USDA To Lay Low, Wait Till The Heat Is Off

Posted in Government Overreach on August 1st, 2013 by Brian

New USDA rule put on hold:

After the complaints of a local magician went viral, the U.S. Department of Agriculture delayed the enforcement of a new rule requiring businesses with animals to prepare emergency plans.

As of Wednesday, the requirement is temporarily off the books while the department looks into how it should be applied across the spectrum of animal businesses. They range from zoos and research facilities with thousands of animals to Marty Hahne, an Ozark man doing children’s magic shows who uses a single rabbit.

That is, the rule has not been rewritten or stricken from the books. Instead, it’s going to be examined. Maybe they’ll change it. Maybe they’ll just put it into effect when the public’s attention is elsewhere.

Hey, I should just be happy that OSHA has not decided that its regulations apply to software test users. After all, I put those poor virtual people through hell every day.

Leveling the Playing Field at a Tilt

Posted in Government Overreach on April 23rd, 2013 by Brian

By the way, the President apparently thinks making online sellers collect taxes for all municipalities helps small brick-and-mortar businesses.

Like these:

Well, no, not like these.

These are local brick-and-mortar shops that sell online and will be on the hook for collecting sales tax applicable to customers in Charlemont, Virginia. Whatever those sales tax rates might be on any given day.

The Dramatic, Italicised Implications

Posted in Government Overreach on December 14th, 2012 by Brian

Sometimes, the confluences of events and influences are merely coincidental. On the other hand, I have a budget for dramatic italics that I have to spend by the end of the year, so here it goes:

Headline: Public Buses Across Country Quietly Adding Microphones to Record Passenger Conversations:

Transit authorities in cities across the country are quietly installing microphone-enabled surveillance systems on public buses that would give them the ability to record and store private conversations, according to documents obtained by a news outlet.

The systems are being installed in San Francisco, Baltimore, and other cities with funding from the Department of Homeland Security in some cases, according to the Daily, which obtained copies of contracts, procurement requests, specs and other documents.

Sadly, though, in many cases the confluent events and impulses of governmental and government-supporting people all tend to run a direction that is remarkably similar to a totalitarian conspiracy, ainna?

They want to put microphones in mass transit, and they want to make more people take mass transit. Because that’s where the microphones are.

Good thing they don’t do that sort of thing with cars. Or will they?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is expected to finalize a long-awaited proposal to make event data recorders standard on all new vehicles.

In a notice posted Thursday, the White House Office of Management Budget said it has completed a review of the proposal to make so-called vehicle “black boxes” mandatory in all cars and trucks, clearing the way for NHTSA to publish its final regulation.

The rule deals with Event Data Recorders, which have the built in safety protocols of government regulation regarding their use. You know, the same kinds of regulations that say that individual government employees should not access government databases for their own personal interest or to leak to the media, and the same government regulations that say private data shouldn’t get loaded onto IT contractor’s laptops and get left behind on the (hot mic) subway. You know, government regulations that are etched in graphite.

At any rate, most media accounts equate these Event Data Recorders with the black boxes in airplanes. But the black boxes in airplanes have voice recorders, too, don’t they?

It’s almost enough to make a man with a little bit of an imagination and a bunch of slanty letters feel a touch paranoid. Or prophetic.

(First link via Instapundit, and you know what that means. Nothing, essentially, but I had more italics to use up.)

The Dole Bandwagon

Posted in Government Overreach on November 20th, 2012 by Brian

This advertisement in a local bimonthly newspaper in the Springfield area made me livid:

Half of everyone is doing it, but it's the cool half

This government advertisement seeking to enroll people in government redistribution programs gives up the pretext of appealing to people who might need supplemental assistance for temporary circumstances. Instead, it goes directly to the bandwagon advertising.

It’s about expanding a government program by convincing people who are not already in the program that so many other people already are. It’s not about convincing a new or expectant mother that she needs it; it’s about convincing her that everyone else is already doing it, so she should, too. There’s no stigma. It’s even maybe cool.

