Krugman sez: Debt non-explosion

August 31, 2011

Radio filled with talk about “the debt explosion?

Not so, Krugman’s charts say:

August 31, 2011, 6:36 pm

The Debt Non-Explosion

A conversation I had earlier today suggested that it might be worth pointing out a fact that isn’t as widely known as it should be: namely, that there has not been an explosion in debt over the past few years. There has been a big rise in federal debt, but this has gone along with a collapse in private borrowing, so that overall debt growth has been lower than it was in the pre-crisis years:

Source.

Bear this in mind when someone starts ranting about hyperinflation just around the corner thanks to explosive debt growth.

Which suggests, once again, that it will be up to the government to do the economy growing.  It’s not a question of whether we think, philosophically, that government should be the main driver of economic expansion.  It’s a question of, what do you do when private business is sitting on $1.5 trillion in cash instead of hiring, and businesses who lack the cash are not borrowing to hire either, despite record low interest rates?

Under these conditions, it might be considered unpatriotic NOT to support a massive stimulus program, yes?

Didn’t anybody take high school economics?


Where’s a conspiracy theorist when you need one?

August 30, 2009

1 Corinthians 12:26, “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it…”

While Tom Delay dances with the starlets, and Jack Abramoff actually does time, isn’t anyone curious about who organizes all the protests against health care reform?

(Lookie here, P. Z. — Christians doing good.  Of course it’s not justification for the faith.  It’s one hopeful sign in the Sea of Hamhovind idiocy.)

You may also want to see:


MomsRising Healthcare Truth Squad

August 22, 2009

I get e-mail.  In all the discouraging folderol on the health care debate, it’s nice to know that a few people are carrying the torch for democracy and good republican government like these ladies.

Red caped mothers and others in Baltimore, before the U.S.S. Constellation, campaigning to dispel false rumors about health care reform, on August 19, 2009.  Image from MomsRising.com

Red caped mothers and others in Baltimore, before the U.S.S. Constellation, campaigning to dispel false rumors about health care reform, on August 19, 2009. Image from MomsRising.com

Watch for the ladies in red capes.  Barney Frank won’t ask what planet they spend their time on, I’ll wager.

Note links to more information, or to join in their merriment, in the letter.

Faster than a toddler crawling toward an uncovered electrical outlet and more powerful than a teenager’s social networking skills, moms across the country have been fanning out to dispel the unfounded rumors, misconceptions, and lies about healthcare reform.

MomsRising Healthcare Truth Squad members, dressed in red capes, have been distributing powerful truth flyers across the nation to passersby to educate them about what healthcare reform will really do, and about how it will help to ensure the economic security of families across the country.

“I must admit that I don’t normally wear a cape in public, but it was oddly empowering.  We knew we were having an impact on the larger conversation about healthcare when a news camera starting following us around. I definitely recommend life as a superhero,” say Donna, a cape wearing SuperMom for Healthcare.

*Let’s give our caped myth-busting moms some “online backup” by Truth Tagging friends with healthcare reform myths & facts today–it’s a virtual distribution of the same facts that the MomsRising Healthcare Truth Squad members are handing out in-person:

http://momsrising.democracyinaction.org/o/1768/tellafriend.jsp?tell_a_friend_KEY=4728

It’s going to take thousands of super heroines speaking up in order to get the healthcare debate back on track. We can’t all be out on the streets in capes, so please take a moment now to spread the word and bust some myths via email to friends and family by clicking the link above.

Why’s this so important to moms right now? Over 46 million people in our nation don’t have any healthcare coverage at all, including millions of children. Not only are families struggling with getting children the healthcare coverage they need for a healthy start, but 7 out of 10 women are either uninsured, underinsured, or are in significant debt due to healthcare costs. In fact, a leading cause of bankruptcy is healthcare costs — and over 70% of those who do go bankrupt due to healthcare costs had insurance at the start of their illness. Clearly we need to fix our broken healthcare system!

Don’t forget to help put some more truth into the mix of the national dialogue on healthcare reform right now:

http://momsrising.democracyinaction.org/o/1768/tellafriend.jsp?tell_a_friend_KEY=4728

Onward!
–Kristin, Joan, Donna, Ashley, Julia, Dionna, Katie, Anita, Sarah, Mary, and the entire MomsRising Team

P.S.  We’ve been hearing so much positive feedback about our caped crusading moms that it might be time to lead a giant march of moms on the National Capitol Mall.  Tell us what you think: http://www.momsrising.org/blog/bust-a-myth-tag-a-friend-with-the-truth-about-healthcare/

P.P.S.  Want to get more involved with the MomsRising Healthcare Truth Squad members? Click here: http://momsrising.democracyinaction.org/o/1768/t/9251/signUp.jsp?key=4284

P.P.P.S. When you go to the Truth Squad Tag page, you can also see a video of our MomsRising Healthcare Truth Squad in action wearing capes! http://momsrising.democracyinaction.org/o/1768/tellafriend.jsp?tell_a_friend_KEY=4727

Here’s the video:


Republican death trip

August 14, 2009

Senate Finance Committee members said yesterday they would strip out of the health care discussion any mention of helping older Americans or others with terminal diseases make adequate plans with, for example, durable powers of attorney and living wills.

Newt Gingrich and others on the wackaloon right have made the topic toxic, despite it’s having been urged by Republicans, to ensure privacy and individual rights near the end of death.

And so, also, we bid farewell to morality, reason and backbone among Republicans nationally.

Two pieces you should read:

  1. “Republican Death Trip,” Paul Krugman’s column today in the the New York Times
  2. “Sarah Palin’s death panels,” at former Labor Sec. Robert Reich’s blog

Republicans screw up again: “Death panels” amendment was a Republican’s doing — and there’s a logical explanation

August 13, 2009

Protesters like to complain that advocates don’t know what is in the health care bill, but day by day it becomes more and more obvious that it is the critics who don’t know what the bill proposes, or why.

Washington Post policy blogger Ezra Klein tracked down who put the “death panels” clause into health care reform bills being debated by the U.S. Senate.  (Yes, this demonstrates the value of the daily press, how they more thoroughly and accurately get the story than most bloggers do, or can. )

Turns out that it was a very conservative, Republican legislator from Georgia who put the amendment in the bill, for good and noble purposes.

