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The Patriot Ledger
Saturday, January 3, 1998

Save me from the Loony Liberal Luddites
By Barbara Anderson

My New Year’s resolution is to survive 1998.

It’s looking less and less likely, though. Even if I don’t succumb to international threats like global warming and chicken flu, national problems like ozone depletion and El Nino, and statewide concerns like auto emissions and second-hand smoke, I still have to deal locally with killer pesticides and the Salem Power Plant.

You probably think that Marblehead is a safe place to live, with its low crime rate and limited traffic patterns. Well, last month the State Department of Public Health released a study that shows my little town with a breast cancer rate 32 percent above the state norm.

My first thought was to wonder just how many extra cases this represents and what demographics might cause the higher rate. To some locals, however, panic comes first, followed by wild accusations and blame: The Salem Power Plant is killing our women, aided and abetted by affluent homeowners who use pesticides on their lawns.

The next step is to seek state funds for a study that proves this conclusion, and the final step, presumably, is to live in darkness on dirt. Will no one save me from Loony Liberal Luddites with too much time on their hands?

They met at the funeral of a friend who had died of breast cancer and suddenly realized (as have many of us who survived war and childbirth to reach middle age) that they knew other people who had breast cancer, some of them women who rarely leave town! Logic took over from there: Marblehead has a higher breast cancer rate and is downwind from the power plant;

Boxford has a lower than average rate, and is upwind from the power plant; therefore, the plant causes breast cancer. Who can argue with that?

Fortunately, lots of people can, including Marblehead’s public health director, who advised everyone not to panic until more facts were available, pointing out that the existence of a breast health clinic in town could result in better detection and skew the statistics. The selectmen and other town leaders decided to study the issue before jumping to conclusions. But this did not deter the Loony Liberal Luddites, whose Leader writes a loony liberal column for a major metropolitan newspaper (not this one); last month she told her readers, "I was in a fury to uncover what was murdering us, one by one." Her other choices: "lawn pesticides, our water, ocean pollution." Just the usual life-threatening hazards of residing in a well-kept ocean-front community.

So how come we’re not all dead? My yard is an untreated, ant-ridden, dandelion-choked wasteland, but Salem Harbor is a block away. I’m downwind from the plant and I drink town water. Is it just a matter of time ‘til my neighbors with the nice lawns murder me with pesticides added to my neighborhood environment? (And when I’m gone, they’ll probably sneak over with their deadly poisons and murder my ants and dandelions, too!)

Hey, I admit: I too fear breast cancer (although not enough to lose weight, exercise or eat kale), I don’t like pesticides (although I’m not wild about bugs either), and I’d rather not live downwind from pollution-producing power plants (although I really like electricity a lot). Life, for as long as it lasts, which is a lot longer than it used to be before pesticides and electricity helped feed us and keep us warm, is a series of trade-offs; why can’t LLL’s see that?

The clue is in the Leader’s column, which details her recent period of "feeling unfocused and disconnected. . . . I thought I was lost, but I was really preparing myself for the moment when destiny summoned me back into action."

Suddenly it all became clear to me: the anti-smoking campaigns, the mandatory margarine campaigns, the mandatory seatbelt and airbag campaigns, the new state auto emissions law. It also explains the silly hearing the Congress held last year on El Nino—something for loony liberals to do!

Of course, their cigarette disclosure law just informed kids that cigarettes contain chocolate. Margarine has been found to be more dangerous than butter, airbags kill babies, and just wait until cars start flunking the new emissions law en masse! We can only be grateful that no loony liberal has figured out what to do about the weather, although Al Gore is working on it.

Maybe the LLL’s can all keep busy on his presidential campaign, and leave the rest of us alone for awhile.
Barbara Anderson is co-director of Citizens for Limited Taxation and Government. (Her column appears bi-weekly)