Monday, February 25, 2013

Ned Kalin et al win an IDA Outragie

Fright Nights at University of Wisconsin: 25 years of terrifying monkeys
The runaway winner of our Most Outrageously Repetitive award is a team of researchers at the Health Emotions Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Censorship

"It's important to know what the cost is to the animal. It's important to know what the potential benefit is to, in this case it's humans, but a lot of animal research also benefits animals. And then you you you come up, you compare those, and decide for yourself whether or not something you think it's ethical, and that where people have a right to differ." -- UW-Madison Research Animal Resource Center Director and university spokesperson Eric Sandgren, February 15, 2013, in a statement to WMTV, NBC 15, on the occasion of James Cromwell's participation in a disruption of a meeting of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents to protest the Regents continuing support for highly invasive and painful brain and ear experiments using cats in Tom Yin's laboratory.
Pictured here is one of Yin's victims, Double Trouble. 


I can't get Sandgren's statement out of my head; it is grotesque and matter-of-factually misleading and dishonest. Moreover, many people at the university and at the Wisconsin Department of Justice must know the facts and yet they stand mute.

PeTA spent three years in court trying to get these photos from the university. The Wisconsin Department of Justice acted as the university's counsel -- at the public's expense -- and argued to the court that the photos shouldn't be released.

It was only when they were caught lying about the "proprietary" nature of the hardware that can be seen in the photos that the university, through their Department of Justice de facto accomplices, finally gave up, tacitly admitting that their arguments had been fabricated nonsense.

"Decide for yourself whether or not something you think it's ethical," says Sandgren, all the while knowing that the university had unsuccessfully tried for three years to keep you from knowing, to stop you from seeing the pictures of only one of the cats butchered in Tom Yin's lab.

"It is hardly to be expected that a man who does not hesitate to vivisect for the sake of science will hesitate to lie about it afterwards...." -- George Bernard Shaw. The Doctor's Dilemma. 1909.


There's nothing to see here...


 Click image for larger view.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Happy birthday Fred. Good job.

Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. ― Frederick Douglass

The Plasticity of Our Ethics

Situational influences are so compelling that many of us, most of us perhaps, are unable to resist them. This explains why otherwise reasonably decent people do really horrible things, even things that are widely acknowledged to be atrocities.

Contrary to what you might wish were true, if you take the time to think about it, the people who make the best torturers and death squad leaders aren't deviants. Research has demonstrated that they aren't sadists, and they don't have a predilection for hurting others. If only they had some sort of identifiable mental aberration, we might be able to shield ourselves from the fact that you and I, in the right situation, could feel good about peeling the skin off someone as they screamed and begged for mercy.

To me, the most unsettling thing about our universal weakness is the demonstrated fact that people who are familiar with the phenomena are themselves just as likely to do horrible things when the situation demands it of them and to miss seeing that they have been inadvertently manipulated by the situational influences to condone and/or commit evil acts. Philip Zimbardo's "Stanford Prison Experiment" is a case in point.

The situations that compel participation, compliance, and complicity have some common elements. These elements have been enumerated by a number of social scientists over the past years, particularly since, and as a result of, the behavior of so many people associated with the Nazis.

One of the well known early works was Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, from 1963. In certain situations, doing otherwise horrible things becomes so common place that no one even notices it any longer. It becomes normal behavior. The evil is normalized.

This normalization of evil is a common factor in situations that condone and reward behaviors that would otherwise be immediately recognized as cruel or even criminal.

Another common factor in such situations is that otherwise aberrant behaviors are promoted and condoned by authorities. This is particularly true when the authority is the State. This seems to be related to our propensity to arrange our values in a way that puts the opinions of authority figures ahead of what we believe is right behavior if asked about our ethical beliefs in a neutral setting. This particular common psychological phenomena seems also related to our natural moral development. These characteristics have been looked at carefully by a number of social scientists. See for instance Stanley Milgram's Obedience to Authority and Lawrence Kohlberg's "Stages of Moral Development."

A third factor is the use of the term war or the designation of a common enemy. The War on Terrorism, the War on Crime, the War on Drugs, or common enemies: Communists, socialists, or enemies of the State; these are examples of the sort of branding that can contribute to otherwise decent people doing things that they would never do if not confronted by an apparent emergency or immanent threat.

The influence of the State, its power to declare war and identify the common enemy, to determine what is and isn't legal and moral, has a profound influence over us. In The Nazi Doctors, Robert J. Lifton writes at some length about the doctors who made the selections at Auschwitz. These too were otherwise reasonably decent people. They needed emotional support and reassurance early on to get over their discomfort with being the ones who decided who would die right away and who would live a little while longer. But, evil was the norm, they were at war, they were working for the State, and they were "treating" the nation against a common enemy.