So, all the sturm und drang about “death panels?”  It demonstrates that opponents of the bill don’t care what it actually does, or how beneficial it may be.  Like Napoleon at Waterloo, they think that they must win this fight at all costs, even if it brings down the nation.

Klein’s interview with Isaakson is below, in its entirety.

Is the Government Going to Euthanize your Grandmother? An Interview With Sen. Johnny Isakson.

I’ve seen the pain and suffering in families with a loved one with a traumatic brain injury or a crippling degenerative disease become incapacitated and be kept alive under very difficult circumstances when if they’d have had the chance to make the decision themself they’d have given another directive and I’ve seen the damage financially that’s been done to families and if there’s a way to prevent that by you giving advance directives it’s both for the sanity of the family and what savings the family has it’s the right decision, certainly more than turning it to the government or a trial lawyer.

isaksonofficialphoto.JPG

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isaakson, R-Georgia - photo from Isaakson's office

Sarah Palin’s belief that the House health-care reform bill would create “death panels” might be particularly extreme, but she’s hardly the only person to wildly misunderstand the section of the bill ordering Medicare to cover voluntary end-of-life counseling sessions between doctors and their patients.

One of the foremost advocates of expanding Medicare end-of-life planning coverage is Johnny Isakson, a Republican Senator from Georgia. He co-sponsored 2007′s Medicare End-of-Life Planning Act and proposed an amendment similar to the House bill’s Section 1233 during the Senate HELP Committee’s mark-up of its health care bill. I reached Sen. Isakson at his office this afternoon. He was befuddled that this had become a question of euthanasia, termed Palin’s interpretation “nuts,” and emphasized that all 50 states currently have some legislation allowing end-of-life directives. A transcript of our conversation follows.

Is this bill going to euthanize my grandmother? What are we talking about here?

In the health-care debate mark-up, one of the things I talked about was that the most money spent on anyone is spent usually in the last 60 days of life and that’s because an individual is not in a capacity to make decisions for themselves. So rather than getting into a situation where the government makes those decisions, if everyone had an end-of-life directive or what we call in Georgia “durable power of attorney,” you could instruct at a time of sound mind and body what you want to happen in an event where you were in difficult circumstances where you’re unable to make those decisions.

This has been an issue for 35 years. All 50 states now have either durable powers of attorney or end-of-life directives and it’s to protect children or a spouse from being put into a situation where they have to make a terrible decision as well as physicians from being put into a position where they have to practice defensive medicine because of the trial lawyers. It’s just better for an individual to be able to clearly delineate what they want done in various sets of circumstances at the end of their life.

How did this become a question of euthanasia?

I have no idea. I understand — and you have to check this out — I just had a phone call where someone said Sarah Palin’s web site had talked about the House bill having death panels on it where people would be euthanized. How someone could take an end of life directive or a living will as that is nuts. You’re putting the authority in the individual rather than the government. I don’t know how that got so mixed up.

You’re saying that this is not a question of government. It’s for individuals.

It empowers you to be able to make decisions at a difficult time rather than having the government making them for you.

The policy here as I understand it is that Medicare would cover a counseling session with your doctor on end-of-life options.

Correct. And it’s a voluntary deal.

It seems to me we’re having trouble conducting an adult conversation about death. We pay a lot of money not to face these questions. We prefer to experience the health-care system as something that just saves you, and if it doesn’t, something has gone wrong.

Over the last three-and-a-half decades, this legislation has been passed state-by-state, in part because of the tort issue and in part because of many other things. It’s important for an individual to make those determinations while they’re of sound mind and body rather than no one making those decisions at all. But this discussion has been going on for three decades.

And the only change we’d see is that individuals would have a counseling session with their doctor?

Uh-huh. When they become eligible for Medicare.

Are there other costs? Parts of it I’m missing?

No. The problem you got is that there’s so much swirling around about health care and people are taking bits and pieces out of this. This was thoroughly debated in the Senate committee. It’s voluntary. Every state in America has an end of life directive or durable power of attorney provision. For the peace of mind of your children and your spouse as well as the comfort of knowing the government won’t make these decisions, it’s a very popular thing. Just not everybody’s aware of it.

What got you interested in this subject?

I’ve seen the pain and suffering in families with a loved one with a traumatic brain injury or a crippling degenerative disease become incapacitated and be kept alive under very difficult circumstances when if they’d have had the chance to make the decision themself they’d have given another directive and I’ve seen the damage financially that’s been done to families and if there’s a way to prevent that by you giving advance directives it’s both for the sanity of the family and what savings the family has it’s the right decision, certainly more than turning it to the government or a trial lawyer.

Update, August 14: Time’s Swampland blog notes that the the Republicans passed exactly the same language in a bill signed into law by George W. Bush in 2003, the Medicare prescription drug bill – except that bill limited application only to the terminally ill.  That provision worked well in protecting the rights of patients in end-of-life scenarios, so it was determined to expand the plan.  42 Republican Senators voted for it then.

I’m sorry, did you say something?  I’m having difficulty hearing you with all these hypocrickets chirping away.

Share the facts:

Add to FacebookAdd to NewsvineAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Furl


Michael Shermer’s baloney detection kit

June 25, 2009

Hmmmm.  May have to use this to start out the history classes next year, on the topic of “How do we know what we know?”

Michael Shermer explains the tools we use to detect baloney.  Shermer is the editor of Skeptic magazine; here he speaks in a video produced by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, via Boing! Boing!:


Encore post: Rebutting junk science, “100 things to know about DDT” point #6

June 22, 2009

Encore post — originally posted in August 2007.  Another in a continuing series, showing the errors in JunkScience.com’s list of “100 things you should know about DDT.” (No, these are not in order.)  In the summer of 2009, the denialists have trotted this error out again.

Steven Milloy and the ghost of entomologist J. Gordon Edwards listed this as point six in their list of “100 things you should know about DDT “[did Edwards really have anything to do with the list before he died?]:

6. “To only a few chemicals does man owe as great a debt as to DDT… In little more than two decades, DDT has prevented 500 million human deaths, due to malaria, that otherwise would have been inevitable.”

