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The Toxic Body of Evidence

| Fri Jan. 12, 2007 1:59 PM EST

In exchange for 14 vials of blood, science writer David Ewing Duncan had his body tested for no fewer than 320 different chemicals. Duncan wrote about the experience and about the nature of trace chemicals in the body for article in National Geographic and is on a speaking tour sharing fascinating tidbits:

-As a kid in Kansas, he rode his bike through clouds of DDT. Surprise, surprise, he still has a high "body burden" of its byproduct DDE, about 40 years later.

-His level of one particularly toxic PBDE, a flame-retardant, is 10 times the American average and 200 times the Swedish average. He attributes that to flying 200,000 miles last year; planes are "drenched in the stuff."

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In his article and subsequent speeches Duncan has steered clear of regulatory issues, instead calling for more research. But research often comes long after the damage is done. Take the history of lead:

In 1921, General Motors invented lead additives to gas, paving the way for modern high-power engines. Leaded fuel earned a nickname fast—"loony gas." But it wasn't until the 70s that the EPA started regulating it. And over the next decade, through 1986, the EPA dropped the threshold for lead content in gas by 98%. Uranium, CFCs, DDT—same story.

Shockingly, only a quarter of the 82,000 chemicals in use in the U.S. have ever been tested for toxicity, according to Duncan. How long will it take for us to trace the cause of modern epidemics? From the early 1970s through the mid-1990s, one type of leukemia was up 62%, male birth defects doubled, and childhood brain cancer was up 40%, he writes.

Only in the past few years have we developed machines precise enough to test the presence of some of these chemicals in the body, in parts per million, per billion, and even per trillion. It's like detecting a teaspoon of dye in an Olympic swimming pool, Duncan said, and some of the machines that do it cost a million dollars. Usually as many tests as Duncan had would cost $30,000. (For only $25 you can send a lock of hair in for a mercury test.)

That makes it hard to broadly survey the dangers of chemicals. And nearly impossible to prove in court that they have caused any illness.

In Europe, on the other hand, a new law "radically revises how companies must evaluate potential dangers." From now on there, new chemicals will not be presumed safe until proven dangerous, but must be proved safe before sale. With the new Congress, can we follow their lead?

—April Rabkin

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Song Suggestions for the Dodd Pod

| Thu Jan. 11, 2007 3:54 PM EST

We mentioned earlier that Connecticut senator and new presidential hopeful Chris Dodd is taking song suggestions for his "Dodd Pod." Wonkette considered "Born to Lose" by The Heartbreakers, which brings to mind "Lost Cause" by Beck and "Running Down a Dream" by Tom Petty. But scratch your head for snarky ideas no longer! The May/June 2006 issue of Mother Jones has a whole list of suggestions we can make in honor of Dodd's colleagues in Washington. A sampling:

"Been Caught Stealing," by Jane's Addiction
Former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.)

"Girlfriend in a Coma," by The Smiths
Former Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn)

"Road to Nowhere," by Talking Heads
Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska)

"Bridge Over Troubled Water," by Simon & Garfunkel
Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.)

"Don't Fence Me In," by Cole Porter
Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.)

"Carolina on My Mind," by James Taylor
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)

"Stuck in the Middle With You," by Stealers Wheel
Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.)

"Kickstart My Heart," by Mötley Crüe
Vice-President Dick Cheney

Song Suggestions for the Dodd Pod

| Thu Jan. 11, 2007 3:54 PM EST

We mentioned earlier that Connecticut senator and new presidential hopeful Chris Dodd is taking song suggestions for his "Dodd Pod." Wonkette considered "Born to Lose" by The Heartbreakers, which brings to mind "Lost Cause" by Beck and "Running Down a Dream" by Tom Petty. But scratch your head for snarky ideas no longer! The May/June 2006 issue of Mother Jones has a whole list of suggestions we can make in honor of Dodd's colleagues in Washington. A sampling:

"Been Caught Stealing," by Jane's Addiction
Former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.)

"Girlfriend in a Coma," by The Smiths
Former Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn)

"Road to Nowhere," by Talking Heads
Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska)

"Bridge Over Troubled Water," by Simon & Garfunkel
Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.)

"Don't Fence Me In," by Cole Porter
Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.)

"Carolina on My Mind," by James Taylor
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)

"Stuck in the Middle With You," by Stealers Wheel
Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.)

