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Henry Waxman

“Who Needs Legislation? Dems Want To Extend Tobacco Settlement To E-Cigarettes” [Daniel Fisher, Forbes] “E-cigarettes are bad because they look like cigarettes. E-hookahs are worse because they don’t.” [Jacob Sullum; more from Sullum on the unanimous vote by the Los Angeles city council to ban vaping in public places]

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Henry Waxman to retire

by Walter Olson on February 3, 2014

So long, and thanks for all the nannying,” I write at Cato, recalling my 2011 non-fan-letter to the California lawmaker. His most recent appearance in these columns came for using his official position to try to boss around a newspaper owner. At the Examiner, Tim Carney writes that Waxman’s seeming aloofness from K Street involvements did not suffice to redeem a legislative record replete with “bloated, counterproductive government.. paved with good intentions.”

P.S.: An unsparing political obituary for Waxman from Tony Quinn at Fox and Hounds, the California political blog. “Few members have contributed more to the partisanship, extremism & dysfunction of Congress than Henry Waxman.”

“Buzz off, Waxman”

by Walter Olson on January 10, 2014

“…Congress can’t tell a newspaper how to do business.” [Jack Shafer, Reuters; my 2011 take on Rep. Henry Waxman's fall from his committee chairmanship]

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Could it be that Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) — known for his extensive involvement in pharmaceutical issues over many years as a Congressional nabob, and for his long, close alliance with the plaintiff’s bar — is really unfamiliar with the story of Bendectin, one of the staple horror stories of litigation run amok in the drug field? [Carter Wood, ShopFloor] Background here, here, here, etc., etc. The whole clip, starring Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA), is worth watching: Bilbray wonders aloud whether there are any lawyers he can sue when unfounded lawsuits put needed medical technologies out of reach.

February 5 roundup

by Walter Olson on February 5, 2011

  • Thomas Sowell on EPA dairy-spill regulations [NRO, earlier at Cato here and here] It’s the miracle federal agency: “What doesn’t the EPA do?” [ShopFloor]
  • President’s State of the Union medical malpractice gesture, cont’d [PoL, more, Ted Frank/Examiner, NJLRA, related, earlier here, here, here, here, here, here, here, etc.]
  • Fired minor-league Yankees mascot files wage-hour suit [ESPN]
  • Ohio sheriff prepares criminal complaint against reporter for asking him questions [WHIO via Balko]
  • It all happened so suddenly: Henry Waxman now disapproves of the use of subpoenas for fishing expeditions [Mark Tapscott, Examiner; earlier]
  • Should hospitals ban cameras from childbirth? [NYT "Room for Debate" with contribution from Jim Harper, Cato Institute]
  • Non-”flagrant” trespassing OK? Tort liability shift in Third Restatement [PoL]
  • Nope: “At this time, I would like to formally accuse Walter Olson of having an intern or something.” [Ron Miller]

I’ve got some thoughts up at Cato at Liberty on the demotion of a Capitol Hill strongman, mentioning his hectoring hearing style, his staff’s propensity to micromanage federal agencies, and, of course, CPSIA (& welcome Instapundit, Damon Root/Reason “Hit and Run”, Chris Fountain, Daniel Blatt/Gay Patriot, Prof. Bainbridge, Carter Wood/ShopFloor, Memeorandum readers).

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The website of the Golden Cockerel import firm includes a rather elaborate warning as to why its matryoshka are not meant for the under-12 set, at least not since the enactment of the calamitous Jan-Schakowsky-backed law:

the law requires each batch of toys be tested by a 3rd party laboratory to be sure they are “toy safe.” Such tests can cost well over $1000 per nesting doll set! And sometimes, as with our museum quality one-of-a-kind dolls, a “batch” consists entirely of one doll, or only a few, making it totally unfeasible to test.

CPSIA: reserving treasured toys for strictly adult use since 2008.

More: The CPSC has just sided with purported consumer groups and against pleas from the business community in adopting a broad definition of what constitute “children’s products” under the disastrous Barbara-Boxer-backed law: for example, ordinary paper clips must go through costly separate CPSIA testing when meant for kids’ use as part of a science kit with magnets and similar items [NY Times, AP/WaPo ("Kids' science kits may take hit from safety ruling"), Commissioners Anne Northup and Nancy Nord]

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You might be bitter too:

I called the lab, got the quote and did the math. CPSIA-mandated testing costs for my little product line was over $27,000 for just over $30,000 worth of product. I cannot express the horrible feeling I had when I realized that I had made a mistake that was going to cost my family all of our money. …

I blame every one of the Energy and Commerce legislative staffers.

