Tarryl Clark keeps an eye on Michele Bachmann’s mad rantings

January 31, 2011

I get interesting, if not exclusive, e-mail:

Dear Ed,

Even if you haven’t heard, it probably won’t surprise you: Following a weekend in which she tested the “Presidential waters” in Iowa (and rewrote American history to virtually omit slavery), Congresswoman Michele Bachmann delivered her own response to President Obama’s State of the Union address last night to a national Tea Party audience.

Even with Bachmann working harder than ever to increase her own fame, and push the agenda of her wealthiest supporters, last night’s speech was more than a little strange.

And as expected, she repeated many of her usual false claims, including:

• Falsely claiming that 16,500 IRS agents would be hired to be “in charge” of the new health care law. (This was debunked a year ago. FactCheck.org said it, “stems from a partisan analysis based on guesswork and false assumptions, and compounded by outright misrepresentation.”)

• Falsely claiming that President Obama and the White House “promised” the Recovery Act would keep unemployment below 8%. (PolitiFact.com calls this ‘barely true’, and has given Bachmann seven ‘false’ and six ‘pants on fire’ ratings for other statements she’s made.)

Michele Bachmann is wrong on the facts, and wrong on the issues.

Bachmann’s cuts to education would devastate Minnesota’s workforce, her cuts to transportation would wreck our infrastructure, and her tax loopholes reward all the wrong economic behavior.

By repealing health care reform, Congresswoman Bachmann would let health insurance companies deny coverage due to pre-existing conditions, add as much as $230 billion to the deficit, take health insurance away from tens of thousands of Minnesota families and raise costs for almost everyone else.

It’s clear that in 2011 and beyond, Republicans and Democrats are going to have to speak honestly about the challenges we face and work together to deliver the results Minnesotans deserve.

We need honest debate, and civil discourse. We need to speak up. We need to get active, and stay active. It will be our voices, our energy, and our commitment that leads America forward.

After all, as President Obama himself said last night, we’ll move forward together – or not at all.


Tarryl Clark

PS Keep in touch on our Facebook page here, and let us know what you thought of Congresswoman Bachmann’s speech.


The future: Promise, or threat?

January 30, 2011

Rather sweeping changes coming in Advanced Placement courses — World History, German and French for the coming year, Spanish and Latin for 2012-13, and probably Biology.  Changes for U.S. History (APUSH) got delayed however.

At AP’s website where teachers can look at the proposed changes, three quotes alternate on the first page, including one from our resident ghost, George Santayana:

We must welcome the future, remembering that soon it will be the past.

Promise?  Threat?  Meant to cheer, or strike fear and doubt?

Or is it  just a good line from Santayana in an ambiguous situation?

(You’ll find the quote here:  The Philosophy of George Santayana, Northwestern University Press, 1940, p. 560)

Charts conservatives hope you won’t see, that Tea Party members won’t read

January 30, 2011

Food for thought:

Increases in the national debt, by president since 1976

Increases in the national debt, by president since 1976 - I'm not sure the source; is it right?

Click the thumbnail for a larger version:

Increases in national debt to 2008

Increases in national debt to 2008

Gross national debt, by president:

Increases in gross national debt, by president

Increases in gross national debt, by president; z-facts via About.com

All this, and they want to lecture “liberals” on how government should be run?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Marion Young.

Gunning against UN peacekeeping

January 30, 2011

Chicago Boyz fancy themselves as hard-nosed, free-enterprise economics sorts of guys (as opposed to capitalists — but let’s not let Texas education politics muddy the waters).  It seems to me, too often people who self-label themselves as skeptics are not, and those who label themselves as “just give me the facts” sorts of people don’t really want to look at the facts at all.

A recent Chicago Boyz post expresses excitement about Republican investigations into corruption, which would indeed be news were it directed at corruption among Republicans in Congress, and good news at that.  Despite the hopeful ambiguity of the statement, I gather the author favors investigations into corruption in the UN, as if that were one of the top problems we face in the world today.

Corruption is not pretty.  Corruption should be prosecuted.  Corruption is not the target of the Chicago Boyz and their fellow travelers, however — the UN itself is.