[National Academy of Sciences, Committee on Research in the Life Sciences of the Committee on Science and Public Policy. 1970. The Life Sciences; Recent Progress and Application to Human Affairs; The World of Biological Research; Requirements for the Future.]

In contrast to their citation for the Sweeney hearing record, which leads one away from the actual hearing record, for this citation, the publication actually exists, though it is no longer available in print. It’s available on-line, in an easily searchable format. [I urge you to check these sources out for yourself; I won't jive you, but you should see for yourself how the critics of Rachel Carson and WHO distort the data -- I think you'll be concerned, if not outraged.] The quote, though troubled by the tell-tale ellipses of the science liar, is accurately stated so far as it goes.

The problems? It’s only part of the story as told in that publication.  The National Academy of Science calls for DDT to be replaced in that book; NAS is NOT calling for a rollback of any ban, nor is NAS defending DDT against the claims of harm. The book documents and agrees with the harms Rachel Carson wrote about eight years earlier.

Milloy (and Edwards, he claims), are trying to make a case that the National Academy of Sciences, one of the more reputable and authoritative groups of distinguished scientists in the world, thinks that DDT is just dandy, in contrast to the views of Rachel Carson and environmentalists (who are always cast as stupid and venal in Milloy’s accounts) who asked that DDT use be reduced to save eagles, robins and other songbirds, fish, and other wildlife, and to keep DDT useful against malaria.

First, there is no way that a ban on DDT could have been responsible for 500 million deaths due to malaria.  Calculate it yourself, the mathematics are simply impossible: At about 1 million deaths per year, if we assume DDT could have prevented all of the deaths (which is not so), and had we assumed usage started in 1939 instead of 1946 (a spot of 7 years and 7 million deaths), we would have 69 million deaths prevented by 2008. As best I can determine, the 500 million death figure is a misreading from an early WHO report that noted about 500 million people are annually exposed to malaria, I’m guessing a bit at that conclusion — that’s the nicest way to attribute it to simple error and not malicious lie. It was 500 million exposures to malaria, not 500 million deaths. It’s unfortunate that this erroneous figure found its way into a publication of the NAS — I suppose it’s the proof that anyone can err.

This error, “500 million deaths,” crops up in several publications after it was originally made near the end of the 1960s; honest researchers would get a good copy editor who would do the math and realize that 500 million people would not have died from malaria had there been no control at all, since 1939, when DDT was discovered to have insecticidal properties. Were Milloy and Edwards making a good faith case, I’d excuse it; but Edwards was a scientist and should have known better, Milloy has been spreading this falsehood long enough he could not fail to know better.

But the actual publication from the National Academy of Sciences suggests other issues that JunkScience.com would rather you not know about.

Importantly and specifically, the National Academy of Sciences is calling for broad research 1.) to avoid the problems that DDT presented (problems which Junk Science denies exist), and 2.) to combat the continuing evolution of the insect pests (evolution which Junk Science also denies), and 3.) to provide insecticides that hit specific targets to avoid the collateral damage of harming helpful insects, other animals and especially predators of the harmful insects (more problems that Junk Science pretends do not exist).

Three pages carry references to DDT in the book, The Life Sciences: Recent Progress and Application to Human Affairs — The World of Biological Research Requirements for the Future (National Academy of Sciences, 1970). This was a study of the state of science in several areas, with a survey of places particularly ripe for research considering human needs in the world. It was a sort of road map of where governments and other funders of research should spend their research monies in order to have the greatest beneficial effects.

The book suggests the need for extensive funding for research in biology over the following decade or two, or four. Were Milloy and Edwards correct that DDT was the panacea lifesaver, one might wonder why DDT was included in the book at all except to note a great success that precludes need for further research. That’s not what the book says at all.

Among the chief recommendations, NAS said research had to focus on rapidly biodegradable, closely targeted chemical pesticides to replace the DDT-style, long-lived, broad spectrum pesticides. NAS recognized the environmental dangers of DDT first and foremost in the introduction and statement of key recommendations:

It is imperative that new, degradable insecticides and pesticides with highly specific actions be devised and that their ecological consequences be understood, as it is imperative that the full ecological impact of the existing armamentarium of such agents be evaluated. Classical dose responses, evaluated only in terms of mortality or morbidity statistics, will not suffice; such data also must include an assessment in terms of modern knowledge of cell physiology, metabolism, and cytogenetics. [see page 11 of the book.]

These are exactly the things Milloy and Edwards ignore. This is a warning that simple toxicity tests on humans are not enough — pesticides need to be tested for downstream effects. That is what Rachel Carson called for in Silent Spring, research to understand the full effects of chemicals we use in the wild. This recommendation from NAS fully recognizes that chemicals like DDT, while they may offer significant benefits, can at the same time be significantly dangerous and damaging.

From the general introduction, the NAS authors point to three specific DDT-related issues. In general, the NAS view of DDT can be summarized like this: ‘DDT produced some great benefits fighting harmful insects, but its benefits need to be balanced against its great dangers and great potential for long-term damage. DDT is the poster child for beneficial chemicals that are also hazardous. We need to understand all the dangers as well as some of the benefits, in order to make wise decisions on chemical use. In the interim, where we have gaps in our knowledge, we should be careful.’

By carefully selecting only part of a statement by the NAS in one of the three areas of research, and leaving out all the qualifying statements, Milloy and the late Edwards misrepresent what NAS said. NAS was not calling for greater use of DDT. NAS was not calling for continued use of DDT. NAS was not criticizing any of the bans on DDT usage. NAS was saying we don’t know how great is the danger from DDT, and more study is needed; and use of DDT must be restricted in the interim.

Excerpt 1: Crop research

Increase research in rotating crops, herbicides and pesticides: In a section mentioning the need for alternative treatments, and commending organic methods of farming, on page 182 NAS notes the efficacy of crop rotation, and then talks about the need to have several different tools available to get rid of weeds and insect pests.