As I was writing this, I heard a news story about New Yorker staff writer Sarah Stillman receiving a 2013 George Polk Award, a prestigious annual award for journalism, for her article, "The Throwaways." She reported on law enforcement’s unregulated use of young confidential informants in drug cases. The War on Drugs and the situational influences that surround it explain why otherwise reasonably decent people, police officers in this case, are willing to exploit children and force them into dire situations that end up occasionally being fatal encounters with hardened criminals.

I suspect that the law enforcement officials involved are sorry for the children and others they coerce into becoming undercover informants, particularly when they are physically harmed or killed, but hey, sacrifices must be made, we are at war.

When these three elements come together, the likelihood of people doing horrible things increases dramatically. It becomes a near certainty that any ugliness will increase unabated until something revolutionary stops it: a political coup, being defeated in war, or some more powerful outside influence forcing a change.

This last possibility seems to be possible only when the situation is unique to some subunit of some structured hierarchy like a rogue police precinct or a military unit that has lost track of basic norms.

These three elements: the normalization of evil; encouragement, support and reward for the evil acts by the authorities or State; and the designation of a common enemy, in this case disease or imperfect knowledge of biology, have combined synergistically to produce the bureaucratic system -- the situational influence -- that supports, works to expand, and defends any and all uses of animals in publicly-funded scientific research.

Those within the system behave exactly as social scientists would predict most people operating within such a system will behave. Otherwise decent people are compelled to be cruel. Otherwise decent people are compelled to approve the cruelty. Otherwise decent people are compelled to defend the cruelty. And otherwise decent people are compelled to lie, mislead, dissemble, censor, and obfuscate to protect the system and their comrades within the system.

How far removed from the actual act does someone have to be before they can claim some immunity from responsibility?

It seems to me that someone who was a member of the Nazi Party wasn't necessarily complicit in the Holocaust. An employee of the U.S. government is not necessarily responsible for blowing up an Afghani wedding party with a drone attack. But somewhere up the line or off to the side, people not directly involved do bear some responsibility, and the ethical weight of that responsibility seems to increase along with the knowledge of what their employer is doing.

It seems to me also that the more one relies on the spoils of an employer's evil deeds while knowing where the money comes from, the more responsible one becomes. In many, maybe most cases, this responsibility may not carry with it the ability to do anything about the acts, but it does seem to require an overt distancing of oneself from the deeds, either with public comments (comments, not a single comment) or finding other employment. The more one knows, the more one's silence becomes an act of complicity.

So what about university employees and students? Which of them bear some responsibility for the evil things done to animals that has become normalized in the laboratories, the evil things that are done to animals in the name of Science, the War on Disease, the evil things that are sanctioned, condoned, and paid for by their institution and the State?

My observations regarding personal responsibility notwithstanding, the actual case is much different, as so much social science points out. The reality is that the closer one gets to the atrocities, the more one is controlled by the situation; the more one is distanced, the more one will deny a responsibility. The status quo is maintained. And thus, Germans rounded up and killed millions of people they saw as unlike themselves; Stalin massacred millions more; Americans tortured and killed prisoners at Abu Ghraib, and people who claim to be aware of the very serious risks of situational influences get swallowed by the system and don't even know they are being digested. They probably don't even understand this reference to them.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Why UW-Madison Isn't Likely to Restrain Ned Kalin

In the old days, a state university was funded primarily by state taxes and tuition. But not anymore.

In the old days, a university like the University of Wisconsin, Madison had to pay attention to what taxpayers thought about them. But not anymore.

Today, they don't give a shit. They don't have to.

Today, money pours in from the federal government and taxpayers have little if any say about where it goes. Bureaucracies grow ever larger, and the pork grows a little fatter every year.

A research university like UW-Madison is actually a shopping mall of sorts. The university owns the buildings, hardware, and the animals, and then rents out space, tools, and animals to the individual labs, and then skims a healthy percentage off the top when someone in the lab lands a taxpayer-funded grant.

The university's take, in the case of government funded research, is a percentage of the dollars that flow into the labs from federal grants, the so-called indirect costs. The percentage that is skimmed off varies from mall to mall; at UW-Madison it's about 50%.

It's pretty easy to see why a scientist who has a one time $100,000 a grant has less weight to throw around than someone bringing in $1,000,000 every year.

This helps explain why someone like Ned Kalin can get his way and why the university oversight committee members give their approval to use methods that at least some of them they feel are cruel.

So how much money from federal grants -- your money, my money -- flows into the university to pay for Ned Kalin's experiments?

In the old days, I could state with some certainty and precision what that amount was. The NIH maintained publicly accessible databases that were easy to search and seemed to be accurate.

Today, not so much.