Do they know what they’re talking about?  I have my doubts.  James Rummel complains about UN corruption in humanitarian missions after 9/11.  Um, don’t look now, boyz, but you’re confusing things.  The UN is located in New York, but didn’t carry out humanitarian missions there after 9/11.  Of course, that’s not what they meant to imply — Rummel was complaining about the Oil for Food program in Iraq, which was set up in 1996 to allow Iraq’s people to get needed food and medicines from foreign suppliers, food and medicine that had been cut off as a result of Gulf War I, putting Iraqi citizens in dire straits.  (The mention of 9/11 was just gratuitous red meat to the conservatives, probably.)

Ultimately the program was found to be riddled with fraud.  The UN shouldered blame, but a careful reading of the Volcker Report on the incident shows facts we should consider:  The fraud was contrary to UN guidelines — that is, not caused by the UN — and the UN could not monitor the program adequately because it was underfunded.  Why was the UN program underfunded?  In 1996, all UN programs were underfunded because North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms successfully cut U.S. funding because of his allegations of fraud and waste — allegations that didn’t bear out.  In addition, political considerations pushed operations to high-cost contractors.  In particular, the U.S. didn’t want Swiss banks to be in on the operation at all.

So, the last time the Republicans went after the UN  for fraud and abuse, the Republicans’ actions caused fraud and abuse. And if we look to pin blame for the problems, fingers point to the U.S.


I don’t think a new investigation and cutting funding to the UN makes a lot of sense, now.

Rummel also complains that UN sanctions didn’t seem to affect Saddam Hussein after 9/11.  This is astonishingly selective memory.  All evidence we have now indicates that there were no weapons of mass destruction — and, consequently, the judgment must be that the UN sanctions worked, and worked well.  This is a continuing embarrassment to the United States, and while we wish it were ancient history and could be forgotten, we do so at great peril as we deal with every other nation on Earth who well remembers that the U.S. invaded Iraq to stop the spread of “weapons of mass destruction,” only to find there were none.  Don’t embarrass the U.S. further by looking dotty in foreign relations.  (Were I feeling snarkier, I’d put in a link to Bush’s “humorous” show at one of the Washington correspondents association dinners, where he feigned searching for WMDs in the Oval Office, under White House beds, etc.)

But then, in comments, the truth starts to get smoked out in comments at Chicago Boyz.  One commenter complains about all the socialist nations sitting on the human rights commission, including the U.S.    One commenter complains about how ineffective  the UN has been in making peace in Korea, Vietnam, and Israel.

Oversimplifying, but no more so than Chicago Boyz, we should note that the truce in Korea has held for more than 57 years, even without a formal end to hostilities.  That sounds rather successful, to me.  And Israel’s existence since 1948 seems to have caught hold, even if to the chagrin of major Arabic groups in the region.  Israel is generally considered the great power in the area.  Not exactly a failed enterprise on the UN’s part, on that score.

Vietnam?  That was never a UN project. Much as it pains me to point it out, it was the U.S. who stopped elections in Vietnam in the 1950s (1956?), and it was the South Vietnamese government whose corruption so often derailed attempts to make a lasting peace that would have kept any part of Vietnam noncommunist.  (Investigations into corruption, anyone?)

So, of the three so-called “failed” UN peacekeeping projects, two really were very successful, and the third had nothing to do with the UN.  Is this the accuracy and level of analysis that calls for an investigation of the UN now?

A complete set of facts might be useful before going off half-cocked.  Since 1948 the UN was called in for 64 peacekeeping operations — the UN has no troops, and so cannot wage war nor force war-waging nations to stop.  If we conceded the two operations, Israel and Korea, as failures, that would leave 62 other operations unstudied.  Most of those missions ended years ago, and without making an actual count, I’ll wager most of them ended successfully.  We don’t regard Guatemala anymore as a hotbed of unrest and civil war, for example.  Angola isn’t perfect, but neither is there a civil war there fueled by Cuban assistance, for another example.

One commenter complaints about a “fantasy world” about the UN that the left occupies:

One of the big differences between the Left and Right is that the Left is more controlled by fantasy narratives and can’t separate the real world organization from the one that Leftists would like to have. In other words, they can’t separate the real world U.N. from the noble goals it is supposed to achieve.