Similarly, recognition of the insecticidal properties of DDT in 1939, initially used against insects directly injurious to man, indicated the intelligent application of understanding of insect physiology, entomology, pharmacology, and the arts of the organic chemist could prevent crop destruction by insects. To date, the use of 2,4-D has increased yearly even though it has been replaced in part, and DDT is being withdrawn because of concern for its potentially adverse effects on man, transfer to the general environment, prolonged persistence, destruction of beneficial insects and possibly other wildlife, and stimulation of resistance in the target insects. These are now matters of broad general concern, and it is regrettable that public decisions must be made on the basis of our limited knowledge. But these compounds paved the way for modern agriculture. Without their equivalent, modern intensive agriculture is not possible, and, just as the continual breeding of new crop strains is imperative, so too is a continuing search for effective herbicides and pesticides, optimally with specific effects on offending organisms, degradable in the soil and nontoxic to man and animals. Attainment of these goals will require continuously increasing understanding of plant and insect physiology and life cycles.

Control of undesirable species by biological means is, in many ways, the most attractive possibility for future exploration. The notion is by no means new; attempts at such control began late in the nineteenth century. Indeed, some 650 species of beneficial insects have been deliberately introduced into the United States from overseas, of which perhaps 100 are established. These are now major factors in the control of aphids and a variety of scale insects and mealybugs. More recently, microbes and viruses have been considered for these purposes, a few of which are being used; for example, spores of the bacterium B. thuringiensis are used to control the cabbage looper and the alfalfa caterpillar. Some insects have been utilized for control of weeds — e.g., prickly pear in Australia and the Klamath weed in the western United States — while a combination of the cinnabar moth and the ragwort seed fly is required to keep down the population of the toxic range weed, the tansy ragwort.

There is no ringing endorsement for bringing back DDT, but rather a much more sophisticated understanding demonstrated that a variety of tools, some chemical and some living, need to brought to bear in agriculture and health — coupled with a clear understanding that non-beneficial effects need to be studied and understood, for all attempts to control pests for crops, and threats to humans. This is quite contrary to the general tone of Milloy’s and Edwards’s list, and far beyond the misleading snippet they offer.

Near the end of that first paragraph, the NAS call for pesticides that are pest specific, rapidly degradable once released, and nontoxic to humans and other beneficial creatures, targets and shoots directly at DDT, which is non-specific, long-lived in the soil, and toxic to almost everything.

That’s just the first of the three mentions of DDT.

Excerpt 2: Industrial technologies – Pesticide research

The second mention is in a discussion specific to pesticides. The NAS panel recommends research to find safe, short-lived alternatives that target specific pests. DDT is a long-lived toxin that has broad targets. This is a very long entry, but unlike the JunkScience.com guys, I think accuracy is more than one quote ripped out of context; in context, you see that NAS is not defending DDT as a safe, panacea against malaria.

I quote from the NAS publication at length, below; I want you to see that NAS is not contradicting Rachel Carson in any way; in fact, NAS is paying homage to Carson, adopting her calls to action in research and development, while updating the science which showed, in 1969, that Carson was right more than anyone could have known. Because it’s a long quote, I’ll put it in a different color, not boxing it where the formatting gets out of hand:

___________________________

From: The Life Sciences: Recent Progress and Application to Human Affairs — The World of Biological Research Requirements for the Future (National Academy of Sciences, 1970)

[Beginning on page 213]

Pesticides

As noted earlier, the properties of DDT and 2,4-D inaugurated a new era in management of our living resources and gave rise to a new industry. Each touched off a wave of research that continues to the present, seeking newer compounds that are species-specific, safe, and degradable. For the moment, the use of such compounds is indispensable; until superior means and materials are found, these compounds are essential to the success of our agriculture, while assisting in maintenance of our woodlands and protection of our health. It is the scale of this use, rather than their intrinsic toxicity, that has properly generated public concern over the effects of these chemicals on the public health. In 1966, total production of all pesticides in the U.S. was 1,012,598,000 pounds.

The rapid increase in use occurred because new pesticides have been developed that control hitherto uncontrolled pests, and broader use of pesticides in large-scale agriculture has increased crop yields significantly. Current trends in crop production involving large acreages, greater use of fertilizers, and intensive mechanized cultivation and harvesting offer particularly favorable opportunities for insect pests and would result in large crop losses to these pests unless control measures were applied.

The increased number of new pesticides in part reflects a second generation of pesticides with more appropriate persistence for economic control of specific pests, more complete control of the pest, less hazard for the applicator, or less hazardous residues on the crop. An additional impetus to the development of the pesticides comes from the fact that many insect pests have developed resistance to the older pesticides. The development of pest resistance does not necessarily entail the development of more dangerous pesticides; the new agent need only be chemically different to overcome resistance. The continuing search for new, more nearly ideal pesticides requires the joint effort of research teams composed of organic chemists, biochemists, pharmacologists, physiologists, entomologists, and botanists. The effort is managed much like the development of new drugs, each chemical entity being tested in a “screen” of a variety of insects.

About 73 percent of the total insecticide usage is in agriculture, and about 25 percent is used in urban areas by homeowners, industry, the military, and municipal authorities. The remaining 2 percent is applied to forest lands, grassland pasture, and on salt and fresh water for mosquito control. Over 50 percent of the insecticide used in agriculture is applied to cotton acreage alone.

When insect-control measures are not used in agriculture, insect pests take 10 to 50 percent of the crop, depending on local conditions. Losses of this magnitude are not readily tolerated in the United States in the face of a rapidly increasing population and a concomitant decrease in agricultural acreage. In this sense, the use of pesticides might be deemed essential at this time for the production and protection of an adequate food supply and an adequate supply of staple fiber. While alternative methods of pest control are under investigation and development, they are not yet ready to displace completely the chemical pesticides, and it appears that a pesticide industry will be required for some years to come.

Pesticides have been tremendously effective, but individual pesticides, like sulfa drugs and antibiotics, tend to lose their effectiveness as species resistance to them develops. Hence, there will be a continuing search for new pesticides as long as pesticides are considered to be required for the economy or the public health. This search will require the continuing participation of able biologists. As with drugs, new pesticides, optimally, should be selectively toxic for specific pests, rather than broadly toxic against a wide variety of pests with serious side-effects on nonpest species. Broad-spectrum pesticides affect an essential enzyme or system common to a wide variety of pests. A selective pesticide, on the other hand, either should affect an essential enzyme or system peculiar to a particular pest or should be applied in such a way that only the particular pest gains access to it.

