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May 16 roundup

by Walter Olson on May 16, 2010

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I’ve got an out of town trip over the next few days, so posting from me is likely to consist of a relatively few scheduled short posts.

There have been several important developments with CPSIA over the past month, to which time has not yet permitted me to do justice. In particular, the CPSC late last month issued guidance on the tracking-label rules that take effect later this week. Its interpretation is more lenient on several issues than most observers were expecting, particularly for craft and small-batch producers, but the rules remain a gigantic headache for thousands of businesses.

Even more recently, the commission offered further guidance on a few other issues, notably its interpretation of what materials will be considered inherently free of lead under normal circumstances. These new rules are being cautiously welcomed as helpful to some in (for example) the apparel trade, but they are unfortunately bad news for friends of many other products, in particular vintage children’s books, which are not going to be considered intrinsically safe. Finally, the commission appears to be giving off some favorable signals on the issue of “component testing” (i.e., avoiding endless and costly re-testing of already-tested product components).

I hope to treat these new developments at more length in future posts. In the mean time, here are some relevant links:

Tracking labels: commission action and policy in PDF, Rick Woldenberg coverage, Kathleen Fasanella/Fashion Incubator, Buggalove, Play Meter (scroll to 7/27), Greco Woodcrafting, Publisher’s Weekly and earlier, Hugh Hewitt.

Intrinsically safe materials: CPSC final rule in PDF format, Rick Woldenberg and more, The Smart Mama.

The fate of vintage books: Deputy Headmistress and more, Rick Woldenberg, and — from back in the spring but not linked then — Assistant Village Idiot, Deputy Headmistress, Carter Wood, and Valerie Jacobsen as well as more.

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On August 14, unless the Consumer Product Safety Commission acts to stay matters, a new set of CPSIA provisions will take effect requiring makers of children’s products to affix to their goods tracking labels intended to facilitate future recalls and other safety-related measures. As with many other aspects of this law, the tracking rules impose a burden that is perhaps bearable for many producers who operate on a large industrial scale; as noted in some detail two weeks ago, however, they are causing much hair-pulling — if not thoughts of retirement or bankruptcy — for many others that produce handmade, customized or small-batch items, or items not well suited in size, material, use or packaging to an individual labeling process. Kathleen Fasanella has a short account at Fashion Incubator explaining some of the steps that will be expected of those producing children’s apparel and sewn products, including makers who might have been turning out a dozen hats or cloth dolls a month at their kitchen tables: paperdollwithnet

…Each batch needs a unique identifying number.

However, if in the course of making the products, you have to break into a separate box of buttons that has a separate batch or lot number itself, even if the product is otherwise identical, this is a separate batch and you need a separate new label for it with its own batch number that you assign. … It is conceivable [if you incorporate variations into the product] every item you produce is its own batch and each needs its own number and label. …

You will need to do “batch control”. You need to create a separate BOM [Bill of Materials] for each batch. You can keep this electronically in a database or spreadsheet. It is my understanding you need to keep these records for three years.

The CPSC has issued no guidance on the tracking label requirements, which means producers can only guess as to exactly what will prove acceptable, with the price of guessing wrong set very high indeed. A hearing by the commission in May aired a sampling of the expectations of disaster from various affected businesses around the country.
paperdollwithsandbucket
Per ShopFloor, “the National Association of Manufacturers and the CPSC Coalition have submitted another request for an emergency, one-year stay of enforcement” of CPSIA’s Section 103, which imposes the requirement; the commission has (after much agonizing) agreed to stay some of the law’s other impractical mandates for periods of a year or two, but a petition to stay the tracking-label rules failed in March when the then-two-member commission split 1-1 on it. Now, however, a third member has joined in the person of newly confirmed Chairman Inez Tenenbaum, whose opinion may prove decisive. Reform voice Rick Woldenberg argues that the CPSC should adopt at least a one-year stay and indeed go further than that so as to avert a “fiasco” that “creates enormous burdens for industry and is in many ways pointless and unjustifiable”.

