Fisking “Junk Science’s” campaign FOR the poison DDT, against Rachel Carson: Point #8, mosquito resistance to DDT

June 29, 2007

This is the second in a series of Fisks of “100 things you should know about DDT,” a grotesquely misleading list of factoids about DDT put up a site called While one would assume that such a site would be opposed, this particular site promotes junk science. I’m not taking the points in order.The “100 things” list is attributed to Steven Milloy, a guy who used to argue that tobacco use isn’t harmful, and who has engaged in other hoaxes such as the bizarre and false claim that Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs (CFLs) can pose serious toxic hazards in your home (and therefore, you should continue to waste energy with less efficient bulbs); and to J. Gordon Edwards, a San Jose State University entomologist who, despite being a great entomologist, was a bit of a nut on some political things; Edwards assisted Lyndon Larouche’s group in their campaign against Rachel Carson before his death in 2004. (Did Edwards actually have a role in the development of this list?)

100 things you should know about DDT

Claim #8. Some mosquitoes became “resistant” to DDT. “There is persuasive evidence that antimalarial operations did not produce mosquito resistance to DDT. That crime, and in a very real sense it was a crime, can be laid to the intemperate and inappropriate use of DDT by farmers, especially cotton growers. They used the insecticide at levels that would accelerate, if not actually induce, the selection of a resistant population of mosquitoes.”

[Desowitz, RS. 1992. Malaria Capers, W.W. Norton & Company]

Cover of The Malaria Capers, by Robert S. Desowitz

Cover of The Malaria Capers, by Robert S. Desowitz

This was what Rachel Carson warned about. Indiscriminate use of DDT, such as broadcast application on crops to kill all insect, arthropod or other pests, would lead to mosquitoes and other dangerous insects developing resistance to the chemical. Of course, resistance developed as a result of overspraying of crops has exactly the same result, in the fight against malaria, as overuse in the fight against malaria.  Cover of The Malaria Capers, by Robert S. Desowitz

Worse, such overuse also killed predators of mosquitoes, especially birds. In an integrated pest management program, or in a well-balanced ecosystem, birds and other insect predators would eliminate a large number of mosquitoes, holding the population in check and preventing the spread of malaria. Unfortunately, when the predators are killed off, the mosquitoes have a population explosion, spreading their range, and spreading the diseases they carry.

Assuming Milloy quoted the book accurately, and assuming the book actually exists, this point says nothing in particular in favor of DDT; but it reaffirms the case Rachel Carson made in her 1962 book, Silent Spring. Contrary to suggestions from the campaign against Rachel Carson, she urged that we limit use of DDT to tasks like preventing malaria, around humans, to preserve the effectiveness of DDT and prevent overspraying.

And then, there is this: Milloy doesn’t bother to quote the first part of the paragraph he quotes, on page 214 of Malaria Capers. Here is what the paragraph actually says:

There were a number of reasons for the failure, not least that the anophaline vector mosquitoes were becoming resistant to the action of DDT both physiologically — they developed the enzymes to detoxify the insecticide — and behaviorally — instead of feeding and wall-resting, they changed in character to feed and then quickly bugger off to the great outdoors. [from this point, Milloy quotes correctly]

In other words, the DDT-based campaign against malaria failed because DDT failed; mosquitoes became resistant to it.  DDT’s declining ability to kill mosquitoes is one of the major reasons DDT use plunged after 1963, and continues to decline to no use at all.

To combat the dastardly campaign of calumny against Rachel Carson and science, you should also read: Deltoid, here, here and here, and the rest of his posts on the topic; Bug Girl, here, at least, and here, and the rest of her posts; denialism, here; and Rabett Run, here.



Pre-July 4 special: “English only” video insults U.S. flag

June 29, 2007

Okay. I’ve had five or six people send me links to a YouTube video of Ron and Kay Rivoli singing “Press One for English.” Ha. Ha.

It’s a rant about language accommodations. Some Americans, free marketeers for the most part, get all buggy when confronted with a free market in language choices. America is becoming more global, marketing more goods in more places, and getting visited by more people. This growth in commerce brings things like American Airlines’ Spanish language reservations center (Who would have thought? When they can make reservations in Spanish, Spanish speakers buy a lot more airplane tickets.)

And Ron and Kay Rivoli put these fears into a song. Funny.

Can we talk? Can I pick a bone? Ron and Kay Rivoli insult the U.S. flag. They may not mean to do it, they may have done it unthinkingly — but that’s the problem with the whole rant: It’s all unthinking.

