So now we're back to flammable pajamas?
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Fri, 21 Aug 98 12:43:02 -0700
Subject: So now we're back to flammable pajamas?
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So now we're back to flammable pajamas?
AUSTIN -- Keeping your eye on the shell with the pea under it seems to get
harder and harder. While the media are focused on the thrilling antics of
Monica, Ken Starr and Co., there are just a few other itty-bitty items that
you might want pay some attention to. Your babies, for example. Congress is
now engaged in a quiet donnybrook over whether to keep the old flammability
standards for children's pajamas.
Thought that one was over, did you? Thought that after the consumer movement
forced pajama manufacturers to make kids' PJs from flame-resistant material
back in 1972 -- and after the number of children burned to death every year
from having their PJs catch on fire decreased tenfold -- that no was ever
going to question whether that was a good idea again.
Wrong. Consumer protection is so politically incorrect these days that
Congress won't even listen to groups representing firefighters and trauma
care providers on this issue, much less consumer advocates.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission revised its flammability standards
for sleepwear in 1996, in theory because parents were letting their kids
sleep in oversize cotton T-shirts, which are comfortable but highly
flammable. According to `The Washington Post,' from 200 to 300 kids a year
are treated in emergency rooms for burns related to billowy sleepwear. Under
the new standards, snug-fitting garments such as long underwear can be sold
as sleepwear, and pajamas for infants younger than 9 months need not be
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., introduced a bill in May to reinstate the
earlier standards and then tried to tack it onto the VA-HUD bill as an
amendment in June. Cotton lobbyists learned of the move and started lobbying
Republicans -- including Reps. Henry Bonilla, Larry Combest and Mac
Thornberry, all of Texas.
Bonilla will move to strike DeLauro's amendment today. He told `The
Washington Post' last week, "I don't have a huge cotton constituency in my
district, but my state does," and added that the Texas drought has already
taken a toll on cotton farmers. "They came to me and explained this would
place severe restrictions on what they could produce."
Excuse me -- did I just hear someone say we should bail out the cotton
farmers by letting more little kids get burned to death every year? Did
anyone think to ask the cotton farmers whether they approve of this move?
Because I seriously doubt that they do.
DeLauro said, "It is just mind-boggling to me that we would allow special
interests to influence this legislation." However, according to Bonilla's
press secretary this week, his main motive here is procedural: DeLauro's
bill never got a hearing, and here she is trying to tack it onto an
I find this objection breathtaking -- using the amendment-on-an-unrelated-
bill maneuver has been a specialty of Republicans in this Congress. As
previously reported, they have used unrelated bills to pass amendments
damaging the environment, fouling up the Department of Interior's efforts
to get a fair royalty from the oil companies (the Kay Bailey Hutchison
special) and innumerable other horrors.
(The `St. Louis Post-Dispatch' recently editorialized: "Republicans are
sneakily trying to chisel away at environmental protections. . . . they are
using the legislative rider to slip through anti-environmental bills that
would wilt under the glare of public scrutiny. . . . This summer the riders
have multiplied like E. coli.")
In fact, I'd bet good money that the Republicans have done more actual
legislation by the sneaky amendment-and-rider method than they have passed
actual legislation (an easy bet, given their remarkable nonperformance in
general). Boy oh boy, if that's now an objection on procedural grounds,
these > R's will never get anything passed.
We could go on and on with these examples, but let's take a look at the
broader perspective instead.
There are two things we can do about corporate misbehavior in this society:
We > can have the government regulate corporations for health, safety and
environmental damage, or we can let people who have been damaged by
corporations haul them into court and sue the b------. What is happening is
that both avenues of control are being squeezed out of existence.
`Regulation' > is a dirty word to the Republicans, and at the same time they
are restricting > the right of citizens to sue in every way they possibly
According to a study by the Violence Policy Center, the latest effort was
a bill placing wide-ranging limits on product liability lawsuits against
"small > business." You may think that "small business" means the
mom-and-pop candy stores. Nah. Specially included as a "small favor" in
"small business" are, among others, manufacturers of
Saturday-night-specials, the AK-47, the TEC-9 and the Street Sweeper. Cute,
Look, friends, this is all fairly simple. Corporate money dominates
politics, and the politicians dance with them what brung 'em. Until we
force politicians to change the way campaigns are financed, rule by
corporate money will continue. And while we're on the subject, please notice
that corporations have put millions and millions and millions of dollars
into the campaign to convince us that lawsuits against do-badding
corporations are rotten, unfair and nasty. Welcome back to flammable
Molly Ivins is a columnist for the `Star-Telegram.' You may write to her at
1005 Congress Ave., Suite 920, Austin, TX 78701; call her at (512) 476-8908;
or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
© 1998 Peter Langston