Reminder: Blogathon 2003 Rapidly Approaching

Don’t forget that Blogathon 2003 is this Saturday (and into Sunday). At the moment I have no sponsors, which can’t be good. I’ll be blogging (assuming I get some sponsors) in support of Doctors Without Borders, which provides medical relief around the world (hence the “without borders” part), so here’s a chance to be part of the fun of a massive, coordinated, 24-hour-long blog-o-rama, to watch me struggle to stay interesting (or at least awake) for 2 posts an hour all day, and to support a great cause all at the same time. What more could you ask for? After all, I am somewhere around the 1300th most linked-to blogger in all the world (as ranked by Truth Laid Bear’s blog ecosystem; imagine my surprise, however, when I went there to find out my exact, up-to-the-minute ranking, and found that only the top 100 sites are listed now… Oh well, you’ll just have to take my word for it–I’m in at least the 5th or even 6th percentile!).

Will Somebody Please Explain…

how Ms. Lauren at feministe manages to pull off complete site redesigns, each one cooler than the last, every couple weeks or so?! I mean, I’ve been struggling for weeks just to find the time to clean up my CSS layout (which I think I finally managed to nail, albeit at the cost of moving the navigation from the left side of the page to the right), in which time she’s had three or four completely different, completely kickin’, just plain awesome site layouts and graphic sets. I don’t even have children!

It’s a mystery, I tell you. A MYSTERY!

The Fleischering Continues…

Speaking of hiding behind language, check out this excellent example of fleischering (courtesy of Josh Marshall) from the Dark Master’s padawan apprentice, Scott McClellan. You can take Fleischer out of the White House, but apparently you can’t take the fleischering, not from this White House. Listen:

QUESTION: Regardless of whether or not there was pressure from the White House for that line, I’m wondering where does the buck stop in this White House? Does it stop at the CIA, or does it stop in the Oval Office?

Scott McClellan: Again, this issue has been discussed. You’re talking about some of the comments that — some that are —

QUESTION: I’m not talking about anybody else’s comments. I’m asking the question, is responsibility for what was in the President’s own State of the Union ultimately with the President, or with somebody else?

Scott McClellan: This has been discussed.

QUESTION: So you won’t say that the President is responsible for his own State of the Union speech?

Scott McClellan: It’s been addressed.

QUESTION: Well, that’s an excellent question. That is an excellent question. (Laughter.) Isn’t the President responsible for the words that come out of his own mouth?

Scott McClellan: We’ve already acknowledged, Terry, that it should not have been included in there. I think that the American people appreciate that recognition.

It goes on and on like that–this is only about a third of the whole exchange. Read the rest at Marshall’s site.

“Sound Science” Strikes Again

In Trust Us We’re Experts: How Industry Manipulates Science and Gambles with Your Future, the authors describe the millions of dollars spent by the pharmaceutical, tobacco, biotech, agribusiness, and other industries to obscure and manipulate scientific data and research to advance their own interests (generally in opposition to the public’s). Working through “front” organizations with benign, positive, occasionally even lefty-sounding names like the The Advancement for Sound Science Coalition, the American Council on Science and Health, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy, American Chemistry Council, the Foundation for Clean Air Progress, the International Society of Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, and the Society for Women’s Health Research, corporations produce legitimate-sounding scientific studies that support their own products or actions, often at the expense of people’s lives. Under the guise of “sound science”, this data is not only poured into PR campaigns–through, among other things, scare stories and other public-interest pieces produced by corporate-funded organizations for your local news broadcasts–but also provide policy-makers with the plausible denial they need to, for instance, talk about the need for “further research” into global warming without actually having to take a political stand that might cost them their corporate donations in the next election cycle or their cushy jobs on leaving “public service”.

The latest act in the “sound science” assault on both science and the public interest is Monsanto’s lawsuit against the Oakhurst Dairy Co-op based in Maine, over their inclusion of the words “Our Farmers’ Pledge: No Artificial Growth Hormones” on their products’ labels. In a stunning piece of corporate double-speak, Monsanto claims:

Monsanto fully supports the right of people in grocery stores to make informed choices about what they purchase. We believe that consumers should be able to make these informed decisions based on fair and accurate factual information about the quality and safety of the products they purchase. Currently, the labels used by Oakhurst are contrary to the position of the Food & Drug Administration for the voluntary labeling of milk and milk products with respect to the non-use of rBST, and violate state laws regarding unfair and deceptive commercial practices. The current labeling practices of Oakhurst fail to fully disclose years of scientific evidence that milk from cows supplemented with rBST is the same as all other milk. Scientific studies conclude that the use of rBST to improve milk production does not change the nutrition, taste, quality, or any other health or safety characteristics of milk.

Without this information, independent market-research shows that many consumers are misled to believe that the milk with labels such as the Oakhurst Dairy label was healthier or safer than other milk. In surveys conducted by MSR Research Group, Inc., and overseen by independent third-party scholars, research revealed that more than two-thirds of consumers were misled to believe that the milk with the Oakhurst Dairy label was healthier to drink than milk labeled without such a statement, and that more than sixty percent of consumers were also misled to believe that the milk with the Oakhurst Dairy label was safer to drink than milk labeled without such a statement.

Now, I don’t know if milk from rBST-treated cows is, in fact, less safe than milk from non-treated cows. I do know, however, that the “years of scientific evidence” Monsanto cites are very likely to have been funded by Monsanto itself, through their sponsorship of research centers at various universities and at their own corporate headquarters in Missouri. Even blatantly obvious research manipulation pays off for Monsanto and its fellow agribusiness/pharmaceutical/chemical companies, by muddying the waters and throwing even the most positive scientific certainties into doubt. If Monsanto’s research is quite clearly fake, then so, too, might their critics’ research be, essentially taking the results of even legitimate scientific research out of the debate, leaving the field open to, essentially, whoever can spend the most money. Between multi-billion-dollar Monsanto and the 88 farms that make up Oakhurst, that’s a pretty clear outcome.

Monsanto has been bringing this sort of lawsuit against small farmers who refuse to use rBST hormone treatments–and had the gall to say so–ever since the product was introduced years ago. They brought so much pressure to bear in Vermont that the state changed its regulations on hormone-treated diary. Oakhurst is based in Maine, and is covered by a Maine state law that awards a “Quality Seal” to dairies that purchase at least 80% of their milk from Maine dairy farms that do not use artificial growth hormones (according to Oakhurst’s website). So Big M is clearly gunning to take down Maine’s regulations, as much as to hit small dairies where it hurts. As far as I can tell, Oakhurst isn’t saying anything that is not true. And they are providing a piece of information that many customers obviously want–as Monsanto itself says in their statement. Monsanto “supports the right of people in grocery stores to make informed choices about what they purchase” (“People in grocery stores”? Like, the stockboy? What about people in bodegas? No rights for them? Or people in restaurants? Or what about children in school lunchrooms? Does Monsanto not support their right to make informed choices?)–but Monsanto wants to be the only ones providing that information.

“Trust Us, We’re Experts” indeed! There’s an old joke, “How do you say ‘Fuck You’ in Yiddish? ‘Trust Me.'”

Pardon Our Dust

I’m still trying to fix problems this site has on both AOL/CompuServe systems and on 800X600 screens, neither of which should happen but both of which dohappen. If things look a bit messy, please have patience. Thanks!