4/23/2004

Polls

For those concerned over the recent poll figures, which show Bush with a slight advantage over Kerry, read Ryan Lizza’s column in the New York Times. Lizza, who's an associate editor at the New Republic, points out:

“But Democrats should pause before they give up — and Republicans shouldn't celebrate quite yet. President Bush's vulnerabilities remain, even if they were not as apparent in this week's polls as they were in previous surveys; the question is whether Mr. Kerry can exploit them.

“In none of the polls this week that purported to show the Bush surge does the president have majority support. Any politician running for re-election sweats when a poll shows him under 51 percent. Voters who say they are undecided almost always end up opposing the incumbent — they know him well, and if they were going to vote for him, they would have already decided. Thus support for Mr. Bush should be seen more as a ceiling, while support for Mr. Kerry, the lesser-known challenger, is more like a floor.

“President Bush's overall job approval rating should also be cause for concern. He is trailing behind the last two presidents to be re-elected. Ronald Reagan was at 54 percent at about this point in 1984, while Bill Clinton clocked in at 56 percent in April 1996. Mr. Bush is hanging by his fingertips with a 51 percent and 52 percent rating in two polls released Tuesday. And remarkably, after one of the most concentrated television advertising campaigns in political history, Mr. Bush has seemingly failed to shift a single voter's view of him personally. What pollsters call his "favorability rating" is almost exactly where it was before his ads began.”

The Dover Test

Bush defends the policy of restricting photographs from Dover Air Force base by saying the families of fallen soldiers deserve privacy. That’s a very different message from Bush’s defense of the flag-draped coffins used in his first advertisements.

Now, the Right is back on the attack. The Drudge Report explains:

“Russ Kick of thememoryhole.org filed a Freedom of Information Act requesting 'all photographs showing caskets (or other devices) containing the remains of US military personnel at Dover AFB. This would include, but not be limited to, caskets arriving, caskets departing, and any funerary rites/rituals being performed. The timeframe for these photos is from 01 February 2003 to the present.'

“But Kick appears to have assumed all the photos given to him were of the WAR ON TERROR/IRAQ dead!

“On Thursday NASA claimed more than 70 photos featured in Kick's war dead -- were photos of Space Shuttle Columbia's crew! The shuttle blew up on 2/1/03.

“'An initial review of the images featured on the Internet site www.thememoryhole.org shows that more than 18 rows of images from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware are actually photographs of honors rendered to Columbia's seven astronauts,' NASA said.”


Those photographs were posted on Russ Kick’s thememoryhole.org site on Thursday. But earlier in the week, on Sunday, the Seattle Times published a photograph that was sent to them by amateur photographer and contract worker Tami Silicio. (Go to the Seattle Times for coverage on the Kick and Silicio stories.)

Since then, Silicio has been fired and sent home. Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo gives a good summary of the mud-slinging and slandering that has gone on since the pictures were published:

“The picture got into the Times' hands because Silicio sent a copy to her friend Amy Katz. Katz sent it to theTimes; and then the Times published it after getting Silicio's permission.

“It turns out that Silicio and Katz also worked as contract workers for a Halliburton subsidiary in Kosovo in 1999. And they are the two who sued Halliburton -- and Dick Cheney in his capacity as CEO -- for sexual harassment and also for the firm's policy of having separate toilets for Americans and for locals -- something that garnered a bit of attention during the 2000 election.

“Right-wing talk radio seems to be making something of this, arguing that it discredits the two in the whole matter of the photograph. But it seems equally plausibly to credit them -- at least in my mind. Though I suspect that no more defense contracting work is in line for either.”

Anti-Semitism At Home

You don't have to look to the Middle East or Europe for the typical, Jew-hating rhetoric. Anti-semitism is alive and well on America’s campuses. At Rutgers, a campus paper published a cover-page cartoon with the punch-line, ”Knock a Jew in the oven! Three throws for one dollar! Really! No, REALLY!” The editor Ned Berke gives a hollow defense of the cartoon. From the AP:

‘"It took a serious situation and made it ridiculous," he said.

“Berke, who is Jewish, said he had relatives who died in the Holocaust.

‘"Humor is a way of honoring them and trying to get over it and to laugh," the journalism major said. "The Holocaust has been taboo for years.’"

Times Watch

Another slip-up at the Times. This time the paper "misidentified GOP Senate candidate Pete Coors as a Ku Klux Klan member who murdered a black sharecropper."

