Sunday, October 07, 2007


Interplanetary travel is still some way off but Queensland academics are already fretting about the possible implications, fearing that greedy explorers will create extraterrestrial Australias:
Doctor Toni Johnson-Woods says she and her colleagues found there is a prevailing belief that other planets and their natural resources are there simply to be exploited.

"The focus is on exploitation of the minerals. Basically, it's just Australia all over again," she said.

"You go out like the British did to Australia, you take everything you bloody can out of a place, and then you ping off."

She says the "spirit of exploration" that has marked the space age appears to have given way to thinking that is closer to that of pre-20th century colonialism.

"There's also an idea that there's nothing already on Mars, which I presume there isn't, in the same way that Australia had that terra nullius, like there's nothing in Australia, so, 'we're just going to go there, take what we need and leave'," she said.

"You put a footprint somewhere, it's never the same again," she said.

"I can just see bubblegum on the undercarriage of a space station... it doesn't take long, and if we do destroy a planet that's uninhabitable, is that a problem? It's an ethical issue."
Yep, that sounds exactly like what happened in Australia. Thank God we've been able to fall back on eucalyptus oil and koala fur.

Exploitation isn't the only worry:
Dr [John] Cokley says the social and environmental mistakes made during the opening up of Australia - and in particular its rugged mining regions - could serve as examples of how not to establish communities in space.

"The other thing is that space is not an infinite resource. If we go to the Moon and litter the Moon and wreck it, there's not another one just down the road.
Like gold-rush Kalgoorlie, human outposts in space are destined to have plenty of brothels, breweries, pubs and hotels. Cool, sounds like a great holiday destination despite the empty beer bottles, used condoms and pre-chewed gum that'll litter the place.

Humans are evil, there's no doubt about it.

Friday, October 05, 2007


The money quote from an article on DDT by Fred Pearce in New Scientist (subscription required):
It seems millions of lives have been lost because health experts threw away their best weapon. Are environmentalists to blame? There is no doubt that DDT was misused as an agricultural pesticide and seriously damaged wildlife. In that sense Carson was right. But regulators did not recognise that spraying indoors was different. And an environmental outcry against DDT helped to ensure that the early fears about its effect on human health became entrenched dogma long after they had been proved unfounded.
So, like I've been saying for years, there was a de facto DDT ban.

It'll be interesting to see how anti-DDT propagandist Tim Lambert, and favoured groupie Ed Darrell, try to spin this.

Update: Computer guy Lambert reacts:
Yep it's the usual Rachel-Carson-killed-millions crap.
Bullshit, Pearce does not blame Carson for even one malaria death.

Update II: Ed Darrell blames DDT's non-use on Bush and unnamed corporate interests:
Since indoor spraying is authorized under current law, including international treaties, since the UN and the U.S. fund such spraying, and since most nations that could use DDT in such a fashion are already using it in such a fashion — except where industrialists or the Bush administration refuse to allow it for stated reasons that are completely absurd — I can only assume that those who complain that we need to “loosen up” on DDT are advocating broadcast spraying once again.
The guy lives in a parallel reality.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


After a three month investigation four British firefighters have been disciplined for "shining torches on to a group of people believed to be involved in sexual activity" in a public place. Naturally, the firefighters will be required to attend an anti-discrimination conference. Those alleged to have been engaging in illegal public sexual activity have not been charged because the matter was not brought to the attention of police.

The inmates are running the asylum.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh makes excuses for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:
JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Sy Hersh, I’d like to ask you, the role of the commercial media here in the United States, in terms of what -- you were raising the issue of where the American people are in terms of any Iran assault -- the whole furor that arose at the United Nations over the visit of Ahmadinejad and his speech at Columbia?

SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, you know, look, we have to have our Hitlers. America seems to thrive on Hitlers after Hitler went out. You know, we had Khrushchev. We had Stalin. We had Mao. We had Zhou Enlai. We had Gaddafi for a little while. We had Khomeini. We just bounce along from Hitler to Hitler. So he became the hit guy, Ahmadinejad.

Look, he says terrible things. It’s very stupid, what he says about the Holocaust. It’s counterproductive. He’s obviously very stubborn, but he’s not stupid. I wish the American press would have published some of his speech to the UN, because it was a pretty interesting speech, the actual speech, what he said. There were a lot of elements in it that were of great interest, and not at all irrational. And I asked somebody about the famous line about homosexuality, because it seemed so inept. And the Arab view is, if you talk to -- I'm talking about American Arabs and international, my friends overseas and those who know Farsi, what he said was -- and I’m not defending him; I’m just telling you what they say he said: “Homosexuality is not a problem in Iraq.” In other words, it’s just not a problem.


