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Last week, DrSteveB asked what state had the nuttiest senatorial duo.  My vote was Oklahoma, on the theory that Tom Coburn would be crazy enough all by himself, even if he weren't paired with James Inhofe.

This week, Coburn proves his bona fides for that title all over again, by slandering one of the icons of the modern environmental movement--as we'll explore on the flip.

Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn has effectively blocked a resolution to honor environmental author Rachel Carson on the 100th anniversary of her birth, saying that her warnings about environmental damage have put a stigma on potentially lifesaving pesticides, congressional staffers said yesterday.


In a statement on his Web site yesterday, Coburn (R) confirmed that he is holding up the bill. In the statement, he blames [Rachel] Carson for using "junk science" to turn public opinion against chemicals, including DDT, that could prevent the spread of insect-borne diseases such as malaria, which is spread by mosquitoes.

Is Carson still a controversial figure in some quarters?  Yes.  And can reasonable people honestly disagree about the toxicity and use of DDT?  Yes.  

But reasonable, honest disagreement presumes, er, reasonableness and honesty, which obviously aren't Coburn's forte.  Here's what he says about Carson on his senatorial website:

Indeed, a strong argument could be made that no book in recent decades is responsible more death and suffering than Rachel Carson's "The Silent Spring," a screed against DDT for killing birds and other wildlife.

Carson's primary objection was to the widespread and indiscriminate use of DDT in agriculture, not in disease control--a distinction that's clearly lost on the good doctor.  

George Washington University research professor who wrote a biography of Carson, said that Carson did not call for a total halt to the use of DDT but urged that it not be widely sprayed in places where the damage could outweigh the benefits.

"Carson was never against the use of DDT," Lear said. "She was against the misuse of DDT."

Roger Bate, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said yesterday that he understands the point Coburn is trying to make -- that the conventional wisdom about DDT needs to be reexamined. But he said it is difficult to lay all the blame on Carson, since she died so soon after her book was published.

"A lot of people have used Carson to push their own agendas," Bate said. "We just have to be a little careful when you're talking about someone who died in 1964."

Originally posted to Hprof on Wed May 23, 2007 at 06:18 AM PDT.

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