4/22/2004

Iran-Contra

The Vietnam comparisons running rampant these days are ridiculous. But Iran-Contra? There may be something here. As the Progress Report puts it:

“Imagine that the U.S. administration deliberately hid money from Congress to invest in a war in the Middle East, potentially crafted secret deals with an oil-rich Middle Eastern country that has ties to terrorism, and appointed ideologues to be the key diplomatic emissaries to a war-torn region. Think you are back in the 1980s living through the Iran-Contra scandal? Think again. Over the last two days, new revelations by journalist Bob Woodward and actions by President Bush have evoked memories of a previous scandal and an old foreign policy/national security strategy gone wrong. Yesterday, new details emerged about the Bush administration's deliberate circumvention of Congress to divert $700 million into a secret war plan, and about the potential manipulation of U.S. elections by the Saudi Arabian government. Meanwhile, President Bush nominated key Iran-Contra figure John Negroponte as the new Ambassador to Iraq.”

Sidney Blumenthal expands on these points in his piece for Salon. He also writes on Prince Bandar bin Sultan’s extraordinary privileges and Colin Powell’s astonishing absence:

“Iran-Contra involved a network of aides outsourcing U.S. foreign policy like a separate government to circumvent the separation of powers, by selling missiles to Iran to fund the Nicaraguan Contras. The Iraq war was not conceived by aides but by the president and his war Cabinet in an apparent effort to evade constitutional checks and balances. In Iran-Contra, the NSC, CIA and Pentagon were stealthily exploited from within; in Iraq, they were abused from the top. When the Iran-Contra scandal was revealed, Reagan's administration was placed into receivership by the old Republican establishment. Neoconservatives and adventurers, criminal or not, were purged, from Elliott Abrams to Richard Perle. Now they are at the center of power, and they have pushed the likes of Colin Powell to the margins.

“In the absence of congressional investigations and hearings, as the Republican Congress acts to shield the executive branch in the spirit of one-party government, books like Woodward's, and former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke's, have become the only countervailing instruments.

“Woodward reports that in July 2002 Bush ordered the use of $700 million to prepare for the invasion of Iraq, funds that had not been specifically appropriated by the Congress, which alone holds that constitutional authority. No adequate explanation has been offered for what, strictly speaking, might well be an impeachable offense.



“While Bandar was treated as a branch of government or ex officio member of the war Cabinet, Secretary of State Colin Powell was carefully kept in the dark. "Mr. President," National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice gently suggests, "if you're getting to a place that you really think this might happen, you need to call Colin in and talk to him." So after Bandar had been told of the battle plan, Bush decided to inform his secretary of state, a frequent squash-playing partner of the Saudi prince. After all, he was bound to learn anyway. Powell had sought to warn Bush on Iraq: If you break it, you own it. "Powell wasn't sure whether Bush had fully understood the meaning and consequences of total ownership," Woodward writes.



“Asked if he seeks advice from his father, the former president, Bush says: "He is the wrong father to appeal to in terms of strength. There is a higher Father that I appeal to."

“A largely overlooked new book, "The Bushes," by Peter and Rochelle Schweizer, two scholars at the conservative Hoover Institution, attempts to be a glowing multigenerational saga. But its centerpiece is the tortuous Shakespearean story of the father and his wastrel son. Even after the younger Bush attains the presidency, the elder statesman frets. When the son seeks to demonstrate by force of arms that he can exceed his father and correct the error of his rejected presidency, the father once again is consumed with anxiety and disapproval. Then the father's closest associate, former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, openly writes an article expressing his opposition before the war, which is widely interpreted as expressing the senior Bush's views. The Schweizers quote George W. Bush directly: "Scowcroft has become a pain in the ass in his old age."”

Unhealthy Poets

Who knew? Poets die younger than novelists and playwrights.

Homegrown Terrorists

I first came across the trend of homegrown Islamic terrorism in Bernard-Henri Levy’s Who Killed Daniel Pearl. In his book Levy describes the fervor with which certain Muslims born in England pursue terrorism and violence to express their religiosity. These Western Muslims, according to Levy, pose a much greater threat than their Middle Eastern- or Asian-born counterparts. They tend to have more radical views (trying to overcompensate for their Western roots) and they have the financial resources to undertake major operations.

Andrew Sullivan has picked up on the subject, and has linked to a shocking article by David Cohen in the Evening Standard. Here are some excerpts:

"Four young British Muslims in their twenties - a social worker, an IT specialist, a security guard and a financial adviser - occupy a table at a fast-food chicken restaurant in Luton. Perched on their plastic chairs, wolfing down their dinner, they seem just ordinary young men. Yet out of their mouths pour heated words of revolution.

