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I’m Breaking Up With You, Wordpress

18 Nov

I expect this to be my last post on this blog. I cannot work with a blogging host that springs bizarre rules on people that amount to removing entire bodies of work for reasons that don’t amount to anything more than a breach of ettiquette, at worse. For embarrassing people.

Some of the bloggers I admire most are a kind of investigative journalist. They search the public domain for information on suspicious parties and when they find enough to indict them, they publish this information, often about sexual predators, as a public service for the rest of us. WordPress in all its wisdom has decided not just that this is a banmable offense, but that they get to steal all your content too.

WordPress has long been my favorite blogging platform and one I have reccommended many times to people. They have now completely lost credibility with me. If they are willing to hurt their users thusly over something like this, who knows what they will pull next? Decide they get to give you the axe for bad grammer? Why not? It would be no more insane than this is.

I fear women on the Internet especially are doomed by this creeping censorship of any issues that pertain to women’s safety and rights. The only places safe from capricious censorship also are sodden with porn. The Internet is a men’s club, and unless and until women programmers create their own platform and servers and defend us from all this abuse, it always will be.

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WordPress dumps GenderTrender. Gallus Mag responds

17 Nov

I fully support Gallus Mag and GenderTrender and if that’s a problem for WordPress then just unfriend me now, dudez.

4thWaveNow

4thWaveNow reached out to Gallus Mag of GenderTrender after WordPress dumped the site yesterday. In her most recent post, Gallus Mag  broke the full story of a Canadian MTF trans activist who has launched “human rights” complaints against a group of women’s salon workers who were unwilling to touch and wax male genitalia. GallusMag revealed other details about the activist’s prior social media activities, some of which pertained to underage girls.

GenderTrender’s importance as a groundbreaking investigative reporting outlet covering the excesses of transgender activism cannot be overestimated. The site has also served as an incubator and launching pad for many other bloggers and writers; 4thWaveNow’s founder counts herself among them. The loss of GenderTrender is a huge blow. It is also the latest casualty in a growing clash between–on one side, a loose coalition of feminists, parents, gay and lesbian people, detransitioners, free speech advocates, and many supporters; and…

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Pencils

30 Oct

When I was a child, I was surrounded by grownups who wanted to be organizers

When I got a little older, this darkened. 

As I reached my majority, I discovered a love for community organizing

Though I didn’t know what it was called then.

In my early 20’s, my life was drug-ridden

In my later 20’s, I wandered, and into my 30’s

And 40’s

And in my fifties I finally settled down, and down, and down

Walking the streets late at night

Leaving gifts on the front yards of strangers

Yeah a little creepy

Though they were nice gifts

And I never followed up because that would not be right.

After that I discovered organizing again

More on the surface

And I had this dream about a dark place of making

Where I kept driving everybody up a wall going around trying

To rearrange their pencils.

Now I’m still stuck being a jerk about pencils

I’m still lying to myself about pencils

It’s all about pencils sometimes.

– Miep Rowan O’Brien, near Halloween 2018

A Short(ish) Note on Academic Totalitarianism

18 Oct

Jane Clare Jones

I’ve been thinking a lot about totalitarianism of late. About what I’ve started to call the ‘ontological totalitarianism’ of compelling us to believe in legal fictions, and about how that then manifests in the totalitarian political strategies of the trans rights movement. Another aspect of this general tendency is also playing out in academic discourse – and in some ways, because I’m a (mostly itinerant) academic, this is the one that really gets me where it hurts. The civic function of the academy, and especially the function of my own discipline, is to hang around in the public square and ask a ton of annoying, difficult and impertinent questions. We are supposed to be a Socratic pain the ass. We are supposed to hold public and political discourse to account. And we are supposed to be stand there pulling gratuitously rude faces when people with political power spout incoherent twaddle…

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QotD: “If sex is a service rape is just unpaid labor”

15 Oct

Anti-Porn Feminists

If sex is a service rape is just unpaid labor.

If sex is a service it can be provided to family members, morally.

If sex is a service it can be a small child’s career aspiration, and it should be supported as such.

If sex is a service then pornographic content can also be displayed to children, as they should be given examples of their work possibilities.

If sex is a service, and sex work is an existent opportunity to you, you can’t complain about being unemployed.

If sex is a service csa is just some form of child labour.

If sex is a service it is bigoted and against the costumer rights to denny service on the basis of anything, including sex, regardless of the workers orientation they should provide service to the costumer.

Things get really creepy when you mix things with inherent different natures like sex and…

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On Our Own

8 Oct

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Of a lost child

16 Aug

I had a correspondent for a year or two around 2010. She broke off with me suddenly, for reasons I did not understand, as happens sometimes on the Internet.

