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Editorials
It’s about peace, not war PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Tuesday, 23 December 2014 15:34

Christmas is in good shape, healthy, vigorous, more popular than ever.

    This is not good news for the sourpusses who keep yakking about all the awful things being done to Christmas.

    Outstanding among them are the cable TV talkers who rant about what they call the war on Christmas.

    Experts in the ancient art of setting up flimsy straw men and then knocking them over with a great show of bravado, they go to the ramparts each December to defend Christmas against supposed attacks by secularists, atheists and non-Christians among others who might deviate from what they certify as Christmas orthodoxy.

     Theirs is an orthodoxy that has somehow missed the fact that America embraces believers in a spectrum of religious faiths, as well as atheists who reject all faiths, and that for some Christmas is more a beloved national holiday than a day of religious significance.

    These yuletide defenders soldier on, though their fight must be frustrating, there being so little evidence of anyone actually making war on Christmas. They have to settle for outrage over the few objections to overtly religious Christmas displays on government or public school property that make the news each year and reports of people committing the offense of conveying well wishes of the season by saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”

    Most Americans could not care less about such manufactured outrage, and are probably as likely to believe the Santa myth as the war-on-Christmas myth.

    Polls conducted by the Pew Research Center found that Americans love Christmas as it is. More than 90% of us celebrate Christmas. About half of the population observes it as a religious event, the other half as a holiday.

    On the subject dear to the hearts of the war-on-Christmas platoon, the poll found that 46% prefer “Merry Christmas” and everyone else thinks “Happy holidays” is fine or that it doesn’t matter what words we use to express happy wishes to folks during the season. As in much about Christmas, it’s the thought that counts.

    One of the nice thoughts about this Christmas is that those who have been getting mileage out of the phony war on Christmas seem to be running out of steam. Fox TV’s Bill O’Reilly, who pretty much invented the term “war on Christmas,” if not the war itself, has found so little to be outraged about this Christmas that he declared in a recent program that he and his cohorts have won the war.

    While elaborating on this, he was interrupted by a commercial break that featured a Fox News graphic wishing viewers “Happy Holidays.”

    Intentionally or not, the network’s choice of the generic holiday greeting that infuriates one of its stars underscored the absurdity of trying to make Christmas controversial. Whether in its religious or secular form, observed as the anniversary of the birth of Christ or as a national holiday, Christmas is a phenomenon that for a few days each year unites most Americans in the spirit of kindness, generosity and empathy.

    Christmas is about peace, not war.

 
Defying science, inviting measles and worse PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 17 December 2014 18:43

The 1950s horror story of polio in Wisconsin should be a warning to those who refuse vaccinations for their children

Ebola, the disease born in Africa that causes death after appalling suffering in a high percentage of the victims, frightens Americans even though there have been only eight people diagnosed with the virus in this country, six of whom contracted it in Africa.

    Wisconsin residents old enough to remember the 1950s have an informed perspective from which to view the ebola scare. In 1955, a virus capable of inflicting mass suffering and death infected 2,544 Wisconsinites, mostly children, killing 166 of them. Many survivors were left crippled or with life-shortening health impairments. The disease was polio and being scared was wholly justified. Parents were terrified.

    That same year inoculations with the polio vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk began. By 1965 no new polio cases were reported in Wisconsin.

    Could polio come back? It could. In fact, its stalking horse is already here. It’s called measles.

    After years with no reported cases of this childhood disease once thought defeated forever by vaccination, there has been a flare-up of measles, recently including cases in Milwaukee.

    “Measles is making a terrifying comeback in the U.S., with some 600 cases reported this year, more than in any year in the past two decades,” according to Dr. Haider Javed Warraich of the Harvard Medical School. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, he laid the blame on “the increasing number of people refusing vaccinations, usually on behalf of their children.”

    Measles is not in the same league of dread diseases as ebola and polio, but there is a reason the doctor described its return as terrifying. Extremely contagious, measles can cause encephalitis, pneumonia and deafness. It can be fatal.

    Thousands of American children are being left vulnerable to measles because their parents have bought into various theories holding that vaccines cause autism and other health problems for children.

    These theories have been thoroughly discredited by science, yet the doubters persist and seem to be growing in numbers and influence. Distrust of science is not unusual in America, as the rejection of the science of evolution and climate change by large minorities attests.             Newsweek quoted a prominent antivaccine advocate in Mississippi as saying, “I saw the Disney movie ‘Bears,’ and if God gave bears the instinct to survive their harsh reality, then human beings certainly have the instinct to protect children. Mumps, measles and rubella don’t scare me.”