""As far as I'm concerned, when they bomb London, the bigger the better," says Abdul Haq, the social worker. "I know it's going to happen because Sheikh bin Laden said so. Like Bali, like Turkey, like Madrid - I pray for it, I look forward to the day."



""I agree with you, brother," says Abu Yusuf, the earnest-looking financial adviser sitting opposite. "I would like to see the Mujahideen coming into London and killing thousands, whether with nuclear weapons or germ warfare. And if they need a safehouse, they can stay in mine - and if they need some fertiliser [for a bomb], I'll tell them where to get it."

"His friend, Abu Musa, the security guard, smiles radiantly. "It will be a day of joy for me," he adds, speaking with a slight lisp.



"Until recently, nobody took the fanatical beliefs of al-Muhajiroun too seriously, believing that a British-based group so brazenly "out there" could not be involved in something as "underground" as terrorism. The group is led by the exiled Saudi, Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammad, from his base in north London. Yesterday, in a magazine article, Bakri warned that several radical groups are poised to strike in London.

"For all its inflammatory rhetoric, al-Muhajiroun has never been linked to actual violence. Yet, with the discovery last month of half-a-tonne of ammonium nitrate fertiliser - the same explosive ingredient used in the Bali and Turkey terror attacks - and with the arrest of eight young British Muslims in London and the South-East, including six in Luton, extremist groups such as al-Muhajiroun are under the spotlight like never before."

Iraq Update

Anyone other than an al Qaeda operative would find yesterday’s bombings despicable. The death toll alone is horrific. But what I found most appalling was that 18 of the total 68 casualties were schoolchildren. From CNN:

“Ten boys and girls being driven to kindergarten in a minivan and eight girls in another minivan headed to a high school were killed in one of the blasts, according to police official Col. Ali Abdullah.”

Congo Report

Here’s a fascinating article on the Congo.

Election History

What are the differences between Democratic-won and Republican-won elections? Here’s a bit of presidential election history from Rasmussen Reports.

“With the currently notable exception of George W. Bush, Republicans tend to win the Presidency with a majority of the popular vote. Thirteen of the last 14 Republican Presidential victories before 2000 were won with a majority of the popular vote.

“Democrats, with the notable exception of Franklin D. Roosevelt, typically win the Presidency with a minority of the popular vote. Excluding FDR, the Democrats have won 10 Presidential elections since the Republican Party was born. Of those ten Presidential victories, eight were won with less than a majority of the popular vote. Even including Roosevelt, Democrats have won with a majority just six times out of fourteen.

“Other than FDR, the only Democrats to win a Presidential election with a majority of the popular vote since 1860 were Jimmy Carter and Lyndon Johnson. Carter’s victory actually showed how difficult it is for the Democrats to win a majority of the vote—he received only 50.1% of the vote immediately after Watergate dragged down Republicans everywhere.



“Republicans typically win three or more Presidential elections in a row. They won six in a row starting in 1860, four in a row starting in 1896, three in a row starting in 1920, and three in a row starting in 1980. They failed to get three in a row just twice this century. One of those times was the result of Watergate; the other was simply an exception following Eisenhower’s Presidency.

“Democrats, with the exception of FDR, have not won three straight Presidential elections since 1836—before the Republican Party even existed. In fact, since Lincoln became the first GOP President, only two Democrats have ever won back-to-back elections—Woodrow Wilson and Bill Clinton. Both of those men won the office in a year when a strong third-party candidate split the Republican vote. Clinton won with 43% of the popular vote in 1992; Wilson with 42% in 1912; and both won re-election with 49% of the vote.”

Mirror Sites

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo has noticed that there’s a remarkable similarity between the Brookings Institution’s website and the Coalition Provisional Authority’s site. Both sites even have this text buried in their code: ("submenu name="Brookings Review" id="brs" url="/press/review/rev_des.htm"). “Now if they'd just crib the policy proposals and not just the html!”

Guernica

Can you believe this? Naturally, as part of the announcement on John Negroponte’s nomination for U.S. ambassador to Iraq, the Coalition Provisional Authority posted a picture of the current U.N. ambassador. The picture they chose however features Negroponte standing in front of Picasso’s "Guernica." Unbelievable.

Condi and Bush, Sitting in a Tree, K-I-S-S...

Talk about Freudian slips. A few nights ago, at party hosted by New York Times D.C. bureau chief Philip Taubman, Condoleezza Rice nearly referred to Bush as her husband: "Rice was reportedly overheard saying, “As I was telling my husb—” and then stopping herself abruptly, before saying, “As I was telling President Bush.” Jaws dropped, but a guest says the slip by the unmarried politician, who spends weekends with the president and his wife, seemed more psychologically telling than incriminating."