– Jolie Fay, crafter, SkippingHippos.com, guest post, AmendTheCPSIA.com

SeeSawa

PUBLIC DOMAIN IMAGE from Ethel Everett, illustrator, Nursery Rhymes (1900), courtesy ChildrensLibrary.org.

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Readers of this site will recall that as reports rolled in last year of the calamitous effects of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, the Congressional leadership, and in particular key lawmaker Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) steadfastly refused to hold hearings or in general acknowledge that the law was causing systematic ill effects of any sort. As resale outlets across the nation swept harmless winter coats from their shelves or stopped dealing in kids’ goods entirely; BadMrsGinger1bas librarians warned that whole collections of pre-1985 books would need to be either put through prohibitively expensive testing or simply discarded; as makers, importers and sellers of perfectly harmless apparel, school supplies, furniture, musical instruments and other children’s items puzzled over ruinously high testing costs and bans on common materials like brass; as smaller, craft-oriented producers began folding, leaving the market to be served by the largest mass-production toymakers and retailers (many of which had supported the legislation); as the kids’ motor vehicle industry, including makers and sellers of dirtbikes and mini-ATVs, found itself transformed overnight into outlaws; even as all this unfolded, Henry Waxman and his counterparts on the Senate side kept the lid clamped down tight on any Capitol Hill airing of such woes. Eventually Waxman held a hearing with exactly one (1) witness, Obama-appointed CPSC chairperson Inez Tenenbaum, who sought to put the best face on the law. (After a false start, a House small business committee lacking actual legislative jurisdiction was also allowed to hold a more varied hearing.)

In recent months, without of course admitting any error whatsoever, representatives of Waxman’s office have been quietly floating amendments intended to correct some of CPSIA’s most blatantly impractical elements. The fixes would be likely to help in some specific areas where opposition has been vocal and influential, BadMrsGinger2bsuch as children’s books and mini-vehicles, while affording much less relief, or none at all, to many others trying to cope with the law. At the same time, Waxman’s staff has been demanding that “business” (conceived as if it were some monolithic group) gratefully sign off on the fix as acceptable and perhaps even accept new provisions that would increase CPSIA burdens. While many affected groups are understandably eager to reach a deal, others, such as persistent critic and businessman-blogger Rick Woldenberg, are reluctant to sign off on obviously partial and inadequate fixes as if were going to solve the wider problems with the law.

The fixer amendment has gone through several iterations; its current draft is here (PDF), named the Consumer Product Safety Enhancement Act of 2010, or CPSEA (more background from the committee, PDF, via ShopFloor). Now, at long last, Waxman has agreed to hold a hearing tomorrow (to be chaired by his colleague Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill.). The witness list includes persons from Goodwill Industries, the National Association of Manufacturers, Handmade Toy Alliance, and the Motorcycle Industry Council — all of which groups have apparently agreed to support the legislation — as well as Rick Woldenberg of Learning Resources Inc., who continues as a critic, and Steve Levy of the American Apparel and Footwear Association. Of course the difference now, and the reason some of these groups at long last will get their chance to testify, is that they have agreed to testify at least nominally on Waxman’s and Rush’s side — perhaps in some cases while biting their tongues.

We’ll be reporting more in days to come. In the mean time, this would make a good occasion for news organizations to renew their attention to the public policy disaster that CPSIA has wrought.

PUBLIC DOMAIN IMAGES from Honor C. Appleton, The Bad Mrs. Ginger (Frederick A. Stokes Co., 1902), courtesy ChildrensLibrary.org.

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Some views you probably won’t be hearing during today’s highly orchestrated Capitol Hill events [Ed Wallace, Business Week] Regarding that “declining quality at Toyota” meme ["The Truth About NHTSA Complaints," TTAC] Sudden runup in count of deaths “linked to” possible Toyota acceleration is from newly filed reports on old cases [Fumento/CEI] Commentary from Richard Epstein [Forbes.com via Damon Root, Reason "Hit and Run"] Former trial lawyer lobbyist David Strickland, now helping lead charge against Toyota as NHTSA administrator, was principal author of ghastly CPSIA law [Amend The CPSIA] Also: links to ongoing Point of Law coverage.

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The Motorcycle Industry Council feels momentum is now on its side in its effort to re-legalize youth motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles, which flunk CPSIA’s ban on lead-containing alloys. [MotorcycleUSA.com] More background here and here.

