Why Tom DeLay went off the rails

As is well-known, Tom DeLay burned out some critical neurons as an exterminator, driven over the edge by government safety regulations. I have a little more sympathy for his descent into darkness (this increment is added to a really small base) having come upon the following batch of paperwork, included with a new portable external DVD/CD drive:

A 4″x5″ “Quick Start” leaflet of four pages, two bearing content in the form of four instructions: put in the battery, plug in the USB cable, plug in the power adapter, connect to the computer.

A 5″x 6″ booklet called “Three (3) Year Limited Warranty”, containing ten (10) pages each in English (Inglés) and Español (Spanish) of legalese, MUCH OF IT IN ALL CAPS.

A 4″x5″ “A Guide to Using Toshiba Products: Please Read First”, six (6) pages that say to read itself, and then that the warranty is what it says in the warranty booklet, and to follow the instructions. Really.

A 5″x7″ booklet, “Instruction Manual for Safety and Comfort”, nineteen (19) pages of useful and surprising goodies like “Never insert more than one CD or DVD at a time” and “…never allow heavy objects to drop onto the DVD SuperMulti Drive, to protect it from damage”. This volume of course has no instructions about how to play or burn a CD or DVD.

[Ruthless costcutting and the usual corporate disregard for the customer’s welfare forced the omission of really important stuff like “Do not operate a vehicle transporting the DVD SuperMulti Drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol” or “Do not eat the DVD SuperMulti Drive” or “Do not attempt to record on slices of mortadella or read data from a doily with the DVD SuperMulti Drive”. Not even “Do not swing the power adapter around and around by its power cord and whack anyone with it”. These omissions may lead to enormous judgments against Toshiba. In fact, I have a mind to sue them right away, because this carelesness obviously puts the company’s survival, hence my three (3) year limited warranty, at risk…]

The pearl of this useful document, however, is right on the cover, prominent and emphasized:

Warning: Handling the cord on this product will expose you to lead, a chemical known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm. Wash hands after handling.

Update: more [than you wanted to know?] about lead and plastic here.

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.