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CPSIA – Save "Lost Souls", Vote for the Slanderbase!

The semi-religious mission of the safety zealots was on full display in today’s New York Times. In an article entitled “Deep Divisions as Vote Nears on Product Safety Database“, the Times profiled the controversy of the pending public database final rule approval (due on November 24th in a rubber stamp Commission session), highlighting on the idealist objectives of the database supporters. As per its typical leftist slant, the Times article gives scant credence to the legitimate concerns of manufacturers or the demonstrable consequences of the unrealistic Utopian vision underlying the CPSIA. After all, we manufacturers only care about money, right?

Every drama needs a hero, villain and victim. The public database controversy has all the right elements – manufacturers and Republicans as “villains”, consumer groups and Democrats as “heroes” and consumers as “victims”. Positioned this way, why would anyone ever support manufacturers? Who would want to even listen to the black hats? Hmmm. Good strategy, Naderites!

Consider the illustration used in the article – Michele Witte suffered the unspeakable horror of losing her child in a crib death. She asserts that the database might have saved her child. Perhaps that is true, perhaps it is not. Nothing can salve the wounds she has suffered . . . but that does not make the database a good idea. [I might feel differently about the database if, for instance, it was limited to deaths.]

The implication that the database is necessary to protect consumers is not a well-examined assertion. There is already a lot of data available to consumers. For instance, the CPSC maintains a massive national injury database called NEISS. A search of crib injuries on the NEISS database for 2009 (classes 1543-1545) reveals 572 reports which extrapolates into a national injury estimate (for 2009 ALONE) of 16,537 incidents.

Here are a few representative NEISS entries (the first five in the above sample):


Did you learn a lot from this information? Can you verify that it’s true? Can you see ANY issues with attaching (unverified) product identities to this unverified and uninvestigated data? Are you a plaintiff’s attorney?

What are the zealots saying to justify their support of the database in the face of persistent and rational criticism of its design? Commissioner Bob Adler, former Henry Waxman staffer and longtime board member of Consumers Union, sums it up:

Some folks are worried more about lost sales and not worried enough about lost souls.

So, in other words, Adler condescendingly asserts that people like me are only concerned with MONEY. Instead, he claims that what’s really at stake here are “lost souls”. What is Adler talking about? Here’s what Wikipedia says about “souls”:

A soul, in certain spiritual, philosophical, and psychological traditions, is the incorporeal essence of a person or living thing. Many philosophical and spiritual systems teach that humans are souls; some attribute souls to all living things and even to inanimate objects (such as rivers); this belief is commonly called animism. The soul is often believed to exit the body and live on after a person’s death, and some religions posit that God creates souls.” [Emphasis added]

Mr. Adler’s POV makes the question of having a federal database a moral imperative. Wow, now that’s a heavy decision – souls are at stake! Furthermore, Mr. Adler positions those who support the database as moral people and those who oppose it as immoral money-grubbers who prize financial well-being over the safety of consumers. Ugh. I would hate to be a Republican Commissioner voting against the final public database rule with Mr. Adler’s curse hanging over my head! Ouch.

Catching on to the theme, Ami Gadhia of Consumers Union, chimes in: “It’s a slow death . . . . [The] information never gets out in the public.” [Emphasis added] Death . . . souls . . . database! Do I hear a new slogan???

CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum, ever sensitive to criticism, archly defends the agency’s effort to dialogue with people like me. Please recall that part of their “outreach” was to ask me to spend our company’s money to fly to Washington, D.C. to give testimony on the public database. Matt Howsare, Tenenbaum’s then Counsel and now Chief of Staff, told me that they needed more perspective from manufacturers and kindly asked me to prepare testimony. As previously noted, NOTHING that I said in my testimony was adopted or used in any way apparent to me. The NYT notes:

“The commission chairwoman, Inez Tenenbaum, disputed the idea that manufacturers’ concerns had not been properly considered. She said the agency offered numerous forums for comment and some of those ideas were incorporated into the final proposal. ‘We have been abundantly fair,’ Ms. Tenenbaum said.” [Emphasis added]

Apparently, testimony at a CPSC hearing is meant as an outlet for venting, not for listening. That’s “abundantly fair”, we are assured. Makes you wonder what “unfair” might look like . . . .