Here are the flag insults:

  1. 44 seconds into the video three servicemen are shown saluting the U.S. flag, displayed with the flag of California and the POW-MIA flag. Contrary to the Flag Code and good flag etiquette, the U.S. flag is in the center, rather than to its own right. A center display would be acceptable if the center flag pole were higher than the others — but in this case the U.S. flag’s pole is lower than the other two. Two flag insults at once.
  2. At 2:59 into the video, the flag is shown as cut into an agricultural field of some kind. The Flag Code specifies that the flag is never to be displayed flat. The flag should fly free. Since this flag is cut into a crop on the ground, it cannot be displayed properly. Further, it is generally considered poor etiquette to make representations of the flag out of things other than cloth.

This is all highly ironic. At 1:37 into the video, a scroll of the famous Theodore Roosevelt quote on English as the only language scrolls by. “We have room for but one flag, the American flag,” Roosevelt said (oops — there goes the POW-MIA flag). “We have room but for one language, and that is the English language,” Roosevelt continues.

They use the flag they insult as a model for going for one language? This makes no sense.

Do I pick nits? No, I think that every educated American should know the flag code, and should avoid insult to the U.S. flag at least, if not honor it correctly. I am not pedantic about a lot of things, but this is one.

Ron and Kay Rivoli, you owe America and its flag apologies. Get straight with the flag, before you ask me to insult the traditional languages and free enterprise heritage of our nation. If you want my support, don’t tread on the American flag when you ask it.

The Rivolis owe apologies to the U.S. flag. Will we see it?

Japanese-American internment: Statesman-Journal web special

June 29, 2007

Looking for good sources on Japanese internment?

Editor & Publisher highlights the web version of a special series on Japanese internment during World War II, put together by the Statesman-Journal in Salem, Oregon. The series is featured in “Pauline’s Picks,” a feature by Pauline Millard showing off the best use of the web by old-line print publications.

Beyond Barbed Wire, photo by Salem Statesman-Journal

The Statesman-Journal’s web piece is “Beyond Barbed Wire,” featuring timelines, maps of the Tule Lake internment facility (closest to Oregon), stories about Japanese Americans in Oregon, especially in Salem, photos, video interviews, and a significant collection of original documents perfectly suited for document-based studies.

Texas kids test particularly badly in this part of U.S. history. Several districts ask U.S. history teachers and other social studies groups to shore up student knowledge in the area to overcome gaps pointed out in testing in the past three years, on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS). In teacher training, I’ve noted a lot of Texas social studies teachers are a bit shaky on the history.

The Korematsu decision was drummed into my conscious working on civil rights issues at the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, and complemented by Constitutional Law (thank you, Mary Cheh) and other courses I was taking at the same time at George Washington University. It helped that Utah has a significant Japanese population and had “hosted” one of the internment camps; one of my tasks was to be sure committee Chairman Orrin Hatch was up on issues and concerns when he met with Japanese descendants in his constituencies in Utah. Hatch was a cosponsor of the bills to study the internment, and then to apologize to Japanese Americans affected, and pay reparations.
The internment was also a sore spot with my father, G. Paul Darrell, who witnessed the rounding up of American citizens in California. Many of those arrested were his friends, business associates and acquaintances. Those events formed a standard against which he measured almost all other claims of civil rights violations.

Because children were imprisoned with their parents, because a lot of teenagers were imprisoned, this chunk of American history strikes particular sympathetic chords with students of any conscience.  Dorothea Lange’s having photographed some of the events and places, as well as Ansel Adams and others, also leaves a rich pictorial history.

(I found this thanks to the RSS feed of headlines from Editor & Publisher at the Scholars & Rogues site.)

Maps of lost worlds: Caddoland

June 29, 2007

Caddoland collage, UT-Austin, Texas Beyond History (Click on thumbnail for a larger view of this Caddoland Collage)

Caddos, Anadarkoes, Tawaconies, Southern Delawares — so many Native American tribes disappear from U.S. history books, and from U.S. history. These histories should be better preserved and better taught.

Texas history texts mention the Caddo Tribe, but largely ignore what must have been a significant cultural empire, if not an empire that left large stone monuments. Teaching this material in Texas history classes frustrates me, and probably others. Student projects on the Caddos are frequently limited in what they cover, generally come up with the same three or four factoids and illustrations.

The Caddo Tribe lived in an area spanning five modern states, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and eventually Missouri. Here is an interactive map that offers more information and useful photos of Caddoland than I have found in any other source: The Caddo Map Tool.

Basic map of Caddoland

This is just an image of the tool — click on the image above and it will link to the actual site. One of the things that excites me about this map is its interactive features, especially the map that carries links to photos that show just what the local environment looks like.

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