Sunday, October 07, 2007

Bathtub-Government Fun: Toying With Safety While A Lame Duck Leadership Circles the Drain

Six holiday shopping seasons ago, the question on many toy-buyers' minds was whether to go with the God Bless America Barbie or the United We Stand Lego Set.

Given the state of the Consumer Product Safety Commission at this point in time, however, parents will be grateful if they're able to choose (not to mention distinguish) between Regular and Unleaded.

And attempting to get straight answers from its Chairman is proving to be a risibly fruitless exercise. Witness Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) as she grills Consumer Product Safety Committee Chairman Nancy Nord this week:



Senator McCaskill repeatedly asks Ms. Nord why she has not, to date, requested more money for her agency, the underfunded, dilapidated and ineffectual state of which was exposed in a similar senate hearing last month; highlights included the introduction to the culture of a new and unfortunately-named martyr of sorts--Bob, the Small Parts Guy--as well as this picture of the CPSC Toy Testing lab on display:


Ms. Nord repeats her non-answer with robotic consistency and an oddly fixed gaze to match:

"If you gave us more money, we would spend more money."

The bizarre yet telling episode concludes with Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) going all Socratic on Ms. Nord, explaining that she was a political appointee of the White House who answered to the White House budget office and was only allowed to ask for the amount said office approved.

Senator Nelson, pointing to Ms. Nord: "You can't ask for more, even though you say you'll spend more, because you're under orders from the White House not to ask for more. Is that correct?"

Ms. Nord: "I have never had a conversation like that with the White House."

Weboy has more on appointee Nancy Nord.

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The lead-befouled toy troubles have recently spread to Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand as stores there follow the lead of US companies and remove various items from their shelves. Meanwhile, the total numbers of toys recalled Stateside continue to soar:

Oct. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Toys ``R'' Us Asia Ltd., a unit of Hong Kong-based Li & Fung Group, said it removed from its stores Chinese-made toys that contained lead, a day after eight U.S. companies recalled products tainted with the dangerous metal. [...]

At least 15 million items made in China were recalled in the U.S. over the past two months, according to data compiled from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Web site. The U.S. Congress held hearings in September on lead in children's toys, which may cause brain damage if ingested, and the safety of Chinese imports. China last week said it has made progress in rooting out dangerous goods through better production oversight.

Toys ``R'' Us Inc., Walt Disney Co. products maker Kids II Inc. and six other companies yesterday recalled Chinese-made items ranging from Baby Einstein blocks and Winnie the Pooh bookmarks to aluminum water bottles and toy flashlights.

Kids II recalled 35,000 of Disney's Baby Einstein Discover & Play Color Blocks, and Toys ``R'' Us, the largest U.S. toy chain, called back 15,000 units of Children's Toy Decorating Sets, the Safety Commission said in statements yesterday. No injuries have been linked to any of the recalled items, the agency said.

Other items withdrawn from the market yesterday were books, ``Pirates of the Caribbean'' toy flashlights and wooden pull- along wagons. Dollar General Corp. recalled 192,000 key chains and 63,000 Frankenstein Tumblers.

(H/T the priceless petulant)

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