No, Congress did not “overreact” to DDT

October 30, 2013

Looking for something else, I restumbled on the Constitution Club, where they continue to club the Constitution, its better principles, and especially the great nation that the document creates.

And one of those grotesquely inaccurate posts blaming liberals for everything sprang up — bedbugs, this time.  If only those liberals had let the good DDT manufacturers poison the hell out of the entire planet, the blog falsely claims, there would be no concern for bedbugs surging in hotels worldwide today, and especially not in Charlotte, North Carolina, back during the Democratic National Convention.

A meeting of a chapter of Constitution clubs? Wikipedia image

A meeting of a chapter of Constitution clubs? Wikipedia image

Looking through the archives, I now recall I dealt with most of this issue on this blog before.

The post’s author made a response I hadn’t seen.  God help me these idiots do need a trip to the intellectual woodshed.  He said “Congress overreacted on DDT, I think. It likes to do that.”

In reality, Congress did nothing at all, other than pass the law regulating pesticides, if we stick to the real history. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the rule on DDT, which still stands today.  Over react?  Two federal courts had to twist EPA’s arm to get any action at all, and after delaying for nearly two years, EPA’s rule didn’t ban DDT except for outdoor use on crops, which by that time meant cotton in a handful of states in the U.S. — DDT has never been banned in Africa nor Asia, Persistent Organic Pollutants Treaty notwithstanding.

Oh, hell. Put it on the record.

I wrote:

Did Congress ever “react” to DDT?

EPA was tasked by the 1950s’s FIFRA to check out safety of pesticides, and did.  FIFRA had recently been amended to give EPA (USDA, before) power to ban a pesticide outright. Two federal courts found DDT eminently worthy of such an outright ban, but refrained from ordering it themselves as they saw the law to require, on the promise of EPA to conduct a thorough scientific review.  At some length, and irritation to the Eisenhower appointees to the courts, EPA got around to an administrative law hearing — several months and 9,000 pages.  In a panic, the DDT manufacturers proposed a new label for DDT before the hearings got started, calling DDT dangerous to wildlife, and saying it should be used only indoors to control health-threats.  Alas, under the law, if DDT were allowed to stay for sale over the counter, anyone could buy it and abuse it.  The hearing record clearly provided proof that DDT killed wildlife, and entire ecosystems.  But, it was useful to fight diseases, used as the proposed label suggested . . .

Administrator William Ruckelshaus took the cue the DDT manufacturers offered.  He issued a rule banning DDT from outdoor use on agricultural crops except in emergencies with a permit from EPA.  But he specifically allowed U.S. manufacturers to keep making the stuff for export to fight malaria in distant nations, and to allow DDT makers to keep making money.

“Over-reacted” on DDT?  Not Congress, and not EPA.  The rule was challenged in court, twice.  The appellate courts ruled that the scientific evidence, the mountains of it, fully justified the rule, and let it stand.  (Under U.S. law, agencies may not act on whim; if they over-react, they’ve violated the law.)

How bedbugs react to DDT today. Articulate.com

How bedbugs react to DDT today. Articulate.com

No study conducted carefully and judiciously, and passed through the gauntlet of peer review, since that time, has questioned the science conclusions of that rule in any significant way — if any study questioned the science at all (there are famous urban legends, but most of them lead back to people who didn’t even bother to do research, let alone do it well and publish it).

But so-called conservatives have faith that if Congress will just repeal the law of gravity, pigs can fly.  In the real world, things don’t work that way.

How bedbugs view DDT in the 21st century.

How bedbugs view DDT in the 21st century.

I’ve captured most of the earlier exchanges below the fold; one can never trust so-called conservatives to conserve a record of their gross errors.  They’re there for the record, and for your use and edification.

Read the rest of this entry »


The mighty pen, revisited

October 30, 2013

Before we completely forget about October 29, and events that occurred on that day of the calendar, let’s pause for a moment to remember the introduction of the ballpoint pen.  We do this because the ballpoint pen was such a symbol of modernity after World War II.  And we do this because hand writing utensils seem to be losing fashion, as does handwriting itself.

Let’s not lose all the history.  I wrote this first back in 2006, commemorating the ballpoint.

2006 was the 100th anniversary of the Mont Blanc company, the company that made fountain pens a luxury item even while fountain pens were still the state of the art of pens.

A Reynolds rocket; this is claimed to be the first version of the ballpoint pen sold, on October 29, 1945, in Gimbel's Department Store in New York City.

A Reynolds rocket; this is claimed to be the first version of the ballpoint pen sold, on October 29, 1945, in Gimbel’s Department Store in New York City.

October 29 is the 68st anniversary (according to CBS “Sunday Morning”) or 69th anniversary (see Wikipedia) of the introduction of the ballpoint pen in the U.S., at Gimbel’s Department Store, in New York City. (I go with 1945.)  It was based on a design devised in 1938 by a journalist named László Bíró. Biro produced his pen in Europe, and then in Argentina. But in the U.S., a businessman named Reynolds set up the Reynolds International Pen Company and rushed to market in the U.S. a pen based on several Biros he had purchased in Buenos Aires.

On October 29, 1945 (or 1946), you could purchase a “Reynolds Rocket” at Gimbel’s for $12.50 — about $130 today, adjusted for inflation.

1946 Reynolds Rocket ballpoint pen, from the collection of James P. Reynolds

1946 Reynolds Rocket ballpoint pen, from the collection of James P. Reynolds

Today I continue my search for a ballpoint or rollerball that will write in green, reliably, for grading.  (Turns out red marks panic a lot of kids; some write in blue, so blue won’t work, nor will black; green is a great grading color.)

I use a Waterman Phileas ballpoint, a Cross Radiance fountain pen, a Cross Radiance rollerball (Radiance was discontinued about a year ago), a full set of Cross Century writing implements, a lot of Sanford Uniballs in various colors, and a lot of Pentel Hybrid K-178 gel-rollers, and some Pilot G-2 gel pens (though the green ink versions are unreliable). I also keep several Marvy calligraphic pens for signing things with a flourish. I have a box of $0.10 ballpoints in a briefcase for students who fail to bring a writing utensil.  (Since 2006, I’ve added a Cross pencil similar to the old Radiance design, and another Cross ballpoint in black (the Waterman is blue); the most reliable green-ink pen I’ve found is a Pilot Bravo, but they are tough to find these days in any color, and green is even togher; plus, they are bold-line instruments.)

Jefferson probably wrote the Declaration of Independence with quills he trimmed himself. Lincoln probably used a form of fountain pen to write the Gettysburg Address, but he had no writing utensil with him when he was assassinated at Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865. President Johnson made famous the practice of using many pens to sign important documents, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964; he made gifts of the pens to people who supported the legislation and worked to get it made into law.

And, who said it? Brace yourself.

Beneath the rule of men entirely great,
The pen is mightier than the sword.

Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Baron Lytton, wrote that, in Richelieu, act II, scene ii, a play he wrote in 1839.

Yes, he is the same Bulwer-Lytton who wrote the novel Paul Clifford in 1840, whose opening line is, “It was a dark and stormy night.”

The first ballpoint pen was sold in the United States on October 29, 1945, a few weeks after the surrender of Japan that ended completely the hostilities of World War II.  It was a good year, and a good time to be writing.  Still is, today.

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