4/21/2004

A Must Read: Internal Memo

The Village Voice has published portions of a Coalition Provisional Authority internal memo that gives a mixed message.

At times, the memo's author says the road to recovery is strong, and progress is being made. "As great as the problems we face, and the criticisms back home, and mindful of the sacrifice that almost 600 Americans have made, what we have accomplished in Iraq is worth it. While Iraqis joke, “Americans go home — and take us with you.” The gratitude which they express is sincere and unsolicited, and not limited to a single political class."

Then again, he writes, "Street lights function irregularly and traffic lights not at all, but private investors have brought in generators so that shops can function after dark...Despite the progress evident in the streets of Baghdad, much of which happens despite us rather than because of us, Baghdadis have an uneasy sense that they are heading toward civil war. Sunnis, Shi’a, and Kurds professionals have say that they themselves, friends, and associates are buying weapons fearing for the future. CPA is ironically driving the weapons market: Iraqi police sell their “lost” U.S.-supplied weapons on the black market; they are promptly re-supplied. Interior ministry weapons buy-backs keep the price of arms high.

"The frequent explosions, many of which are not reported in the mainstream media, are a constant reminder of uncertainty. When a blast occurs, residents check their watch. If it’s on the hour, chances are that it’s a controlled explosion destroyed confiscated ordinance. The explosions are frequent. Twice in recent days, nearby explosions woke me up. I was staying with friends on the opposite side of the Mansour district when a loud explosion rattled the windows — apparently when rockets hit the nearby phone exchange. Given that I had gone to sleep at around 3 a.m., it had to be big to wake me. (As an aside, most Iraqi politicking occurs between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m., and so if CPA bases its cables on Governing Council meetings and an occasional dinner with primary actors, it is missing a great deal). This morning, I heard a loud blast at 8:40 a.m. My guards told me I slept through an explosion a bit earlier."

And the author admits to having mixed feelings: "I have conflicting impressions of where Iraq is going." Now we, the readers, are left to wonder, is the author offering examples of success only to please his boss (all too common within government memos), or does he genuinely feel torn. The extensive negative detail given in the report leads me to believe that he thinks its FUBAR, as Chaney likes to say in Bush at War.

Oil-For-Food Update

The oil-for-food scandal is finally taking off. ABC News has a breaking report, claiming that "three senior United Nations officials are suspected of taking multi-million dollar bribes from the Saddam Hussein regime."

This scandal could potentially destroy the reputation of humanitarian aid programs. And for the U.N., whose reputation has been in flux for the last year and a half (with war supporter saying the organization has lost all relevancy), this scandal will tarnish its reputation even further.

Here's part of the ABC report:

"One year after his fall, U.S. officials say they have evidence, some in cash, that Saddam diverted to his personal bank accounts approximately $5 billion from the United Nations Oil-for-Food program.

"In what has been described as the largest humanitarian aid effort ever undertaken, the U.N. Oil-for-Food program began in 1996 to help Iraqis who were suffering under sanctions imposed following the first Gulf War.

"The program allowed Iraq to sell limited amounts of oil, under supposedly tight U.N. supervision, to finance the purchase of much-needed humanitarian goods.

"Most prominent among those accused in the scandal is Benon Sevan, the Cyprus-born U.N. undersecretary general who ran the program for six years."

SCOTUS

We're entering Supreme Court season, and for anyone interested in following the cases, they should visit this site. You'll find related articles, audio recordings of oral arguments, and transcripts. There's endless hours of great reading material, and here are few items:

The Boston Globe's article on Schriro v. Summerlin.

A Web Guide to U.S. Supreme Court Research.

And listen to John Gibbons' opening oral arguments. John Gibbons represents 600 men from 44 countries held without access to American courts in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

4/20/2004

This Not Another Vietnam Comparison

I laughed when Ralph Nader claimed that a draft was imminent. And now it seems he was partly right. (I still laugh at everything else he says.)

Today, Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska said the country needs to consider bringing back the draft boards. "There's not an American ... that doesn't understand what we are engaged in today and what the prospects are for the future...Why shouldn't we ask all of our citizens to bear some responsibility and pay some price?...Those who are serving today and dying today are the middle class and lower middle class"

Of course, we a long way off from any sort of compulsory duty, and it's unlikely that it will ever happen. But nonetheless, it's absolutely frightening to consider such a situation.

