Friday Mashup (11/15/13)

  • I’ve been a bit delinquent in linking to sites where you can provide assistance in some way to the victims of the horrific events in the Philippines recently, and I apologize for that:

    Here is a link to the Red Cross (blood donations, supplies, etc.).

    Here is a link to Oxfam America (financial contributions will assist with providing food, clean water, medicine, and shelter).

    Here is a link to World Vision (same as above).

  • Next (and turning to the kids in this country), this tells us that Dem U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, Dem U.S. House Rep George Miller and Repug U.S. House Rep Richard Hanna support the Strong Start for America’s Children Act – more follows…

    According to a draft, the bill would expand early childhood education from birth to age five over a decade. It would give states funding to expand preschool to all four-year-olds in low-income families who earn below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Line, or about $47,000 for a family of four, based on the number of children that would be served. States would also have to qualify by meeting quality standards and by already providing state-funded Kindergarten. The states would start out having to match 10 percent of the federal money and then increase that match to an equal share by the 10th year, although the match would be reduced for those that serve half or more of their eligible four-year-olds. If a state achieves universal access to preschool for four-year-olds, it could then start working on serving three-year-olds so long as that access remains for the older children.

    The bill doesn’t just address preschool, but also high-quality childcare for infants and young children. States could set aside 15 percent of the money for high-quality education and care for infants and toddlers. It would authorize a new partnership between Early Head Start and those who offer childcare to improve the quality of the care while changing the block grant that supports childcare so that it can raise the quality and ease eligibility. The Department of Health and Human Services would also convert Head Start programs that currently serve low-income four-year-olds into programs to serve three-year-olds and younger.

    The Think Progress post also tells us that the U.S. is 21st in the world when it comes to the percentage of GDP it spends on preschool, even though “the benefits of access to high-quality learning at a young age have been well documented,” as Think Progress points out.

    More on the bill can be found from here (a link to Congressman Miller’s web site).


    So what say you on this, Mikey the Beloved?

    Well, this links to the Education page of Fitzpatrick’s web site, where we learn that he supports tying student loan interest rates to the market, he also supports the Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act, which is commendable– and of course, NO LABELS NO LABELS NO LABELS BLAH BLAH BLAH.

    If he comes out in favor of the Miller/Hanna legislation, I’ll update this post accordingly.

  • Continuing, I give you the following from Doug Schoen of Fix Noise…

    It’s official: ObamaCare is a failure.

    Data released by the administration shows that only 100,000 Americans have signed up while the administration has been touting a 500,000-person enrollment goal for October.

    Reuters is reporting that ObamaCare has only reached three percent of its enrollment target for 2014 in 12 states.

    “Hold me accountable for the debacle. I am responsible,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a House committee. And while I appreciate Secretary Sebelius’s willingness to take responsibility, we’re past the point where blame and pointing fingers will do us any good.

    We need a fresh start with health care. Going back to square one is the only way we’re going to make any progress. We still have an opportunity, albeit a waning one, to make this right.

    (By the way, I apologize for not being able to link back to Fix Noise on this. For some reason, the page this appeared on is no longer valid. A real head-scratcher, that.)

    And all of this from an operation that has not shown an iota of objectivity on this issue (and Schoen is very definitely a part of that regime).

    I think that more context is needed on this matter, and Think Progress provides some here (I realize that I’m echoing a lot of what they’ve posted recently – I see a lot of other good sites, but I don’t see anyone else doing their type of reporting on this stuff).

    To me, the most important takeaway from Igor Volsky’s post is that the enrollment numbers for the Affordable Care Law reflect pretty much those of Commonwealth Care in 2007 (the coverage instituted in Massachusetts by then-Governor Willard Mitt Romney) and Medicare Part D under Dubya.

    (By the way, Schoen actually has a bit of a point in highlighting what President Clinton said about the Affordable Care Act numbers. I don’t mean that to second what Schoen says in any way, but only to respectfully add in response that The Big Dog should shut his trap on this, particularly since his commendable expansion of children’s health insurance in 1997 followed a similar enrollment pattern also.)

    It should also be noted from here that those in need of medical coverage still view the Affordable Care Law favorably, and as noted here, the Kaiser Family Foundation (the only people who should be trusted when it comes to measuring public response on this as far as I’m concerned) tells us that, based on their data, approval of health care reform is “inching upward,” and non-Republicans basically aren’t excited by all of the breathless “reporting” out there when it comes to web site glitches and what not.

