Ira Stoll catches the New York Times being tendentious again [SmarterTimes]:
…one reason that Texas is at or near the top of the nation in terms of workplace fatalities is that it is at or near the top of the nation in terms of the number of workers and how many hours they work. If you adjust for that, and take the rate of workplace fatalities — that is, the number of fatalities from workplace injuries per 100,000 full-time workers, Texas isn’t worst in the nation, but somewhere in the middle…
..any time a politician, principal, or bureaucrat wants to score points, he or she lets us know that kids are even more precious—and endangered—than we thought….
How far has society gone in dreaming up new dangers to protect our children from? Until you take a step back and look at all the new laws and regulations, you probably have no idea….
Over the summer, according to the Manchester, Connnecticut Patch, a local mom was charged with “risk of injury to a minor and failure to appear after police say she allowed her seven-year and 11-year old children to walk down to Spruce Street to buy pizza unsupervised.” This was a walk of half a mile….
…in the “real world,” stranger abductions are so rare that if for some reason you actually WANTED your child to be kidnapped by a stranger, do you know how long you’d have to keep your child outside, unattended, so that statistically the abduction would be likely to happen?
The answer is about 750,000 years, according to author Warwick Cairns. And after the first 100,000 years or so, your kid isn’t even cute anymore. …
At the same time, there is a parallel process going on the regulatory world, with bureaucrats looking ever more intently for ever less likely dangers, on the grounds that kids can never be safe enough. This explains things like the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s recall of a line of children’s jackets last year because the elastic waistbands had toggles on it “that could become snagged or caught in small spaces or doorways, which poses an entrapment hazard to children.”
Yes, it’s true: Those toggles could snag. Does that make them inherently more dangerous than, say, pigtails that could get caught in a door, or a charm bracelet that could get snagged on an electric window? I’m just free-associating products and problems here, because that’s what it feels like the CPSC does, too.
In the discussion, Skenazy is joined by Anthony Green, James A. Swartz and Joel Best.
Maryland bicycling advocates can tell the difference, and are opposing a proposal by Del. Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore) to mandate helmet use. There’s a lesson somewhere in there, or so I surmise in my new Cato post. Update: more details from an opponent.
Yes, deaf lifeguard. The Sixth Circuit has ruled in favor of a would-be deaf lifeguard, saying not enough of an individualized inquiry was made into accommodating his possible placement in the life-saving position. Among the arguments the court found persuasive was that drowning persons typically do not call loudly for help, which of course leaves open the possibility that the calls for help might be coming from other persons. Some deaf persons have worked successfully as lifeguards, including Leroy Colombo, a championship swimmer who did rescues at Galveston, Tex. beaches. In the Sixth Circuit case, Oakland County, Mich., had cited safety concerns in not posting the applicant to a public wave pool. [Disability Law]
Public health busybodies call on UK government to set minimum price for alcoholic drinks [Telegraph] Carrie Nation never thought of this: anti-booze campaigners target its calorie count [Baylen Linnekin] New York state plans anti-alcohol campaign [NY Post]
“Will Litigation over Playground Injuries Create a Generation of Neurotics?” [WSJ via ABA Journal]
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick reassigns his exceedingly accident-prone state highway director [Boston Globe, Ilya Somin]
“Magnet spheres may soon be harder to acquire than ammunition in the U.S.” as Buckyballs gives up [Anthony Fisher/Reason, earlier] And from Twitter: “Those 0.0 deaths per year were not in vain.” [@TPCarney modifying @bigtimcavanaugh]
“Mary Cain wants $3000 damages from the street car company for a ‘sudden jerk.’ MO1917″ [@tweetsofold]
“No Liquid Soap Allowed in Pre-School Bathroom: Children Might Drink It” [Free-Range Kids]
And finally, the catchy, unsettling safety promotion video that’s been everywhere the last week or two, from the Melbourne transit authority:
Private space pioneer Peter Diamandis, who founded the X Prize Foundation and cofounded Singularity University, from the Wired July issue, interviewed by Ted Greenwald:
Greenwald: Could anything derail us from this path?
Diamandis: Yes: the risk aversion we’ve developed as a society. Lawyers have ubiquitous power. If someone is always to blame, if every time something goes wrong someone has to be punished, people quickly stop taking risks. Without risks, there can’t be breakthroughs. I got this from Internet law expert Jonathan Zittrain: We’ve gone from a society where if something wasn’t prohibited then it was legal to a society where if something isn’t explicitly permitted it’s illegal. In the early days of aviation, you could do anything you wanted as long as it wasn’t illegal. Now the laws are so extensive that they say, “Show me where it’s allowed.”