She spent a great deal of time talking about a child she’d fostered for roughly three years, until he was around six; an abused child she was trying to adopt, and who was precipitously taken back by the foster care system, sent back to yet other family members, and then eventually placed, without her knowledge, with a couple who lived near her, who then instituted adoption proceedings.

 She ran across the boy in a park, on an outing with his new parents.

She wrote me volumes about her relationship with this child. And one thing she wrote was that when they’d go out driving, if they ever saw a dead bird or other small animal killed in the road, she would stop the car and they would go out and move the carcass respectfully off to the side of the road. Because nobody should just be left there like that, to be driven over and over again.

Her narrative was full of stuff like that. And it was just the saddest story. She was waiting for him to come back. She kept his bedroom up. She wrote me agonizing about how she should decide when to repurpose his bedroom. 

And finally I managed to get across to her that she was his main person during some crucial years and that she would always be part of him. Because it really did sound like she knew what the hell she was doing. Dealing with his trauma from being knocked around by his father. Badly knocked around. Maybe brain damage level. 

But a good fit, and a powerful relationship. Not something to be washed away like so much surface foam, and that was what she needed to hear. And she told me that, that I had really helped her there. 

I think about her from time to time. I hope she’s taken her calling to less grievous destinations. I thank her for sharing her story with me.

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What About the Mermen, Lily?!?

13 Aug

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QotD: “countries where there is high equality between men and women, the difference between men and women is very small on our spatial navigation test”

12 Aug

Anti-Porn Feminists

Men are better at navigating than women, according to a massive study, but there’s not much for men to be proud about.

Scientists at University College London say the difference has more to do with discrimination and unequal opportunities than any innate ability.

The findings come from research into a test for dementia.

But it has also given an unprecedented insight into people’s navigational ability all around the world.

The experiment is actually a computer game, Sea Hero Quest, that has had more than four million players.

It’s a nautical adventure to save an old sailor’s lost memories and with a touch of a smartphone screen, you chart a course round desert islands and icy oceans.

The game anonymously records the player’s sense of direction and navigational ability.

One clear picture, published in the journal Current Biology, was that men were better at navigating than women. But why?

Prof Hugo…

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The Poison Papers

11 Aug

“What’s really interesting, firstly, is the fact that EPA is doing all this massaging of the data. But then the second thing is to ask why. Why are they doing this? Right? Why, as an agency, would you fail to carry out your mission to protect the public? What’s in it for you? And I’m going to spare you asking me the question because I can tell you what’s in it for them. 

Lots of people focus on the revolving door, and influences of industry and so forth on the EPA. But what we think is going on is somewhat different than that. What we think is going on is that you have to imagine you’re a junior person who works for the EPA and you notice that there’s an obvious excess of tumors in the treated groups. You’re going to have to pass on to your boss some information that is basically going to destroy the probability of it being approved, some fancy new product of a very large international corporation, like Monsanto or BASF or whoever it is. And your boss is not going to thank you for passing him or her that piece of information, because they’re going to have to pass it to their boss, and their boss is not going to thank them for having that piece of information. And this goes all the way to the top of the EPA. 

So there’s an incentive that’s built into the system, which basically says “We don’t want to hear about any problems with chemicals that you may find.” And the reason for this system is that at the end of the day, the head of the EPA, the equivalent to Scott Pruitt, is basically – imagine Scott Pruitt loves the environment and really wants to protect the planet, and so on and so forth. He’s appointed by the president. He is going to have to take this piece of information, ultimately, if it pans out, to the president and say “Mr. President, we’re going to have to ban this chemical, and there are going to be some complaints from this multinational chemical corporation, but this is a very important thing to do.” He’s going to have to make that case to the president. And the president, knowing most presidents of the United States, is going to say “No. We’re not doing that. You’re not going to be able to do that.” So Scott Pruitt knows this, the equivalent of him. Scott Pruitt’s deputy knows this. The deputy of the deputy knows this. The deputy deputy deputy knows this. Everybody in the EPA knows this, all the way to the bottom. So the only permissible solution to that problem is to bury the data, right?”

 

This is a transcription of an interview with Jonathan R Latham, by Derrick Jensen, that aired on Resistance Radio in June of this year.

