Look, Ma! No Hands! The federal government has determined that anybody has the ability to pump gas. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is lifting its 11-year ban on nozzle latches, the devices that allow motorists to do whatever they want with their hands while the gas flows, unassisted, into tanks. Currently, those who pump their own gas must keep a hand on the cold, malodorous nozzles to keep the valve open and the liquid flowing. But a momentous decision such as this can't be made hastily. The agency will receive public comments and hold a public hearing before the radical change is implemented. Nozzle-latch-industry lobbyists probably had to wine and dine a battalion of bureaucrats for years to get this far.

Now that the hostage crisis is only a fond memory, and the war against Iraq is going well, Iran is getting down to the serious everyday business of trying to control costs. Families of execution victims are being billed for the cost of bullets used by firing squads, according to opponents of Ayatollah Khomeini. Payment is due upon receipt of death.

The US Border Patrol set up a roadblock on the main drag to Key West, Florida, to capture illegal aliens and drug smugglers. Traffic was backed up for 20 miles, and the tourist trade fell off. So the city fathers decided to secede from the United States and establish the Conch Republic. The new nation quickly declared war against the rest of the country and just as quickly surrendered. They don't raise fools in Key West. Officials figured that once the new republic lost a war to Uncle Sam, they'd be taken care of forever more with foreign aid.

Every time a resolution is introduced in Congress, no matter how foolish, the taxpayer has to cough up $1,300 for printing and distribution alone. If the sponsoring legislator makes a speech supporting his bill on the floor, space to print it in the Congressional Record costs another $475 a page. During the past year, bills have been introduced praising peaches, patriotism, bald eagles, and ballet. One congressman demanded a roll call vote on his measure declaring the fourth Sunday in October National Mother-in-Law Day. Roughly 700 such bills were introduced last year. As the old saying goes, "Small crooks go to jail. Big crooks go to Congress."

Number One is only second-best for pears, according to US Department of Agriculture labeling rules. The best pears are labeled Extra Number One. But for a peach, Extra Number One is a rather fuzzy label that means second-best. The top rating for peaches is Fancy. No wonder the government has printed three volumes totaling 1,700 pages to explain how the food labeling system works. Ever hear of the Truth in Lending Law? The USDA rules ought to be part of the Lunacy in Labeling statutes.

The US Postal Service Service spotted Seattle mail sorter Robert Green as a troublemaker right off the bat. Green sorted the mail just as quickly(?) as the other mail sorters, but with a decidedly antiregulation spirit. Green is left-handed, and Postal Service work rules clearly state that all mail must be sorted right-handed. Green was almost canned until his senator intervened and convinced postal officials that their salaries might be left right out of the next budget if this stupidity didn't cease. The Postal Service will move with all deliberate speed in implementing the new reformed regulations, which means that its employees will hear about the change sometime in the next decade.

Pop goes the boondoggle. William E. Smith, executive director of the Popcorn Institute, popped off the other day about what a crying shame it is that the government decided to drop its two annual surveys of popcorn acreage and production. The reports by the US Department of Agriculture cost $25,000 a year. Smith whines that the loss of government data could slow the growth of the industry. If growers don't know how much popcorn is produced, a glut or a shortage is possible. A shortage would raise the price of popcorn, and a glut could cause dislocation in allied industries, such as poppers and salt, Smith says. When, oh when will Reagan stop this senseless budget cutting?

Join the Army! Be one of the few, the proud…and the nearsighted. In Delaware, a bulldozer crew of the Army Corps of Engineers inadvertently plowed up and destroyed half of an eight-mile archeological site containing fossils 80 million years old. In Oklahoma, a gun crew at Fort Sill fired a wayward howitzer shell that exploded 150 feet behind a restaurant. No one was hurt, but coffee cups were tossed around and the impact left a crater. Both incidents happened on the same day. Hup, 2, 3, flaw.