“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Friday, May 26, 2006

skepticism and science


- From the American Scientist. Click on image to zoom it.

To continue with LI’s anti-military rant from yesterday – Harper’s this month has a fine article on nuclear testing in Nevada by David Samuels. Rumsfeld, who is a monster from outer space, wants to resume underground testing of nuclear bombs. Here are a few grafs from Samuels piece:

“Over the life of the American nuclear-design program, the scientists at Los Alamos and Livermore designed 71 different warheads for 116 nuclear-weapons systems, at a total cost of nearly $800 billion. This year, the Department of Energy will spend $6.5 billion on nuclear weapons, and it plans to spend a total of $35 billion over the following four years, an amount that in real dollars equals what Ronald Reagan spent in eight years on nuclear weapons at the height of the Cold War.

"The last time we did a test there was nothing over fifteen stories in Las Vegas," he reflects. But with the revitalized plutonium-pit production scheduled for 2007, a multibillion-dollar tritium-production program funded by Congress, deliveries of refurbished nuclear weapons scheduled for 2006, and billions of dollars earmarked for the computers and visualization theaters at Livermore and Los Alamos, it is impossible to ignore what's in the offing. Both Stephen Younger, the former associate director of the weapons program at Los Alamos, and C. Paul Robinson, the current director of Sandia, have publicly advocated the development of a new generation of strategic nukes. As the Defense Department's Nuclear Posture Review explained to Congress at the beginning of 2002, "While the United States is making every effort to maintain the stockpile without additional nuclear testing, this may not be possible for the indefinite future."”

LI often gets irritated at the peasant stubbornness or pig ignorance of people who doubt that global warming is happening, or doubt evolutionary theory, etc., etc. We shouldn’t – there are good reasons for the average person to think for him or herself about the pronouncements of the scientists. A great example of scientists, en masse, lying, is given to us by the above ground nuclear testing that went on for decades in Nevada.

In David Thompson’s book, “In Nevada: The Land, The People, God, and Chance," there’s a movie anecdote – which you would expect, since Thompson is a movie critic and the one man author of a movie encyclopedia – about The Conqueror, a John Wayne flick financed by Howard Hughes and shot in St. George, Utah in 1955. St. George happened to be in the alley through which mucho radioactivity from those above ground tests passed. Hughes had soil dug up form the site to be used later for in studio productionAnd the crew, cast, director and others were thus exposed to the substances unleashed by the department of War and blessed by the scientists hired by the department of war, who have, since the dropping of Big Boy, spent seventy years downplaying the dangers of radiation. Thompson points out that, out of the 221 people working on the film, 91 got cancer. This isn’t that surprising. In St. George, deformed babies became known as sacrifice babies – sacrificed to national defense. The leukemia rate was 2.5 times higher than the national average – but cancers were only one of the kind of low grade, life sucking maladies that afflicted the community, and that atomic energy scientists are quick to label psychosomatic – as in the recent WHO/AEIC report on Chernobyl. During a period from the late 40s to the late 70s, the War Department’s scientific community was both experimenting with weapons designed to kill millions and denying that the weapons produced anything that would harm Americans living around the places where those weapons were exploded. Sometimes, just to check, populations were exposed to radiation on purpose – the Defense Department in 1991 admitted that it had done about 4,000 experiments exposing humans to radioactivity between 1944 to 1974, according to Eduardo Goncalves article on the ‘secret nuclear war’ in the Ecologist in 2001. Carole Gallagher, in her photo book about the victims of the bomb tests, quotes a great AEC memo about communities in the path of fallout – they were labeled the “low use segment of the population.” The Conqueror was the more unfortunate in that it mixed low use people with valuable people, including John Wayne – who of course died of cancer. As any scientist would be quick to point out, John Wayne smoked. In any population in the fifties, there are going to be people who die of cancer anyway, statistically. It isn’t science to hide behind that fact, it is politics. But the War Department’s scientists hid behind that fact for fifty years. In Goncalves article, he quotes an Army medic, Van Brandon, who said that the army routinely kept two sets of records of radioactive readings in the fallout paths, one set to show that nobody received an elevated level of radiation, the other set to show how high that elevated level actually was. “That set was brought in a locked briefcase every morning.”