"Kickstart My Heart," by Mötley Crüe
Vice-President Dick Cheney

Two Really Good Examples of Bush Being Full of Hot Air

| Thu Jan. 11, 2007 2:35 PM EST

Two simple points about Bush's speech last night are making their way around the web.

1. If we are really cracking down on Maliki and insisting that he ends the sway of the militias, then we must be prepared to leave if he doesn't, with our dreams of "victory" dashed. But Bush said yesterday that failure is not acceptable, implying that we aren't leaving any time soon. So will there be accountability, or won't there?

2. Why would Maliki crack down on al-Sadr when al-Sadr's influence provides the votes that keep Maliki in power?

Read more at Talking Points Memo, who traces the thinking to Andrew Sullivan and John Derbyshire.

(One additional note: Bush said yesterday, as part of his murky explanation of why things will be different THIS time around, that Iraqi police will be increased in numbers and will start patroling the streets to better protect the local populace. Specifically, he said they will be "conducting patrols and setting up checkpoints, and going door-to-door to gain the trust of Baghdad residents." Honest to god, if I was a citizen of Baghdad, I'd be scared to death. Iraqi police already operate checkpoints and go door-to-door. That's how they kill people.)

FYI - Christopher Dodd is Running for President

| Thu Jan. 11, 2007 2:09 PM EST

Adjust your voting plans accordingly. So you know, Dodd is Connecticut's senior senator, and may be running now because, at 64, he is reaching the generally-accepted outer age limit for a presidential candidate (hint hint, Mr. McCain). You can learn more about Dodd at his campaign website or suggest music for him to listen to on his "DoddPod" here.

King David Returns

| Thu Jan. 11, 2007 1:15 PM EST

If Bush was serious last night, America's destiny in Iraq is in the hands of Lieutenant-General David Petraeus, who is now leading US forces there. The big battle is to be waged counter-insurgency style inside Baghdad, probably most importantly against Bani Sadr's supposed 60,000 guerrillas.

This sounds like the Battle of Algiers where, in the 1950s, the French Foreign Legion brutally attacked and overwhelmed the FLN guerrillas holed up in the Casbah. In the end, the French lost, with de Gaulle overseeing a peace.

Counter-insurgency has a long, unpleasant history. The French tried it in Vietnam after the second world war, actually planting their own troops into villages and intermarrying with the Vietnamese. It didn't work and the French were routed at Dien Bien Phu. Ed Lansdale, who worked with the OSS and later became the CIA's man in Vietnam, assisted the French in their losing battle, then went on to try and build up the South Vietnamese military.

Lansdale has often been called the true father of American counter-insurgency. He operated in the Philippines, living with Magsaysay before he became president, and was part of Operation Mongoose, Jack Kennedy's plan to overthrow Castro. He was involved in attempts to assassinate Castro as well. Under Kennedy he ended up as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations. When Reagan became president, Special Operations people in the military, along with scholars at the Heritage Foundation, urged U.S. policy makers to employ counter-insurgency tactics, or what was then called irregular warfare, in Central America. The Contras were the result.

Counter-insurgency depends on good intelligence and a supportive local population -- neither of which the U.S. has in Iraq, certainly not in Baghdad.

The general idea, put forward in the Iraq Study Group report, is to embed American troops within the Iraqi army. That presupposes the Iraqi army can be trusted not to trick the Americans into an ambush and/or to provide decent intelligence, which seems questionable.

General Petraeus is well-liked, considered to be a successful commander in Northern Iraq. He wrote a new counterinsurgency manual for the U.S. Army and Marine Corps. "Western militaries too often neglect the study of insurgency," he writes in the manual. "They falsely believe that armies trained to win large conventional wars are automatically prepared to win small unconventional ones."

"In fact," the General continues, "some capabilities required for conventional success... may be of limited utility or even counterproductive in counterinsurgency operations. Nonetheless, conventional forces beginning counterinsurgency operations often try to use these capabilities to defeat insurgents; they almost always fail."

Following, thanks to the Globe and Mail, are
Petraeus's 14 Observations on Iraq:

1. Do not try to do too much with your own hands.
2. Act quickly, because every army of liberation has a half-life.
3. Money is ammunition.
4. Increasing the number of stakeholders is a critical component to success.
5. Analyze "costs and benefits" before each operation.
6. Intelligence is the key to success.
7. Everyone must do nation-building.
8. Help build institutions, not just units.
9. Cultural awareness is a force multiplier.
10. Success in a counterinsurgency requires more than just military operations.
11. Ultimate success depends on local leaders.
12. Remember the strategic corporals and strategic lieutenants.
13. There is no substitute for flexible, adaptable leaders.
14. A leader's most important task is to set the right tone.