The website that should help taxpayers find this information is the NIH's Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT). In fact, the website's search tool, RePORTER claims that:
RePORTER satisfies a legislative mandate included in the NIH Reform Act of 2006 to provide the public with an electronic system to search NIH research projects using a variety of codes, including public health area of interest, and provide information on publications and patents resulting from NIH-funded research.
The tool has lots of little windows you can fill in. If you search "Projects & Publications" from, say, 1995 to the present, for Kalin's grants you'll see that he has one, two, or three studies. The dollar amount is for the most recent listed fiscal year. These are the three reported grants:

2 R01 MH046729 18A1 DEVELOPMENT AND REGULATION OF EMOTION IN PRIMATES KALIN, NED H
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON 2012 NIMH $640,891. [Note: the 18 in that 18A1 code at the end signifies that the grant is in its 18th year of continual funding.]

5 P50 MH084051 05 0001 DEVELOPMENTAL MECHANISMS UNDERLYING THE RISK TO DEVELOP ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION KALIN, NED H
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON 2012 NIMH $343,636.

5 R21 MH092581 02 BRAIN MECHANISMS UNDERLYING CHILDHOOD GENERALIZED ANXIETY DISORDER KALIN, NED H
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON 2013 NIMH $203,175.

So, it looks like he might have brought in about $1,000,000 in 2012, which means that the university was able to pocket about $500,000.

But, as I stated above, this new search tool isn't like the old tools. Searching for funded studies for Ned Kalin doesn't turn up all of Ned Kalin's funded studies since 2005.

For instance, it misses these:

5 R01 MH081884 04 BRAIN MECHANISMS MEDIATING GENETIC RISK FACTORS FOR ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION KALIN, NED H
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON 2011 NIMH $1,125,836.

5 R21 MH091550 02 COMBINING MOUSE AND MONKEY MODELS TO UNDERSTAND HUMAN RISK FOR PSYCHOPATHOLOGY KALIN, NED H
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON 2012 NIMH $222,750.

And these:

5 P51 RR000167 50
7854 EMOTIONAL PROCESSING KALIN, NED H
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON 2011 NCRR $156,368.

5 P51 RR000167 50
7891 NEUROBEHAVIORAL BASES OF EMOTION REGULATION AND DYSREGULATION IN ADOLESCENCE KALIN, NED H
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON 2011 NCRR $105,567.

5 P51 RR000167 50
7892 BRAIN MECHANISMS MEDIATING GENETIC RISK FACTORS FOR ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION KALIN, NED H
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON 2011 NCRR $333,941.

5 P51 RR000167 49
5070 EMOTIONAL PROCESSING KALIN, NED H
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON 2010 NCRR $30,981.

5 P51 RR000167 49
5150 NEUROBEHAVIORAL BASES OF EMOTION REGULATION AND DYSREGULATION IN ADOLESCENCE KALIN, NED H
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON 2010 NCRR $30,981.

5 P51 RR000167 49 5151 BRAIN MECHANISMS MEDIATING GENETIC RISK FACTORS FOR ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION KALIN, NED H
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON 2010 NCRR $30,981.

And who knows what else.

Finding this data is no longer a simple matter of knowing the address for a website. I doubt that the average citizen, the purported intended user of the RePORTER search tool would have much of a chance of discovering where their money is spent or the actual amount that flows into a university as the result of some vivisector's success at grant writing.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Another article vivisectors won't like

Mice Fall Short as Test Subjects for Humans’ Deadly Ills
By GINA KOLATA
New York Times February 11, 2013

The group had tried to publish its findings in several papers. One objection, Dr. Davis said, was that the researchers had not shown the same gene response had happened in mice.

“They were so used to doing mouse studies that they thought that was how you validate things,” he said. “They are so ingrained in trying to cure mice that they forget we are trying to cure humans.”

Friday, February 8, 2013

Traction Drives UW Regents Into Hiding

In my last post I criticized Eric Sandgren's comment concerning the lack of "traction" that Tom Yin's cruel cat experiments at the UW-Madison were getting in the local media.

"Traction" appears to be something that the university is unable or unwilling to deal with when it shows up. This is a snap of the UW Board of Regents website which includes a link to the Regents' contact info:


This is a snap of the page that you now reach when click on that link:


Maybe the page crashed because of increased traction. Or, maybe the Regents have gone into hiding. Getting tens of thousands of emails in a matter of a few hours was just more traction than they could handle.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A little more traction




I'll go out on a limb and assume that most readers of this blog are well aware that James Cromwell and and my friend Jeremy Beckham who is a PeTA employee and representative disrupted the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents meeting that was held today in Madison. You can watch a video of the the disruption on the PETA website.

I'm writing here to call attention to the statements made by Eric Sandgren, the front man for the university whenever their cruelty is mentioned by the media.

