American Elephants

The Department of Justice Wants to Shut Down Your Swimming Pool. by The Elephant's Child

The heavy hand of Big Government has descended upon swimming pools. The Justice Department has deemed to regulate all pools in the mindless effort to be “fair” — this time to the disabled, to make sure they have access, even to those things to which they have no wish to have access. The DOJ says this will cost $ 1 billion over each of the next 15 years. Here’s Heritage’s brief description.

The new rules require (for the first time) that swimming pools, wading pools, and spas—some 300,000 of them—be made “accessible” for the disabled. But the folks who actually own the pools have no say in how to comply. On the contrary, the government dictates every detail (e.g., “A transfer space of 60 inches minimum by 60 inches minimum with a slope not steeper than 1:48 shall be provided at the base of the transfer platform surface and shall be centered along a 24 inch minimum side of the transfer platform.”)

These regulations were published on September 15, 2010, after a rulemaking that stretched six years. Shortly thereafter, manufacturers began furious production of the various components needed to retrofit pools. Hotels and the like were racing to meet the compliance deadline despite lacking clarity on key elements of the regulation.

The regulators clearly have no comprehension of the nature of swimming pools.  Your typical municipal pool serves many purposes. Swim lessons for kids, and for all ages. Competition swimming for swim teams, competition diving. Lap swimming for swimmers who want exercise. Water exercise classes. Red Cross safety swimming lessons from beginner through life saving. Water ballet. All that before you get down to ordinary swimming which involves exercise, play, cooling off, teaching babies to swim.

The city where I live in the Pacific Northwest has a population of just over 122,000, lots of parks, nestled between two lakes. It has one indoor city swimming pool that serves multiple populations, including all of the above. It is usually crowded, busy, and heavily chlorinated. The times that you can use it depend on your particular need.

A number of years ago, a group of citizens who had disabled members requested facilities for the disabled. The building housing the pool was enlarged to accommodate another pool, and a special pool was built with gentle ramps. The pool is shallow, probably 4 feet in the deep part, with good  hand rails. The water is kept at a warmer temperature than the active pool. Cost was high with the new building. redesigned facilities and redesigned parking lot.

The city also has a YMCA, a number of private swim clubs, and in recent years a proliferation of health clubs, many of which have pools for members. There is some pressure on the city to build another city pool, as the existing one is really too busy.

Even the pool specially built for the disabled serves many purposes: there’s a baby swim class for mothers and babies, and a water movement class, aside from whatever classes they have for the disabled. It is a nice pool, and well designed for its uses. The rules would require the city to retrofit the other pool, unused by the disabled.

The disabled can move more easily in warm water, and can move in ways that they cannot outside the pool. Regular use is therapeutic. What they do not need is to be in a crowded swimming pool with all sorts of swimmers and splashers. My grandmother was badly crippled with arthritis, but could swim (slowly with a gentle side stroke of sorts) in warm water and it was very beneficial.

Some 120 regulations taking effect in the past year require enhanced accommodations for disabled individuals at 65 different types of public and private facilities—encompassing 7 million privately owned sites and 80,000 units of state and local government—including stadiums; convention centers; auditoriums; airport terminals; public parking facilities; theaters and concert halls; jails; prisons; bowling alleys; fishing piers; amusement parks; hotels, motels, and spas; restaurants; stores; health care clinics; and office buildings (to name a few).

Pools were required to be in compliance by March 12, 2012. But the DOJ came up with another rule about how lifts were to be attached to pool decks that meant that many pools that had retrofitted had to do it over, so they got a 60 day extension.

There are hot spring pools throughout the Rocky Mountain West that are were open to the public. Retrofitting as the DOJ demands is probably more than they can afford.There are several books available listing hot springs in the West with pictures and facilities described. The vast majority will probably have to shut down. The vast majority have probably never had a disabled customer — because they are not “disabled accessible” or because there is no interest? I don’t know the answer to that.

I do know that the kind of facilities that truly serve the needs of a disabled person require more than a lift. They require a little intelligence from the rulemakers. and some understanding of the nature of swimming pools. One rule for all may be “fair” from the view of the rulemakers, and devastating to the people.

Government Takeover Continues: Internet, News, Health Care, Energy, Transportation, Housing, Finance, Food Supply. by The Elephant's Child

The Obama administration’s drive to control or regulate every sector of the economy continues apace.  Yesterday it was “Food Safety” which slapped unneeded regulation on a food industry with a record of significantly declining problems of food safety.  It is, after all, very much in the food sector’s self-interest to police themselves very carefully. They have the example of the phony Alar scare promoted by  Fenton Communications, to remind them.