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CPSIA chronicles, September 12

by Walter Olson on September 12, 2009

  • On Thursday Henry Waxman’s House Commerce Committee finally held its long-promised hearing on the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, the first such hearing by a committee with legislative jurisdiction since the calamitous law went into effect in February. TomTomPipersSon2(The Small Business Committee, a panel with no legislative authority over the law, had gone first.) As noted last week, Thursday’s virtually dissent-free event hardly counted as much of a hearing, since Waxman turned down all pleas to allow testimony from actual affected businesses or other critics or victims of the law. Instead he called as his single witness recently appointed CPSC chair Inez Tenenbaum, who hewed closely to the line he (Waxman) wished to hear. A Washington Times editorial is appropriately scathing, and Rick Woldenberg has much more about the committee majority’s finger-in-ears response to the broad outcry over the law. Ranking Republican Joe Barton (R-Texas), who supported the law’s passage, did say that “we have all been inundated” with constituent messages about its ill consequences. The Handmade Toy Alliance has published the statement that Jill Chuckas of Crafty Baby would have made if invited to testify (more).
  • In an August 26 WSJ letter to the editor, Eric Havill of Branchport, N.Y. observes that Congress’s refusal to fix the law “is, if possible, even more irresponsible than the original legislation.”
  • By a unanimous vote, the CPSC recently confirmed that Mattel, the giant toymaker whose many recalls helped touch off the lead-in-toys panic in the first place, has qualified for an exemption from third-party (outside lab) testing of its products under CPSIA, and can instead test in its own in-house labs. Of course, most of Mattel’s competitors are less fortunate and do not operate on a scale that will make such an exemption feasible. The exemption for “firewalled” in-house labs, deemed by one critic a “hall pass,” was something Mattel obtained through intense lobbying back when the law was under consideration. Like the other giant in the business, Hasbro, Mattel actively lobbied for CPSIA’s passage, and even as the law has brought undreamt-of woe to thousands of smaller producers of kids’ products, the two big companies seem to be doing rather well under it. More: Timothy Carney, Washington Examiner; Brad Warbiany, Liberty Papers; Christopher Taylor, Word Around the Net. Other reactions to the exemption: Holly Jahangiri, Rick Woldenberg, Ed Morrissey/Hot Air (“one of the companies that created the problem in the first place has gotten a waiver”), Katherine Mangu-Ward/Reason (“Mattel now has a cost advantage on mandatory testing, and a handy new government-sponsored barrier to entry for its competitors”), Handmade Toy Alliance.
  • AlphabetRSTTurkeys

  • What’s going to replace forbidden phthalates in kids’ products now that CPSIA has banned them? Probably alternative plasticizing chemicals about which we know less, notes Andrew Langer in Roll Call.
  • It’s old news, of course, that the CPSC asserts the power to go after eBay and Craigslist sellers, church bazaars, homeowners who hold yard sales and other sellers of used items that do not comply with CPSIA and other safety standards (although evidence is very sparse that most members of Congress actually realized the law would reach sales of those kinds.) Last month the CPSC saw fit to announce “Resale Roundup”, a new crackdown on secondhand sales. It also revised its book of guidance for resellers, in ways Rick Woldenberg finds less than enlightening. Discussion: Adler/Volokh, Ed Morrissey/Hot Air (“What did we ever do before the CPSIA protected the US through its throngs of federal nannies? How did we ever survive garage sales in the past 233 years?”), Washington Times (“from yard sales to jail cells”), Katherine Mangu-Ward/Reason, John Stossel, Deputy Headmistress/Common Room (“Remember when Congress assured us that the little guys had NOTHING to worry about with the CPSIA because they weren’t going to come after us? They. Lied.”) On the brighter side, McClatchy’s James Rosen quotes spokesperson Scott Wolfson as saying the commission isn’t planning to seek admittance to inspect private homes and garages to enforce the law. So be thankful for small favors.

PUBLIC DOMAIN IMAGES from Ethel Everett, illustrator, Nursery Rhymes (1900), and (illustrator not known) Farm Yard ABC (c. 1880), both courtesy ChildrensLibrary.org.

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YMGcandlestick2A fine hearing/My friends, this is… Rep. Waxman’s plan for a dissent-free panel this Thursday (Sept. 10) is to call as the only witness CPSC chair Inez Tenenbaum, to talk up the merits of the law and her efforts as new steward of the agency. It’s not as if the law’s controversial or anything! The Handmade Toy Alliance wonders whether he’ll get away with it.

PUBLIC DOMAIN IMAGE from Benjamin Cobb, Yankee Mother Goose (Ella Brison, illustrator), courtesy ChildrensLibrary.org.

