Saturday, December 8, 2012

Tobacco Cos.: We do help these things kill you

Pause a moment to mentally congratulate Judge Gladys Kessler of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia:  Her 13-year-long slog presiding over United States v. Philip Morris et al., No. 99-2496, is coming to an end. And it is ending in pretty spectacular fashion.
On Nov. 27 she ordered all the big tobacco companies to begin publishing "corrective statements" in newspapers, on TV, on the Internet, in magazines and on their cigarette packs to correct the lies they have been telling cigarette consumers for decades and decades. 
The statements will say not just that cigarettes kill more than 400,000 American smokers and ex-smokers every year, not just that secondhand smoke kills 3,000 Americans a year, not just that there is no such thing as a safe cigarette ...
Judge Gladys Kessler
The statements will say tobacco companies intentionally designed cigarettes with enough nicotine to create and sustain addiction to make it very hard for you to quit and then lied to you about just how addictive they are.
Judge Kessler has approved the exact wording of the statements and the tobacco companies cannot change the wording, no matter how embarrassed, chagrined or pissed-off their corporate executive may be.
They lost their last argument in the Nov. 27 ruling, that the statements violated their rights of free speech.
Au Contraire, the judge said.  Commercial speech does not enjoy the protections that political speech enjoys.

"There is no reason to believe that issuing these corrective statements would place any burden on defendants' speech other than the desired one, namely preventing defendants from denying the accuracy of them," she said.
Here are the corrective statements that the tobacco companies have to publish, in full and verbatim, straight from the opinion. Look for the statements to start appearing in four or five months. (Ignore any links in the following.  I didn't put them in and can't figure out how to get them out.)
The preamble:
 "A Federal Court has ruled that the Defendant tobacco companies deliberately deceived the American public about the health effects of smoking, and has ordered those companies to make this statement.  Here is the truth:" 
A. Adverse Health Effects of Smoking
·         Smoking kills, on average, 1200 Americans.  Every day.
·         More people die every year from smoking than from murder, AIDS, suicide, drugs, car crashes, and alcohol, combined.
·         Smoking causes heart disease, emphysema, acute myeloid leukemia and cancer of the mouth,  esophagus, larynx, lung, stomach, kidney, bladder, and pancreas.
·         Smoking also causes reduced fertility, low birth weight in newborns, and cancer of the cervix and uterus. 
B. Addictiveness of Smoking and Nicotine
·         Smoking is highly addictive.  Nicotine is the addictive drug in tobacco.
·         Cigarette companies intentionally designed cigarettes with enough nicotine to create and sustain addiction.
·         It's not easy to quit.
·         When you smoke, the nicotine actually changes the brain-that's why quitting is so hard.
 C. Lack of Significant Health Benefit from Smoking “Low Tar,” “Light,” “Ultra Light,” “Mild,” and “Natural” Cigarettes
·         Many smokers switch to low tar and light cigarettes rather than quitting because they think low tar and light cigarettes are less harmful.  They are not.
·         "Low tar” and filtered cigarette smokers inhale essentially the same amount of tar and nicotine as they would from regular cigarettes.
·         All cigarettes cause cancer, lung disease,heart attacks, and premature death -- lights, low tar, ultra lights, and naturals.  There is no safe cigarette.
 D. Manipulation of Cigarette Design and Composition to Ensure Optimum Nicotine Delivery
      ·          Defendant tobacco companies intentionally designed cigarettes to make them more addictive.
·         Cigarette companies control the impact and delivery of nicotine in many ways, including designing filters and selecting cigarette paper to maximize the ingestion of nicotine, adding ammonia to make the cigarette taste less harsh, and controlling the physical and chemical make-up of the tobacco blend.
      ·         When you smoke, the nicotine actually changes the brain-that's why quitting is so hard.
 E. Adverse Health Effects of Exposure to Secondhand Smoke
      ·         Secondhand smoke kills over 3,000 Americans each year.
·         Secondhand smoke causes lung cancer and coronary heart disease in adults who do not smoke.
·         Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), acute respiratory infections, ear problems, severeasthma, and reduced lung function.
·         There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