An interesting example of a selective pesticide is the rodenticide norbormide, which is highly toxic for rats, particularly for the Norway rat. By contrast, the acute oral toxicity of norbormide for other species is much lower, the lethal dose for a great variety of birds and mammals, per kilogram of body weight, being more than 100 times greater. The mechanism of the selective toxic action of the norbormide for rats is not yet elucidated.

Achievement of target specificity requires a sophisticated knowledge of the anatomical, physiological, or biochemical peculiarities of the target pest as compared with other pests or vulnerable nonpests; a pesticide may then be developed that takes advantage of these peculiarities. This is obviously not easy to accomplish, and norbormide may prove to be unique for many years. An alternative is the introduction of a systemic pesticide into the host or preferred food of the target pest. Other pests or nonpests would not contact the pesticide unless they shared the same host or food supply. As an example, a suitable pesticide may be applied to the soil and imbibed by the root system of a plant on which the pest feeds. The pest feeding on the plant then receives a toxic dose. The application of attractants or repellents (for nontarget species) would increase the selectivity of the systemic pesticide. The use of systemic pesticides on plants used for food by humans or domestic animals poses an obvious residue problem.

There has been a strong public reaction against the continued use of pesticides on the grounds that such use poses a potential threat to the public health as well as being a hazard to wildlife. Careful investigations have so far failed to establish the magnitude of the threat to the public health; i.e., there are as yet few if any clear-cut instances of humans who have suffered injury clearly related to exposure to pesticides that have been used in the prescribed manner. Report No. 1379 of the 89th Congress (July 21, 1966)* concluded:

The testimony balanced the great benefits of disease control and food production against the risks of acute poisoning to applicators, occasional accidental food contamination and disruption of fish and wildlife. . . . The fact that no significant hazard has been detected to date does not constitute adequate proof that hazards will not be encountered in the future. No final answer is possible now, but we must proceed to get the answer. (Italics ours [NAS]).

Failure to establish such hazard does not mean that it does not exist. There are no living animals, including those in the Antarctic, that do not bear a body burden of DDT. Large fish kills and severe effects on bird populations have been demonstrated. The large-scale use of these agents has been practiced for less than two decades, and use has increased annually until this year (1969). Whereas the anticholinesterase compounds, which have high acute toxicity (and hence are highly hazardous to the applicator), are readily and rapidly degraded in nature, the halogenated hydrocarbons are not. With time, their concentration in the soil and in drainage basins, lakes, ponds and even the oceans must continue to increase, thereby assuring their buildup in plant and animal tissues. Over a sufficient time period, this is potentially disastrous. And should such a period pass without relief, the situation could not be reversed in less than a century. Because of the large economic benefit to the farmer, it is pointless to adjure him to be sparing; unless restrained by law, he will make his judgment in purely personal economics terms. But mankind badly needs the incremental food made possible by use of effective pesticides, and the enormous benefit to public health of greatly reducing the population of insects that are disease vectors is a self-evident boon to humanity. Thus it is imperative that alternative approaches to pest control be developed with all possible dispatch, while we learn to use available pesticides only where they are clearly necessary and desirable and to apply them in the minimal amounts adequate to the purpose.

A recent development in insect-pest control has been the possible use of juvenile hormone. This hormone, normally produced by insects and essential for their progress through the larval stages, must be absent from the insect eggs if the eggs are to undergo normal maturation. If juvenile hormone is applied to the eggs, it can either prevent hatching or result in the birth of immature and sterile offspring. There is evidence to suggest that juvenile hormone is much the same in different species of insects, and analogs have been prepared that are effective in killing many species of insects, both beneficial and destructive. There would, therefore, be great danger of upsetting the ecological balance if juvenile hormone were applied on a large scale.

What is needed, then, is development of chemical modifications of juvenile hormone that would act like juvenile hormone for specific pests but not for other insects. For example, a preparation from balsam fir, which appears to be such an analog, has been identified and is effective against a family of bugs that attack the cotton plant, but not against other species. If it proves possible to synthesize similar analogs specific for other pests, a new type of pesticide may emerge. If this happens, it will be extremely important to explore possible side-effects on other insect species and on warm-blooded animals before introduction of yet a new hazard into the biosphere.

We cannot rest with existing pesticides, both because of evolving resistance to specific compounds and because of the serious long-term threat posed by the halogenated hydrocarbons. While the search for new, reasonably safe pesticides continues, it is imperative that other avenues be explored. It is apparent that this exploration will be effective only if there is, simultaneously, ever-increasing understanding of the metabolism, physiology, and behavior of the unwanted organisms and of their roles in the precious ecosystems in which they and we dwell.

__________________

* U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on Government Operations. Interagency Environmental Hazards Coordination, Pesticides and Public Policy (Senate Report 1379). Report of the Subcommittee on Reorganization and International Organizations (pursuant to S. R. 27, 88th Cong., as amended and extended by S. R. 288), 89th Cong., 2d sess., Washington, D.C., U.S. Government Printing Office, 1966.

________________________________

Anyone should be able to see from various parts of that excerpt that NAS was not defending DDT as harmless; that instead, NAS was saying that despite its great utility, DDT use needed to be extremely limited, and that substitutes for it needed to be found as quickly as possible — and then, the substitutes need to be researched to make sure they don’t have unintended bad effects, on other species, at other places, at other times.

Excerpt 3: The Great Hazards – Man and his environment

The third excerpt has the money quote — it contains an obvious error of fact, but an error that has been seized upon and trumpeted from one end of the world to the other: The 500 million dead miscalculation. Critics of environmental stewards like to trot this out, sometimes going so far as to accuse Carson and environmentalists of genocide, for the deaths of 500 million people that would have been prevented but for our concerns ‘for a few silly birds.’

I reiterate, the mathematics do not work. If we assumed 5 million deaths to malaria every year for the 20th century, we’d get 500 million deaths. Records indicate total deaths as high as 3 million in some years; since World War II, deaths have averaged about 1 million per year. So, even were it true that DDT bans unnecessarily caused all those deaths (and it’s not true), the total, between 1946 and 2006 would be about 50 million deaths. The “500 million deaths” figure is incorrect by a multiple of 10, at least, in addition to being absolutely in error historically. DDT never offered the realistic hope of eradicating malaria; by 1965, it was already failing where it was applied, and human institutional failures (not environmentalists) prevented its application in places where it might have helped.

