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Catfish and Cod
Wednesday, August 20, 2003
Fun with the United States Code: I.
(Link path: FindLaw)

IANAL. That phrase is usually used on-line with a negative connotation: don`t trust what I`m about to tell you. But for testing an average intelligent citizen`s understanding of the laws of the United States, it`s perfect. Especially since all Western law since the Twelve Tables of Rome has been, ideally, understandable by all citizens to which it applies.

The U.S. Code is a massive tome; it`s only printed for lawyer`s offices. With the advent of Internet search engines, it`s possible for anyone to find anything in the Code, quickly and efficiently. Since it is a citizen`s duty to catch the government wasting money or enacting foolish laws, it`s a good idea for people to be hunting through the Code and finding out what probably should be repealed.... but hasn`t been. (Law is forever until repealed or sunseted, so there`s lots of useless laws still lying around.)

Today`s installment: Title 15, Chapter 9, the National Weather Service authorization laws.

Section 318. US mail cars and conveyences are supposed to have weather reports on them: the Dept. of Commerce...
"may arrange a plan by which there shall be
displayed on all cars and other conveyances used for transporting
United States mail suitable flags or other signals to indicate
weather forecasts, cold-wave warnings, frost warnings, and so
forth, to be furnished by the Secretary."

Hmph. It might be nifty if electronic billboards with today`s forecast were on every US mail truck, but somehow I don`t think that`s a good use of public monies. This section undoubtedly existed in railroad days to notify small towns with no telegraph or telephone lines of sensitive weather alerts. Is this still used anywhere? If not, it probably should be repealed.

Section 325.
"Appropriations now or hereafter provided for the National Weather
Service shall be available for....(e) purchasing tabulating cards and continuous form
tabulating paper."

If anyone at the NWS is still using Hollerith punch cards, they should be fired. Continuous form tabulating paper... sure, but doesn't that fall under office supplies? I'm pretty sure the NWS (and the rest of the Government) can go out and buy office supplies without explicit Congressional approval.

Section 330d. Attempting to modify the weather without notifying the Secretary of Commerce is a federal crime, with a $10,000 fine. Should I tell the butterfly outside my window? Naaaaahh... no money has gone to paying attention since 1988.