April 4, 2011 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
[This is a long essay - I apologize.
April 4, 2011 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
[This is a long essay - I apologize.
March 23, 2011 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
Tokyo tap water is no longer suitable for babies 12 months or younger. The impact of the Fukushima nuclear disaster spreads. Black smoke is seen coming out of Unit 3 at the nuclear plant and workers are evacuated again. Won’t be allowed back for 24 hours. Not to worry you . . . but they have no idea why it’s smoking. Japanese Broccoli is now found to give you a healthy glow (an extra “benefit”) and the import of many Japanese foods from the region have been banned by the U.S. FDA and by Hong Kong, soon to be followed by South Korea. One Austrian scientist says this disaster will be similar to Chernobyl, and their crud is blowing over here.
Back on the home front, we are not worried about radioactivity from Japan. Harmless! Rather than focusing on the impact of nuclear material showering down on us from the heavens, into our food, our water, our produce, onto our skin and breathed into our lungs every moment of the day now, those valiant defenders of children, the CPSC, will be holding a highly-publicized hearing on pool drains – because a newspaper currently in bankruptcy hired an uncertified lab to perform tests on drain covers that have not apparently been involved in injuries. This is a TOP priority of our nurturing government. Who says we don’t need more government? Come on, baby, give me MORE!
Of course, I make light – after all, I am a blogger, I must do so. The real scourge for children, as anyone can tell you, is not airborne radioactive material, but lead – which is why our CPSC has worked so tirelessly for three years to identify dangerous items like ballpoint pens, rhinestones, brass bushings on toy car wheels, ATV engine blocks, bicycle frames and bicycle vinyl seats, branding them as unsuitable for sale (or exposure) to children under 13 years of age.
Of course, there’s plenty of legal mumbo-jumbo to consider, provisos and the like. Having carefully sorted out the hazard, our CPSC has determined that pens are only dangerous if they are intended for use by children. [Ballpoint pens have a tiny brass ball at the ink end, and brass contains 2-4% lead by weight. I bet you're scared now!] The ACTUAL USE of pens is not the health concern – what matters instead is what the manufacturer intended – you know, their state of mind at the time of sale. Hasn’t your mother ever told you that it’s what’s in your heart that REALLY matters? The CPSC took this on board. After much cogitating, they determined that it’s not a problem if 100% of children use ballpoint pens – no, it’s only a problem if kids use a ballpoint pen INTENDED for use by children. THAT’S unacceptably dangerous and big penalties and recalls can result if you step over the line. They must have figured out that the state of mind of the manufacturer changes the physical character of the pen – pens literally take on the power to harm when a manufacturer thinks about selling them to kids!
It’s a good thing we employ so many scientists at the CPSC. I hate to think about the crazy rules they’d come up with if they didn’t have such a solid grounding in real science. Of course, they also employ many lawyers . . . . Could it be the lawyers???
Of course, I jest. The CPSC is certainly right – how could such an august organization err? And experts have told them they’re right – that’s a double-check right there. At the February 16th hearing on the 100 ppm lead standard, Don Mays from Consumers Union, a REAL expert, kicked off his testimony by reminding the Commission that there is NO safe level for lead. [I did not provide you with a clip of those magical words, but you can dig them up yourself if you don't believe me.] Mr. Mays was joined on the consumer group panel by another RENOWNED expert, Dr. Dana Best of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Mr. Mays and Dr. Best had a revealing dialogue with Commissioner Anne Northup on the horrors of brass instruments. You will see that the CPSC has no choice, the risks to children are so severe. Here’s a transcript (you can see the video here):
AN: “Do you think that children that are in the 3rd and 4th grade should be prohibited from playing brass instruments considering the lead content of that brass?”
DM: “I think children should not be exposed to lead unnecessarily. And children in the 3rd and 4th grade, I have a daughter in the 4th grade and I certainly wouldn’t want her to be exposed to lead if that was coming from an instrument.”
AN: “So you would not let her play, like, the horn.”
DM: “I would be very concerned about that, that’s for sure. She does not play the horn, she plays the violin. Ha Ha Ha.”
DB: “The mouthpieces on most of those instruments are not brass.”
AN: “Yes, exactly. But they’re holding them. They sling them around and hold them. . . . They could practice at night and play it every day during class. That would mean an every day exposure. I just wondered if that would alarm you.”
DB: “Uh, it would alarm me that children were exposed unnecessarily to lead. And that’s again the responsibility of the CPSC to determine, to look at the studies on individual cases. I’m here to talk about the harms of lead to children and how they need to be protected.”
Frankly, I can’t remember if Ms. Northup started banging her head against a wall at that point or not . . . .
With this kind of counsel, you can rest assured that the CPSC has its priorities straight. Don Mays and Dana Best are on the case! Just PLEASE don’t mention bicycle licking . . . .
Read more here:
CPSIA – Good News and Bad News (Update No. 1)
March 21, 2011 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
This is my Response for the Record to a supplemental question posed by Commissioner Nancy Nord to the CPSC’s February 16th Hearing on the pending 100 ppm Lead Standards:
Response to Commissioner Nancy Nord’s Request
for Comment in the Federal Register
1. You stated reduction from 300 ppm in substrate to 100 ppm in substrate removes the margin of error for low tech manufacturers. Would you elaborate on this with some of your own testing experience?