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) discusses hazards from chemistry and biochemistry, in one of its final chapters studying life sciences and their applications to human affairs. NAS authors write about the need to study causes of deaths and how to prevent them (including lung cancer and smoking), and there is discussion on the difficulty of getting clear answers to every question. In a section titled “Man and his environment,” NAS discusses environmental damage: Deforestation, pollution, and animal and plant extinctions. On page 430, there is an example given of supposedly beneficial chemicals turning toxic once released; DDT is the example:

Then NAS discusses DDT:

Large-scale use of pesticides can start a chain in which these substances concentrate in plant an animal tissues and, when ingested, accumulate in the adipose [fat] tissue of the human body. As an illustration of this process, consider the record of Clear Lake, California, where DDD (a breakdown product of DDT) entered the lake at 0.02 part per million (ppm). A year later, its concentration was 10 ppm in the plankton, 900 ppm in fish that eat the plankton, and 2,700 ppm in fish that eat fish that eat plankton. No data are available concerning people who ate such fish.

* * * * *

The effects of these changes in the environment on man himself are not known.

NAS notes that absence of proof of damage should not imply safety, and the article notes that small doses of pollutants, repeated over time, can cause serious health problems.

And then, on page 432, NAS discusses the harmful, latent effects of substances considered to be beneficial — using DDT as the example:

Until reliable evidence thus obtained becomes available, public health measures designed to minimize exposure to such pollutants are patently advisable. But surely a rule of reason should prevail. To only a few chemicals does man owe as great a debt as to DDT. It has contributed to the great increase in agricultural productivity, while sparing countless humanity from a host of diseases, most notably, perhaps, scrub typhus and malaria. Indeed, it is estimated that, in a little more than two decades, DDT has prevented 500 million deaths due to malaria that would otherwise have been inevitable. Abandonment of this valuable insecticide should be undertaken only at such time and in such places as it is evident that the prospective gain to humanity exceeds the consequent losses. At this writing, all available substitutes for DDT are both more expensive per crop-year and decidedly more hazardous to those who manufacture and utilize them in crop treatment or for other, more general purposes.

The health problems engendered by undesirable contaminants of the environment may also be raised by substances that are intentionally ingested. Only large-scale, long-term epidemiological research will reveal whether the contraceptive pills, pain killers, sleeping pills, sweetener, and tranquilizers, now consumed on so great a scale, have any untoward long-range effects on their consumers.* Man has always been exposed to the hazards of his environment and it may well be that he has never been more safe than he is today in the developed nations. Food contamination is probably minimal as compared with that in any previous era, communal water supplies are cleaner, and, despite the smog problem, air is probably less polluted than in the era of soft coal or before central heating systems were the norm. Witness the fact that jungle dwelling natives of South America exhibit a considerably higher incidence of chromosomal aberrations in their somatic cells than does the American population. But modern man also increasingly exposes himself to the chemical products of his own technologies and has both the biological understanding to ascertain the extent of such hazards and the prospect of technological innovation to minimize them where they are demonstrated. To do less would be improvident and derelict.

__________________________

* This sentence was written in June 1969. Revelations of the untoward effects of both steroid contraceptives and cyclamates were made public months later.

__________________________

As presented by the “100 facts about DDT” list, all the qualifiers, warnings, and listed harms of DDT are left off. The numbers cited in the quoted section are in error, and considering that the NAS was calling for research into the harms of DDT, research to replace DDT with chemicals that were short-lived, more carefully targeted by species, and fully researched to avoid the collateral harms DDT caused, it seems dishonest to present that edited quote as an endorsement of DDT. It is no endorsement at all.

And so, it is dishonest to present the quote at all so grossly out of context.

Steven Milloy should strike #6 from his list of “100 things you should know about DDT.”


Heartland on bedbugs: DDT stupidity, all the way to 11

May 25, 2009

The Heartland Institute is charitably called a “think tank” sometimes.  In their latest screed against science and people who wish to protect the environment, there is no evidence of thinking, however.  It’s all tank.

The headline says it all: “Bedbug Outbreak Hits All 50 States Thanks to DDT Ban.”

With all their reading on bedbugs, they never noticed the many notes that DDT stopped working against bedbugs more than 50 years ago? Who is going to tell them that DDT doesn’t work? Or, is this a talisman, an understanding that none of the solutions proposed by Heartland Institute will work? First they flirt with intelligent design, then they lose their senses altogether.  There’s an omen there.

Remember the scene in “Spinal Tap?” Heartland Institute on bedbugs is stupid, turned up to 11.  Heartland Institute doesn’t allow comments, probably because they can’t stand the laughter.


Chicken or egg, teacher or cynic

February 17, 2009

Do only cynics become teachers, or does teaching make one cynical?

NYC Educator writes about being astounded to discover that the nation’s current economic woes can be cured by cutting teacher pay and benefits, as some propose.

Another teacher writes to the Bathtub complaining about printing progress reports on his computer at home — his district’s computer system is notoriously weird in remote access mode.  Why is he printing the reports at home?  “It’s been 11 months since we got a delivery of toner cartridges for teachers’ in-room printers, and we’re out of paper again.”

When do you think was the last time New York Mayor Bloomberg had to run the city budget on his home computer?

Is it really cynicism if it’s dead right?


Suicide attempt with DDT

January 31, 2009

DDT advocates argue that DDT is harmless to humans.  Generally they base the claim on DDT’s low carcinogenicity in humans — it’s suspected of being a weak human carcinogen.

Frequently DDT advocates will point to the late Dr. Gordon Edwards’ grandstand sipping of a teaspoon of prepared DDT before lectures on the stuff.

Hard reality:  It’s a poison.  Comes this report from the Times of India:  A despondent woman tried suicide by DDT.  DDT is indeed a poison for humans.

The woman is in serious condition in a hospital.

AMRELI: The spate of suicides in the diamond industry continued as the wife of a diamond worker attempted suicide on Wednesday in Mini Kasbavad area of the city. Ruksana Pathan, 33, is battling for life at the government hospital here.