Meanwhile, expanding social programs require increased government spending, and the government is manufacturing money to pay for those programs. That created money makes groceries cost more, so more people need the supplemental plans to get the basic necessities. The program gets more clients, which means it gets more budget and probably more people to serve the growing client base. Government programs serve the government first. Always.

Meanwhile, in my isolated bubble, I’m not on WIC (my children aren’t babies, so they might not qualify for this statistic). I used to fill out the checks when I was a cashier at a grocery store twenty years ago, but my only exposure to the program these days is through advertising and through the little lists printed and taped to grocery checkout stands. You know, the ones that explain new limitations on the program and different products that will no longer be available because of the greedy, heartless Republicans who limit the budget. Not because the growing (goal for 2013: 60% of all Greene County babies!) program participants sharing the limited program budget, not because inflated prices of necessities eating that same limited budget, not because of the new hybrid, high-margin food products being created that need clarification, but because of me.

I’m not saying there’s not actual need out there; I’m the sort of Republican who not only pays his taxes but also gives hundreds of pounds of food annually to local food banks. But this ad is not about need. It’s about fitting in. And it’s odious.

Post-Dispatch Asks: Should Slavery Be Legal?

Posted in Government Overreach, St. Louis Post-Dispatch on February 14th, 2012 by Brian

That’s not how they phrase it, of course. They say Should government order companies to make certain drugs?

That is, does the government have the moral right to compel labor?

Because making certain drugs is making things more abstractly. Rregardless of whether it’s a particularly politically expedient opponent (Pharmaceutical Companies, according to the AP Stylebook, are always bad), compelling someone, somewhere to work because the government wills it, not because the compelled corporation gets something out of it, is morally wrong.

They call that slavery sometimes. When it’s not for the children or the sick, I suppose. But if they need shelter, should the goverment compel builders to provide them shelter?

Make Sure To Boycott Everybody

Posted in Government Overreach on December 23rd, 2011 by Brian

I’m a GoDaddy.com customer, and I see that there’s a boycott on:

Maxwell sez, “Following GoDaddy’s announcement backing the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act, many customers have started to move their domains to other hosts.

I’ve seen people on my technical Twitter feed chirping about the same thing. But you know what? They’re boycotting Go Daddy in part because they don’t like the television commercials.

I’ve got 60 domains (I am consistent: I hoard in the physical world, I hoard in the digital world), 8 hosting accounts, and a couple WordPress and Joomla installations. I’m too lazy to move them all to make a point.

Also, I’m consistent. I’m not going to Make A Stand and boycott one unpopular-to-the-cool-people company supporting SOPA but continue to support dozens of other companies that do (Official list of SOPA supporters includes the X-Men, bible publishers & country music). For your convenience, I’ve posted the complete list from the House Judiciary in text below the fold.

Happy boycotting.

And remember, if you’re only boycotting Go Daddy, you’re not making a political stand; you just don’t like Go Daddy.
Read more »

SOPA: The Internet’s EPA?

Posted in Government Overreach on December 22nd, 2011 by Brian

A too-facile comparison, but the technical people, including the technical industry liberals, that I read often are united with some of the small-government conservatives in opposing the Stop Online Piracy Act, which is a bipartisan but ill-conceived piece of legislation that will give the government the ability to throttle technology companies, Web sites, and Internet businesses for the mere crime of linking to someone who might be infringing on someone’s copyright.

Welcome to the party, pals.

In September, a fellow I know shared a post from an “author, speaker, and entrepreneur” said:

On NPR I heard a Republican candidate (I can’t even remember which one–does it really matter?) say that the reason entrepreneurs aren’t starting companies is excessive regulation and corporate taxes.

Come again? I’ve never met an entrepreneur say that she would start a company if it weren’t for either of these two factors. In fact, if someone said that to me, I’d respond, “Then you’re not an entrepreneur, so stay on the porch.”

My acquaintance works in the software industry, and a lot of techies think like this: It’s not hard to start a business, you just go into your basement or to your Starbucks, open your laptop, and start coding; ergo, anyone who thinks regulation is killing businesses is wrong.

Well, except I’ve heard people who’ve recently hung out their shingles as technical consultants commenting on the number of government filings that they have to fill out. It’s giving them some pause.