 

Podcast: https://resistanceradioprn.podbean.com/e/resistance-radio-jonathan-r-latham-061718/

Youtube: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=5c2pDI818Y0

(Sound of catbird)

Hi, this is Derrick Jensen and this is Resistance Radio on the Progressive Radio Network. My guest today is Jonathan R Latham, PhD. He is co-founder and Executive Director of the Bioscience Resource Project and the Editor of Independent Science News. Dr Latham is also the Director of the Poison Papers project which publicizes documents of the chemical industry and its regulators. Dr. Latham holds a Masters degree in Crop Genetics and a PhD in Virology. He was subsequently a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Genetics, University of Wisconsin, Madison. He has published scientific papers in disciplines as diverse as plant ecology, plant virology, genetics and genetic engineering. Dr Latham talks frequently at international events and scientific and regulatory conferences on the research conducted by the Project. He has written for Truthout, MIT Technology Review, the Guardian, Resilience, and many other magazines and websites. Today we talk about the Poison Papers Project.

So first, thank you for your work, and second, thank you for being on the program.

JL: Hi there, Derrick.

DJ: So what is the Poison Papers Project? 

JL: The project started, at least as far as I’m concerned, in 2015. There was a lady called Carol Van Strum, who lives in Oregon, and she is a homesteader. She was writing an article for a website that I am editor of, which is called Independent Science News. And Carol was making some strong claims about what she knew about the functioning of the Environmental Protection Agency. Because we’re running as a science website. I said “Carol, you have to back up these claims. We need to see evidence of the existence of secret committees and things like that.” She was making very strong claims. And so I said “We have to see these documents in order for you to be able to write on our website.” 

So we went back and forth over this and she had nothing online, or nothing in any electronic format that she could show me. And she would say things like “Oh, this paper is in my barn. I have the evidence in my barn,” and so on and so forth. And so I became interested in Carol’s barn and I said “What do you have in your barn?” Long story short: she had about two and a half tons of paper, which was essentially obtained by her through things like the Freedom of Information Act, through her work with various lawyers who’ve sued multinational companies over chemical toxicity issues. Also from Freedom of Information Act requests to other government agencies like the Bureau of Land Management and the Veterans Administration. And also some of the documents came from whistle-blowers. So she had a whole kind of collection of information, which started – her story, basically, was that she and her family – they live in Oregon, back out in the woods somewhere. And they’d been sprayed by airplanes in the late 1970’s. And it turns out that what they were sprayed with was Agent Orange. And her children became sick, and some of their animals died. Fish were dying in the river. All kinds of bad things were happening that were clearly associated with this chemical spraying. And all she got from the authorities was reassurance about how she must be mistaken, and contradictions from the governor, and all kinds of local authorities and agencies and even the EPA itself. 

Everybody was fobbing her off. So she started on a campaign to basically try to figure out what all these agencies, and even the companies, knew about the toxicity of these products. So she ended up teasing out all of this information from various groups and she ended up with this huge pile of documents, that by the time I spoke to her was rotting away in her barn. And I said “Well, why don’t we try to come up with some way that we can photocopy and scan all these documents and preserve them for posterity, because it sounds, Carol, like you have a lot of stuff that’s super interesting.” And so we’re now in the process of – we’ve now put it online. We have taken all these documents and we’ve put them on this thing called Document Cloud. And we’ve started a website called poisonpapers.org. And that is a way for people to access these documents. And so we’re now in the process of trying to get academics, various people, anybody really, members of the public interested in making sense of these documents. Because there are stories that we know about in here. But there’s also a lot of information that, even Carol doesn’t always know what is in these documents. 

Hopefully we can talk about some of the specific contents in a minute. But essentially it’s this vast trove of papers that reveal a whole host of incriminating things, not only about the companies and what the companies knew, and it was earlier than what they’ve always claimed. But also, most important and interesting to us was what the EPA knew about all these things. Because it’s a commonplace story that everybody knows that the companies are perfidious and they hide the information about the lack of safety of their products, and so on and so on. Products that are put onto the market and are not safe. But at the same time the really interesting question in all this is what did the government know about all these products? Were they completely complicit in all this pollution, these vast amounts of PCB’s that are in our waterways, and dioxins in the food supply, and the pollution of the oceans and the pollution of Superfund sites and so on and so forth. What did they really know about this epidemic of pollution? 

DJ: So before we ask about that, I want to ask a trivial question. You said two and a half tons of paper? Can you do even a rough estimate of how many pages that is? 

JL: It’s between two and three hundred thousand pages.

DJ: Wow. Okay.

So let’s dive into the real subject, then. What do these pages actually reveal? Can you tell some of the stories revealed in there about the relationship between, for example, the EPA and the toxification of the total environment?

