The Bill Gates Mosquito Circus

"Malaria is spread by mosquitoes," Gates said while opening a jar onstage at the Technology, Entertainment, Design Conference - a gathering known to attract technology kings, politicians, and Hollywood stars.

"I brought some. Here I'll let them roam around. There is no reason only poor people should be infected." (Fox News)
Historically a staunch supporter of free enterprise, Bill Gates has battled the regulators and his competitors every step of the way to maintain his Microsoft patents and to continue to profit from them.  Since his incredible fortune has matured, Gates has turned to philanthropy, donating literally billions to a bevy of charitable causes.  The Microsoft founder exhibits the occasional bout of quirkiness however, which one might expect from the uber-nerd who brainstormed his way to status as the richest man on the planet.

His latest stroll through the news, however, involves  something like a parlor trick and seems more suited to the Howard Hughes school of eccentric billionaires.  To make his point about the deadly and fearsome plague of malaria, Gates released a glass full of mosquitoes on the unsuspecting crowd at the Technology, Entertainment Design Conference in Long Beach, California.  Did Gates plan on infecting some rich folks to prove his point?  The answer is yes, although Gates quickly pointed out that the pests released were not malarial.  Mr. Moneybags only intended to infect his audience with guilt.  And guilt-inducement is the last refuge of the liberal scoundrel.  It has become the go-to move for so-called progressives when intellectual argument fails and one can't muster the facts to support one's case.

While the cause of eradicating malaria remains noble, the Gates Foundation apparently failed to get the Rachel Carson memo so widely distributed in the non-Sierra Club press.  According to eFluxMedia:

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are great supporters of finding effective treatments for malaria, and ultimately eradicating the disease by 2015. The Foundation is currently working with partners around the world to help discover and develop malaria vaccines, in addition to working on developing effective prevention strategies.

One has to admit, his intentions are good.  Providing paving stones on the road to hell is the ultimate moral justification for most liberal causes:  results don't matter, just having significant compassion.  This focus on what Ken Wilber calls Idiot Compassion enables liberal thinkers to support abortion but reject the death penalty for serial killers or to whine about the disproportion of an Israeli response to decades of terrorist attacks.  Or to remain mindlessly in support of the ban on DDT when it's implementation could save millions of lives.

In this case, the good intentions of The Gates Foundation overlook the simple fact that their efforts are redundant:  Malaria was nearly eradicated in the 1960's.  And then came Rachel Carson and her wrong-headed book, Silent Spring.  Since Ms. Carson's tome was published, spring has been permanently silent for millions of Africans:

Rachel Carson's major impact on the planet has been to discourage the use of a safe, cheap pesticide called DDT to suppress disease-bearing mosquitoes. North America and Europe used DDT to eradicate malaria. After our children were safe, we told the Third World not to use it because it might harm their bird populations.

The absence of DDT has led to the needless deaths of at least 30 million people from malaria and yellow fever in the tropics. (Five times as many as Hitler killed in his concentrations death camps, albeit inadvertently). Most of them were helpless African children. In addition, malaria has been allowed to blight the lives of perhaps 1 billion chronic malaria sufferers, who are too often unable to work and further erode economic resources by requiring family nursing care. The millions of malaria cases in the tropics may, just by themselves, explain half of the poverty and human degradation on the planet today.

Ms. Carson's misguided compassion for a few species of birds which might possibly have been harmed by DDT made her an inspiration to the proto-PETA types who helped found the modern environmental movement.  And who do you suppose filled the seats in the auditorium where Gates made his unorthodox demonstration?  Right. Environmentalist wackos who would never approve of the use of DDT, regardless of its proven safety and effectiveness:

One of the most effective Third World uses of DDT is to spray the inside of homes. It's the most cost-effective mosquito repellent known. Instead of a mosquito entering the home; biting someone; spreading the disease; and dying hours later, the mosquito never comes in. One application every six months is enough to reduce malaria rates by 60 percent. DDT is the only highly effective strategy we have for suppressing this massive problem. If malaria made a comeback in America, the EPA would have to re-register DDT.

The U.S. Agency for International Development is now offering modest funding for the indoor use of DDT in poor tropical countries-30 years late.

I know I am no Bill Gates, but the solution looks disarmingly simple from here:  Hey Bill: put down the mosquito circus and write a large check to the U.S. Agency for International Development.  (Feel free to consult with Timothy Geithner on the required # of 0's.) You can afford it. Oh, and come out publicly for the reversal of the beatification of Rachel Carson.

Ralph Alter blogs at Right on Target