Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Alternate Causality Gone Wrong

I can't prove that these lawyers competed in policy debate in high school, but their work product provides powerful circumstantial evidence.  Josh Green informs us,
The law firm of Crowell & Moring, which represents the National Mining Association, was none too pleased with a new West Virginia University study showing that mountaintop removal mining may cause birth defects in people who live nearby. So four of the firm's lawyers prepared a memo to undermine the study--a memo that claimed the university's researchers had ignored a significant cause of West Virginia's birth defects: inbreeding.
The study failed to account for consanquinity [sic], one of the most prominent sources of birth defects.
The lawyerly term for inbreeding is "consanguinity." And that's not a charge taken lightly in West Virginia! Crowell & Moring hastily removed the offending memo from its website. But not before quick-thinking Charleston Gazette reporter Ken Ward Jr. preserved a copy. You can read his story here and download the memo her.
I'd like to go on a long riff about how the lawyers' taking down down the memo is similar to policy debaters shrinking down the text that they don't read or may hurt their cause because it implies the evidence they're reading doesn't say what they claim it does.  I could have added that they need to explain that continued mining will prevent nuclear war because every policy debate team has nuke war impacts that won't quit.

What these lawyers have done, however, is more serious than use a high school policy debate tactic poorly.  They blamed the victims, a tactic that shows that corporate America has lost none of the hubris that caused the economic downturn that still plagues ordinary Americans.  If fact, it plagues everyone except corporate CEOs who give themselves exorbitant bonuses.

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