In the 50s, to be fair, not a lot was known about chronic illness. It certainly wasn’t known that one could be infected with a disease that would only appear thirty years later. Now it is fifty years later, and there is a lot of information that is not going to be showing up in any newspaper headlines any time soon – after all, the congressional investigations about the nuclear testing ‘accidents’ were concluded in the 80s. News and disease have a different time frame. So we haven’t seen a lot of publicity given to this report by Steven L. Simon, Andre Bouville and Charles E. Land in this January’s American Scientist, "Fallout from Nuclear Weapons Tests and Cancer Risks." Yet there should be, not only for what it says but for what it doesn't say. The report goes the partial hang-out route, to quote Nixon, diminishing by segregating -- for instance, by concentrating on cancer, the authors can ignore the immune system breakdowns associated with radioactivity, and never ask if there is any meshing between these two results of radiation poisoning. It bases its statistics on reports of radioactive readings after the tests without even a note to say that some of those readings are, to say the least, disputed – and that we know the Department of War has changed its story about certain of the most notorious tests -- for instance the one on July 5, 1957, in which, in the immediate aftermath of the test, some 2,000 soldiers were ordered into ground zero – while the becqueral count was off the Geiger counter - and this was after these soldiers were exposed, as was standard practice, by being put in trenches some mile from the explosion. Afterwards, soldiers reported that they could do things you only see in horror movies – like pull their teeth from their mouth. All of which reports would get them trundled into the psych wards are VA hospitals. And none of which is reflected in the notes in the American Scientist, which are enlivened by some maps I'd like to figure out how to post.

This is from the article:

"The cancer risks are, of course, the most publicized of the spectrum of ills resulting from scientific carelessness about exploding big dangerous toys to see what would happen. The less publicized of those ills is immune deficiencies of various kinds.

“In 1997, NCI conducted a detailed evaluation of dose to the thyroid glands of U,S, residents from 1-131 in fallout from tests in Nevada. In a related activity, we evaluated the risks of thyroid cancer from that exposure and estimated that about 49,000 fallout-related cases might occur in the United States,
almost all of them among persons who were under age 20 at some time during the period 1951-57, with 95-percent uncertainty limits of 11,300 and 212,000. The estimated risk may be compared with some 400,000 lifetime thyroid cancers expected in the same population in the absence of any fallout exposure.

Accounting for thyroid exposure from global fallout, which was distributed fairly uniformly over the entire United States, might increase the estimated excess by 10 percent, from 49,000 to 54,000. Fallout-related risks for thyroid cancer are likely to exceed those for any other cancer simply because those risks
are predominantly ascribable to the thyroid dose from internal radiatition, which is unmatched in other organs.”

The ever helpful government has set up a website, by the way, if you want to estimate your risk of thyroid cancer from fallout. It is at this link

However, can you believe the gov? LI is going with this editorial from the St. Georges Newspaper from May 13, 2006:

“Another part of the report states that breathing or swallowing radioactive iodine originating in contaminated milk was the most significant pathway to radioactive exposure.

Yet a third part of the report concludes that there are "substantial gaps in existing data and other factors" related to the research.

In summary, however, the NAS report recommends that the number of diseases compensated by the federal government should not be expanded beyond the current 18, but that the Centers for Disease Control and the National Cancer Institute should complete national dose estimates for all fallout radioactivity, not just Iodine 131, that fell, according to the report, on every county in the nation.

The NCI has already determined that there are as many as 212,000 cases of thyroid cancer that could have been caused by fallout exposure. No number is pegged to the 17 other types of cancer that currently qualify for compensation, although the NCI also recently released a study about the number and types of cancer found in the Marshall Islands where 66 nuclear weapons were detonated from 1946-1958. According to the NCI, 530 different cancers were caused by that fallout.

And although the U.S. Senate, when it approved the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act in 1990, concluded that such radionuclides as Cesium 137 and Strontium 90 are responsible for some of the illnesses, the report failed to offer any significant information regarding the effects of those elements.