Quite the opposite, it’s the right who occupy a hallucinogenic world with regard to the UN, unable to count accurately even the peace operations of the UN, and unable to accurately state the history of operations they wish to criticize.  Fantasy narratives in this case reside almost completely on the right.  Rightists can’t separate the real world UN from the ignoble beast they wish to crucify.

They hope to take the UN hostage to begin the crucifixion, soon.


Beginning, beginning of the end, end of the beginning, end

January 30, 2011

January 30 is a momentous date, according to the AP list of events that occurred on this day.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, National Portrait Gallery

Franklin D. Roosevelt, National Portrait Gallery

Beginning: Franklin Roosevelt, the only president of the U.S. to break the tradition of getting elected to two terms only, was born on January 30, 1882,  in Hyde Park, New York.  (Both Ulysses Grant and his cousin, Theodore Roosevelt, had tried to break the two-term tradition  before.)  Roosevelt served at the 32nd president, winning election in 1932, 1936, 1940, and 1944.  During his first term the date of presidential inaugurations was moved from March 21 to January 21, partly in appreciation for the period of time the nation drifted seemingly deeper into depression between Roosevelt’s election in November 1932 and his inauguration in March 1933.  Roosevelt contracted polio in 1921, won election as New York’s governor in 1928, and then won the 1932 presidential race.  His death on April 12, 1945, pushed Harry Truman into the presidency for three years before he had to face the electorate.

End of the beginning: On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler took office as chancellor of Germany.  A World War I veteran, Hitler had spent time in prison for trying to overthrow the government. Hitler was seven years younger than FDR, but their careers occasionally coincided on key years.  Hitler’s assuming power in January gave him a two-month jump on FDR; at the time, few people, if anyone noticed the coincidental rise, nor could see the significance of the events of the year.  According to The History Place:

Germany was a nation that in its history had little experience or interest in democracy. In January 1933, Adolf Hitler took the reins of a 14-year-old German democratic republic which in the minds of many had long outlived its usefulness. By this time, the economic pressures of the Great Depression combined with the indecisive, self-serving nature of its elected politicians had brought government in Germany to a complete standstill. The people were without jobs, without food, quite afraid and desperate for relief.

Now, the man who had spent his entire political career denouncing and attempting to destroy the Republic, was its leader. Around noon on January 30th, Hitler was sworn in.

“I will employ my strength for the welfare of the German people, protect the Constitution and laws of the German people, conscientiously discharge the duties imposed on me, and conduct my affairs of office impartially and with justice to everyone,” swore Adolf Hitler.

Democratic-based government in Germany was doomed for the foreseeable future.  Few foresaw that.

Beginning of the end: On January 30, 1968, during the Vietnamese new year celebration known as Tet, Vietcong and North Vietnamese army regulars kicked off the Tet Offensive, striking targets all over Vietnam simultaneously.  Caught nearly completely by surprise, U.S. and South Vietnamese forces lost control of Saigon, the South Vietnamese capital for a time.  While the U.S. and South Vietnamese eventually won these many battles and pushed out the invading forces,  the simple fact that the thought-to-be-decimated forces of Ho Chi Minh could pull of the offensive at all sent the chilling message that victory in this guerrilla did not yet belong to South Vietnam and the U.S., nor had a tide been turned.   After tumultuous elections in the U.S., Richard Nixon’s presidency could not turn the tide, either.  A “peace” was negotiated, mostly between North Vietnam and the U.S., in 1973, but it did not hold.  In 1975 relations between North Vietnam and South Vietnam hit crisis again, and the U.S. pulled out the last forces left in South Vietnam in April.  Vietcong and North Vietnamese forces defeated the rapidly dissipating military of the South, and the country was united under communist, North Vietnam rule.