    Oh, and just as a reminder, this tells us how much of a “Democrat” Doug Schoen really is.

  • Further (and sticking with the health care law), I give you this from The Hill…

    A House bill that would allow insurance companies the option of offering old healthcare plans is gaining dozens of co-sponsors ahead of a vote this week.

    Sixty-eight House members signed on to the bill Tuesday alone, giving the measure sponsored by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) a total of 156 co-sponsors.

    Nearly all of the sponsors so far are Republicans, but two Democrats have joined the Keep Your Health Plan Act: Reps. John Barrow (Ga.) and Mike McIntyre (N.C.). Both are top 2014 targets for the GOP; each Democrat represents a district easily won by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012.

    This is a really difficult issue, made so in no small part because of our utterly brain-dead corporate media which refuses to do its job of educating and informing us, though I admit this matter is pretty convoluted at times. So I, in my admittedly imperfect manner, will try to do so here.

    (And by the way, to prove my point, the news networks with initials for names could provide some historical context to similar legislation as Igor Volsky at Think Progress did previously. Short of that, they could also point out that it’s ridiculous to hold Obama responsible for the machinations of private insurers, though admittedly he was a bit mush-mouthed on the whole question of whether or not we would keep our health care plans or have to look for coverage on an exchange; one again, those who seek to undermine him have found some new, creative way to do so and give the majority of the country the old “middle finger raised on high” in the process.)

    To begin, this tells us that there are two competing bills out there when it comes to people keeping their health insurance coverage. The bill by Sen. Mary Landrieu, while imperfect, represents a workable “bridge,” I think, to help with the transition. However, the Upton bill supported by Barrow and McIntyre is yet another back-door attempt to undermine the law by making “grandfathered” coverage permanent (here).

    This is a typical move for Barrow and McIntyre, by the way; as noted here, they opposed the Affordable Care Law from the beginning (also noted here). And Barrow actually benefitted from campaign funds from the “U.S.” Chamber of Commerce in the 2010 election cycle, when 21 incumbent Dems were defeated in U.S. House races because our media fell in love with the racist-sign-and-funny-hat crowd and the Repugs claimed that they would be better at managing the economy (here).

    As for McIntyre, this “Democrat” voted with the Repugs here for that typically idiotic bill to prevent DHS from using taxpayer dollars to buy and stockpile ammunition until they provide a “comprehensive report” to Congress on its ammunition usage, purchase history and contracting practices (authored by Teahadist Mark Meadows of North Carolina, who, more than anyone else, is to blame for the government shutdown…he authored that letter to Obama saying he, and 79 of his playmates, would block a continuing resolution to keep the government going unless “Obamacare” was defunded – by the way, the DHS bill was a paean to the Teahadists who were worried that that danged li-bu-ruul Obama was going to use that agency to seize all of the ammunition instead of taking their guns away – yep, crazy is as crazy does).

    Oh, and speaking of the shut down, McIntyre was one of the U.S. House Dems who sponsored government “a la carte” during the shutdown, along with Barrow, on at least one related vote here (way to fold like card tables, people…maybe the reason why your seats are “weakly held” is because you lack the courage of what are supposed to be your convictions).

    And this tells us how Barrow and McIntyre voted to cut renewable energy funding (by the way, this Daily Kos post to me is shocking because Mikey the Beloved actually does something good here, and that is to support the Army Corps of Engineers in changing current guidance on how the federal government defines waters subject to the Clean Water Act, and yes, this is a good thing in this context…of course, Mikey probably knew the bill wouldn’t pass in this House, so it’s not as if he’ll ever have to pay a price for it, and can instead try to burnish some imaginary “centrist” cred here).

    Also, Barrow and McIntyre both voted in favor of H 368 Section 2 to defund the government, as noted here.

    I realize that, were we to lose John Barrow and Mike McIntyre, it would be a harder road for the Dems to eventually retake the House. But with votes like these, I cannot possibly imagine why we should spend any money whatsoever or contribute anything else to help them in their upcoming campaigns (and as usual, what Digby sez here – h/t Atrios).

  • Buckyballs

  • Finally, I came across an Op-Ed in the Murdoch Street Journal written by former Bushie Nancy Nord about the so-called “Buckyballs” case – I can’t link to it unless I subscribe (too funny), so I went to Nord’s blog instead to read more about it (here)…

    A number of manufacturers make small powerful magnet desk toys and manipulatives. Buckyballs had the largest share of that market. Even though Buckyballs were not intended for or primarily sold to children, when reports of ingestion started coming in, the company making them, Maxfield and Oberton, stepped up with an aggressive safety education program to warn against the danger of children swallowing powerful magnets.

