Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Over the years I've writing lots about DDT's use in the fight against malaria, my interest in the subject sparked by the obvious misrepresentations of computer programmer Tim Lambert and bean-counter John Quiggin. Both are DDT ban denialists, refusing to acknowledge that the 1972 US DDT ban encouraged environmentalists to campaign against DDT use in developing countries and prompting the WHO, USAID and the World Bank to discourage the anti-malaria use of DDT. Both loudly and frequently accuse anyone who describes or discusses this de facto DDT ban of propagating what they call the "DDT ban myth".

In his most recent DDT post Lambert accuses a new book of repeating the DDT ban myth for containing the following:
Over the last few decades, however, the WHO has discouraged the use of DDT in member states â encouraged by environmentalists, who have often massively overstated the negative effects of DDT on human and animal health (Roberts et al., 2000). Until recently, most Western aid agencies discouraged the use of DDT and indoor residual spraying generally, and the WHO has provided little financial assistance to those governments that wish to go down this route.
The excerpt above is, of course, factually correct. No matter, the typical Deltoid anti-DDT gang-wank ensues in comments. Anyone with an interest in the anti-malaria use of DDT should read through the thread.

Along the way Quiggin tries to catch me out on a technicality, instead displaying his ignorance, his bias, or both:
Do you even read your own links, JFB? To quote from the EPA document you cite:

"Public health, quarantine, and a few minor crop uses were excepted, as well as export of the material." (emphasis added).

DDT isn't used for public health purposes in wealthy or even middle-income countries because there are superior, though more costly alternatives. But it wasn't banned in the US in 1972 and it never has been.
The title of the cited EPA document (a press release): "DDT Ban Takes Effect". And the EPA's not alone in thinking the US banned DDT, here's professor Quiggin at Crooked Timber:
Now it’s turned out that one of the hardiest of parallel universe beliefs, the claim that Rachel Carson and the US ban on DDT were responsible for millions of deaths in the third world, arises from the same source.
Ironically, the "US ban on DDT" link is to an earlier Quiggin post attacking non-experts who write on subjects they supposedly know little about.

Quiggin and Lambert get very little right when discussing DDT's use in the fight against malaria, nothing they write on the subject should be accepted as accurate.


According to professor Noel Sharkey military robots "pose a threat to humanity" and are an ideal terrorism tool:
Captured robots would not be difficult to reverse engineer, and could easily replace suicide bombers as the weapon-of-choice.

"I don't know why that has not happened already," he said.
A robotic bomb attack is bound to happen eventually but not even a burqa could disguise one of these enough to allow it to sneak into a crowd for maximum carnage.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


George Monbiot makes a big call:
Who carries the greatest responsibility for the deaths of unborn children in this country? I accuse the leader of the Catholic church in England and Wales, His Eminence Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor.
According to Monbiot "it's clear that religious conviction does little to reduce abortion and plenty to increase it".

How then to account for the abortion rate rising in the ever more secular UK from 5.9 per 1,000 in 1969 to 18.3 per 1,000 in 2006? Maybe it has something to do with slack personal responsibility avoiders using abortion as birth control.

Monday, February 25, 2008


Prepare to be inundated:
As early as next year widespread flooding by a rise in sea levels will create major upheaval for millions.
Tomorrow, boat shopping.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


(See update at end. See futher update.) Computer programmer Tim Lambert has taken to damning DDT by linking various anti-malaria organizations and their efforts to big tobacco funding. Lambert's argument goes something like this: because anti-malaria organizations (Africa Fighting Malaria, for example) have received funding from tobacco companies (starting in the late 1990s), everything they say about DDT and the fight against malaria is wrong.

