George Boardman: Anti-vaxxers are worthy candidates for honorary Darwin Awards | TheUnion.com
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George Boardman: Anti-vaxxers are worthy candidates for honorary Darwin Awards

Observations from the center stripe: Bumpy ride edition

IF YOU think our potholes are bad, take a ride on Rock Creek Road in Auburn, the shortcut from Highway 49 to Target. Those aren’t potholes, they’re craters ... WHEN I visited my physician recently for my annual wellness checkup, I was offered my choice of pronouns: He, she, they, or other … ARE ANY of those Republicans who criticized Barack Obama for executive overreach now cheering Donald Trump’s decision to declare a “national emergency” to build his wall? What do you think? … REP. ALEXANDRIA Ocasio-Cortez and others who opposed New York’s $3 billion subsidy to Amazon look a lot smarter since the company announced it earned $11.2 billion last year but paid no federal taxes …

Nevada County residents should pay close attention to the measles outbreak in the Portland-Vancouver area because the same thing can happen here.

The area is known for its low child vaccination rate, so it was no big surprise to public health officials that 65 cases of the disease have been reported, 44 of them children under the age of 11, as of last Friday.

That follows a report by CALmatters that three years after California made it harder for families to opt out of vaccinations, the number of children getting medical waivers has tripled. Doctors are loosely issuing exemptions to help families get around the law, and in some cases, it’s just a matter of cash changing hands, according to a survey published by the American Academy of Pediatrics.



“We delegated that authority to licensed physicians, and the problem is we have physicians abusing that authority,” said state Senator Richard Pan, a Sacramento pediatrician who authored the ban on personal exemptions.

Two counties in California are tied for the highest medical exemption rate at 7.5 percent. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that Nevada County is one of them. That suggests that a county with already low vaccination rates is going to become an even stronger candidate for a major outbreak.




Unfortunately, the stubborn resistance to vaccinations is not unique to Nevada County. Resistance in other parts of the country has led to weak state vaccination laws, a trend that may compel the feds to intervene, according to Dr. Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.

“Some states are engaging in such wide exemptions that they’re creating the opportunity for outbreaks on a scale that is going to have national implications,” he said recently. If “certain states continue down the path they’re on, I think they’re going to force the hand of federal health agencies.”

The anti-vaxxers have done such a good job retarding the advance of science that I think they deserve honorary mentions from the presenters of the Darwin Awards, named for the great biologist and given to people who “eliminate themselves in an extraordinarily idiotic manner, thereby improving our species’ chances of long-term survival.”

The awards, which have spawned a website and several books, generally go to people who either die or become sterilized through their own actions. My favorite is the guy who tried to kill a rattlesnake with the butt of his shotgun. He managed to pin down the snake just below its head, but it wrapped its tail around the trigger and pulled. The shotgun was loaded and the barrel was pointed at the man’s chest. End of story.

But honorable mentions are occasionally awarded to individuals who survive their misadventures. Nominees for Darwin Awards have to be people who are capable of sound judgment yet still make bad decisions. Most anti-vaxxers pass those two tests.

The brush-off

If you were carefully watching the start of the TV coverage of the State of the Union address, you saw President Donald Trump give the brush-off to a fellow Republican, Rep. Doug LaMalfa.

Trump was walking down the aisle of the House chamber, shaking hands and giving high-fives to various representatives, when LaMalfa appeared to thrust a cap and pen toward the president. Trump backed off, waved his finger at LaMalfa, then continued down the aisle.

The incident quickly got our congressman the kind of exposure he’s never had before. Jimmy Fallon noted the encounter on “The Tonight Show” and the tape of the event received wide circulation on the internet.

Some people viewed this as a poor way to treat a Republican foot soldier who can be relied on to back the administration, particularly since Trump has no use for Democrats in any situation. When the congressional leaders of both parties came up with an agreement for funding the government and providing some money for Trump’s wall, he blamed the compromise on the Democrats.

Trump questioned the political leanings of Secretary of Defense James Mattis before he was fired, and undoubtedly means Democrats when he talks about “draining the swamp” in Washington. Trump’s demand for lock-step loyalty may have led to the LaMalfa brush-off.

Our congressman recently criticized the president on two occasions after he threatened to withhold disaster relief funds from California. Heck, LaMalfa has even co-sponsored several pieces of legislation with Rep. John Garamendi, a frequent critic of Trump. Now comes a recent revelation in the San Francisco Chronicle that LaMalfa has been spotted meeting with California’s House Democratic caucus!

Rep. Zoe Lofgren of San Jose, chair of the Democratic delegation, said she sends letters to the state’s Republican representatives every year inviting them to attend the weekly meetings, but rarely gets a response. LaMalfa attended one of the meetings in January about disaster funding.

Disaster relief and transportation funding are two areas where both caucuses can work together, LaMalfa said. “Maybe there’s not a whole lot of fruit hanging that low.” He’s also willing to work across the aisle when it comes to water issues.

LaMalfa told the Chronicle he thinks Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Republican leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy can work better together than did Pelosi and former Speaker Paul Ryan. “They’ll find some way to stand kind of united on not having money taken away from disasters,” he said. “They’re going to word it different, they’re going to act different on it, but I think there’s going to be common ground.”

LaMalfa’s doing what every elected official does if he wants to get something done — work with the other side. This is not a popular approach in the Trump White House, and may explain why the president snubbed LaMalfa.

But it’s more likely that Trump just didn’t recognize LaMalfa. If you don’t pop up on CNN or Fox News during “executive time,” the president probably doesn’t know who you are.

CORRECTION: The estimated value of the shopping carts rounded up by Auburn Police was $3,200, not the $3,500 reported in last week’s Observation.

George Boardman lives at Lake of the Pines. His column is published Mondays by The Union. Write to him at boredgeorgeman@gmail.com.


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