    Even though that education program was fully discussed with and encouraged by the agency, the CPSC then demanded a recall and decided to sue the company when it disagreed with its demand—all before the safety education program could be fully put into place. A principle tenet of the agency’s case is that warnings were not sufficient to protect the public. Yet, the only evidence it has to support that contention is its speculative conclusions, since the aggressive safety campaign envisioned by the industry was prematurely shut down by the agency.

    “Aggressive safety campaign envisioned by the industry”? As noted here, Craig Zucker, the head of Maxfield and Oberton (the company that made Buckyballs) apparently had at least one opportunity to get this product off the market in 2010; despite that, he still wasn’t able, apparently, to market this product or package it in a way that protected kids, enough to prevent the choking and digestion problems like the ones encountered this year.

    And as I read more about this, I found out that this case has become sort of a lightning rod for the wingnuts, who of course perpetually hate any “big gumint regulation” of any kind (here, though I admit that there is a bit of a twist noted below)…

    Over the last three weeks, more than 2,200 people have placed orders for $10-to-$40 sets of magnetic stacking balls, rising to the call of a saucy and irreverent social media campaign against a government regulatory agency.

    The money from the sales of the so-called Liberty Balls goes to a legal-defense fund. At the crux of the battle is an arcane legal tussle that has caught the attention of a number of mainstream business organizations and free-market legal groups.

    It involves an effort by the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission to recall Buckyballs, sets of tiny, powerfully magnetic stacking balls that the magazines Rolling Stone and People once ranked on their hot products lists.

    Last year, the commission declared the balls a swallowing hazard to young children and filed an administrative action against the company that made the product, demanding it recall all Buckyballs, and a related product called Buckycubes, and refund consumers their money. The company, Maxfield & Oberton Holdings, challenged the action, saying labels on the packaging clearly warned that the product was unsafe for children.

    But the fuss now has less to do with safety. After Maxfield & Oberton went out of business last December, citing the financial toll of the recall battle, lawyers for the product safety agency took the highly unusual step of adding the chief executive of the dissolved firm, Craig Zucker, as a respondent in the recall action, arguing that he controlled the company’s activities. Mr. Zucker and his lawyers say the move could ultimately make him personally responsible for the estimated recall costs of $57 million.

    While the “responsible corporate officer” doctrine (also known as the Park doctrine) has been used frequently in criminal cases, allowing for prosecutions of individual company officers in cases asserting corporate wrongdoing, experts say its use is virtually unheard-of in an administrative action where no violations of law or regulations are claimed.

    So the reason why Zucker is manufacturing his so called “Liberty Balls” (akin to “Freedom Fries” or “Freedom Toast” from back in the day, apparently) is to raise money for his legal defense over what appears to be a highly unusual action by the CPSC, naming him as a respondent in the recall of his dangerous product.

    The Times also tells us the following…

    Conservative legal groups like Cause of Action, a nonprofit that targets what it considers governmental overreach, have been watching the proceedings with interest and weighing taking some action.

    “This really punishes entrepreneurship and establishes a bad precedent for businesses working to create products for consumers,” said Daniel Z. Epstein, the group’s executive director. “It undermines the business community’s ability to rely upon the corporate form.”

    Mr. Epstein once worked for a foundation run by Charles G. Koch, who, with his brother David, has funded numerous conservative and antigovernment or antiregulatory causes. He would not disclose the donors behind Cause of Action. The Washington Legal Foundation, which promotes pro-business and free-market positions, has weighed in with a background paper titled “C.P.S.C.’s Misuse of R.C.O. Doctrine Bodes Ill for C.E.O.’s and Consumers.”

    So of course the Koch Brothers have found a way to worm themselves into this mess.

    Anyone have any idea why the CPSC would do such a thing? I would guess that the following provides a hint (here)…

    The Consumer Product Safety Commission, stymied in attempts to get a manufacturer to foot the bill, persuaded several prominent retailers to voluntarily join the agency in a recall of Buckyballs, the super-magnet desk toys which have seriously damaged the intestines of children who swallow them.

    The CPSC sought the cooperation of retailers after the manufacturer of Buckyballs abruptly dissolved the company late last year. The agency tried unsuccessfully to get the former CEO of Buckyballs to pay for the recall, and has sued the corporate parent, Maxfield & Oberton, in an administrative complaint.