Mahatma Gandhi addresses Indians

Mahatma Gandhi addresses Indians

An end: Hindu extremist Nathuram Godse shot and killed Mohandas K. Gandhi in India, on January 30, 1948.  Gandhi was known as “Mahatma,” which means “Great Soul.”  Gandhi campaigned for India’s independence and end of British colonial rule for most of the 1920s, including a period of time in prison for subversive activities.  Gandhi’s great contribution to political change is the massive use of non-violent, non-cooperation.  Non-violent tactics tend to highlight the moral positions of groups in conflict, and make the non-violent side appear to have the stronger case.  Such tactics expose hypocrisy and despotic government rules.  Though he resigned from his political party in 1934, Gandhi remained a key icon of the drive for India’s independence.  When violence broke out over the Mountbatten plan to grant independence in 1947, creating two nations of Pakistan and India divided along religious, Gandhi again appealed for peace, but became the most famous victim of the religious violence that still roils the region today.  Committed to peace and non-violence, Gandhi himself did not ever win the Nobel Peace Prize, perhaps because his life was cut short.  His work inspired other Nobel Peace laureates, including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1964), the Dalai Lama (1989), Aung San Suu Kyi (1991), Nelson Mandela (with Frederik Willem deKlerk, 1993), and U.S. President Barack Obama (2009).

On January 30, 2011, much of the world holds its breath, watching events in North Africa, including especially Tunisia and Egypt.  Which of these traditions will today follow, to peace, or toward war?

Not over Up and Over It!

January 30, 2011

Nearly six million people have watched this — surely you’re among them:

Up and Over It!  Odd name for a dance company (would it be suitable for a synth pop band?).  Suzanne Cleary and Peter Harding, veterans of Irish step-dancing megaproductions.

But, did you click over to see their Facebook site, or their regular website?  This dance team takes dance in Ireland well beyond the range of “Riverdance,” and makes it really entertaining.

Acclaimed Irish Dancers Suzanne Cleary & Peter Harding blow the brains out of the Irish Dance show genre in a multi-media extravaganza. This brand new show liberates Irish Dance from its velvet-clad, tin-whistle-blowing, diddly-idleness and drags it kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. Inspired by hip-hop theatre, contemporary dance and electro-pop, Cleary and Harding present their alternative take on the Irish dance show format, asking what’s next for the 90s phenomenon we all loved or loathed?

Have you looked?  A sampler of their work:

Story telling by artists, but in media underused and underappreciated, probably because of the difficulties to work in them:

Most of the time, it’s just good fun to watch.  Isn’t that meaning enough these days?

(Sheesh!  Riverdance was ’90s?  High school kids today won’t remember it.)

Santayana’s Ghost

January 28, 2011

George Santayana was a Spanish-born (Madrid, December 16, 1863), American-educated philosopher who practiced education at Harvard University (died September 26, 1952, in Rome).  In an almost-off-hand comment in a book, he wrote the statement which is this blog’s unofficial motto:

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

(The Life of Reason, vol. 1: Reason in Common Sense)

Who or what is Santayana’s Ghost?  It’s the shade of Santayana, watching us, watching those condemned to repeat history as they repeat the bad parts over and over.  The shade smiles when a student learns a valuable lesson from history, and laughs with delight when those lessons find application to prevent further tragedies that could so easily be prevented, if policy makers only made the effort to avoid the errors of the past.

Why does the ghost haunt us?  Because he knows, as Santayana also wrote, “only the dead have seen the end of war.” (Soliloquies in England and Later Soliloquies, number 25 (1922))

“WTF?” Palin completely misunderstands what “Sputnik Moment” means

January 28, 2011

Vodpod videos no longer available.

“WTF?” Palin completely misunderstands what “S…, posted with vodpod

Some bloggers have sworn off comments on Sarah Palin. Good on them.

This fruit is too low-hanging.

Palin doesn’t appear to have a clue about what the phrase “Sputnik moment” refers to — and mistakes it with the much later financial difficulties of the Soviet Union.  You’d think, since she was so close to the U.S.S.R. in Alaska, she’d know something about Sputnik.

And what’s with the “WTF” on television?  Has she no composure, no decency?

Here, Sarah; a primer:

Sputnik was the first artificial satellite launched from Earth, in October 1957.  (Palin wasn’t born for another seven years . . . arguments about teaching history, anyone?)

Please note that the launch of the satellite scared the bejeebers out of Americans.  Most people thought — without knowing anything about how heavy a nuclear device might be, nor how hard it might be to target one — that if the Russians could orbit a satellite the size of a beach ball, they could certainly launch missiles with nuclear warheads to rain down on America.  Maybe, some thought, Russians had already orbited such nukes, which could just fall from space without warning.

