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By Fred Kelly Grant

Note: This is the first of three posts that explain the difference between federal agencies’ “Public Comment” periods for new regulations, and “Coordination,” a legal obligation of agencies but rarely obeyed. Click links to read Part 2 and Part 3.

In an effort to allow the public a cathartic release, many federal agencies have a mandatory comment period before they implement new rules and regulations.

Why do I say public comment is a cathartic release?

In ​ EVERY CASE I HAVE WORKED ON FOR 25 YEARS the federal agency​ ​has​ already predetermined its decision before the public comment period ever begins. Think about it. Who prepares the “proposed decision” to be submitted to the public? The agency does. When put to you, the public, a “preferred alternative” who DECIDED on the PREFERRED alternative? The agency did. So, why submit public comment? Because Congress ordered it.

Congress had the right idea – that federal agencies should be receptive to public opinion when making decisions and rules. But agencies are run by unelected, human bureaucrats who have an agenda, and public opinion might not support their agenda.

Here’s an example. Suppose you are in charge of the school carnival for NEXT YEAR, twelve months from now. You go decide on a “Mardi Gras” theme for the carnival, and spend weeks preparing, setting up committees – one committee for a parade, another for games and prizes, another for food, and so on. But when the committees and you are all organized and ready to go, the school board decides that you have to ask what the entire district thinks. So you put the theme and its implementation plans out for public comment. Now that you have everything in place, are you really going to change the carnival theme based on comments by people who have had no part in your planning or the reasons for your decisions?  You are simply asking for public comment as a basis​ for fabricating rationalizations if the School Board questions your plans.

That same exact scenario that plays out with federal agencies planning to implement a regulation or program. Agencies have no obligation to do anything with public comments. The only real purpose of feedback is to allow the agency to prepare for any pushback on unpopular rules and regulations.The more you study public feedback for rules and regulations, the more you realize federal agencies no longer “serve us.” Instead, they serve either special interests or those with a political agenda.

HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A FEDERAL AGENCY CHANGE ITS DECISION BASED ON PUBLIC INPUT?  I HAVE NOT IN 25 YEARS OF DAILY WORK WITH FEDERAL AGENCIES AND THEIR WORK.​

In ​no case have I seen​ public comment periods alter the outcomes pursued by federal agencies.

Public comment periods are futile. They serve no purpose other than to let an angry public “get it out of their system” as agency leaders often put it.

​In fact sometimes an agency will purposely submit for public comment a conclusion that’s so outrageous, no sane person would act on it. Then when the public comments on the flaws in the conclusion, the agency can say “we’ve listened to the people” and withdraw the conclusion, and submit another that it already decided on anyhow.  ​

Many Americans ​are just waking to the tyranny of federal agencies acting through regulations, ​whether they involve​ massive land grabs, the “War on Coal”, declaring carbon dioxide a pollutant, ​eliminating diesel trucks from the highways on a flawed theory that diesel particulates pollute the air, ​and even the persecution of former smokers through the “War on Vaping.”

Yet, many still passionately participate in public comment periods, even though these efforts have proved to be fruitless.

I invite you to pick a case, find the federal notice for public comment, read the thousands of pages of public comment, then read the responses to those comments by the agency. I challenge you to find me ONE CASE in which the preferred decision announced in advance by the agency WAS CHANGED.

Anyone who suggests differently to you is new to the regulatory watch game and very naive, or is deliberately misleading you.

Note: Fred Kelly Grant and Stand & Fight Club are pleased to support the efforts of the Electronic Vaping Coalition of America (EVCA) as it continues fight the assault on the vaping industry at the hands of unelected government bureaucrats and special interests. You are encouraged to visit the EVCA website or on their Facebook page to learn more, and help in the fight!

By: Fred Kelly Grant

 Plain Speaking in government ranks?  Oh, come on now!!!