Or Congress could step in, admit it went too far last year, and set about fixing things. Just kidding! We know it won’t.

Public domain paper doll images courtesy Karen’s Whimsy.

A bill to extend intellectual-property concepts — and litigation based on those concepts — into the world of fashion and design is pending in Congress. Kathleen Fasanella, whose Fashion Incubator site has done much to advance the CPSIA fight, warns the law will be enough to sink many small apparel and fabric firms that can’t afford lawyers to fight big firms’ infringement claims — and that it could spell an end to her own advisory/website business as well. “If CPSIA was an amputation, the Design Piracy Prohibition Act is a beheading.” A view in favor of the legislation: Counterfeit Chic. The Council of Fashion Designers of America, representing many big-name fashion design houses, has pushed for the bill, while “the largest industry group, the venerable American Apparel and Footwear Association” is opposed, predicting it will lead to “an environment of ubiquitous lawsuits between legitimate companies”.

Update: Welcome ArtFire and Etsy readers. And an update with a link to a recent critical analysis of the proposal is here.

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  • At long last a House committee — the one on Small Business — has announced a hearing on CPSIA’s impact on small business, to take place Thursday. (I’m almost hesitant to report this as good news since the last time I did so it took only hours for the event to be called off). The Small Business panel does not have primary legislative authority in the area; that is vested in Rep. Henry Waxman’s Energy and Commerce Committee, whose CPSIA-overseeing subcommittee has chosen instead to hold hearings on that very urgent subject of public concern, college bowl championships. Rick Woldenberg recalls the fingers-in-ears techniques the House has used to shut out unwanted information up to now: first Waxman/Rush staffers prearranged “hearings” that heard nothing, after which they (successfully up to now) maneuvered to make sure critics of the law would not obtain any official Hill forum at which to air their grievances as public outrage built.
  • Hard to steer with no head

  • The Consumer Product Safety Commission has released new guidance (PDF) for thrift shops and other product resellers on compliance with CPSIA and other laws overseen by the agency. According to Ian at Musings at a Catholic Bookstore , the manual lays out policies that differ only slightly from what was known before, often by spelling out what will be made an enforcement priority, since the commission has no power to alter the law’s actual requirements. Thus it seems phthalates in older kids’ playthings, the kind unlikely to be placed in the mouth, are not going to be a high priority in reseller enforcement — which still doesn’t make it legal to resell those items. For many outside readers the biggest surprise seems to have been that the agency views its authority as extending to yard sales. As Ian notes, this isn’t actually news; it’s just that the new manual is spelling it out in a more visible way than it did at some earlier times.
  • “Toy Story 3: Emperor Uncle Sam Puts You Out of Business” [Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), The Hill]
  • In the ongoing series of crises that is CPSIA, the next major crisis is due on or around August 14, as of which date newly made children’s goods must comply with new tracking and labeling requirements (touched on briefly in this space last month). The intent is to make it easier to trace and contain safety problems, enable recalls and so forth. For makers of children’s apparel, Kathleen Fasanella explains the complicated and sometimes expensive implications in posts here, here, and here. And apparel makers have it relatively easy, in part because they are already used to affixing permanent labels to most products, unlike many makers of items such as wooden toys and pencils, straw dolls, ceramic wall plaques, rubber spiders or bouncy balls, glass bead craft items, and so forth. Toy importer Rob Wilson writes, “this one clause will be enough to finish off a good majority of the companies that the other provisions of the law do not kill first. I personally know of many companies that are planning to close by August 15th if this provision is not amended.” The National Association of Manufacturers has requested (PDF) an emergency stay on the tracking and labeling rules; the CPSC has put off consideration of the request. Rick Woldenberg comments here and here. And tomorrow (Tues., May 12) at 1 p.m., the CPSC is holding a meeting, to which any interested member of the public is invited, to discuss the tracking and labeling rules. (Update: CPSC hearing is online as a webcast (h/t Woldenberg). Kathleen Fasanella has more, including links to more than 500 pages of protest letters, PDF, received by the CPSC on the issue).
  • One that fits

  • Cutting across multiple lines: per the Bulletin in Bend, Oregon, a local resident whose son got sick from salmonella (and recovered) appeared with Rep. Henry Waxman at a press conference to promote more effective federal food safety regulations; at the same time, though, “Christoferson said she can sympathize with the harm that poorly written rules can do to businesses” because her own resale store in the city of Bend, Stone Soup, has been harmed by CPSIA.
  • Whimsical Walney, who has written with passion about the CPSIA fight, has announced that she is closing the doors of her children’s business.