That was the spooky, red scary part.  Then there was the kick-American-science-in-the-pants part.  A lot of policy makers asked how the Russians could surpass the U.S. in the race for space (wholly apart from the imported German rocket scientists used by both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.).  Looking around, they found science and technology education in America sadly lacking.  Congress passed a law that called science education necessary for our defense, and appropriated money to help boost science education — the National Defense Education Act.

The Cold War stimulated the first example of comprehensive Federal education legislation, when in 1958 Congress passed the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) in response to the Soviet launch of Sputnik. To help ensure that highly trained individuals would be available to help America compete with the Soviet Union in scientific and technical fields, the NDEA included support for loans to college students, the improvement of science, mathematics, and foreign language instruction in elementary and secondary schools, graduate fellowships, foreign language and area studies, and vocational-technical training.

(See the Wikipedia entry on NDEA, too.)

The National Science Foundation (NSF) history points to the genuine advances in science the Soviets had made, and the need for the U.S. to quickly catch up:

Sputnik once again elevated the word “competition” in the language of government officials and the American public. Sputnik threatened the American national interest even more than the Soviet Union’s breaking of America’s atomic monopoly in 1949; indeed it rocked the very defense of the United States because Russia’s ability to place a satellite into orbit meant that it could build rockets powerful enough to propel hydrogen bomb warheads atop intercontinental ballistic missiles.  Perhaps more importantly, however, Sputnik forced a national self-appraisal that questioned American education, scientific, technical and industrial strength, and even the moral fiber of the nation. What had gone wrong, questioned the pundits as well as the man in the street. They saw the nation’s tradition of being “Number One” facing its toughest competition, particularly in the areas of science and technology and in science education.

With its ties to the nation’s research universities, the Foundation of course became a key player in the unfolding events during this trying time. An indication is shown by the large increase in Foundation monies for programs already in place and for new programs. In fiscal year 1958, the year before Sputnik, the Foundation’s appropriation had leveled at $40 million. In fiscal 1959, it more than tripled at $134 million, and by 1968 the Foundation budget stood at nearly $500 million. Highlights of this phase of the agency’s history cannot be told in a vacuum, however, but must be placed within the broad context of American political happenings.

The Congress reacted to Sputnik with important pieces of legislation and an internal reorganization of its own committees. Taken together, the action announced that America would meet the Soviet competition.  The National Aeronautics and Space Act, more than any other post-Sputnik law, had great impact on increasing federal funding of scientific research and development. Signed by the president in July 1958, the law created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and gave it responsibility for the technological advancement of the space program. NASA became a major contracting agency and boosted tremendously the extra mural research support of the federal government. NASA not only symbolized America’s response to the Soviet challenge, but also dramatized the federal role in support of science and technology.

Among other things, the National Science Foundation looked at science textbooks used in elementary and secondary schools, and found them badly outdated.  NSF and other organizations spurred the development of new, up-to-date books, and tougher academic curricula in all sciences.

So, when President Obama refers to a “Sputnik moment,” he isn’t referring to a foolish expenditure of money for space junk that bankrupts the nation.  He’s referring to that time in 1957 when America woke up to the fact that education is important to defense, and to preparing for the future, and did a lot about improving education.  Between the G.I. Bill’s education benefits and the NDEA, the U.S. became the world’s leader in science and technology for the latter half of the 20th century.

But we’ve coasted on that 1958 law for too long.  Now we are being lapped by others — India, China, France, Japan, and others — and it’s time to spur progress in education again, to spur progress and great leaps in science.

One gets the impression Palin does not think much of science, nor education, nor especially science education.  She could use some lessons in history, too.  Sputnik didn’t bankrupt the Soviet Union.  Ignoring Sputnik might have bankrupted the U.S.

Santayana’s Ghost is shaking his head in sad disbelief.  And he has a question for Sarah Palin:  Santayana’s Ghost wants to know from Ms. Palin, can the U.S. compete with the Russians?

Tip of the old scrub brush to P. Z. Myers and Pharyngula, and another shake to DailyKos.

