The Congress of the United States of America, in another stunning act of incompetence, has passed a law called the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, in a panicked reaction to some Chinese toys with lead-based paint in them that were imported to the US. It has already had a number of untoward side-effects:
The federal government is now in the book-banning business. "Anne of Green Gables, Beatrix Potter, Baden-Powell’s scouting guides, and other deadly hazards" are being destroyed and thrown away around the country because it has now become effectively illegal to distribute children's books published before 1985. The American Library Association has taken the position that it doesn't apply to libraries, but the Consumer Product Safety Commission is making threatening noises and "recommending" that public libraries "sequester" children's books from before 1985 where children can't get at them. Many small businesses, meanwhile, are in grave danger of going out of business, as they must effectively destroy much of their stock of products (since doing so is significantly less expensive than testing the products).
Many major publishing houses in New York might be less annoyed by this, however — which, now that I think about it, might be part of the reason the New York Times doesn't seem to give a damn. Actually, it's worse than that: the New York Times paints anyone unhappy with such effects as a moustache twirling villain. Check out that link; it's full of links to information about libraries, small businesses, and major corporations all running afoul of this absurd law's unreasonable reach. Strings of links to reports of small businesses tossing out or destroying their inventories and/or going out of business litter the thing, as do quotes from prominent people in organizations that represent the injured industries. I certainly hope that Chip Gibson, the president and publisher of Random House Children's Books, is representative of major publishing houses when he says "This is a potential calamity like nothing I’ve ever seen. The implications are quite literally unimaginable . . . It has to be stopped." I'm not holding my breath, though. I'm sure some board members at several publishing houses are happy about the children's books market getting cleared of a major competitor (used books).
Speaking of major corporations — how about Honda pulling all of its youth motorcycles from US markets?
Yet another casualty of this destructive law: Honda has sent a letter to dealers announcing that it will withdraw youth motorcycles and ATVs from the U.S. market. It says lead figures as an intrinsic part of the alloys used in building the vehicles.
The irony, of course, is that of all the imaginable safety hazards posed by the existence of youth motorcycles and ATVs, the danger that kids will eat the darn things must rank at the very bottom.
In the midst of an economic crisis that has stock traders and heads of low-income households poised on window ledges, ready to dive to a penniless death, the federal government saddles us with a law that is destroying whole industries, all "for the children". Think of the children!™ Maybe our Congresscritters should think more of children, too — such as the children who might end up using motorcycles and ATVs that are too big for them (and thus more dangerous), who will be increasingly excluded from the market for classic literature, and who will be impoverished when their parents' jobs evaporate.
This asinine, horrific, probably corrupt, and in some respects downright evil bill was passed very quickly and almost unanimously. Attempts by a couple of less-idiotic Congresscritters to reform the bill to correct its worst excesses have been crushed by Congressional committees with extreme prejudice. Write to your Congresscritter and let him/her/it know just how reprehensible you find this whole mess.