Economist John Quiggin takes this notion one step further:
Since it doesn't seem to have been mentioned so far, can I point out that the DDT ban myth was invented by tobacco lobbyists (Steven Milloy and Roger Bate) with the objective, among other things, of putting pressure on WHO to stop its antismoking activities. The IPA, which is putting on the current exercise, was long active in tobacco lobbying. Those who bandy about accusations of complicity in murder ought to take a look in the mirror.
The DDT ban is not a myth and certainly wasn't started by tobacco company-paid henchmen. Nobel Laureate Norman Borlaug recognized back in the 1970s that a US DDT ban would lead to a de facto worldwide banning of the useful chemical:
Reason: Does the European ban on biotechnology encourage elites in developing countries to say, "Well, if it's not good enough for Europeans, it's not good enough for my people"?

Borlaug: Of course. This is a negative effect. We always have this. Take the case of DDT. When it was banned here in the U.S. and the European countries, I testified about the value of DDT for malaria control, especially throughout Africa and in many parts of Asia. The point I made in my testimony as a witness for the USDA was that if you ban DDT here in the U.S., where you don't have these problems, then OK, you've got other insecticides for agriculture, but when you ban it here and then exert pressures on heads of government in Africa and Asia, that's another matter. They've got serious human and animal diseases, and DDT is important. Of course, they did ban DDT, and the danger is that they will do the same thing with biotech now.
An editorial in the Pasadena Star-News from April 24, 1974 puts it like this:
Ruckelshaus issued the ban on DDT in the first place against the recommendations of EPA's own hearing examiner. The examiner found "DDT is extremely low in acute toxicity to man. DDT is not a safety hazard to man when used as directed.

"The uses of DDT under the registration involved here do not have a deleterious effect on freshwater fish, estuarine organisms, wild birds or other wildlife. The adverse effect on beneficial animals from the use of DDT ... is not unreasonable on balance with its benefits ... There is a present need for the continued use of DDT for the essential uses defined in this case."

Because these findings were overridden, a million-plus acres of American forest have been killed or seriously damaged, and even more calamitous results may ensue in other nations. The incidence of malaria deaths has risen enormously in Ceylon and Nobel laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug fears the effects of the of the so-called "green revolution" spurred by his researches, will be reversed.

These worries are echoed by scientists of the World Health Organization, who credit DDT with saving five million lives during the first few years of use.
Tim Lambert and John Quiggin are not reliable sources of information concerning DDT's use in the fight against malaria; if you read their blogs you will be dumbed-down. But if you're a lefty wanting your prejudices confirmed, you won't go wrong reading their agenda-driven garbage.

Update: Jeez, give Lambert and Quiggin the facts and straight away they're talking about discussion-limiting killfiles. By the way, Lambert's the only blogger I know who actually brags about bouncing links, excluding commenters and altering comments. What an ambassador for science.

Update II: John Quiggin uses his massive knowledge base, even more massive intellect, awesome research skills and mastery of logic to formulate a devastating rebuttal to my contention that the DDT ban is real and certainly wasn't invented by tobacco-paid activists:
It's kind of sad that to deny the facts about the tobacco-generated DDT myth, JF Beck has to go to Cato, house think tank for the tobacco lobby, and (at the time) home of Steve Milloy.

The interviewer Ronald Bailey has mostly (not entirely) avoided tobacco denialism, but has otherwise been wrong on just about every environmental issue, though he recently recanted on global warming.
Well, it's totally sad that Quiggers doesn't have the balls to attack Nobel laureate Borlaug's views head on, instead attacking him for daring to be interviewed by Reason's Ron Bailey. Anyway, Quigger's snark is meant to divert attention away from the facts: the DDT ban is no myth and tobacco activists couldn't have invented it when Borlaug was already talking about it in the 1970s.


Lori Gottlieb contemplates reactions to to her claim every woman wants, more than anything, a husband:
To the outside world, of course, we still call ourselves feminists and insist—vehemently, even—that we’re independent and self-sufficient and don’t believe in any of that damsel-in-distress stuff, but in reality, we aren’t fish who can do without a bicycle, we’re women who want a traditional family. And despite growing up in an era when the centuries-old mantra to get married young was finally (and, it seemed, refreshingly) replaced by encouragement to postpone that milestone in pursuit of high ideals (education! career! but also true love!), every woman I know—no matter how successful and ambitious, how financially and emotionally secure—feels panic, occasionally coupled with desperation, if she hits 30 and finds herself unmarried.
Just wait until the man-haters hear about this.