Public domain paper doll images courtesy Karen’s Whimsy.

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Many are taking no action to save themselves from the law, but — as Kathleen Fasanella explains — act as if paralyzed by the February “stay” with its illusion of hope.

Last Wednesday’s CPSIA rally at the Capitol drew an overflow crowd of hundreds, with thousands more reportedly watching from around the world via webcast. Many speakers had powerful stories to tell, and cameras from CNN and ABC were on hand to record them; AP mentioned the event in covering the dirtbike-ban story. There is, as you might imagine, no way to upstage a six-year-old motocross champion who declares from the podium, “I promise I won’t eat my dirt bike”.

A few things I learned by attending:

  • Ordinary bikes (not the motorized kind) are clearly out of compliance with the law because of the leaded brass in certain components, and have been given no exemption. I’m still wondering why the CPSC directed the motorbike dealers to tarp over their inventory but did not do the same with the ordinary-bike dealers. Earlier here; much more (PDF) in this CPSC submission by Mayer Brown for the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association.
  • Until I saw their handout leaflet, it hadn’t sunk in that the non-profit and charitable giants in resale, including Goodwill, Salvation Army, Easter Seals, Volunteers of America, and St. Vincent de Paul, have banded together in a Donated Goods Coalition. Good for them, and I hope someone listens.
  • Held up for inspection

  • Even blogging the subject as much as I have, I’ve somehow said almost nothing about CPSIA’s requirements for batch numbering, labeling and tracking of kids’ products, due to hit later this year. It seems these requirements all by themselves will suffice to wipe out small producers in droves even if the crazy testing requirements can somehow be made sane.  A few write-ups touching on the subject: Handmade Toy Alliance (Word document), Kathleen Fasanella/Fashion Incubator, Publisher’s Weekly.
  • The rally happened because of the efforts of grass-roots business people around the country, above all Rick Woldenberg of Learning Resources. (The story of the Oregon delegation could stand for that of many others.) Motorbike people were much in evidence. Also present: people from trade associations from regular businesses not been much heard from in the CPSIA furor of recent months, including makers of shoes and footwear, cribs, and even household cleansers, all of whom turned out to have stories to tell. Who knew there was a whole association specializing in the little items you get when you put in the quarter in the vending machine and turn the crank?
  • Kids’-book author (and valued commenter) Carol Baicker-McKee was there and gave a superb talk, making effective use of a copy of Orwell’s 1984. Otherwise, however, among groups deeply affected by the legislation, the book and library trades were conspicuous by their absence. I wasn’t the only one who noticed this; so did Publisher’s Weekly.
  • I finally got to meet face to face many persons who have been favorably mentioned in these columns over the past three months. I was not surprised to find a whole lot of nice, dedicated people, the sort of people you’d want to be making products for your children to use. You, Reader, would have enjoyed meeting them too.
  • Many members of Congress spoke. All were Republican, and a few were pretty good. For better or worse (maybe some of each) there was a minimum of partisanship, with scant mention of the reports that the Democratic House leadership had ordered members not to attend. Several lawmakers minimized the institutional role in the debacle of Congress (which passed the law last year almost unanimously), instead seeking to throw the blame onto the CPSC’s management, which put them surprisingly close to the position of Henry Waxman himself. One GOP member said it was important to be nice to the Democrats and not alienate them, since they held all the power. Not observing the nicetiesThis may have been good advice, but I was still a little surprised.
  • Amid a great deal of talk about unintended consequences, very little was said about there being actual adversaries out there, who know quite well what the law is doing and support it anyway. If more than a word or two was breathed about the roles of Public Citizen, PIRG, or the various members of Congress who are actively hostile on the issue (and not just “needing to be educated”), I missed it. Which meant (it seemed to me) that some of the good people who’d taken the trouble to come to Washington were going to be surprised and perhaps unprepared when they discovered figures out there like, oh, just to pick randomly, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, whose positions are not so much unreflected-on as deeply hostile (and with mysteriously unsourced numbers too).