The recent NAS report was issued, coincidentally, on the same day that the White House reasserted its commitment to research on a new generation of nuclear weapons - the so-called bunker buster bombs - and one day after the National Research Council concluded that these new weapons would not be any safer than the current nuclear arsenal and expose millions to radiation.

In essence, what the NAS report does is buy time for the government and time is not a commodity the people who call themselves downwinders - those who suffered illness as a result of nuclear fallout - have.

The longer the government takes to determine the effects of spraying countless Americans with poisonous fallout, the fewer survivors there will be to compensate for their sacrifice.

The longer the government can stall on offering more information about the effects of radiation poisoning, the farther along the research and testing of this needless next generation of nukes is allowed to progress.

The NAS report is nothing more than a smokescreen to cover the tracks of the government for killing thousands of innocent victims and paving the way for more of the same in the future.

It's time for the people of this country to stand up and demand some answers before it's too late.”

Let’s end this uber depressing post with a quote from an Oak Ridge Physician famous for fighting against the government habit of poisoning the population, Karl Z. Morgan, who testified in the Silkwood case.

This attitude [for radiation safety] did not prevail, apparently, at some other places [other than Oak Ridge.] Certainly it did not at Three Mile Island. Since I left the faculty at Georgia Tech, I've testified in over a hundred-fifty cases, trying to help people that have allegedly been injured by radiation. We won the Karen Silkwood case and Crumbeck case, and I was a sole witness [for the plaintiff when] we won in the Three Mile Island class-action suit.

But in most other cases, the AEC and DOE [have] called—[what was] then the Department of Justice [(DOJ)]; let me call it the "Department of Injustice" [to make false claims about radiation exposure] under some of the people there. They [(the DOJ employees)] actually bragged about the fact that they set up courses to train health physicists and lawyers on how to keep injured parties, injured from radiation, from getting any benefits! One of these was even held in Washington. I didn't attend it, but I can point to some people that attended the lecture that [Don] Jose from the Justice Department gave. Imagine: the Department of Justice—which is supposed, according to our Constitution, to provide justice to the citizen—training lawyers and health physicists how to cheat the public! How to allow people to be used as guinea pigs rather than be a hindrance to some nuclear or military program!”

8 comments:

roger said...

Note: I'm not going to tussle with Blogger anymore about editing this post. The paragraph reading

"This is from the article" should be below, not above, this paragraph, which is mine:

The cancer risks are, of course, the most publicized of the spectrum of ills resulting from scientific carelessness about exploding big dangerous toys to see what would happen. The less publicized of those ills is immune deficiencies of various kinds.

new york pervert said...

The reason things are clogged is because of literal Fear of God. The arrogant ones do not want to solve problems not so much because they hate to do good, as Krugman says, but because they do not want to really take the step to real power, which would seem very human, overly courageous and overstepping polite boundaries owned by invisible entities. While there is exuded an attitude that they want to at least propagate themselves, they only want to do this up to a certain point, a point they are running up to--and at which they will be scared. Running the government as a for-profit business is very much a part of Christian practice and as long as that part works, they will keep playing these little incestuous musical chairses and Simon Sayses. Just now Gonzales and Frist went to a shower together. Bush postponed the Coke Party for 45 days (that's as in Coca-cola for Southern Belles) irrelevant government branches all of a sudden saw pressing need for.

This has always been the way Deep South politics and social oppression has been run. It just hadn't occurred to anyone that when the South Rose Again there would be no whiff of the real Confederacy in it, and there would, in fact, be the destruction of the single place that defied Cash's 'de trop' condemnation of the 'Southern Myth' (sorry, but it existed, just not nearly everywhere, but New Orleans still embodied the essence of the best of it as recently as 8 months ago.) What 'rose again' had never risen: It was the backwoods Southerners' ethos, the just-folks pride of primitive littleness as carried out in the small Baptist and Methodist churches that would rise for the first time as a real Southern power. It was built up in so paranoid and threatened a way, that the fact that there is a lot of cracking going on is still like scratching the surface, due to volume of ironclad and single-minded purpose meant only for these government businesses, and I don't just meant the Halliburtons themselves: Those are at least called businesses, whereas the White House and Congress are not.

