Monday, June 5, 2017

Educating the WSJ's Kimberley Strassel On Why A Scientific integrity Official Is Needed At The EPA

Image result for kimberley strassel
WSJ's goofy columnist Kimberley Strassel believes she knows about the 'Deep State' but doesn't have a clue.

It's been somewhat hilarious over the past few months watching the Right's troglodytes do verbal backflips trying to avoid the Russia-Trump story. Instead they've confected nonsense conspiracy theories of how Obama buried hidden associates throughout the government - still waiting to be ferreted out-to give poor little Donald Trump a hard time. Make his presidency insufferable and illegitimate with no thought of how he's doing it all to himself with every move he makes. (The next one, another whopper of an unforced error, likely to be trying to block James Comey's testimony on Thursday, before the Senate Intelligence Committee.)

As far as the REAL deep state, those who are serious and really wish to write about it can do no better than reference Mike Lofgren  who described it in a compelling essay published at BillMoyers.com:  "a predatory consensus of money and political ideology that serves only its own endless growth and functions in pristine autonomy from any sort of democratic process."

In which case, Trump and his cabal in collusion with the Russkies fit the bill perfectly.  Look, for example, at Kushner's hobnobbing with the vipers of the notorious, money -laundering VEB bank.  See also: 

https://boingboing.net/2017/02/28/new-secretary-of-commerce-wil.html


Why? Look at Trump's global business interests - including in Saudi Arabia - and how he is enriching himself to the tune of millions while in office. In the meantime, no checks on his actions because the Repukes control all branches of gov't.

And what, pray tell, do conservatives call the "deep state"?  According to Strassel in her WSJ column from five days ago:

"The administrative state. The entrenched government elite. Lois Lerner. The federal bureaucracy....the cadre of federal employees accountable to no one, actively working from within to thwart Donald Trump."

But I think she has it backward. The administrative state, in fact, is that "cadre" of federal employees committed to protecting the rest of us from renegade corporate exploiters.  These are the elements of the federal "bureaucracy" that ensure your milk is free of fecal matter, your burgers  are free of E Coli., your drinking water of perchlorates and lead, and your canned tuna free of botulism. Also that medical devices are properly manufactured and sterilized to acceptable standards (FDA regs), i.e. so when you get your colonoscopy the colonoscope didn't just come directly from insertion into another patient..

In other words, Strassel is attacking the effective working government that has the general welfare as a primary role.  The sector that's charged with citizen protections, but which the Right calls "regulations" and has a jones on to eliminate all of them. 

See e.g.

http://smirkingchimp.com/thread/george-lakoff/71462/the-public-s-viewpoint-regulations-are-protections

But what's interesting is the agency Strassel singles out for special opprobrium: the EPA. Specifically, she targets Francesa Grifo "long time activist at the far left Union of Concerned Scientists".  Of course, to the knuckle draggers of the Right, anyone who supports genuine science - and that includes climate science - is of "the far left".   Anyway, Strassel complains about Grifo writing a report (accurate as it turns out) that "EPA scientists were under siege by Republican political appointees and industry lobbyists who had manipulated science on everything from mercury pollution to groundwater contamination to climate science".

As a long time member of UCS I read the same report and saw absolutely nothing amiss in what Ms. Grifo exposed.  It's been known by many of us for a long time that Republican political hacks have worked in collusion with chemical industry lobbyists to lower standards on everything from atrazine used in weedicides to bisphenol A,  to phthalates and perflurorooctanoic (PFOA) acid.

Risk benefit analyses- many done in Canada, show that even a billionth of a gram of bisphenol A can engender toxic effects, such as causing human cells to mutate toward a cancerous form (See: 'The Body Toxic', by Nina Baker, 2008, pp. 148-49).   The U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976 was supposed to limit the mass infiltration of chemicals, but it hasn't worked. Why not? Probably because before its implementation  a "blanket approval" was conferred  on some sixty two thousand chemicals used in commerce. As Nina Baker observes (p. 49):

"No questions were asked. No hazard data were required. It's not surprising therefore that 99% (by volume) of chemicals used today are older substances that were grandfathered in under the toxics act, according to Inform, a New York based research organization."

Meanwhile, citizens in Fountain , CO have been dealing with the spill of PFOA into Fountain Creek, decimating crops and wreaking economic havoc. The chemical lobbyists and their Repub associates simply wanted to argue it's all in residents' minds.

As for climate change, Strassel is evidently oblivious to the fact its ravages have been on display in everything from super storms, to floods to droughts and killer heat waves in India.  Oh, and lest we forget, in the melting glaciers around the world from Alaska to Switzerland. 

It seems abundantly clear to me, therefore, that what Strassel is really bitching about is spending taxpayer money on all those agency -government concerns that deliver citizen protections, as well as timely alerts and warnings  (issued by the CDC)   about the potential emergence of a new pandemic.  Instead, she wants to turn Francesca Grifo and her Scientific Integrity Committee into "bogeymen" for the conserve flacks to beat up on.  Indeed, in classic hysterical style, Strassel blabs:

"As Scientific Integrity Official, Ms. Grifo would have the awesome power to root out all these meddlesome science deniers. A 2013 Science magazine story reported she would lead an entire Scientific Integrity Committee, write an annual report documenting science “incidents” at the agency, and even “investigate” science problems—alongside no less than the agency’s inspector general."

