Oregon, free state

Just a few days after posting, my chart is out of date. On May 2, the Oregon Senate approved a bill authorizing same-sex domestic partnerships (link via Towleroad). Since the Oregon House has already approved it, and the governor is expected to sign, I ought to add another line to my chart:

2007 Oregon 1844 Oregon

To be consistent, actually, I should add in the right column all the states and territories that outlawed slavery between “1818 Illinois” and “1844 Oregon.” In other words, no sooner did I wonder why the pattern I’d noticed hadn’t yet “been broken by the passage of gay-union laws in states like California, low in the right column not because they abolished slavery later but because they didn’t exist until later,” than Oregon broke it for exactly that reason.

How much it costs

In a fascinating post on Weekend Stubble yesterday, Paul Collins relays the news that Philip Morris “covertly fund[ed] a global-warming denial campaign,” as if encouraging young people to addict themselves to tobacco weren’t bad enough. Paul’s source was an NPR interview with George Monbiot, an Oxford University professor who reports in a new book, Heat, that the tobacco company hired a public relations firm in the early 1990s to gin up a purportedly grass-roots organization to attack science it didn’t like. The group went on to attack the evidence on global warming, as well as that on secondhand smoke.

The name of the fake grass-roots organization (the term of art is Astro-turf) was the Advancement of Sound Science Coalition. When the NPR interviewer asked for the evidence that Philip Morris was behind it, Monbiot explained that his proof was in the cigarette maker’s own strategy documents. “The great thing about one of the big lawsuits against the tobacco companies is that one of the outcomes was to force the companies to put their archives on public record,” he said, adding “There’s a document which says we should launch this away from the big media outlets because they’re quite likely to smell a rat, whereas elsewhere, where journalists seem to be more naive.”

Since one of my hobbies is wasting time trolling through historical archives digitized on the Internet, I thought I would see if I could find this particular document in the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, an online, searchable archive of documents that Philip Morris, Lorillard, Brown & Williamson, R J Reynolds, and others were forced to release. It turns out that it’s pretty easy to find it, once you figure out to search by the Astro-turf group’s acronym, TASSC. I’m guessing that Monbiot was referring to the “Proposed Plan for the Public Launching of the TASSC [The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition],” dated 30 September 1993, which on page 2 deprecates a launching through “top media markets” and prefers an approach that “Avoids cynical reporters from major media” in order to arrange for “less reviewing/challenging of TASSC messages.”

The fee for a 20-city launch was $60,000, as you may read on page 8 of the memo, though Philip Morris was given the option of economizing: a 10-city launch would only cost $35,000. As the letterhead reveals, the PR firm that created TASSC for Philip Morris was APCO Associates. They seem to be in business still; according to their website, it is part of their “Culture and Values” to “Tell the truth.” No doubt. At any rate, if you narrow your search by adding the keyword “APCO” to the keyword “TASSC,” APCO’s role emerges rather clearly. Here’s a memo from the embryonic stage, when further gestation was costing Philip Morris $25,000 a month, plus $15,000 a month for media relations and $12,500 a month for assisting the tobacco company’s regional directors. By February 1994, APCO was asking Philip Morris for $632,500 for TASSC for the year, somewhat more than the $500,000 the tobacco company had budgeted. In fact, every time TASSC coughs, APCO bills Philip Morris, and so it’s particularly amusing when Philip Morris flirts with hiring a rival PR firm, Burson Marsteller, to handle TASSC’s expansion into Europe. Suddenly and testily, APCO informs Philip Morris that TASSC is an independent organization, full of headstrong, high-integrity scientific minds, and APCO cannot guarantee that TASSC will cooperate.

In the end, APCO and Burson Marsteller both worked on the European expansion. On 25 March 1994, APCO wrote to Philip Morris about the proposed European Astro-turfing and suggested that the new group would be “positioned in a credible manner” if it also took on other public debates on science. “Global warming” is at the top of the list.

It’s only because of the court cases that we know any of this. In July 1994, an internal memo at Philip Morris suggested that the proper answer to the question “Isn’t it true that Philip Morris created TASSC to act as a front group for it?” is “No, not at all.” Reporters who figure out that APCO is the tobacco company’s procurer are to be told, “You’ll have to ask TASSC why they are working with APCO.”