According to officials of Amreli police, Ruksana tried to end her life by consuming DDT powder when her husband and four children were away. She was rushed to the hospital here, where her condition is slated to be serious.

“Ruksana was depressed ever since her husband Taufiq Pathan, a diamond worker, was rendered unemployed after closure of diamond units,” said a police official. “As the family’s financial situation worsened, Ruksana attempted to kill herself,” the official said.

Kids, don’t try the Gordon Edwards stunt.  DDT is poisonous, as the skull and crossbones on the old label would indicate.


Palin slashes Special Olympics Budget: Accurate statement still unfair?

September 24, 2008

This is how bad it is:  Even accurate statements about Gov. Sarah Palin are called unfair by McCain campaign operatives and hard-shell, stiff-necked partisans.

Conservatives are complaining about media coverage of Gov. Sarah Palin.  For example, they say, she is accused of cutting funding for Alaska’s Special Olympics in half.  Not fair they say, and they offer the actual figures:  The budget for Special Olympics for 2007 from the Alaska legislature was $650,000.  Palin used her line-item veto, and cut the funding to $275,000.

Hello?  Half of $650,000 would be $325,000.  Palin cut the Special Olympics budget by 58%. Last time I looked at the math tables, 58% was more than half of 100%.

So, why would it not be fair to say that Palin cut the funding by half?  She cut it by more than half.

Oh, no, the conservatives say:  ‘You have to let us jigger the numbers first — the final total, after Palin cut it, was still more than the previous year’s allocation from the state.’

Charlie Martin at Pajamas Media takes up the conservatives’ cudgel, that it’s unfair to Sarah Palin to report her budget cuts accurately (you know, not even Dave Barry could make this stuff up).

And then Glenn Reynolds joins the morning howl, complaining that “main stream media” isn’t interested in debunking the “rumor.”

Excuse me?  Why should anyone be interested in “debunking” a “rumor” which is, as the sources indicate and the conservatives’ own research demonstrates, neither rumor nor error, but hard fact?

If you needed a demonstration that conservatives cannot count, or that they will not count accurately when only honor is at stake, these sorts of stories will do.

Below the fold, for the sake of accuracy, you’ll find a longish excerpt from Charlie Martin’s analysis.

Read the rest of this entry »


God-centered geography: A world of stupidity

May 31, 2008

If you had thought the God-centered math courses first exposed in the Bathtub to be the apex of Christian of religious folly, sit down; buckle up. Take a deep breath.

Did you know God sculpted Antarctica to look like a trumpeting elephant? Did you know God did it for political reasons?

Dr. Pamela Bumsted of Grassroots Science alerts us to this website, God’s Geography, which should contain enough abuse of scripture to offend all Christians, and Jews and Moslems, too. The site steals good maps from good sites — but the accuracy in geography stops there.

Consider Antarctica: Antarctica, from U of Texas Library, Perry Castaneda Collection

This is the map God’s Geography borrows from the University of Texas Libraries (to their credit, giving close to proper attribution), Antarctica (small map) from the Perry Castañeda Map Collection at the University of Texas Library.

Argh: Here’s what the site says:

Why is Antarctica shaped like an elephant’s head? I believe it is to illustrate a global political system. Nations typically have an animal or bird as their national symbol (such as the American eagle), but no single country owns Antarctica, although about 40 nations have made claims. So let’s think of these 40 nations as one nation, living in peace, and their symbolic animal is the elephant because it is the largest beast on earth.

* * * *

A global government means all nations cooperating together for the benefit of mankind, and not for the benefit of God or the King of kings. And as the world’s largest terrestrial animal it makes a perfect symbol of the world’s largest government.

So the elephant gives us a visual clue as to what a global political system looks and acts like. It’s very formidable, and can not be defeated except by God Himself. It’s futile to fight against it, but we shouldn’t want to because it’s part of our heavenly Father’s overall plan. He’ll guide the elephant where He wants it to go, and He’ll take care of the ivory towers, as it’s written in Amos 3:

13 Hear ye, and testify in the house of Jacob, saith the Lord GOD, the God of hosts, 14 That in the day that I shall visit the transgressions of Israel upon him I will also visit the altars of Bethel: and the horns of the altar shall be cut off, and fall to the ground. 15 And I will smite the winter house with the summer house; and the houses of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall have an end, saith the LORD.

It’s crazy enough to send you to the law books to see if you can find a loophole in Poe’s Law, ain’t it?

I don’t object to the use of mnemonic devices. Remembering Italy as the peninsula and nation “shaped like a boot” seems to cement the identity of country into the minds of students otherwise a bit weak on European geography.

God’s Geography passes over the line into pure fantasy, into false claims about geography. The religious claims also far exceed any rational claim from Christian theology. I can’t imagine serious Christians not being offended at the religious messages the author claims to find in the simple shape of geographic entities.

My second complaint is that the religious claims tend to obscure reality, also. Again, on the Antarctica page, we find a gratuitous note about Elephant Island, which is off the tip of the archipelago this guy sees as an elephant’s trunk:

Near the tip of the elephant’s trunk is an island called Elephant Island, although I’m sure it wasn’t named for elephants, but rather for the largest member of the seals, the Elephant Seal.

Elephant seals were sighted there in the year of its discovery. But every description of the island I’ve ever seen notes that the island’s profile resembles an elephant’s head, and that’s how it was named. The island provided scant refuge, but enough refuge for the crew of Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated ship Endurance in 1916, so it is relatively famous among history, exploration and geography buffs.

So contrary to the history books, the author of God’s Geography claims Elephant Island is not named because it looks like an elephant’s head. Fantasy is just one egregious problem with this site; gross error is a second. In a game where one strike equals an out, this odd site has three strikes against it: Whole cloth invention, offense to scripture, and geographic error.

And may God save us from God’s Geography’s description of the island of Lesbos.

Watch out: This is the sort of stuff that might excite Texas Education Commissar Don McLeroy.

Serious resources:


Ghost of Joe McCarthy: LGF/Malkin assault on Rachael Ray

May 26, 2008

WARNING: Satirical material ahead.

At long last, Sen. McCarthy Little Green Footballs, have you no decency?

