Semi-Daily Journal Archive

The Blogspot archive of the weblog of J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics and Chair of the PEIS major at U.C. Berkeley, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

And Ramesh Ponnuru Flames Rod Dreher

Dreher's crime? Worrying about the interaction of industrial air pollution with his kid's asthma. Real Republicans, you see, don't have kids with asthma--or, if they do, live full-time year-round in places with pristine air like Jackson Hole or Aspen.

Nice friends you have, Rod:

The Corner: OH, COME ON [Ramesh Ponnuru]: Right, that's what I'm saying: Voters' concerns about their kids don't matter. To heck with the kids! And from now on, let's only say things on the Corner that focus-group well! I'd be embarrassed to post an email on my side of this debate that was so silly. Posted at 06:18 PM

RE: POLLUTION CONTD [Rod Dreher]: Good grief. This is the last post I'll make on this matter, but here’s something a Cornerite wrote to me within the hour: "As a Californian I am all too aware that in choosing a Republican I am also choosing someone who will make the environment worse, and I suspect if the Democrats cleaned up their own act it wouldn't take me much because of this to switch parties. A cogent environmentalism almost certainly would help revitalize the party in my state, and yet they refuse to do so, to the harm of us all. Indeed, Mr. Ponnuru seems to miss your point entirely. You are bringing your son into this debate because that's what voters do. We vote according to our interests, and for Mr. Ponnuru to say, "leave your son out of the debate" he is basically saying to all of us what we care about does not matter. He may win the logical argument on such points, but the Republicans will lose elections if they keep such up, just as they have lost so much in California." Posted at 06:13 PM

POLLUTION, CTD. [Ramesh Ponnuru]: Alright, Rod, I'm disqualified from commenting further on this issue. I don't have a child with asthma, which I guess confers automatic expertise on environmental policies. And I'm not an expert, as your correspondent suggests, on the topography or air flow of Dallas, on the manufacture of cement, etc. I guess that you are an expert on these things? I'm sorry I wasn't able to glean that from your posts. Posted at 05:34 PM

I HATE TO PILE ON [Jonah Goldberg]: But aren't all politics local? Actually, I don't think all politics are local. But I do think all local politics are local. I don't know squat about the cement factories south of Dallas. But, is it really so absurd to imagine that if there was a Democrat running whatever committee Joe Barton runs or holding whatever seat he holds that maybe those cement factories would still be there? Maybe those cement factories have been there a long time? Even when Democrats controlled the state or that seat? I'm just at a loss as to how this so obviously translates into a national "good" Republican versus "bad" Republican issue, let alone a sweeping insight into national governing ideologies. Aren't there smokestacks in some Democratic districts too? Maybe it's because I'm in the Beltway bubble. Actually, my bubble is much smaller and in fact resides within the Beltway bubble. It's kind of cool-looking. Posted at 05:24 PM

RE: POLLUTION [Rod Dreher]: Ramesh, I live with an asthmatic child, so this is not an abstract situation for me. Which is the point I was trying to make: there is a direct connection between my sick child and polluting industries located south of my city, industries whose practices are staunchly defended by a Republican congressman. There are a lot of sick kids (and adults) in north Texas, which suffers from a high rate of respiratory disease. GOP candidates can mouth boilerplate all they want, but we need Republicans like Judge Keliher and other local GOP officials here in Dallas County who are actually doing something about the problem. Here's an e-mail I just got from a veteran NRO-nik who is a Texan and a conservative: "It seems to me that Ramesh is, like many, talking in generalities. Does he know anything about the Dallas area's topography? Air flow? Does he know anything about the manufacture of cement, particularly the particulates it releases? Does he know anything about the burning of hazardous waste as fuel in a facility not really intended to control it?

"Does Iain Murray really suggest that no restrictions at all is the magic silver bullet to this problem? That TXI and friends will really just fix all their problems if we just get government off their backs? There are several conservative solutions to this problem, including saleable credits for pollution. Let TXI buy other companies' unused credits, at market value, or simply require fewer of them.

"Incidentally, I'm not sure whether you were aware of the monstrous tire fire that happened several years (maybe even a decade) ago in Midlothian. Thousands and thousands of tires, all burning for 22 days, releasing tons of particulates and toxic material into the Dallas atmosphere. What came of those who let such a disaster happen? Is it really a Republican position that this is somehow "good for business"? "Good for America"?