But when technical, social media, author entrepreneurs look at starting a business, they’re not running into a lot of regulatory headwind. Yet. But that’s unlike other entrepreneurs who run into all sort of regulations layered on from the Federal government on down to the rent-seekers at the state or local level. Here’s one of my comments on the thread:

Take a shade tree mechanic. He’s doing brake jobs for people he knows for cash, taking his waste to the auto parts store. He’s not going to quit his day job because he knows the minute he hangs out a shingle on a rented garage, he’s subject to all kinds of OSHA regulations, EPA regulations, zoning regulations, increased paperwork to comply with city, state, and possibly local taxes and licensing.

Seriously, software businesses are very low footprint. You can do it from your dorm room and write some program that makes it big and then you’re set or whatnot. Other service businesses are not, and these are the entrepreneurs discouraged from opening businesses.

For example, here are the requirements for the licensing of a nail technician in Wisconsin: http://www.manicure.com/Wisconsin-nail-tech-licenses

Oh, sorry, that’s just the 300 hours of schooling you need to merely paint and file nails in Wisconsin. To open a shop, you need a Manicuring Establishment license. Of course, the nail technician license (techinically, the Manucurist license) does not apply to putting makeup on the face or rubbing oils on the body. That’s the Aesthetician’s license. So, if you want to paint someone’s nails at a profit, you need to get your professional license, your local business license, which might just be a home business license but you’re subject to sign restrictions and parking considerations and all that.

My point is that there are entrepreneurs out there who are not creating official businesses, who are not paying taxes and hiring employees, because the burdens of government compliance are onerous. They’re not going to grow their businesses, they’re not going to hire employees. They’re just going to do some work on the side for friends, for cash or barter, because they can’t be bothered. The government is keeping us very safe from these non-entrepreneurs.

The unspecified Republican candidate spoke about these people, not some eighteen-year-old sitting in a coffeeshop trying to combine Groupon with Foursquare.

The governments are starting to put their regulatory impediments in place for Internet and technology businesses, from this SOPA monstrosity to compelling etailers to collect sales taxes (resulting in Amazon dropping its affiliates in affected areas, for example). Now the governments are starting to do to technology companies and, yes, technology entrepreneurs, what they have been doing with increasing fervor and frequency to other industries for decades.

If only someone could make the compelling case that SOPA and whatnot are directly equivalent to the EPA or the FCC just making rules that directly impact businesses or legislatures passing laws based on their incomplete knowledge and overweening expertise of the lobbyists called to testify on the laws’ behalves.

That a government that can make ill-considered laws and rules that impact business will make ill-considered laws and rules that impact businesses. All businesses. Eventually.

And that’s bad.

A Conservative In IT? In Publishing?

Posted in Government Overreach on December 13th, 2011 by Brian

Rob Preston of Information Week sounds all Tea Party when he talks like this:

The 11-month-long spectacle that is AT&T’s attempt to acquire T-Mobile is a microcosm of this country’s economic atrophy: billions of dollars set aside and countless man hours consumed to pander to regulators and special interests rather than create anything of value.

Unfortunately, it is producing something of value: pay checks and billable hours to the regulators, special interests, and all the attorneys involved, not to mention column inches to people who decry one side or the other or, in this case, the game, not the playas.

The real question is whether the end product of this dysfunctional system is producing anything of value to the citizen. That answer is no.

Covetousness and that 1% of the 99%

Posted in Government Overreach on December 10th, 2011 by Brian

On Facebook, a friend posted this billboard:

Thou shalt not covet.

That’s an abridged version of the King James version of the tenth commandment from Exodus. The full commandment:

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s.

The New International Version looks like this:

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

His photo posting brought a number of rabid responses in disagreement, some of which are along the lines of:

I’ll try to stop coveting a modest job at somewhat reasonable pay. I also covet health insurance, so I’d better watch out for that. I crunched some numbers lately and I guess I’m looking at coveting a home of my own in the not-too-distant future as well.

Note that this is a subordinate, looser definition of the word “covet” where “covet” simply means “want.” There is a difference between “covet” and “want” that you find in the complete commandment:

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s.