[A Senate Commerce Committee CPSC oversight hearing is said to be in the offing for next week. One fantasizes that they may take an interest in this issue, but the Senate is still a Dem stronghold. Don't hold your breath. Expect self-congratulatory positioning by the self-serving and deaf Dems.]

Consumer groups are portraying manufacturers demands for Constitutionally-guaranteed due process and other appropriate procedural safeguards as a grab for “advantage”. In other words, procedural safeguards for manufacturers are not legitimate protectible interests in light of the POSSIBILITY that consumers may glean some useful information among the garbage that will accumulate in the “post-it-and-forget-it” slanderbase being put up by the agency. Again, the NYT provides the bully pulpit for the zealots:

“Consumer advocates suggested the opponents were trying to weaken the database to protect business interests. ‘They have a great deal now, and I think they are trying to maintain the status quo by levying these unfounded arguments,’ said Rachel Weintraub, director of product safety for the Consumer Federation of America.” [Emphasis added]

If ever-disingenuous Rachel Weintraub is saying that we Americans have a “great deal” because we enjoy the protections of the Bill of Rights and other Constitutionally-guaranteed rights protecting groups and individuals against persecution and excessive governmental power, I agree. I agree heartilyand don’t want to lose those essential legal protections that form an important basis for our investments. Please REMEMBER, everyone loses something when ANYONE loses their legitimate legal protections. Btw, Bob Adler is a lawyer and a former Scholar in Ethics and Law at the business school at UNC Chapel Hill . . . .

Mr. Adler plays a little fast and loose with his database concepts. Apparently, it’s okay to put garbage into the database because the government “disclaims” its accuracy:

“Mr. Adler, the Democratic commissioner, said the database was not meant to be a legal forum like a court but more like a catalog of consumer experiences. He noted that a disclaimer on the database said the commission did not guarantee its accuracy. ‘”I put my baby in a diaper and my baby developed a rash.” That goes up. It’s an early warning system to alert other consumers,’ Mr. Adler said.”

Ahem: “But Ms. Nord said the proposal remained far too vague. She cited the recent case of Pampers Dry Max, made by Procter & Gamble, in which thousands of parents asserted that the diapers were causing their babies to get a rash. A commission investigation found no link between the diapers and the rashes. ‘We would have posted all these complaints about them even though they proved to be wrong,’ Ms. Nord said.”

Any idea why the CPSC “must” put up such a controversial database? The zealots know that there is legal risk in hosting a database that may include erroneous information or information that might slander manufacturers or tortiously interfere with commerce. They know this might violate manufacturers’ legal rights and could lead to lawsuits – and don’t want the legal liability or the hassle. How to get the data and avoid the legal problems? Get the government to host the legally-dubious information! Clever – but not necessarily in the interests of consumers or American markets.

Is the CPSC supposed to provide Mr. Adler’s catalog of “consumer experiences”? Is that part of its mission? [Readers of my blog know that] I realize we have a right of Freedom of Speech (check out the Bill of Rights), but is the federal government really supposed to foster that Freedom of Speech? I appreciate that Mr. Adler thinks a consumer “experiences” database is a really good idea (I disagree) but since when do our tax dollars need to be used to provide it? Is that the only option that makes sense? And that goes double for such a dangerous proposal that presents the realistic prospect of discouraging investment and other economic activity.

So many words wasted on people who won’t listen. Expect a “spirited” debate on the database as foreplay followed by the 3-2 partisan screwing that masquerades as safety administration these days. The song plays on . . . .

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CPSIA – Save "Lost Souls", Vote for the Slanderbase!

CPSIA – The Scoop on the CPSC Database

In response to my last blogpost, a little bird contacted me with some thoughts about the public database that consumer advocates and their leftist political allies are cramming down our throats. Apparently, there’s a big gulf between what the Commissioners are saying publicly and what they are saying privately. Take it for what it’s worth.