Speaking of which, Consumers Union, publisher of Consumers Reports, confirmed once again that it falls into the “hostile” and not merely “unreflective/ uninformed” category with this deplorable hatchet job, which provoked a slew of angry, substantive comments; see also blog posts including those of Carol Baicker-McKee and Sheeshamunga.

More rally coverage: Domestic Diva, Polka Dot Patch.
Public domain image: Yankee Mother Goose (1902), illustrator Ella S. Brison, courtesy ChildrensLibrary.org.

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In some ways the most distinctive costs of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act are the human-scale kind that are hard to measure — the handicrafters’ livelihoods blasted, the families unable to find sturdy winter clothes at the Goodwill, the kids who can’t get their dirtbikes serviced, the threats to vintage children’s books and to small-run items for special-needs kids. poorwidowfrombabylon2But there are also a number of measurable, tangible economic costs that might capture lawmakers’ attention, and which affect larger, more sophisticated actors as well as the small producers, dealers and families that have found it so difficult to make their voice heard in Washington.

  • A survey by the Toy Industries of America says the law has already cost toy businesses more than $2 billion [Playthings, Toy News]. As readers will recall, the minibike/powersports industry projects that the ban on its youth products will cost $1 billion by year’s end. That’s $3 billion right there, representing only two of the many industries hit by the act; it doesn’t include (for example) apparel, resale (two apparel-making groups report $700 million in stranded inventory, costs to Goodwill and Salvation Army may exceed $270 million), books, school and party supplies, sporting goods, furniture, and so forth.
  • The stock price of well-known kids’-apparel retailer Gymboree slid by 40 percent overnight early this month “on news that it took massive inventory write-offs in the most recent quarter and suffered sharp margin declines and sales losses, all as a result of the CPSIA”. At a conference call with investors, Gymboree chairman/CEO Matt McCauley noted that phthalates are found “in many screenprints”, which makes their ban an important issue for apparel. Remember the court’s last-minute ruling that the phthalates ban would have to be retroactive to existing inventory, even though the CPSC had given guidance to manufacturers that only post-Feb. 10 production would be affected? Attorney Aaron Colangelo of the Natural Resources Defense Council, who had litigated that case successfully, was quite dismissive about the difficulties of compliance at the time. Well, according to McCauley, that one decision rendered 1.7 million units of inventory at his chain unsalable. “As many of you know, we operate on a nine to 12-month product cycle,” he told the investors. But of course few on Capitol Hill seem to have thought it amiss for new rules to be imposed within a period of a few months, or, as with the court reversal, a few days.
  • Auction Bytes: “On March 14, 2009, Amazon.com will remove approximately 2,500 products from the Toys and Baby categories in order to comply with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA). The company said it had not received certification of CPSIA compliance from the manufacturers of those products. Amazon will cancel all seller offers against the ASINs, and their detail pages will be removed from the site.” (company’s statement). For readers who are new to the subject, that does not imply that any of the 2,500 items pose any serious risk, nor does it imply that any particular item would fail to pass the new thresholds with flying colors. oldwomantossedup2In many instances it indicates only that the makers have not gotten their ducks in a row to obtain GCCs, possibly because they’re unfamiliar with the process, or can’t afford the tests, or plan to get out of the business soon.
  • Note that as in the Amazon case, the much-publicized stay of CPSC enforcement for a year applying to most newly manufactured goods doesn’t in practice protect small makers from seeing their product lines squeezed out of major channels of commerce if they fail to launch a compliance program (no matter how unlikely it is that their knitted booties or wooden puzzles contain lead). To cover themselves from legal attack, deep-pocket retailers demand GCCs (general certificates of compliance). Last month, apparel-maker mentor Kathleen Fasanella wrote: “Most (okay, all) of the retailers I’ve spoken to, are still requiring GCCs [despite the stay]. Furthermore, they are enforcing the August standard of 300ppm.”
  • Plum Privy has been compiling estimated costs of the law from news reports, with the tally already exceeding $4 billion. Persons in affected lines of work may want to check in at that site to offer additional information or refinements.
  • Understatement of the year? Writing in Apparel mag, lawyers with Mintz Levin call the law “extremely burdensome and bewildering“.