“The Terror Last Time,” my article about the 1886 trial of Chicago’s Haymarket anarchists, which is in part a review of James Green’s new book Death in the Haymarket, is published in the 13 March 2006 New Yorker. As it happens, there are many Haymarket resources on the web, so I thought I’d link to a few of them. What follows will seem a little scattered unless you read my article first (ahem), but if you’ve done that, then . . .

If you want to read the witnesses’ testimony yourself, the Chicago Historical Society has published the trial transcript in the Haymarket Affair Digital Collection. The collection has all sorts of neat tidbits. If you thought my description of Louis Lingg’s beauty was a bit too breathless, for example, you can judge for yourself here. If you want to see exactly how nut and bolt screwed together to make a bomb, look here, for a bomb allegedly Lingg’s. The historical society also collaborated with Northwestern University to create Dramas of the Haymarket, a sort of online guided tour of the archival holdings.

The 2003 re-analysis of the Haymarket bomb fragments and evidence was described in this article by Timothy Messer-Kruse, James O. Eckert Jr., Pannee Burckel, and Jeffrey Dunn in a 2005 issue of the journal Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas.

The night before Parsons, Spies, Engel, and Fischer were hanged, Parsons sang the Scotch ballad “Annie Laurie.” There’s no recording of Parsons himself singing it, but there’s a period recording of the song by the Edison Male Quartette in the UC Santa Barbara Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project. As I mention in the article, the next morning, just a few hours before they were hanged, the men sang the “Workers’ Marseillaise” together. The three German speakers may well have sung in German, and I strongly suspect that that’s what’s being sung in this period recording. I’m not sure, though, because my German comprehension is extremely poor; it’s the right tune, certainly, and someone has catalogued it under the title Arbeiter, i.e., “workers.”

Against nicety in the popular cause

According to the front page of the New York Times, Republicans have said the word “Kerry” in the first three days of their convention more than twice as many times as Democrats said the word “Bush” in the first three days of theirs. In his speech accepting the nomination, Kerry called for restraint from ad hominem attack, but Cheney’s speech last night crescendoed into and spent itself in Kerry-bashing.

It’s asymmetric warfare, and it isn’t new. William Hazlitt explained the nature of it in his 1820 essay, “On the Spirit of Partisanship.”

Conservatives and liberals play the game of politics differently, Hazlitt wrote, because they have different motivations. Liberals are motivated by principles and tend to believe that personal honor can be spared in political combat. They may, in fact, become vain about their highmindedness. Hazlitt condemns the mildness as a mistake, both in moral reasoning and in political strategy. “They betray the cause by not defending it as it is attacked, tooth and nail, might and main, without exception and without remorse.”

The conservatives, on the other hand, start with a personal interest in the conflict. Not wishing to lose their hold on power, they are fiercer. “We”—i.e., the liberals, or the “popular cause,” in Hazlitt’s terminology—“stand in awe of their threats, because in the absence of passion we are tender of our persons.

They beat us in courage and in intellect, because we have nothing but the common good to sharpen our faculties or goad our will; they have no less an alternative in view than to be uncontrolled masters of mankind or to be hurled from high—

“To grinning scorn a sacrifice,
And endless infamy!”

They do not celebrate the triumphs of their enemies as their own: it is with them a more feeling disputation. They never give an inch of ground that they can keep; they keep all that they can get; they make no concessions that can redound to their own discredit; they assume all that makes for them; if they pause it is to gain time; if they offer terms it is to break them: they keep no faith with enemies: if you relax in your exertions, they persevere the more: if you make new efforts, they redouble theirs. While they give no quarter, you stand upon mere ceremony. While they are cutting your throat, or putting the gag in your mouth, you talk of nothing but liberality, freedom of inquiry, and douce humanité. Their object is to destroy you, your object is to spare them—to treat them according to your own fancied dignity. They have sense and spirit enough to take all advantages that will further their cause: you have pedantry and pusillanimity enough to undertake the defence of yours, in order to defeat it. It is the difference between the efficient and the inefficient; and this again resolves itself into the difference between a speculative proposition and a practical interest.

It is not fair play, and Hazlitt thinks that liberals who decline to fight fire with fire are fools. “It might as well be said that a man has a right to knock me on the head on the highway, and that I am only to use mildness and persuasion in return, as best suited to the justice of my cause; as that I am not to retaliate and make reprisal on the common enemies of mankind in their own style and mode of execution.”