While you might not agree with the POV purportedly adopted by the Dems below, it certainly portrays them as rational. I think that’s right – they know what they’re doing and are doing it by choice, rather than by coercion. The fact that their actions will be harmful to the regulated community is not lost on them, but we’re just not their priority. THAT’S the real problem here.

Here’s a few tweets for you:

a. While the Dems “support” the database, they are privately acknowledging that it is a colossal waste of time and staff resources. They do NOT believe the database will be full of useful information to anyone. Why should you believe this? According to a reliable little bird on my window sill, the CPSC has not hired even ONE person to process all the information that will be posted in the database. The reason – the leaders don’t care if the data is correct or not. The phrase “post it and forget it” is their agenda.

Did you catch that? POST IT AND FORGET IT.

I believe I recall Rachel Weintraub touting the credibility and accuracy of this data. Hmmm. My so-and-so detector is going off . . . .

b. The driving plan of the Dems is to spend as little as possible on the database. They consider it a diversion of their scarce staff resources. They believe the database will do nothing – or almost nothing – to improve safety so why put money into it?

But they will vote for it – that’s the price of their political patrons – and I guess the impact of this useless database on your business and your willingness to engage in business activities is none of their concern. So they’ll implement it and fill it with garbage. Who cares . . . .

c. The speeches touting the database are intended to please the consumer groups and the political patrons of the Dems running the shop.

d. There is a recognition that allowing the database to swallow up resources at the agency will interfere with the real work of the agency. The Dems actually want to keep people safe so they are going to spend the bare minimum on the database.

The agency doing the bare minimum on the database should be the most frightening thing you have ever read about the database. And it’s true.

You’re not meant to know any of this. This freedom of speech thing is a real pain in the neck for our overlords.

It’s time to get REALLY scared about the database.

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CPSIA – The Scoop on the CPSC Database

CPSIA – Tea Party Comments

I received a provocative comment on my recent blogpost on the Tea Party and quote from it here:

“I’ve come on here less and less because the blog is starting to seem less a good source of information and more like a long, angry political rant. If that’s what you want, more power to you. You’ve certainly earned the right to rant. You have the freedom to write what you want and I have the freedom not to read it. If you’re posting this because you care, well yes, I do think you’re alienating quite a few people, myself included.”

This is a fair comment and probably accurate. The blog is angrier and more focused on elections and politics that before. Frankly, I have known for some time that I increasingly lapse into a rant. Why is that?

Here’s the problem – I can’t provide much information to you anymore because there’s nothing much to report. There is a steady drumbeat of ordinary or trivial details from the agency to pass along but the excesses of this CPSC administration have gone on so long that they now bore most people. On a more macro level, the news spigot shut off because (a) the Dems in Congress stopped listening a long time ago and are doing NOTHING to fix this mess, and (b) the CPSC has demonstrated that they are going on their merry regulatory way no matter what we say or think. Time and partisan appointments are giving Mr. Waxman his tacit victory.

So we are stymied. And what tools do I have left at my disposal? Consider what I have already tried: I have employed representation in Washington for now almost two years. The cost of this exercise comes out of my personal pocket. No need to feel sorry for me, but that’s a fact. I have also testified before Congress, I have testified before the CPSC (several times, at their request), I have written numerous comment letters (none of which were answered), I have appeared in endless articles and on 60 Minutes, I have given speeches, sponsored a rally, and yes, given up thousands of hours of my life to write almost 500 blogposts for you (and the CPSC) to read. I have left no stone unturned.

If you had done all this over a two-year period and produced the scant results I had, what would YOU do, Anonymous? Keep mumbling to yourself? Is that really productive? If the problem is as serious as I say it is, then continuing with a losing strategy seems pretty dumb to me. It was Albert Einstein who reportedly said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. It appears that a change in strategy is needed – if we want to produce a different result.

