What does a comma cost? Sometimes, $10 million
We may be in the middle of March Madness basketball in the United States, but nothing can surpass the madness we are dealing with in national and international politics, particularly since King Donald ascended the White House throne.
After months of hard investigative work, the FBI has found out who stole a football jersey with the number “12” that you can buy online for $100—one that was probably “manufactured” in Bangladesh for $2. Well, it was worn by New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in SuperBowl 51 and was valued by some memorabilia experts at $500,000.
In this abstract reality world of ours, it would be absolutely hilarious -- if it weren’t so tragic -- that the Justice Department and the FBI could not put one Wall Street investment banker in jail after the 2008 crash, for screwing middle-class Americans out of $17 trillion during the housing bubble—but they could find a soiled football jersey somewhere down in Mexico.
Because of a lack of regulations and the incompetence of regulators, bankers could immediately tie subprime mortgages into tidy crappy bunches and peddle them out the bank’s back door to suckers around the world.
In a complex society we have millions of ne’er-do-wells and millions who lie and cheat in order to do well. They both have to be well regulated. Language mavens have recently added a new word to our common lexicon that I think adequately describes this action. It’s craptacular. Canadians never suffered from the subprime mess because their bankers had to keep mortgages in their portfolios and maintain financial responsibility for them.
King Donald promised in the campaign that two regulations would be dropped for every regulation added during his administration. However, we live in a very complicated world that adds segments to its complexity every hour of the day. We constantly need more regulation rather than less. Legislative bodies work on new regulations all the time. We even use punctuation “regulations” to bring some order to what we write.
If you hate regulations, try to read “Molly Bloom’s Soliloquy” sometime
As an example, we need punctuation regulations to understand, interpret, and to distribute written communications in our complex world. In James Joyce’s novel ‘Ulysses,’ he has one chapter called “Molly Bloom’s Soliloquy” which has eight sentences. One sentence contains 4,391 words and has only two punctuation marks. Try to read it sometime. Joyce called it “stream-of-consciousness” writing. In the end, the soliloquy does make some sense. What’s the difference between these three sentences?”
Choices for breakfast included oatmeal, muffins, and bacon and eggs.
Choices for breakfast included oatmeal, muffins, bacon, and eggs.
Choices for breakfast included oatmeal muffins and bacon and eggs.
There are some not-so-subtle differences because of changes in punctuation. Do bacon and eggs always go together? What if we add sausage? Ever have oatmeal muffins? I prefer the second sentence because it excludes other meanings.
The lack of a comma in the following sentence cost a trucking company over $10 million in a driver overtime dispute: “The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of produce, meat and fish products, and perishable foods.”
There was no comma after “shipment,” so the court decided the drivers were eligible for overtime. The case is discussed fully in an article by Daniel Victor in the March 16 New York Times. Lawyers will find it fascinating. Commas in contracts can be very important. Examine these two sentences:
1. Panda eats shoots and leaves. 2. Panda eats, shoots, and leaves. In sentence #1 the peaceful panda has his noon meal of his favorite bamboo. In sentence #2 the panda acts like a North Dakota gunslinger—without permit-- just activated by Governor Doug Burgum.
No one was killed by a teddy bear this year, but 40,000 were shot
The federal government has maintained safety standards for the manufacture of teddy bears for over 70 years. Over the years six teddy bears have been recalled because they represented a real danger to children, because of buttons, sharp edges, hazardous edges, flammability, and small parts.
Every two minutes someone is shot. Someone dies from firearms every 14 minutes in the U.S. There are no federal manufacturing or safety standards for firearms, and no industry-wide safety or manufacturing standards. I guess guns have no sharp edges and are not flammable.
In a recent kerfuffle in Minnesota, child care providers complained that over-regulation is a big factor in limiting the options of Minnesota parents. A stray bobby pin left on a bathroom counter resulted in a $200 fine. Yes, children have choked to death on bobby pins or have had to have them removed by surgery. A lot of research has also gone into what cribs are safe. Many aren’t.
We shoot somebody every two minutes but a baby or child is injured every eight minutes by carriers, strollers, cribs, auto seats, and other items in child care centers. All cribs made before June of 2011 do not meet new standards. Over 66,000 children younger than three have had to go to emergency rooms each year from accidents involving nursery care products. Although parents can sign up for recalls of nursery products, up to 80% of recalled items are not returned by parents. That’s a real lousy record.
