sphagnum moss, dark water, and politics
Saturday, March 08, 2003
So in 1999 West Nile virus came to New York, and the city sprayed malathion trying to contain the mosquito-borne disease. And then the lobsters in western Long Island Sound died, unimaginable numbers of them, millions. Lobstermen blamed the pesticide, researchers claimed a disease was to blame, other researchers claimed the malathion weakened the lobsters' immune system leading to an epidemic . . .
Now, it turns out that:
1) It doesn't look like the lobster population is going to recover anytime soon. The count of baby lobsters in the western Sound is the lowest it's been since folks started counting in 1983; females aren't laying enough eggs to catch up - and it's going to take till the end of the decade until the babies are big enough to catch.
And oh yeah,
2) It does look like lobsters are far more suspectible to malathion than anyone realized; dying at 33 parts per billion, half of what it takes to kill the previous most-sensitive-to-malathion award winner, the walleye. It takes even less to mess up their immune sysyem.
Results? The western lobster population - which turns out to be genetically distinct from its eastern relatives, lobsters being pretty big stay-at-homes - is described in the article as nearly extinct. Due to their provincial nature any short term recovery might require settling lobsters from elsewhere, with uncertain consequences and probably at great cost. The eastern lobsters were hard-hit too - the lobster catch for the whole of Long Island Sound has declined 70% - it's just worse in the west.
There are certainly consequences to the Sound's ecology, including the bit that we include as part of the economy. Assistance should be provided - though this is the worst time for it - to help compensate the lobstermen whose livelihoods have been essentially wiped out for years to come.
I'm not saying the city was wrong to spray, although I gather that various circumstances (seasons, vectors, urban geography) rendered that a pretty ineffective measure, and West Nile is certainly thriving. Failing to do so would probably have been politically impossible, and might have resulted in more deaths and an even quicker spread.
But think of this: Western Long Island Sound - "which is generally considered to extend from Bridgeport [CT] to New York City" is not some inaccessible, barely studied spot. Lobsters are economically important. Yet we didn't know how sensitive they are to a common pesticide, we didn't know about the distinct populations; there's certainly important things here we still don't know. There's always important things we don't know about yet, and it's important to remember that - not to the point of paralysis, but certainly to the point of reasonable caution, especially in the absence of immediate danger. The precautionary principle "better safe than sorry" almost certainly supported spraying in '99; it's not clear,as has been repeatedly pointed out, that is supports the mass planting of crops engineered to produce their own pesticides, &c.
posted by Dan S. on 1:39 AM | | link
Friday, March 07, 2003
From the NY Times: In the deteriorating town of Qalqiliya in the West Bank, the zoo is unable to bring in any new animals to replace the ones who die of old age, accidents, tear gas . . . Instead the corpses are stuffed by the zoo's vet and put on display.
As the animals vanish from the tidy cages, they are reappearing, stuffed, in the zoo's museum. The zoo's director, Said Zaki Daoud, fears the dead may outrace the living.It's like something out of a sad, sad novel, burdened with symbolism, but without even the consolation of fiction. The fear that "the dead may outrace the living" . . .
At the zoo, Dr. Khader seems to divide his time between stuffing the dead and patching the living. The big baboon, Abdullah, had to have three fingers amputated; the ostrich has a six-inch scar down its pink neck. Even the stuffed ostrich in the museum wears the remnant of a plaster cast on its scaly right leg.If you really want to read about fictional bad things and zoos, there's Angus Wilson's The Old Men at the Zoo, and Murakami's The Wind-up Bird Chronicles, among others. These take place during wartime (a near-future Britain, WWII Manchuria). In war, zoo animals fare even worse, if you can remember the coverage from Sarajevo (or Kuwait City, or Belgrade, or &c.)
posted by Dan S. on 10:06 AM | | link
Was over at Sisyphus Shrugged and saw this. It made me laugh. Sounded rusty, like I hadn't in a while. Thank you.
I'm downloading the gospel song of the day from Interesting Monstah, and at some point (I'm on dial-up at home, so it takes a while) I look at the list of open windows, and one of them says "66% of This Too Will Pass"
posted by Dan S. on 9:48 AM | | link
Thursday, March 06, 2003
I was spellchecking a letter to the Philly Inquirer, and Word tried to replace "warblogger" with "warbler." That's kinda sweet. Although I don't see it ending up among the rest of the feathered tribe inhabitating the land of political discourse. Hawk, dove, chickenhawk, occasionally ostrich, mebbe vulture - any others?
Speaking of names, am I the only one who thinks the British Foreign Minister's name - Jack Straw - sounds like something out of a folktale? Something from long ago, a dimly remembered fragment dwindled down to a bit, a few lines in an old song . . .