Now Julian Genachowski, Federal Communications Commission Chairman, has announced plans to adopt net neutrality regulations over the objections of lawmakers and in spite of a federal court ruling in April that said the FCC lacked the authority  from Congress to restrict how Internet service providers manage traffic on their networks.

Only two weeks ago, Mr. Genachowski was telling state utility regulators in a speech that “the economy and jobs” would be the “primary focus” of the FCC.  “We’re focused on seizing the opportunities of communication technologies to catalyze private investment, foster job creation, compete globally and create broad opportunity in the United States,” he said.. “Our sector — the information technologies and communications sector — can play a big role in driving economic success for the U.S. in the near-term and the long-term.” Uh huh.

FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell said the five-member commission, which is controlled by Democrats, will soon vote to “upend three decades of bipartisan and international consensus that the internet is best able to thrive in the absence of regulation.  By choosing this highly interventionist course, the Commission is ignoring the will” of Congress. (emphasis added)

Last year internet service providers spent nearly $60 billion to deploy next-generation networks to customers across the country. Sticking the telecom industry with new rules to hamper capital investment would lead to years of litigation and regulatory uncertainty —another set of the kind of job killing in which the Obama administration specializes. This is also an indication that Obama plans to circumvent Congress by using his administrative agencies to accomplish his plans.

Another FCC Commissioner, Michael  Copps, has suggested that news broadcasters should be subject to a new “public values test” every four years. He suggested that a broadcaster’s license renewal should be contingent on proof that they meet a prospective set of federal criteria.  They should prove they have made a meaningful commitment to public affairs and news programming (for instance by showing they depict women and minorities) report more to the government about which shows they plan to air, offer more disclosure on who funds political ads and devote 25 percent of their time to local news.  Rep Joe Barton (R-TX) responded “I hope…that you do not mean to suggest that it is the job of the federal government, through the [FCC] to determine the content that is available for Americans to consume.”

We know that Obama hates Fox News, but these efforts to exert control over every segment of the American economy are completely out of line.  The Left has always believed that things are more efficiently done by the government, an idea that is belied by the results achieved by government.  There’s not much that couldn’t be done more efficiently and cheaper by private enterprise.

These efforts at control and regulation exceed anything I’ve seen before, and would seem more at home in a banana republic.  Oil prices are climbing sharply as the price of crude has gone up — to some extent due to taking American oil from the Gulf of Mexico off the market.

Electricity from wind farms is many times more expensive than that from ordinary coal or natural gas-fired plants.  And due to the intermittent nature of both wind and solar they cannot produce electricity in any significant amount.  Obama’s efforts to force Americans to accept his fantasy of a clean green economy will fail completely if our experience is the same as that of the other nations that have tried it.

Efforts to transform the transportation sector have bogged down in  the unwanted Volt,  the failure of ethanol, Obama’s missing “shovel-ready” projects, high-speed trains to nowhere, cash for clunkers, and the auto bailout that mostly enriched the unions.

The housing sector is a mystery shrouded in the books of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac which are unavailable. Nobody seems to know what has happened to all the “toxic assets” that were causing the problems, nor to what extent the inventory of foreclosed homes is being sold.

The Dodd/Frank financial bill does not address the very major problem of businesses deemed “Too Big To Fail.”  They all apparently remain too big to fail.  The bill is full of pages and pages of regulations, but whether any actually fix problems is unknown.  Many large corporations have chosen to improve their bottom lines by rent seeking, which seems to be welcomed by the government.

ObamaCare is designed to gradually funnel everyone into single-payer government-controlled health care. It will cost far more than the health care that they claimed was too expensive, there will not be enough doctors to serve the newly insured, and quality and service will deteriorate as wait-times and costs increase.

Those are the sectors of the economy over which I see the Obama administration attempting to exert ever more control — and in most cases the real regulation has not yet been issued.  We have only the broad generalities outlined by Congress, which then go to new offices of government employees which will develop the regulations in all their particular detail.

The Ministry of Truth Wants Your Help!! by The Elephant's Child

Do you have any doubt that Washington bureaucrats were completely out of touch with ordinary Americans?  If you do, the Environmental Protection Agency is standing right up to reassure you — they are!.

