Aug 01 2009

Facts not in evidence

Category: left,religion,science,societyharmonicminer @ 8:58 am

A friend of mine read my recent blog, “The Left At Christian Universities, Part 13,” and went to the website of one of the organizations that I identified as being problematic, CLUE.

On that website, she found links to this text, reporting CLUE’s activities in regard to trying to get “green truck” regulations implemented at Long Beach harbor:

We take it for granted that protectors of the environment and defenders of commerce are natural adversaries. Here in Long Beach, we are often asked to weigh the concerns of the uninsured mother of a severely asthmatic child against those of the woefully underpaid truck driver who would be deprived of his livelihood if required to purchase a greener rig.

Sameerah Siddiqui, an organizer for Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE-LA) isn’t interested in any false compromise between the two: She wants Long Beach residents to see that local poverty and pollution are inextricably linked, and to that end, she is asking city clergy to help her start a dialogue between residents and port workers, as well as city officials and port management. “We’re calling on the clergy in Long Beach to organize around this issue, and to address the dual problems of poverty and pollution,” Siddiqui says. “And we would like interfaith leaders to respond in the way that they know best.

“Religious leaders are in contact with the community on a day-to-day basis, and they see the suffering: the rising incidence of asthma among children, the respiratory illnesses of older members of the congregation. At the same time, we invite them to talk to port truck drivers, to hear their stories about not being able to make ends meet, of how the burden of maintaining their trucks is so onerous that they can’t provide for their families, and on a day-to-day basis, they themselves are exposed to the highest levels of pollution [without benefit of] medical insurance. . . . If we really want to enact green policies-holistic policies that address both the environment and worker health-we need to look at that relationship between the two.”

CLUE-LA is a major partner in the Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports. The Coalition-which pushed for the port’s adoption of the Clean Trucks Program-maintains that protecting the health of Long Beach residents requires a stable trucking work force that can afford to make capital improvements. And that requires employee status for truckers and, of course, an employer. Siddiqui isn’t directly involved with labor organization, but she argues that a coherent environmental policy can’t be accomplished without cohesion between labor and environmental constituencies. Facilitating a personal understanding between the two at the ground level with the support of Long Beach’s religious communities-getting people to sit across the table from one another in church meeting halls, to share their stories-is work she feels called to as a Muslim. “This is the future of America. All of our interests are interconnected.”

My friend’s question to me was, “What do you think of this?”  I think the subtext may have been that this seems to be a public spirited group doing a good thing, and what’s wrong with that?

Of course, I did not suggest that the groups I mentioned in The Left At Christian Universities, Part 13 don’t do any good.  In fact, I acknowledge that they do.  My problem is with the evil that they support, not the good that they do.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.  In this case, I question facts not in evidence. IS asthma rising in Long Beach? If someone says so, do they know the percentage of people with asthma in Long Beach in, say 1970, compared to the percentage now? Are demographic factors playing a larger role than air pollution? What makes no sense here is that air pollution is far LESS than it used to be, so if asthma is going UP while air pollution is going DOWN, the logical disconnect is obvious, and the futility of a “green trucks” program for reducing asthma is obvious.

So, if asthma is going UP, as a percentage of the population (not “rising numbers of cases”, which can be a matter of population growth over 30-40 years), has medical research tied it directly to “air pollution”? Which pollutants, exactly, have been tied to asthma? What is the graph of change of those specific pollutants over the 30-40 year period? Does it correlate with “rising percentages of asthma” in the general population?

I suspect that CLUE and its allies are getting their information from sources that don’t report carefully, such as the New York Times.   The problem is that the media has an agenda in this, as well, and does not check its “facts,” nor ask even the obvious questions I posed above.

“Likewise, the Times let stand a claim by a spokesman for the Coalition for Clean Air, a Los Angeles advocacy group, that particulate pollution is growing in southern California, and that the increase is due largely to emissions from the Los Angeles-Long Beach port, which is the busiest in the nation. On the contrary, fine particulate (PM2.5) levels in the Los Angeles area have declined about 40 percent since the late 1980s and have declined during the last couple of years, as shown in Figure 2 for Long Beach. In fact, the Long Beach area has among the lowest ozone and PM2.5 levels in the entire region.

Furthermore, pollution emission inventories indicate that the port accounts for 4.8 percent of NOx, 0.2 percent of VOC, and 2.1 percent of PM2.5 in the Los Angeles metro area — hardly a major portion of the total.[7] These facts would have been easy to check, had the Times been inclined to do so. Recall also that reducing the port’s NOx emissions, a main focus of campaigns to reduce port pollution, will likely make southern California’s ozone worse, as discussed earlier.”

CLUE is part of the “Coalition for Clean Air,” and apparently believes that its press releases have the weight of a journal article in NATURE.  But it is powerless to establish a connection between LOWERING pollution levels, “non-green” truckers, and rising asthma rates…  that’s given the very generous assumption that asthma rates are going up.