And blaming the parties responsible is appropriate. My readers know I am being honest and candid here. You know where I stand. The Dems are responsible for this mess. They may have had help creating the law in 2008, even the signature of Mr. Bush to close the deal. Then again, when the carnage became clear, the Dems employed the Nancy Reagan “Just Say No” defense in the face of indisputable evidence of their policy failures. The Dems have been a rock of intransigence and indifference for two years now. The Republicans have not. Again, that’s a fact. And the CPSC is being run by Dem politicians who work consistent with the wishes and desires of the Congressional Dem leadership. I am supposed to overlook this? Possibly not notice, look away? That view, if you hold it, insults my intelligence.

These days I have few choices available to me. I can continue to pursue a clearly ineffective strategy and find my voice increasingly marginalized by its irrelevance, or I can work within the political system (as is my right) and find another route to the desired outcome. I hate the CPSIA and I hate what Congress and the CPSIA have done to the CPSC. I cannot abide by this. So now what? Sucking my thumb is not an option. It’s time to get RID of these people. They made themselves a big part of the problem and deserve what they get. After all, the rules of the games were known in advance, and they knew what they were doing.

It’s my right to take steps politically to fix this situation. I hope I don’t lose you as a reader, Anonymous, but if you have better things to do or better sources of information, I trust you will come here less often. My commitment to our employees, customers, suppliers, consumers and other stakeholders remains unwavering and has to come first. I am loyal to them and won’t be defeated by this year’s version of tyranny.

Onward to November 2 and the defeat of the people responsible for this Greek tragedy!

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CPSIA – Tea Party Comments

CPSIA – FOIA Request Relating to Schylling Penalty Assessment

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 the provisional agreement between Schylling Associates, Inc. and the CPSC [CPSC Docket No. 10-C0004, published 75 FR 30785 (2010-6-2) (“May Agreement”) and any prior agreement between Schylling Associates, Inc. and the CPSC on the same matter. In particular, I am interested in any document which relates to objections to the original agreement between the parties dated January 19, 2010 ( (“January Agreement”) or which relates to the reasons for the increase in the penalty assessed in this case from the $200,000 amount in the January Agreement to the $400,000 in the May Agreement. 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.


Richard Woldenberg
Learning Resources, Inc.

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CPSIA – FOIA Request Relating to Schylling Penalty Assessment

CPSIA – "Bad Optics" or Did Bob Adler Actually Learn His Lesson?

“Bad Optics”.

I was thinking of that phase today as I was pondering the astounding mental gymnastics employed by Chairman Inez Tenenbaum and Commissioner Bob Adler to justify keeping private the Commissioners’ debate over the agency’s recommendations to change the CPSIA until the report is delivered to Congress. Tenenbaum and Adler both asserted yesterday that the private deliberations currently going on were more than sufficient to create the necessary “vigorous debate” all of us Americans hope would occur on a five-person Commission.

You are probably scratching your head. What’s the big deal about the Commissioners sitting in one room and discussing an important issue? Well, there’s a legal problem here: the Government in the Sunshine Act prohibits meetings of more than two Commissioners without announcing the meeting publicly and making it available to the public. [You owe C-SPAN to this law.] Arguably, three Commissioners can’t take a taxi together or gather around the water cooler to resolve issues relating to the Cubs Spring Training line-up without an Internet camera firing away.

Here’s some background on the Sunshine Act:

“The Government in the Sunshine Act was passed by the Congress of the United States in 1976. It required for the first time that all multithreaded federal agencies (meaning those which have units that work independent of each other) hold their meetings regularly in public session. The bill explicitly defined meetings as essentially any gathering, formal or informal, of agency members, stretching so far as to include conference calls.

Many federal agencies, most notably the independent regulatory agencies, are headed by collegial bodies. A clear example of this setup can be found in the five commissioners of the Federal Trade Commission. These agencies make most of their decisions through discussions and voting by the board or commissions members. This law was created so that these meetings would be in the public domain for all of us to review, so that if we wish, we can investigate the procedures and decisions of any multithreaded federal agency.

This bill was conceived and passed in the wake of the Watergate scandal, when American mistrust of government was running very high. The government responded by creating various committees to open the meetings of the government, but without a legal backbone to stand on, these groups were wholly ineffective. After some pressure from the public, the act was passed in order to provide a legal backbone for the opening of meeting records to the public.”