When we consider the impact of the lower standard, we first ask how we would manage a failure. As (presumably) rational business people, we want to allocate our capital to maximize our returns, and thus, risks to those returns must be weighed and addressed as appropriate. We have tried to understand our risks under the new lower lead standard – and the results are not encouraging. Once a failure (failed test) is discovered, it is often incurable. A failed test on a completed item including an integrated failed component (e.g., a zipper) likely means a total loss under the CPSIA. Failures of components already subject to valid passing component tests cannot be ruled out and in fact, are likely to occur. Our inability to solve this problem for even trivial violations introduces a new and significant risk of random (unpredictable and uncontrollable) losses to our business.
The agency’s stance on re-testing is not encouraging either. The draft rules on re-testing in the “15 Month Rule” are best described as unworkable. The doubt raised over the consequences of a failed test under pending rules only elevates our concern over how we might deal with a failed test. At present, there seems to be few options. For this reason alone, the proposed reduction of lead standards to 100 ppm is extremely threatening.
Given the dire consequences of a failed test, we must assess whether we can control our supply chains and raw materials/components to always comply with the new lower standard. In my testimony before the Commission, I noted that 98.3% of our passing test reports in a two-year period (2701 CPSIA test reports) were compliant with the new standard. Unfortunately the 1.7% in the range of 100-300 ppm scatters randomly across our many products and components. Thus, we don’t know how to predict which components are prone to risk of non-compliance and the consequences of finding them at the wrong time can be devastating. [It goes without saying that 2701 tests in a two-year period is a strong demonstration of both the devotion of resources and the huge expenditures required by the CPSIA to obtain passing tests reports – continual clean bills of health, over and over and over again.]
Our testing results reveal two troubling trends. First, we have found a material number of our items with one or more components that fall into the 100-300 ppm zone, sometimes just barely above 100 ppm. For a “miss” of as little as 5 ppm of lead entombed permanently in a substrate, an entire lot can be relegated to the garbage heap. Failed components might be as insignificant as a label or a lens cap. We also know from experience that retesting the same unit or units from the same lot may result in a passing test report but do not anticipate that we will be afforded this option to “comply”. In any event, retesting to obtain a clean passing test report does not change the product. If this law is truly about safety, I fail to see what is being accomplished by piling up the test reports to the profit of the test labs. The occurrence of failures under the new standard for a few ppm of lead will raise our costs significantly.
Second, we have encountered significant variability in our testing results. I have attached three test reports as examples of the variability problem. The first report (submitted with my comments on the 100 ppm standard) shows the test results on a single piece of string from a mesh bag holding dominoes. We cut the string into ten pieces and then tested each segment. The lead content results ranged from 239 – 275 ppm. A representative of the bicycle industry gave similar evidence (wide variability in multiple tests on different parts of a single component) at the 100 ppm hearing on February 16th. In the attached test report on tape measures, we found lead levels in coatings in the same tape measure lot ranging from 79-97 ppm, which is more than a 20% variability range. Finally, I have attached three test reports showing yellow plastic substrate from the same lot of educational products at 23, 88 and 139 ppm lead levels. Our success in obtaining passing test reports will apparently depend on LUCK when lead levels are near the 100 ppm concentration. We don’t have a solution to this problem. In our experience, this problem strikes randomly and often absurdly. We have found, for instance, lead levels between 100-300 ppm on zipper housings on the inside of a sewn bag. Lizard tongues might be able to reach it but fortunately, none of our customers are lizards.
None of this randomness or massive expense can be tied to safety – just to the enrichment of testing companies and lawyers. I am hopeful that the Commission will see that action is needed to stop the reduction of the lead standard to 100 ppm to help preserve the value our company brings to schools and families throughout the United States.
November 18, 2010 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
The vote on the noxious public database rule scheduled for the day before Thanksgiving (November 24) is a foregone conclusion. Says Rachel Weintraub of Consumer Federation of America: “There’s majority support for the proposed rule, which we applaud.” [BNA, "Poised for Database Vote, CPSC Reschedules Meeting at Dissenting Commissioner's Behest "] Says Christine Hines of Public Citizen: “There is nothing they [Nord and Northup] can do about it except yell from the rooftops.” [ibid.]
Let’s not forget, safety is not a partisan issue. Yeah, right.
But it’s true – the Dems control this vote and are going ahead with their rule, damn the consequences. And there will be MANY terrible consequences. I testified about the database last year and laid out many problems (see my testimony here). Industry has in fact pointed out many issues with the database, such as (a) the consequences of inaccurate information, (b) the consequences of manipulative or misleading information posted by trial lawyers or competitors, (c) the irreversibility of damage from adverse publicity, (d) the database as a government-sponsored and administered feeding ground for plaintiffs lawyers, (e) the negative impact of encouraging consumers to disclose problems to a database which withholds information from manufacturers, rather than direct communication, (f) federal government intrusion to replace or supplant private market solutions, (g) the debasement of Constitutionally-guaranteed due process rights and other protections afforded to litigants and possible victims of abuse of government power, and (h) the likelihood that the database will severely punish small businesses while having only marginal impact on the intended targets, mass market companies.
This seems a bit treacherous for something is said to be so “good” for everyone. Is there a problem here with selective hearing?
How do the Dems justify their position? Well, first of all, they don’t need to. Learning at the feet of Nancy Pelosi and Henry Waxman, the Dem Commissioners know that their voting power is all the justification they need. They have the votes, therefore they have a “mandate” from the voters, right? Why else would a Commissioner state publicly that anecdotes aren’t evidence? Troubling details from little people don’t matter anymore – not if the details might get in the way of the “agenda”.