But, of course, that "awesome power" is justified including that her position - not being a political appointment - comes with "civil service protections". This is just as well given we need someone, some authority dedicated to genuine science in the agency to ride herd over Scott Pruitt. Hence, contrary to Strassel's bloviations, Grifo would be within her purview to investigate Pruitt's assertion that "CO2 is not the prime driver of global warming". Of course it is, to the tempo of CO2 concentrations increasing by 2 ppm per year, increasing the radiative heating effect by 2 W/ m2 per year.

Strassel, in her hysterical screed, is actually looking askance at the extent of authority of "an unelected, unappointed activist" - which btw, is exactly why Ms. Grifo's role is so critical.:  She provides a check on a half-educated  twit out to destroy the agency to which he was appointed! See e.g.

http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2017/03/scott-pruitt-shows-hes-arsonist-for.html


So yes, Ms. Grifo can indeed decide this arsonist is "too unscientific to run his own agency". Hell, Pruitt's  too unqualified to even run a flea circus! Just as Sen. Jim Inhofe (OK) was too unqualified to be heading a Science Committee. 

But the most histrionic expulsion of verbiage showing Strassel truly doesn't get it - or doesn't want to - is the following:

"This is a government employee using taxpayer funds to plot ways to sabotage the Trump administration."

Well, to put it into perspective, if there was an official charged with halting an arsonist irresponsibly put in control of the Fire Dept. I'd damned sure want him or her to find way to sabotage that arsonist! In the case of Ms. Grifo, it is in all our best interests she is in the position she is to keep Pruitt honest and committed to the EPA as opposed to sabotaging it. In other words, we see HIM as the saboteur, not her.

So Strassel actually endorses the sabotage of the EPA and other agencies, as opposed to acting in our interests and welfare.

Strassel ends her hit piece on Grifo and "the deep state" (sic) by suggesting the Scientific Integrity Office be cut outright, adding: "the sooner department heads take action against the deep state the sooner this administration can drain the swamp".

Translation: The sooner we can cut responsible heads of agencies and employees,  i.e. those charged with using agencies to protect citizens health and welfare  - the sooner the swamp can be re-filled.

See also:

http://smirkingchimp.com/thread/p-m-carpenter/73228/climate-change-isnt-the-hoax-trump-is


6 comments:

Regis Ian said...

Well the EPA has done a great deal of work in assembling databases for my toxicology reports in class, I can give them credit for that at least.

All money spent through the government will have some fraction that goes back into the public, and some fraction that goes into accounting error deals. Even if X chemical was banned due to public outrage, the matter of fact is, no one would care with regards to any of the other organic compounds since they are too complicated to announce and require lump-sums of energy to process in depth of comprehension with regards to hybridization-sp bonds, resonance structures, blocking ability, etc - etc.

Ignorance causes fear most of the time. This is simply a fact of human nature. With the addition of limited foresight and ability to do abstraction, lump-summing entire nebulous fields of unknown thought into the unconceivably evil is the correct choice of thought most (with regards to human evolution) most of the time. Mushrooms? Unknown tribes? Unseen dangers? Avoid. If you want to subterfuge distrust, you need to explain science in practical terms. Bomb= blow up. Tree Bark = Can be bad. Lab chemicals = can be good. But associating distant things like PCBs, or harmful compounds in your grocery receipts or acetaminophen to your medicine is not something that everyone is capable of doing. The increasing amount of distantness and unrelatedness the relationship is (murkier), the higher with ease it is to exploit that ignorance (acupuncture, alternative medicine, etc).

I abhor the right for the same idiosyncrasies as the left - exaggerated claims about things without considering all perspectives.

Regis Ian said...

However, this does not absolve conflict of interests. Scientific output is proportional to funding. If industry funds it, then results must ensue. I do not know the # of cases of poor research, but I believe the pareto law does say that most papers remain non peer-reviewed and industry-sponsored research could be biased if it goes against their economic interests for example.

Another point of failure of government funding is a lack of linking results to funds. You get all these crazy basket-gender studies and social constructivist theorists on the public dime when you have no standard. On the other hand, industry is too narrow and the returns on research might reduce the number of revolutionary innovations from building up the fundamentals of the field or exploring unexplored frontiers of science. You also have to navigate through all the bureaucratic appeals in govt or face hostility if you explore controversial subjects whereas in industry, you either show results or disappear into obscurity.

There is just no incentive to improve the efficiency of the program when it comes to govt services. Yes, you can use the same sensors, you can divide lakes and feed sulphur and grow algae,phytoplankton, etc -- but no new innovations come in. Perhaps a mixed-model of conditional contract monopolies for private industry that achieve X result in Y time would work.

