Tuesday, October 30, 2007

As Maxwell Smart would say, "Would you believe..."

After 40-odd (take that both ways) years in journalism, there isn't much that makes me do a double-take.

After today, my neck feels as if I'd been watching a tennis game with the double-takes.

The first is the word that Nancy A. Nord, head of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, asked Congress NOT to pass legislation that would have doubled the agency's budget, increased its staff and generally strengthened the agency that polices thousands of consumer goods.

Part of its mandate is to keep lead-soaked toys from China and other places out of the hands of children.

Nord, who had been a lawyer for Eastman Kodak and an official at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce before joining the federal government, opposes provisions that would hike the maximum penalties for safety violations and make it easier for the government to make reports of faulty products public, protect industry whistle-blowers and prosecute executives of companies that willfully violate laws.

OK, now we have two double-takes. First, here is a bureaucrat who doesn't want a larger empire with more money and more people to boss around. Second, a person who doesn't think it's a good thing to take lead-saturated toys out of the hands of kids.

The only way you are going to accomplish that is to have laws that hike the maximum penalties and prosecute executives of companies that place the toys into kids' hands and mouths in the pursuit of profit. These folks are not going to pull this poison off the market because the feds said pretty please.

Now for the third double-take. This story was not, NOT on the front page of the New York Times. Yes, there was a reference to it at the bottom of Page One, but really, this is news. This jerk deserves to get canned. President Bush isn't going to do it, because Nord is doing his bidding. He only knows that whatever is bad for his friends who run businesses is bad for the nation, or rather the Republican Party. To him, this is one and the same.

The Times, however, seems not to think this is important. The lead story is some bureaucrat at the Department of Justice pushing somebody at State under a bus by saying the State Department never told Justice that they had offered deals to Blackwater operatives. The one-column story at the left says (wait for it) that foreign fighters of a violent bend are helping the Taliban. Well, I didn't think they were being trained by the Dalai Lama.

There is also a tale about gay enclaves in cities, and Section 8 housing in the city. At the bottom is a yarn about applying for a driver's license in Johannesburg. Yes, we need slice of life stories, but really folks. We also need to get the news out there.
By the way, the folks who put together the Times Web page didn't think the story merited being on the home page and the folks who Comcast's home page together didn't think it was important, probably because Britney Spears wasn't in it.

Page 2

Well, since I'm in mid-rant, why not talk about the price of gas and oil.

My synagogue got an oil delivery the other day. You ready: $2.95 a gallon for heating oil, which is basically diesel fuel that is filtered fewer times than the stuff you pump into your Mercedes.

Gas is also tottering at the $3.00-a-gallon mark. If you didn't know better, you'd think the president of the United States was in the pocket of the oil companies.

This is a photo of an actual gas pump in Amherst, Mass., taken a week or so ago. So, perhaps the gas there may be a couple of cents more today , but really, why do folks in Taxachusetts pay so much less for gas.? By the way, there are places in Amherst and surrounding towns that charge nearly $3.00 a gallon, but there are places like this Hess station that charge a lot less.

It could be that their gas tax is less, or it could be that their state actually fights for rules that don't allow this type of highway robbery. Yes, oil is near $90 a barrel after being over that figure for a few days. Gasoline futures came down 8 cents today (Oct. 30, 2007), but we won't see that at the pump anytime soon.

You know, last year we had storms and the year before hurricanes, all of which sent the price of oil skyrocketing. This year, it's fear about what would happen if Turkey and the Kurds started duking it out. Maybees send prices booming.

The CEO at Merrill Lynch costs that company billions by guessing wrong on mortgages, which will probably cost thousands their jobs.

So what happens to him? He won't get a bonus or a severance package, but he will get a $2 million a year pension and stock options worth scores of millions of dollars.

This imbalance is just fine, if you ask the conservatives. Leave business alone and it will take care of itself. Well, it's just not right that people who head companies screw up and get millions ladled into their accounts and the poor guy who adds wrong and costs his boss a few bucks gets booted out into the street.

Where will it all end?

Page 3

We should end on a positive note. Kudos to the Boston Red Sox organization. They had a rolling rally, a parade through downtown Boston to honor the Sox today for winning the World Series on Sunday night. Everybody in the organization got to ride in the parade, from the players and the money guys all the way to the front-office staff and the people who sell the tickets. Everybody. That's a class act.

Until next time...

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