The Dems and their allies also hide behind the NHTSA vehicle defects database. I find this so interesting because the ever-attentive CPSC heard testimony that debunked this example (same hearing that I testified in a year ago). The NHTSA example can be distinguished in many significant ways: (a) auto accidents are a leading cause of death in this country (consumer products are not), (b) every use of automobiles is known to be hazardous (not true for consumer products), (c) the auto industry is one of the largest components of our entire economy – we all use cars and many of us owe our livelihoods to automobiles one way or the other (the average sale of consumer products is far less than a car), and (d) the industry is highly consolidated among a relatively small number of massive companies that are quite well-prepared for litigation and regulatory issues (consumer products is not a consolidated market). General Motors went public today, completing its recovery from bankruptcy and its $60 billion bailout. I think GM and other automakers can handle the burden and risk of a database of deaths and serious injuries from use of their products. Learning Resources, on the other hand, ain’t no GM or Toyota. The NHTSA database sets an inappropriate example for consumer products for all of the foregoing reasons.
Providing further cover is the Rogue’s Gallery of leftist consumer advocates who spin yarns to support the decisions of the Dem Commissioners. Many of their assertions are bald-faced lies.
Example No. 1: “‘Right now, people can’t easily find out about products that they may buy or that they use every day with their family,’ said Rachel Weintraub, director of product safety for the Consumer Federation of America. ‘This database will provide consumers with credible, accurate information.’”
This is two lies by Rachel Weintraub. First lie – consumers “can’t easily find out about products”. Really? I recently wrote about consumer comments on Amazon for a product that was recalled – is that so hard to find? What about ConsumerSearch.com? ePinions.com? Consumer Reports Forums? All the large volume online retailers allow consumer to post reviews. I think it’s certainly true that consumer exchange of information online is both plentiful and easy to find. I also think it’s also a matter of opinion whether the federal government should a role to play here in this exercise of free speech – particularly if in the process, the government tramples on Constitutionally-guaranteed rights of due process of other members of our community.
Second lie (more glaring): “This database will provide consumers with credible, accurate information.” This is a doozie. From Section 1102.42 of the proposed rule: “The Commission does not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the contents of the Consumer Product Safety Information Database, particularly with respect to the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of information submitted by persons outside of the CPSC. The Consumer Product Safety Information Database will contain a notice to this effect that will be prominently and conspicuously displayed on the Database and on any documents that are printed from the Database.” [Emphasis added] On the other hand, perhaps Rachel is on to something – by publishing unverified and untrustworthy data on a government-run database, it will certainly LOOK credible and accurate! Practically the same thing these days . . . .
I would observe that while this disclaimer is going to be widely posted on the database, the name of the site is SaferProducts.org. What does this name imply to you? I take away that (1) I should be scared of dangerous products, (2) this website is where I can find out the “truth”, and (3) thank heavens for my government for making me safer (let’s increase the CPSC budget!). Ahem – I thought the CPSC does not guarantee the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information in the database so why is the website called “SaferProducts”? Should I feel “safer”? Was I supposed to feel endangered before? That’s the idea, kids.
But if Rachel says the postings are credible and accurate, there’s nothing to worry about, right? Provides some nice cover for our leaders . . . .
Example No. 2: Says Ami Gadhia of Consumers Union: “Commission staffers have worked very hard to ensure that the database is fair to everyone.”
Someone please define “worked very hard” and “ensure” for me. Please watch my testimony again and tell me what protections CPSC staffers designed for ME.
I interpret Ms. Gadhia’s lie as connoting that “fair” to her views is tantamount to “fair to everyone”. My interests don’t matter. Besides, Rachel is sure everything will be credible and accurate. That sounds fair . . . even if it’s completely untrue.
Example No. 3: Says Rachel Weintraub: “Every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate. . . . Otherwise, the database won’t be useful to anyone.”
Every effort, huh? Manufacturers don’t get to talk to the person who files the report or to the victim or see photos or samples submitted. Only our government can be trusted with that information for reasons not clear to me. The carefully “vetted” reports must be sent out within five days to manufacturers. We live in a country with 300 million people. Are you telling me that the agency is going to carefully “vet” the reports we inundate them with in just five days? Perhaps they need hire a few hundred more highly-trained associates to push this paper.
You are more than welcome to read the proposed final rule to learn about the agency’s proposed procedure to “ensure that the information is accurate”. Read Section 1102.10 (page 227 in this 248-page document). But I think I can save you some time. The filer has to confirm that he’s not lying (“A submitter of a report of harm must affirmatively verify that he or she has reviewed the report of harm, and that the information contained therein is true and accurate to the best of the submitter’s knowledge, information, and belief”). That’s certainly foolproof. Among the various required redactions and other agency “oversight” of this data, you will NOT find anything like an investigation. They are simply scrubbing and re-publishing someone else’s allegations. Under their procedures, they cannot possibly know if what they are publishing is true or false.
No wonder they disclaim accuracy, completeness or accuracy.
Example No. 4: Christine Hines of Public Citizen (from BNA): “She added that several hearings, workshops, and comment opportunities have provided the public and industry every opportunity to address concerns. ‘Industry has participated fully in the entire process.’”
We, the regulated community, have had “every opportunity” to “address” our concerns. This apparently constitutes participating “fully in the entire process”. This is much more than spin, this is another flat-out lie. You cannot assert that we have participated fully if we have been utterly ignored. The hearings were not for VENTING. As previously noted, Matt Howsare asked me to spend our company’s money to fly to Washington to testify on this database – and then blew off every point I made. Small business concerns were almost explicitly disregarded. We cannot be said to have had “every opportunity” to address our concerns if the impact on small business could be sloughed off. Was Nancy Nord afforded “every opportunity” when she was gaveled silent in the hearing on the database?