And than, on the Monday, King Richard, with his lords that were with him that time, and with the Mayor of London, William Walworth, the aldermen and the commons of the city, came in to Southwark to hear and know the intention of these rebels and misgoverned people. And this Jack Straw then made an oyes [announcement] in the field, that all the people who agreed with him should come near, and hear his clamor and his cry and his will. And the lords, and the mayor and the aldermen, with the commons, having indignation of his greed and falseness, and his foul presumption; and at once William Walworth, that time being mayor, drew out his knife, and slew Jack Straw, and right away there did smite off his head, and set it upon a spear-shaft; and so it was carried throughout London, and set on high on London Bridge.That's the Peasant's Revolt of 1381, from the Chronicle of England.
This is doubtlessly the same Jack Straw who appears in English and Irish Mumming . . .
Here comes I Jack Straw, such a man you never saw!As for the fellow in the Greatful Dead song- I'm not sure.
posted by Dan S. on 6:32 PM | | link
Tuesday, March 04, 2003
From the people who brought you the "she was dressed provocatively!" defense
Read Ampersand's post on how Ashcroft is reconsidering a proposed Clinton administration policy that was designed to make it easier for victims of gender-related persecution - such as domestic violence or honor killings - to gain political asylum in the United States. He has a angry and articulate takedown of the anti-immigaration arguments supporting such nonsense.
Briefly: the restrict-asylum camp argues that asylum is rightly for victims of government violence (private/public distinction), and - to quote in full from the orginal LA Times article, "If we make political asylum based on family issues, sexual preference issues, other general issues, it eventually opens the door to everybody in the world who is unhappy with where they happen to be" (slippery slope). Ampersand's response: a) the private/public distinction is absurd, "because how free "private individuals" are to threaten people is determined by public policy," & b) the slippery slope takes this ridiculous distinction and adds to it an astonishing callousness:
The second unstated - but utterly disgusting - premise is that violence that happens to women - "domestic abuse, the threat of honor killings or sexual slavery" - is a petty, unimportant, private matter. These women aren't victims of vicious, deadly discrimination; they're just, in the Federation for American Immigration Reform's charming words, people "unhappy with where they happen to be."But hey, what does one expect from an administration which in 2001 tried to disband a panel created partly to address the sexual assault in the mililtary because " they thought the panel was fostering what one called "radical feminism" and was no longer needed because women had been fully integrated into the military"? I guess that's just another one of those "petty, unimportant, private" matters . . .
Note the immediate outcomes: As the NY Times recounts, in the case of the sexual assault panel
The Pentagon responded by letting the panel's charter expire in February 2002, replacing its members and changing its agenda. Though still known as the Defense Department Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, it no longer advises the military on sexual assault.While the decision to revoke the currently-suspened asylum policy has not been made yet, TalkLeft (via Ampersand) reminds us that in January
Ashcroft has decided to halve the number of appointees on the Board of Immigration Appeals, from 23 to 11. The Washington Post article today states that all five BIA members Ashcroft has dropped in accord with his planned reduction are Clinton administration appointees and three were dissenters in the Alvarado case.Long term effects? Well, the case of the non-sexual assault panel has turned into the case of the "20 female Air Force cadets [who] have come forward with complaints that they say were mishandled by the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs." I guess you could say they were "unhappy with where they happen[ed] to be?"
And for the asylum issue, what will be the result of that?
It's amazing how the women's groups and immigation lobbyists' "domestic abuse, the threat of honor killings or sexual slavery" is somehow transmuted into the anti-immigrationists' "family issues, sexual preference issues, other general issues." Family and sexual preference issues! FAIR seems to think it's talking about an afterschool special! And don't forget sexual abuse prevention becoming radical feminism. What world are these people living in? I'm too tired - in both senses - to write anything more insightful than that.
posted by Dan S. on 10:44 PM | | link
Monday, March 03, 2003
So, if all the reports are true:
Sunday, March 02, 2003
Learnt from frizzy logic via languagehat: seems that since google bought blogger, it's been targeting blog*spot ads. It looks like it's basing them on blog title and/or words in recent posts - ie, languagehat's ad banner has two links to welsh-language learning products, following a post on "languagehat" in welsh; another blogger who talked about tea has links to tea-related products; a third who posted about Clonaid has clone links . . . Odd - Pyra Lab's Blogger+Google F.A.Q. doesn't say anything about this . . . *faux-naif voice*. As frizzy logic points out, the source code does, though - it says " . . . google_ad_client='blogger_bnr';google_ad_width=468;google_ad_height=60 . . ."
Real posts soon. I promise.
posted by Dan S. on 11:34 PM | | link
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