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Metal jewelry is among the relatively few children’s products that presents a risk of lead ingestion to children not approximating zero, so it’s not especially surprising that it is treated with special stringency under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. As CPSC’s guidelines explain, metal children’s jewelry becomes subject to testing and certification requirements on the 20th of this month (its makers do not benefit from the one-year stay) and items with even the tiniest dab of paint are subjected to additional requirements, including a separate testing/certification requirement that is already in effect. Since the law went into effect lead content has been limited to 600 parts per million in both jewelry and paint, and on August 14 the threshold for paint content will drop to 90 per million. Lead in its natural state has in many eras been a popular constituent of jewelry because of the metal’s soft and easily worked consistency. It is also a constituent element of all true crystal and many or most rhinestones — although there is much evidence that it is poses far less hazard to health in those forms because it tends to remain chemically bound into the crystal structure rather than leaching or dissolving out if chewed or ingested.

jewelbox

Given the stringency of its testing requirements and its unfriendliness toward component certification, CPSIA is not surprisingly causing serious economic difficulties in the children’s jewelry business, not excluding makers who have never used materials or components containing lead but must shoulder the extensive cost of testing anyway. HABA, the much-admired German toy company, has already announced the departure of its jewelry line from the U.S. market:

Due to the new CPSIA laws we have made the voluntary financial decision to no longer have the jewelry section in our catalog. The 2009 catalog will not include the jewelry. This does NOT mean that our current jewelry does not meet the ASTM requirements. Our overall jewelry sales are a very small percent of our business and the cost to test these items would outweigh the margins to sell the products.

Rhode Island is the historic center of costume jewelry making in America, and the Providence Business News reported recently on the plight of some of its makers. Keith Barber, partner in Rainbow Sales Inc. in Cranston,

said he has been following this issue for at least five years, since California adopted a strict law banning lead in children’s products. The California law became the model for the federal version, and Barber noted that California included an exclusion for rhinestones and crystals. California, he said, “took the time and did it right.”

Alan R. Green, owner and operator of Argo Products in Johnston, like Barber has thousands of dollars now tied up in unsalable rhinestone items, and believes that plastic substitutions will not be as broadly appealing to customers.

Green says that he could live with going out of business if he were a lousy businessman or as a result of the weak economy. “But to lose my business because of an ill-conceived federal regulation that is completely divorced from reality, that’s really going to hurt,” said Green.

The Fashion Jewelry Trade Association (FJTA), based in North Kingstown, R.I., “represents about 2,500 costume jewelry makers worldwide,” the article says. Its president, Michael Gale,

said his organization several weeks ago submitted a 37-page petition to the CPSC, formally requesting an exclusion for crystal, rhinestone and glass, complete with scientific evidence and a risk-assessment study in what he called a “very elaborate presentation.” … No response has been received yet, Gale said.

