A Grim Very Tale: The Kehoe Paradigm
By Jeff Berg
06 November, 2015
In the 1920's two employees of GM working in the research lab discovered that the addition of tetraethyllead - TEL- to gasoline would reduce engine 'knock'.
It would take sixty years to stop industry from adding TEL to gasoline. During that time the lead contamination in the environment - globally - was raised by hundreds of times. Billions of tons of lead was dispersed into the environment. Once lead was no longer added to gasoline within ten years the lead levels in the blood of our babies and our children dropped by 80%.
Couple of things to take away from this story.
1) It was universally known within industry at the time that ethanol would perform the same service. Was cheap, and its toxicity was essentially zero by comparison.
2) It has been known for thousands of years that lead is a toxin that is massively damaging to humans, In Roman times the mining of it drove mad and killed tens of thousands of slaves. There are historians who theorize that the widespread use of lead was a principal cause for the fall of the Roman Empire.
So why in hell's name would we use TEL?
The single, solitary reason.
$) TEL was a patented process and so would be uniquely valuable to the patent holders.
When TEL first began to be sold there were immediately health issues for the workers handling it. People went mad. Tossed themselves out of windows. Died 'mysteriously'.
At first the publicity over these deaths led to the voluntary cessation of the production of TEL. Then came a moment in American law that haunts us to this day.
The financial backers of TEL devised a brand new tactic of deceit for commercial profit. They hired a scientist Dr. Robert Kehoe to make the claim that there was no proof that TEL was harmful. As TEl was a brand new additive in a technical sense that was true. The data had yet to be collected. In the sense that TEL was a derivative of lead that would aerosolize a known neurotoxin it was of course absurd on its face.
The courts had a choice they could either put the burden of proof on those who were introducing lead into our environment or they could put the burden of proof on those who were claiming that TEL would be harmful.
To the vast detriment of generations of humans and other animals to come the courts sided with the money. This has become known as the Kehoe Paradigm or the Kehoe Rule. A rule that states that the burden of proof is on those who claim harm is being done. This stands in stark contrast to the Precautionary Principle which says that when there is doubt about the safety of a product the burden of proof is on those who would profit.
This becomes doubly absurd and obscene when you consider the following. Those who profit should be the ones to pay out of the simple and obvious rule of equity. That they are also invariably the only ones who can afford to pay for the requisite testing is the doubly so part. Or at least would be for any sane society. I.e. One interested in limiting the damage it does to itself and its citizens.
Instead we have allowed ourselves throughout our history to be a society dedicated the creation and preservation of personal fortunes at the expense of pretty much every other consideration. That it has always been so does not make it better, in case you were wondering. Though I will admit this ubiquity does make the inherent unfairness and danger to us all marginally more difficult to spot for some. Senator Inhofe comes to mind. The human equivalent of Foghorn Leghorn. In a final twist of irony the last Presidency to break from this rule of siding with the money over the facts came in the Nixon era. Which created OSHA and the EPA. The civil unrest of the 1960's had many positive attributes, few greater than these two.
As previously mentioned it would take sixty years before this burden of proof could be met sufficiently to overcome the vested interests and their lackeys in the courts, the government, and the media.
That our courts could make such a ruling when it comes to such a well known poison as lead is conclusive proof of the degree to which justice is perverted by the power of money. This is of course not unique to the U.S. But in the post second world war era European courts have proved themselves to be consistently less driven by money and better guided by the facts at least when it comes to industrial poisons.
Industry in the U.S. has used the Kehoe paradigm to block the regulation of asbestos, cigarettes, pesticides, CFC's, coal power's connection to acid rain, nuclear power's connection to cancer, to name a few.
Today of course there are GMO's and neonicotinoid pesticides and the disappearance of the bees. Most famously and very likely most dangerously of all the energy industry is using the very same tactic over the burning of fossil fuels and its link to climate change.
If the sordid history of money, industry and the courts was taught in our schools as the potentially suicidal stupidity and corruption that it is then we would long ago have changed our laws so that industry could be channelled into less lethal ways of doing business.
Instead they are able to perform the same cheap intellectual trick over and over again for now closing on a century. This is how conspiracies to deceive the public against their best interests are carried out in our, and every other society since time immemorial. And yes it is a conspiracy. As any student of the law can tell you there is nothing grandiose or delusional concerning the charge of conspiracy.The very opposite is true. Definitionally all it means is that there are two or more people involved in attempting to subvert the law. As a matter of statistical reality it is a charge that occurs in over 60% of every criminal case filed by our courts.
All of which goes to show. At every stage from grade school to grad school it is made evident by our doctrinal systems that there are certain questions it just would not do to ask. Not if you want join the money.
To quote Orwell: "Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in the highbrow periodicals."
And we all know who defines what is fashionable. On that at least there can be no argument.
Jeff Berg is a founding member of Post Carbon Toronto. His writing focuses on Energy & Emissions and their micro and macro implications ecologically, economically and socially. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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