More, resources:

Don’t misquote Jefferson . . . a moving target

January 27, 2011

Monticello, from the former header of A Summary View

Monticello, from the former header of A Summary View

That wonderful blog, “A Summary View,” which so often worked on misquotes from Jefferson? Moribund at the old WordPress site.

But arisen anew, in a grander cover, and keeping up the spirit of learning about Thomas Jefferson, here: A Summary View, at Monticello’s site.

Great history, like:

Anna Berkes continues to enlighten and brighten the study of history.


Quote of the moment: Thoreau explains, this, too, is heaven

January 26, 2011

Walden Pond frozen over, Winter 2005 - Wikimedia image

Walden Pond frozen over, Winter 2005 - Wikimedia image by Bikeable

Every winter the liquid and trembling surface of the pond, which was so sensitive to every breath, and reflected every light and shadow, becomes solid to the depth of a foot or a foot and a half so that it will support the heaviest teams, and perchance the snow covers it to an equal depth, and it is not to be distinguished from any level field. Like the marmots in the surrounding hills, it closes its eyelids and becomes dormant for three months or more.  Standing on the snow-covered plain, as if in a pasture amid the hills, I cut my way first through a foot of snow, and then a foot of ice, and open a window under my feet, where, kneeling to drink, I look down into the quiet parlor of the fishes, pervaded by a softened light as through a window of ground glass, with its bright sanded floor the same as in summer; there a perennial waveless serenity reigns as in the amber twilight sky, corresponding to the cool and even temperament of the inhabitants. Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or Life in the Woods, “The Pond in Winter,” 1899, pp 296-297.

Thanks to Inward/Outward, a project of the Church of the Saviour community.

Special tip of the old scrub brush to Bill Longman, who sent me the e-mail today.

Annals of Hoaxes: American Enterprise Institute sends out hoax backgrounder on DDT and trade barriers

January 25, 2011

How do hoaxes get started?

The self-proclaimed august American Enterprise Institute issued a “backgrounder” today on foreign trade.  Backgrounder #2509, written by James Roberts.

The first paragraph is complete fiction:

Decades ago, the use of DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) was banned worldwide for what were generally seen as noble and unassailable environmental and public health reasons. Today, ample evidence shows that the ban on DDT spraying has been a tragic mistake. In developing countries, it is linked to millions of preventable deaths from malaria. Worse, some protectionist European business sectors and activist groups continue to exploit the fears of DDT in ways that increase the suffering of the poor around the world.

Here are the errors of fact:

