Sunday, May 27, 2007

Original Sin

Tobacco denialism is the original sin. The tobacco companies fought a fifty year battle to deny the harm that they have done and are doing, the myriad deaths caused by the evil weed. Some time ago, Eli dug out information showing that tobacco is responsible for over 20 % of male and 8 % of female deaths in developed countries.

To maintain their profits the tobacco companies created a sophisticated public relations effort supported by a small but virulent group of professionals including scientists, economists and policy sluts. Among these were our old friends the Freds, Seitz and Singer who have gone on to further dishonor and but, alas, good fortune.

The centenary of Rachel Carson's birth has brought one of these, a Roger Bate to the forefront. Bate, an economist, currently dishonouring the American Enterprise Institute has set up a front organization, Africa Fighting Malaria, but to what purpose the innocent bunnies ask.

Not to fight malaria, but to fight the World Health Organization while it attempts to battle the twin curses of malaria and tobacco. Yesterday, Eli pointed to Roger Bate's solicitation letter to Philip Morris, today Rabett Institute will briefly consider the funding proposal SENT TO THE TOBACCO COMPANIES in which the clear purpose of Africa Fighting Malaria is layed out

(UPDATE: Somehow Eli originally omitted the URL. Thanks to the anonymouse who pointed out the omission)

We have had significant media attention to our ideas and have supporters within political circles. The idea of sound science, thresholds and tradeoffs, have been enhanced, and appear periodically in circles of opinion formers. However, we have been, and will probably remain, largely unsuccessful in changing policy for several reasons :
• Our ideological supporters are believed to have hidden agendas - the vested interests of industry and pro-industry politicians.
which, in view of what follows appears to be a pretty accurate description of the situation
• Our opponents are quite disparate, yet we have not divided them and shown each how the other's agenda is damaging their own .

To be more successful we need to do the following :
• Simplify our arguments .
• Pick issues on which we can divide our opponents and win . Make our case on our terms, not on the terms of our opponents - malaria prevention is a good example .
• Show our opponents where their alleged allies are harming their cause - environmental regulations often harm public health in the west and western policies often harm health in Less Developed Countries (LDCs).
• Target messages to show politicians and journalists how to make political capital out of supporting our ideas.
• Involve opinion formers in LDCs to make our case .
Which gives one a pretty good opinion idea of what is to follow
The first stage is to develop some literature which explains the harm that a preoccupation with virtual risks in the west is causing in LDCs (to create support in the LDCs) . At the same time we must continue to explain the dangers this preoccupation has for those in the west (to increase support in the west) . The aim of the papers will be to highlight two tensions : between the actions of environmental and public health policies, and between OECD and LDC aims . It will also question what the aims of international health agencies (primarily WHO) should be .
Well, the Tobacco Institute already had funded one book by Bate
As part of this process I have produced a cut-down version of "What Risk?", with two new papers, for think tanks to publish in their own languages/countries . . .
but the Tobacco lobby always did have money for unworthy causes
Each will provide a speaking platform for me, and work with local media - however, all will require some funding support,
and then the new front group can start to work
A new initiative to bring interest back into combating malaria, Africa Fighting Malaria, will be collection of groups of individuals and institutes, working from a base in Cape Town, South Africa .
The purpose of this all
this will create tensions between LDCs and OECD countries and between public health and environment.
How noble. Bate goes on
The third part of the strategy will be to constructively look at the future role of international agencies such as UNEP, UNDP, WHO etc . For example, WHO's new Director General Gro Harlem Brundtland comes from an environmental background. As the originator of the phrase 'sustainable development', and a guiding light in both the Montreal Protocol, and Rio Summit, she has a superb grasp on manipulating international political structures . According to one insider she is after the top job at UN . Her two targets of malaria and tobacco control if `successful' could propel her towards that goal . . The tobacco control protocol is based upon the Montreal Protocol and as such, although she did not originate the tobacco document, she is comfortable with its approach. Indeed, the tobacco control document may lead to a binding WHO/UN convention .
The final paragraph is a keeper
At UNEP, the desire to push through treaties on Persistent Organic Pollutants, Climate Change, Hazardous Waste, to name but a few draw heavily on the Montreal Protocol as well . However, the Montreal Protocol is highly flawed (like the tobacco control document) . It contains inaccuracies, cost underestimation and dubious ethics . To influence the direction of future UN legislation we must criticise the Montreal Protocol. A paper is proposed to accurately apply the lessons learned from the Montreal Protocol to new or developing conventions (especially POPs, tobacco and climate change).
As we saw in the earlier post, the cost of this piece of work was small, Bate even offered a discount
As you probably know I was working for PMCS Brussels at a rate of 800 pounds sterling a day . I would be content to continue to work at the same rate.
It is truly difficult to understand someone as evil as Roger Bate, it is hard to understand why anyone with self respect would associate with him and surely, Roger Bate's existence is a strong argument against the existence of a just God.


Anonymous said...

The goal to "create tensions between LDCs and OECD countries" sounds treasonous to me - the USA is an OECD country. Can others comment - is Bates (and anyone who supports his program) a traitor to the USA?