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American News Media Continues Its Decline

| Thu Jan. 11, 2007 1:08 PM EST

Last spring, I wrote about MSNBC hosts Ron Reagan and Monica Crowley's on-air statement about the "triviality" of issues like Supreme Court nominations, and--even worse--MSNBC senior producer Tom Maciulis's written revelation that news about lobbying scandals, the Bolton nomination and court appointments were things he "didn't give a flying fig about." Though it was obvious to me that no one in charge at the network cared too much about news, it was nevertheless shocking to hear both the anchors and the producer come right out and say so.

Worse still, the statements of these "news" network officials caused no stir at all. I don't think anyone else even blogged about them, but they put a chill up my spine that has never gone away. Anyone who attempts to find out what is going on in the world knows that reliance on American mainstream news media will get her nowhere. When George W. Bush ran for the office of president in 2000, author, columnist and Texan Molly Ivins begged her fellow media employees, "Check the record!" They didn't. Everything from Bush's insider trading to his questionable military record to the mess he made of the Texas educational system and the environmental destruction he allowed industry to wreak on his state--all were virtually ignored by mainstream newspapers and television networks.

It should come as no surprise, then, that ABC's Good Morning America has hired Glenn Beck as a regular commentator. In plugging Beck's credentials, the show's senior executive producer announced that Beck "is a leading cultural commentator with a distinct voice."

Sure. His "distinct voice" recently struck Rep. Keith Ellison, our first Muslim Congressperson, with ""I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.'"

It was Beck who said to Diane Sawyer, "Christmas is really about...the death of [Jesus], redemption...and having a second bite at the apple. Who's offended by that?" He "celebrated" the death of Abu Musab-Zarqawi with a "Zarqawi bacon cake," predicted that we may have to "nuke" the entire Middle East, made fun of the names of missing Egyptian students, and described New Orleanians who could not or did not leave when Katrina hit as "scumbags." And in a rant against so-called "political correctness," Beck became so upset at the thought of wall signs being done in Braille that he quipped, "I'm going to put in Braille on the coffee pot...'Pot is hot.'"

Hate sells. It's a pity that news doesn't.

American News Media Continues Its Decline

| Thu Jan. 11, 2007 1:08 PM EST

Last spring, I wrote about MSNBC hosts Ron Reagan and Monica Crowley's on-air statement about the "triviality" of issues like Supreme Court nominations, and--even worse--MSNBC senior producer Tom Maciulis's written revelation that news about lobbying scandals, the Bolton nomination and court appointments were things he "didn't give a flying fig about." Though it was obvious to me that no one in charge at the network cared too much about news, it was nevertheless shocking to hear both the anchors and the producer come right out and say so.

Worse still, the statements of these "news" network officials caused no stir at all. I don't think anyone else even blogged about them, but they put a chill up my spine that has never gone away. Anyone who attempts to find out what is going on in the world knows that reliance on American mainstream news media will get her nowhere. When George W. Bush ran for the office of president in 2000, author, columnist and Texan Molly Ivins begged her fellow media employees, "Check the record!" They didn't. Everything from Bush's insider trading to his questionable military record to the mess he made of the Texas educational system and the environmental destruction he allowed industry to wreak on his state--all were virtually ignored by mainstream newspapers and television networks.

It should come as no surprise, then, that ABC's Good Morning America has hired Glenn Beck as a regular commentator. In plugging Beck's credentials, the show's senior executive producer announced that Beck "is a leading cultural commentator with a distinct voice."

Sure. His "distinct voice" recently struck Rep. Keith Ellison, our first Muslim Congressperson, with ""I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.'"

It was Beck who said to Diane Sawyer, "Christmas is really about...the death of [Jesus], redemption...and having a second bite at the apple. Who's offended by that?" He "celebrated" the death of Abu Musab-Zarqawi with a "Zarqawi bacon cake," predicted that we may have to "nuke" the entire Middle East, made fun of the names of missing Egyptian students, and described New Orleanians who could not or did not leave when Katrina hit as "scumbags." And in a rant against so-called "political correctness," Beck became so upset at the thought of wall signs being done in Braille that he quipped, "I'm going to put in Braille on the coffee pot...'Pot is hot.'"