As far as criticisms of Trump goes, I dont see it that easy. You get elected into office. Theres a series of hogwash backdeals that have already been set up. You might simply be the puppet in the game. You dont really control all the reins of everything, otherwise any strongly ideological person can get into power and instrument a mass eugenics program, a cross-war across continents, a super re-distribution of wealth program, etc. I still believe there is a reason why the Middle East has ties with the neoliberals and neoconservatives. Money rules the world, or at least the properties, assets and things associated with it anyways. As long as people are not dying and the lifetime risk of cancer only increases by X per capita which can only be seen on a deep statistical analysis of metapopulations, most people really could care less about what "chemical" factories are doing (as long as people are not dropping like fish) -- like the "radioactivity" products of the 30s or the "infamous estradiol case" with pregnant woman or the "dropping tires into the ocean" or the "pumping chemicals into the groundwater and causing a city to be abandoned" incident in the 70-80s.

Copernicus said...

"Even if X chemical was banned due to public outrage, the matter of fact is, no one would care with regards to any of the other organic compounds since they are too complicated to announce and require lump-sums of energy to process in depth of comprehension with regards to hybridization-sp bonds, resonance structures, blocking ability, etc - etc."

Really? Seriously? Surely you jest. In fact, there is widespread information out there now, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) now in newly installed carpets and posing risks to people, especially with respiratory issues. I think you make much more of this than warranted. And maybe your "toxicology classes" are not educating you enough. There are also scores of books out there like Nina Baker's as well as Dr. Devra Davis ('The Secret History of the War On Cancer')

The notion that people won't pay attention to the effects of organic compounds because "they are too difficult to pronounce" is totally ludicrous, in fact, enters howler territory. Yes, "ignorance does trigger fear" but I believe you sell too many citizens short and blame their wariness of the thousands of chemicals around us and affecting us - most in adverse ways - on "ignorance".. Having taught chemistry once upon a time that is the sort of knee jerk spin I'd expect from one of my former students too enamored of the chemical industry.

Copernicus said...

"However, this does not absolve conflict of interests. Scientific output is proportional to funding. If industry funds it, then results must ensue. I do not know the # of cases of poor research, but I believe the pareto law does say that most papers remain non peer-reviewed and industry-sponsored research could be biased if it goes against their economic interests for example."

No, scientific output is not necessarily proportional to funding, and certainly by industry. I still recall the industry funding of "cold fusion" experiments in the 80s, 90s, that came to naught. Industry also is not going to take on support of climate change research, if it is a fossil fuel related industry. Most solar physics research is not funded explicitly by industry - though for sure some space weather related research is.

The other negative aspect of sole industry funding of all research is to expect "results" when they may not be immediately forthcoming which is the case with pure research. Testing of the EOtvos experiment, the differences between Brans- Dicke theory of gravity and Einstein's, the research into solar spicules and granules as well as resonant modes of oscillation in the Sun are never going to get industry funding based on "results", nor would I want them to.

The Pareto law does not say most papers remain non-peer reviewed. A fundamental economic law, based on "efficiency" cannot assert that because, for example, actual scientific papers are outside its purview. Indeed, I am suspicious of the claim that you have made here. What is the exact source for it? Where did you obtain it, i.e. that "most paper remain non-peer reviewed"?

The conflation of the idiotic social "constructivist" theories for ostensible publication is distinct from what you call "basket case studies". The former have now been tainted ever since physicist Allan Sokal pulled his QM hoax in getting a paper published. Please don't conflate this piffle with actual gov't funded work as it does your case no good.

The "crazy - basket case etc." studies are also exaggerated. Yes, these may have garnered high profile press attention but that doesn't mean these dominate in the area of government research. The latter, from where I sit, is far more important regarding climate science - as published in research papers by staff at NOAA, Lawrence Livermore Lab, NASA etc.

You seem to be trying to make a case against government funding based on inefficiency or waste, but frankly you have failed miserably


Copernicus said...

"Money rules the world, or at least the properties, assets and things associated with it anyways. As long as people are not dying and the lifetime risk of cancer only increases by X per capita which can only be seen on a deep statistical analysis of metapopulations, most people really could care less about what "chemical" factories are doing"

Money does often "rule the world" but the conclusion you make is total bollocks. I do not know what little isolated enclave you inhabit but where I live citizens are highly energized about potential and existing chemical impacts, including effects of coal- fired utility plants. Unless you can use cited statistics, e.g. in journals, to bolster your claims please refrain from making them - at least if you wish comments to be published in the future.

Copernicus said...

"As far as criticisms of Trump goes, I dont see it that easy. You get elected into office. Theres a series of hogwash backdeals that have already been set up. You might simply be the puppet in the game. You dont really control all the reins of everything"

Come on now! A bit more critical thinking here! Surely you must concede Trump at least controls his own damned tweets! And if so, and if he's even semi-sentient he'd be aware of the grave damage they are doing as noted in - wait for it - today's WSJ editorial ('The Buck Stops Everywhere Else'). As the editorial conclude:

"Mark it all down as further evidence that the most effective opponent of the Trump Presidency is Donald J. Trump himself."

Noting earlier that if this idiot's reckless tweeting continues unchecked "Trump may find himself running an administration with no one but his family and Breitbart staff."