February 16, 2005


The rise of the bike path left (Jonah Goldberg, February 16, 2005, Townhall)

When Howard Dean was still on top of the world looking down on the Democratic presidential nomination, the indispensable columnist Mark Steyn, writing in the Wall Street Journal, dubbed the good doctor the figurehead of the "bike path left."

This was a reference to Dean's decision to leave the Episcopalian Church because his parish had opposed his plan to build a local bike path. As Steyn noted, what made this controversy remarkable, considering the recent dust-ups within the Anglican community, was that this was not in fact a gay bike path, nor a path one biked on the way to a gay marriage. No, this was just an ordinary bike path, and, for all the theological issues involved in the controversy, Dean's church might just as well have been a McDonald's or a Jiffy Lube. It was just, in Dean's words, a "big fight." "I was fighting to have public access to the waterfront, and we were fighting very hard.."

Steyn contrasted Dean's readiness to rumble about a bike path with his more leisurely attitude toward war. When Saddam was captured, Dean had said, "I suppose that's a good thing." When the butchers Uday and Qusay were killed in a raid, Dean said, "The ends don't justify the means." About Osama bin Laden, Dean explained in 2003, "I don't think it makes a lot of difference" if he's tried in the Hague or in the place where he orchestrated the murder of thousands of Americans. Asked if the Hague would be good for Saddam, too, Dean airily replied, "Suits me fine."

In short, about the war on terror Dean was dismissively blase. About bike paths he was a pit bull. [...]

That Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid failed to stop Dean suggests that the base marches to his drum, not theirs.

Perhaps Pelosi and Reid recognized that the party's best hopes do not reside in rallying left-wingers who use "summer" as a verb. The essential characteristic of the Bike Path Left is its passion for lifestyle issues.

And here is how this matters, Unions Lobby Dems on Air-Pollution Plan (MALIA RULON, 2/15/05, Associated Press)
A coalition of labor unions - traditionally a bastion of support for Democrats - are lobbying senators of that party in favor of President Bush's air-pollution plan.

The unions have written to members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, where they are targeting freshman Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., to possibly provide the swing vote when the measure is considered Wednesday.

Tommy Vietor, a spokesman from Obama's office, said Monday that the senator welcomes the unions' opinion on the bill, but he couldn't say whether it would affect Obama's vote.

Support for the measure is divided down the middle of the 18-member committee. Democrats on the committee, along with Sen. Jim Jeffords, a Vermont independent, and moderate Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, oppose the measure...

Where the interests of working class Democrats are diametrically opposed to those of the bike path Left, which part of the increasingly fragile coalition do nthey alienate?

Clear Skies, No Lies (Gregg Easterbrook, 2/16/05, NY Times)

SUPPOSE Al Gore had become president and proposed a law to cut pollution from power plants by about 70 percent at a low cost, to discourage the lawsuits that often stall clean-air rules from being enforced, and to serve as a model for a future system to regulate greenhouse gases. Chances are Mr. Gore would have been widely praised. Instead George W. Bush got the White House and announced a plan to do those very things, yet it has been relentlessly denounced by Democrats, environmentalists, editorial pages and even characters in a Doonesbury cartoon.

Critics both real and drawn assert that the program, which is called Clear Skies and is scheduled to be voted on by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee today, is a shocking assault on clean-air law, an insidious weakening of environmental protections wrapped up with an Orwellian label. These criticisms are off target, except it is true that Clear Skies is a really dumb name.

Mr. Bush's proposal would cut by more than 70 percent the amounts of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury emitted by power plants. The first two substances cause acid rain and contribute to respiratory disease; the third is a poison. The plan would also permanently cap plant emissions nationwide, meaning that pollutant levels must not rise no matter how much more power is generated in the future. The proposed cap for sulfur dioxide is 90 percent lower than the amount emitted in 1970; the cap for nitrogen oxide is 94 percent lower than 1970.

So, under the Bush plan - supposedly a sellout to industry - sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, the two power-plant emissions of most concern to public health, would be nearly eliminated as compared with levels in 1970. Clear Skies would also moot the long-running controversy over the "new source review" rule, which may require operators of the old power plants in the Midwest to add pollution controls when those plants are modified. Those plants too would have to participate in the 70 percent overall reduction, a deeper cut than required by any interpretation of the "new source" standard.

All well and good, but it's an ideological matter for the bike pathers, not a factual issue.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 16, 2005 8:05 AM

Arrogance and cultural elitism compels the bulk of the Democrats to come down on the side of the bike paths -- in general the union people just aren't their type. But my guess is Obama votes with the unions on this one, since those same elites still aren't willing to risk attacking one of their own party members and really risking alienation from the Democrats' other main base, the African-American voters.

Posted by: John at February 16, 2005 8:19 AM

DNC New Math:

Increase, Growth = Any time Bush proposes Cuts, Reductions in "bad things" like emissions.
Growth in "good things" like Federal Spending.

Brings new meaning to what the meaning of "is" is.

Posted by: Moe from NC at February 16, 2005 9:36 AM

It's idolatry, and the rituals will be performed, regardless.

Posted by: Luciferous at February 16, 2005 4:01 PM