Thursday, November 18, 2010

CPSIA - On the Database, the Dems Side with the Liars

The vote on the noxious public database rule scheduled for the day before Thanksgiving (November 24) is a foregone conclusion. Says Rachel Weintraub of Consumer Federation of America: “There's majority support for the proposed rule, which we applaud.” [BNA, "Poised for Database Vote, CPSC Reschedules Meeting at Dissenting Commissioner's Behest "] Says Christine Hines of Public Citizen: “There is nothing they [Nord and Northup] can do about it except yell from the rooftops.” [ibid.]

Let's not forget, safety is not a partisan issue. Yeah, right.

But it's true - the Dems control this vote and are going ahead with their rule, damn the consequences. And there will be MANY terrible consequences. I testified about the database last year and laid out many problems (see my testimony here). Industry has in fact pointed out many issues with the database, such as (a) the consequences of inaccurate information, (b) the consequences of manipulative or misleading information posted by trial lawyers or competitors, (c) the irreversibility of damage from adverse publicity, (d) the database as a government-sponsored and administered feeding ground for plaintiffs lawyers, (e) the negative impact of encouraging consumers to disclose problems to a database which withholds information from manufacturers, rather than direct communication, (f) federal government intrusion to replace or supplant private market solutions, (g) the debasement of Constitutionally-guaranteed due process rights and other protections afforded to litigants and possible victims of abuse of government power, and (h) the likelihood that the database will severely punish small businesses while having only marginal impact on the intended targets, mass market companies.

This seems a bit treacherous for something is said to be so "good" for everyone. Is there a problem here with selective hearing?

How do the Dems justify their position? Well, first of all, they don't need to. Learning at the feet of Nancy Pelosi and Henry Waxman, the Dem Commissioners know that their voting power is all the justification they need. They have the votes, therefore they have a "mandate" from the voters, right? Why else would a Commissioner state publicly that anecdotes aren't evidence? Troubling details from little people don't matter anymore - not if the details might get in the way of the "agenda".

The Dems and their allies also hide behind the NHTSA vehicle defects database. I find this so interesting because the ever-attentive CPSC heard testimony that debunked this example (same hearing that I testified in a year ago). The NHTSA example can be distinguished in many significant ways: (a) auto accidents are a leading cause of death in this country (consumer products are not), (b) every use of automobiles is known to be hazardous (not true for consumer products), (c) the auto industry is one of the largest components of our entire economy - we all use cars and many of us owe our livelihoods to automobiles one way or the other (the average sale of consumer products is far less than a car), and (d) the industry is highly consolidated among a relatively small number of massive companies that are quite well-prepared for litigation and regulatory issues (consumer products is not a consolidated market). General Motors went public today, completing its recovery from bankruptcy and its $60 billion bailout. I think GM and other automakers can handle the burden and risk of a database of deaths and serious injuries from use of their products. Learning Resources, on the other hand, ain't no GM or Toyota. The NHTSA database sets an inappropriate example for consumer products for all of the foregoing reasons.

Providing further cover is the Rogue's Gallery of leftist consumer advocates who spin yarns to support the decisions of the Dem Commissioners. Many of their assertions are bald-faced lies.

Example No. 1: "'Right now, people can't easily find out about products that they may buy or that they use every day with their family,' said Rachel Weintraub, director of product safety for the Consumer Federation of America. 'This database will provide consumers with credible, accurate information.'"

This is two lies by Rachel Weintraub. First lie - consumers "can't easily find out about products". Really? I recently wrote about consumer comments on Amazon for a product that was recalled - is that so hard to find? What about Consumer Reports Forums? All the large volume online retailers allow consumers to post reviews. I think it's certainly true that consumer exchange of information online is both plentiful and easy to find. I also think it's also a matter of opinion whether the federal government has a role to play here in this exercise of free speech - particularly if in the process, the government tramples on Constitutionally-guaranteed rights of due process of other members of our community.

Second lie (more glaring): "This database will provide consumers with credible, accurate information." This is a doozie. From Section 1102.42 of the proposed rule: "The Commission does not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the contents of the Consumer Product Safety Information Database, particularly with respect to the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of information submitted by persons outside of the CPSC. The Consumer Product Safety Information Database will contain a notice to this effect that will be prominently and conspicuously displayed on the Database and on any documents that are printed from the Database." [Emphasis added] On the other hand, perhaps Rachel is on to something - by publishing unverified and untrustworthy data on a government-run database, it will certainly LOOK credible and accurate! Practically the same thing these days . . . .