In the period leading up to CPSIA’s passage, the most publicized death — even, by some accounts, the only death — of an American child relating to an item regulated by CPSIA was that of 4-year-old Jarnell Brown of Minneapolis, who per the Star-Tribune “died from swallowing a heart-shaped charm made almost entirely of lead” in a charm bracelet that came free with Reebok sneakers bought by his mother; Reebok paid a $1 million fine. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar cited the case in campaigning for some of the law’s most stringent provisions. It can be hard to get a clear account of what happened in the Brown poisoning, and Michael Shaw has tried to track down “numerous inconsistencies in the reporting of this entire tragic business, including the health of the child before this incident, how he obtained the bracelet, and how a child with supposedly no history of ingesting foreign objects did so.” childmermaidAs far as the case for CPSIA goes, it bears repeating that the federal laws already in effect made it punishable for Reebok to distribute the merchandise in question — hence the record-setting fine (as well as other consequences to that company). The main point of CPSIA was to clamp a draconian regulatory regime on products that, unlike the heart charm, weren’t a risk for poisoning anyone. More commentary on the Jarnell Brown case: Deputy Headmistress, scroll also to comments; Kathleen Fasanella, scroll to third example in her response; Valerie Jacobsen in comments at League of Ordinary Gentlemen. On the adequacy of CPSC’s legal authority to address lead in jewelry under previous law, see also Rick Woldenberg/Little Ida.

Children’s jewelry is also produced by many beaders, crafters and other small enterprises for sale at local arts fairs, Etsy, and so forth.* The outcry on CPSIA from small producers, dealers and distributors includes, to pick a sampling, Fairy Tale Jewels, Angie Vinez, Birds and the Beads (“Even if the components have all been certified (such as TierraCast pewter), the CPSIA law still requires that the final product be tested regardless.”), My Aphrodite, Rings and Things, My Charmed Life, and Michon Jewelry.

In the coming days (per the article) CPSIA is expected to be a major topic of discussion at the annual exhibition of another jewelry trade group, the Providence-based (and fine-jewelry-oriented) Manufacturing Jewelers & Suppliers of America (MJSA), which holds its MJSA Expo at New York’s Javits Center from Sunday Mar. 8 through Tuesday, Mar. 10. Certain newspapers that have dismissed concerns about CPSIA’s effect on small businesses as “needless fears” could even send a reporter to that expo if they wanted — it’s only a few blocks’ stroll.

* Lab testing costs are likely to mount into the many thousands of dollars for many kitchen-table and cottage-industry makers, especially if they use many colors of bead or paint and produce multiple or customized styles.

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  • There’s new blogging on the fate of pre-1985 children’s books from book restorer and conservator Javamom, Jane Badger (iBookNet, U.K.), Dillon Hillas, Wellspring Creations, and Small-Leaved Shamrock. Sorry no books todayDeputy Headmistress continues to blog the book angle intensively, as does Valerie Jacobsen (read this post in particular). Note also the comment from Nancy Welliver on her February 11 post: “We are a used curriculum and book seller. We have removed 3,500 books from our website. … until recently publishers did not put printing dates in books, only copyright dates. So a book that is copyrighted 1976 may have been printed in 1988 and therefore legal to sell, So how do we know which are printed before and which after 1985? So we have removed all books for children with copyright date 1985 and before.” There’s also a page at cpsia-central (the Ning group) on books and libraries.
  • The law is also having a major impact on sellers of new children’s books, given that the only newer books presumed safe for legal purposes without testing are completely plain books with no embellishments or non-paper features. Don’t miss the letter at Wellspring Creations from “Jackie”, who identifies herself as the manager of the children’s book section at a Half Price Books store, part of a large chain that sells publisher’s remainders and overstocks as well as used books:

    I have experienced the severity of this issue first-hand. … Initially, it didn’t seem like this would have much of an impact on the kids section, but as I went through my section pulling everything that was potentially harmful, I soon realized that this was going to decimate my section. My display tables were over halfway empty, and there were half-empty or completely empty shelves all throughout the section. … The kids cooking shelf went from being packed full to only having half a dozen books left, all because most of the cookbooks were spiral-bound with metal. …

    The day that I had to get rid of all those books was one of the roughest days I’ve ever had at work. The kids section is my pride and joy, my baby, and I had to not only watch it get torn apart- I had to do it myself. It was heartbreaking.

