Online Opinion Outpost: Jan. 27, 2015


The Opinion Outpost features opinions and commentary on the latest hot topics from national news sources. As much as you love hearing from The Universe, we thought you might like to hear from journalists around the nation.


Christie’s temper
Mark D. Weinberg, The Washington Post

By addressing national issues in his recent State of the State speech, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) took another step toward a presidential campaign. As a New Jersey Republican, I should be one of the first in line to support him. But, boy, does he make it hard sometimes.
It’s not that Christie lacks intelligence. Nor does he lack executive skills. He’s doing good things for New Jersey and works well with an often-hostile legislature.
But there’s something about how he conducts himself that gives one pause.
Consider this: The day before being elected president in a landslide after a long and arduous campaign, a tired Ronald Reagan said to a persistent heckler at a rally in San Diego: “Aw, shut up!” The crowd responded with a sustained ovation.
That stands in stark contrast to Christie’s retort to a heckler who interrupted him last fall to complain about the lack of government support to residents of towns devastated by Hurricane Sandy. In what has, unfortunately, become characteristic Christie style, the governor told the man to “sit down and shut up.” Some in the crowd applauded, but many observers were unimpressed by the governor’s thin skin, impatience and rudeness — again. It was not the first time he let a heckler get the best of him.
Telling opponents — even rude ones — to “sit down and shut up” may make for good YouTube content, but is it really what we want from someone we expect to work with other world leaders, not to mention a prickly Congress, devious foes and unstable dictators? The leader of the free world should be the calmest person in the room, not the first to pull hair or throw sand.


Bearded religious beliefs
Eric Rassbach , USA Today

At first glance, the case might seem to have little relevance to most Americans. The case was brought by an Arkansas Muslim prisoner, Abdul Muhammad, who sought to wear a half-inch beard in compliance with his religious beliefs. Almost every other state’s prison system would allow Muhammad to wear his beard. But Arkansas prison officials said no, citing a policy banning beards.
At the Supreme Court, Arkansas prison officials argued that their policy was justified by compelling government interests, asserting that prisoners could hide contraband in a half-inch of hair and that they needed clean-shaven prisoners for easier identification. The Supreme Court unanimously rejected these justifications, pointing out that other states had no problem with religious beards. Why does this matter? Most Americans aren’t prisoners, don’t live in Arkansas, aren’t Muslim and don’t wear beards.
When it comes to American law, no religion is an island. Because our laws treat all religions equally, the “rigorous standard” proclaimed by the Supreme Court protecting Muhammad’s religious liberty also protects the religious liberty of churches, synagogues and religious individuals across the country.
As government expands its role in all parts of our society, government rules come into conflict with religious people


Disneyland measles
Cynthia Leifer, CNN

For many kids, a trip to Disneyland is a dream come true. But for some of those kids and their families who visited “the happiest place on Earth” a few weeks ago, that dream has become a nightmare. In the past month, 36 people have come down with measles traced to an exposure at the theme park, including five employees of Disneyland.
Prior to the introduction of a vaccine in 1967, nearly every American got the measles; but since 2000, it has effectively been eradicated in this country, with the only sources of exposure being foreign visitors or Americans who traveled and brought it back. The threat is growing, however, because not enough people are getting vaccinated; and even for those who have gotten vaccinated, the overall trend is a problem for all of us.
The reduction in vaccination rates reveals one of the quirks of vaccines; they only protect a population if nearly everyone is vaccinated.


Sick days
The Los Angeles Times

In rolling out the issues he hopes will define the final two years of his administration, President Obama has proposed two workplace initiatives: requiring companies with 15 or more employees to provide them seven days of sick leave per year to their full time workers, and encouraging states to establish paid family leave programs for new parents or workers tending to family members with significant health issues. As with most such proposals, the devil will be in the details, but we believe the president is on the right track.
Instituting sick leave for workers nationwide makes sense: Those who are ill should not have to choose between recuperation and a day or two of pay. It’s true that allowing workers to accrue paid sick days could add to employers’ costs of doing business depending on how it is financed, but the public good outweighs that concern — especially when workers come in close contact with others as part of their job.
The United States lags far behind the rest of the industrialized world in recognizing that a healthy workforce is a productive workforce, and that mothers, especially, often sacrifice income and in some cases careers for the sake of family. If we are a nation that values families, our work policies should reflect that.

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