SEYMOUR HERSH: In Iran, rather. They don’t -- it’s just not a problem. He didn’t mean -- I don’t know whether the translation was flat, you know, when translations are always pretty bad, as any of you know. I’ve given speeches in foreign countries, and getting the translation back is always pretty comical. It’s never very good.
Hersh wouldn't have a clue. Here's the official translation provided by IRNA (Iran's offical news agency):
In Iran, we don't have homosexuals, like in your country. We don't have that in our country. In Iran, we do not have this phenomenon. I don't know who's told you that we have it.
A transcript of the question and answer session at Columbia University was posted at Ahmadinejad's personal site but has been removed, according to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission:
A few hours after the publication of our press release, the Iranian authorities were asked by journalists about their reasons for deleting any reference to homosexuality on the Persian section of the Iranian President's website. In response, the Iranian government immediately took down both English and Persian transcripts of President Ahmadinejad's Q and A at Columbia University, leaving only the text of his speech at that forum.
Anyway, back to the Hersh interview, during which he explains what's behind calls to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization:
Money. A lot of the Jewish money from New York. Come on, let's not kid about it. A significant percentage of Jewish money, and many leading American Jews support the Israeli position that Iran is an existential threat. And I think it’s as simple as that.
Jewish money is Hersh's Hitler.

And one more thing, I really wish Hersh had explained where homosexuality is a problem.

Monday, October 01, 2007


Computing teacher Tim Lambert introduces a post consisting almost entirely of excerpts -- 568 out of 696 words -- from a Lancet "paper":
Last year I wrote about the inaccurate claims that the World Health Organization had reversed its policy on DDT when it had in fact supported its use all along.

A recent paper in Lancet Infectious Diseases 2007; 7:632-633 also concludes that there has been little real change.
Lambert's earlier post has already been shown to be the usual misleading crapola. For example, he says that as recently as 1994 the World Health Organisation nominated DDT as its insecticide of choice but the link he provides doesn't support his claim, instead citing 1984. This is but one of his many misrepresentations. Thus his praise for the Lancet "paper" is really a damning endorsement -- akin to OJ touting a particular brand of knife.

The Lancet "paper" is not a research paper as such; it's really nothing more than an opinion piece that parrots the same anti-DDT line pitched by Lambert. Let's take a look.

The opinion piece starts off (my bold):
In September, 2006, WHO alarmed many of us working toward a reduction in the use of toxic chemicals such as dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT). In a press release, the organisation announced the promotion of DDT for indoor spraying against malaria mosquitoes.[1] After 30 years of gradually reduced focus on DDT, this appeared to be a sudden turnaround.
So the authors are alarmed at the WHO's plan to promote greater use of DDT, the only thing is, they claim the WHO never actually reduced DDT use:
We, however, cannot see a real change in WHO policy. DDT was the main component of the WHO Global Malaria Eradication Program during the 1950-60s. The programme ended in 1969 following evidence of DDT resistance in mosquitoes and increased public concern about adverse health and environmental effects. From 1970 onwards, many countries banned the agricultural use of DDT. However, in 1971, an executive WHO board maintained that indoor spraying of DDT was still WHO policy.[2] During the following decades, the WHO Expert Committee on Malaria continued to order indoor spraying of DDT for malaria vector control, provided that the targeted mosquito species were vulnerable to the insecticide. In the 1990s, several reports linked DDT to human cancers[3] and [4] and the insecticide was found in breast milk;[5] however, WHO continued to promote DDT use.
The authors are obviously confused -- perhaps because they're so alarmed -- about exactly what the WHO has been doing and what it plans for the future. This confusion is made obvious by their claim that the WHO Expert Committee on Malaria "ordered" DDT use. The WHO Expert Committee on Malaria is an advisory body that doesn't issue orders. And the Committee certainly wasn't pro-DDT back in 1998 when, in contemplation of DDT being formally banned, it recommended:
It is anticipated that for some time to come there will continue to be a role for DDT in combating malaria, particularly in the poorest endemic countries. Restrictions on DDT for public health use contained in a future Persistent Organic Pollutants Convention should therefore be accompanied by technical and financial mechanisms to ensure that effective malaria control is maintained, to at least the same level, through vector control methods that depend less on pesticides generally, and on DDT in particular.
The committe also stating:
... in view of the availability of alternative insecticides for indoor residual spraying, some of which may compete with DDT in terms of epidemiological impact, public acceptability, logistic suitability and compliance with specifications issued by WHO, DDT no longer merits being considered the only insecticide of choice.
The cancer references are also iffy: the cited 1992 study [3] suggests increased pancreatic cancer risk in the case of high level, long term exposure as might be found in those employed in DDT manufacturing; and the referenced breast cancer study [4] is also old, dating from 1993. In any event, the WHO's Expert Committee on Malaria found the studies unconvincing, stating for the record:
The information presented does not provide convincing evidence of adverse effects of DDT exposure as a result of indoor residual spraying as carried out in malaria control activities.
The already iffy stuff gets even iffier with the introduction of environmentalist spin -- hey, maybe the authors did their research at Deltoid; if so, it's no wonder their bias is showing:
The pro-DDT community, which includes the organisation Africa Fighting Malaria, a US senator, Fox News, and, argues strongly in favour of DDT as a panacea for the world's malaria problems. This community's arguments often refer to South Africa, which replaced DDT with deltamethrin in 1996. After 5 years of deltamethrin use, annual malaria cases increased substantially--a consequence of insecticide resistance in mosquito species entering from neighbouring Mozambique.[6] These mosquitoes were still susceptible to DDT; thus, the government resumed indoor spraying with DDT and promoted more effective antimalarial drugs. As a result, the number of malaria cases decreased.