With Americans across the country suffering from unemployment, worried about their jobs, government spending, the national debt and reeling under a wave of new taxes, fees and regulations, the EPA has offered — a contest.  And not just any old contest.  The EPA wants YOU to make a short video — just 60-90 seconds — explaining just how useful and important government regulations are.  Yes, they are completely out of touch.

The introductory video from the EPA  explains the contest, and to explain the sheer wonderfulness of regulations offers, as an example — “cash for clunkers.” Really!  Better known as the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS).  (A good acronym is important).  Don’t get too excited, the contest ends Monday, so if you haven’t submitted your video, you’re probably too late.

The video above was submitted by the Heritage Foundation, in the interest of providing a slightly different perspective.  They thought it was worthwhile to point out Washington’s habit of promoting job-killing expansive and useless regulation.  The first comment on the EPA announcement video was clear and simple:

November 2010.  Vote the bums out.

The second comment was more detailed:

From the site: “When Congress writes a statute and the President signs it, it usually doesn’t have enough detail for it to be put into effect. So, federal agencies fill in the details by issuing regulations.”
Doesn’t the U.S. Constitution entrust the Legislative Branch for writing, ahem, legislation? Why is the executive branch writing rules that have the force of law, including fines and imprisonment?
The system is totally corrupt. And they’re asking us to say how nice it is.

Great Moments in the Green Bureaucracy’s Regulatory Adventures. by The Elephant's Child
May 7, 2010, 7:30 am
Filed under: Environment, Humor, Junk Science, Law | Tags: , ,

Henry Payne recounted this delightful classic —  reprinted by the Mackinac Center —  in Planet Gore at National Review.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, a hapless bureaucracy in Michigan’s capital city, with careful attention to the rules and regulations of  Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994.  Here is the DEQ letter to a private landowner reprinted in all its indignant, bureaucratic fury.

LANSING MI 48909-7973
December 17, 1997

Mr. Ryan DeVries
2088 Dagget
Pierson, MI 49339

Dear Mr. DeVries:

SUBJECT: DEQ File No. 97-59-0023-1 T11N, R10W, Sec. 20, Montcalm County

It has come to the attention of the Department of Environmental Quality that there has been recent unauthorized activity on the above referenced parcel of property.  You have been certified as the legal landowner and/or contractor who did the following unauthorized activity: Construction and maintenance of two wood debris dams across the outlet stream of Spring Pond.

A permit must be issued prior to the start of this type of activity. A review of the Department’s files show that no permits have been issued. Therefore, the Department has determined that this activity is in violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Michigan Compiled Laws annotated.

The Department has been informed that one or both of the dams partially failed during a recent rain event, causing debris dams and flooding at downstream locations.  We find that dams of this nature are inherently hazardous and cannot be permitted. The Department therefore orders you to cease and desist all unauthorized activities at this location, and to restore the stream to a free-flow condition by removing all wood and brush forming the dams from the stream channel.  All restoration work shall be completed no later than January 31, 1998.  Please notify this office when the restoration has been completed so that a follow-up site inspection may be scheduled by our staff.

Failure to comply with this request, or any further unauthorized activity on the site, may result in this case being referred for elevated enforcement action.

We anticipate and would appreciate your full cooperation in this matter.  Please feel free to contact me at this office if you have any questions.

David L. Price
District Representative
Land and Water Management Division

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s infamous regulatory war against beaver dams — the clueless, indignant bureaucrats had probably never seen a beaver.  They’re really kind of cute.  And they will never, never live this one down.

The Regulatory State Wraps You in a Network of Red Tape. by The Elephant's Child

The bigger and more intrusive government becomes, the less that it can do effectively.

Fredrich Hayek, the Austrian-American economist and Nobel Laureate, devoted much of his brilliant career to describing how rationalism could never work.  How can anything good happen.  Hayek asked, if individuals cannot think and act for themselves?  Rules preclude initiative.  Regimentation precludes evolution.  Letting accidents happen, mistakes be made, results in new ideas.  Trial and error is the key to all progress.  The Soviet system of rules and central planning is doomed to failure,  Hayek stated fifty years ago, because it kills the human faculty that makes things work.

ADDENDUM: Alexandria, Virginia residents soon will have to pay for larger home recycling bins featuring  monitoring devices. Also a mandatory $9 charge added to the waste collection fee.  The new recycling carts will be equipped with microchips which will allow the city to keep track of its bins and track residents’ participation in the city’s recycling program.