JL: Mm. Yeah. This had many angles to it, I would say. It’s a very complicated story. Towards the end of the interview, maybe we’ll get down to what is the order behind the chaos? 

What I want to help people to understand in the first instance is that there is a high level of complicity between the agencies and the companies. And so we have, for example, there are documents in there – some of the first things that Carol found out was that the EPA knew quite a bit about the toxicity, for example, of dioxin. Dioxin is a family of chemicals, and I’ll call them single but many people call them plural, but basically it’s a family of chemicals that are byproducts of the production process of chlorinated hydrocarbons. Many people think that pretty much any chlorinated hydrocarbon would have some proportion of dioxins present in the manufacturing process. And there are many chemicals, for example 2, 4-D and 2, 4, 5-T, whose structure is very similar to dioxin. Basically there are two benzene rings and they’re joined together and then they’re decorated with chlorine molecules. 

So this is kind of like an endpoint structure of the chemical reaction process. And essentially the longer and hotter that you run those reactions the more likely you are to get to these endpoints with these double-ringed structures all covered in chlorine molecules that are essentially incredibly toxic to people, depending on the process. Down to about a couple of parts per trillion can be hazardous to the development of animals. So these are things for which there’s no safe dose, and for which essentially any dose is going to cause you harm.

And not all of this was known in the 1970’s, but they knew that extremely small quantities could harm people. And the chemical industry has actually known this for a very long time, because they’re in a sense ubiquitous as products of chlorinated hydrocarbon chemistry. The chemical industry has known for a long time that there were certain chemical processes that caused workers at factories to become sick. The workers would get spots on them and they would often have things like immune problems. Later in life, dioxins cause cancer and other toxicological consequences. But the immediate consequence, the kind of consequence you’re going to notice as part of your workforce evaluations, or just wandering around the site, will be things like liver toxicity and these spots. And the company workers, for example, one of the things that’s interesting about the papers is they document how in the 1960’s Dow Chemical in Michigan were manufacturing Agent Orange. So you can imagine – this is a chemical that’s caused millions of birth defects around the world. And they were producing it on that site in huge quantities. 

The thing that’s most dangerous about Agent Orange is these dioxin contaminants. The chemicals themselves are not good, and they will give you serious illnesses all on their own. But dioxins are probably several orders of magnitude more toxic than the chemicals themselves. So what the chemical companies found was that their workers were basically, in certain parts of the plant where they were making these ring structures were getting these really bad sort of acne spots. And so they started talking to other companies about what was going on here. And there were always certain people in all these companies who knew quite a bit about the toxicological history of these things. You know, people are always cycling through these companies. But they knew, back to, even to the 19th century, people have been reporting these kinds of symptoms from the use of chlorinated hydrocarbons. And between them, they were in discussions. They were exchanging letters with each other about chemical accidents, for example, in which people had been exposed, and especially you got these problems when chemical accidents happened. Basically the temperature runs too high, your vat explodes or whatever. Lots of people get contaminated and you contaminate a large area in and around the plant. What’s happening in those chemical explosions is the reactions are running ahead of the production of the thing that you want, and they’re producing dioxins. So at the same time as you’re having this accident, you get these dioxins produced in particularly high quantities.

So they were exchanging information, firstly about the nature of these accidents, secondly about the nature of the illnesses that the workers were suffering from. But also what they knew was that the workers were suffering from similar illnesses even as a result of normal production processes. Companies are not stupid. They can see perfectly well. They may pretend that they don’t know all kinds of stuff but they have methods of figuring things out. So for example, after one of their accidents, Bayer I think it was. One of the German companies. BASF or Bayer. They put animals into the factory where the workers were and the animals were dead after 24 hours. And so they knew that this was a highly toxic byproduct that had come out of these experiments. And they didn’t necessarily tell their workers, but they understood. This information was being shared at high levels of management. 

But it’s also the case that workers in these factories often knew more than the management really wanted them to. In Dow’s Michigan plant, when they were making Agent Orange, they pretty much had a worker revolt. Because what was going on at the factory was that the workers were developing this acne. They knew you weren’t supposed to have acne. Secondly, the acne was associated with all kinds of other illnesses like immune problems and liver problems and muscle fatigue and all kinds of not-nice things that were happening to these workers, and so there were workers having to be taken off and moved to different parts of the factory. So workers were talking to each other about how they were becoming sick. The company was having to listen to worker demands about their concerns about the product, and working in these particular buildings where they were involved in these particular processes. 