Anyway, I don't get as worked up about these things because of purely selfish reasons. I lived in the most extreme redneck part of the South till I was 17, and then escaped to a place that still has a metropolis, a metropolitan center to it still, no matter how outmoded and in process of dismantling (of course, it's mostly or even entirely because it's already there). So that temporarily I don't have to feel it directly any more. But the reason I think I can see how the government runs things is because that is how all aspects of everything were run in the Alabama that I grew up in--and they still are. But I had no idea that all that hayseed was going to supersede week after week of Village Voice radical chic and even lead to the firing of so much of its personnel that it's not even the recognizable journal it was even very recently. This is but one example, surely, but they fired Richard Goldstein after decades 2 years ago, then recently got rid of Ward Harkavy's BushBeat and fired James Ridgeway after some 30 years (I think.) It's a bit breathtaking, but again, it was always like this in the Deep South, alternating with schizophrenic bursts of mostly inelegant hedonism. I think it's precisely that which has become writ large on the entire world. In this sense, Cash was write: part of the Southern ethos was that it was the greatest and most important civilization in history, and the belief in this has gotten it its warped day in the sun. With warps and refusal to tolerate any vertical, non-hysterical kind of deliberate thinking and action, anything can happen, but there's no knowing what most fascinates people. It seems to me that it's the ghoulish and slop, so that if I'm wrong, it'll require more proof, which I'll be glad to make room for.

roger said...

Mr. NYP - You know, as I was writing this up in my half put on rage -- the rage of the ape before the computer screen - I looked at that map. And then I looked at it again. And I read the states about thyroid cancer. And I thought, my God. You'll notice that, due to the windpattern, there's a heavy laydown of Cesium 137 in Western New York. Where I was born. And a person near and dear to me who was living there at that time in the fifties when the tests were going on, did die of thyroid cancer - a singleton, in her family, in that way.

I found this in the Albany, NY paper from 1997:

"A 1953 thunderstorm is believed to have rained down radiation from a Nevada bomb test

The Albany area in 1953 was among the places hardest hit by fallout from a nuclear test conducted more than 2,000 miles away in the Nevada desert, according to government data only now revealed.

{The data show that young Capital Region children may have been exposed to 10 times the average adult dose in the worst hot spots, the Associated Press reported.

No one knows whether the exposures were enough to cause thyroid cancer. But some of those hot spots may have exposed Americans to as much radiation as residents directly downwind from the Nevada blasts, the National Cancer Institute said Friday.

The NCI refused to disclose its list of the 24 U.S. counties that had the most fallout until some maps are released with a summary of the 100,000-page report on Wednesday. But sources familiar with portions of the secret report said that areas with the highest fallout include Albany and parts of Massachusetts, Missouri, Tennessee, North and South Dakota, Idaho and Montana.}

The Nevada-Albany link had been exposed earlier when a Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute professor, Herbert Clark, unexpectedly discovered that a freak thunderstorm doused the area with radiation fallout in 1953. But the government has never revealed the extent of potential exposure in Albany and other hot spots. Several experts said it is unlikely that 40 years later local residents exposed to the radiation would develop cancer as a result. But Dr. James Figge, director of the thyroid cancer program at St. Peter's Hospital, on Saturday recommended that anyone who was between infancy and 18 years of age during 1953 in the Albany area get a thyroid examination. "It's a lifelong risk," he said."

This has shocked me that I don't know what to think about it, but I do wish I could put up the maps I found in the American science article, or even the article itself, which is a PDF file, on my other geocities site, so that everybody could read it.

You are right, this is about an ongoing culture of power, Alabama or D.C. or Nevada, who get to select the members of the low use segment of the population. But it is a mistake to think those who did the selection had any fucking control over what was happening. They only thing they are good at is hiding the information after they make a catastrophic blunder -- and that talent, lately, has been regressing.