    Such ignorance would be easier to dismiss if it weren’t that children have to pay the price for it. And it’s not just the children of the vaccine objectors who have to pay it. Vaccination programs start to lose effectiveness in preventing disease outbreaks when less than entire populations are inoculated. It is worrisome that the percentage of children in Wisconsin who meet vaccination requirements is steadily dropping.

    Only 91% of Wisconsin students have received the required vaccinations. State law requires 15 doses of five vaccines to enter kindergarten, but parents can easily—too easily—opt out by checking a box on the immunization form and signing it.

    Wisconsin is one of 20 states that allows these so-called personal conviction waivers. The state should toughen the exemption standards by at least requiring consultation with health workers for parents refusing vaccination for their children.

     The outbreak threat now is measles. But the same root cause—parents who reject scientific proof about vaccinations—could lead to a decline in polio inoculations that could revive the infectious disease that once spread fear and, in many cases, tragedy in Wisconsin and elsewhere.

    Parents who demonize the vaccinations that are considered the most effective public health initiative in history should learn about that horror story. They need a good scare.


 
Marching to the brew pub PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 10 December 2014 19:04

The Port Common Council moved in lock step closer to selling public harbor land for a brew pub, but left an escape route that could save the city from a mistake

The Port Washington Common Council put on an impressive demonstration of government by unanimous vote at its meeting last week. Dealing with an issue of surpassing importance and significant controversy, in the face of a chamber packed with opponents of the council’s proposed action, not a single alderman raised a question, expressed a doubt or revealed so much as a scintilla of hesitancy before voting 7-0 to put public lakefront land on the market as a site for a brew pub.

    The more than 30 members of the public who attended the meeting didn’t get a debate or even a discussion of the pros and cons of selling publicly owned land at the harbor for commercial development.

    What they did get was comments from several aldermen maintaining that their vote would not commit the city to selling the land but was meant merely to, as one alderman put it, “see if there’s an idea out there” for the commercial use of what is now a parking lot at the north end of the downtown marina. Another alderman, Council President Dan Becker, emphasized, “This action tonight commits the city to absolutely nothing.”

    It is doubtful those comments succeeded in soothing the objectors. The remarkably fast pace of the move to declare the land surplus and offer it for sale—approvals by the Community Development Authority, Plan Commission and Common Council in a span of only two weeks—has left many in the city with the perception that city officials are on a mission to quickly convert the public harbor land to a brew pub site.

    Yet the statement that the council vote to declare the parking lot surplus property does not commit the city to selling the land is absolutely true. Council members would do well to remember that, because it can be their out, their way of escaping a mistake that Port Washington history is not likely to judge kindly.

    The process, nonetheless, continues to move at speed. Requests for proposals to buy the land will soon be distributed to potential buyers. Offers will likely come in. But trading the public’s lake views and proximity to the water for something as banal as a brew pub would be such an uneven exchange that any offers received should be set aside until a thorough reconsideration of the use of the parking lot land can be conducted.

    An exercise in creating a new downtown development plan led to an epiphany among officials that the parking lot between Washington Street and the inner harbor is not really needed to park cars. How that morphed into a judgment that a brew pub would be a highest and best use of the land defies understanding.

    In land-use decisions made in many communities fortunate enough to be located beside oceans, lakes and rivers, publicly owned waterside land is treated is an asset of incalculable value to be developed only for public use in recreation or aesthetic appreciation of natural beauty. Respected studies have shown that this approach, besides protecting public resources, increases the value of nearby commercial development.

    A comprehensive plan for all of Port Washington’s lakefront land, both publicly and privately owned, is needed and could well conclude that sacrificing public land of significant natural value for commercial development would be a step backward by both economic and quality-of-life calculations.

    Even short of such a study, it stands to reason that the city government should keep control of the lakefront land the people own. Selling the parking lot for a brew pub or some similar use would close the door to the city ever taking advantage of better opportunities that would keep it in the public domain, such as the Kiwanis Club’s offer to create a park there at its expense or future options that could include institutional or cultural use of the property, with views and water access intact, in which the public would have a stake.

    Meanwhile, negative reaction to the council’s unanimous vote is building in the community—another reason it is good that, in the aldermen’s own words, the city is not committed to selling the harbor land.


 
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