Buckyballs are highly popular supermagnetic desktop toys for adults and labeled against use by kids. Nonetheless, some kids obtain the tiny balls and swallow them, with harmful or even lethal results. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has responded with an unusually aggressive show of legal muscle to force the product off the market: while suing the manufacturer, it strong-armed retailers into suspending Buckyball sales, thus cutting off the manufacturer’s revenue while a court decides whether the commission had an adequate basis in law and fact for its action. [Nick Farr, Abnormal Use; manufacturer statement; Time; ABA Journal; Michelle Malkin; Point of Law]
More: “CPSC wants to put a child-proof cap on your life.” [@radleybalko]
“The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has reached a $49,500 settlement with a construction company and utility company for withdrawing a job offer to a heavy equipment operator with epilepsy.” [Judy Greenwald, Business Insurance, earlier] In other news: “Just under two weeks after suffering a seizure that led to two car accidents within minutes of each other, Commerce Secretary John Bryson has submitted his resignation.” [NPR]
The other day the Chicago Tribune documented a longstanding campaign (see Friday link) to get government bodies to adopt standards requiring flameproofing of furniture upholstery, carpets and other household materials. Turns out key actors in that campaign were companies that make the chemicals used in flameproofing, which thereby guaranteed themselves a giant market for their products, as well as cigarette companies that worried that they would face regulatory and legal pressure over fires caused by careless smoking and decided to pursue a strategy of turning the issue into someone else’s problem.
Unfortunately, according to the Tribune series, the supposedly flameproof furnishings 1) aren’t necessarily very good at reducing fire risk and 2) are doused with chemicals that one might not want rubbing off on one’s family and pets. That’s aside from the regulations’ obvious cost in making furnishings more expensive and narrowing consumer choice by excluding producers unable or unwilling to use the chemical treatments. Whether or not you accept the series’ interpretation in all respects — the authors tend to taken an alarmist line, for example, on the chemicals’ environmental dangers — it’s useful as reminder #83,951 that government regulation often is driven by motives quite different from those advertised, and in particular by business lobbies whose interest is frequently squarely opposed to laissez-faire.
On Sunday, Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, criticized lately in this space for his views on supposed Big Beer responsibility for Indian reservation alcoholism, addressed the flameproofing story in his column. After reciting the controversy — laying a particular emphasis on chemical alarmism, long a specialty of his — Kristof concludes as follows:
This campaign season, you’ll hear fervent denunciations of “burdensome government regulation.” When you do, think of the other side of the story: your home is filled with toxic flame retardants that serve no higher purpose than enriching three companies. The lesson is that we need not only safer couches but also a political system less distorted by toxic money.
Which affords James Taranto of the WSJ’s “Best of the Web” this response:
The guy is so blinded by ideology that he fails to notice he has just given an example of burdensome government regulation.
Even if they’re operating heavy machinery, and even if the drugs are of the type that make users drowsy, twitchy or agitated. It’s all part of the ban on employee medical inquiries under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Eighth Circuit has backed up the agency’s position that questions do not become permissible until the employer has in hand objective evidence of impairment, the sort you can take to a judge. Evidence like, you know, there having been a serious accident. I explain at Cato at Liberty.
A group called the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition, with support from federal agencies SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) and NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), held a press conference yesterday to promote wider restrictions on the sale and use of helium, the familiar balloon-filling gas that as most people know will make one’s voice squeaky if inhaled. Although helium has low toxicity, it can pose dangers to the user, especially when inhaled directly from a pressurized container, the dangers “mostly related to the mechanical damage of introducing a highly compressed gas into your lungs,” as a doctor put it in a 1997 publication from NIPC (“Helium: Not a Laughing Matter”). The Washington Times reports on the coalition’s demands and quotes me for balance: “Small risk is worth knowing about, but it’s not worth rearranging our whole lives around.” It’s one thing to make sure kids know it’s unacceptably dangerous to breathe gases from pressurized containers, and another to make it unlawful for responsible 17-year-olds to pick up the balloon supplies for the family wedding.
P.S. Several readers wrote to say that because of current federal policy helium winds up artificially underpriced, encouraging its use for frivolous purposes; more on that here.
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