One wonders just how much mob activity these guys can provoke before somebody — perhaps someone at LGF, and Michelle Malkin’s blog — wakes up and stands up to stop the madness.

Rachael Ray wore a black and white patterned scarf at a shoot for a Dunkin’ Donuts ad. As a Blood to a blue bandana or a Crip to a red one, LGF pulled out their rhetorical guns and started firing. ‘Aren’t those the colors of Yassir Arafat’s group, Al Fatah?’ LGF wonders.

You couldn’t make up this kind of craziness if it didn’t exist. Well, almost couldn’t make it up.

I expect that, next, Little Green Footballs will hear that some radio stations are suppressing the news about the invasion of Martians.

Next week: Little Green cake pans filmed flying across LGF’s yard, and LGF leads a new dig at the old quarry in Piltdown. How long before Nebraska Man shows up in the credits to Michelle Malkin’s blog, and they start rooting for the Cardiff Giant during the Hall of Fame Game in Cooperstown? Is it true that Michelle Malkin has an interview with Judge Crater set up for later this week?

Barnum’s ghost is tired.

What Michelle Malkin and LGF claimed to see:

British woman wearing Palestinian kaffiyah

What everyone else saw:

Rachael Ray advertises for Dunkin' Donuts

Dunkin’ Donuts pulled the ad rather than risk offending anyone. The scarf had a paisley design, a company spokesman told LGF — and no one disputes that.

Does anyone else see the irony of Little Green Footballs complaining about this and inciting a mob? What will they do when they realize that green was Mohammed’s favorite color, and is almost an official color of Islam?

And when the truth comes out, will it be that LGF was mainstreaming terrorism to sell Little Green Footballs — like mob action against a donut shop — occasionally outing one of their friends or some innocent person to avoid suspicion themselves?

Santayana was right. What do you know about Herb Philbrick’s dip into communism double agentry, in I Led Three Lives? What do you remember about Robespierre and the Summer of Terror? What do you remember about Stalin’s installation of terror in the Soviet Union?

Why aren’t Malkin and LGF going after Rev. Moon, or some real threat to something — whooping cough, measles, something really dangerous?

Whose side is Little Green Footballs on, anyway?

Islamic religious flag of Turkey

Tip of the old scrub brush to Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

Other Resources:

Update: Greater, sadder irony: Rachael Ray’s site today featured a nice tribute to our troops, with recipes.


Disreputable publishers: Falsehoods in print

May 1, 2008

Our usual free press in history discourse suggests that the press, especially the newspapers, were more partisan in the early days of our republic than they are now. American Aurora tells the story of newspaper editors being thrown in jail during the administration of John Adams, for example, for their excesses (which may merit being known as “rabid” excesses).

Regnery Publishing is today at least as inaccurate, if not as completely vitriolic, as any of the nasty newspapers published in the John Adams administration. Regnery is the publisher of Jonathan Wells’ mostly fictional, all incorrect account of biology, Icons of Evolution, for example.

Regnery once again pushes the bounds of propriety with a new book by Iain Murray with a title that tells all the author thinks he knows: The Really Inconvenient Truths: Seven Environmental Catastrophes Liberals Don’t Want You to Know About–Because They Helped Cause Them.

You can bet the conservative and anti-science, and anti-environmental protection blogs will light up with this book.

I see from the index on Amazon that I get a mention. I hope Murray claims I caused one of those disasters. You can bet that if he says it, the opposite is true.

In the past couple of months I have had a couple of opportunities to spend some time in libraries and with databases. Checking out the citations from Steven Milloy’s “100 things” about DDT list, I discovered not a single citation relating to DDT’s effects on birds was correct; those articles that did exist concluded opposite what Milloy claims. Some of the articles simply didn’t exist. Bet Murray doesn’t question a single claim from Milloy.

And, did you know that DDT problems were common items for newspapers through the 1950s? You won’t learn that from Murray’s book.

Update, May 2: I have a copy of the book (Regnery did not provide it); it’s worse than I had imagined. Examples: The quote from this blog is criticized as being inaccurate; the quote describes Bush administration policies in 2004 and corporate actions in Uganda to discourage DDT spraying which continue. Murray’s rebuttal discusses Bush administration actions taken two years later, but fails to note that they have not yet worked.

Worse example: Murray has an entire chapter accusing “environmentalists” of being asleep at the switch for damages to fish and other wildlife due to birth control pill residues in the water; he fails to mention that DDT causes exactly the same problems. He fails to note that DDT and especially DDE are endocrine disruptors usually cited as culprits in these cases. He fails to note that the issues are at the top of the list of environmental organizations involved in fish, river conservation, and pesticide safety issues. Regnery’s name is rapidly becoming synonymous with”wildly inaccurate and politically skewed.”

Alas, that’s what I got from a skim of the book before this evening’s meetings.


Cocoa buyers stand against DDT use in Uganda

April 1, 2008

Stephen Milloy can’t even herd his own cats — why should we listen to him?

While Milloy proclaims junk science and loudly impugns the reputation of a dead woman (Rachel Carson), it’s his business colleagues who demand Uganda avoid DDT, not environmentalists.

New Vision in Kampala reports that a local council has rejected DDT use, and told Uganda’s government the reasons why:

Bundibugyo district council has rejected the Government’s programme of indoor residual spraying of DDT.

During a council meeting last Wednesday, the councillors argued that the anti-malaria project would scare away organic cocoa buyers.

According to the LC5 chairman, Jackson Bambalira, Olam and Esko, the cocoa buyers, threatened to stop buying the produce if the area was sprayed with DDT.

“We know that malaria is a number one killer disease in our district but we have no option. The Government should look for another alternative of containing malaria by supplying mosquito nets but not spraying DDT.”

You and I know that indoor residential spraying (IRS) shouldn’t harm crops in any way, even if DDT is the pesticide used. Can the cocoa growers and buyers be convinced DDT won’t get into their products?

How many stories like this have to appear before the anti-environmentalists stop their unholy campaign against Rachel Carson? Complaining, falsely, about evils of environmentalism doesn’t save anyone from malaria, especially when it’s not environmentalists blocking the campaign against the disease.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,155 other followers

%d bloggers like this: