Health

When Agencies Fail  

Lives can be lost when agencies fall down on the job.

What happens when agencies fail in their jobs? People can die. The most dramatic example is the opioid crisis, in which a whole series of state and federal agencies fell short.  The result has been hundreds of thousands of deaths. The FDA was one of the prime culprits. It bought into a myth, carefully cultivated …

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Is the ‘Vaccine Mandate’ Legal?

Despite all the political huffing and puffing, Biden’s order has a solid legal basis.

Incensed critics are calling Biden’s proposed “vaccine mandate” an outrageous usurpation of power. They need to take a deep breath. It’s not really a vaccine mandate, the only statutory issue is procedural, and there’s no constitutional problem. Calling Biden’s order a vaccine mandate is misleading. It could just as well be considered a testing mandate …

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Vaccination, Enlightenment Values, and the Founders

Anti-vaxxers and climate deniers are abandoning America’s founding values.

Ironically, those who most trumpet their allegiance to the Founders often have least in common with their values. The Founding Fathers were men of the Enlightenment. They shared a belief that reason, free inquiry, and science would better the human condition. They looked to reason as a guide. They sought, in Jefferson’s words, to expunge …

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The Opioid Epidemic and Vaccine Hesitancy

The places hit hardest by opioids are often skeptical of vaccines. That’s probably not a coincidence.

The opioid crisis was the product of corporate greed run amok and a corrupted regulatory process. That crisis may have amplified deep distrust of the pharmaceutical industry and its government watchdogs — distrust that may now be reflected in vaccine skepticism. First, a little history. The manufacturer, Purdue Pharma,  aggressively promoted the use of oxycontin, …

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How Harmful Was Trump’s COVID Response?

We know it was bad, but how much of the U.S. death rate can be attributed to him rather than circumstances?

The U.S. COVID response went badly in 2020. How much was because Trump was Trump? That is, if Trump had been a moderately competent but imperfect leader, facing a diverse population with a significant resistance to public health measures, how many lives would have been saved? That’s not a question that anyone can answer with …

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Getting the Lead Out

The Ninth Circuit tells EPA to determine safe levels for lead based solely on science.

Lead can cause neurological damage to young children and developing fetuses. The only really safe level is zero. Because poor children are the most likely to be exposed to this hazard, this is also a major environmental justice issue. The Trump EPA took the position that it could set a hazard level higher than zero …

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When “Stay In Your Lane” Is Wrong

Technical policy questions often involve ethical political questions that the public must have a say in

As vaccination for the coronavirus in the United States ramps up, I want to take a look back to a policy dispute over the initial plans for vaccine distribution at the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021 – in part because that fight (like “follow the science,” which I blogged about recently) also …

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Trump Finds His Medical Rasputin

The newest addition to Trump’s coronavirus task force is a faux expert who just happens to share all of Trump’s views.

President Trump has added a new member to his coronavirus task force, Dr. Scott Atlas.  It’s no wonder that Trump loves Dr. Atlas, a retired Stanford radiologist who frequently appears on Fox.  Atlas thinks  “we are committing national suicide” if we continue serious health precautions against the coronavirus. Here are more of Dr. Atlas’s dubious …

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Managing a Pandemic, Enron-Style

The Administration’s management harkens back to a spectacular business collapse at the turn of the century.

Think of this as a parable. I’ll draw out some parallels at the end with the Trump Administration’s handling of the coronavirus, as detailed in a story in Sunday’s Washington Post. But first I’ll let you make some of the connections yourself. The Trump team’s triumph in 2016 was one of the great upsets in …

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Constitutional Rights in a Pandemic

When does public health override individual rights?

Lockdowns and social distancing impinge on activities that are protected by the Constitution. That’s been true in many states of church services and in some states of abortion. When the cases have come before they courts, they have often turned to a 1905 Supreme Court case decision, Jacobson v. Massachusetts, which upheld a state law …

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