His statement that has been printed in a couple places was this:
Today's events are just another attempt by these outside activists to get attention. They have attacked and distorted this line of research, which has very real benefits for people who are deaf, from every angle, and they are getting no traction with the public.
There are two equally erroneous claims here. It's hard to know whether he believes them himself or believes that the public will believe them. Maybe both these things are true; maybe he believes them and so also believes that the public will believe them. It's hard to tell whether he's simply wrong or being misleading or both.

He says "Today's events are just another attempt by these outside activists to get attention."

Does he believe that "outsiders" shouldn't be involved in what happens in Madison? Or has he been prepped by some university spin doctor who has told him that painting critics as "outsiders" will play well in Madison?

Mere pennies of the 100s of millions of dollars that pay for his and his cronies' experiments on animals here in Madison come from Madisonians. It is outsiders who pay local people to experiment on animals. It is outsiders who are getting attention by hiring Sandgren and his crew. He should have clarified his position. He'll suck up to outsiders who give him money, but outsiders who take exception to the university's cruelty ought not be listened to.

He goes on to say that these outsider's criticisms "are getting no traction with the public."

He must believe that censorship means that the people who are kept in the dark don't really care or are actually happy that disturbing facts are kept hidden from them, or he must believe that the local media is clairvoyant and knows precisely what the public's opinion is and merely and conveniently repeats it in their reports.

For reasons I can only guess about, no one in the local media market has been willing to report on the university's use of animals since Bill Lueders left the Isthmus and Todd Finkelmeyer left the Capital Times. A lack of courage? Awe of people with titles? Inferiority complexes about not working in the ivory towers? Intimidation? I don't know why local media has decided to shield the university from criticism or even simply take note of its very dirty laundry. Media hasn't even had the gumption to accurately report on the very serious public health risks related to the university's sponsorship of incredibly dangerous infectious disease research. What goes on in the university labs is a black box as far as the local media coverage is concerned. And Sandgren says PETA's criticism of Tom Yin's cruel experiments on cats isn't getting any traction? Is he really this stupid? Maybe he recognizes that local media have for some reason decided to shelter the university from any substantive criticism and is just playing to that fact? Maybe he's just playing his part in the charade.

As stupid or dishonest or both as the above claims might be, the real gem is the comment he made to Madison's NBC affiliate, Channel 15:
It's still important to have the discussion. It's important to know what the cost is to the animal. It's important to know what the potential benefit is to, in this case it's humans, but a lot of animal research also benefits animals. And then you you you come up, you compare those, and decide for yourself whether or not something you think it's ethical, and that where people have a right to differ.
It took PETA three and a half years to get the photographs of Double Trouble. The university fought tooth and nail every step of the way to keep them hidden from the public. How could someone begin to imagine "what the cost is to the animal" when something as simple as a picture of the animal paying that cost is kept hidden? Sandgren's statement is typical. UW monkey eye vivisector Paul Kaufman made a similar claim during a public debate with me. He said that hurting animals is just a sacrifice we have to bear. It is you and me who are sacrificing, not the monkeys whose eyes are being mutilated or the cats in Yin's lab, we are the one's suffering.

Sandgren says that everyone should decide for themselves what is or isn't ethical, but the university works very hard to keep you and me from knowing what it is doing. How can we decide? He's either stupid or a liar. Or both. What other option is there?

The university literally shredded 628 videotapes of various experiments that had been conducted on monkeys after we asked for a single one. How can they claim that they think everyone should decide for themselves what is and isn't ethical? How can they make such an outlandishly misleading claim? Easily. They believe that the public is too dull and stupid to notice and they believe that they will continue to be sheltered by local media's voluntary censorship of all things evil at the university.

WMTV - NBC15 Madison, Wisconsin:

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Happy Birthday to Me

I turned 60 today. Happy birthday to me.

Here's a picture of me from 1982 when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia.


The teenage boy living next door was having a birthday so I made him a cake; he'd never had anyone make him a cake before; he may have never had cake before.

I checked the stats for this blog today, 107,957 pageviews, 620 posts, 41,892 unique visitors.

The runaway leader in pageviews was my February 3, 2007 post The Poisoned Plum. It's been looked at 6,716 times. I wrote it the day after my 54th birthday. Funny coincidence.

I began writing about our treatment of other animals in 1996. My first piece was a longish letter to the other teachers and staff about the controversy that had erupted over my classroom rule that forbade my students from harming the animals who happened to find themselves in my classroom. Here's a piece from 1997 that talks about the hubbub.

Anyway, there's no way to know how many "pageviews" there have been of the many fliers, brochures, webpages, and articles I've written over the past 17 years. I suspect that it's been quite a few. I know a small number of people who have been motivated by my writing to take up the fight; I hope there have been others.

Happy birthday to me.