Iraq Numbers

Sometimes it's difficult to find the numbers on Iraq. How many coalition troops are there? American troops? Casualty rates? Well, Newsweek is keeping up on the stats. Here are some of the latest figures:

3,466. The total of American soldiers wounded in action in Iraq through April 17, 2004, according to the Pentagon. There’s a lot of controversy about these figures, which do not include many minor wounds, although they do include some soldiers who are wounded and returned to duty. Other estimates of wounded American soldiers range as high as 15,000.

793. Total coalition soldiers killed in Iraq since the war began, according to the U.S. Army’s Central Command, as of April 17, 2004. Of those, 579 were killed in action. 690 of the dead are American soldiers of which 501 are officially listed as KIA or hostile action. Besides the Americans, soldiers from El Salvador, Thailand, Spain, Italy, Britain, Poland, Ukraine, Estonia, Denmark and Bulgaria have lost their lives.

600. The number of people killed during the current siege of Fallujah, according to hospital officials there. They’re estimating though, since many dead are not brought to the hospital but buried immediately according to Islamic traditions. Most of them are civilians, and the majority women and children, according to these officials, whose accounts are impossible to verify since no independent journalists have been able to visit Fallujah.

600. The number of people killed during the current siege of Falluja, according to spokesmen for the Marines’ First Division besieging that city, who say that 95 percent of the victims are military-age men, and the others are human shields used by the resistance there. Again, a number that is impossible to verify. “That just proves that the Marines are very good at what they do,” one official said.

110. The number of coalition soldiers killed in November 2003, which has so far been the war’s worst month. But those numbers were ratcheted up by four helicopter crashes, as a result of ground fire from insurgents, one of which alone killed 17 soldiers. In quiet times, an average of two American soldiers are killed every day in Iraq, so April will almost certainly top November-even if the current ceasefires in Fallujah and Najaf, troubled as they are, continue to hold.

92. The number of coalition soldiers (65 Americans and 27 Brits) killed in March 2003. That was a short month; the war began only on March 21, but a huge invasion-force was charging through enemy lines. It wasn’t supposed to get any worse than that.

91. The number of coalition soldiers killed in April 2004, making this the third deadliest month in the war so far for the coalition and the second deadliest for the Americans. And it’s only half over. Eighty-nine of the dead were Americans, all killed in action.

High Iraq

More on 4/20...Congrats to the Washington Post for recognizing the holiday. High Times turns 30 years old, and it has expanded its coverage to other subjects than just pot. Now it reports on pot usage in Iraq. From the WP:

"And the news is this: There's plenty of weed in the new liberated Iraq.

""There are few laws in Iraq right now," writes Dave Enders, High Times's man in Baghdad, "so although drug possession was punishable by death before, you can now pass a spliff openly in front of the cops."

"Which may not, come to think of it, be exactly the kind of freedom that President Bush envisioned for Iraq.

"Enders, a freelancer from Michigan, covers more than just the dope scene in Baghdad. He also writes about U.S. soldiers and the nutty do-gooders who've swarmed into Iraq and about Hamid, "a 26-year-old translator/bodyguard/heavy-metal fan." Hamid was an Iraqi soldier until he deliberately shot himself in the leg to avoid fighting the Americans and now smokes weed and writes protest lyrics set to the tune of "The Wall" by Pink Floyd: "We don't need no occupation, We don't need no CPA. . . . ""

Suppressed Records

Does this surprise anyone? Bush’s nominee for archivists of the United States has a reputation for excessive privacy. From the New York Times:

“As a historian, [Allen Weinstein] is best known for a 1978 book on Alger Hiss, a work that still stirs anger among historians who say Mr. Weinstein refused to make his notes public.



“The nomination, first reported in Newsday, comes as the National Archives and Records Administration prepares the papers of Mr. Bush's father, the 41st president, which are scheduled for release in January. Critics of Mr. Weinstein say they fear that he could restrict or delay access to those and other important documents.

"His history of sharing his information is not all that great," said Anna K. Nelson, a professor of history at American University who teaches foreign policy."

DDT and Africa

As a strong supporter of environmental regulations and a concerned observer of Africa, I’ve been torn over the recent discussion on DDT. The whole debate began with the New York Times' April 11 article, “What the World Needs Now Is DDT.” Nearly every article I’ve read since then on the topic supports Tina Rosenberg’s argument:

“As malaria surges once again in Africa, victories are few. But South Africa is beating the disease with a simple remedy: spraying the inside walls of houses in affected regions once a year. Several insecticides can be used, but South Africa has chosen the most effective one. It lasts twice as long as the alternatives. It repels mosquitoes in addition to killing them, which delays the onset of pesticide-resistance. It costs a quarter as much as the next cheapest insecticide. It is DDT.”