As shown by WHO's Global Malaria Eradication Program, malaria control requires an integrated approach. An arsenal of interventions are needed ranging from timely and effective habitat and vector control, prompt and rapid diagnosis and treatment, reliable distribution of bednets, drugs, and prophylactics, public awareness campaigns, insect-parasite research, and interministerial cooperation to improve people's sanitation and living conditions.
Apparently only anti-science right-wingers, with an unrealistic view of DDT as a magic bullet, support the use of DDT in the fight against malaria. This ignores the fact that a worldwide de facto DDT ban was averted through a campaign supported by a significant number of those actually involved in battling malaria. Hell, even Environmental Defense (formerly the Environmental Defense Fund) is pro-DDT.

And no matter how you look at it, DDT did help bring malaria back under control in South Africa. It is pointless to dredge up the failed malaria eradication effort of the 1950s and 60s when 40 years on even malaria control is beyond the means of many African nations.

The authors then put in a plug for their parent organisation Bioforsk, which is working with the UN, developing integrated pest management (IPM), integrated vector management (IVM) and combined integrated pest/vector management (IPVM) strategies aimed at implementing a "sustainable alternative to DDT and other toxic chemicals" in the relatively well developed countries of "southeast Asia and the Pacific".

While admirable, such programs simply ignore the real malaria problem, Africa, whose people suffer something like 90% of all malaria related deaths. Africa is ignored because the "arsenal of interventions" required for effective integrated management strategies are well beyond the capabilities of the poorest nations. Thus the continuing African need for cheap, and reliable, DDT.

This need is recognized by the authors:
In conclusion, we emphasise the importance of an integrated approach to vector management. Silver-bullet solutions such as DDT alone are not the answer. DDT is still an important temporary tool to control malaria under difficult conditions, but its use should strictly follow WHO guidelines. There are science-based reasons for DDT being on the "dirty dozen" list of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants and alternatives are needed. Our responsibility to future generations demands choosing safe and sustainable alternatives in our present activities.
It would be helpful if the authors told us who with any influence on anti-malaria policy advocates sole reliance on DDT against malaria. DDT is, after all, only one of the many insecticides recommended by the WHO for indoor use against mosquitoes, which gradually develop resistance to all chemical control measures. Also, insecticide treated bednets are in some circumstances a viable alternative to insecticides. Thus, it is silly to regard DDT as the malaria solution.

In cautioning that DDT use "should strictly follow WHO guidelines" the authors hint at the danger that DDT will eventually be used indiscriminately -- you know, when right-wing pro-DDT nutters eventually convince the UN to resume DDT carpet-bombing. Such scare-mongering is silly since DDT is sprayed in small quantities inside homes rather than into the environment. Even should DDT be unscrupulously diverted for agricultural use the amounts released would be small; environmental damage would be minimal.