Innocence vs. experience

Pedro the Lion’s song “Penetration” begins

Have you ever seen an idealist with gray hairs on his head?

which reminds me of the passage in Emerson’s lecture “The Transcendentalist” where he says

Talk with a seaman of the hazards to life in his profession, and he will ask you, “Where are the old sailors? do you not see that all are young men?” And we, on this sea of human thought, in like manner inquire, Where are the old idealists?

which reminds me, in turn, of late Melville. Yesterday, on the electronic discussion group ISHMAIL, the scholar Peter Norberg traced the origin of the motto that Melville is said to have kept pasted to his desk at the end of his life,

Keep true to the dreams of thy youth.

It comes from a discussion of Schiller’s play Don Carlos in Madame de Stael’s Germany. Stael reports a favor that one character asks of another, and then adds an observation of her own:

“Remind him,” he says, “when he shall be of riper years,—remind him that he ought to have respect for the dreams of his youth.” In fact, as we advance in life, prudence gains too much upon all our other virtues; it seems as if all warmth of soul were merely folly . . .

After work today, I walked down to the library at 42nd Street, digital camera in pocket, to watch the anarchists rally. On Fifth Avenue, I happened to fall in with them, and I eavesdropped. A young woman asked the young man with a crewcut carrying their furled banner to slow down, because someone in back couldn’t keep up. “You’re six foot one,” she said, “and for every step you take, she has to take, like, four.” He wanted to arrive on time; she accused him of insensitivity. “We’re all adults here,” he defended himself.

I went partly out of curiosity, partly out of remorse at having been out of town during the proper protest on Sunday. Even in my youth—especially in my youth—I wasn’t much of an anarchist. (For the record, that’s understatement.) And I am more or less constitutionally incapable of joining in chants.

Still, it was a spectacle, which I feel conflicted about having fed. Over at n+1, Marco Roth has written, perceptively, that “When you find democracy entertaining, you know you’re a little off the right track—because it suggests you’ve become a spectator of yourself as a participant—similar to watching yourself have sex.” And the photograph that I wanted to take, but which the stutteriness of digital technology more or less defeated, was of the cameras nearly outnumbering the anarchists, surrounding their little bubble of human messiness like the black, lunar probe-shaped viruses that circled a cell and then punctured its membrane in the diagram in my high school biology textbook.

A line of police kept the protesters from returning to the front steps of the library, and the protesters seemed unable to decide whether to turn their backs to the police or to address them. Where was the fourth wall? It didn’t matter; the cameras were everywhere. The protesters shouted, “The whole world is watching,” but the warning wasn’t necessary. The police themselves were videotaping.

Will it hurt the Kerry campaign? The anarchists looked very much like middle America expects them to: tattoos, head scarves, sleeveless T-shirts. After the leader announced a march to Seventh Avenue, there was confusion, and I overheard a credential-wearing photojournalist mutter, “So fucking stupid.” The professionals, in other words, were not impressed.

And there wasn’t a lot of forethought on display. The protesters chose an extremely narrow gate for their exit. The police allowed them and the audience to file out. Then the police unrolled a ribbon of orange mesh and began to charge down the 42nd street sidewalk to clear it. If you haven’t experienced this, it’s sort of civil disobedience meets musical chairs. If the police finish “wrapping” a section of the sidewalk and you’re on the inside of the wrapper when they’re done, you’re arrested. In the one round of the game that I stayed to watch, it was not that hard to escape; maybe it isn’t meant to be. The police seemed mostly to catch photojournalists—players who were disadvantaged, no doubt, by not having looked up from their viewfinders.

I slipped forward along the walkway hidden by hedges that skirts the library’s north side and debouches at the Bryant Street Cafe. There a middle-aged woman rose, drink in hand, to accost a parks employee. “I hear the anarchists have organized a protest on the internet, but how can they do that?” she asked. “If they’re anarchists, how can they organize anything?” She seemed to feel she’d hit on a real stumper.

“They didn’t,” the parks employee answered.

That’s about as much as I witnessed. I think I’m supposed to be more chagrined by the silliness than I am. I see the Times is already calling the incident at the library a “brawl.” The word implies an evenhanded situation, as if the protesters resisted or fought back. They didn’t, from what I observed. They were trying their best to look angry and nonconformist, and their enemies will be happy to see them that way. But it was difficult, in person, not to notice that they were also well-intentioned and hapless—young and imprudent. They seemed full of life.