    The happy ending, if you want to call it that, is that eventually many or most of the new books are likely to return to the shelves after the chain puts them through testing — though it’s more likely to take such a step for a mass-selling branded item piled high on display tables than for a specialty cookbook expected to sell only in the dozens of copies. Go read the whole thing.

  • Community Homestead is a center for developmentally disabled adults in rural Wisconsin that has sold residents’ handcraft toys. Its CPSIA story is here.
  • Dust-ups in comments sections are not my thing, but some people enjoy them, and they keep breaking out on the occasions when someone still attempts an aggressive defense of this bad law. Thus when the Chicago Daily Herald printed a letter from Alexandra Lozanoff of the Illinois Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) yesterday rhapsodizing about the law, numerous commenters jumped in to express rather sharp disagreement. A state legislator in Orangeburg, South Carolina put her name to a piece in the local paper attacking Sen. Jim DeMint for sponsoring CPSIA reform, provoking dozens of comments, most taking issue. The Natural Resources Defense Council, which is invested in defending CPSIA in part because of the law’s phthalates ban, ran an ill-informed piece pretentiously titled “The Artisan Toymaker’s CPSIA Exemption Guide” and was promptly spanked by knowledgeable commenters, a fate that also befell the left-leaning crew at Moms Rising. The lengthy comments section on John Holbo’s thoughtful followup post at Crooked Timber presented the spectacle of one agitated and flailing defender of the law pretty much surrounded by people trying to talk sense into him. Someone adopting the monicker “Civil Justice” wandered into the Etsy forums to push Lawsuit Lobby views and was not met with pleasure by the assembled crafters, an episode which may be related to the one already told about how the misnamed Center for Justice and Democracy, a group with views antipodal to our own, suggested that we all were insensitive to children’s health and then refused to let any letters from critics through moderation, claiming to feel threatened by the letters’ tone (examples of the sorts of letter CJD found too intimidating in tone to run: Mark Riffey, Olivia @ BabyCandyStore). Some other previously linked comments discussions: The Pump Handle (profoundly misguided contributor corrected by Deputy Headmistress, Kathleen Fasanella, etc.), Consumer Reports, Greco Woodcrafting (Public Citizen’s David Arkush vs. the world), and, of course, Justinian Lane.
  • G-O-O-D-B-Y-E B-O-O-K-S

  • Even a casual acquaintance with CPSIA blogging is enough to show that homeschooling parents have taken an extraordinary role in leading the resistance to the law. Bloggers like CalifMom have predicted that the law will have numerous harmful impacts on homeschoolers, and homeschool curriculum suppliers such as Hands and Hearts History Discovery Kits and Hope Chest Legacy have already closed down because of the impracticability of compliance. So it’s unfortunate that the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) seems to have so little clue what’s going on.

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StrongerWhenLinked

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Presumably the Natural Resources Defense Council, which filed the successful lawsuit under CPSIA to make unlawful the sale of large existing inventories of children’s goods, will yank from its online store its own infant offering before next Tuesday. On Twitter, an NRDC person said the group didn’t think its use of the garment as a premium was covered by the law because only manufacturers have to worry about testing, right? (Wrong.) Common Room and Patrick @ Popehat have the story. More: Kathleen Fasanella.

Do as we sue, not as we do, or something like that.

P.S. A totally different legal angle on “onesie”: I hadn’t realized Gerber claims ownership of the word and sends out nastygrams to back up that view.

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Five days until the law’s effective date, and far more to round up than space allows:

  • Hundreds rally in front of Macy’s in New York’s garment district to protest the law [AP/AM New York; pic, and estimate of crowd at 1,000, at Publisher's Weekly] Plans for Feb. 10 day of protest [Fasanella/Fashion Incubator]
  • Several Senators are reported to have joined as sponsors of Sen. DeMint’s reform bill, which his staff says he wants to offer as an amendment to the stimulus bill (more). More welcome news: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) calls for hearings on CPSIA [his office].
  • “Using a bazooka to kill a (lead-free) gnat”: the inimitable Prof. Richard Epstein on the law’s high costs and low benefits [Forbes.com]. “Huge job losses” could result unless Congress goes back to drawing board
    [Quin Hillyer, Washington Examiner, and more at American Spectator] More from Iain Murray at National Review “Corner” [here and here] and much coverage from Carter Wood at NAM “ShopFloor” as well.