So the Commissioners are not allowed to meet as a group unless you (the general public) are invited. As the above link attests, this means Commissioners may be constrained in what they choose to say – because you are peering in. Mr. Adler noted this issue yesterday and also expressed his frustration that as soon as he says something in a public meeting, “it’s all over the blogosphere”. You know, like in this column. Aside from the fact that the Sunshine Act is MEANT to facilitate precisely that, it also fosters accountability. I believe these same concepts underlie the Freedom of Speech, something we are all dependent on.

Ms. Nord pointed out that the purpose of a five-person Commission is to meet and work as a group. I would note (the obvious) that the debate proposed by Ms. Northup would occur AFTER all the private deliberations, and thus might occur at a very productive time. Whatever, Mr. Adler said he was satisfied with the current process, notwithstanding Ms. Northup’s point that if meetings involved more than two Commissioners or were exposed to the light of day, errors might get corrected.

Errors – that’s an interesting point, isn’t it? Correcting erroneous information, probably a good thing, right? Bad information could lead to bad decisions. . . .

This leads us back to “bad optics”. As you may recall, the Commission held a hearing on November 4th to decide the fate of Learning Curve and its famous brass bushings. Despite conceding that the brass bushings were perfectly safe, Mr. Adler voted against the exemption petition. Along the way (at about 25:00 in the video of the hearing), Mr. Adler launched into an unprompted and rather condescending bashing of Learning Curve, accusing them of “bad optics”. Why did he do this? As I explained in a blogpost on November 5, Mr. Adler had received erroneous information about the company’s sales practices from a member of another Commissioner’s staff. Taking this information as fact, he gratuitously offered the company some coaching on managing appearances in Washington: “If I had to give any advice to [Learning Curve] on ‘optics’, I don’t think it’s such a good idea to come in and say ‘We admit we’re breaking the law, we’d like an exclusion but oh, by the way, we’re going to continue selling this product during the pendency of the proceeding.’ I would urge them at least as a matter of courtesy to withhold sale and distribution during the pendency of this proceeding.” [Emphasis added] Of course, Learning Curve never said any of this.

You can imagine how Learning Curve must have felt about this – they were later to get whacked with a massive penalty for lead-in-paint, and those negotiations must have been going on at that very moment. When I wrote about this on November 4, Learning Curve’s lawyer read my blog and contacted Mr. Adler, who then urgently called me (as I sat down to dinner while on vacation) to ask that I publish his retraction right away. You will find the retraction in the November 5 blogpost above and on the CPSC website.

Presumably this kind of experience leaves scars but now two months later, Mr. Adler appears to have forgotten it all. In early November, he was left exposed and embarrassed by erroneous information passed along in a private meeting. He was not protected by checks-and-balances because the Commissioners are unable to meet in groups and as a result, laid an egg in a very important hearing. To judge by the urgency of his appeal in November (and his remarks in yesterday’s meeting), Mr. Adler does not like to be wrong nor be exposed as wrong. YET he now defends the very system that caused his own demise.

“Bad optics”, indeed. Mr. Adler, what is the message here?

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CPSIA – "Bad Optics" or Did Bob Adler Actually Learn His Lesson?

CPSIA – Waxman To Amend the CPSIA . . . Who Can We Trust?

In a remarkably-timed event, an amendment to the CPSIA was unveiled right on the heels of the two-day CPSC workshop on the “15 Month Rule”. The amendment, expected to be attached shortly to the Defense Appropriations Bill (believed to be S. 1390 National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010), was developed by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Democratic majority (Waxman and his staff) WITHOUT consulting with the Republicans on the Committee. Attaching the amendment to a moving bill in another committee is a procedural way for the Democrats to amend the law without hearings or discussion by the committee that drafted the CPSIA – and thus never lose control of the process. This maneuver is particularly outrageous given that Rep. Joe Barton, the Ranking Republican on the Committee, has a bill pending to amend the CPSIA (H.R. 1815, co-sponsored by 29 Representatives) and also has requested hearings on the CPSIA (which requests were ignored).