This one isn’t a lie: [from BNA:] “[Weintraub] said the CFA, like Public Citizen, supports the current version. ‘We think [the database rule] strikes the right balance between Congress’s intent and making the database usable while protecting manufacturers’ interests,’ Weintraub told BNA. The substitute rule would ‘limit the utility of the database for other consumers and public health professionals in terms of unnecessarily limiting who can report,’ as well as including other limiting provisions, she said.”
Why isn’t that a lie, too? Because she states that it is her opinion. She’s wrong – but at least she’s not lying this time.
The poison in the CPSIA is actually the handiwork of a small and energetic group of individuals, many of whom are featured here. They hide behind consumer-friendly sounding corganization names but are actually just troglodyte anti-business advocates. They are no less cartoonish than the way they portray us, but with the Dems running the CPSC, the “good intentions” of this group and the persuasive power of their phobias have the upper hand.
As all the consumer advocates say, the outcome here is hardly in doubt. But feel good about it – you have had “every opportunity” to address your concerns and have “participated fully” in the entire process.
Empty words and lies. That’s what this mess has become.
Read more here:
CPSIA – On the Database, the Dems Side with the Liars
November 15, 2010 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
The CPSC Commission will be voting on a final rule governing the new public database for product safety complaints on Wednesday. The final rule tips the scales at 248 pages.
I know I am a public utility. . . but it’s confession time – I didn’t read it. I know what’s in there and the Powers-That-Be don’t care what I think anyhow.
Commissioners Nord and Northup have published their own alternate rule. It must be worse than the CPSC’s proposed final rule because it’s much shorter, only 27 pages long. I read the Nord/Northup rule – they asked for comments and I believe they will actually listen. It won’t matter because the Commission now votes on party lines, so our comments are irrelevant. The Dems already know what they intend to do. Adler, Tenenbaum and the out-of-office Moore vote as a pack and do as they collectively please. Perhaps this time they won’t even bother to make a pretense of listening to Nord or Northup. I picture the meeting going quickly as the Dems all put on their iPods and ear buds while Nord and Northup have their say. Might as well bop to iTunes, Commissioner communication is at a standstill anyhow.
Relax and enjoy it, kids! You’ll love it. What could possibly go wrong???
Before I tell you all the reasons why I detest the public database, I want to give you my comments on the Nord/Northup draft:
- I greatly appreciate the effort and the gesture. They didn’t have to do this, and made a game effort to help out. Their rule has as much of a future as the 2010 Cubs but nonetheless, I admire their commitment to their job responsibilities and to the market the CPSC regulates. Nord and Northup recognize the many risks implicit in the database idea and attempt to fix as much as they can within the context of the deeply-flawed CPSIA, the law of the land. Thank you for trying.
- The proposal commendably attempts to limit who can post in the database by narrowly interpreting the CPSIA. This is an appropriate regulatory agency response to an excessive law, something a well-run federal agency would do to keep the trains moving on time. Naturally, the agency has not opted for that courageous route over the past two years.
- Much of the proposed rule involves what can be disclosed, how to protest inaccurate information and the disclosure of confidential information. It is highly technical – your eyes will glaze over. It’s all necessary to make the best of a bad situation.
The basic concept of the database is that the government must set up coercive rules to make “bad” companies do the right thing. Apparently, the geniuses behind the database assumed that we cartoonish corporate bad guys would never exercise good judgment without the pressure of the public database. Many steps backward resulted. For instance, the Nord/Northup proposal says that manufacturers will not be provided the name or contact information of the submitter of the complaint or the injured party. We also won’t receive photographs of the injury. And this is for what purpose? Apparently by withholding this information, the CPSC enhances the ability of manufacturers to do their job. I believe this is a reversal of current practice.
There are many consumer “advocates” out there who are telling misleading stories about the database. A good example is “Wallet Pop” who provided an update on the database on November 12th. Here’s how he portrays the situation:
a. “Trying to keep your family safe from dangerous products is extraordinarily challenging.”
RW – Is that really true? What is the evidence that we are all “in danger”? This is not an exaggeration – this is a LIE.
b. “As much energy as the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission spends trying to alert consumers to hazardous products, an alarming amount of the information it possesses is kept secret.”
RW – Enforcement investigations and enforcements themselves are very closely associated with litigation. Confidentiality is absolutely ESSENTIAL for any semblance of due process, a Constitutionally-guaranteed right, even for corporations. The Rule of Law protects us all, even if we must tolerate some sacrifices, such as the sanctity of confidential investigations.
That DARNED Constitution, so inconvenient.
c. “Releasing all this information is a frightening and annoying prospect to many companies, who fear tarnished reputations.”
RW – There’s a lot more to fear in the database than just tarnished reputations. Let’s not overlook that the Internet exists. We manufacturers live in a world where the consumer is KING – our reputations are on the line every day already. There are already many websites ready and willing to let you bash away at us, as long as you let them sell ads. So it MUST be something more than “tarnished reputations” that is causing all that fear. Could it be . . . heightened litigation and liability risk???
d. “Nancy Nord and Anne Northup want further restrictions on such things as whose reports can be included in the database (no lawyers acting on a victim’s behalf, thank you) . . . . Traditionally, Nord and Northup are on the losing side of 3-2 votes, but they’re not going down quietly.”
RW – Safety is now PARTISAN at the CPSC. In other words, in their spin machine, Democrats CARE deeply about kids and Republicans are heartless money-grubbers. These days the caring Dems run the show and money-grubbers are always outvoted.