After Harry Truman left the White House and went back to Independence, news columnist Mary McGrory wrote, “Since Harry Truman left town almost nobody has spoken his mind. Mr. Truman took the tradition of plain speaking back to Missouri with him.”

If Harry had been faced with vaping as a substitute for smoking tobacco, can’t you imagine him being asked at a news conference, “Mr. President, how do you feel about the government prohibiting vaping which effectively helps cut smoking and at the same time saves money on health care costs?”

Mr. Truman: “It is idiotic.”  Or “It’s just dirt dumb” Yuh think?

Government officials who seek to ban flavoring do not speak plainly.

They know the facts. They know banning flavoring will cripple the vaping industry. They know that will end the most effective, safest alternative to cigarette smoking. They know the health care costs that result from smoking. They know how many people die each year from tobacco related causes. But no plain speaking about any of that.

Instead, they talk about how flavors attract and tempt the young, under 21 group from rushing headlong into getting hooked. And, friends, to quote my late uncle Phel Grantham of Grantham Corners South Carolina, “That is pure hogwash!”

What pray tell was “pure” hogwash? I guess the closest I could come in non-Grantham Corners lingo is, if you’ll forgive and overlook an obvious play on words, “It’s just a smokescreen, a total smokescreen!”

The law already makes it illegal to sell the e-liquid and devices to anyone under 21 in California. Every store I have visited sports a “No one under 21” sign. So, if prohibition works, why is it necessary to ban flavors? Why isn’t it enough to simply have the “not under 21” law on the books? Why does anyone think that a ban on flavoring will prevent access by youth to smoking or vaping any more than does the “not under 21”.

Point of fact, in plain speaking as to youth: if a 17-year-old decides she is going to smoke, her aunt, her older sister or cousin, her older boy friend will oblige and buy for her. And, if vaping is eliminated, there is no game in town except combustible cigarettes and the dependence that usually follows.  And, federal law prohibits any attempt to ban cigarettes! But, even if they could be banned, our prospective smoker would be supplied by the black market.

Anyone around old enough to have experienced prohibition of alcohol in this country? Probably not with enough memory to reconstruct it. But surely there are people who have read about it – alcohol production was banned because the American Christian Temperance Union was strong enough to have booze banned. The result? Booze flowed like water. It was made in good clean laboratories and it was made in rusty old bath-tubs – and it all sold at a gosh-awful price, raking in disgraceful profits for the criminal syndicate that operated the underground alcohol business

In fact, no one event fed growth of the criminal syndicate in this nation more than prohibition. It was illegal to make it, to possess it, and to drink it.  Thus, the attraction was novel and greater – and we had more drunks than any time in our history.

Just plain speaking: prohibition produced drunks and huge profits to finance crime.

Even more just plain speaking: banning flavors will produce huge profits to finance crime.

That’s just plain speaking bad public policy. Yuh think?

The plain-speaking truth is that it is all about the money.

Governments have become addicted to tobacco settlement funds. They are so sickly addicted that they can’t satisfy their general fund appropriations without the tobacco money. They gushed over it at the beginning, sold bonds on the expected windfall from future tobacco settlement money, and spent those bond sales like the money was going out of style.

Now, however, the bonds are coming due, and these spendthrift governments do not have the money to redeem the bonds and fund basic government functions. They are caught between a rock and a hard place—-and nowhere to go but back to the well and draw some more money furnished by those who buy tobacco and die from it.

We have reached the idiotic position at which our governments thrive on money furnished by people smoking their lives away, and prohibit a product that would end cigarette dependence and save human lives.

Our governments prefer to let people die and so they can get their money, rather than lose that money and allow people to live.

In the marvelously clever Pogo comic strips, the artist/author hit the nail on the head when he used an historic phrase, turned it into swamp character talk and voila we had, “We has met the enemy and he is us.”

And that my friends, fits the plain speaking we need for the governments that would ban flavors and destroy vaping.  “WE HAS MET THE ENEMY, AND HE IS US.”

Yuh think?