  • At Crooked Timber, generally a pro-regulation site, John Holbo looks kindly on CPSIA reform — but a guy from PIRG pops right up to defend the measure. Scroll to comments #25 and #28 for good comments by familiar names, and then to Holbo’s own #30 (“I’m increasingly convinced that this is an unusually horrible law.”)
  • Reps. Rush and Waxman, Sens. Rockefeller and Pryor blame the whole mess not on their own offices’ drafting, but on CPSC Commissioner Nancy Nord, who resisted many of the law’s extreme provisions, and they demand her ouster [Little Ida]. CPSC Commissioner Thomas Moore likes the law just fine as is, which may help explain why Waxman et al. didn’t call for his head [same]. And yet another “we’re calling the shots here, but any failures are your fault” letter from Rush, Waxman et al to CPSC [Fashion Incubator]. NPR Marketplace’s coverage tends, with the law’s advocates, to promote the “inept agency” rather than the “insanely drafted law” narrative;
  • A news account in the WSJ attributes last Friday’s stay to “pressure from manufacturers”, with no mention of grass-roots movement at all. Lame. Meanwhile, CNNMoney quotes safetyists and trade associations, but not small producers, leaving readers clueless about costs. USA Today does a better job at presenting all sides.
  • The ultimate acronym? “Congress Passes Stupid Ill-conceived Act” [Three By Sea]
  • Rick Woldenberg and Heartkeeper Common Room have both been incisively taking on and refuting the assertions of the law’s diehard promoters, namely, the groups like PIRG, Public Citizen and Consumers’ Union; check out both sites and scroll through multiple posts. And Kathleen Fasanella’s Fashion Incubator promises to stay on top of activist and protest developments.

Public domain image, Ruth Mary Hallock: Grandma’s Graphics.

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CPSIA Blog Day #6: Wrap-up

by Walter Olson on January 28, 2009

Links and angles that didn’t fit anywhere else:

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CPSIA links

by Walter Olson on January 26, 2009

Away from my desk for three days, and just catching up with the flow of commentary on the issue:

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CPSIA, continued

by Walter Olson on January 19, 2009

On Friday there was a noteworthy development on CPSIA: Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) and Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) sent a letter to Nancy Nord, chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, endorsing some softenings in the law’s regulatory interpretation, which seems to represent a modest shift (if not an admitted one) from their earlier position. At the same time, Waxman, Rush et al held the line against any demand to revise the law itself, despite the outcry being heard from small producers, retailers and secondhand sellers across the country (more: my recent Forbes piece, some reactions).

threebears

On the same day they sponsored a closed-door briefing for Hill staffers which was billed as correcting supposed misreporting and confusion about the law and its onerousness. Such briefings are common when members’ offices are being hit by a torrent of constituent inquiries and want to know how to respond.

An editor at a large publication has asked me to write something about these new developments, so I’ll be working on that piece over the next day or two. In the mean time, let me recommend as a good place to start two excellent blog posts by Rick Woldenberg of Learning Resources Inc. (first, second).

The first post responds to the apparent new strategy of Waxman and Co. of proposing to exempt a couple of categories of generally safe products (ordinary children’s books, fabric-only garments with no plastic or metal fasteners) in the apparent hope that 1) Congress will look like it’s reasonable and “trying to do something”; 2) a few of the more visible (and politically salient) critics of CPSIA will be placated, at least for the moment. (One might add a third objective, whether consciously formulated or not: running the clock until Feb. 10 in the expectation that many of those protesting will at that point be out of the game — no longer in the kids’ product business — and so in less of a position to cause them political mischief.)
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