I know you like a good story at bedtime! Bad Republicans, good Democrats. Sweet dreams.
e. “Companies will still make huge profits after this database is made public. Is it wrong for a handful of large and powerful corporations to perhaps take complaints a bit more seriously when they come in instead of choosing to dismiss them until hundreds are hurt or innocent children lose their lives?” [Emphasis added]
RW – The CLASSIC mischaracterization of our market that it’s all about big companies. This guy has Mattel and Graco on the mind. The irony is that the mass market companies could care less. The ones who will be CRUSHED are the small businesses. Let’s not forget that Mattel gets to test its own products – and when it LATER had a recall of 11 million units of its merchandise, no one asked any questions about testing. The rules are hardly even a blip to those guys. The cost to Mattel from that massive recall: ONE PENNY PER SHARE. The database is just anothe sidelight to those guys. The story is rather different for small businesses, however.
Not that the CPSC cares . . . .
So why do I hate the database?
1. There is a big difference between restaurant reviews and “United Breaks Guitars”, and product liability. The database is all about litigation and liability risk. Reputational reviews are about goodwill, but the database has to do with systemic risk for our businesses. It is a pro-plaintiff distortion in an already out-of-control tort system. Fundamentally, reputation is about consumer as king. Liability is about bloodsucking lawyers as king. This database is not designed to inform consumers well – the information is not certified. So why have a garbage in-garbage out database. It’s intended to foster more vexatious litigation. Read the WalletPop article again – it’s clear that the database is intended to be coercive. How do you suppose it will be coercive?
2. The government has no business lending a hand to tort lawyers. The tort system which provides the “little guy” with a way to seek redress functions just fine. The New York Times just published a study on hedge fund investing in tort lawsuits. Must be quite the cash cow if those guys are getting into it. The database gives them a new target – you. Why is it appropriate for the CPSC to oversee the disbursement of this information?
Do you think this will raise our standard of living? Create jobs? Increase capital available for investment?
It is worth noting that the database will create an expansion of the role of government in our markets. This is classic government bureaucratic creep where the government attempts to compete with the open market. Yes, there is that Internet thing. All those new tedious jobs, those eyes-glaze-over procedures must be administered by freshly-minted bureaucrats. The database must be built and maintained on government servers. Decisions will need to be made, filings and “transmittals” processed, deadlines watched, complaints followed up. This is PURE overhead. [And there is also the even larger devotion of resources that will need to be deployed by manufacturers.] Read the rules and ask yourself – will the world be better with all the new rules? With this expansion of our government? Isn’t this what you read about in the papers every day?
I am so, so sick of it. When will it end?
3. There is no economic justification for the excessive risk that the government is forcing on the market. The children’s market has not been killing or maiming kids in large numbers. Let’s not forget that we are a country of 300 million and it is not a utopia – some injuries will happen. [My apologies, I don't mean to burst your bubble.] Far more kids are killed or maimed in swimming pools than in any other children’s product activity. Apparently those kinds of deaths and injuries are not as troubling as other kinds of childhood deaths and injuries – there is no database on swimming pools.
4. The database is definitely subject to manipulation by competitors and other agents of corporate extortion and destruction (like bloodsucking lawyers). That is, under the proposal that Tenenbaum and Co. will pass when they take off their ear buds on Wednesday. For myself, I am particularly apprehensive about the stress that the database will place on our company. We will get notice in five days and have ten days to reply. Since the agency is going to launch a publicity campaign to convince the public to report every nit in the database, I expect MANY such postings. Now every broken toy will be a potential liability for our company, and trivial incidents will become our top priority. Forget about growing out business – it’s catering to the exigencies of the database that will matter. Still, I cannot imagine making the database the centerpiece of my business life. I also don’t know how we are supposed to answer a lawyer who asks how we monitor this database if we ignore it. Damned if you do and damned if don’t.
Not that the CPSC cares.
I can hear the advocates now – “This is what we want companies to do. They need to be ‘responsible’ and pay attention to their products and their customers.” Well, that presumes that we weren’t doing that already. In any event, we choose what we do every day. If you make us miserable enough, we’ll get out of this market fast. And that’s what the CPSC seems committed to do.
I think the database will quickly supplant the old way of finding out that there was a problem with our products – namely that our customers would call or write us. So they will place this information anonymously in a database and we will not be able to interview them or see their product. This puts us more in the dark and makes our job much harder. Or impossible. Brave new world . . . .
The whole subject depresses me. Be prepared for more fireworks and then the expected outcome on Wednesday. Our opinions will not sway the Majority (remember, Adler told us that anecdotes aren’t evidence, so they are free to ignore us and our amusing anecdotes).
And after this ugly business is concluded, you know what’s next . . . the 15 Month Rule. Then we’re goners, once and for all. Eric Cantor, where are you???
Read more here:
CPSIA – Last Ditch and Pointless Comments on Public Database
September 30, 2010 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
778 days have passed since ANY Democrat in Congress did ANYTHING to help us on the CPSIA. There are only 32 days left until Election Day.
In a remarkable demonstration of the anti-business bias of the current CPSC, Chairman Inez Tenenbaum took to the air today to bash toys and to take our old friend Mattel to task for four recalls of more than eleven million units.
Uh-oh, Mattel’s at it again. Hope this doesn’t mean it’s time for another CPSIA. It is Election time, after all.
