Category Archives: Regulation of the Day

Regulation of the Day 228: Peyton Manning’s Jersey

Suspected gang member Konnor Vanatta.

When the Indianapolis Colts released star quarterback Peyton Manning this spring after 14 years of faithful service (and a Super Bowl victory), the Denver Broncos eagerly picked him up. Coloradoans rejoiced, and have made Manning’s number 18 jersey the best-selling in the NFL since April.

Konnor Vanatta, 8, of Greeley, Colorado, owns one of the new jerseys. He can’t wait for Manning to make his Denver debut this Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Like many football fans his age, Konnor was eager to show his allegiance by wearing his Manning jersey to school. The trouble is that he is not allowed to. His jersey has what local school officials call a “gang number” on it, with possible ties to a gang in Los Angeles.

Greeley and Los Angeles are 1,069 miles apart.

I’d never heard of gang numbers before, so I went to the FBI’s website at and ran a few searches for terms like “Peyton Manning gang affiliation,” “Denver Broncos,” “gang numbers,” and the like. About all I found out was that the FBI does not consider the Broncos a gang, nor is Peyton a suspected gang member. Neither is Konnor, who is a third grader.

Still, zero tolerance means zero tolerance. Any clothing with the number 18 on it is verboten in Weld County’s public school system. Other suspected gang numbers are 13 and 14, along with all three numbers in reverse – 31, 41, and 81.

Which means Peyton isn’t the only Bronco who isn’t welcome in Greeley, Colorado schools. Young fans of wide receivers Tyler Grisham (13) and Brandon Stokley (14), cornerback Omar Bolden (31), and tight end Joel Dreessen (81) will also have to leave their jerseys at home. And baseball fans shouldn’t even think about wearing their Drew Pomeranz (13) Rockies jerseys come springtime.

Unlike school officials, Konnor’s mother appears to have common sense. She told a local CBS affiliate:

“I knew that Greeley had a gang problem but I didn’t think in any event it should affect someone that’s in third grade,” Vanatta said.

Vanatta said she appreciates that school leaders want to be cautious, but she worries maybe they are just “giving the gangs what they want.”

“When they are counting and when they’re learning their numbers, are they going to make them skip 14, 13, 41, 81, 18 when they are counting? It’s getting ridiculous,” she said.

Good points all. Even the NFL weighed in, with editor Gregg Rosenthal correctly describing the policy as “idiocy.”

Regulation of the Day 227: Returning from the Moon

Neil Armstrong died last weekend at the age of 82. He was an inspirational figure for a lot of reasons besides the obvious one of being the first man to walk on the moon. He took great pride in being a nerdy, pocket-protector wearing engineer. In so doing, he inspired a lot of nerdy kids to keep their chins up, work hard, and accomplish great things. His stoic example made the world a better place.

Armstrong also handled his fame well.  He always maintained a calm, quiet dignity. His steady demeanor presented a sharp contrast with his no-less heroic colleague Buzz Aldrin, who is something of a showman at heart. Armstrong didn’t much care for the spotlight, and happily lived a quiet life in his native Ohio.

Which brings us to today’s Regulation of the Day. It turns out that when Armstrong, Aldrin, and Michael Collins returned to Earth after the Apollo 11 mission, they actually filled out a customs form. The Atlantic recently unearthed the document. It’s hard to tell if the form was an exercise in dry humor or the crew really was required to fill it out.

It’s worth a read. The “Departure from” field is filled in with simply, “moon.” The flight routing proceeds: Cape Kennedy; moon; Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.A. The cargo manifest includes “moon rock and moon dust samples.” An ominous note sounds in the “Any other condition on board which may lead to the spread of disease” field: a typewritten, all-caps “TO BE DETERMINED.”

One wonders if today’s astronauts still fill out customs forms when they return home.

Regulation of the Day 226: Hot Dog Carts

Nathan Duszynski is 13 years old and lives in Holland, Michigan. His stepfather has multiple sclerosis. His mother has epilepsy. Neither is able to work.

To help out with his family’s expenses, Nathan started mowing lawns and soon saved up the $1,200 or so that he needed to buy a hot dog cart. That way he could make even more money.

The owner of a local sporting goods store was even kind enough to allow Nathan to set up shop in his store’s parking lot. But regulators shut Nathan down ten minutes after opening up shop for the first time. He had yet to sell his first hot dog. Turns out that food carts are illegal in Holland unless they’re connected to a brick-and-mortar restaurant.

Seeing as many cities across the country have unaffiliated food carts and no evidence of consumer harm, there can only be one explanation for Holland’s hot dog cart ban: rent-seeking. Restaurants don’t want to deal with the competition, so they convinced the government to do their dirty work for them.

Because of this rent-seeking, Nathan and his family are now homeless.

Our friends at the Mackinac Center have spoken with the family:

“Nate and I are now in a shelter,” Lynette Johnson said. “Doug can’t stay with us because he takes prescription narcotics to deal with his pain and the shelter does not allow him with those kinds of drugs.”

She said the situation has been stressful on the family. Lynette is afraid to be away from her husband in case she has a seizure.

Nathan has still been working hard. He’s selling hot dogs at private events, which is legal. But according to a local paper, it’s still difficult:

The cart is the only solid income the family can rely on, said Lynette. But the business is in jeopardy due to the family’s financial situation…

The reason, she said, is that each event requires a new health department permit, and the cost varies between West Michigan municipalities. The last event, a private wedding reception on Friday, cost about $200 for the permit.

Coupled with food and supply cost, they barely broke even, she said.

Nathan now has a web site for Nathan’s Hot Dog Hut, where you can make a donation via PayPal. Nathan writes, “If you believe in free enterprise and can help with the costs of my fight with City Hall and the losses we have sustained so far please donate what you can to help us and those others in similar situations by clicking the button below.”