The outrages of this new bill extend beyond discourtesies in Congress. Equally remarkable is Waxman’s apparent consultation of the General Counsel of the CPSC on the text of the amendment without informing certain of the Commissioners. This shocker to the Commissioners is quite extraordinary and possibly poisons the well for Inez Tenenbaum’s CPSC Commission. There seems to be big issues of trust here. It is not known how many Commissioners knew of the existence or terms of this amendment, but it is strongly believed that this language was drafted in consultation with and perhaps under the supervision of Ms. Tenenbaum and her staff. It is also known that the Republican Commissioners were entirely in the dark as recently as 3 PM EST today. The apparently schism in the Commission has now broken into the open with the exclusion of Commissioners from this critical collaborative process along strictly party lines. Apparently safety IS a partisan issue.

The amendment tracks the little-publicized admission by Chairman Tenenbaum in response to the written questions of Rep. George Radanovich (R-CA) that a “functional” exception to the CPSIA lead restrictions is needed. [See paragraph 16(b) of the attached document.] This amendment is primarily focused on her request. The subject of a “functional” exception to the law has been discussed behind closed doors by many stakeholders but no common vision of such language emerged. As recently as a few days ago, Congressional staffers were denying that language would be attached to the new appropriations bill. Ah, truth in politics!

The draft language, said to be “final”, can be summarized as follows:

  • Redesigns Section 101(b)(1) by adding a VERY limited “functional” exclusion.
  • The new language now permits a component to be excluded.
  • Gives the Commission the power to exclude WITHOUT a hearing. Evidence no longer needs to be “peer-reviewed”.
  • Preserves the loathed “result in the absorption of any lead into the human body” language in the exclusion provision.
  • Allows exclusion for product, component part or material “by reason of its functional purpose because it is highly impracticable or not technologically feasible to remove or make inaccessible the lead in such product, component part, or material” if “contact by a child with the lead . . . may reasonably be expected to be infrequent” and it is not expected to be mouthed.
  • Each product, component part or material excluded must be labeled to indicate the presence of “accessible lead”.
  • The Commission may by regulation require the reduction of lead in the excluded item or material and/or establish a schedule for full compliance.
  • The new amendment restricts the ability of the Commission to exclude “an entire product” if ANY part of the product does not meet the foregoing requirements. This provision is entitled “NARROWEST POSSIBLE SCOPE OF EXCLUSION”.
  • “Ordinary books” and “ordinary paper-based printed materials” are excluded from the lead restrictions under the CPSIA. This exception seems to include “quick copy” print materials, too. Materials not meeting the strict definitions of these terms are NOT excluded.

This language is not likely to make anyone particularly happy other than publishers and the library people:

The Pro’s:

  1. Waxman acknowledges, finally, that the law produced by a “perfect legislative process” needs some tweaks.
  2. There is no denying now that the CPSC can’t fix all the problems, and Waxman apparently concedes this point.
  3. The Commission can now grant exclusions without a hearing.
  4. Books were inadvertent inclusions in the CPSIA, and libraries were unfair victims. That has been corrected.
  5. An awkward path for fixing ATVs, bikes and perhaps pens now exists. It is also possible that even rhinestones can be addressed, at least in part, under this language.

The Con’s:

  1. The amendment leaves in place the terrible “any lead” language, making exemption requests a (bad) joke.
  2. Exclusions will be hard to get and require a great deal of expense to obtain.
  3. ALL exclusions come with a Proposition 65-like “consumer right to know” label, making the sales of the product highly unlikely. Few products can carry an accessible lead label and still be sold in volume.
  4. The narrowness of the exclusion inherently limits the freedom of the Commission to act according to common sense.
  5. The Commission and the CPSC are still not empowered to assess risk.
  6. Small business issues were completely ignored, as were testing cost, liability and labeling issues.

