Sunday, November 04, 2007

Who killed Thomas the Tank Engine?

Wanted - For destroying various childhoods:

"Acting" Consumer Product Safety Commission Chairwoman Nancy Nord.

I'm a little behind on a story that's a few days old, but that doesn't mean I'm any less enraged:

WASHINGTON (AP) Nov. 2 - Two chief consumer product safety regulators for the Bush administration accepted dozens of trips paid for by toy makers, children's furniture manufacturers and other industries they oversee, it was reported Friday.

Acting Consumer Product Safety Commission Chairwoman Nancy Nord and her predecessor, Hal Stratton, took nearly 30 trips since 2002 that were partially or fully paid for by trade associations, manufacturers or corporate lawyers, at a cost of nearly $60,000, according to The Washington Post. The newspaper obtained internal CPSC records of the travel.

The report comes as Nord fends off calls for her resignation from some congressional Democrats, who are angry that the safety chief opposes their efforts to strengthen her agency in light of this year's recalls of millions of unsafe toys.

Among Nord's industry-paid travel was a July 2005 trip to San Francisco to talk to the Toy Industry Association and a trip to New York last year for that group's presentation at the American International Toy Fair.

The previous commissioner, Stratton, took more than 25 of the trips in question, the Post said, including an 11-day, $11,000 visit to China and Hong Kong paid for by the American Fireworks Standards Laboratory, an industry group.
The rest of the story is here. [In case you're interested, as a side note, a CPSC report states that "fireworks were involved in an estimated 10,800 injuries treated in U. S. hospital emergency departments during calendar year 2005 (95 percent confidence interval 8,600 – 13,100). CPSC staff estimated that there were 9,600 injuries during 2004... There has been a statistically significant upward trend in fireworks injuries since 1996... An estimated 6,500 fireworks-related injuries were treated in U. S. hospital emergency departments during the one month special study period between June 18, 2005 and July 18, 2005 (95 percent confidence interval 4,900 – 8,100)." The full report is here. Just sayin'...]

Nancy Nord, whose job it is (supposedly) to be the chief watchdog over dangerous products made, sold, and imported into the United States, is the former director of consumer affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In other words, she is yet another in an endless line of crony appointments made by this regime, putting corporate tools in a position to oversee and regulate the same industries who interests they have previously represented in boardrooms and in lobbyists' offices. This is nothing new. An EXCELLENT piece in the latest issue of Mother Jones (a magazine you really should subscribe to, by the way) documents the recent sordid history of the CPSC, especially since the Reagan years. Like everything else in Washington, DC, however, things are even worse there under Bush/Cheney. Instead of watching over these industries, Ms. Nord has been lifting her metaphorical leg on the American public since the day should took office. And this business about taxpayer-funded junkets is the just the tip of the evil iceberg. Junkets don't poison people, at least not directly. Many industry people - and their pimps, like Ms. Nord - pushed the blame for the recent mega-hyped incidents involving lead in toys and other products off on Chinese manufacturers and "sub-contractors" and their unscrupulous ways, like it was new strain of "yellow peril." The blame, however, rests squarely in the laps of Ms. Nord and her ilk. And people are being made sick - and are dying - because of it.

Especially kids. Especially really little kids.

I take this issue very personally. I have two kids, and several nephews and nieces. And my younger son was a fan of Thomas the Tank Engine when he was small. Wait... let me rephrase that. He was a card-carrying member of The Cult of Thomas. Everything in his world, for the better part of six years, revolved around and focused like a laser beam in on the Isle of Sodor. We watched the show. We bought the tapes. We had all the little metal engines. We had a HUGE collection of little wooden engines and miles of wooden track upon which to run them. We had stuffed plush engines in the bed. We had Thomas costumes for Halloween and Thomas birthday cakes at our Thomas-themed birthday parties. We went out to the Strasburg Railroad in the Pennsylvania Dutch country so we could ride restored rail cars pulled by real steam engines. And we saved almost all of it (except for the plushies, which got loved to death, literally), hoping to share them with our grandkids someday.

And now it turns out that, along with our happy memories of this part of my son's childhood, we have nothing tangible left but boxes full of toxic materials that should be destroyed, not loved by a new generation of little Agitators. So, yeah, I'm a bit pissed.

And I want that woman fired. Today.

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