Monday, January 23, 2012

Dust, Dirt, and Death

Steve Milloy publishes and is the author of Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them. Milloy has a column in the Washington Times which casts doubt on the credibility of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA, according to Milloy, claims that the air quality of American cities is responsible for the deaths of tens, maybe even hundreds, of thousands of people per year. They claim to know this because they've calculated that every 10 microgram-per-cubic meter of pollutants results in a 1% rise in deaths. But this calculation is suspect.

The Chinese city of Xi’an is among the worst cities in the world in terms of air quality. Yet using the same sort of data and statistical analysis employed by EPA-funded air quality researchers, the Chinese researchers reported having statistically correlated every 10 microgram-per-cubic-meter’s worth of fine particulate matter in Xi’an’s air with a 0.2% increase in the city’s death rate. Despite being almost ten times more polluted than the air in American cities, Xi'an's air is apparently five times safer.

Obviously, something is wrong somewhere, and Milloy thinks the problem is with the EPA's numbers. This is not just an academic exercise since the EPA figures are used to regulate the emissions allowed by various industries.

We want clean air as much as the next person but we want our standards to be based on empirical fact not on suppositions based on an ideological bias against fossil fuels.

JoePa (1926-2012)

Joe Paterno, one of the finest men ever to be involved in American sports, has died, reportedly of complications due to lung cancer. I suspect, though, that the real cause of his death was a broken heart.

Paterno coached at Penn State for 60 years, setting a standard for what a class athletic program should be, bringing in many millions of dollars of revenue to the institution, and giving millions of his own money to promote the academic life of the university.

After having essentially put Penn State on the map as a first class school, after sixty years of changing students' lives and helping make PSU what it is today, the university Board of Trustees fired him without even giving him the courtesy of a meeting, without giving him the opportunity to resign, without giving him the chance to finish out the season. They owed him that much, but in their rush to wash their hands of the whole sordid Sandusky episode, they denied him his dignity and treated him in the least charitable fashion they possibly could have.

I don't question their judgment that, if it was the case that Paterno knew something of Jerry Sandusky's sexual predations on young boys and still allowed him the use of campus sports facilities, he was seriously negligent, and if he were a young coach who hadn't yet done much for the school, perhaps a summary dismissal might have been in order. But a man who had done so much good for so many, a man to whom the school and its students owe so much, deserved better than to be humiliated and disgraced because one time in his life he made a wrong judgment.

To no one's surprise, Paterno handled his dismissal with far more class than did his employers, but I'm sure that having been treated with such contempt by the institution he loved and to which he gave his life, he must have literally suffered a broken heart. I'm also confident that heaven holds a place of honor and respect for him even if the Penn State trustees don't.