In this sense, covet does not mean merely want something like what your neighbor has. It means you want that thing that belongs to your neighbor, and you want to take it. An awful lot of people have been brought up to believe that Keeping up with the Joneses, that is, working hard to earn and buy the accoutrements of the comfortable life or status symbols therein is a rat race and immoral, but that taking it from the Joneses is morally superior.

At the very base, this key difference is at the heart of the current differences. Whether it is right for the government to take from certain citizens to give to other citizens.

Obscuring the argument in the rubric of “fairness” (where the metrics of “fairness” are not consensual but are instead determined by either the people who will be receiving the redistribution or by those who will be doing the redistribution and taking their cut from the top, naturally) doesn’t do anything but try to build an inchoate moral base for the thievery.

Focusing on how Jones got that wealth also hides the key moral issue. If Jones didn’t rob a bank or do something outright illegal, his earnings are his. Whether Jones made more profit than some people think is, again, “fair” by producing or selling a product or service to willing consumers is irrelevant. Even if Jones was selling risky derivatives to people who did not fully understand them, it’s not Jones’s responsibility to completely educate each of his customers. Taking Jones’s earnings ex post facto is theft.

We have a President who actively plays into this covetousness when he says:

Look at the statistics. In the last few decades, the average income of the top 1 percent has gone up by more than 250 percent to $1.2 million per year. I’m not talking about millionaires, people who have a million dollars. I’m saying people who make a million dollars every single year. For the top one hundredth of 1 percent, the average income is now $27 million per year.

This is the covetousness prohibited in the Bible. It is not merely wanting things like the rich have. It is wanting, and taking away, the things the rich have. Since the morally superior rabble can’t take it away from the rich on based on the strength of their sword arms, they want the government to sack on their behalf, and unfortunately the government is currently eager to help out.

Predicting the Unintended Consequences

Posted in Government Overreach on December 6th, 2011 by Brian

Sometime in the next five years, sellers’ disclosure forms for real estate will include a question about whether a fluorescent bulb has ever broken on the premises, and/or mercury tests will be required or at least requested before you can sell your house.

White House Thanksgiving Turkey Update

Posted in Government Overreach on November 23rd, 2011 by Brian

Although in years past, the President has traditionally pardoned the annual White House Thanksgiving Turkey, this year an independent panel created on page 2,408 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, calculated that the quality of life for the bird, when compared to the costs of ongoing health care and maintenance for the fowl, would not be cost-effective and recommended its immediate termination.

We Need Sensible Animal Control Laws, Now!

Posted in Government Overreach on October 19th, 2011 by Brian

Tam links to this story about a private zoo whose animals were released:

Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz. said Terry Thompson, 62, was found dead and authorities were waiting on the results of an autopsy. But he said based on preliminary investigations, Thompson released his animals and then died from a self-inflicted wound.

Thompson owned between 48 and 51 exotic animals. Lutz said most of the animals had been accounted for, but at least three — a mountain lion, a grizzly bear and a monkey — were still missing. Most of those that had escaped from their pens were put down.

Lutz said his deputies, who found themselves in a volatile situation, had to shoot some of the animals at close range. A Bengal tiger was put down after it got agitated from a tranquilizer shot.

“We are not talking about your normal everyday house cat or dog,” Lutz said. “These are 300-pound Bengal tigers that we have had to put down. “When we got here, obviously, public safety was my number one concern. We could not have animals running loose in this county.”

Ms. K. sez:

SWAT teams have been deployed, four school districts have been closed, residents have been warned to stay inside and, for all I know, the Ohio state legislature is rushing into an emergency session to ban something or other.

Strangely enough, I first heard about this story on Jay Weber’s radio program this morning on WISN. As it appears in the banter between Ken Herrera and Jay at the bottom of the 6 o’clock hour, it’s not available as a podcast, so I’ll have to sum up Jay’s position for you and you’ll have to take my word for it.

Jay said that Ohio has some lax laws on exotic animal ownership, and that there should be laws to block people from gathering a menagerie of wild, dangerous exotic animals. Mr. Weber is a conservative except when he is not (as are too many conservatives).