"The reality is that I have a coworker in [north Dallas], a Baby Boomer with insanely liberal political tendencies. He has made a crack on more than one occasion that Joe Barton won't rest until every child in Tarrant, Dallas, Denton, and Collin counties has asthma. If there is no Republican to stand up and agree that the cement plants and tire-burning operations south of Dallas (in Ellis county, mostly)are bad --- environmentally and politically --- then the Democrats will eventually win on this." Posted at 04:21 PM

IT TAKES A CEMENT COMPANY TO GIVE KIDS ASTHMA? [John Podhoretz]: Then why are kids in The Bronx suffering asthma at record rates, Rod? There's almost no industrial pollution of any kind in New York City. In fact, I believe the rise in diagnosed asthma cases is a nationwide phenomenon of the past three or four decades, and nobody knows the cause. Except, it appears, a few judges in Texas, who got it all figgered out. I wasn't aware that degrees in epidemiology, cardiology, and pulmonology accompanied election to judgeships around Dallas, but now that I know, I'll be sure to consult your new friends about these matters. Posted at 04:11 PM

POLLUTION [Ramesh Ponnuru]: That bit about the "Beltway bubble" would be a low blow, Rod, but it's too cliched to land. Do Republicans need to do a better job in devising conservative environmental policies? Sure. But the research on pollution and asthma rates doesn't bear out the tight relationship you're claiming; the lessons you suggest that Republicans could learn from your new hero are banalities uttered by every single Republican politician in the country; and dragging your son into our debate doesn't really help matters. Posted at 03:40 PM

RE: GOP GREEN [Rod Dreher]: Come on, Ramesh, get outside the Beltway bubble and try to understand what Republican politics are like elsewhere. Here in Dallas, there are lots of Republicans who see Rep. Joe Barton, the powerful Republican Congressman who represents the district south of Dallas where these cement plants are located, as a major part of the problem. You can snicker all you want about the apparent obviousness of the issue, but the plain fact is those cement plants would have been forced to clean up their act if Rep. Barton weren't so obstructionist on the issue and dedicated to protecting that polluting industry--an industry that has a lot to do with the fact that so many people here in north Texas, including my son, suffer from respiratory disease. The childhood asthma problem here is incredible.

Where I live, there are plenty of summer days when authorities warn parents to keep their kids inside because of all the junk in the air. As Judge Keliher told me yesterday, Dallas wasn't like that when she grew up. Her predecessor as Dallas County Judge, a Republican named Lee Jackson, reportedly woke up to the importance of this issue when he saw girls' soccer teams here having to run to the sidelines to use their inhalers. I don't want my kids to grow up breathing this stuff. If Republicans in general--as distinct from local pols like Judge Keliher--are talking about clean air and water as a conservative issue, I'm not hearing them. And that's too bad. Posted at 03:27 PM

RE: GOP GREEN [Ramesh Ponnuru]: I completely agree with Dreher. Republicans should not sing the praises of air pollution. Instead, they should oppose it. They should point out that clean air is better than dirty air. Excellent ideas all; my guess is that some Republicans will see their political value. Posted at 12:45 PM

GOP GREEN [Rod Dreher]: Yesterday here at the Dallas Morning News, we met with a group of local folks that included Margaret Keliher, the Dallas County Judge (which means she's the top county executive in the Texas system). Keliher is a Republican, and she's also taken the lead in fighting for cleaner air in north Texas. Dallas has filthy air, in part because of cement plants just south of the city, and we're under federal government sanction to clean it up. In north Texas, the environment is not really a liberal vs. conservative issue, but a civic issue. I asked Judge Keliher yesterday why she, as a conservative Republican, has gotten active to fight industry for cleaner air. Now, Judge Keliher is very far from the kind of goo-goo Republican you find in--how to put this?--wetter climes. She replied that for one thing, it's about health, and health-care costs. For another, it's about creating a good business climate--companies don't want to move to a region that's got bad air and the health problems that go with it. And then there's the family values thing--Judge Keliher said that she's tired of seeing little children around here having to run to the sidelines during soccer games to use their inhalers. All of these are ways to think about the environment that resonate with conservative Republican voters. If I were sitting at the RNC in Washington right now, thinking about this fall's election, I'd spend a half hour on the phone with Judge Keliher and talk about this stuff. It's foolish to let the Democrats have this issue all to themselves--and by the way, enlightened environmentalists are starting to realize how foolish they've been to put all their hopes on the Democratic Party, and are now reaching out to conservatives. All to the good, say I. Posted at 12:09 PM

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