The CPSC Commission hosed us on Wednesday with its decision on the definition of “Children’s Products”. [Here is the approved definition (link to follow).] I will write about this in the next few days. In typical Tenenbaum fashion, rather than face intense and negative media attention on the bungled decision in which the agency knowingly effectively banned hands-on science education in the United States (see The New York Times and Associated Press on this issue), announced several high profile recalls and a scary “warning” about popular but apparently deadly infant products to distract the media and possibly you, too.
The four recalls and the warning are each prominently displayed on the CPSC website. Each was announced by press release so as to garner maximum attention. The new definition of “Children’s Products” was not announced, although there are two Commissioner’s Statements currently up on the website (Adler and Nord; Northup’s is done but the link isn’t up yet – here is her blog on the topic). The draft of the new rule is nowhere to be found on the CPSC website. There was no press release for the decision and no reference to the decision on the website other than the buried statements of the two (warring) Commissioners. Hmmm.
Probably just a little oversight, right Scott??? More on this later.
The five matters released to distract you were:
a. A warning to stop using Infant positioners in cribs. Twelve babies died in 13 years.
b. Fisher-Price recall of 2.925 million inflatables for choking hazard. Sold over NINE YEARS, 14 small parts found in kids’ mouths, three kids were “beginning to choke”, no injuries.
c. Fisher-Price recall of 1.075 million high chairs for laceration risk. Sold over NINE YEARS, seven injuries requiring stitches and one “tooth injury”.
d. Fisher-Price recall of 120,000 “Wheelies” for choking hazard. Each set includes four cars, so the universe of affected “Wheelies” is actually 480,000. Two broken toys discovered among the half million out in the marketplace (wheels fell off). No injuries.
e. Fisher-Price recall of 7.15 million Children’s Tricycles for risk of “serious injury”. Sold over FOURTEEN YEARS, ten injuries with six requiring medical attention (cuts).
Interestingly, when these recalls were brought to my attention this morning, the CPSC website simply listed the four Fisher-Price recalls as it normally does for recalls. However, by midday the marketing of the “crisis” had begun with a screaming headline in large print on the home page reading “Fisher-Price Recalls More than 10 Million Products“. No doubt the presentation was changed as a public service (these products are sooooo dangerous) . . . . The link under the headline leads to a blogpost about the four “grisly” recalls noting the following “information”:
“Fisher-Price did the right thing in agreeing to provide consumers with free remedies for these products. But all companies must do better. They must give more attention to building safety into their products. They must work to ensure that they are adhering to safety standards. And if any company finds itself with a defective product or one that is causing injuries, it must report the problem to CPSC immediately. Meanwhile, as moms, dads and caregivers, you, too, have a role. We thank the dozens of you who reported these incidents. Thanks to you, CPSC was able to investigate, work with Fisher-Price on a remedy and recall these products. If a toy breaks in your child’s hands or if your child suffers an injury from a product, tell us so that we can investigate. And if you own one of these recalled products, stop using it and contact Fisher-Price for free repair kits and replacement products.” [Emphasis added]
Is this about Fisher-Price (Mattel) or about you and me? Did we do something wrong? Apparently we must have. We were spanked in this blogpost. Was it a “teachable moment” for you? Was it as good for you as it was for me?
There is so much more to say about this:
1. I find it shocking that the CPSC would so shamelessly try to cover its tracks on the approval of the final “Children’s Product” definition. It’s not only an embarrassment to the agency, but it’s an insult to your intelligence. How this reflects the agency’s view of the media, I will leave it to you to divine. It ain’t a compliment.
2. Inez Tenenbaum went on TV today to stoke fear of toys. She did this on what is essentially the kick-off day for the Xmas toy season, September 30. Yes, our government sent its top official on national TV to scare the crap out of consumers and to warn them not to trust the companies making toys right as they were going out to the store to buy Xmas presents. This is a Barack Obama stimulus plan in action! Thanks for ALL the help, guys. Doin’ the Lord’s work every day . . . .
Here are a few quotes from Tenenbaum’s ABC News interview:
ABC: “It’s a major recall involving four different products.”
ABC: [Re High Chairs] “The problem with the high chair, I understand, is these pegs. What’s the problem there?”
Tenenbaum: “There pegs stick out and children have fallen on these pegs. Several have been injured and seven have required stitches.”
[Tenenbaum smirks as she neglects to advise that the seven injuries requiring stitches took place over NINE YEARS and were all minor injuries.]
ABC: [Re Trikes] “The hazard is a fake key that protrudes from the bike frame.”
Tenenbaum: “These tricycles have this key which sticks up and little girls have jumped on this key and have had serious cuts.”
ABC: “Serious injuries.”
Tenenbaum: “Serious injuries.”
[Another minor omission - Tenenbaum neglects to mention that the six injuries requiring medical attention affected six children among more than seven million users, took place over 14 years and involved toddlers that were supposed to be under parental supervision. Do you think she was helpful enough to the ambitious reporter who wanted a scary story? At least she took the hint and characterized the injuries as "serious injuries".]
. . . .
ABC: “There’s a message in this for all manufacturers.”
Tenenbaum: “Manufacturers need to build safety into the product from the very beginning so that we don’t have to recall on the back end.” [Emphasis added]
[This is my Xmas gift from Tenenbaum. Mattel is the cause of this, and it's Mattel that screwed up if ANYONE screwed up. Still, Ms. Tenenbaum can't miss the opportunity to use TV to tell MY customers to not trust ME. Thanks so much. And this Administration is MYSTIFIED about why we can't get our job market going again. I'm stumped, too. . . .]