So Dow went through this whole process of “We’ll put a doctor in the plant and we’ll try to keep workers in there for a minimal amount of time. We’ll try to reduce all the leaks,” and various things, and they ended up walling off that whole section of the plant and having people not go in there very often. But there’s a whole report written by Dow Chemical, firstly about their discussions with all the other companies and secondly about all these toxicological consequences that they were figuring out came from a small contaminant that was in their product.

This predates the Viet Nam War by ten years, their public admissions and public understandings of the toxicity of 2,4-D and Agent Orange and so forth by quite a long time. Their various understandings of problems that go back before the second world war, for example. And then this culminates into this industry understanding in which the big companies try to educate the small companies into “You’re making this product but you don’t have this long history of understanding that these byproducts in here are problematic issues that you need to deal with.” And so they’re all exchanging letters among each other, and having meetings, calling meetings. “We’re going to tell the EPA” – this was before the EPA even existed, right? “We’re going to tell the government” and so on and so forth.

So all this narrative is contained within these papers. So that’s an example of one of the stories. 

DJ: Just so we’re really clear; one of the horrors of this is that at the same time that they are openly discussing among themselves “What do we do about this or that problem?” they are publicly insisting that there is no problem. Is that part of the atrocity of it?

JL: Yeah, yeah. This press release from the head of Dow Chemical for example, saying that they don’t know of any problems with Agent Orange, and so forth, yep. 

DJ: And in these hundreds of thousands of pages, who else are some of the actors that don’t come across well? You’ve talked about Dow, BASF, maybe Bayer, the EPA. And what are a couple other of the stories that are told, that people really should know about? 

JL: The people who come out of this in some senses worst, in that they have a reasonable public image, is the EPA. Some of your readers may have heard of a lab called Industrial Biotest Labs. They were a chemical testing company. We have a system in this country where it’s sort of presumed that an independent lab will do actual experiments on the animals, to look at the toxicological consequences of a company’s product. And the idea is that this chemical testing lab is independent of the manufacturer. This independence is, I would say, entirely fictitious, because the manufacturers are repeat customers of these independent chemical testing labs. The manufacturers will also shop around. Imagine there are ten labs doing “independent testing.” They will go to these labs and they will notice that an honest lab is coming back with all kinds of results about carcinogenicity, fetal toxicity, all kinds of stuff. And there are some labs that are not giving them that information. For whatever reasons, they’re giving their product a clean bill of health. So you can easily imagine that there’s a huge incentive  for these “independent testing labs” to deliver fraudulent results. It stands to reason. 

And what happened in the case of Industrial Biotest Labs is they grew to become the largest independent testing lab in the country. And in 1976 a research senior scientist from FDA discovered that Industrial Biotest Labs was submitting fraudulent data. He went to the lab and it only took him five minutes of looking around to work out that this lab was not keeping its animals right. They were not following the protocols, they weren’t doing anything right, and the people at the lab ended up calling the police on this FDA researcher who had taken it upon himself to go and visit this lab. 

So this became public, and it became an international scandal. It was reported a little bit in the papers, but the story that was reported in the papers is that the EPA had discovered that this chemical testing lab was responsible for about 30-40% of all chemical testing done in the country at the time. So there were many public products, like atrazine, chlorpyrifos, 2, 4-D; many of which had been through the Industrial Biotest system. And the EPA did a joint investigation, along with the FDA. But because most of the chemicals in question were pesticides, the EPA ended up leading this, along with they also had a collaboration with the Health Protection Board of Canada. 

And what the EPA should have done, if they were honest, is they would have told the public as soon as they knew, firstly, what chemicals had been tested by Industrial Biotest Labs. Because what each individual person needs to know is “Has the chemical that I want to put on my lawn or my pet or my food or whatever it is, has that been through a fraudulent independent chemical testing process?” But EPA concealed that information, and they did that because otherwise people would make decisions about what products to buy, and that would be a problem for the chemical industry. For many companies, most of their products had been through this IBT system. 

So the official story is that EPA did a very long and complicated investigation into what was fraudulent and what was not fraudulent at IBT, and then they sorted the sheep from the goats and the necessary corrections were made to the system and new tests were done, and so on and so forth. But that isn’t what actually happened at all. What happened is that EPA realized straightaway that basically none of the research done at Industrial Biotest Labs was honest. It was probably all fraudulent. They could hardly find any experiment that hadn’t been misreported, that hadn’t involved falsified signatures. The EPA ended up, for example, accepting  data, even after this fraud was totally exposed internally to EPA, they ended up accepting data that the company itself, the company employees themselves refused to sign. That means they have no idea whether it’s true or not. They totally have no confidence in it and they’re not going to stand behind it. Basically, EPA, in the document, tells the chemical industry they are accepting data from this company that they knew to be fraudulent, that even they were too honest to sign off on. So the EPA is vouching for chemical safety testing data that the company will not vouch for, and in that process becoming party to the fraud. 

