Posts Tagged ‘New York Times’

CPSIA, kids’ resale and the Times, cont’d

The New York Times, which to the amazement of many has printed scarcely a word about the catastrophic effects of the law it still defends, now runs a Fashion & Style story applauding what it identifies as a trend among affluent urban parents toward buying used products for their kids rather than always insisting on new (Sarah Wildman, “For Firstborns, Secondhand Fits the Bill“). But it never mentions the reason why those parents will find the selection of kids’ goods around the nation’s thrift shops to be much, much sparser than it was a year ago.

Even as it spots this supposed trend, the paper does not quote anyone who works in an actual secondhand business; it does mention picking up used stuff free from “friends’ garages” and buying on Craigslist, where it’s easy to find sellers who don’t know (or at least claim not to know) that the law covers them too. You have to wonder what’s going on with the editors at this newspaper. Are they under some sort of orders not to mention CPSIA and its effects? Or do they just not know any better? (More: ShopFloor).

NY Times sends nastygram to satirical website

The Corzine Times, a website of the Republican Governors Association publicizing negative news stories about the politically vulnerable New Jersey governor, received a cease and desist letter from The New York Times, which so far doesn’t seem to have seen fit to include that fact for its readers, though other papers have at least blogged about it. [WaPo; USA Today]

“Congress Is Again Weighing Aid for Ground Zero Rescuers”

The New York Times quotes my testimony to the hearing on H.R. 847.

Unfortunately, the story incorrectly refers to AEI as a “lobbying organization,” which it is definitively not. It is unimaginable how the Times could have made this mistake, given that just three weeks ago, they had to correct an identical mistake; the senior editor has promised me a correction.

CPSIA: N.Y. Times runs three letters

[Title of post revised to reflect the paper’s printing of two more letters in its online (but not physical) edition on Monday.]

When I blasted the New York Times for its wretched editorial on CPSIA Wednesday, Patrick (SSFC/Popehat) made the following prediction:

Those tempted to write the Times to inform its readers about where this editorial gets it wrong will find that, no matter how many letters in opposition are received, the Times will print exactly one. The Times will also print one letter of thanks, from Greg Packer or someone affiliated with PIRG.

It is too early to say whether Patrick’s prediction will come true [see below for update]; the Times did print one short letter today from Nancy Nord of the CPSC, which fits the scheme, but there’s no way of knowing whether it will return to the subject in days to come with a letter supporting its editorial view or additional letters from critics. Before according the Times’ editors any credit for running this one, remember that having called for the removal of a named federal official, they really had to publish a letter from her in response; today’s letter as one would expect is mostly devoted to defending her record while also containing exactly one sentence disputing the Times’ ludicrous and much-derided assertion that fears of harm to small businesses are “needless”.

For the ordinary Times reader who knows little about this issue and is glad to skip to the next item, it will be easy to dismiss a short letter from a Bush appointee seeking to defend her managerial record. What else would you expect a Bush appointee to do? It would be a different matter — something to pause at, maybe ask questions — if a challenge to the Times’ assertions were to appear from wooden toymakers in New England, from apparel crafters in New York City’s garment district, from people who manage thrift and consignment stores, or from someone who deals in used children’s books. But — so far, at least — Times readers have been spared the danger of hearing any such discordant voices.

Update Monday a.m.: the Times online edition, though not the physical paper, runs two more letters today, and in doing so slightly (but only slightly) falsifies Patrick’s cynical prediction. The letter favorable to its own position, and ascribing no fault to the law other than its lack of tougher enforcement, comes not from PIRG but from David Pittle of Consumers Union (better prestige that way). And the Times also prints a mildly critical letter from the Toy Manufacturers of America, a group that 1) endorsed the law as a matter of general principle; 2) is often described in press coverage as closely aligned with giant toymakers who can live with its terms; 3) is cautious if not bland in its objections (“unrealistic”, “unwarranted”, etc.); 4) from its name and niche, reinforces the misimpression that “toys” are mostly what are at stake here, rather than a far wider range of children’s products ranging from books to apparel to minibikes. For all readers can discern from this TMA letter (and we do not, of course, know what the Times chose to condense or cut) the main economic costs of CPSIA might take the form of a quarter of down profits at Mattel or Hasbro. I have more to say in this earlier post about the tendency of CPSIA advocates to designate large and politically cautious industrial concerns as “the other” side for the press to consult, even though their interests and viewpoints may diverge widely from those of the smaller and family firms that dominate much of the children’s product trade. As of Monday, persons whose sole news source is the New York Times (especially the paper version) still have no idea that the law imposes any unusual burdens on this latter group.