It goes on:

“KwaZulu-Natal, the province of South Africa where Ndumo and Mosvold are located, sprayed with DDT until 1996, then stopped, in part under pressure from other nations, and switched to another insecticide. But mosquitoes proved to be resistant to the new insecticide, and malaria cases soared. Since DDT was brought back in 2000, malaria is once again under control. To South Africans, DDT is their best defense against a killer disease.

”To Americans, DDT is simply a killer. Ask Americans over 40 to name the most dangerous chemical they know, and chances are that they will say DDT. Dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane was banned in the United States in 1972. The chemical was once sprayed in huge quantities over cities and fields of cotton and other crops. Its persistence in the ecosystem, where it builds up to kill birds and fish, has become a symbol of the dangers of playing God with nature, an icon of human arrogance. Countries throughout the world have signed a treaty promising to phase out its use.

”Yet what really merits outrage about DDT today is not that South Africa still uses it, as do about five other countries for routine malaria control and about 10 more for emergencies. It is that dozens more do not. Malaria is a disease Westerners no longer have to think about. Independent malariologists believe it kills two million people a year, mainly children under 5 and 90 percent of them in Africa. Until it was overtaken by AIDS in 1999, it was Africa's leading killer. One in 20 African children dies of malaria, and many of those who survive are brain-damaged. Each year, 300 to 500 million people worldwide get malaria. During the rainy season in some parts of Africa, entire villages of people lie in bed, shivering with fever, too weak to stand or eat. Many spend a good part of the year incapacitated, which cripples African economies. A commission of the World Health Organization found that malaria alone shrinks the economy in countries where it is most endemic by 20 percent over 15 years. There is currently no vaccine. While travelers to malarial regions can take prophylactic medicines, these drugs are too toxic for long-term use for residents.

”Yet DDT, the very insecticide that eradicated malaria in developed nations, has been essentially deactivated as a malaria-control tool today. The paradox is that sprayed in tiny quantities inside houses -- the only way anyone proposes to use it today -- DDT is most likely not harmful to people or the environment. Certainly, the possible harm from DDT is vastly outweighed by its ability to save children's lives.



”Even when spraying is possible, though, developed nations don't want to pay for it. Instead, the malaria establishment in developed nations promotes the use of insecticide-treated nets that people can buy to hang over their beds. Treated bed nets are indeed a useful tool for controlling malaria. But they have significant limitations, and one reason malaria has surged is that they have essentially become the only tool promoted by Western donors. ''I cannot envision the possibility of rolling back malaria without the power of DDT,'' said Renato Gusm-o, who headed antimalaria programs at the Pan American Health Organization, or P.A.H.O., the branch of W.H.O. that covers the Americas. ''Impregnated bed nets are an auxiliary. In tropical Africa, if you don't use DDT, forget it.''

”The other reason DDT has fallen into disuse is wealthy countries' fear of a double standard. ''For us to be buying and using in another country something we don't allow in our own country raises the specter of preferential treatment,'' said E. Anne Peterson, the assistant administrator for global health at Usaid. ''We certainly have to think about 'What would the American people think and want?' and 'What would Africans think if we're going to do to them what we wouldn't do to our own people?'''

”Given the malignant history of American companies employing dangerous drugs and pesticides overseas that they would not or could not use at home, it is understandable why Washington officials say it would be hypocritical to finance DDT in poor nations. But children sick with malaria might perceive a more deadly hypocrisy in our failure to do so: America and Europe used DDT irresponsibly to wipe out malaria. Once we discovered it was harming the ecosystem, we made even its safe use impossible for far poorer and sicker nations.


“Rereading ''Silent Spring,'' I was again impressed by the book's many virtues. It was serialized in The New Yorker in June 1962 and published in book form that September -- a time when Americans were living in the golden glow of postwar progress and science was revered. ''Silent Spring'' for the first time caused Americans to question the scientists and officials who had been assuring them that no harm would result from the rain of pesticides falling on their farms, parks and backyards. Carson detailed how DDT travels up the food chain in greater and greater concentrations, how robins died when they ate earthworms exposed to DDT, how DDT doomed eagle young to an early death, how salmon died because DDT had killed the stream insects they ate, how fiddler crabs collapsed in convulsions in tidal marshes sprayed with DDT.

''Silent Spring'' changed the relationship many Americans had with their government and introduced the concept of ecology and the interconnectedness of systems into the national debate. Rachel Carson started the environmental movement. Few books have done more to change the world.

”But this time around, I was also struck by something that did not occur to me when I first read the book in the early 1980's. In her 297 pages, Rachel Carson never mentioned the fact that by the time she was writing, DDT was responsible for saving tens of millions of lives, perhaps hundreds of millions.