And this was only part of the issue. So basically a huge proportion of the chemicals being used by the public, in the U.S., had been fraudulently reported. They knew this. But instead of telling people, they made up this idea that they were doing a complicated investigation. And they did go through this sort of faux investigation. But they knew the whole time that it was all fraudulent. And the purpose of this investigation was therefore to buy time for the companies so that they could put their chemicals through a new set of tests.  It took them five or six years to do this investigation, which allowed the companies to do a whole set of new tests and also kept the public in the dark as to the fact that these chemicals, the chemicals that they were using all over, were subject to fraudulent reporting. So the EPA was using its powers of investigation to provide cover for the companies to be able to keep their products on the market. 

DJ: I remember reading somewhere that some overwhelming percentage of the chemicals that are used in modern society have not, in fact, been tested for, have not even been tested at all. So what it seems you’re suggesting, or what these papers are suggesting, is that yes, there is a high percentage that have not been tested, and in addition, for many of those that have been tested the tests were fraudulent, or at best deeply flawed. 

JL: I would just simply say fraudulent. It’s a complicated situation because it’s true that many things are on the market that have never really been through any kind of testing at all. But the questions that the papers cover are things that have been through this testing process, and what the papers show is that this testing process, in many many ways, is dysfunctional. For example, in the papers there’s evidence that other companies and other products were also submitting fraudulent tests to the EPA. But the EPA never did anything about these at all. They just would take data that clearly made little or no sense, or the companies, for example, would say in the application “no pathologist was on duty at the time that we did the autopsies on the animals that we used for these tests.” So basically what they’re saying is that they’re not actually examining the animals for tumors, for example. When you do a carcinogenicity test, the only way you can ascertain whether these animals at the time of death, whether the treated groups have more tumors than the non-treated groups is you take sections and you look at them under a microscope and you see lumps of various sizes and you make some professional analysis of what those lumps mean and what kind of tumor is in the animal. And basically what the independent labs are saying is “We went through the process, but no one with any sectional experience actually examined the slide.” So this is just fraud of a slightly different kind. You have all these different levels of incompetence and uselessness and deception going on through the whole process. 

The EPA, for example, is paying lip service to the law by doing the chemical testing, by having it done by an independent company, and so on and so forth, but actually they’re not respecting the scientific process in the least. So you have a situation in which all the way through the chemical testing process the data is being submitted to the EPA, then EPA is looking at this data and accepting it at face value, even though any rational person would say at face value this data is worthless. There are missing experiments, for example. One of the things I’m writing up at the moment is they’re examining a chemical application for permethrin. People use permethrin all the time and permethrin was approved by the EPA in 1982, and the EPA had data for permethrin that showed in all kinds of different ways that permethrin was a carcinogen. And they took this data, and at face value there’s a huge excess of tumors in the permethrin data. But what EPA would do is they would take that data and they would submit it to various kinds of analysis in which they would come up with ways, spend two or three years analyzing this chemical and coming up with different ways to discount the elevated incidences of cancer in all these different tissues in all these different types of experiments. 

Firstly, what’s probably even being submitted to them is a way underestimate of the amount of cancer in the treated animals. But they ignore all that possibility, and I would say probability. There would be good reasons why somebody didn’t submit an animal, or a certain set of tissues or whatever to the analysis. Let me backtrack a little bit. The way these tests are supposed to be done is before you even start, the company who does the test submits a protocol. They basically say “We’re going to do it this way.” So when it finally comes to the analysis and they send it into EPA, it hasn’t been done that way at all. They’ve ignored huge amounts of organs, they’ve failed to analyze certain animals, and so on and so forth. And the obvious question, if you’re an evaluator at the EPA, is to say “Well why didn’t you look at these animals? Was it because they had cancer? Was it because they died before they should have? Was it because they had some other chronic illness?” 

But the EPA never asked these questions. They would just take the data and then they would do  statistics pretending they had all the data for the experiment. And as soon as you start doing these statistics, and you’ve got missing animals, you don’t know whether those missing animals should go in the, you know, they died for some important reason, or maybe the company just forgot to analyze them, in which case they were essentially unharmed by the treatment. The EPA has no idea which one of those two things is true. So essentially they’re making up statistics as they go along. What it appears to be is to give this chemical a clean bill of health.