Some additional observations:

  • The approach of Waxman to fixing this law demonstrates that the CPSIA is now a House Democrats’ law. I will spit every time someone mentions the original 424-1 vote – the illusion of bipartisanship has been snuffed out once and for all. The exclusion of Republican Congressmen and Republican CPSC Commissioners from this process speaks volumes about how Washington intends to administer this law.
  • Ms. Tenenbaum’s technique in obtaining this “relief” makes her look like Mr. Waxman’s bag man. The close alignment of Bob Adler and Ms. Tenenbaum on the Commission puts Mr. Adler into this camp, too. [When this subject comes up, Mr. Adler's prior job on Waxman's staff always has heads nodding.] The quiet development of this language breaks the illusion that talking to the Democrats on the Commission will somehow bring changes independent of Mr. Waxman. This bill makes it look like he maintains staffers on the Commission.
  • The exclusion of books is nice, but smells a bit funny to me. The American Association of Publishers appointed Tom Allen as its CEO in April. Mr. Allen, a Democrat, served under Henry Waxman on the Energy and Commerce Committee and often followed his lead as a Congressman. Small wonder he got this job, right? It wasn’t a real shock then that books were excluded in this amendment. Despite the holier-than-thou rhetoric, it’s “business as usual” in Washington under Obama and Pelosi. A friend in need is a friend indeed.
  • The narrowness of the exclusion process and the requirement of labeling despite the apparent admission that such exclusions pose few health risks strongly suggests that the legislative process is being controlled by zealots who will not yield to reason. The “true believers” who now dominate Washington have a world view that you need to take on board – Californiziation. There is no compromise on these issues, regardless of common sense or hard reality. Given the exposure of the axis between these Congressional leaders and the control block on the Commission, there seems little reason to be especially optimistic of serious advances in implementation of the CPSIA by the agency.
  • The Chairman and Democratic majority on the Commission lack the political will to take on Waxman in an effort to fix the CPSIA. This potentially sacrifices the long term effectiveness of the agency in its stated purpose to protect consumer safety and possibly also the vigor and competitiveness of the American children’s product industry, all to avoid the unpleasantness of a contentious job. Complaints at the CPSC that it should be renamed the “Children’s Product Safety Commission” or the “Consumer Product Compliance Commission” will likely gain traction. The lack of political will to fight the good fight and to stand up for common sense create the conditions for a terrible legacy. Will these Commissioners be able to say they left the agency better off than they found it? An interesting question. Guys, there are no free moves in this game . . . .

I continue to shake my head over the timing of this development. Were I Chairman Tenenbaum, I might have told Mr. Waxman that I didn’t need this kind of help. Consider what may have been lost: (a) the bonhomie and trust built in the last couple days at the workshop as CPSC Staff and all sorts of stakeholders mingled in good faith and with open dialogue, (b) the goodwill generated by the CPSC efforts to protect Cepia LLC and their Zhu Zhu Pets from unfair consumer group attacks, goodwill that now must be reevaluated, and (c) the general appearance of a new cooperative, open-minded wind blowing through the CPSC in the last six weeks. I now have my doubts about the candor of discussions and the legitimacy of stated intentions to “fix” the system. The good intentions and well-meaning of the CPSC Staff is not really in question here – but the leadership must be held accountable. You can’t ask for trust and then expect this kind of thing to be ignored. You are either a partner . . . or you aren’t.

The Stay is now on the table. The CPSC Commission has been meeting behind closed doors with a sense of purpose and urgency to figure out what to do with it. Your letters and emails are being read . . . but the open question is whether enough Commissioners care. The Republicans on the Commission have been open in their support for extending the Stay, but the three Dems are unaccounted for. One is said to feel strongly that the Stay needs to go away, on the grounds that Congress wants it gone. Let’s not make any bones over this – it’s not Congress, it’s Henry Waxman. If it were Congress (in other words, a bipartisan movement supporting the existing CPSIA), then perhaps Mr. Waxman wouldn’t have to sneak around to get a CPSIA amendment through Congress without hearings or discussion. So when you hear that “Congress” wants something with this law, connect the dots.

A very disappointing way to wrap up a promising week.

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CPSIA – Waxman To Amend the CPSIA . . . Who Can We Trust?