "direct assessment"), that operator "must carry out the direct assessment according to PHMSA standards."
October 26, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 206)
DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY - United States Mint
Specie-backed currency advocates lament: the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) represents the devolution of precious metals money to the tragically comic level of today. The CCAC was established to "advise the Secretary of the Treasury on any theme or design proposals relating to circulating coinage, bullion coinage, Congressional gold medals, and national and other medals."
The "public" has been restricted to the ability to make suggestions as to what the change of the Federal Reserve Note might look like, as long as an appointed official agrees with them.
EXPORT-IMPORT BANK OF THE UNITED STATES
"This notice is to inform the public that the Export-Import Bank has received an application to finance the export of $14.9 million of equipment and other goods and services to a buyer in Portugal. The U.S. exports will enable the Portuguese company to produce photovoltaic solar modules. The Portuguese company will have a production capacity of 5 megawatts per year, with initial production to commence in 2006. It is envisioned that most of this new production will be consumed in Portugal, Spain, Germany and Italy, with smaller amounts anticipated to be sold in other European countries, Africa and Latin America."
So not only are we being taxed to subsidize the foreign production of solar panel equipment, this equipment is expected to be consumed primarily outside the United States. I don't think "robbing Peter to pay Paul" is adequate for this situation. We need a new lingo for this kind of thing.
October 27, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 207)
DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY - Coast Guard
Because the Coast Guard thinks the average American is fatter than before, they want to increase the "standard weight per person" when used to compute "weight standards." These standards "apply to all types of passenger vessels" so the Coast Guard wants to hire a "qualified consulting organization to perform an in-depth analysis."
DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY - Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
There are laws on the books that "prohibit the use or employment of manipulative or deceptive devices or contrivances in connection with the purchase or sale of natural gas, electric energy, or transportation or transmission services subject to the jurisdiction of the Commission."
I wonder if anyone at DoE and FERC have chuckled at the prospect that the laws they are charged with enforcing apply, at least in spirit, to themselves.
October 28, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 208
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES - Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Coerced speech alert!
There are now mandates that require "skilled nursing facilities" and "nursing facilities" (I suppose the latter would be unskilled?) to "post nurse staffing data for the licensed and unlicensed staff directly responsible for resident care in the facility" on a daily basis.
Do you trust the word of Mr. Bush when he says he certifies that Brazil, as it interdicts "aircraft reasonably suspected to be primarily engaged in illicit drug trafficking," does have "appropriate procedures in place to protect against innocent loss of life in the air and on the ground in connection with such interdiction"? Would you trust a stranger's life and property to the word of a government official?
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