  1. DDT has never been banned worldwide, so there could never be a decades-old worldwide ban. A nearly-world-wide ban was agreed upon by treaty  in late 2001, less than one decade ago.  However, any nation may ignore the ban, legally, by simply writing a letter to the World Health Organization (WHO) saying the nation will be using DDT.  DDT manufacturing continues in a few nations today, including North Korea and India.  India is far and away the largest user of DDT now, using more than all other nations combined.  No worldwide ban on DDT ever existed, and DDT use has been continuous since 1946.
  2. Earlier bans on DDT were assailed in court as unreasonable infringements on commerce. The U.S. banned DDT use on agricultural crops in 1972, but only after two federal district courts had ruled the substance essentially uncontrollable in the wild, and after a lengthy administrative law hearing at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) covering most of 1971 and more than 9,000 pages of testimony.  EPA’s rule left DDT available in the U.S. for emergency use, or for health use.  EPA’s rule left manufacturing alone so the U.S. could export DDT to any other nation who wanted to use it.  Still, DDT manufacturers fought hard in court to overturn the ruling.  Manufacturers argued that the science was thin to back the ban, and that the ban was too much regulation for small gain.  Appeals courts ruled that the science backing the ban was ample.
  3. 39 years after the U.S. ban on crop spraying with DDT, benefits are enormous — history and science show the recovery of dozens of beneficial species, ranging from mosquito-eating Mexican free-tail bats in Texas, through fish in Oklahoma, to osprey, peregrine falcons, brown pelicans and bald eagles in the rest of the U.S. Unknown at the time EPA acted, DDT has been shown to be an endocrine disruptor of the sort that scrambles the sex organs of fish and amphibians in the Potomac and Susquehanna Rivers in the U.S.  Also unknown in 1972, EPA now is listed by the American Cancer Society as a “probable human carcinogen,” though it is thought to be a weak carcinogen to adults directly exposed.
  4. Malaria deaths have been cut by 75% since DDT was indicted as a harmful substance. Perhaps more surprising, without DDT, health workers around the world have sharply reduced malaria incidence and especially malaria deaths.  Nearly four million people died from malaria, worldwide, at the height of DDT use in 1959 through 1961.  Today that death toll has been cut to under 900,000, through wise use of curative pharmaceuticals, careful use of prophylactic nets and home improvements, and the development of new, better-targeted pesticides.  Malaria fighters especially are redoubling efforts to make the disease at least rare, now encouraged by the dramatic strides made without relying on DDT.  Ironically, India has a growing malaria problem, despite its being the greatest user of DDT today.  (Even more ironic:  Roberts claims about half the death rate WHO does — a 90% reduction in malaria deaths.)
  5. No preventable death to malaria has been tied to a lack of DDT. No nation has ever had difficulty getting DDT if it wanted it.  The fight against malaria was hampered when the malaria parasites developed resistance to traditional pharmaceuticals used to treat the disease in humans, but the promulgation of artemisinin-based combination therapies made up the gap. Nations have difficulty developing a health care system that can quickly and accurately diagnose malaria, and which form of malaria, and then deliver the necessary therapeutic regimen of pharmaceuticals to cure humans.  DDT cannot make up for that difficulty, partly because DDT use itself now requires rather extensive testing to make sure it works.  As Jonathan Weiner noted in his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Beak of the Finch, nearly every mosquito on Earth today carries at least one of two alleles which make them resistant or wholly immune to DDT.  DDT cannot be used without first testing to be sure the mosquitoes are killed by it.
  6. No otherwise noble European or “western” business groups nor environmental groups work against the minor use of DDT for indoor residual spraying (IRS). For example, the Environmental Defense Fund was one of the groups that lobbied the Bush administration to allow USAID money to buy DDT for IRS in Africa, a use the Bush administration inexplicably had not allowed.  Opposition to this minor DDT use in Uganda was organized by Uganda businessmen who sued to stop it, not by European groups — generally.  BAT, British-American Tobacco, did organize opposition to use of DDT, on specious grounds — highly ironic since the people who run the pro-DDT publicity machine are, several of them, former tobacco propagandists whose organizations go seed money from tobacco companies.  Generally, DDT use for IRS in Africa is supported by everyone involved, including environmentalists and the U.S. government.

Four sentences and six grievous errors of fact from the American Enterprise Institute.  And this is just the first paragraph of their “background” paper.

James Roberts may have tried to pluck an example from a history he does not understand.  There may be a problems with trade and pharmaceuticals and pesticides — but none of the problems he cites for DDT is accurate and true.  He may have fallen for the hoaxes perpetrated by others.

Watch:  A hundred others will cite the hoax conclusions Roberts lists, claiming American Enterprise Institute as the source.  Likely they will assume AEI had its facts straight, and wasn’t the victim of a hoax.

And that’s how hoaxes get started, big time. This is how no-think tanks wage the War on Science.

Will AEI issue a correction?

Does anyone take such publications as authoritative?  May God forbid.

With such a sloppy start, can the rest of the paper be any better?

(Oy, now I scan down the document, and I see Roberts cited Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring as saying DDT use would lead to extinction of birds, “offering no proof.”  Since Carson made no such direct claim, and since the book was loaded with citations to the studies that proved her points, that is it was loaded with “proof,” we must conclude that Roberts did not bother to actually open the book, let alone read it.  That doesn’t speak well for the chances of getting a correction.)

George Clooney’s malaria? DDT didn’t cure it

January 25, 2011

Not sure why, but pro-DDT sites have been harping about George Clooney’s having contracted malaria, a second time, while performing one of his humanitarian acts in southern Sudan.

George Clooney in Sudan, Time Magazine photo

George Clooney in Sudan, Time Magazine photo

True, Clooney got malaria.  His take?

“This illustrates how with proper medication, the most lethal condition in Africa can be reduced to bad ten days instead of a death sentence.”