Anonymous said...

Now, now, he's neither proof that good is impossible nor that betraying one's treaty commitments is treasonous. He's doing business as usual, not particularly surprising except blatantly getting revealed as pond scum.

I'm starting to think better and better of David Brin's notion that privacy is not going to be missed as much as we thought, and transparency is going to be more beneficial than we imagined. The Tobacco Papers are one of the wonders of the world.

Reread Brunner's _Shockwave_Rider_ recently?

Anonymous said...

He's doing business as usual..."

That may be BAU for some -- the Libertarian ideologues and/or those who went to Harvard Business school (like Bush) -- but not for most of us.

Unfortunately, that is business as usual for the vast majority of those who have climbed to the top of the economic food-chain. That's usually how they got there -- certainly not through talent or hard work.

They have built up a whole mythology about themselves (thanks to Ayn Rand et al) as an enabling mechanism. It holds that they are the ones who add value to our society when in fact, they are the least capable people in society.

They are the blood-sucking leaches -- CEO's who get huge salaries, bonuses and severance packages regardless of how their company does and regardless of how many of their employees they screw (literally or figuratively) along the way; and pathetic losers who write rubbish for the likes of organizations like CEI, and Cato.

These are the people like Bush who can only get ahead through dishonest means.

Anonymous said...

Could we stick to the subject at hand? Making sweeping accusations of people in business is not in any way constructive or close to the truth.

My experience is that most of the people who managed to get to the top of the economic food chain are highly capable and have worked for many years, making 16 hour days.

Just because there is scum about is no reason to throw them all together. I could look at the statistics for the USA and conclude that all Americans are dimwitted religious fanatics who don't have clue where Europe is and don't give a damn about the rest of the world.

Having said all that, 800/day? Jeez. I never charge less than a 1,000.

Anonymous said...

Are you an engineer or scientist, Mark?

my experience as an engineer is that the business majors are the ones who end up as CEO's and most of them are pushed to the top because they are so incompetent that no one wants them around.

I have worked in the high tech industry mots of my life and have dealt with several Harvard Business grads (my brother in law and his brother in law included) who were total and complete morons.

Anonymous said...

The libertarians seem to be some of the the most incompetent/dishonest people of all.

Anonymous said...

Top blogging. But did I miss the link to the proposal itself, or did you not post it? Thanks.

EliRabett said...

Nope, thanks for pointing this out, it is now inserted

Rich Puchalsky said...

It's interesting how evil this "seamless garment" of anti-life propaganda is. Gro Harlem Brundtland, in case anyone has forgotten, also pretty much saved the world from SARS.

Anonymous said...

I'm a chimera... Started as scientist and became engineer... I escaped from the test lab:)

Anonymous said...

How unsurprising it is that Bate (see his AEI page here) turns out to be an economist with no science background.

Noting in particular Bate's apparent role ("Founder and Director, IEA Environmental Unit, 1993-2003") in formalizing the DC think tank anti-environment campaign at the transition point between the era of raw greed (Reagan/Bush I) and the era of rationalized greed (Clinton), I wonder if anyone has researched the history of all of this. It seems as if the tobacco papers should contain plenty of other smoking guns that would make for a gripping narrative.

guthrie said...

Hank- I don't have Shockwave rider yet, I shall have to keep an eye out for it.

This is an interesting article. I make some predictions- a political entryist group called "Spiked" has or will have several articles on how environmentalists and Rachel Carson are evil. They will then have some articles on how obsessed modern people are with risk, and its avoidance.
(Oddly enough, none of their writers [that I have seen so far] work in the offshore industry, building trades, or any other inherently risky work)

What I found interesting was the phrase "virtual risk". It's meaning is not clear, but it appears to mean that there is little or no risk, and the journalists hype said non-existent risk up. Which is partly correct- newspapers do hype up nonexistent risks, but what these guys want to do is use that fact to undermine real risks.

The quote from their paper is:

"Journalists - contrast of western indifference to death in LDCs
(regardless of rhetoric) and preoccupation with virtual risks in west."

Now, this seems a funny tack to take given that their prefered ideology is "me first and sod the rest of them". If the world really works like that, why try and suggest that we should be concerned with the deaths of millions of complete strangers on a different continent?

Anonymous said...

Mark said; " I could look at the statistics for the USA and conclude that all Americans are dimwitted religious fanatics who don't have clue where Europe is and don't give a damn about the rest of the world."

You could -- and to a high degree of accuracy, you would be correct.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Eli, you are _so_ young and innocent yet. Tobacco's sin is a copycat sin, not remotely original.

Tobacco's program followed a well bulldozed track. I'm sure the methods go back to before writing and agriculture if we only knew.