”DDT killed bald eagles because of its persistence in the environment. ''Silent Spring'' is now killing African children because of its persistence in the public mind. Public opinion is so firm on DDT that even officials who know it can be employed safely dare not recommend its use. ''The significant issue is whether or not it can be used even in ways that are probably not causing environmental, animal or human damage when there is a general feeling by the public and environmental community that this is a nasty product,'' said David Brandling-Bennett, the former deputy director of P.A.H.O. Anne Peterson, the Usaid official, explained that part of the reason her agency doesn't finance DDT is that doing so would require a battle for public opinion. ''You'd have to explain to everybody why this is really O.K. and safe every time you do it,'' she said -- so you go with the alternative that everyone is comfortable with.

”''Why it can't be dealt with rationally, as you'd deal with any other insecticide, I don't know,'' said Janet Hemingway, director of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. ''People get upset about DDT and merrily go and recommend an insecticide that is much more toxic.''”



Roger Bate with Tech Central Station has written an article titled “The Worst Thing Nixon Ever Did” in support of the Rosenberg piece:

“In last Sunday's New York Times Magazine an article titled, "What the World Needs Now Is DDT," asked Mr. Ruckelshaus what he thought about the effects of his decision. He admitted that he regrets that his decision has been used to restrict use of DDT internationally. "It's not up to us to balance risks and benefits for other people. There's arrogance in the idea that everybody's going to do what we do." he said. But he unfairly shoulders all the blame for the EPA's decision. Nixon forced his hand. According to the Northern Illinois University study "Ruckelshaus was faced with a threat to his security (through dismissal) if a ban was not imposed."

“Why did Nixon push for a ban? We may never know. A few older Washington DC policy experts have suggested that some of his election campaign supporters were chemical companies that produced alternatives to DDT and so stood to gain handsomely by the DDT phase out. Others say that it is more likely that senior officials in his administration pressured Nixon into the decision given the potential votes he stood to lose in his native and very green state of California. But the why of his decision pales beside what this decision has wrought: two million deaths a year from malaria alone.”


Rosenberg and Bate raises some excellent points. As a die-hard environmentalist, it kills me to say this: we have to be wary of knee-jerk environmental regulation. I respect Rosenberg for her intellectual courage, as it takes a lot to question an issue, like DDT restriction, that’s received universal support for decades.

Arab Women

In the Arab world, where wife beating is an accepted practice (thanks to Little Green Footballs for linking to this “transcript of a Saudi TV show in which the guests discuss the proper Islamic way to beat your wife, with citations from the Koran”), few people have the courage to speak out and criticize the treatment of women. One woman, however, has gone public with her experience with abuse. Earlier this month, Rania al-Baz, a popular Saudi television host, was hospitalized after her husband beat her. And since showing her bloodied and bruised face on television, al-Baz “has been hailed as a hero.”

In related news, the Arab world’s “Jeopardy”: the Hezbollah-run game show "The Mission.''

And finally, you’ll find here a chronology of the terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas since September 2000.

4/20

It’s that time of year again. Like Easter and July 4th, 4/20 always seems to sneak up on us. To celebrate this holiday, I’m linking to some relevant sites. The DrugWar Rant summarizes the history of cannabis criminalization. And whether you’re a liberal, a conservative, or a libertarian, there are plenty of reasons to oppose the drug war.

4/19/2004

Swing State Update

The Democrats have been waging a grassroots battle for months now, but where have the Republicans been? Well, they've just kicked off their campaign, and the situation looks good for Bush in Ohio. The Washington Post reports, "The Bush-Cheney Ohio campaign says it so far has captains in more than 5,000 precincts, has recruited 22,393 volunteers toward its goal of 52,000, and in tandem with the state GOP has registered 30,000 new voters, with a goal of 91,000."


In another swing state, Wisconsin, the Iraq war has taken its toll, and the picture does not so good for Bush. The Chicago Tribune tells us:

"There are few things more worrisome to the Bush campaign than the sentiments of Treml and voters like her across Wisconsin and other key political states, some of which are enduring among the highest death counts from the Iraq war. In Wisconsin last week, the hometown burials of three soldiers overshadowed any topic on talk radio or the stream of political commercials on television, stirring what some fear could be a wave of disapproval toward Bush in areas that are essential to his re-election.

"One by one, the casualties are creating a ripple effect through communities here and elsewhere in the country as the list of fallen troops now includes at least one entry from every state. To those who support the war, a soldier's death may be the cruel price to pay, but to others it is raising doubts and triggering new questions about the commander in chief."