Public domain image courtesy Grandma’s Graphics, Anne Anderson.


CPSIA chronicles, February 19


New York Times on CPSIA: “needless fears that the law could injure smaller enterprises”

Clueless. Disgraceful. Grossly ill-informed. And cruelly hard-hearted toward families and businesses across the country that are facing economic ruin.

Yes, after months of silence, the editorialists of the New York Times have finally weighed in with their view of how CPSIA is going. How bad did you expect their editorial to be? It’s that bad, and worse.


In a six-paragraph editorial about toy safety, exactly one paragraph is spent informing readers that anything about the law might have aroused any public criticism. And here is that paragraph:

Unfortunately, the commission has yet to implement important aspects of the new law. The delay has caused confusion and allowed opponents to foment needless fears that the law could injure smaller enterprises like libraries, resale shops and handmade toy businesses.

Got that? “Confusion” about the law, and “delay” in implementing it, are the real problems. Fears that small business will be hurt are “needless” and are being “fomented” by presumably sinister opponents.

Or, put differently: anyone who imagines this law might be impractical for libraries, resale shops, handmade toy businesses, or other small businesses is just imagining things — fooled, perhaps, by misinformation spread by the law’s opponents.

Libraries are just imagining things if they listen to people like Emily Sheketoff, associate executive director of the American Library Association, who spoke to the press last month about the choices facing libraries if some sort of exemption could not be found. (“Either they take all the children’s books off the shelves,” she said, “or they ban children from the library.”) Or people like Chip Gibson, president and publisher of Random House Children’s Books, who spoke to Publisher’s Weekly about the prospective effects of the law: “This is a potential calamity like nothing I’ve ever seen. The implications are quite literally unimaginable. …It has to be stopped.” It’s true that the CPSC’s last-minute stay of enforcement did save the new-children’s-book trade from calamity — but remember, to the Times, “delay” has been one of the problems in implementing the law, not something that has (so far) spared us its worst effects.


Thrift stores are just imagining things if they listen to people like Adele Meyer, executive director of the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops, who said, “The reality is that all this stuff will be dumped in the landfill.” They should ignore all the reports, no matter how numerous and from how many sources, of local Goodwill operations and other thrift stores’ closing children’s departments or sweeping more than half their contents off the shelves, and of kids’ resellers and consignment shops taking massive financial hits or closing down entirely. All of these episodes are either imaginary or, if conceded as real, an instance of overreaction to the needless fears those moustache-twirling opponents have “fomented”. (Some more thrift-store coverage not previously linked: North Carolina, Nebraska, Minnesota with Goodwill pic, upstate New York (“We can’t be sure of the risk unless we take everything off the shelf”), South Dakota, Colorado). They should also stop predicting that the pursuit of their charitable missions will suffer a major blow from the loss of children’s resale revenue, because that sort of thing just undermines morale.


Handmade toy businesses are just imagining things if they listen to anyone like the Handmade Toy Alliance. It’s not as if anyone like them is on its list of members.

The Times editorialists warn against “needless fears” that the law “could injure” smaller enterprises. Got that? Not only will they not be driven out of business, they won’t even be “injured”. So small enterprises from coast to coast are just imagining things if they plead desperately for places like the Times to notice that they have already closed down, or will have to do so in the foreseeable future, or have lost thousands of dollars in unsalable inventories. Motorbike dealerships around the country are just imagining things if they think they’re staring at massive losses from the inability to sell their products, even though news-side talent at the New York Times has in fact covered their story well — coverage which the editorial studiously ignores.

For as long as anyone can remember, the New York Times has unthinkingly taken its line on supposed consumer-safety issues from organized groups like Public Citizen and Consumers Union. In this case, the result of such reliance has been to render the nation’s leading newspaper a laughingstock.
Public domain image: Grandma’s Graphics, Ruth Mary Hallock.