ABC: “In a statement this morning, Fisher-Price said it wanted to reassure parents that its products are ‘overwhelmingly safe’. But if you have any of THESE products, you SHOULD call the company. They will offer a fix for some of them . . . others will be replaced outright.” [Emphasis added]
[Lest anyone mistake this for yet another idiotic and reactive series of recalls, ABC tries to portray Mattel as untrustworthy with the quote about the overwhelming safety of the 11 million recalled toys . . . then tells you to get them out of your house pronto.]
3. The Wall Street Journal was able to put a happy face on this sorry episode. Mattel’s 2010 earnings will only shrink by a penny a share because of the massive recalls. Anyone want to organize a telethon to help out a buddy in distress? How will Mattel make up that penny? Oh, the horror of it. . . .
4. I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you that Mattel has succeeded in certifying about ten of its corporate labs to test its products. I call on the CPSC to release the Mattel test reports behind these recalled items. I can’t wait to see the first recall of a Mattel item tested in a CPSC-certified Mattel lab. You’ll never know about it, because the CPSC and Mattel will move heaven and earth to keep you from finding out.
5. The recall of the Mattel “Wheelies” will be known as the original “broken toy standard” recall. Please consider the ominous nature of this development. The Mattel toy cars were reported by eager and enthusiastic consumers because they found a broken toy. The CPSC is calling for this kind of “help” so you can expect a LOT more of this in the future. To be precise, two broken toys were found in this case. No one was hurt. No allegation has been made public that any child was even possibly in danger. No disclosure was made about how the toys broke.
The CPSC apparently intervened to “investigate”. These investigations often begin with a warning to the manufactuerer – you can participate in the CPSC’s Fast Track Voluntary Recall program and avoid a formal investigation and possible penalty, or you can take your chances on what determination we will make months or years later. This kind “offer” is generally a short-lived one, possibly allowing only a few hours to decide. [This dirty secret is certainly true - ask around . . . or wait for the call.] The facts may be just like this one – a broken toy has been discovered (horrors), do you want to recall (today)? Mattel decided to recall in the case of the “Wheelies”, based on two broken toys and perhaps on a conversation with the kind folks at the CPSC.
Do you get this one? If a consumer reports a single broken toy to the CPSC, the agency may investigate you and you may be forced to recall the item immediately. No injuries are required, just the POSSIBILITY of injury. Do you see ANY problems with that standard? Do you think the possibility of injury is the same as the certainty of injury??? Are your products indestructible? Is this a standard for recalls you are prepared to meet? And how do you plan to blunt this regulatory attack?
Having fun yet?
You heard it here first. The “broken toy” standard – that’s the rule now. I’m not kidding.
For those of us idiots who persist in making children’s products, these recalls are chilling, particularly in light of the decision on “Children’s Products”. The CPSC is busily engaged in shrinking our market through scare tactics and reactive regulation of the markets. They are also building barriers to entry that protect mass market companies and ensure the demise of small business. How many of you can withstand the cost, damage and disruption of a 11 million piece recall? None of you. This will cost Mattel ONE PENNY. Aw, poor Mattel. Who will be left to compete with them? Hasbro. And you? You’re screwed. The CPSC doesn’t even bother with lip service on this one anymore.
The new definition of what constitutes a ” substantial product hazard” under the CPSA is now . . . everything. Anything that might possibly cause injuries is implicitly an “imminent threat” and must be recalled. There is no defense to the possibility of injury. Heaven forbid that there may have been injuries of any kind. Then you are dead. You’ll find out your penalties in a few years but right now, the recalls must proceed. Doesn’t matter what percentage of the items cause injury. Doesn’t matter how many years it took to accumulate the injuries. Doesn’t matter if the consumer was at fault or if there was dereliction of duty on the part of adults. The company is always at fault.
We are aiming for a Utopian society now, guys. Do you doubt this? Read this article carefully from the top a second time. The message is clear: Manufacturers, get out of Dodge, unless you are Mattel.
RECALL THE CPSC! This madness will kill us all. This is all about a mania and political leadership hired to foment this change in approach. There is little reason to believe these people will change – it’s time to start over.
Read more here:
CPSIA – Recall the CPSC
May 18, 2010 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
As sent today:
It has now been almost two months since I submitted the below request for information under the Freedom of Information Act. Your office acknowledged receipt of this request on April 1 and stated the following:
“Due to certain procedural steps we are required to take under our statute, there may be delays in providing the records. Please be assured that every effort is being made to process each request as equitably as possible, and that the records or information that you have requested will be made available to you at the earliest possible date.”
My request relates to pending legislation currently under consideration in the U.S. House of Representatives. As such, the request is both relevant to the development of this legislation and rather time-sensitive. The public has a right to know about these documents. Disclosure of these documents is in the public’s interest – transparency in how we are governed is a paramount interest of U.S. citizens. The disclosure of these documents are very relevant to the development of the Consumer Product Safety Enhancement Act, the subject of a recent hearing by a subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. I testified at that hearing.
Notwithstanding the assertion in the April 1 letter above, the requested documents have not been disclosed yet. This is especially disappointing as the documents involved in this request are few, easily-located and in the possession of very few, easily-identified people at the CPSC. The effort to gather, review, redact (if necessary, which seems unlikely), duplicate and transmit these documents is almost certainly inconsequential. I find the delay inexplicable and inexcusable under your statute.
I urge you to rapidly comply with this request for disclosure. As I noted in my original request, your agency’s rules demand it – “disclosure is the rule and withholding is the exception.”
Thank you for your prompt consideration of this matter.
Learning Resources, Inc.
From: Rick Woldenberg
Sent: Tue 3/23/2010 3:44 PM
Subject: Fast Track FOIA Request Relating to Draft House Legislation Know as “Consumer Product Safety Enhancement Act of 2010”
I am making this document request pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act and 16 CFR §1015. I would like to receive copies of all documents (written or electronic, including notes and staff briefing packages) relating to (a) interactions between Chairman Inez Tenenbaum and/or Commissioner Robert Adler and/or their staff and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce (and/or staff associated with that committee or its members) relating to the Consumer Product Safety Enhancement Act (CPSEA), and (b) any CPSC legal analyses or legal opinions relating to the CPSEA. Since the CPSEA is presently being circulated in draft form on Capitol Hill and since the committee’s staff is seeking feedback from various stakeholders at this time, time is of the essence for this information request. Please accord this request “fast track” status.
In making this request, I note the following statement in 16 CFR §1015(b): “The Commission’s policy with respect to requests for records is that disclosure is the rule and withholding is the exception. All records not exempt from disclosure will be made available. Moreover, records which may be exempted from disclosure will be made available as a matter of discretion when disclosure is not prohibited by law or is not against the public interest.”
My contact information is found below. Thank you for your cooperation.
Learning Resources, Inc.
Read more here:
CPSIA – Freedom of Information Act Request – Follow-up
April 8, 2010 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
The American Enterprise Institute’s Center of Regulatory Studies invited me to participate in a panel discussion in Washington, D.C. on April 19th about the CPSIA. At least, I thought they did. . . . The purpose of this meeting was to debate the following statement: “Many argue this new law [the CPSIA] has unintended consequences and in some instances has done more harm than good. AEI will host a panel discussion of the impact of the law and needed changes.”
For the panelists, all grizzled veterans of the CPSIA war, this is old hat. We could debate this in our sleep.
The composition of the AEI panel was in flux. At some point, the panel became packed with advocates for the law, so to achieve better balance, the AEI reconstituted the panel with two “pro” and two “con” speakers. The other panelists were to be CPSC Commissioner and former Acting Chairman Nancy Nord, Commissioner Bob Adler and Rachel Weintraub of Consumer Federation of America. I was the last addition. [I was penciled in as a "con" panelist, in case you haven't caught my drift yet.]
And when the Dems found out that I was to be the final panelist, well . . . first Bob Adler bailed out. And ten minutes later Rachel Weintraub withdrew. Ouch.
AEI was forced to cancel the event. And, believe me, I was ready to take on Nancy Nord, too!
Isn’t that great? What do you suppose would make CPSIA advocates pull out of an unstaged open debate on the merits of their favorite law? The panel discussion was to be filmed, btw, and would have been available for any and all to watch, again and again. Get it yet? Do you think anyone in favor of the CPSIA wants to defend the exemption decision on brass or the rhinestones ban on camera in front of a room full of impartial policy experts? I was ready to stand for that test. The CPSIA’rs were not.
It’s sad that it is apparently impossible to sit in a room and debate this law like civilized adults. The issues under this terrible law deserve discussion but the “have’s” (those that favor the law) seem to consider the matter closed. Under those circumstances, a debate on neutral ground presents lots of downside but no upside for them. After all, they already won the game.
So what does this mean for you? Well, minds certainly seem to be made up, so let’s hope you never need to plead your case. When the CPSIA saga began, I would have told you to trust the process and the agency. But as the meaning of the word “safety” became blurred over time and then lost all meaning, my feelings changed. Today I pine for the old days, when I believed the agency would listen and could be a partner in safety. Unfortunately, I feel they have become an angry police force now. The withdrawal of a Democrat Commissioner and a consumer advocate from the AEI debate after my appointment is just another signal that a true exchange of views is unwelcome.
Dialogue – it’s overrated. Do you think that’s the change we can believe in?
April 5, 2010 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
From tonight’s Wall Street Journal website:
REVIEW & OUTLOOK
APRIL 6, 2010
Waxman’s Lead Poison
A fix of a bad law that is no fix at all.
The word “enhancement” is suspect in any form of advertising, and it turns out the same applies to Congress. In his forthcoming Consumer Product Safety Enhancement Act, House baron Henry Waxman is botching the opportunity to fix a bad law while adding provisions that make life even worse for small businesses.
Since the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act passed in 2008 after a scare over lead in toys from China, Democrats have defended their handiwork while blaming the Consumer Product Safety Commission for the law’s ruthless implementation. The CPSC, under Republicans and Democrats, has correctly replied that it lacks the discretion to judge whether a product really poses a threat of lead poisoning. It also can’t permit exemptions from the law based on risk, even for books or pogo sticks.
Mr. Waxman is insisting that any product applying for an exemption would still be subject to a three-pronged test to determine whether stripping lead from the product is “practicable or technologically feasible,” whether a product might end up in a child’s mouth and whether its exemption would affect public safety. In a response, CPSC Commissioner Nancy Nord explained that since all three tests have to be met for a product to qualify, “the exception is as empty as the exception for no absorption of any lead. Such a provision does not really help anyone.”
Equally problematic is a provision that would require companies to disclose previously confidential information about product concerns. Today, a company may file something called a Section 15 report acknowledging complaints or internal concerns about a product, and the report remains confidential unless there is a recall or similar action. Under the new law, those reports could become public immediately, which would discourage companies from filing them at all, further compromising the transparency Democrats claim to want.
If Mr. Waxman wants to enhance Congress’s original creation, he should start by letting product safety regulators consider whether products are safe.
Read more here:
CPSIA – WSJ’s 7th Editorial Against the CPSIA