The Los Angeles Times points out that rural voters continue to identify with Bush on social issues, but question his economic policies. And when it comes down to election day, we know voters like to follow their pocket books. Here's a portion of the article:

"But cracks have surfaced in President Bush's once-solid rural constituency. From places like Sherman County to Montcalm County, Mich., and Mahoning County, Ohio, some Republicans are so concerned about crop prices and high unemployment that they're considering voting Democratic for the first time.

They're hardworking people like Sherman County farmer Tom Martin. As he plows the stubble of last autumn's wheat harvest on his 12,000-acre spread, the 60-year-old hears mostly grim economic news on his radio.

...

"A recent Los Angeles Times poll showed that among rural voters, Bush leads Democrat John F. Kerry, 47% to 41%. But the president's support has slipped — down from 55% in November — for reasons ranging from the troubled economy to growing dissatisfaction over the war in Iraq."


And even Donald Trump has chimed in on Bush's economic problems. From Trump's March 21 interview with Wolf Blitzer:

BLITZER: Do you identify more as a Democrat or Republican? TRUMP: Well, you'd be shocked if I said that in many cases I probably identify more as Democrat. And I think you'd probably be shocked...

BLITZER: On social issues?

TRUMP: You know, it's interesting, I've been now around long -- you know, I think of myself as a young guy, but I'm not so young anymore. And I've been around for a long time. And it just seems that the economy does better under the Democrats than the Republicans.

Now, it shouldn't be that way. But if you go back, I mean it just seems that the economy does better under the Democrats...

BLITZER: Well, it certainly did well under Clinton. But I wouldn't suggest it was so great under Jimmy Carter.

TRUMP: That's true. That's true.

BLITZER: If you remember, the interest rates...

TRUMP: No, I know. I know. Jimmy Carter was not in the same thing.

But certainly we had some very good economies under Democrats, as well as Republicans. But we've had some pretty bad disaster under the Republicans.

BLITZER: You want...

TRUMP: Including a thing called the Depression.

BLITZER: The Depression was bad, as we all remember.

Oil-For-Food Update

For months now, William Safire at the New York Times has been writing on the U.N. oil-for-food scandal. And today, he gives us another installment.

You'll also find a piece in U.S. News and World Report, detailing the French and Russian involvement in "the largest public financial scandal in history." It seems the story is finally getting some traction. Here's a summary:

"It is a tribute to the new American-installed democracy in Iraq that an Iraqi newspaper has been in the forefront of exposing the racket and naming the 270 international power brokers who seem to have had their hands in the till. Here's how the scam allegedly worked: Saddam sold oil to his friends and allies around the world at deep discounts. The buyers resold the oil at huge profits. Saddam then got kickbacks of 10 percent from both the oil traders and the suppliers of humanitarian goods. Iraqi bean counters, fortunately, kept meticulous records."

Jersey Update

I can't seem to escape that the Fairleigh-Dickinson Public Mind poll that showed Bush leading Kerry by four points in New Jersey. RealClearPolitics offers an interesting interpretation: 9/11, and the pro-Bush approval ratings it produced, remain relevant in the Garden State.

Here's what they say:

"Pollster Scott Rasmussen sent us a note saying that he did some polling in New Jersey last year that registered a "significant" impact from 9/11. It may very well be that the effect of 9/11 has worn off in other parts of the country but still remains strong in New Jersey. We've gotten a few emails with anecdotal evidence suggesting as much.

"Furthermore, there may be the slightest indication of a similar 9/11 effect in NY as well. Even though the latest Q Poll shows Kerry leading by 14 points, Kerry is still underperforming Gore's win over Bush in 2000 by 11 points."

And Jim Miller looks at voter registration and earlier presidential elections to show that a right-leaning voter trend does exist in the Northeast.

Non-US Forces in Iraq

With Spain pulling out of Iraq and Honduras considering a similar move, you may be wondering how much the other coalition members contribute to the war effort. You can find those statistics here, at GlobalSecurity.org. Unfortunately, the statistics were last updated February 24, and much has changed since then.

Corrections

For the past nine days, the Washington Times has neglected to publish any corrections. The Washington City Paper discovered this serious omission, and decided to chip in. As the City Paper notes, "Over the same nine-day period, for instance, the New York Times churned out at least 50 corrections. And the Washington Post clocked in with more than 25." You'll find the City Paper's Times corrections here.

Idiot Watch

Thanks to Bolog for sending me this piece of pure lunacy. This time, it's from the left. John Laughland writes a highly laughable article in the Australian, suggesting that "Kerry is more hawkish than Bush." Enjoy.