So they go through this process of taking the submitted data and when it shows that there are excesses of tumors in the treated groups, they will do things like, they will take those tumors and they will sort of decide “Oh, these tumors, there are actually two different kinds of tumors.” And because the set of tumors that is elevated by this chemical is now considered to be two kinds of tumors, it’s no longer statistically significant, as a result. Or the tumors are considered to be rare. They’re put into another group. They’re massaging the data in order to give this chemical a clean bill of health. 

And so they’ve gone through this process of whitewashing this chemical. What the raw data suggests is a huge elevation of tumors in the treated groups. And what the final report of the EPA says is there’s no difference between the treated and untreated groups, because we’ve discounted these tumors for that reason, and these tumors for that reason, and these tumors for another reason, until eventually the thing gets a clean bill of health. But this has taken two or three years of analysis to do. It’s happened across different departments of EPA’s. The people who do the initial evaluation are different from the people who do the intermediary evaluation, who are different from the people who are put together into some ad hoc committee. And then they’re different from the group that actually pulls the whole thing together, and that report is submitted to yet another branch of EPA. There’s this kind of system, a sort of systemic failure in which the people in each group are only committing relatively minor scientific sins. But when you add them all up, what happens is that if each group of scientists who get a look at the data do a little bit of massaging, by the time they’re all done, the problem basically goes away. So the original data that is submitted bears no relationship to the final report that the EPA makes part of the public record, and it says “Based on this data, we don’t find any problems with this chemical and therefore we’re going to approve it with this allowable daily intake level.” 

What’s really interesting, firstly, is the fact that EPA is doing all this massaging of the data. But then the second thing is to ask why. Why are they doing this? Right? Why, as an agency, would you fail to carry out your mission to protect the public? What’s in it for you? And I’m going to spare you asking me the question because I can tell you what’s in it for them. 

Lots of people focus on the revolving door, and influences of industry and so forth on the EPA. But what we think is going on is somewhat different than that. What we think is going on is that you have to imagine you’re a junior person who works for the EPA and you notice that there’s an obvious excess of tumors in the treated groups. You’re going to have to pass on to your boss some information that is basically going to destroy the probability of it being approved, some fancy new product of a very large international corporation, like Monsanto or BASF or whoever it is. And your boss is not going to thank you for passing him or her that piece of information, because they’re going to have to pass it to their boss, and their boss is not going to thank them for having that piece of information. And this goes all the way to the top of the EPA. 

So there’s an incentive that’s built into the system, which basically says “We don’t want to hear about any problems with chemicals that you may find.” And the reason for this system is that at the end of the day, the head of the EPA, the equivalent to Scott Pruitt, is basically – imagine Scott Pruitt loves the environment and really wants to protect the planet, and so on and so forth. He’s appointed by the president. He is going to have to take this piece of information, ultimately, if it pans out, to the president and say “Mr. President, we’re going to have to ban this chemical, and there are going to be some complaints from this multinational chemical corporation, but this is a very important thing to do.” He’s going to have to make that case to the president. And the president, knowing most presidents of the United States, is going to say “No. We’re not doing that. You’re not going to be able to do that.” So Scott Pruitt knows this, the equivalent of him. Scott Pruitt’s deputy knows this. The deputy of the deputy knows this. The deputy deputy deputy knows this. Everybody in the EPA knows this, all the way to the bottom. So the only permissible solution to that problem is to bury the data, right?

So what you see in these papers is the perfect example of that. In each level of the process, people are burying the data, so that everything that goes through the agency ultimately ends up with a clean bill of health, no matter how it started. And so that is our thesis about how these agencies function, right? It’s a complex version of the idea that bad news doesn’t travel, right? You cannot pass really bad news up to the top of the agency because it disturbs people. If you subtly remove, kind of greenwash all these chemicals, it basically allows the people who work for the agency to retain the idea that they are actually protectors of the environment. Because the people who work at the EPA – I don’t believe in the idea of good and bad people. For the most part there are just people who want to keep their jobs and are not intellectually together enough, not smart enough, and they’re not quite honest enough to pass the whole truth up through the system. So what they do is they kind of massage it at every stage of the process. 

But at the same time, they feel like they’re passing on what is the accurate piece of information. What the agency does is develop all these mythologies about certain – the way you square the circle is you develop within the agencies all these sort of systems of argument. For example, one argument would be; if this chemical, permethrin, causes an excess of tumors in male rats, but doesn’t cause an excess of tumors in female rats, there must be something wrong with the data. And what’s wrong with the data is the excess in the male rats. What’s not wrong with the data is the normal number of tumors in the female rats. So everybody says “Oh, well, it’s not consistent. It’s obviously an invalid result. And so the agency has circulated within its system all these totally unscientific arguments that are deployed whenever necessary to do this greenwashing process, to do this kind of healthwashing process. 