I don't know if all this will do any good, but at least, the tobacco companies are finally being forced to stop lying.  I can't wait for their new advertising campaigns. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Joe Biden could sue himself and other fun facts

Common Cause is suing Joe Biden
Those of you who went right back to sleep, political junkie-wise, right after the election are sure missing some fun now!
I'll get to Common Cause and Joe Biden in a minute, but first let's catch up on some other things.
In its first post-election poll (Dec. 4), Public Policy Polling -- which did some remarkably accurate presidential election polling -- learned that:
* Nobody knows or much cares who Grover Norquist is. Forty-eight percent of those polled were not sure if they had a favorable or unfavorable view of the great no-taxes ever for any reason guru, but fully 77 percent either thought it was not important for politicians to stick to his no-tax pledge or weren't sure.
*Some people will never stop believing President Obama somehow stole the election from what-was-his name?  Twenty-four percent of those polled believe ACORN stole the election for Obama despite the fact that ACORN was disbanded in 2010.   And if ACORN didn't steal the election, then 39 percent of the poll subjects believe the Democrats engaged in voter fraud. It had to be one or the other because how else could you explain it?
* Here's the best poll result: 16 percent oppose the Simpson-Bowles federal deficit plan while 17 percent oppose the "Panetta-Burns" plan, which is a completely made-up plan name that PPP threw in just to see if anyone was paying attention.
* Oh yeah, and 18 percent of those polled want to secede from the union.  I say, don't let the door hit ya ...
So the PPP poll, was hilarious, but that's not all.
U.S. Senator and Tea Party darling Jim DeMint (R-Wingnut Crazy Town) is leaving the U.S. Senate to head the Heritage Foundation.  DeMint, you may remember, was the guy who said the Affordable Care Act would be Obama's Waterloo.  So Obama is staying and Napoleon DeMint is leaving? 
DeMint may be the meanest, craziest right-wing nuttiest U.S. senator in recent memory, though Rand Paul we're counting on you to take up the slack.  So there was dancing in the streets everywhere at the announcement DeMint was leaving, except perhaps among the employees of the Heritage Foundation. 
But wait, it gets even better:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell proposed a vote this morning (Dec. 6) on a bill giving President Obama unilateral power to raise the debt ceiling (a ploy to embarrass Democrats) and when Majority Leader Harry Reid called him on it and said, "Sure, let's vote," McConnell had to block his own bill.  He actually had to filibuster himself! It doesn't get any more dysfunctional than that. 
Which brings us to Common Cause v. Biden, No. 12-775 (D.D.C.). 
Delaware County's former congressman and currently president and CEO of Common Cause, Bob Edgar, says that Common Cause is suing Biden, in his capacity as president of the Senate, seeking a judgment that the filibuster is unconstitutional.
 Long story short, Edgar says that the U.S. Constitution provided for only six specific things that require a 60-vote super-majority -- impeachments, expelling members, overriding a presidential veto, ratification of treaties and constitutional amendments.   The founding fathers, as they spelled out so eloquently in the Federalist Papers, intended that everything else be decided by majority vote.  You know, majority vote, democracy and all that.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia is holding a hearing Monday on Biden's (really the Office of Senate Legal Counsel's) motion to dismiss.  The motion argues that Common Cause has no standing to sue. 
Common Cause may not have standing, but interestingly, the Judge told the parties he especially wants to hear argument on whether three of the other plaintiffs -- members of the U.S. House of Representatives -- have standing to sue.  Their argument:  They cannot do their jobs because nothing they pass ever gets enacted by the Senate due to the filibuster.
As to Biden suing Biden -- Bob Edgar told me that the vice president could have standing to sue himself because as president of the Senate he is tasked with casting tie-breaking votes, but he never gets to do that because defeating a filibuster requires 60 votes.  I'll keep you posted on what happens with the court hearing.