Share this page on facebook
A time for national service PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 30 November 2016 17:15

When Donald J. Trump takes the oath of office as president of the United States on Jan. 20, 2017, it will be exactly 56 years since 17 of the most remembered words in presidential oratory were spoken.

John F. Kennedy, in his presidential inauguration address on Jan. 20, 1961, challenged his fellow Americans to: “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”

The words seem older than that half century plus six years; they sound alien, as though spoken in a foreign language, in the political atmosphere that abides now in the nation and resulted in the remarkable 2016 presidential election outcome.

Trump’s victory can be seen as a strident call by aggrieved voters for their country to do more for them. 

Citizens of a democracy have every right to demand that their government act in ways that help them make their lives better, and this certainly includes enacting policies that address economic anxiety.

And yet for a country to claim to be great—whether that be “great again,” in Trump’s words, or “still great,” as Hillary Clinton put it—there has to be something in its character more noble than a what’s-in-it-for-me outlook.

That noble element of the American character surely exists among its young citizens. It is the responsibility of the nation’s leaders, most of all its president, to inspire national service as an expectation of citizenship and to ensure that opportunities for that service, along with appropriate incentives and rewards, are available for all who are willing to serve their country as volunteers.

National service opportunities exist in the military services, the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps. The latter, which organizes volunteers to work on projects dealing with domestic needs, requires a major expansion. It currently has slots for only 75,000 volunteers. That should increase many fold, as should the college scholarships provided for those who serve.

A promising idea for further expanding opportunities for national service is to create a national service reserve and enlist millions of 18 to 30-year-old Americans into its ranks. Members would be trained in many skills and could be called on by state and local leaders to serve when a need arises, say in the aftermath of a national disaster.

It would be a long shot to expect President Trump to issue an inspirational call in his inaugural speech for volunteer service to help make America great again. There is no record of Trump having performed any sort of public service as he pursued fortunes as a real estate mogul and reality TV star. What’s more, he might find the concept of a national service reserve unappealing because it’s Hillary Clinton’s idea. 

Still, the awesome dimension of the presidency has inspired a broader understanding of America’s responsibilities in unlikely subjects before. 

Dare we hope that the election winner who made many promises to those who asked what their country could do for them will ask for something for the country in return?

Truth in the age of fake news PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Tuesday, 22 November 2016 19:18

The truth hurts.

That ancient aphorism helps explain the loathing in some quarters for the mainstream media.

That term referring to traditional newspaper and broadcast news organizations is now commonly used in the pejorative sense. Criticism of journalists rose to a fevered pitch during the run-up to the presidential election. At Trump rallies, both the candidate and some of his admirers voiced outright hatred for the mainstream media.

This contempt for professional journalists is based on the notion that they represent a sinister cabal conspiring to influence issues and elections with slanted reporting. Several regular writers of letters to the editor published in Ozaukee Press are fond of describing the mainstream media as “enablers” of liberal politicians.

There is about as much truth in that as in the report that Pope Francis endorsed Donald Trump for president. That absurdity was only one of many fake news reports that were taken as fact by the growing ranks of the gullible in the so-called age of information.

The rise of fake news—false reports accepted as fact for no more reason than that they were repeated on the likes of Facebook or Twitter or by cable television talkers dispensing opinion as truth—should be taken as evidence that the mainstream media are needed more than ever.

Legitimate journalists are trained to uncover facts and report them to the public. It is their mission, their reason for existence. 

Buying into the idea that the mainstream media is a cohesive amalgamation of journalists who knowingly report false information in furtherance of some sort of agenda requires about the same level of gullibility as believing Barack Obama is a gay, African-born Muslim with a history of drug dealing, another widely read fake news item.

Reporters are fiercely competitive, as are their bosses on the business side of news organizations. The chances that they would work together toward some political end are nil. But beyond that, the claim that the mainstream media has an agenda to somehow subvert the political process is nonsense per se because the core of journalism is a commitment to reporting facts.

The practitioners of journalism are human, and thus perfection is out of reach. Lazy, incompetent or biased reporting exists, but it is not tolerated in responsible news organizations. 

The mainstream media’s commitment to facts is both its saving grace and its problem—some people don’t want facts or prefer their own versions of facts. Despisal of the mainstream media has much in common with the medieval practice of killing the messenger who delivers bad news.

Politicians have been condemning the messenger for delivering news that puts them in a bad light for ages, though in the 2016 presidential election the practice generated a volume of vitriol that exceeded historical standards. 

For partisans in one camp or the other, it was painful to read or hear news about Trump’s bragging of sexual assaults or Clinton’s State Department emails turning up on the computer of a disgraced, sex-obsessed former congressman.

Which proves the adage: The truth hurts.

It hurts, but like an effective medicine, it’s good for us. It’s the antidote for fake news.

A win for the dirtiest fuel PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 16 November 2016 18:43

Old King Coal was not restored to its throne in last week’s presidential election, but it got a boost toward that goal from the outcome. 

The winner promised to push America to burn more coal.

If the new president keeps that campaign promise, more coal will be used to generate electricity instead of clean-burning natural gas and renewable energy sources, air quality will worsen, and the worldwide effort to stave off the most dangerous predictable impacts of global warming will be set back. 

Coal is the dirtiest power-plant fuel, a fact that is ingrained—as in grains of soot—in Port Washington’s history.

The coal-fired power plant that operated on the city’s lakefront for 70 years exhausted into the air thousands of tons of carbon dioxide, soot and fly ash laden with heavy metals and poisonous chemicals.

The pollution was bad for the earth’s atmosphere, but it was particularly harmful to the air over Port Washington and the surrounding area. The noxious emissions could be seen, smelled and tasted. 

On some days, the sky downwind from the power plant stacks (as many as five during one period in the plant’s history) was stained yellow. In some atmospheric conditions, laundry hung outside to dry was turned gray, as was white siding on houses. Boat owners attracted to the city’s newly opened marina found decks stained with soot and rust from the metals falling from the power plant smoke.

The health effects of the Port power plant’s pollution were not carefully documented during the plant’s tenure, but based on what medical science knows today, it can be assumed that long-term breathing of the air contaminated by the coal plant’s emissions caused illness and premature death.

<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Next > End >>

Page 6 of 131