David Hicks, Australia's most famous terrorism student, received a well-rounded foreign education:
The notebook reveals the scholarly approach Mr Hicks took to terrorist training in Pakistan, both before and after the September 11 attacks on the US.

The 30 pages in the notebook reveal the lessons taught to Mr Hicks while he trained with the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Toiba in Pakistan between 2000 and 2002.

The notebook details weapons and warfare, along with crude survival tips. It has sections on the mathematics of different weaponry as well as crude first aid and survival tips.

Hand-drawn diagrams show how to target a tank using a rocket-propelled grenade, how to penetrate security guard positions around VIPs and different formations for guerilla attacks.
Yep, Hicks will fit right in at university, if he can force himself to leave the house:
David Hicks will stay on file as a dangerous terrorist interested in jihad after the former Guantanamo Bay detainee was unable to provide contradictory evidence to an Adelaide court.
And why was Hicks "unable" to either explain or defend his actions?
Hicks stayed away from the hearing this week in the Federal Magistrates Court in Adelaide to confirm a control order and did not provide an affidavit or instruct his counsel to mount a defence. Mr McLeod said Hicks could have been called for cross-examination if he submitted an affidavit and he lacked the confidence to attend.

Mr McLeod, who visited Hicks at the notorious US military prison for terrorists in Cuba six times, said Hicks had adapted to domestic life quite well but remained fragile. He said Hicks' non-appearance could be blamed on the treatment he received while in prison.

"The answer lies in his abuse and mistreatment over more than 5½ years at the hands of the United States, aided and abetted by the Australian authorities," Mr McLeod said.
Unfortunately for Hicks, the magistrate who reviewed the control order isn't buying his lawyer's spin:
Mr Donald said the control order was made on the basis of evidence from the Australian Federal Police, which Hicks had not contradicted despite ample opportunity to do so.
Hicks's lawyers do admit to a connection between Islam and terrorism, however, pointing out Hicks is not dangerous because he is "no longer a Muslim".

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


DDT ban denialist Tim Lambert accuses a new book, Fighting the Diseases of Poverty, of perpetuating lies in making what is in reality an uncontroversial observation about DDT non-use:
Over the last few decades, however, the [World Health Organization] has discouraged the use of DDT in member states – encouraged by environmentalists, who have often massively overstated the negative effects of DDT on human and animal health (Roberts et al., 2000). Until recently, most Western aid agencies discouraged the use of DDT and indoor residual spraying generally, and the WHO has provided little financial assistance to those governments that wish to go down this route.
The book is simply restating the carefully considered views of the Director of the World Health Organization’s Malaria Department:
Even though indoor spraying with DDT and other insecticides had been remarkably effective preventing malaria sickness and death where used, this strategy seemed to have been abandoned by most countries nearly 30 years ago. By the early 1980s, WHO was no longer actively promoting it.

Some people told me that there was a good reason why its wide scale use had been phased out. I was told the practice was unsafe for humans, birds, fish and wildlife; that the use of DDT in the United States in the 1950s had led to the near extinction of the bald eagle. I was told that indoor spraying with DDT was “politically unpopular.”
But hey, it's no wonder Lambert thinks he knows more about the WHO than does the director of its Malaria Department; Lambert is, after all, a highly trained computer programmer.