The government should have dominion to determine what animals you can own because they might be dangerous to you or to others around you, or the government should limit how many you can buy in a month or whatever. Sound familiar? They should. The same reasoning is often used to justify sensible gun control laws.

The only difference is that the Founding Fathers saw fit to explicitly mention guns. It would never have occurred to them that someday, somewhere, some government would see fit to ban big dogs. Probably wouldn’t have occurred to them that some people might want to keep poisonous snakes in their houses, either:

A man from Branson was changing the water in his rattlesnake’s cage this weekend when the two-and-a-half-foot western diamondback bit his right hand. The owner wound up in the hospital getting treated for the strike.

The Founding Fathers would have few words for someone making that decision. Requiescat in pace.

A poisonous snake in your house is mostly a danger to you. A tiger in your home is mostly a danger to you, but if it gets out and becomes a danger to me, the Founding Fathers did explicitly grant me and your other neighbors the ability to wield a hoe or a Weatherby Mark V in .460 Weatherby Magnum.

A government that can regulate everything, and conservatives who think the government must regulate every thing they think the government can regulate, are a danger to us all.

You Mean It’s Not A Human Right?

Posted in Government Overreach on October 14th, 2011 by Brian

In Lapland, which itself sounds like the kind of place on the side of a Missouri state highway, apparently this is not yet a fundamental human right:

It’s very easy for a simple man like me to get confused by nurturing, loving, smothering governments. Where enjoying a snack at work is a violation of human rights, but broadband Internet access is a legal right.

Building An Empire

Posted in Federal Government, Government Overreach on July 12th, 2011 by Brian

Remember when we used to have a republic, where elected officials at the lowest level of government handled the immediate needs of citizens? I almost do, too.

Which is why I find this development deeply disturbing:

The Obama administration is launching a pilot program designed to spark economic growth in urban America by partnering federal officials with local decision-makers in six cities, the U.S Housing and Urban Development secretary announced Monday.

The idea, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said, is to create what he called Community Solutions Teams, which will include employees from several different federal agencies, and have them work directly with local officials in Detroit; Chester, Pa.; Fresno, Calif.; Memphis; Cleveland and New Orleans.

The federal staffers will in effect be embedded in the cities, working on issues the mayors have identified as important, such as developing transportation infrastructure, improving job-training programs and the like. In Detroit, Donovan said, up to a dozen “federal folks” will be in town for a year or two.

Sure, a year or two.

And suddenly, the elected officials in these cities will do what the federal staffers want if the local officials want the money. The old way of doing it, where the feds offered dollars with lots of strings, was bad enough. Now they will be directly directing things at the local level.

Style Note

Posted in Government Overreach on July 12th, 2011 by Brian

Henceforth, we at MfBJN will refrain from using the overwrought term “nanny state” regarding the government that tells its “citizens” that they need to eat their peas and “We are taking away a choice that continues to let people waste their own money.

Many nannies provide excellent childcare for their charges and enjoy working with children. I do not think the current administration is very good at taking care of what it thinks are its children, and I don’t think they like citizens very much.

Henceforth, or at least until I forget this vow sometime tomorrow, MfBJN will use more appropriate epithets:

  • Resentful stepmother government who wanted power, but not the responsibility, and who dictates rules and regulations for her convenience, not to protect and educate those whom she must serve, or
  • Surly foreign au pair state, who wanted the benefits afforded her position but not the responsibility. Not only does her actual work interfere with the late-night parties she wants, but the damn brats are from an entirely different inferior culture anyway.

As a warning, you have a couple of hours to use them amongst yourselves before Disney applies to trademark them.

EPA Moves To Protect Rodents

Posted in Government Overreach on June 15th, 2011 by Brian

Won’t someone think of the cute little vermin? Sure, the Environmental Protection Agency will:

To better protect children, pets and wildlife, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it is moving to ban the sale to residential consumers of the most toxic rat and mouse poisons, as well as most loose bait and pellet products. The agency is also requiring that all newly registered rat and mouse poisons marketed to residential consumers be enclosed in bait stations that render the pesticide inaccessible to children and pets. Wildlife that consume bait or poisoned rodents will also be protected by EPA’s actions.