For an academic Tim Lambert produces very little scholarly writing. But he is very active online: duplicating the work of others; misrepresenting ideological opponents; bending facts; smearing ideological opponents; and manipulating discussion at his site. The excerpted Lancet "paper" fits right in. Interestingly, Lambert deemed it necessary to omit the following:
In 2004, WHO published the Global Strategic Framework for Integrated Vector Management (IVM). This approach seeks to improve the efficacy, cost-effectiveness, ecological soundness, and sustainability of disease vector control. IVM is a decision-making process to manage vector populations, aiming to reduce or interrupt vector-borne disease transmission. It is based on the successful experience with integrated pest management (IPM) used in agriculture.

The IPM initiative began as a response to the high-input, chemical-based Green Revolution in agriculture. When it came to effective pest control, the revolution proved unsustainable. Pest resistance and resurgence led to the development of biological control methods using natural predators and environment-friendly alternatives. As a vehicle for IPM implementation, Farmer Field Schools were developed and have now been implemented in 78 countries with about 4 million farmer participants.
In perhaps the understatement of the century the Global Strategic Framework for Integrated Vector Management notes:
Integration at the level required for IVM is not a simple task — national leadership and adequate local capacity are essential.
Indoor spraying with DDT is currently beyond the capability of many African nations, so there's no way they'd be able to implement a much more complicated IVM program.

Deeming the Green Revolution to be "chemical based" proves that the authors live in an alternate reality: the Green Revolution was actually based on new plant varieties.

The Lancet "paper" is misleading crap start to finish. That's why Lambert features it.


Posting personal information online can be dangerous:
On the networking sites, users create profiles detailing their likes and dislikes, listing contacts, work and school background, and downloading photos to meet up, often daily, with old and new friends on the Internet.

But to do this effectively requires posting personal information that could expose users to spying by ID fraudsters, teachers, employers, stalkers, even parents, not to mention advertisers looking to target their products.
How dare these scumbags access publicly available information?


Mark Steyn has some fun at Cate Blanchett's expense:
The other day, an admiring profile of Cate Blanchett ("Green before it was hip, she cites Al Gore and David de Rothschild as heroes and believes that leaf blowers 'sum up everything that is wrong with the human race,' " etc.) revealed that, in order to give her new mansion as small an environmental footprint as possible, she requested that the plumbing be constructed to "allow them to drink their own waste water."
The embedded quotes are from a feature story on Blanchett in W. Steyn continues:
Miss Blanchett and her husband have paid their architect thousands of dollars to design a system whereby the bodily waste goes down the toilet, gets whisked by pipeline through the walk-in closet, over the balcony, down the wall, back in through the rec room, and up into the wet bar directly into the soda siphon.
For humerous effect Steyn is taking liberties with the truth: waste water is obviously not going to be recycled from the toilets to the soda siphon. Computer nerd Tim Lambert can't quite understand this, accusing Steyn of factual error. As proof Lambert links to a Sydney Morning Herald article -- incorrectly referred to by Lambert as the Sydney Sun Herald -- providing this excerpt:
The Oscar-winning actor and her playwright husband, Andrew Upton, are splashing out almost $1.5 million in renovations to create an environmentally friendly home.

A massive 20,000-litre water tank, high-tech solar panelling, low energy lighting and grey water recycling will be among the features of the Hunters Hill home.
Lambert claims this totally discredits Steyn:
Contrary to Steyn's belief, grey water recycling does not involve drinking urine, because:

Grey water does not contain urine -- it is the water from showers and laundry.

It is treated to remove impurities.

You use it for watering the garden, flushing the toilet, and clothes washing. Greywater outlets must be labelled with "WARNING DO NOT DRINK".
This ignores that Steyn's column is based on the W feature story which claims Blanchett's home will be plumbed so as to "allow them to drink their own waste water." Lambert isn't finished "fact-checking", however, also taking exception to this from Steyn:
Sheryl Crow, meanwhile, recently proposed that when it comes to, ah, other waste products, her environmentally conscious fans should only use a single sheet of bathroom tissue per visit.
Lambert claims "Crow was making a joke". Crow's toilet paper limitation strategy was first mooted at her blog, with the BBC and numerous other media outlets treating the proposal as genuine.

So here again we have Lambert employing fact-bending in attempting to discredit -- I was going to say resorting to but with this guy it's the method of choice. Anyway, it's a classic example of Lamberting.