Here’s hoping Nathan wins his fight. Everyone has the right to make an honest living — even if their competitors would rather they didn’t.

Regulation of the Day 225: Boobie Pillows

Kern County, California’s government takes morality very seriously. Chapter 9.12.010 of the County Code states that “No vendor shall vend stuffed articles depicting the female breasts (sold as “boobie pillows”) within one thousand (1,000) feet of any county highway.” The punishment for each offense is a fine of up to $500 and/or up to 90 days in jail. Worse, “Each day of violation shall constitute a separate offense.”

The purpose of the boobie pillow ban, according to the Finding of Fact Leading to Enactment that accompanies the text, is to prevent children on their way to church from seeing such adult-themed merchandise.

Strangely, boobie pillows are the only adult-themed merchandise subject to the ban. So, according to the law, purveyors of smut can still set up shop almost anywhere they please. They just can’t sell “stuffed articles depicting the female breasts.”

In other news, Kern County is currently running a budget deficit in the $25-30 million range. If the county liberalized its strict boobie pillow policy, it could increase its sales tax revenue and tame its deficit.

Regulation of the Day 224: Competing with Taxis

A cool startup company called Uber operates in about half a dozen cities in the U.S. and Canada, and is growing fast. Think of them as an on-demand cab service. Using their smartphone application, you request a car, and a few minutes later a professional driver in a black Lincoln Town Car will pick you up where you stand and take you where you need to go. Their system even sends you a text message to let you know when your driver is about to arrive.

Customers who don’t like Town Cars can request an SUV instead. Since Uber keeps your credit card information on file, payment is both cashless and automatic, and you do not tip your driver.

It’s an innovative business model, and customers rave about the service. No wonder the local taxi industry in Washington, D.C. sees Uber as a threat. There are two ways they can deal with it. One is to compete. The other is to use regulation to drive it out of business. Guess which option they chose?

Back in January, a shady sting operation led by Taxi Commissioner Ron Linton nearly put Uber out of business in DC, even though it failed to find any rules violations.

Today, the D.C. City Council was set to vote on an amendment from Councilmember Mary Cheh that would make it illegal for Uber to charge less than five times the minimum cab fare in D.C., currently $15. This would put a stop to UberX, a cheaper service using less flashy cars. UberX is already available in New York, and the company is planning on bringing it to Washington.

The price for Uber X is a $5 base fee, plus $3.25 per mile, so any trip under 3 miles or so would be cheaper than what the rent-seeking amendment would require.

In other words, Cheh would rather her constituents to pay more for transportation instead of less. Even in a city as cynical as Washington, this is difficult to spin as pro-consumer.

After a heartening consumer uproar, Councilmember Mary Cheh withdrew her amendment. Another Councilmember, Jack Evans, said he received more than 5,000 emails encouraging him to oppose the rent-seeking amendment.

It may return as a separate bill in the fall, but for now, Uber has won and the rent-seekers have lost.

There is reason to be optimistic that future rent-seeking attempts will also fail. Most companies become invertebrates when government comes calling, but Uber seems to have a spine. Leading up to the day of the amendment’s scheduled vote, CEO Travis Kalanick said,”We won’t stand for a DC Council price floor that limits innovation and hurts consumers. Uber DC’s minimum fare is now dropped to $12 for the remainder of July in protest.”

That’s the kind of attitude we like to see. D.C.’s taxi industry could learn a lot from Uber. Instead of purchasing corrupt politicians, they should offer a better service at a lower price. That way, everyone wins.

Regulation of the Day 223: Fred Flintstone Cars

Sebastian Trager is an engineer in Germany who loves The Flintstones. He recently built a replica of Fred Flintstone’s car that looks almost exactly like the original. The only significant nod to modernity is that instead of being foot-powered, it has a 1.3 liter engine. Regulators, ever afraid that someone, somewhere might be having fun, quickly told Trager that he may not drive his car on German roads.

One reason is that German regulations require all cars to have windshield wipers. Trager didn’t think to install them, mainly because his Flintstone-mobile doesn’t have a windshield.

Other items are more substantive. Looking at pictures of the car, it also lacks side and rearview mirrors, and seatbelts. One imagines that it also lacks airbags. It also lacks turn signals, though Trager could use hand signals to alert fellow motorists when he’s about to turn.

After all the work Trager put into his creation, hopefully he’ll find a way to get at least some use out of it. It would be a shame to see this sparkling example of German engineering go to waste.

Or maybe he should have followed movie buff Paul Harborne’s example and created a replica Ghostbusters car instead.

Regulation of the Day 222: Macaroni

According to federal regulations, you may not, in fact, stick a feather in your hat and call it macaroni.

I’m serious. 21 CFR 139, Subpart B, §139.110 defines macaroni as “the class of food each of which is prepared by drying formed units of dough made from semolina, durum flour, farina, flour, or any combination of two or more of these, with water and with or without one or more of the optional ingredients specified in paragraphs (a) (1) to (6), inclusive, of this section.”

If it doesn’t meet that definition, you can’t call it macaroni. Some other anti-feather provisions in federal macaroni policy include:

  • The shape. “Macaroni is the macaroni product the units of which are tube-shaped and more than 0.11 inch but not more than 0.27 inch in diameter.”
  • Spaghetti and Vermicelli are also considered macaroni products. Spaghetti is “tube-shaped or cord-shaped (not tubular) and more than 0.06 inch but not more than 0.11 inch in diameter,” and vermicelli is “cord-shaped (not tubular) and not more than 0.06 inch in diameter.”
  • Egg whites must make up at least 0.5 percent by weight of each noodle, but no more than 2 percent.
  • The protein content of macaroni products is capped at 13 percent.

And Yankee Doodle began to cry.