Sometimes it may pay to remember that malaria is disease caused by a parasite who must live part of its life cycle in humans, and part of its life in mosquitoes.  Killing mosquitoes only works until the next susceptible mosquito comes along to bite an infected human.

The goal of malaria prevention and eradication campaigns generally is to cure the humans, so regardless how many mosquitoes may be in a given location and regardless how many people they may bite, there is no malaria pool for the mosquitoes to draw from, to spread to other humans.

To beat malaria, we need to prevent the spread of the disease.  At some point that requires providing quick and accurate diagnoses of which parasites cause the infection, and a complete and completed regimen of therapeutic pharmaceuticals to actuall cure the human victims.  DDT is mostly a bystander in that crucial part of the fight.

What was Clooney doing in Sudan?  According to the New York Daily News:

Clooney was in Sudan in December to work with Google and the UN on a human rights project that combines satellite imagery analysis and field reports to prevent a new war from occurring in the troubled country.

“We want to let potential perpetrators of genocide and other war crimes know that we’re watching, the world is watching,” he said in a statement at the time. “War criminals thrive in the dark. It’s a lot harder to commit mass atrocities in the glare of the media spotlight.”

Do you consider it odd that Clooney’s contracting malaria might gather more news in western outlets than his actual trip to Sudan, to call attention to the campaign against genocide?

Was your home built before 1978? Information on lead poisoning and abatement

January 23, 2011

EPA intro to lead pollution siteIt’s an ad campaign from the Ad Council.  This blog does not take ads — so we have to list the ad as  regular post.

It’s a public service ad, of course, and this one is important, relating to lead pollution.

World Blog – The race to contain drug-resistant malaria

January 23, 2011

NBC News’s World Blog carried a series on malaria and fighting it around the world.  Here’s part I:

PAILIN, Cambodia – The border crossing between Thailand and Cambodia at Pailin has a rather bleak feel about it at the best of times. In the heavy monsoon rain, the dingy checkpoints are reduced to gray smudges.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

World Blog – The race to contain drug-resistant…, posted with vodpod


See more video information from NBC, here.

Climate science cranks: Wrong in small things, wrong in all things?

January 23, 2011

Earlier we discussed the political jabs lacking scientific merit at the blogs that have sprung up to harry and heckle climate scientists, especially a relatively new one called, inaptly, “haunting the library.”

The author and commenters have taken to calling Dr. James Hansen “Beijing Jim,” thinking it a cleverly insulting nickname.


James Hansen, at Americans Who Tell the Truth.org

Portrait of James Hansen for James Hansen, at Americans Who Tell the Truth.org

I almost regret asking.  Why “Beijing Jim?”

They started it when Hansen wrote an opposite-editorial page piece for the South China Post, urging China to act against global warming anyway, despite the U.S.’s failure to take aggressive-enough action yet.

haunting the library tries to spin the piece as Hansen moving over to China’s side in all issues, a position they seem to think is somehow unpatriotic (and therefore, insulting to Hansen).

Actually, in the article, Hansen doesn’t let China off the hook at all.  It’s a patient, well-aimed call to China to do the right things.  Only by misreporting and misrepresenting what Hansen said can climate science cranks spin it.

James Hansen takes the honorable high road, calling on the world’s most-polluting nations to take action now to save our children’s and grandchildren’s future.  haunting the library issues schoolyard, childish and churlish taunts.

Oh, but Dear Reader, you’re already guessing at the particular intellectual clumsiness I’m getting to, aren’t you?  It’s about that taunting name, “Beijing Jim.”  It’s unfair and undeserved because Hansen represented America well, and honorably.  “Free Enterprise Jim” would be closer to the facts.

It’s also geographically wrong.  South China Morning Post is a Hong Kong newspaper, not Beijing.  Hong Kong is the Chinese outpost of rampant free enterprise, as you know and the rest of the world knows.  Hong Kong is not Beijing.

The climate science cranks at haunting the library don’t know climate science, don’t know newspaper publishing, and flail at geography, too. They’re cranky, too.  Cranky cranks.  Poetic, almost.



January 24, 2011:  Others are watching, too.  Tim Lambert at Deltoid makes gentle correction of an Andrew Bolt column relying on misinformation from hauntingthelibrary.  Good discussion there.

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