Has anyone done a study about non-pollution related allergens in the environment of Long Beach? Is it possible that any rise of allergen producing plantlife can be tied to new environmental restrictions on herbicides that used to keep it down? What is known about allergy related plantlife, the amount of it growing now compared to previous times, etc.? What changes in diet and lifestyle have occurred, on average, in the last 30-40 years, in the demographic groups with the greatest percentage of increase in asthma over that timeframe? (Assuming, of course, that there has even been one.)

Asthma has multiple causes, some of them quite subtle, and they are not nearly all related to what is breathed, a fact of which I have personal knowledge, from family members who have “asthma attacks” if they eat certain things, even touch certain things, etc.

On the surface, CLUE seems to be compassionate both toward the “non-green truckers” who are barely making ends meet and toward the putative “asthma sufferers.”

In the end, what CLUE wants is for everyone’s prices to go up, and everyone’s taxes to go up. Higher taxes, to pay for subsidies that will allow truckers to pay for “greener trucks,” and higher prices, because the eventual retailer of the products being carried in the trucks is going to be raising prices to pay those same taxes, plus whatever additional expenses that have been passed along to them in shipping costs, in the conversion of the trucks to “green” status, that weren’t covered by government subsidy.

CLUE wants a centralized trucking employer, someone with deep pockets who can be forced to pay up or go out of business. Their quote:

“And that requires employee status for truckers and, of course, an employer.”

These are mostly private truckers. The really hilarious paradox here: CLUE wants there to be a CORPORATION (evil as we know all corporations are) in order to have someone that the government can extract funds from without appearing to beat up on the little guy. And, of course, if no corporation is willing to step up to be the financial pinata, CLUE is more than willing for a “government agency of port trucking” to be established, funded with tax dollars.

It would probably be CHEAPER to offer all the recently diagnosed asthma sufferers in Long Beach some financial incentive for moving out of town… assuming, of course, than any connection between port truckers and asthma can be established…. which I really, really doubt.

That last sentence from CLUE is the scariest:

“All of our interests are interconnected.”

People who say that in this context normally mean that they want to be able to control our lives based on some putative community interest. They do NOT normally mean something like Adam Smith’s “invisible hand.”

Behind all of this is the left-wing agenda of so many of these “public interest” groups, regardless of the religious rhetoric in which they clothe it.  They play very fast and loose with the facts.  Whatever changes society may make “for the common good,” they are never enough.  This is a perfect example of that:  air pollution is far less than it used to be, but they are willing for all of us to pay more in order to have trucks that smell like daisies.

They think their vision for the common good trumps our inherent freedom.

They are wrong.

3 Responses to “Facts not in evidence”

  1. enharmonic says:

    Is CLUE an orgianization designed to attract the “Clueless”?

  2. Curtis Belk says:

    This problem of stakeholders, such as CLUE, wishing to curtail industry has been going on in California for sometime now. The Air Quality Mgmt District has been working to promote reduced PM10 (particulate matter at 10 microns) and PM2.5 (particulate matter at 2.5 microns) since 1985, their impetus being a study done at Kaiser Hospital that was rather anecdotal, an emergency room doctor commented on the increased number of emergency room visits for respiratory distress that he attributed to dust when the wind blows. (Nobody ever bothered to think of transmigrating pollens from the High Desert) From this beginning the AQMD has published over the past few years data, that seems to have no foundation in reality, stating that reductions of PM have in one instance reduced premature death by 4,200 per year and now with the passage of AB32 will further reduce premature death by another 10,000 per year. The difficulty of “reducing premature death” is somewhat along the lines of “saving or creating jobs,” creating jobs can be measured, but measuring saved jobs, I’m not so sure about that. Premature death is that unmeasurable thing that Government offices like because it sounds good but means nothing. Just like reducing trucks at Long Beach Port, AB32 is working to eliminate older trucks off of California highways. The damage that this will do to small business will be catastrophic. The testimony before CARB was all but ignored when they voted unanimously to submit AB32. Since then SB295 was introduced to counter some of the damage that will be done by this draconian legislation, but SB295 was shelved by the liberal side of the CA Senate even though it had the support of most all of the Chamber of Commerce’s of California. As a California businessman i have come to the conclusion that environmentalism has become the tail that wages the dog, misrepresenting the truth is the stock in trade of those who wish to harm our country.

    I have further come to the conclusion that liberalism will use any straw man, undocumented cases of asthma, outrageous PM10 and PM2.5 data, anthropogenic carbon creation, and the such to scare the uniformed masses into assisting them in the creation of their idea of utopia. It is nice to see someone from the university campus willing to point out the fallacies of liberal thinking.

  3. harmonicminer says:

    Curtis, thanks for some very informed commentary. I hope you keep reading the blog and commenting as the urge strikes.

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