Friday, August 03, 2007

Poison-me-Elmo, Dora the Toxic Explorer, and the Deadly Cookie Monster: Killing our kids for the sake of a buck?

I’ve just noticed that Mattel has announced a recall of toys. Evidently, Mattel’s crisis management PR guys must be burning billable hours full-tilt.

It seems someone found lead in the paint on a whole bunch of Mattel toys. Just the thing you don’t want your kids touching or putting in their mouths.

Why is that? Well, according to the National Safety Council, lead poisoning can result in “reduced IQ, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, behavioral problems, stunted growth, impaired hearing, and kidney damage. At high levels of exposure, a child may become mentally retarded, fall into a coma, and even die from lead poisoning.” (URL at the bottom of this post.)

Now look, I’m not criticizing Mattel for recalling what may be toxic toys. In that respect they’re doing the right thing.

But they also must be aware that there may be hell to pay when the stockholders latch on to this. The stock, in Thursday’s generally upward-moving market, fell 40 cents, or 2.7 percent. Things could be worse if customers stop buying Mattel products.

Minimizing the alarm

No wonder they’re minimizing the matter, even as they announce that their stuff may be poisonous. To quote an AP article (URL at the bottom of this piece) that quoted a Mattel honcho:

"We require our manufacturing partners to use paint from approved and certified suppliers and have procedures in place to test and verify, but in this particular case our procedures were not followed," Jim Walter, Mattel's senior vice president of worldwide quality assurance, said in a statement. "We are investigating the cause to ensure such events do not reoccur."
Well, Jim, glad you’re finally “investigating.” But I can’t help noticing that “this particular case” covers 83 different toys. To me that’s eighty-three cases. Eighty-three times how many units have you sold? In how many stores? Equals how many possibly poisoned babies, toddlers and little kids?

Oh, sorry, Mattel is not offering that information.

Who should take the blame for this? Blame Old Man Greed, who has agents ready to poison all of us for a buck every step of the way.

Death for your kids: another fine
product of our outsourced economy

We manufacture hardly anything in this country any more. To save a buck – and put much of that buck toward profits – we outsource just about everything we manufacture and a heck of a lot of stuff we eat to some low-wage corner of the world, There, desperate people can manufacture or grow it on the cheap.

And our prime source of stuff that we once made and grew for ourselves? Why, China, of course. So far, we’ve learned that China has poisoned our dog food, China has poisoned our cat food, China may be poisoning our own human food, and now they’re poisoning our toys. What's next, pharmaceuticals?

Sometimes when this happens, China arrests the president of some poisonous outsource facility and puts a bullet in the back of his head. You can rest assured that this teaches him a lesson he’ll never forget. Guaranteed he’ll never poison us again. Instead, it’ll be someone else’s turn.

What do you do when the enemy
controls your war production?

Other results of outsourcing are just as grave. Roughly two decades ago, I had a chat with the officer of a small conglomerate that was buying up high tech companies and making them more profitable before spinning them off again.

His company had purchased a U.S. military subcontractor that made missile nose cones. Then they moved the manufacturing facility from the United States to Pakistan, which resulted in cheaper labor, lower overhead and higher profits for the conglomerate. Of course there was a small problem.


If we ever have to chase after Osama Bin Laden on the Pakistan border over Pakistan’s objections, what do we do? Call up the President of Pakistan and say, “Stop blocking those nose cone shipments? We need them to bomb you.”

Not to mention the possibility that Osama himself, as you read this, may be, umm, appropriating missile parts for his own purposes.

If we’re going to fix the problem we need a law that insists that every item sold in this country – and I mean every item – should come with a clear label that designates the country of origin. And we’ve got to ban outsourcing for defense.

And finally, we've got to ban outsourcing, period, from any country were there is a history of selling us impure or poisonous products – before all of us end up either economic prisoners of foreign suppliers, or poisoned by them.

The Republican Kumbaya tango

That noise you hear in the distance is the loud groaning of big business Republicans, wanting to know why we all can’t be nice and international and sing Kumbaya. Funny how they (and yes, some Democrats as well) turn into a bunch of hippies who want to buy the world a Coke whenever what’s really at stake is guarding huge profits at the expense of Americans. And that includes American kids who could be poisoned by their toys.

What’s next? A doll called Lucretia Barbie?

Check out these URLS:

(Note, I’m having linking problems that are making me very, very cranky. If the links don’t link, just copy and paste ‘em. That usually works.

The list of 83 potentially poisonous Mattel toys:

News report on same:

What lead poisoning does to your kids:

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