Update: school teacher Ed Darrell makes Lambert look honest by comparison. Ed has cranked out the following clangers in DDT related discussions:
  1. Water is carcinogenic.
  2. Required nutrient selenium is carcinogenic.
  3. Life is carcinogenic.
  4. DDT is classified as a human carcinogen.
  5. DDT must be a human carcinogen because “[t]here is no other substance known to be an mammal carcinogen that is not also carcinogenic in humans".
  6. "Hundreds died in Borneo of typhus and plague after DDT wiped out the predators of the vectors of those diseases.”
  7. Rachel Carson was a prominent scientist.
  8. Silent Spring contains no significant errors - not even Carson's claim that DDT caused a woman to develop and die of cancer over a period of some three months after using DDT in her basement.
  9. Acute DDT poisoning has caused human deaths.
  10. Eminent scientist Bruce Ames is "silly" and "misled" because he thinks the DDT threat overstated.
If Ed's at all representative, America's education system is screwed.

Monday, February 18, 2008


The Prime Minister admits to a lack of insight:
Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson today asked Mr Rudd whether he endorsed Foreign Minister Stephen Smith's comment about Mr Burke.

"That he (Mr Smith) had not spoken to Mr Burke, a convicted criminal, for more than a decade and wished more people had followed that example," Dr Nelson said.

Mr Rudd said "with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight" he would not have met with Mr Burke.

"As I've said on many occasions, I got that wrong".

Mr Burke has been the subject of an inquiry by the WA Corruption and Crime Commission.

Mr Rudd said Mr Smith, as the Labor Member for Perth, had the benefit of insight into politics in the west.

"I recognise his better insight on these questions," Mr Rudd told parliament.

"I wish I had that insight myself at the time.

"I take full responsibility for my actions."
What exactly does Mr Rudd mean? Is he saying he was unaware, despite extensive press coverage, of Burke's tainted history? If so, he's ignorant of events known by even casual observers of domestic politics. Or is he saying he knew Burke is a shady character he shouldn't have dealings with? Regardless, Mr Rudd was insightful enough to realize pissing Burke off wasn't a good idea. Thus Mr Rudd, apparently realizing having dinner with Burke could have significant repercussions, seeks to keep Burke at arm's length without alienating him:
Dear Brian,

I'm really sorry to do this but I am being stuffed around a bit by DFAT for the Hong Kong Ministerial WTO meeting.

They told me this morning that they now want the whole delegation in town on Monday. They may yet change their minds again – I'm not sure.

Rather than withdraw from the dinner at the last minute, could I be rude and put it off until next year – giving you and the invitees time to rearrange your Monday night. I would prefer to do this then have to pull out later in the week when DFAT finally makes it mind up.

Is that OK? Sorry to do this – out of my hands.

This sickeningly sycophantic email to a disgraced politician speaks volumes about Mr Rudd's character and does not bode well for his tenure as Prime Minister – it's Mr Rudd's questionable judgement and not lack of insight that's the problem.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


The discussion below follows historian Naomi Parry's "debunking" – it's from Crikey so you know it's good – of Keith Windschuttle's piece on the "stolen generations" in last week's Weekend Australian:

It occurs to me that Windy may have decided to focus on NSW because it was there he could put the best spin on what happened - this stuff about education and apprenticeship. In Queensland, by contrast, that pretence wasn’t even made. See Ros Kidd’s book “Black Lives – Government Lies” based on intesive work in the state government’s archives. Similar story could be told about WA.


Who can ever guess what his motives are, but I am inclined to think you are right. I know that the Queensland records have had that effect on a number of researchers - one bloke I know of went up there to prove massacres were exaggerated, only to find that they were understated. He wrote an entirely different book as a result.
It's just a guess but Windschuttle probably concentrated on New South Wales for the same reason stolen generation expert Peter Read does, completeness of records:
[KERRY O'BRIEN]: You talk about something like 50,000 children overall being separated from families, I think probably between 1910 and 1970.

How do you arrive at that figure?

DR PETER READ: It's partly a matter of extrapolation from NSW, where it is possible to work out who was being removed and when and where to.

Some of the other States' records are not nearly so full as they are in NSW.
But Parry's comment about knowing a bloke who wrote a book certainly enhances her credibility as a historian.


Kevin Rudd could yet pay a vary high price for cozying up to Brian Burke:
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's political honeymoon has been hit by new allegations concerning his relationship with Brian Burke.

