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Blame the news media PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 17 August 2016 20:05

You know things aren’t going well for a Republican candidate for president when polls show him tied with the Democratic candidate in a region of southeast Wisconsin that is considered one of the most dependable GOP strongholds in the country.

That’s what the latest Marquette University Law School poll says about Donald Trump’s esteem among voters in a corner of the state, which includes Ozaukee and Waukesha counties, that favored Mitt Romney over Barack Obama by 14 points in 2012.

Trump is getting similar bad news from polls in areas of other states that usually vote Republican, and he’s making it clear in his boisterous rallies that he knows whom to blame: It’s the news media’s fault.

Trump may be a liar of unprecedented prolificacy among presidential candidates—the nonpartisan fact-checking organization PolitiFact rates more than 60% of his campaign statements as false or worse (“pants on fire”)—but he is telling the truth about the news media.

Political analysts attribute Trump’s slide in the polls to blunders such as his bizarre claim that President Obama founded ISIS, his provocative suggestion that gun enthusiasts could act against Hillary Clinton and his cruel attack on the parents of an American army soldier of the Muslim faith who was killed in action in Afghanistan, but it has really been the news media’s unwavering reporting of these disturbing statements that has given voters more reason to doubt Trump’s fitness for the presidency.

In each case, Trump reacted to overwhelmingly negative fallout by blaming the press for distorting his comments. This led to further scrutiny of his odd pronouncements, which led to confirmation that the mainstream print and electronic press had in almost every instance reported on them accurately and fairly.

The press, after a rough start, is finally doing its job covering a presidential race that is unconventional to say the least.

Early on, Donald Trump schooled the news media. He exploited news organizations, particularly those of ratings-hungry cable TV, with colorful behavior that garnered free exposure far in excess of that granted other candidates and propelled his surge in Republican primaries.

Meanwhile, the press, particularly the print variety, resorted to its old false equivalence habit to demonstrate its objectivity, equating the latest damning revelation about Trump with something negative about another candidate, suggesting the candidates were equally untrustworthy.

Hard lessons were learned. Today the same cable TV organizations, including CNN, MSNBC and others, that lavished uncritical attention on Trump now broadcast real-time fact-checking—pointing out misstatements on the screen as Trump speaks.

Newspapers, along with the Associated Press and network TV, now routinely add detailed context to reporting on Trump statements that exposes untruths, distortions and frequent factual mistakes.

Trump once merely ridiculed journalists (including a vicious impression of a respected reporter with a degenerative neurological condition), but he now rails against them in long diatribes. His frequent characterization of members of the press as “the lowest form of life” at campaign appearances is red meat fed to his true believers, who have been known to physically menace reporters while excoriating them as “fags” and “traitors.”

Trump’s performance at his rallies has been likened to playing to a mob, an assessment that is supported by a widely viewed video compiled by a team of New York Times reporters who have covered the rallies for the past year. In the video, Trump is heard inciting his audience to a frenzied point where a mention of Hillary Clinton elicits chants of “hang the bitch” and a reference to the current president of the United States is met with repetitions of an epithet that includes both the F-word and the N-word.

Trump blames the news media for his problems. He’s right to the extent that accurate reporting on a candidate’s penchant for spewing a toxic mix of vitriol and lies may to be leading Americans of various political beliefs to the conclusion that he should not be allowed anywhere near the White House.

The vitality of libraries PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 10 August 2016 20:35

Public libraries in Wisconsin took a hard hit in Gov. Scott Walker’s budget in 2011 with a deep cut in state aid. That hurt, and the pain continues because the reduced funding level has remained unchanged for the past five years. Still, state residents should probably be thankful it wasn’t worse, given the repeated pronouncements that the days of libraries are numbered in the Internet era.

Reports of the demise of libraries have not only been exaggerated, as in Mark Twain’s deathless quote about his own mortality, they’ve been flat wrong. Libraries have thrived even as the World Wide Web has expanded its influence as a repository of information.

  Libraries are still relevant because they have adapted adroitly to the rise of information technology by using the Internet and other means of electronic communication to provide some of their services and because the printed word—still the mainstay of library resources—remains a cultural necessity.

The community libraries of Ozaukee County reflect this vigor, and can look forward to an even healthier future thanks to the decision by the County Board last week to approve the merger of the Eastern Shores Library System, to which the public libraries in Ozaukee and Sheboygan counties belong, with the Mid-Wisconsin Federated Library System representing libraries in Washington and Dodge counties.

Library directors like the merger because it is expected that it will help make diminished state funding go further and give their patrons more materials combined with improved access. County officials like it because state law requires county funding for libraries and cost-saving efficiencies are expected under the merger.

