Europe's Post-WWII Coordinated Capitalism in Retrospect
Tame Valley Thyme

Thank You for Smoking! (Max Boot/Council on Foreign Relations Edition)

Matthew Yglesias writes about the: persistent attempts by someone at the Council on Foreign Relations to scrub the Max Boot Wikipedia page of some unflattering information. Boot, of course, is a fellow at CFR and a columnist for The Los Angeles Times. What information? Well, as you can read here on Altercation, what this is about is... [b]efore he was a prestigious military policy writer, Boot was simply a generic rightwing hack at The Wall Street Journal's hack-laden editorial page. While there he, among other things, wrote an editorial attacking public health officials that was edited by tobacco lobbyist Steven MIlloy.

The only reason we know anything about this is that it happens to have come up in tobacco-related litigation. It's possible, in principle, that when Boot was writing rightwing regulatory policy journalism for the Journal he just so happened to let one of his pieces be edited by a lobbyist and that that piece just so happened to have come up in a lawsuit. Much more likely, however, is that he did this on various occasions and there just so happens to have been a lawsuit that uncovered this.

And now Boot, or someone working on his behalf, is trying to keep this incident hushed up.

The cigarette company Philip Morris classified Steve Milloy as one of their "tools to affect legislative decisions." Back in 1994, Milloy's "The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition" was part of Philip Morris's "Operation Whitecoats" which was: budgeted for $17 million the year TASSC was created [1993]... of which TASSC was an important part... to make an appearance of controversy about health effects of smoking.... TASSC was proposed by APCO Associates to Philip Morris Tobacco Company in the fall of 1993...

In short, Steve Milloy is the protagonist of the movie "Thank You for Smoking."

The paragraph that Max or someone working in the same building with him is working to scrub is:

[Boot] also collaborated with Steven J. Milloy on an article "Risk Rethought" which was critical of regulations to protect public health. Milloy edited a draft of the article which can be found in the Tobacco Legacy Documents. In the article, Boot wrote, "Of course, the regulators claimed that their rules were necessary to protect the public's health. Anyone who protested was labeled a stooge of Big Business." Milloy was later found to have been on the payroll of Big Tobacco

I think the paragraph is a little too easy on Max Boot. At the time, IIRC, it seemed clear to me at least that the overwhelming probability was that Milloy was either insane or on the payroll. In Boot's shoes I, at least, would not have dared both to send my editorial to Steve Milloy to edit and to write that protesters against regulation were falsely "labelled a stooge of Big Business."

Here's Boot's cover note to his fax of his editorial draft to Milloy:

CCI FAX 914-2414-008-785 1 DEC 1994 17:15 EST
To: FAX 1-20298338945

To: Steve Milloy
From: Max Boot, Wall Street Journal, 212-416-2566

Steve, I've been working on an editorial about your report. It's not done yet but I thought I'd show you a draft and get your reaction to it. Is it accurate? Did I make any mistakes? Etc. Thanks.

Steve Milloy had three suggested changes. Max Boot accepted all three of them. Here's Max Boot's editorial as published, with Steve Milloy's edits shown as strike throughs and bolds:

Wall Street Journal
REVIEW & OUTLOOK (Editorial)
"Rethinking Risk"
738 words
6 December 1994
(Copyright (c) 1994, Dow Jones & Co., Inc.)

When the new Republican Congress convenes in January, one of the top priorities ought to be rolling back what Lamar Alexander calls the "Waxman State" -- the torrent of rules and regulations enacted into law by the likes of Congressman Henry Waxman (D., Hollywood). This is an especially pressing priority in the environmental arena, where Congress and various executive branch agencies have spent years passing onerous rules to deal with negligible or nonexistent risks.

Environmental regulation is the source of much public outrage nowadays. Often the rules are a tangled mess because Congress's underlying legislation was complex in its goals and impossibly vague in how to meet those goals. The real rule-making was left to the bureaucracies, which in turn produced their own Rube Goldbergian complexity. Now comes evidence from a most unlikely source -- the government itself -- to support the contention that environmental spending bears little if any relation to the real risks faced by the public.

The Department of Energy has just released a report titled "Choices in Risk Assessment," prepared by a private consulting firm nonprofit research group. The agency has good reason to study the subject: It could spend $300 billion to $1 trillion over the next 30 years cleaning up waste sites. Does the scientific policy behind those cleanups -- and other federal actions -- stand up to scrutiny?

The report delivers some clear answers: "Most environmental risks are so small or indistinguishable that their existence cannot be proven." Scientific policy is "inherently biased and can be designed to achieve predetermined regulatory outcomes." "Policymakers, the media and the public are unaware of the role of science policy because of a lack of full and fair disclosure."

Consider just one example: the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is now proposing sweeping indoor air-quality regulations that would include a ban on all workplace smoking. But according to "Choices," a major part of this policy -- estimated to cost the private sector $8 billion annually -- is based on a one-page, hand-written chart that has never been published or peer-reviewed.

The "Choices" report praises the government for not banning the fluoridation of water, unleaded gasoline and used oil, for which some evidence of risk exists, but which on balance do far more good than harm. The report asks why similar decisions haven't been reached about other alleged dangers. For example, when the EPA tried to ban asbestos, it took into account only the product's hypothetical cancer risk -- not the many lives that would be lost if nonasbestos brakes are substituted on cars.

There's simply no rhyme or reason behind federal environmental policy. Even the "one chance in a million" standard used by many agencies to define a minimum level of cancer risk turns out to have no scientific basis. Kathryn Kelly, a Seattle environmental consultant, reports in the newsletter EPA Watch that this standard was basically plucked out of a hat by the FDA in the 1970s to regulate animal drug residues. Now it's employed for everything from hazardous waste sites to pesticides -- even though scientists have generally concluded that risks of less than one in a thousand can't even be quantified.

"It's insane that we're spending hundreds of billions of dollars chasing imagined risks," Steve Milloy, author of "Choices," tells us.

The road to sanity starts with more rational risk/cost-benefit analysis. Bills to accomplish that goal were introduced in the last Congress but got nowhere because of opposition from Democratic barons. Now that there are new Kings of the Hill, swift action is expected on this front.

But the new Republican majority should be careful about the language of cost-benefit bills. As "Choices" points out, many risk-analysis ideas have already been implemented via executive order -- to no effect. What's needed is legislation with teeth -- set out clearly what standards bureaucrats should follow, and give companies and local governments the right to sue if regulators get out of line. GOP Sen. Trent Lott, the new Majority Whip, has introduced a draft proposal along these lines, and Rep. Dan Mica (R., Fla.) will probably follow suit.

Passage of their plans would be a first step toward dismantling the crushing cost burden of the Waxman State, which surely played a role in the voters' recent decision to part ways with the Democratic Party. The party's public tastes simply had become too expensive.