Note: Fred Kelly Grant and Stand & Fight Club are pleased to support the efforts of the Electronic Vaping Coalition of America (EVCA) as it continues fight the assault on the vaping industry at the hands of unelected government bureaucrats and special interests. You are encouraged to visit the EVCA website or on their Facebook page to learn more, and help in the fight!

By Fred Kelly Grant

How ironic that in the 50th Anniversary of the Love Summer, San Francisco’s elected officials slammed shut the door to freedom of choice.  After a hearing before an overflow crowd, a Committee of the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to recommend passage of the ordinance banning the sale of flavored e-liquid for vaping devices.

Mark Block, founder and CEO of Electronic Vaping Coalition of America, testified as he had in Contra Costa the day before. That County Board delayed action to have staff clear up vagueness. Block pointed out that vaping does provide the effective way to get off cigarettes, and that passage of this Ordinance violates the Fourteenth Amendment that guarantees equal and fair treatment.

Today he heads for southern California where maybe saner heads will  prevail and separate the vaping from smoking.

What the action in San Francisco means is that people who choose to get off cigarette smoke and save their health and lives are out of luck in the city which was once the epitome of freedom. Evidence is overwhelming that if flavoring is banned, the vape shops will either go out of business or lose so much business that they will close eventually.  Evidence is also overwhelming that vapers will not stay with the product if there is no flavoring—-and many will drift back to the slow death that comes from smoking cigarettes. Sad but true.

And what is really sad about it is that it comes in the city that has been the beacon for free thinking alternative life styles and ways of life for at least a hundred years. Just fifty years ago, the Love Summer marveled all of America. Scott McKenzie’s song “San Francisco (Be sure to wear flowers in your hair) became a major hit; it was written by John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas. Haight Asbury bands like the Grateful Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and Jefferson Airplane rose to the top of the charts. Janis Joplin lived near the intersection of Haight and Asbury streets and became a household name whether the house held “hippies” or not.

Long after the Love Summer ended, the Haight turned out some of the most colorful comedians such as Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, and Dana Carvey. The stars of alternative ideas and thoughts and ways of life came from this Golden City; it was a city that the rest of us in America envied—often because we did not have the nerve to live life as it was lived in San Francisco.

The spirits of those that turned the Castro into the beginning of a free-wheeling, free thinking Baghdad of the Bay must be turning in their resting places. The legacy of mayors Alioto, Mosconi, Brown, Agnos called for better than what the committee did. Those men had the spirit to open doors to minorities and women to jobs and promotions so that San Francisco became the “liberal leader” of America. When Dianne Feinstein is the most conservative mayor in a span of thirty years, you know how liberal was this city even if you didn’t follow it.

Mosconi saved the Giants from moving to Toronto and if nothing else he had done, that fact alone would have made him beloved to Giants fans everywhere  He was a revolutionary mayor who appointed large numbers of women, gay men, lesbians and racial minorities to city commissions and advisory boards. He also was the first to agree that a court enter a judgment ending discriminatory recruiting practices by the police department, a first big such move in the nation. He supported an occupation sit-in of the Federal Building by 100 disabled people demanding their civil rights; while the feds wanted to starve them out, Mosconi took in portable showers and towels and food. The sit-in got results, and eventually is credited with passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Alioto, Agnos, and Brown all championed in one way or another finding suitable facilities for the homeless while other cities continued to shunt them from place to place. All  endured strikes from city and county personnel and found a way to mediate them and get better benefits for them, including coverage of domestic partners for health benefits. All continued and furthered the hiring and promotion of all nationalities, sexual preferences and races—to the point where San Francisco was the melting pot model for all America.