    To me, it sounds like the CPSC was actually being pretty damn vigilant, taking action to get a dangerous product off the market while the owner of that product apparently didn’t want to be bothered with aiding in that effort (and again, there had been a recall three years earlier, so Zucker should have been aware that there could still be a problem…and yes, I know we’re not really talking about a toy per se, but we’re still talking about something that is a danger to the public).

    And speaking of that, while we’re supposed to be preoccupied with shareholder return or possibly damaging this country’s entrepreneurial spirit or whatever, it might be a good idea to consider the damage these “Buckyballs” have caused (from here)…

    9 year old girl was playing with an antique/toy lamp that used buckyball magnets as the string to pull the light on, took some of the magnets and placed in her mouth, accidentally swallowed about 5-7 of them. Patient underwent multiple exposures to radiation via XRays, anesthesia, and an endoscopy in an attempt to retrieve them. Magnets were in small intestine by the time endoscopy was performed, required more XRays to follow magnets around the bowel. Fortunate for the child, they passed without incident.

    The doctor stated that her 2 years old patient swallow 62 rare earth magnets and suffered intestinal perforation. The doctor stated it’s believed that the incident happened while the child was playing with the magnets without supervision.

    The doctor stated that the 62 magnets were removed from his intestines and stomach. The child was currently admitted at the intensive care unit and will be in the hospital for approximately 5-7 days. The doctor stated that soon after his release from the hospital the child would have to follow up with the pediatric surgeon as well as with his regular pediatrician.

    Ingestion of 4 bucky ball magnets. Patient presented to the emergency department with abdominal pain and distension, decreased oral intake and vomiting. The magnets were removed from the colon endoscopically.

    Caller states that he is a physician and attended twelve year old boy who put thirty 5mm magnetic balls into his urethra and into his bladder.

    Physicians attempted to remove the Bucky balls using a cystoscope for greater than one hour but this was unsuccessful with only three being removed and a one and a half hour surgery was performed by cutting into his stomach to his bladder for removal of the remaining twenty seven balls.

    Child was in Yale New Haven Hospital overnight then returned home.

    Caller wanted to report this action so that CPSC would have knowledge of other ways that magnetic balls can be dangerous for young people.

    I actually found myself becoming enraged as I read about this, I have to admit; I know I’ve got a mile or two on the odometer, as the saying goes, but I can remember a time when we would say or do anything and spare no expense to protect our kids from danger of any kind, and the hell with how much somebody responsible for that danger has to pay or what punishment they have to undergo (I’ve got two words to say in response to the “punish(ing) entrepreneurship” crap, and they’re not Happy Birthday).

    And how utterly typical, by the way, for Nancy Nord to leap to Zucker’s defense.

    And that is because Nord was possibly the very worst head of the Consumer Products Safety Commission who has ever held the office (as I know I’ve said before, in addition to Iraq, 9/11, tilting the Supreme Court in favor of corporations into remote posterity and its other horrendous judicial appointments, Bushco’s worst legacy is the fact that they managed to install some of the very worst human beings imaginable as heads of federal agencies…see Norton, Gale; Kempthorne, Dirk; Chertoff, Michael; Brown, Michael; Doan, Lurita, Chao, Elaine, and Nord, along with too many others).

    As noted here

  • Nord blew off a hearing on defective toys because the hearing also would have included the testimony of child safety advocates (and Nord’s CPSC didn’t decide to test products until an incident was reported, and they negotiated every word of a recall alert with the manufacturer of a defective product).
  • Her CSPC was clearly understaffed and underfunded, where a “fox running the hen house” mentality ran rampant (oh, and she actually opposed a bill that would have increased the funding of her agency).
  • She also blew off pool safety alerts, and this tells you about Nord’s far-less-than-stellar response on the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (or CPSIA) of 2008.
  • So go ahead and tell me how much the Consumer Products Safety Commission is supposedly guilty of regulatory overreach in the “Buckyballs” case, and how we’re unjustly attacking poor Craig Zucker, who apparently couldn’t be bothered to aid in the recent recall when it was found out just how dangerous his product really was.

    Actually, Zucker could do me a little favor if he wanted to (I’m sure he doesn’t), and I would take it easy on him from that point forward.

    He could actually pay a visit to the child who had to have his stomach cut open to his bladder to remove Zucker’s stinking product.

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