I would observe that while this disclaimer is going to be widely posted on the database, the name of the site is What does this name imply to you? I take away that (1) I should be scared of dangerous products, (2) this website is where I can find out the "truth", and (3) thank heavens for my government for making me safer (let's increase the CPSC budget!). Ahem - I thought the CPSC does not guarantee the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information in the database so why is the website called "SaferProducts"? Should I feel "safer"? Was I supposed to feel endangered before? That's the idea, kids.

But if Rachel says the postings are credible and accurate, there's nothing to worry about, right? Provides some nice cover for our leaders . . . .

Example No. 2: Says Ami Gadhia of Consumers Union: "Commission staffers have worked very hard to ensure that the database is fair to everyone."

Someone please define "worked very hard" and "ensure" for me. Please watch my testimony again and tell me what protections CPSC staffers designed for ME.

I interpret Ms. Gadhia's lie as connoting that "fair" to her views is tantamount to "fair to everyone". My interests don't matter. Besides, Rachel is sure everything will be credible and accurate. That sounds fair . . . even if it's completely untrue.

Example No. 3: Says Rachel Weintraub: "Every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate. . . . Otherwise, the database won't be useful to anyone."

Every effort, huh? Manufacturers don't get to talk to the person who files the report or to the victim or see photos or samples submitted. Only our government can be trusted with that information for reasons not clear to me. The carefully "vetted" reports must be sent out within five days to manufacturers. We live in a country with 300 million people. Are you telling me that the agency is going to carefully "vet" the reports we inundate them with in just five days? Perhaps they need hire a few hundred more highly-trained associates to push this paper.

You are more than welcome to read the proposed final rule to learn about the agency's proposed procedure to "ensure that the information is accurate". Read Section 1102.10 (page 227 in this 248-page document). But I think I can save you some time. The filer has to confirm that he's not lying ("A submitter of a report of harm must affirmatively verify that he or she has reviewed the report of harm, and that the information contained therein is true and accurate to the best of the submitter’s knowledge, information, and belief"). That's certainly foolproof. Among the various required redactions and other agency "oversight" of this data, you will NOT find anything like an investigation. They are simply scrubbing and re-publishing someone else's allegations. Under their procedures, they cannot possibly know if what they are publishing is true or false.

No wonder they disclaim accuracy, completeness or accuracy.

Example No. 4: Christine Hines of Public Citizen (from BNA): "She added that several hearings, workshops, and comment opportunities have provided the public and industry every opportunity to address concerns. 'Industry has participated fully in the entire process.'"

We, the regulated community, have had "every opportunity" to "address" our concerns. This apparently constitutes participating "fully in the entire process". This is much more than spin, this is another flat-out lie. You cannot assert that we have participated fully if we have been utterly ignored. The hearings were not for VENTING. As previously noted, Matt Howsare asked me to spend our company's money to fly to Washington to testify on this database - and then blew off every point I made. Small business concerns were almost explicitly disregarded. We cannot be said to have had "every opportunity" to address our concerns if the impact on small business could be sloughed off. Was Nancy Nord afforded "every opportunity" when she was gaveled silent in the hearing on the database?

This one isn't a lie: [from BNA:] "[Weintraub] said the CFA, like Public Citizen, supports the current version. 'We think [the database rule] strikes the right balance between Congress's intent and making the database usable while protecting manufacturers' interests,' Weintraub told BNA. The substitute rule would 'limit the utility of the database for other consumers and public health professionals in terms of unnecessarily limiting who can report,' as well as including other limiting provisions, she said."

Why isn't that a lie, too? Because she states that it is her opinion. She's wrong - but at least she's not lying this time.

The poison in the CPSIA is actually the handiwork of a small and energetic group of individuals, many of whom are featured here. They hide behind consumer-friendly sounding corganization names but are actually just troglodyte anti-business advocates. They are no less cartoonish than the way they portray us, but with the Dems running the CPSC, the "good intentions" of this group and the persuasive power of their phobias have the upper hand.

As all the consumer advocates say, the outcome here is hardly in doubt. But feel good about it - you have had "every opportunity" to address your concerns and have "participated fully" in the entire process.

Empty words and lies. That's what this mess has become.


halojones-fan said...