Why, though, I wonder, has there been no widespread publication of these kinds of maps? Why is there no complete medical survey, one that includes both carcinogens and the results of immune system failure -- and why has the latter, in spite of being highlighted by people like Sakharov, been given such a low level of publicity? After all, it is the latter which causes chronic failure of Quality of Life. I'm simply amazed at the way they play this game -- you segregate out the direst illness, cancer, and then put the penumbra of other diseases into a box and bury it in Oak Ridge, or something. Unfuckingbelievable, Mr. NYP.

roger said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
new york pervert said...

Yes, they are only good at covering up catastrophe, and it's regressing because simply because there are too many of them to cover up all of them. So you see them literally imploding in Washington. They're so ingrown they probably haven't even noticed that the sleights of hand are increasing in number, since they don't have time to look outside their own most recent scandal and the sleights of hand they need to find to slip through to the next level of riffraff. It's actually riveting as long as explosions don't occur--not to say there's a thing admirable about it, but it's getting opaque almost to the point of being art the way Artaud talked about it.

There's a lot more about St. George and downwinders in Mike Davis's 'Dead Cities' which you've probably read. I thought it was his best book, having read 4 or 5--those about LA have problems in that the disasters he talks about really don't seem to happen in LA on the schedules he darkly gives them. In 'ecology of Fear' he talks about tornadoes occurring in DT Los Angeles, but I haven't ever heard about this anywhere else, and there really isn't any reason to hide it unless it's, as he even admits, that they're not big spectacular ones like in the midwest and south. In 'Dead Cities' he talks about govt. 'weather control' and how it's been around as a possible weapon for maybe 40 years (I don't have the book here), but this I also have never heard of again. He always has the look of being extremely well-researched, but I don't know whether he may not be defeated by wanting certain things to be facts, even though in another sense he couldn't want them, because they're undesirable. The 'certain huge quakes' for downtown LA and Beverly Hills, though, have definitely not happened.

I had no idea Thomson had written this sort of book. I've read huge swaths of the Film Encyclopedia at the library, and this is a peculiar document of himself. He has some bizarre phrases, as when he'll talk about how an actor 'lost his talent'. This book is embarassing in many ways because it's so pompous, but it's one of the best for unusual information in one place--things I wouldn't have known about like a clique consisting of Katharine Hepburn, George Cukor, Garson Kanin and Judy Holliday.

new york pervert said...

'They [(the DOJ employees)] actually bragged about the fact that they set up courses to train health physicists and lawyers on how to keep injured parties, injured from radiation, from getting any benefits!'

Yes, that's become clearly the practice in all departments. 'Corporate welfare' may have been one of the first phrases that pointed to this, but in the early 90's I noticed that when 'human rights' was reduced to a small category, I also noticed that it had been accepted as small for some time. Anyway, DOJ, but sounds just like Rumsfeld early on when, after the casualties were announced, he described the way you see the war as 'according to where you are sitting.' They've all learned to concoct these formulae, but what's interesting is that they may have a creeping suspicion that it can't work indefinitely, but that still the other way would mean their immediate ouster, so that all they are in is a delaying game. I wonder if maybe they've been shrewd because they were lucky that the chips fell nicely enough for them, but I'm not at all convinced they can prevail as actually being 'smart.' We'll see, and possibly soon.

new york pervert said...

enough hogging for one night after this brief small nugget: that same DoJ I requoted from your post also reminds me very much of the intercepted Enron calls--first time I'd heard of anything with this particular sound. DeLillo describes a scene toward the end of 'Underworld' about trashing places for money, but I don't remember any dialogue that was quite like this thrill of cheating people thing.

roger said...

Mr. NYP, no, I haven't read Dead Cities. Wow, I'll have to check that out. Thanks for the tip.

Here's a tip for you: if you haven't read it, look at the Gallagher book I mention. A photographer who did an eight year project in and about the downwind area. Obviously, the photos are influenced by Out West, but Gallegher doesn't have Avedon's coldness.

And I will also, it looks like, have to trash and repost my comment from above, since I put a link that goes to the end of the page. Oops!