Free speech, free living, free choices of alternatives—this was San Francisco. Writers have portrayed the San Francisco scene as the freest there was in the counter culture of the 60’s for example, providing the natural spot for nurturing all differing interpretations of the American Dream

As an inhabitant of Boise, Idaho, and even having had experiences in Chicago and Baltimore, San Francisco was my ideal as an  American experience.  Whenever I could, I read Herb Caen of the Chronicle (and I still read Wilie Brown’s column) and listened to KGO at night—I remember Caen’s coverage off and on of the legendary Magnolia Thunderpussy, a San Francisco native and burlesque queen who has been described as “something of a cross between a den mother to San Francisco weirdos and a proto-Bette Midler”. Her place at 1398 Haight Street was legendary; featured briefly in the Jack Nicholson movie Psyche Out, you can be sure it could have been a vape shop had vaping even been in existence.

At stake yesterday was the freedom of choice of people who want to escape the dregs of cigarette smoking with the use of e-liquid and vaping devices  The Committee took away that freedom—-in a city whose entire history is built on free thinking, free wheeling, live and let live openness.

It has been proven that cigarette smoking is addictive to large parts of diverse minority populations.  Vaping would offer an effective, safe escape for the diverse populations of the Mission District, Bernal Heights, Potrero Hill, the Castro, the Excelsior District, the Sunset District, the Richmond, Chinatown, and Forest Hill. But neither they nor anyone else in the city/county can buy flavored e-liquid after the Ordinance is passed finally.

Sad that here in this beautiful city of freedom, the axe of arbitrary, autocratic political dictatorship fell today. And why? Money is the answer—money from the big tobacco settlement by which the big companies managed to buy their way out of huge tort cases in which people dying from tobacco exposure were cashiered out, and those not yet in court torn from their claims by a monetary settlement.

Tragic also are the excuses given for passage of the Ordinance. Supervisor Cohen who is sponsor of the ordinance represents a huge African American population in Bayview Hunters Point, said that she was driven by her experience with family members who smoked menthol cigarettes and died of cancer. But, Supervisor Cohen, no one has died of cancer from vaping; it provides the only effective, safe way for people to kick the cigarette habit. With your experiences you should be welcoming vaping, and the flavoring that makes it successful as an alternative to smoking cigarettes and death.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee endorsed the proposal. “We know from research and studies that tobacco-related diseases continue to be the No. 1 cause of preventable deaths, especially among low-income and minority communities,” he said. But again, vaping is the answer to these statistics because it gets people OFF CIGARETTES.

Those elected officials who profess to protect the cause of minorities and low-income folks should be lining up to back vaping, because it is the soul and life saver of all those folks who want to get off the cigarette road to death. One would think that in this city of ideas the elected officials would have done some research. The Trustees of the small Village of Hartland, Wisconsin did their homework, and learned of the great health value of vaping to all those who want to avoid poor health and death from cigarettes. The elected Supervisors of San Francisco would do well to read their Findings and Conclusions. One might be surprised to know that a Village in mid Wisconsin is more enlightened today than the venerable Supervisors of San Francisco.

And, as to the statements by Supervisor Cohen and Mayor Lee, trying to pass off vaping as the same as cigarettes, in the colorful words of that venerable veteran of politics Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland “Oh come onnnn now! Y’all know better.”

The reason lies not with the merits of the ordinance as applied to vaping; the reason is that California, like all other states, is addicted to money from the tobacco settlement—it has used that money as the constant staple for appropriations for annual budgets.  And the cities know that their money interests are at stake if they buck the tide that runs out of Sacramento.

450,000 lives lost every year from tobacco causes don’t seem to matter to local officials—perhaps it would be therapeutic for the Supervisors to get the opportunity to meet with relatives of this year’s deaths and explain to them why they are so adamant about closing down the opportunity to escape death at the hands of cigarettes.

As vaping sales go up, tobacco sales go down. And, since most local officials are not as up to date as are their constituents, they haven’t yet seen the tax benefits of vaping—particularly when measured against medical and health costs from cigarette smoking. If the vaping business goes under, a tremendous tax revenue will be lost to the cities. Once that has happened, there will be council people and supervisors and trustees all over the land wringing their hands, crying out “who did this to us”.

“Oh come onnnnn now!”