(& welcome Virginia Postrel, Christopher Fountain, Patrick @ Popehat, Carter Wood/ShopFloor, Mike Cernovich, Katherine Mangu-Ward/Reason “Hit and Run”, Jonathan Adler @ Volokh Conspiracy, Memeorandum, Above the Law, Tim Sandefur, Mark Thompson/Donklephant, Alison Morris/Publisher’s Weekly Shelftalker blog, Jacob Grier, Amy Alkon/Advice Goddess, Joe Weisenthal/ClusterStock, Valerie Jacobsen/Bookroom Blog readers. And: Deputy Headmistress at Common Room, Faith in Truth, Amy Ridenour/National Center and NewsBusters, Charles Kuffler/Off the Kuff.)

And more: liked this piece and has now reprinted it in slightly altered form. And I’m particularly grateful to Robert Ambrogi/Legal Blog Watch for his generous coverage.

CPSIA chronicles, February 6

A Wall Street Journal editorial this morning:

The runaway train that is the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act is heading toward a collision next Tuesday. … The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has voted to delay the requirements for one year but this will have little practical impact: The lead standards still apply and retailers don’t want to carry uncertified products lest they become targets of plaintiffs attorneys and state attorneys general. … Senator Jim DeMint is planning to offer an amendment to the stimulus package to [introduce some rationality into the law], though getting support for it will be a taller order.

Advocates of a maximally stringent CPSIA on Capitol Hill and among purported consumer groups won two victories yesterday. In one, a New York federal court struck down an interpretation by the CPSC that would have banned only the manufacture or importation, and not the sale, of children’s products containing certain phthalates (chemicals used in softening plastics) as of Feb. 10. The effect of that policy would have been to allow businesses to sell off old inventories until they were gone. The judge ruled that the law by its terms clearly bans sale as well, which means existing toy inventories either not free of the chemicals, or which cannot be practicably tested to disprove their presence, will presumably become valueless as of next Tuesday and headed for landfills. “It won’t be hard for them” (makers of children’s goods) to comply, said attorney Aaron Colangelo of the Natural Resources Defense Council, and one must assume Mr. Colangelo is willing to take the risk of becoming a laughingstock if that prediction doesn’t pan out. In the other ruling, the CPSC turned down an emergency request to suspend the law’s operation for six months.

In other news, the New York Times finally covered CPSIA yesterday. Well, actually, it only covered one sub-sub-category of the CPSIA catastrophe, the effective ban on kids’ dirt bikes, and only on its automotive blog Wheels rather than in the newspaper proper. But you have to start somewhere. And this morning it ran a brief AP item presenting the court decision on phthalates from the consumer groups’ point of view. As I’ve mentioned, the Times sets the tone for news coverage at many other news organizations, and it has still not seen fit to inform its readers that the law poses any problem whatsoever for crafters, small apparel makers, publishers of children’s books, libraries, resale and thrift stores, or the makers of board games, comic books, musical instruments, religious goods, hair scrunches, or ballpoint pens. Oh, except for that blog item on dirt bikes.

To pass from the ridiculous to the sublime, Lissa Harris has another great piece of reporting in the Boston Phoenix (“Congress’s War on Toys”), detailing the effects of the law — stay or no stay — on an importer of eco-friendly handicrafted European playthings, “hippy knitters in Somerville”, and a kids’ boutique in Jamaica Plain, among others.

New trade associations are springing up, like the recently formed “CPSC Legwear Coalition,” whose members felt it necessary to declare in a recent press release that “lead is not commonly used in legwear manufacturing.”

Ashland, Mass. toy importer Rob Wilson says

the consumer groups have lost a lot of credibility among the indie artisans, organic advocates, and environmentalists that should have been their biggest supporters on children’s safety.

Says Wilson: “I’m canceling my Consumer Reports subscription.”

Heartkeeper Common Room continues her great commentary with critiques of the reports that ran in and USA Today, as well as of a more recent (very belated and inadequate) Associated Press gesture toward reporting the story:

The AP says the law is applauded by parents and consumer advocates and jeered by industry — I am a parent, not in the industry, and I am jeering.

Great Gravy. [Sen. Mark] Pryor says it’s all [CPSC Acting Chairwoman Nancy] Nord’s fault because she had, like, five or six months and he doesn’t know what else she’s been doing. There is no mention of the fact that Congress also put all the nation’s swimming pools under CPSC jurisdiction, Nord says she’s met every deadline imposed by Congress, and there was a new gasoline burn prevention act they had to regulate, nor does the AP note that the Commission is seriously, and deliberately, undermanned by Congress and underfunded as well.

There’s also new coverage on NPR “Morning Edition” and the Des Moines Register.