But for even the recent examples of hard core abuse of reality in the interest of short term profit, look at the lead industry long before the tobacco industry.
Little Pamphlets and Big Lies:
Federal Authorities Respond to
Childhood Lead Poisoning, 1935–2003

My excerpt:
Late in 1935, Alice Hamilton, who a generation earlier had done more than any other government-sponsored researcher to expose and ameliorate industrial lead poisoning, wrote to Martha May Eliot, assistant chief of the U.S. Children’s Bureau.... a new mother married to a third-year medical student at Harvard, had asked Hamilton how to be sure that paint on baby furniture was lead-free.

Although Hamilton had always assumed "that furniture and toys were painted with enamel paint,lead-free," the Bureau of Standards informed her that in fact many enamel paints contained lead.

Hamilton’s purpose in writing Eliot, then, was to urge "that tests would have to be made of furniture paints and toy paints," and to suggest who should take on
this task: "Do not you think that it is an important question and that it lies within the field of the Children’s Bureau?"

No such investigation was ever undertaken by the Children’s Bureau, the federal agency charged with advocating for "the welfare of
children and child life among all classes of our people." Instead, the Bureau continued to field concerned parents’ questions about safe paints, and periodically published leaflets listing the lead content of paints, data provided by the paint manufacturers themselves.

If Eliot and others at the Children’s Bureau did not see studying lead poisoning as
within its field, the lead-using industries had certainly learned it was in their best interests to do so.

Recent historical scholarship makes clear that for much of the
twentieth century the lead industry dominated lead poisoning research, denied the potential health effects from exposure to lead, and successfully limited the public’s
knowledge of real harm to its workers and the general public, all in order to continue marketing its "useful metal."

At the time of this exchange of letters between Hamilton and Eliot, researchers at Harvard Medical School were in their second decade of research into the health effects of exposure to lead, research funded in large part by grants from the Lead Industries Association, a trade organization comprising most lead mining and manufacturing companies.... And at the University of Cincinnati, Robert Kehoe studied the physiology of lead absorption at the Kettering Laboratory of Applied Physiology, an institution established by and run with funding from GM and the Ethyl Corporation, the producers of leaded gasoline.... establishing the standard interpretation of lead poisoning that would prevail for the next 40 years.

This contrast between passive government agents and assertive defensive actions by industry had enormous health consequences....
------ end excerpt ---------

And add to this another unintended consequence:

Using tetraethyl lead boosted octane, favoring continued use of old type, low-compression engines. The gasoline companies claimed Americans would never accept the European and Japanese alternative -- smaller, high-compression engines, run on unleaded gasoline.

Anyone old enough to remember the full page color ads run in Scientific American showing closeups of highway verges and explaining how lead never got more than a couple of feet from the edges of the highways?

No, lying about tobacco just followed the standard model.

EliRabett said...

True, Eli is but an innocent bunny of the field

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm not cynical enough yet myself. I appreciate your help more than I can express.

Where besides here are the researchers being trained who will specialize in obfuscatology?

I suppose it's a field limited by funding --- it was a rare foundation grant that set up the Tobacco Archive at UCSF.

Anonymous said...

Well, the truth is, those documents are a decade old, so it's hard to make the case that pro-DDT folks are being funded by Big Tobacco now -- especially given the fact that Big Tobacco has been leading the *anti*-DDT push in Africa. If you've been following that issue at all since WHO approval, you'd know that British American Tobacco is one of the top critics of DDT-spraying for malaria control in Africa. I doubt tobacco has been funding any of this stuff recently...

Anonymous said...

One of several articles on tobacco's opposition to DDT. So I doubt they're funding any pro-DDT groups today or have for some time... So I'm not sure these documents are all that pertinent to a discussion in 2007. And, to be fair, Bate's recent work is credible, even if you disagree with him, and even if he was involved with some shady folks back in the day...

EliRabett said...

Hi, Anon 1:58, Bates' current agitprop is no more credible than his whoring after the tobacco $. The fact is that Africa Fighting Malaria was founded as a disinformation operation to destroy the WHO initiative against tobacco use, and that the malaria campaign the WHO had started was simply be a tool in that campaign, collateral damage as it were. This alone is enough to condemn Bate to the deepest level of Hell forevermore.

Why you think such a despicable specimen is now "credible" is perhaps the triumph of hope over reality.

Sparrow (in the coal mine) said...

As we saw in the earlier post, the cost of this piece of work was small, Bate even offered a discount

The link in this text is dead.

EliRabett said...

Fixed, many thanks.

AaronSw said...

I have an article on Rachel Carson and the DDT issue in this month's _Extra!_:

Was Rachel Carson a Mass Murderer?

Your website was an invaluable source in getting interested and then researching the controversy. I hope you like the article.

One correction: I did interview Roger Bate and find that he (quite plausibly) insisted that he had not received any tobacco money. I discuss the actual source of his funding on my blog.

Best wishes!

Anonymous said...

hello, friend :)
hope u r safe n sound now.

btw i request ur permission to copy the picture above for illustration in my blog. thank u before...

EliRabett said...

It's not mine but copied.

Hank Roberts said...

apropos virtual risk:

Sandwichman said...

"Roger Bate's existence is a strong argument against the existence of a just God."

On the contrary, it makes one hope fervently that there is a Hell for Bate to burn in for eternity.