Hate sells. It's a pity that news doesn't.

"No Matter How Much You Hate Bush..." (What's Up With the San Francisco Chronicle?)

| Thu Jan. 11, 2007 2:43 AM EST

Generally, I have a pretty low regard of the San Francisco Chronicle. I want to support my local paper but...I just can't. It's the flabby writing, the columnists who don't pick up the phone, the mindless cheerleading of the wine and food industry, the substitution of PC bell ringing for real reporting on race or poverty, the subordination of the Chronicle's home page to the (also bad, and shamelessly clunky) SFGate entertainment portal...in sum, it tends to reinforce every stereotype of yuppie Bay Area solipsism. All of which I would forgive, really, if it just had some damn edge. Of any kind.

(Following exceptions noted: The Balco stuff, that was good. Ok, and the homeless series ; I'd take issue with pieces of it, even premises of it, but they pulled out some stops.)

But I digress. What the hell does this have to do with Bush?

Well, I'll tell you. I was about to talk up a great piece by the Chron's D.C. Bureau Chief that was funny, to the point, analytical...but in the minutes that it has taken me to write this post, that story has fallen off the SFGate/Chron homepage. I dove into the architecture for more than 10 minutes...but I still can't find it. So piece by DC Bureau Chief, on a decision by our fair leader to send more troops into Iraq, written for a city with strong feelings on the matter...can't find it.

And that, in a nutshell, is the San Francisco Chronicle.

In my search for the missing Bush analysis piece, I did find following story, however: "New Year's nightmare for visiting Yale singers". Which is actually quite juicy, if you're into local politics: Matt Gonzalez meets "Fajitagate" meets PacHeights scion deploying his peeps to beat up Yalies.

Though, on that last point, these paragraphs— "But witnesses said one of the uninvited guests -- who happens to be the son of a prominent Pacific Heights family -- pulled out his cell phone and said, "I'm 20 deep. My boys are coming. According to Rapagnani and others, the Yale kids barely made it around the corner when they were intercepted by a van full of young men."—make me wonder why this "son of prominent Pacific Heights family" was not named.

And also, what's up with Pac Heights boys rolling up on Yalies? They'll all work for McKinsey one day...

"No Matter How Much You Hate Bush..." (What's Up With the San Francisco Chronicle?)

| Thu Jan. 11, 2007 2:43 AM EST

Generally, I have a pretty low regard of the San Francisco Chronicle. I want to support my local paper but...I just can't. It's the flabby writing, the columnists who don't pick up the phone, the mindless cheerleading of the wine and food industry, the substitution of PC bell ringing for real reporting on race or poverty, the subordination of the Chronicle's home page to the (also bad, and shamelessly clunky) SFGate entertainment portal...in sum, it tends to reinforce every stereotype of yuppie Bay Area solipsism. All of which I would forgive, really, if it just had some damn edge. Of any kind.

(Following exceptions noted: The Balco stuff, that was good. Ok, and the homeless series ; I'd take issue with pieces of it, even premises of it, but they pulled out some stops.)

But I digress. What the hell does this have to do with Bush?

Well, I'll tell you. I was about to talk up a great piece by the Chron's D.C. Bureau Chief that was funny, to the point, analytical...but in the minutes that it has taken me to write this post, that story has fallen off the SFGate/Chron homepage. I dove into the architecture for more than 10 minutes...but I still can't find it. So piece by DC Bureau Chief, on a decision by our fair leader to send more troops into Iraq, written for a city with strong feelings on the matter...can't find it.

And that, in a nutshell, is the San Francisco Chronicle.

In my search for the missing Bush analysis piece, I did find following story, however: "New Year's nightmare for visiting Yale singers". Which is actually quite juicy, if you're into local politics: Matt Gonzalez meets "Fajitagate" meets PacHeights scion deploying his peeps to beat up Yalies.

Though, on that last point, these paragraphs— "But witnesses said one of the uninvited guests -- who happens to be the son of a prominent Pacific Heights family -- pulled out his cell phone and said, "I'm 20 deep. My boys are coming. According to Rapagnani and others, the Yale kids barely made it around the corner when they were intercepted by a van full of young men."—make me wonder why this "son of prominent Pacific Heights family" was not named.

And also, what's up with Pac Heights boys rolling up on Yalies? They'll all work for McKinsey one day...