Daily Archives: July 22, 2014

The price we pay for cheap crap

Two news items on a single theme: Big Mac Mystery Meat, and toxic baubles.

Second one first, ‘cuz there’s a direct Vermont connection. Two-Fisted™ Attorney General Bill Sorrell has filed suit against Dollar Tree, purveyor of cheap crap and nothing but cheap crap, “for selling jewelry that contains toxic substances.”

What’s more, DT is a repeat offender. Sorrell says the bottom-barrel retailer is in violation of an earlier agreement to stop selling jewelry with unacceptably high levels of lead and cadmium. Charming. Sorrell’s office says the chain has sold “over 30,000 individual items… through its stores in Barre, Bennington, Burlington, Derby/Newport, and Rutland.”

The original 2010 settlement arose from what the AG’s office calls “a growing awareness… that many products imported from China and other countries contained toxic substances.” And the release adds, not at all reassuringly, that

“…although Dollar Tree routinely requires the testing of products it purchases for resale to consumers, its testing protocol does not ensure that all items of jewelry sold in its stores are free of toxic substances.”

Uh-huh. They require testing, but their testing program “does not ensure” the safety of their customers. I guess if they had a really thorough testing program, that’d interfere with the free and open flow of cheap crap. Which probably violates Dollar Tree’s constitutional right of free speech. Heck, if money is speech, isn’t a commercial transaction also speech?

On to Mystery Meat. McDonald’s, purveyor of oddly gray “hamburgers,” is portraying itself as “a bit deceived” over an audit of a Chinese meat supplier. The Daily Mail reports that Shanghai Husi Food was shut down after “a TV report showed workers apparently picking up meat from the factory floor, as well as mixing meat beyond its expiration date with fresh produce.” Yum, yum!

Mickey D’s CEO Don Thompson says “We are no longer serving product from the primary facility there that has the challenges and the issues.” I should hope so.

But that’s not the bad news. The bad news is this, from CNBC:

McDonald’s and many other food companies rely on third parties to perform audits to check whether facilities are complying with food safety rules and other regulations. It is not uncommon for suppliers at the center of food safety scandals to have received high marks on their audits.

Apparently, a whole lot of weak links in our food chain is the hidden price we pay for Cheap McCrap. And cheap pizza and “chicken,” since KFC and Pizza Hut have also served meat from Husi’s factory floor and compost heap.

At least they didn’t find elevated levels of lead or cadmium. Then again, how can we be sure they’re testing for that?

Oh, and let’s add Item 2.1 to my list: the opening of Pier 1 in South Burlington, bringing a whole world of cheap crap to one convenient location. Not to mention screwing its workers:

Long-time Williston resident Jeffery Fucci… will manage the new store, leading a team of approximately 35-40 associates. Associate hours fluctuate based on the needs of the business and the season.

That’s right, folks. All the “associates” will see their hours fluctuate “based on the needs of the business.” Yay, more crappy jobs for Vermont!

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The Bailey Do

do, N.

1. (chiefly dialect) fuss, ado

3. a festive get-together: affair, party

5. (British) cheat, swindle

(from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary)

I guess Todd Baley’s parents are out of town, because he’s throwing a big party at their Middlesex home this month. Shades of “Risky Business,” in more ways than one.

The Bailey Do is a fundraiser for the least deserving of Vermont political causes, Peter Shumlin’s bulging campaign warchest. Which already contains three times as much money as he’s likely to spend this season. 

The host, Todd Bailey, is an acquaintance of mine and head of the (so-called) white-hat lobbying shop, KSE Partners. One of KSE’s chief causes is health care reform. And, as VTDigger reports, one of Bailey’s co-hosts is Tess Taylor, former House Democratic Whip, now head of Vermont CURE, a single-payer advocacy group and a client of (wait for it…) KSE Partners. And, the top priority in the next biennium will be hammering out the details of a single-payer health care system.

Comfy-cozy.

Bailey contends there’s nothing to see here, keep moving along.

“Campaigns are funded through private donations and every lobbyist in the state of Vermont is going to participate in some type of fundraising activity,” he said Friday. “This is how the system functions. We’re simply exercising our constitutional rights.”

Yeah, just like Karl Rove and the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson.

In fact, Bailey is right: as the system is currently structured, there is absolutely nothing wrong with Bailey and Taylor fundraising for the Governor they hope to work with on the single biggest issue before the Legislature.

It might look bad, in a Captain Renault sort of way. But it’s perfectly legal, and Bailey et al. are exercising their constitutional rights as delineated by, ahem, the Roberts Court.

Liberal stalwart, retired lobbyist, and ass-kickin’ bluesman Bob Stannard agrees with Bailey: nothing to see here.

“You can treat them right and hope you get a little more time with them, but if the ideas you’re pushing are out of sync with theirs, it’s not going to happen,” Stannard said.

And then he added the laugh line of the entire article:

If other people feel their voice isn’t being heard, Stannard suggested they throw their own fundraisers.

Mmm-hmm. That’ll get ’em on Shumlin’s short list. Sorry, Bob, but that’s just weak.

Also making a Captain Renault-style appearance in the Digger story is Brady Toensing, vice chair of the VTGOP and a veteran of the inside-the-Beltway fandango. He is Shocked, Shocked that fundraising is going on:

The situation is illustrative of “just how farcical all the complicated campaign finance and lobbying rules and regulations really are.”

Well, your dander is conveniently raised, Mr. Toensing. I presume you’re just as outraged when conservative causes and businesses pump hundreds of millions into SuperPACs?

Nnnnehh, didn’t think so.

Back to the Bailey Do. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the next legislative session when VPIRG pushes its chosen issue of the year — campaign finance reform, including bans on corporate and lobbyist contributions to candidates.

Because the Democrats are fond of complaining about the influence of money in politics… except when it benefits them. And the Bailey Do is perfectly legal… within a system that desperately needs a makeover and new limits on what’s “perfectly legal.”

Bailey and Stannard did their best to justify a system that works for them because the Democrats rule our roost. And Toensing is Shocked, Shocked because his party is on the short end of this particular stick. If he was able to attract the attention of the Golden Dome’s power brokers, I’m sure he’d be fine with their exercise of constitutional rights as expressed in generous check-writing.

I don’t really think that backroom deals will be made chez Bailey. No real corruption. But it looks and smells bad. It’s the kind of thing that makes people feel shut out of the process, and give up on trying to influence their officeholders.

Besides, why the Hell does Shumlin need more loot?