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A compulsory subpoena could follow if they don’t fork over information on “compensation of highly paid employees” and “expenses stemming from any event held outside company facilities in the past 2 1/2 years”, among other topics. As AP notes, industries that vocally support, rather than oppose, health care reform aren’t targets of the investigation. More: Politico.

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Robert Ambrogi at Legal Blog Watch criticizes the trial lawyers’ association for excluding the press from its annual convention, but the tactic seems to have worked pretty well in lowering the group’s lobbying profile and deflecting serious coverage of the parade of politicians, from Nancy Pelosi to Henry Waxman to DNC chair and Virginia governor Tim Kaine, who have made the pilgrimage as speakers to pay their respects. More: AAJ’s response.

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KidBookSilverPencilElizabeth Mullaney Nicol has an excellent article in The New Atlantis on the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act and its appalling consequences for old children’s books and the cultural inheritance they represent. (If you’re new to this topic, we’ve covered it extensively here and here.) Among the questions she addresses:

Isn’t there a wealth of worthwhile children’s literature published since 1985 for kids to read?

[Older books,] as a group, have certain desirable characteristics. Children’s books of yore tend to use more sophisticated, literary language than their more recent counterparts. The quality of their paper, bindings, and illustrations are often superior. Vintage children’s books assume and encourage the readers’ fascination with adventure, their eagerness to learn about the world, their respect for great men and women.

Won’t the really good older books survive in post-1985 reprint editions that can be sold without fear of liability? (Yes, one really does hear this argument.)
KidBookCircusBaby

Some books from the 1950s and 60s are back in print, but with updated illustrations so the characters appear to be from our time; if that’s what it takes to lure readers who are wary of anyone who doesn’t look like them to pick up the books, it’s probably fine, but there is also value in presenting books with a style of illustration and characters with a style of dress from a different time, and that’s what we get with old copies. Some books, such as the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series, are thoroughly “updated” for today’s readers—simplified, abbreviated, substituting familiar words for those no longer commonly used—so if a child is going to read the originals he needs to read old copies….

Some old books, it is true, express ideas and attitudes of which we would disapprove, prejudices and errors that make modern readers wince. But learning about such sentiments firsthand is at the heart of what it means to learn our history. Moreover, while correcting some of these past problems, our present age has its own objectionable attitudes.

Won’t older children’s books still be available when intended for adult use, say as collectibles or for research?

But the availability of these books to children is the very purpose and value of preserving them. We want them in children’s hands, being read, not only preserved on the dusty back shelves of research libraries. Quantities are important — quantities of titles, and quantities of each title, so they are readily available for loan from public libraries and for purchase through used booksellers. Families have been able to build home libraries through priced-for-reading book sales and thrift stores. … We are suddenly facing the prospect that many of these books will be destroyed, making those that remain all the more rare and inaccessible.
KidBookTamingTiger
Some used booksellers, trying valiantly to continue selling books for children, are re-labeling their children’s books as collectors’ editions. But this obscures the books from searches by those looking for ordinary children’s books, it clutters the market for real collectibles, it makes the bookseller look ignorant of his trade, and it is prohibited under CPSIA, which stipulates that a book “commonly recognized” as being meant for children’s use will be regulated as such.

The article’s strength, I should note by way of quibble, is not as legal advice: it somewhat overstates the stringency of the law, which does not ban the sale of all untested pre-1985 kids’ books as such, instead exposing booksellers to punishment when they guess wrong about whether a given volume would meet current standards (hence the CPSC’s guidance advising retailers to discard them all). And the call for “sequestering” library copies has thus far come from only one member of the three-member CPSC, not as yet the full commission. As a summation of what will be lost to children and the nation if Congress does not change this law, however, the article is one of the best yet. Read it here.

Relatedly, Ken at Popehat is still trying to grasp the news that according to our federal government:

Children’s books have limited useful life (approx 20 years)

And since Rep. Henry Waxman, closely identified with CPSIA and its defense, has a new book out, Carter Wood at ShopFloor wonders whether this topic is going to come up at any of his bookstore appearances.

P.S. Fenris Lorsrai at LiveJournal reprinted the Nicol article and in so doing prompted some interesting reader comments.

GRAPHICS courtesy VintageChildrensBooks.com.

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Waxman-Markey’s Easter eggs (earlier).

Apparently there are a lot of hidden surprises in this Waxman-Markey “cap and trade” energy/environment bill we’ll be hearing about in coming weeks [Washington Post via Virginia Postrel].