“If you know who’s participating in the programs, you can focus your education and outreach to those who are not participating.” New bin sizes range from 25 to 65 gallons, replacing the old 18 gallon bins.  Apparently the larger the bin, the more people recycle.  But you will notice that nobody mentions whether the recycled goods are sold, or go straight to the landfill.  Aluminum cans are always recyclable, but other things depend on the market, and there is often no market. Alexandria hopes to raise its current recycling rate from 29 percent to 35 percent.

I recycle.  The yard waste makes good compost which I get to buy back at an exorbitant price after paying to have it taken away.  I hate Nanny Government, and I just learned that the recycling truck drivers (unionized) here, make $125,000, and were striking for higher wages.

Financial Regulation, As Designed by Sen. Chris Dodd. by The Elephant's Child
April 22, 2010, 5:53 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Law, Statism | Tags: , ,

President Obama went to Manhattan today to lecture Wall Street and make a lot of promises about the financial bill that is now before the Senate that have nothing to do with the actual bill, only what he thinks you would prefer to hear.

I was going to link to several articles that explained about the importance of eliminating the notion of “too big to fail,” and ideas for accomplishing this. But then I read this editorial  from the Wall Street Journal, where they have a particular knack for getting right down to the essence:

This is the most important fact to understand about the current financial reform debate. While the details matter a great deal, the essence of the exercise is to transfer more control over credit allocation and the financial industry to the federal government. The industry was heavily regulated before—not that it stopped the mania and panic—but if anything close to the current bills pass, the biggest banks will become the equivalent of utilities.

The irony is that this may, or may not, reduce the risk of future financial meltdowns and taxpayer bailouts. A new super council of regulators will be created with vast new powers to determine which firms pose a “systemic” financial risk, to set high capital and margin levels, to veto certain kinds of business for certain firms, and even to set guidelines for banker compensation—or maybe not. The point is that these crucial questions will be settled not by statute, but by regulatory discretion after the law passes. [emphasis added]

Do take the time to read the whole thing.  Especially note the first two paragraphs. We deluged Congress with emails and phone calls about the Health Care bill,  and if it didn’t keep  the bill from passing, it certainly heightened the debate, and gave members of Congress support.

The House has already passed the Barney Frank version, and the debate goes on in the Senate.

Obama Wants to Bankrupt the Coal Industry and Cause Energy Prices to Skyrocket… For Your Own Good! by American Elephant
November 3, 2008, 5:07 am
Filed under: Economy, Election 2008, Energy | Tags: , , ,

More desperately important reasons to vote for McCain/Palin and do everything in your power in these last two days to make sure as many other McCain/Palin voters get to the polls as possible:

From an interview in San Francisco (naturally) last January:

And, in the same interview, he admits freely that his plans will necessarily cause electricity prices to skyrocket:

Obama wants to drive prices up. He thinks Americans must change their evil energy consuming behavior, and that it is governments’ place to force them to do so. He believes the American free market, where we use electricity when we want it, turn on lightbulbs at our leisure, buy things we want and use them when and how we want — you know, the economic model that has lifted billions of people around the world out of poverty — must be fundamentally changed:

But we will have to subsidize energy for the poor! So not only are your personal energy costs going to skyrocket, you’ll be paying more taxes to subsidize energy for the poor.

And to what end?

As the video says, so that one day in the very distant future, the government will wave its magic wand and create a way to power the economy without oil, without natural gas, without coal, without nuclear — without any of the carbon producing, “dirty” energy sources that currently account for 90.4% of America’s electricity needs. That’s just electricity, it doesn’t even include America’s transportation energy needs.

And until the day when government can somehow make the solar and wind that currently supply 2.4% of our electricity needs, supply all the energy we need for electricity and transportation, you and your family, and your children, and their children, and their children’s children ad infinitum will have to suffer far higher energy prices, higher taxation, higher regulation of your personal behaviors and consumer choices….

THIS is what Obama means when he says he wants to bring about “fundamental change.” A level of Statism that has never, ever been known in this country. The government will tell you what, where and when you can travel. They will dictate through taxation and regulation how much energy you can use, what products you can buy, what temperature you can keep your house, what you can eat!

It is all implicit in his self-described vision. And it is contrary to almost every principle America is founded upon. Is Statism the change Americans are looking for? It’s the change they’re about to get!

Tell me where I’m wrong.

UPDATE: Sarah Palin responds to Obama’s vision for the coal industry:

(h/t Hot Air)


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