That’s what happens when you commission an agency acting on orders to protect an amorphous concept like environment with lessening consideration for protecting people, citizens, individual liberty, civilization, or a host of other concepts that make environmental protection much less agency possible at all.

Link via Tam K., who envisions:

Maybe we can do for bubonic plague what we did for malaria!

Department of Education SWAT Teams

Posted in Federal Government, Government Overreach on June 8th, 2011 by Brian

If those words aren’t enough to make you vote for smaller government, perhaps the full headline will. Dept. of Education breaks down Stockton man’s door [This headline and story have been removed]:

Kenneth Wright does not have a criminal record and he had no reason to believe a S.W.A.T team would be breaking down his door at 6 a.m. on Tuesday.

The U.S. Department of Education issued the search and called in the S.W.A.T for his [estranged] wife’s defaulted student loans.

The federal Department of Education should be abolished and have all its cowboys lay down their arms.

Somehow, though, being a Tea Party conservative makes me a fascist, but supporting a regime that kicks in doors for debts incurred pursuing useless -Studies degrees is humanitarian or something.

UPDATE: An updated story doesn’t reassure me much:

U.S. Department of Education spokesman Justin Hamilton confirmed for News10 Wednesday morning federal agents with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), not local S.W.A.T., served the search warrant. Hamilton would not say specifically why the raid took place except that it was part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

Hamilton said the search was not related to student loans in default as reported in the local media.

OIG is a semi-independent branch of the education department that executes warrants for criminal offenses such as student aid fraud, embezzlement of federal aid and bribery, according to Hamilton. The agency serves 30 to 35 search warrants a year.

My point remains: The Department of Education has no point busting down doors with its own SWAT team for any reason.

UPDATE II: My update tracks with Tam’s.

Add It To The Nanny-To-Do-List

Posted in Government Overreach on February 2nd, 2011 by Brian

Attention, Mayorissimo Bloomberg:

Apparently, Arizona restaurants can still use trans fats, too.

(Related story. Link via POWIP.)

Another Blogger Visited

Posted in Government Overreach on January 21st, 2011 by Brian

Not to steal any of Bungalow Bill’s thunder with his recent visit from the FBI and the sheriff from the neighboring county, but in Massachusetts, a blogger has had more than that happen:

Police have seized a “large amount” of weapons and ammunition from an Arlington businessman while investigating if comments he allegedly made online were intended as a threat to U.S. Congressmen and members of the U.S. Senate.

Arlington Police Chief Frederick Ryan has also suspended the firearms license of Travis Corcoran, 39, who runs the online comic book business HeavyInk.com in Arlington.

What did he say?  Well, he posted about armed insurrection.  In two separate posts, he mused about at what point good citizens would revolt against an overbearing government.  Want to read what he wrote?  Here’s his blog: TJICistan.

 

Woops, there would be his blog if the powers that be had not removed it.  So you can’t see what he said, you have to take the word of the authorities or what I remember from them (I have him on my personal blogroll and saw the posts in question, but I did not feel compelled to react by summoning the authorities).

So the authorities in Massachusetts have seized his guns, but:

Corcoran, who has no criminal history, has not been arrested and does not face any charges.

Without charges, the authorities have taken his guns away.

Now, which action do you think will play more into the fears of the lunatic fringe?  Corcoran’s words, or the authorities’ actions in this case?

Just think: if Corcoran had actively built bombs to blow up government officials instead of writing political musings on the Internet, he would just be a guy from the President’s neighborhood.

(Other comment about this case at View from the Porch, Baby Troll Blog, Borepatch, and Dustbury.  This post cross-posted at 24th State.)

 

Two By Two, Pats For You

Posted in Government Overreach on November 28th, 2010 by Brian

My Twitter feed associated with QA Hates You is chock full of geeks, and I don’t mind telling you, the recent upgrades to TSA security protocols have really caused quite a stir. Why on earth did this particular affront so capture geek imagination and indignation?

Then it hit me. To a geek steeped in the culture, this guy:

TSA's hands of blue

Looks a lot like these guys:

Firefly's villians with the hands of blue

The latter, of course, are the bad guys in the television series Firefly and the film Serenity.

I wonder how much that affected the geeks.