That is the fundamental underlying dynamic under which these organizations function. And the essential reason is because the President is not actually prepared to do anything for the environment at the expense of political donors or the economy or however they perceive their interests to be, that this system has to be in place. And people who don’t agree with it become whistleblowers or they say nothing. 

DJ: Well thank you for that really great analysis. As you were saying all that, I was thinking that we could do some more analyses for the way the forest service works with getting out the cut, in terms of timber production and ignoring the effects of it. We could talk about that with Deepwater Horizon, or any other oil operations, or the approval of permits for various gas leases. This seems to be a horrifying trajectory of permitting under the entire permitting system. 

Having said that, we have about five minutes left and I have a couple of questions I want to ask. I just want to say, first off, that I think everything you’re saying is really horrifying, and that leads to a question before the wrap-up question, and the question is what has been the response by mainstream or corporate journalism to all of these various analyses and smoking guns that you’re providing?

JL: We have tried to share these stories, and you know Sharon Lerner did a story about it in the Intercept.

https://theintercept.com/2017/07/26/chemical-industry-herbicide-poison-papers/

The Guardian did a story about PCB’s. I’m trying to think of who else. Mostly smaller media have done some bits and bobs. But the overwhelming sense that you get is that the mainstream media does not want to comment on any of these issues. They just find reasons that they somehow cannot cover the stories that you have. We’ve sent press releases, and we’ve sent information out to these people, and these people know that we have a valid set of documents that could shed huge amounts of light on the kinds of things that they claim to be interested in, like Agent Orange or herbicide toxicity and so on and so forth. We have all kinds of stories. But these investigative journalists do not pick up the phone, right? They don’t come to us and ask us “Do you have an interesting story about this or that or the other?” And occasionally they do, right? One in a hundred. And we will tell them a story that, to me, would make the most interesting story of their entire year. And they don’t get back to you. I perceive limits on what they can do. Maybe this is no surprise to you, but the obviousness of it all is startling. Why do they not come and find us? Why do they not talk to us and try to find out more, go and find the sources? And the answer is they’re posturing as journalists, is kind of the way that I would argue it. 

DJ: Well, it seems in many ways the same dynamic is playing out, as the one you’re talking about. It’s like you said; bad news doesn’t travel, and there are limits. 

So we only have a couple of minutes left, and all of the information and analysis that you’ve given is so important. What exactly, or generally, do you want people to do with this information? If somebody is listening to this, and they live in Oklahoma and they are really moved by this, what do you want them to do now? 

JL: The bottom line is don’t expose yourself and your family to these chemicals. Minimize your exposure. What we do in our house, you know I have to use a computer for my work, but we try to use items made of glass or steel or wood, things that give us a very limited exposure to these kinds of chemicals. You know, we have wood floors. We really try our best to limit our exposure. Because the bottom line is, you’re not – I mean, we could do another interview about even with the best will in the world, even if we had the best EPA and they were trying their hardest, they still would have no guarantees. That’s a complicated argument that I would be very happy to make on your show. But essentially there is no way of testing these chemicals. A chemical has to be safe for your immune system. It has to be safe for your reproductive system. It has to be safe for your neurological system. It has to be safe for your liver. It has to be safe for your heart. It has to be safe for all these different things, and basically, when you test a chemical, you can only test it for a specific minority of potential toxicological endpoints. So even if it was true that the EPA was doing a good job, you can, on logical grounds, demonstrate that we’re still not protected. We still would not be protected. The bottom line is: treat these chemicals as if they’ve never been tested on any animal or in any meaningful way. They’re essentially unknown toxicological hazards and you will purge your household of these products to the extent you can.

DJ: Well, we are really running out of time, but there is a question that I just have to ask, which is – we can save this for another interview – what are the social implications? You just talked right there about the personal implications. Get bisphenol-A out of your life. But what are the social implications of government permitting processes that facilitate the toxification of citizens and the environment? 

JL: Many of our products can be made with natural products. Clothes, houses and so forth. These things can be made – it comes down to the economy. The government attempting to extract taxes from the economy. They want the economy to go faster and faster so they can extract taxes for their war machine. That is basically what is going on here. So they have a built-in incentive to approve all these things. So that is the kind of bottom line for me. 

DJ: Well thank you so much for your work, and thank you for being on the program. I would like to thank listeners for listening. My guest today has been Jonathan R Latham. This is Derrick Jensen for Resistance Radio on the Progressive Radio Network.

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