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   How important are the upcoming battles over SCOTUS nominees?   I would suggest they are pivotal in our nation's history - for - in my humble view - we are balanced on a knife's edge and the SCOTUS may well herald our embrace of the malaise of corporate subversion of fundamental principles or issue a clarion call for a return to the cornerstone of what made America the shining city.

  I saw this story http://finance.yahoo.com/... explaining that an appeals court upheld a finding of  racketeering and fraud entered against major players in the tobacco cartel.   These conglomerates, of course, vowed an appeal (further extending the over decade old struggle) to the SCOTUS.  

  My guess is the Court will accept the writ of certiorari and in a year or two - may have to come face to face with the question of how our legal system deals with vastly powerful and overwhelmingly funded major enterprises that have been found to be in the business of committing racketeering and fraud.

  The whispers were there decades ago - that the tobacco giants knew what they were doing, knew it in great detail but made the decision that they could use their power, money and influence to literally overwhelm any court challenge.    

  Part and parcel of this campaign was funding of the whole "tort reform" movement.  Not satisfied with the relatively isolated hand-to-hand combat of lawsuits here and there - tobacco saw as its marketing goal calling into question the validity of the courts themselves.  "Personal responsibility" was twisted into a notion that the victims of any manner of unlawful behavior should be shunted from polite conversation and looked upon as part of the leper colony of grasping "plaintiffs".   Indeed the whole idea of the campaign was to embed in the public mind the idea that "plaintiff"  was a category of person that was, well, not really our kind of person.  

  Slowly the facade was chipped away - and the documents, studies and information leaked out.  As the decision in the current litigation shows - the evidence supports the fundamental notion that Big Tobacco consciously engaged in conduct to market poison and cover up the implications of what it was doing.

   Apparently - even after the first part of the veil was pulled back - and Big Tobacco acknowledged that it was in the nicotine delivery business and it knew that drug was both toxic and addictive - the industry charted a new course of deception.  Masters of marketing - the industry sold "light" "reduced tar" product - the intimation being the new improved version was somehow healthier.  

   "
T

he nine-month trial heard by U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler without a jury included live and written testimony from 246 witnesses and almost 14,000 exhibits in evidence. Prosecutors said the companies secretly agreed not to compete over whose products were the least hazardous to smokers to ensure they didn't have to publicly address the harm caused by smoking.

  So - when forced to choose a path - this component of American business chose more deception.   It hardly seems a stretch to understand that Wall Street and the titans of finance could look at the legal climate and not abstract the principle that accountability and transparency could be marketed away.

  There is a deep rot in the corner offices and the Persian rug filled conference rooms - what one can get away with trumps the value of what one can earn.  The SCOTUS will have to make a decision - what it does will go a long way to establishing what the corporate environment will be.

Originally posted to Boxer7 on Sat May 23, 2009 at 01:37 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  as someone who has just successfully quit (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Blueiz, Boxer7, luckylizard, Katie71

    smoking for a second time (first was 15 years), I have done considerable research on the process the tobacco cos use -- free-basing tobacco... to ensure that smokers remain addicted.... here is a jetpakof info i compiled ... the big culprit is American Spirit. What a joke..

    They tortured people to get false confessions to fraudulently justify our invading Iraq.

    by boatsie on Sat May 23, 2009 at 01:52:03 PM PDT

  •  Rarely Do I Pile Onto Antismoking Bluster..... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cowgirl, Boxer7

    ....but as it pertains to past lies told by corporate tobacco, it's hard to say litigants haven't established sufficient liability.  I'm not particularly sympathetic to plantiffs pretending they haven't known they were killing themselves since 1964 by smoking, but gold diggers or not, they have a case.

    Will the SCOTUS rule against Big Tobacco?  Tough call.  Anthony Kennedy would surely be the swing vote.  But given our government's dependency on a flourishing tobacco industry yielding them tens of billions of dollars worth of revenue every year,  you gotta figure every figure in our government is praying Big Tobacco prevails, whatever their "official position" might be.

    •  not really meant as anti-smoking diatribe (4+ / 0-)

       more as a glimpse into the modern corporate mentality - the nature of business "ethics"  and how the "law" deals with that.

        It is glib and facile to call a ruling "pro-business" when a big corporate entity prevails - but, to my mind - that gets it all backwards.  Without standards, which we proudly enforce in a court of law - we undermine true pro-business incentives.

    •  and that's why the government brought this (0+ / 0-)

      lawsuit in the first place?

      So that they could lose the case on purpose and once and for all negate the power of the government to do any good for the people?

      Jesus.


      We need to get back to bedrock American values like torture and secession. - Josh Marshall

      by AlyoshaKaramazov on Sat May 23, 2009 at 03:55:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  how divided "government" works (0+ / 0-)

         it was always my understanding that part of the way that separate branches of government were intended to operate was to parcel out power - so that the executive had to bring the suit - and then the focus switches to the judiciary.

         It often seems cumbersome and slow and inefficient - but over time - it works.  

         In this case the judiciary has a chance to send a powerful signal of accord with those asserting the wrongdoing that the model of business embraced by Big Tobacco is not the norm -

         we shall see

  •  It wouldn't shock me if they denied cert. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Boxer7

    The documents indicating the knowledge of the cigarette companies, and their deliberate fraud, are some of the most amazing things I've ever read.  They read more like what you'd expect from the Medillin cartel than from major, supposedly respectable, companies.  During my legal career, I represented a number of major companies, and I'd be the last to claim that many companies don't sometimes engage in questionable behavior, but never have I seen anything remotely approaching to documents from the tobacco litigation.

    There was actually one document, produced at a time when they were vehemently denying the addictiveness of nicotine, where they explained that beginning smokers realize smoking is harmful, but they think that's only true of long-term smoking, and that very few beginning smokers intend to become long-term, heavy smokers, because they don't think they can become addicted to it, but in words that I'll never forget, the author of this memo said, "But addicted they do indeed become."  This same memo referred to the benefits of nicotine addictiveness for cigarette manufacturers as follows:  "Our biggest problem is finding a bag big enough to carry the money to the bank."  (Note:  Both of those quotes are from memory, but they're at least very close to exact quotes.)

    Another document, produced by a Candian subsidiary of a major international tobacco company, had the title "Target: Youth," complete with a big target and an arrow hitting the bullseye.  And yet they denied deliberately targeting youth in marketing campaigns such as Joe Camel, which were proven to appeal disproportionately to teenages.

    One of the most significant things to me is that Judge Sentelle was on the panel of the D.C. Circuit which decided this case.  If this very conservative judge from one of the biggest tobacco-producing states in the country thinks the case was proven, I don't think there should be much doubt about it to anybody.

    •  some things just sear in the memory (0+ / 0-)

       though - it is funny (odd, not humorous) how it strikes different people in different ways.

       I abstract from the documents I see showing malfeasance that the authors and intended audience seem lost - a kind of blindness of self-rationalization - and I, like you - have never seen anything as callous as the tobacco documents

       But - I would be truly shocked if SCOTUS did not accept - Tobacco has spent a very large sum on our judges and I suspect they have ways of coming to call and intimate that the IOUs are due and owing.

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