It is now claimed that while he was Opposition foreign affairs spokesman -- with an eye on the party leadership -- Mr Rudd engaged in sustained email exchanges with the former WA premier regarding his ambitions.

When the allegations were put to Mr Burke he declined to comment. However, The Sunday Times has been told by a very reliable source that Mr Burke has retained all copies of his email exchanges with Mr Rudd.

If the claims are true they would raise further questions about Mr Rudd's integrity. It's understood at least two people, apart from Mr Burke, have seen the emails.

When the initial storm over Mr Rudd's contacts with Mr Burke blew up in March last year, Mr Rudd admitted to phone contacts with Mr Burke and to having met him three times.

But he painted the contacts as almost accidental -- largely social and a result of a shared friendship with former WA federal Labor MP Graham Edwards.

Mr Rudd never addressed the question of email contact. But he specifically denied that he tried to enlist Mr Burke's support for his tilt at the Labor leadership, citing Mr Burke's longstanding friendship with former Opposition leader Kim Beazley.

"At no time had I ever asked Mr Burke to support me to remove Kim Beazley and be replaced by me -- never, ever, ever, ever,'' Mr Rudd said at the time. "That's just an absurd allegation.''

But the source, who spoke to The Sunday Times on condition of anonymity, said Mr Rudd's engagement with Mr Burke was much more subtle; that rather than making a direct pitch for the former WA premier's outright backing, Mr Rudd instead asked for advice concerning his ambitions.

The advice he requested, said the source, was aimed at drawing on Mr Burke's experience to "ask how he (Burke) would go about mounting a leadership campaign if he was in Rudd's shoes''.
If this story continues to develop along these lines our Prime Minister might be making another apology; a very personal one.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


A novel response to a medical emergency:
A pre-school in the northern Swedish town of Koskullskulle has banned children from wearing clothes with stripes or polka-dots.

The reason for the ban is an employee at the school suffers from migraine headaches when viewing multi-coloured clothes.

“It’s a pity for the employee and as a result I’ve tried to create an appropriate work environment. The person in question has a right to be able to work,” said pre-school principal Maj Norberg to the Norrländska Socialdemokraten newspaper.

According to parents, children who come to school with “inappropriate” clothing are forced to change to monochrome clothes.
No doubt the classrooms are also suitably drab.


Andrew Bolt points out (September 2006) an inconvenient Al Gore untruth:
Gore claims the seas have already risen so high that New Zealand has had to take in refugees from drowning Pacific islands.

In fact, the Australian National Tidal Facility at Tuvalu in 2002 reported: “The historical record from 1978 through 1999 indicated a sea level rise of 0.07 mm per year.” Or the width of a hair.

Says Auckland University climate scientist Chris de Frietas: “I can assure Mr Gore that no one from the South Pacific islands has fled to New Zealand because of rising seas.”
Computer programmer Tim Lambert says Gore got it right:
[Bolt] is wrong. The South Pacific Sea Level and Climate Monitoring Project 2005 report on Tuvalu says [dead link omitted - ed]:
The sea level trend to date is +5.0 mm/year but the magnitude of the trend continues to vary widely from month to month as the data set grows. Accounting for the precise levelling results and inverted barometric pressure effect, the trend is +4.3 mm/year. A nearby gauge, with a longer record but less precision and datum control, shows a trend of +0.9 mm/year.
And despite de Freitas' denial, people have fled to New Zealand from Tuvalu:
Seeing themselves as climate refuges some Tuvalans are already leaving their islands, moving their communities to higher ground in a new land. ... Fala and Suamalie, along with international environmental activists, argue that Tuvaluans and others in a similar predicament should be treated like refugees and given immigration rights and other refugee benefits.

