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Sen. Rand Paul - Photo: Facebook

Sen. Rand Paul – Photo: Facebook

In the mid-20th Century, conservatives fulminated about the “monstrous commie plot” of water fluoridation. Today, sadly, there appears to be a modern day equivalent of this imaginary bogeyman.

According to a rather disturbing story in this morning’s Charlotte Observer, Kentucky Senator and presidential wannabe Rand Paul has endorsed the dangerous idea that childhood vaccinations should be left to the whims of parents.

“Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., claimed Monday that vaccines can cause ‘profound mental disorders.’

Paul, in an often contentious interview with CNBC, argued that parents should have a choice whether to vaccinate their children.

‘I’ve heard of many tragic cases of walking talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines,’ Paul said.

The scientific community overwhelmingly believes that vaccines are safe and the alleged link between vaccines and autism has been discredited.

As the country was reminded in recent days with the outbreak of measles at Disneyland, vaccinations are a critical, life-saving public health tool — a tool that’s built in large measure on universal compliance. How do people think we got rid of dreaded killers like smallpox and polio — through prayer and fasting?

Whatever the source of Paul’s wacky views — be they old-fashioned conservative fear and paranoia or, as journalist Amanda Marcotte argued persuasively on Talking Points Memo yesterday, elitism, for the sake of all our kids and grandchildren, let’s hope Paul’s ridiculous stance falls flat and is quickly consigned once more to the dustbin of history.

Commentary
state Sen. Thom Goolsby

Former State Sen. Thomas Goolsby

It’s a testament to just how far we have to go in this state — a place in which innocent people are shot and killed on what seems like an almost daily basis — when reasonably intelligent people write lengthy and celebratory blog posts about the long list of ways in which state lawmakers have made killing machines easier to obtain, brandish and use in recent years.

That’s what former State Senator Thomas Goolsby, a Wilmington criminal defense and personal injury lawyer, did last week on his law firm blog. Goolsby’s overwhelmingly depressing lists (click here and here to view them) were trumpeted yesterday on the soon-to-be-defunct legislative news website of former State Representative Tim Moffitt yesterday (Moffitt was defeated in November and will presumably stop referring to himself as a State Representative shortly).

Moffitt’s post is entitled “Of Interest to Gun Owners.” Lets hope it’s of interest to all caring and thinking North Carolinians — gun owners and non-owners alike — as they come together in the years ahead to begin to rein in this state’s out-of-control gun violence crisis.

Commentary

cigIt’s been a sobering holiday weekend for news in many respects, but here’s a happier story to start your December that provides yet another testament to the power of caring and intentional public policies designed to improve the human condition: The Winston-Salem Journal reports this morning that cigarette smoking in the United States reached a new low in 2013. This is from the story:

“Cigarette smoking among U.S. adults dropped to a new low in 2013, although just slightly below the previous rate, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last week.

The rate of 17.8 percent, or 42.1 million adult Americans, is viewed by anti-tobacco advocates as another year of progress even though the rate was 18.1 percent in 2012 and 20.9 percent in 2005.”

And, as anyone who’s been paying attention knows, this ongoing decline, ain’t happening because of the “genius of the market.” It’s happening because public officials initiated strong anti-smoking policies to educate citizens, curb advertising, limit places where smoking can take place and limit access to tobacco by minors.

Not surprisingly, North Carolina government still has a long way to go in this realm. Read More

Commentary
Ozone EPA

Image: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Good government can do a lot of to things to improve the quality of life for its citizens, but when you get down to it, making people healthier and safer is pretty much at or close to the top of any reasonable person’s list. That’s why the Affordable Care Act was and is, ultimately, for all its imperfections and corporate giveaways, a success. At the end of the day, more people will be alive, healthier and happier because of the ACA.

Happily, the same is also true of another important Obama administration initiative announced today: new rules to curb ozone pollution. As Newsweek.com reports:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday its proposal for a long-delayed regulation to curb ozone pollution, a human health hazard linked to asthma, heart disease, premature death, and an array of pregnancy complications. Read More

Commentary

McCrory cartoonGov. Pat McCrory took a rather startling and troubling position the other day when he spoke at the behest of a tobacco lobbyist against efforts in France and Ireland to further restrict cigarette packaging to promote public health.

Apparently, kowtowing to the hometown industry is more important than protecting the lives and well-being of a bunch of anonymous furreners.

Having established the precedent, however, maybe the Guv could follow up by doing the industry’s bidding on another matter impacting the health and well-being of kids he’ll never meet — farmworker children.

As it turns out, the tobacco industry has — at least publicly — endorsed a policy change that would, once and for all, end the scandal of child labor in American tobacco fields. As Associated Press reported today:

Two years after the Obama administration backed off a rule that would have banned children from dangerous agriculture jobs, public health advocates and lawmakers are trying anew to get kids off tobacco farms.

The new efforts were jumpstarted by a Human Rights Watch report in May that said nearly three-quarters of the children interviewed by the group reported vomiting, nausea and headaches while working on tobacco farms. Those symptoms are consistent with nicotine poisoning, often called Green Tobacco Sickness, which occurs when workers absorb nicotine through their skin while handling tobacco plants.

The article goes on to say that:
Philip Morris International, which limits the type of work children can do on tobacco farms, says it would like to see stronger U.S. regulations in this area.
Whatta’ ya’ say Guv? As long as you’re gonna’ be in the pocket of big tobacco, how about staying there when it would actually support a good cause?