Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A Moffitt rant

Posted by Craig Westover | 4:20 PM |  

I have to admit, Bob Moffitt of the American Lung Association irrationally irritates me.

You remember that annoying kid in school, the kid that was so pathetic you felt sorry for him, but so obnoxious you couldn't bring yourself to be around him? The one with absolutely no sense of self-awareness; the one that always wanted to be one of the guys but never fit in; the one impossible to put in his place because he had no pride; the one whose idea of a clever retort was “I’m rubber and you’re glue” or “na, na a boo boo?” The kid that stood on the “public sidewalk” just to annoy you and your friends because you wouldn’t let him play in your yard? The kid that made you feel sorry for his father? Remember him? Bob Moffitt is that kid.

In a recent post, Bob does his usual misrepresentation hatchet job by pulling a comment out of context, misrepresenting it, characterizing it as it never was used and failing to link to the source so people might judge for themselves. Here’s what he wrote --
War on the poor? Another local activist, blogger and "hobby columnist" has floated an equally absurd argument against clean indoor air ordinances in his writings -- that they are part of a vast conspiracy of the state's elites against the working poor. Here's a sample of his breathless (pun intended) prose:

If the new urbanists don't like hanging around poor people, then let's just say so. Don't try to pretend that smoking bans in bars and restaurants are anything other than the majority imposing its whim on the minority. Don't try to gerrymander some statistical justification that in no way represents reality. At least be honest and admit it -- you just don't care.
If this is a representative sample of the best arguments the pro-smoke camp can offer, Minnesota may go smokefree even sooner than expected.
Okay. First, here’s the link to my post about bar employees starting a drive to recall the smoking ban in St. Paul -- the people the smoking ban is suppose to benefit. Here’s the paragraphs Bob chose not to let his readers see --
Let’s try it again, very slowly: aggregate statistics do not measure the impact of government policy on specific subgroups of the a population. Receipts and taxes paid by the hospitality industry as a whole do not measure the economic impact of smoking bans on specific businesses like neighborhood bars. It happened in Minneapolis, and it is happening in St. Paul -- neighborhood bars that catered to working class patrons, many of whom smoke or hang with friends that smoke, are being hurt by the ban.

Now, if putting neighborhood bars out of business and causing economic hardship for the people they employ is the price society has to pay so Jeanne Weigum can drink alcohol and eat deep-fried cheese curds in a healthy environment, then let’s be honest and say so. If the patrons and employees of neighborhood bars are just collateral damage necessary for the collective good, then just say so. If the new urbanists don’t like hanging around poor people, then let’s just say so.
No, Bob it’s not a conspiracy. But this is a simple observation -- mayors of both cities are adopting the "City as Playground" approach to growth, sacrificing neighborhood improvement, public safety, real solutions to transportation problems in favor of hiding the poor and the working class behind an appealing façade of shinny trains, smoke-free venues and clock-tower communities. But that’s not the “best” arguments against smoking bans and never was claimed as such and you damn well know it.

The best argument is science doesn’t support the dangers of secondhand smoke that you claim. I’ve made numerous requests that you provide me with a single study that you feel justifies a smoking ban based on scientific evidence, and I’ve also asked Shannon Guernsey of the American Cancer Society, and neither one of you have provided even one study. Not one. I’ve provided to you several studies that do demonstrate the connection between secondhand smoke and disease, but where the exposure must be measured in decades before the correlation is significant. You can’t even demonstrate that level of proof. Your response has been the frustrating “na na a boo boo.”

The next best argument is the economic argument made above. Despite being continually shown that aggregate data such as tax receipts for the hospitality industry necessarily hides the impact of smoking bans on smaller segments of the industry -- specifically small bars in working class neighborhoods -- you continue to pull out aggregate data and never address the issue of its appropriateness. That’s just plain disingenuous, Bob. It’s bad in a blogger and disgraceful for someone that draws a paycheck as a professional communicator.

Bottom line, Bob, despite a total lack of respect for you and your communications methods, I find myself having to ask you that if you are going lift my comments and misrepresent them, would you please at least link to the post so that perhaps someone with a bit of intelligence might decide for himself who’s being honest with him? Have you got enough pride to even do that?