The free services provided by community libraries include computers for the public to use, wi-fi, digital books for e-reading devices, DVDs and CDs and expert guidance from librarians to navigate the trove of information available in libraries.

But the heart and soul of these institutions remains the access they provide to the printed word—in current newspapers and magazines and archives of those publications and in books, especially in books.

It was heartening to read in an Ozaukee Press article that Tom Carson, the new director of Port Washington’s Niederkorn Library, plans to make expansion of the library’s already robust printed book collection a priority.

In this, Carson, who came from a position in the Kenosha public library, reflects what librarians across the country are seeing—resurging interest in ink-on-paper books.

Said Carson, “We can’t ignore technology, but we have to realize people still want print books. Studies are showing things are starting to balance out between print and digital.”

When sales of e-book and digital reading devices went through the roof in 2008 along with diminishing book sales, analysts predicted that e-books would overtake traditional books by 2015. It didn’t happen, and digital book sales have slowed markedly in recent years.

With today’s libraries, readers can order virtually any book in print with a few computer keyboard strokes on a website and pick it up at the library desk.

The vitality of libraries is bracing evidence that the culture of reading is very much alive, contrary to perceptions that Americans are increasingly spending their leisure time on such banal pursuits as binging on Facebook and Internet browsing and shopping.

If another reason to applaud the durability of libraries is needed, here it is: Libraries go back thousands of years. Their history shows they are fundamental requisites of civilization and that by making knowledge free to all who want it they are agents of human freedom. Recall what despots do first when they try to steal that freedom: They burn the books.

Port’s diverse habitat PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 03 August 2016 18:54

Big-impact proposals—a blues music complex, apartments and condos on the downtown waterfront, homes and commercial buildings on the lake bluff, a sprawling subdivision on 227 acres of lakeshore land two miles south of the downtown—are making big development news in the City of Port Washington. While these are all potential developments—not a shovel of earth has yet been turned for any of them—development of a smaller, quieter nature has been steadily going forward, and the city is a better place because of it.

This is the development of new affordable housing, a concept that has been relegated to obsolescence in many suburban municipalities. It is alive in Port Washington, and while it is a small movement in terms of the number of homes, it is an important contribution to the character of a city that has thrived as a diverse community of home-owning blue and white-collar workers.

The Ozaukee chapter of Habitat for Humanity, the nonprofit organization whose mission is to work toward the goal of ensuring that everyone has a decent place to live, is responsible for a cluster of sturdy, energy-efficient, two-story houses of modest size along South Park Street, adjacent to a neighborhood of older houses.

Construction is underway now on a house in the Park Street Habitat “subdivision” that will be home for a mother and a son who is disabled and needs wheelchair-accessible living quarters. Though built by unpaid volunteers (with expert supervision), Habitat homes are not gifts. Residents are chosen based on criteria meant to ensure they will be responsible homeowners. They are required to have jobs and earn enough to make regular payments on the no-interest mortgages Habitat provides, as well as pitching in on the building process. The idea is that Habitat homeowners will be contributors to the vitality of the community.

That this is the ninth Habitat home to be built in Port Washington is a credit not just to that organization, but to the city government, whose officials have been welcoming and helpful in facilitating Habitat’s good work.

Habitat for Humanity is also building a house in Grafton, but there it took a yearslong battle to get approval from village officials, who seemed to have difficulty understanding the value of allowing a bit of space to be used to encourage the construction of housing that people of modest means can afford.

Back in Port Washington, compact housing on affordable lots is also getting a boost from Mike Spies’ Timber Creek Development company, which has built a row of appealing two-story houses on land along Division Street that had been shunned for years because of its proximity to a foundry.

While modern in every way, particularly in its state-of-the-art energy conservation features, the development is reminiscent of some of Port Washington’s attractive older neighborhoods, where closely spaced houses have small yards with garages placed discreetly behind the homes.

These neighborhoods dating to the early and mid-20th century, shaded and quieted by mature trees, continue to thrive, and serve as an example of how well-designed residential streets can contribute to community life. Today they fill a need for starter homes, which in many cases have been improved by proud owners.

Though it is subject to the pressures of suburban development, Port Washington remains a traditional community in which middle-class families can live and work. Though the days when Port neighborhoods were populated by people who had good-paying jobs at the city’s then-thriving manufacturing plants have passed, the affordable house ethic that has sustained the city for 181 years endures. 

Port Washingtonians can be proud that even as development plans for fabulous tourist attractions and luxury lakeshore housing are extolled, the city remains a community in which families of diverse prosperity levels can afford to live.

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