Archive for November, 2009

FDA launches its attack on cigarettes

The Food and Drug Administration, a federal regulatory agency perpetually in search of new products to regulate and new jurisdiction to conquer, last June received the gift it had coveted for decades.  On June 22, 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the “Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act,” which gave the FDA legal power to regulate the manufacture, marketing and sale of tobacco products including, most importantly, cigarettes.

The regulators at FDA have wasted no time flexing their new regulatory muscles.  Their first target to vaporize?  Why, clove cigarettes, of course.  I’d not even heard of clove cigarettes until someone I know was smoking one outside a club at which I was attending an event in New Orleans last summer.  I was sitting there enjoying a good cigar, and this friend of mine was smoking what appeared to be a cigarette, but whose smoke smelled like no cigarette I’d ever been exposed to.  With my curiosity thus piqued, I asked what …

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Dim-bulb law leads to cancelled elections

In the 2008 general election, only about 57% of the country’s voting age population actually voted.  In Georgia, even fewer citizens — 54.7% of the “VAP” — felt it sufficiently important to actually cast a ballot.  Although Georgia’s voting percentage was better than Hawaii’s or Texas’ (45.1% and 45.6%, respectively), it’s still nothing to write home about.  Undaunted by the already low turnout, however, recently several municipalities in Georgia have decided to employ a decade-old state law that will almost certainly diminish voter interest and turnout even further. 

In 1998, the Georgia General Assembly passed legislation that permitted local governments to actually cancel elections.  This extraordinary power can be exercised if all candidates on a ballot in any particular voting precinct are unopposed.  This year, several governments in the Atlanta metropolitan area have opted to use this power and are then beating their chests and declaring to their constituents how …

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Patriot Act reform may be nearer

Like the mythical phoenix that rises from the ashes, the USA PATRIOT Act just won’t go away.  After signing the massive piece of legislation into law on October 26, 2001, President George W. Bush and his attorneys general John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzalez (with considerable help from former Vice President Dick Cheney), tried repeatedly to expand its powers.  They did this both by seeking to amend the Act directly, as well as through other legislative vehicles such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).  They were occasionally successful and sometimes not; but they never stopped trying.

During the 2008 campaign, then-candidate Barack Obama made statements appearing to support moves to scale back these laws.  However, when the time came for a vote in the summer of 2008, he not only voted against scaling back FISA, but in favor of expanding its reach considerably.  In fact, he voted to grant immunity retroactively to telecommunications carriers that had …

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