This tiny nation was among the first on the globe to sound the alarm, trekking from forum to forum to try to get the world to listen. New Zealand did agree to take 75 Tuvaluans a year as part of its Pacific Access Category, an agreement made in 2001.
Here we have Lambert, a stickler for peer reviewed scientific evidence, accepting anecdotal evidence as fact. But the article linked by Lambert admits Tuvaluans are heading to New Zealand in search of a better life:
Over the last decade, the islanders have come here for many reasons – better jobs, college, overcrowding on the islands – and to escape what many see as a threat of sea level rise, caused by global warming.
When it's pointed out that Tuvaluans have not been forced to flee, Lambert sticks to standard operating procedure in refusing to admit his error:
Bolt claimed that the sea level rise was 0.07 mm/year, which is effectively zero, when it is in fact rising by 4.3 mm/year. He was wrong and you won't admit it. So sea levels are most definitely rising. Have Tuvaluans left the island as a result? I found you examples of Tuvaluans who said that was why they left and all you did was call them liars. Obviously there isn't any way to convince you of anything you don't want to believe since you dismiss all contrary evidence as lies.
An An Inconvenient Truth admirer now admits big Al got it wrong:
Whereas global sea levels are rising as a general trend, the sea surface is not absolutely stable and horizontal, and there are areas where sea level rise has not yet occurred. The sea at Tuvalu is one of the places where sea level has not risen recently. Therefore, there is no new emergency situation up to now.

All in all, Al Gore´s presentation is not 100 % wrong, but it is dramatized to such an extent that it is counted here as a full error.
Lambert responds with subtly adjusted wording:
While some people from Tuvalu have emigrated to New Zealand because of the threat of rising sea levels, the wording implies that entire populations have left.
So, those who "fled" actually emigrated with their leaving prompted not by rising seas but by "the threat of rising sea levels". Bolt got it right and Lambert got it wrong but there's no way he's going to admit it.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


A business partner describes a previously unknown side to disgraced former West Australian Labor premier Brian Burke:
Mr Grill said if Mr Burke were an ordinary person he would feel "suicidal" as a result of all the scrutiny he has received in the past 18 months.

He painted an extraordinary picture of his friend, saying he had a very pronounced feminine side.

"He is highly, highly intuitive, it's just the female side of him," he said.

"But because of that he is highly strung, he is highly emotional, he loses his temper at times ... he does all of the things that you often find a highly-strung woman doing."
Well, that explains the affairs with Alan Bond and Laurie Connell; some women just can't resist men of dubious character.

Update: Current WA premier Alan Carpenter on Channel Nine's Sunday:
"There is trail of dead bodies in his wake, which should alert everybody to how unwise it is to deal with Brian Burke."
The Burke saga is nowhere near its end; Kevin Rudd could come to regret attempting to tap into Burke's influence machine.


Why so few posts over recent days? It could be some combination of old, tired, over-worked and lazy.

Sunday, February 03, 2008


The French president's wife showing off her body in cheesecake photos is one thing but what was Carla Bruni thinking when she posed for these outrageous shots? That's some pretty poor role modeling.

Update: The shocking truth is here.

Saturday, February 02, 2008


A photo exhibition is causing controversy in Sweden:
The photos, by American photographer Andres Serrano, depict scenes including a man performing oral sex on himself and a woman clutching a horse's penis.
Creative genius Serrano's most famous work is Piss Christ which, along with a range of his works, can be viewed here.

If Serrano really wanted to stir up some controversy he could always revisit the urine theme by creating Piss Prophet but doing so would provoke a stronger reaction than that currently directed at him by reactionary freaks:
The controversy over the exhibition has been taken to a new level by the involvement of the neo-Nazi Nationalsocialistisk Front (NSF), which has been distributing flyers protesting against the exhibition.
Jeez, we live in a topsy turvy world where offended neo-Nazis make their point by distributing brochures but devout Muslims threaten beheadings and bombings over caricatures.

Friday, February 01, 2008


Two takes on the same story:
Refugees failing citizenship quiz

Citizenship test a 'stunning' success
The test has a 93% pass rate.

Thanks to Mark C for the links.