"Learning at the feet of Nancy Pelosi and Henry Waxman, the Dem Commissioners know that their voting power is all the justification they need."

Sounds like that old story about Stalin saying "Fuck the Pope. How big is HIS army?"

"Why else would a Commissioner state publicly that anecdotes aren't evidence?"

Which is a very funny thing to say when you're about to create a database that is ENTIRELY MADE UP OF ANECDOTES.

Ben said...

At this point, Nord and Northup should publicly resign in protest. Tenenbaum and Adler have turned the Commission into a partisian entity. This certainly was not the intent when Congress increased the members from 2 to 5.

At least by resigning they will bring the issue to national attention and the new Congress can address the fallout with the remaining Commisioners in January

Anonymous said...

This is a terrible disservice to parents and caregivers. What makes them believe that people are so interested in researching how "safe" products are based on individual reports?

Hasn't their frustration with getting people to pay attention to their recalls taught them anything. People think so many of these recalls are ridiculous.

The beneficiaries of this database will be lawyers, consumers groups that can prove their worth, and the media which increase their ratings by stoking more fear.

Paul said...

Nancy Nord, said it all, "On November 17, we will once again make the point that the database will not serve its purpose if it is a "garbage in/garbage out" grab bag of unsubstantiated complaints from any source."

What could be wrong about making sure the information in the database is true and correct for the protection of the consumers?

Dems are listening to the people and facts? Yeah, Right!!

Obama cares anything about small businesses as the back bone for the nation’s economy? Yeah, Right!!

Thomas Jefferson had believed in the wisdom of common men/[women], and our Dem House Speaker believes in the “nannies” for the common men/[women]. If the platform of the Donkey has not changed, then as far as the Donkey concern, somehow “Wisdom” must have materialized into “NANNIES”.

halojones-fan said...

There are people who collect scabs, pet hairs, and carpet lint in little bags; they present this garbage as "proof" that they have some kind of strange disease.

Imagine what these people would do if there were a government database that promised to take every complaint or report with absolute seriousness, and gave extra credibility to reports that included photo or physical evidence.

Wacky Hermit said...

I think Ms. Weintraub is confusing consumers' inability to find out if their products are "safe" with their disinterest in finding out. Not everyone shares Ms. Weintraub's strange obsession with removing piddling amounts of lead, and it appears she won't rest until everyone acknowledges her sheer genius by sharing her interest in straining at gnats while swallowing camels.

Most consumers that I know want to know if a product poses a true hazard, but they really don't care enough about hazards to go searching for information. Unlike Ms. Weintraub, they are aware of this newfangled intertube thingy called "Google" that can be used to bring up every blog post about somebody's kid getting hurt by a toy. Unlike Ms. Weintraub, they have enough common sense to be able to tell if something's got a weak part or could pinch a baby's fingers. Also unlike Ms. Weintraub, they can't spare the time to look up each and every item they possess in a recall database. Can you imagine how difficult shopping at a thrift store would be if you pulled up the CPSC database and checked each toy or article of clothing that caught your eye? Perhaps Ms. Weintraub has never shopped at a thrift store (or maybe she did, but only so that she could get the thrill of being a daredevil). It's bad enough Ms. Weintraub has forced thrift store owners to do this, but there's no way in hell she can force consumers to do it too. They're all too busy having a real life, something I doubt Ms. Weintraub will ever understand.

Anonymous said...

It would interest me to know what has gone into Rachel W's life to turn her into the person she is?? Hmmm. WHY is she doing this?? Did her child die of lead poisoning? Is she Obsessive Compulsive about lead? (yeah, we know the answer to that one it seems). Is she gaining financially from this ??? (She has to be--surely she isn't doing all this for FREE?!)

halojones-fan said...

@Anon: There isn't necessarily a reason why it's the CPSC and toys. Some people are just that kind of career bureaucrat, a Jobsworf right out of "Yes Minister". She's spent her entire life in government service and therefore thinks of heavy-handed regulation as being the appropriate solution for everything; like that old saying about "when all you have is a hammer then everything looks like a nail".

The problem is that the American government system isn't *supposed* to have people like that in places where they can have such huge effects. The whole idea was that everything that affected the entire nation be voted on by two houses of Congress and then ratified by the President; instead, we've got Rachel Weintraub who's in charge of EVERYTHING, and nobody voted for her. EVER. Her only connection to the ballot box is that her boss's boss's boss is the President.