Which of these old regulations should we trade in on new ones?
Remember when dead kids used to be found in abandoned refrigerators because the doors could not be opened up from the inside? A regulation was passed 61 years ago requiring manufacturers to use magnetic mechanisms so the doors could be pushed open by a child trapped inside the fridge. Tragically some kids still die in old refrigerators left in garbage dumps, residential garages, and old homes. Shall we drop this regulation?
In 1970 we had a workforce of 83 million, and forty of those workers on the job were killed in accidents each day. Tricky Dick Nixon led Congress in passing the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), requiring workplaces to be free of recognizable hazards, and forced the establishment of minimum safety standards. In 2009 we had over 170 million workers under OSHA and had 12 deaths a day on the job.
A geochemist by the name of Clair Patterson discovered in 1965 that lead is a very toxic metal that destroys brains, kidneys, livers, and hearts. At that time lead was in gasoline and all kinds of paints, pipes, and ammunition.
The paranoid foul-mouthed Quaker Richard Nixon, who is still our greatest environmental president, fought for the Clean Air Act in 1970 and the Lead-Based Paint Poisoning Prevention Act in 1971. Lead was reduced in gasoline in the first Clean Air Act and it was eliminated in paint in 1971. Both of these acts eventually lowered the lead levels in five-year-olds by 80% and their IQs went up by five points.
But lead is back in the news, particularly in Flint, Michigan, because the city water is loaded with lead and has been undrinkable for three years. Most of the children in Flint have toxic levels of lead in their blood.
Just before leaving office President Obama signed an executive order banning the use of lead in ammunition and in fishing lures and equipment. According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates, over 20 million birds and animals die of lead poisoning each year because hunters and fishers use up to 100,000 tons. There are substitutes available for both sports.
The National Rifle Association, that great scientific organization, claims there is no scientific evidence that lead is harmful to humans and animals. Many nursing and foster care homes do not accept free venison and birds from hunters because toxic lead ammunition is often spread throughout the bodies of animals and birds.
As soon as Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke took office this winter he signed an executive order eliminating Obama’s ban. After spending $30 million on the election of King Donald, the NRA thanked Zinke “for eliminating this arbitrary attack on our hunting heritage.”
If you are called a conservative why don’t you want to conserve? Research has proven time and again that lead is toxic to life—whether animal, fish, or human. When substitutes are available, why don’t we outlaw the use of lead if it contacts living tissue?
Should we regulate a part of the economy we spend $3.8 trillion on?
Every few months we catch crooked doctors stealing from Medicare, Medicaid, and other health care programs, so we know there are all kinds of rascals in the health care business. We need regulations to protect people from unapproved and experimental treatments in many fields.
As an example, stem-cell treatments are getting to be very popular, so crooked doctors in Florida have been taking advantage of the elderly who have varying degrees of macular degeneration. Three women who were enticed into trying stem-cell treatments were recently blinded because of treatments from unapproved therapies. They had only moderate vision loss to begin with, but the treatments gave them detached retinas and hemorrhages—and total blindness. They each had paid $5,000 for the treatment.
We now have 570 stem-cell clinics operating in the United States. There are fierce arguments among doctors about how the clinics should be regulated. So far the FDA has only approved stem-cell treatments for blood disorders. National Institute of Health stem-cell researchers are pleading with the FDA to aggressively regulate all of these clinics. Perhaps in this case we should throw out one regulation for ten new ones in order to control the clinics.
The decline of trade unions means a dramatic increase in worker deaths
Over the last decade, trade unions have been decimated by the economy and by politicians. Just in the past two years 31 New York City construction workers have died in accidents, and in the last six years construction injuries have increased by 250%. In 2014, the last year with accurate statistics, 899 construction workers died in accidents throughout the country.
With the decline of unions, safety training sessions and union rules are no longer established for workers. It’s a fact that construction companies have become rich by ignoring safety regulations. Congress has stripped OSHA of staff to the point that it now has only one compliance officer for 59,000 workers. King Donald has promised to cut existing federal regulations by 75%.
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