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Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Secondhand Smoke Charade

Disclaimer: I smoke, on average, one cigar a week.

That having been said, this is wrong on many levels:

Tobacco Industry Loses Appeal Over Airline Smoke

By Catherine Wilson The Associated Press Published: Dec 22, 2004

MIAMI (AP) - A state appeals court upheld a $500,000 award to a flight attendant who blamed secondhand smoke on airliners for her bronchitis and sinus disease in a decision Wednesday that could clear the way for damage trials on up to 3,000 similar claims.

The ruling for former TWA attendant Lynn French was a test case interpreting a $349 million settlement reached in 1997 between the tobacco industry and nonsmoking attendants. The agreement settled claims blaming illnesses on exposure to in-flight smoke before smoking was banned on domestic flights in 1990.

First, there has never been a direct causal relationship found by researchers between cigarette smoke and cancer, emphysema, bronchitis, or asthma.

Second, any link between secondhand smoke and the illnesses mentioned above are supported only by statistics; not by science. People who are around smokers a good deal have a greater incidence of illness. Like anybody in the USA hasn't been around cigarette smokers. Look, smoking is bad for you. It could very well cause you to die an agonizing - and premature - death. But don't let them get hysterical. In your attempt to gain understanding, approach this subject - like any subject- with a degree of skepticism.

Third, the courts now "presume" that cigarette smoke causes illness. Never mind all the tedium of allowing the manufacturers to defend themselves. It would be time wasted. We all know cigarettes cause all kinds of bad stuff.
Under the settlement, juries must presume that secondhand smoke causes several diseases. Attendants must prove they suffer from one of them and their illness was caused by their on-the-job exposure, "which of course is what their treating physician will testify to," [plaintiff's attorney] Weinstein said.
Apparently they have no trouble getting doctors to "testify" to the fact that their illnesses are caused by their having come in contact with ... what? Marlboro? Pall Mall? Lucky Strike? When? Last week? Last month? In their childhood? Why are the illnesses, in many cases, just now surfacing? Smoking on commercial domestic flights was banned thirty years ago. We don't care. In this twisted arena of courtroom contortions otherwise known as tobacco litigation, it doesn't matter. Doctors simply have to say the word "cigarette" and the industry pays. And the truth that dare not speak its name: Every one of us would meet the criteria for a fat settlement check if we can simply prove we are ill - and find a doctor that's looking to make a buck. The burden of proof that you are not ill, or weren't ill, or are not going to be ill, as the case may be, is on the tobacco industry.

Right out of the twilight zone. It kind of reminds me of the Salem witch trials of old. A crazy woman points a finger at some poor innocent wretch and calls her a witch and the accused is dragged into the public square and burned at the stake. Evidence? We don't need no stinking evidence. All we need is an accusation. We are talking about a witch, for God's sake! And inhalants, have mercy! The accusation is of such magnitude that it alone warrants punishment. We should waste no more time; take every Philip Morris executive out and burn him. We learned from the puritans how to deal with this problem. And every tobacco farmer should pay as well! And when we've finished with them, we can throw everyone who has ever smoked a cigarette into the inferno! They did this. They caused us to have acne and genital warts. Premature baldness and excess water weight gain. Kill them all. They deserve it. The devil is in them. Kill them! Kill them!

This is so wrong, it makes me want to light up a ... cohiba. Sue me. You know where to find me.

Election Chaos

The "controversy" in Ohio continues to play out. The hand recount of all ballots cast in the November election proceeds at a snail's pace. The screams of "fraud" are heard from the usual Democrat suspects; the same bunch who declared the voting in Florida in 2000 to have dienfranchised black voters, but were never able to present one citizen who claimed to have been prohibited from voting. Jesse Jackson. Al Sharpton. John Conyers.

You say, who is John Conyers? He happens to be one of the most powerful Democrats in America today (which isn't saying a whole lot since their influence - and membership - is diminishing), is from Detroit, and is ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. He's also a loon, but we'll save that discussion for another day.

The reason he comes up in this piece today has to do with the fact that, besides being ... strange, he is a hypocrite. He demands an investigation of Ohio voting irregularities but has no interest in a potentially much greater number of problems in his own voting district. Go figure.

Thomas Bray, writing for the Detroit News, lays it out:

If Conyers was so concerned about voting problems, where was he in 1998 when election officials in his hometown of Detroit took a disgraceful two weeks to count ballots due to lost poll books and miscounting of precinct totals?

Where was he in 2001 when the counting of absentee ballots in Detroit had to be halted in midstream by state officials after it was discovered that the city clerk was simply ignoring state requirements for the use of software that would eject ballots that couldn't be read by machine?

And where was he when a memo allegedly drafted by Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's aides in 2002 claimed that Detroit's voter rolls were overstated by about 150,000 people -- a strong hint that something may be seriously amiss in the Detroit election process, threatening the value of the ballot for people who are genuinely qualified to vote?

You hear too many of these claims - from both sides - of possible vote fraud to not investigate the allegations and, where necessary, fix any problems uncovered. But it doesn't help jokers like Conyers make their case by declaring select problems to be worth investigating.

We would do well to listen to his whining with a degree of skepticism.