Advice But Not Consent
In last week’s flattering article about Maidenbaum Property Tax Reduction Group, LLC, and the upcoming Nassau County filing deadline, it may have been implied that I somehow directly influence county tax policy. While I was one of the professional members of the County’s Assessment Reform Team (ART), I do not and cannot formulate county tax policy. That is clearly a function for our elected officials.
I am, however, proud of my track record as a member of ART in helping to cultivate a more taxpayer-friendly environment with open access for review to Nassau County’s overtaxed homeowners. Likewise, I am proud of coauthoring the ART report with my colleague Mark Miller, Esq., that recommended adopting a “Taxpayer Bill of Rights.” Beyond our initiating the original concept, our colleagues in the property-tax reduction field participated in contributing content.
Ultimately, as a result of these efforts, I am proud to say the Mangano administration and the county enthusiastically embraced and adopted a Nassau County Taxpayer Bill of Rights. No homeowner likes to pay property taxes, which is why my firm and dedicated team of over 25 years remain vigilant in providing my clients with premier representation and customer-friendly education and service.
The Vaccination Debate
The February 13 edition contains an article “Anti-Vaxxers and Halachah” by Rabbi Yair Hoffman, regarding the current controversy over the recent measles outbreak and parents who refuse to vaccinate their children.
In June 2005, noted environmental attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (son of the slain former senator) published an article in Rolling Stone magazine entitled “Deadly Immunity,” regarding the link between vaccinations and autism. The article can be found by following the links in the references section of the Wikipedia article on Robert F. Kennedy Jr. I urge everyone, with an open mind, to read the article. Kennedy himself has admitted that there were factual errors in his original article, and the archived article contains those corrections and explanations.
I have no “skin in the game” over the vaccination controversy: all of my children (seven) are adults now (between the ages of 25 and 38), and all of them were vaccinated. Although I am an attorney, I don’t handle med-mal lawsuits and I have no financial or personal interest in the present dispute over whether tainted vaccines cause autism.
I am neither a scientist nor a doctor. It’s understood that measles can lead to serious complications: birth defects (if pregnant women get the disease); encephalitis; and even death. Yet autism is also a serious condition. Despite the publicity over high-functioning autistics such as Dr. Temple Grandin and the “idiot savant” portrayed by Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, the sad reality is that most autistics cannot and do not lead a normal life, and wind up in institutions.
One tragedy versus another tragedy: how does one choose here? The anti-vaxxers are not just a bunch of hysterical nutty radicals: they are concerned parents who are frightened about the possible vaccine–autism link and who are not convinced that the link has been discredited.
Let’s face it: people don’t trust the government, and they don’t trust the pharmaceutical companies. There needs to be more solid scientific data out there, from studies not funded by plaintiffs’ attorneys out to make money from lawsuits (as the study in the 1998 Lancet article was alleged to be), or by the big drugmakers anxious to protect themselves from such lawsuits. Until then, parents who choose not to vaccinate (understanding the risks and dangers of measles infection) may be acting in the best interests of protecting their children from autism, an incurable lifelong condition.
Rabbi Hoffman Responds
By an overwhelming consensus, pediatricians, neurologists, and autism researchers disagree. They understand vaccines, as they are administered now, to be vital. It is a fundamental lack of hakaras ha’tov to be suspicious of a group of people that have saved so many lives. So many diseases have been wiped out or severely limited, and I strongly believe that the wholesale dismissal of the established medical view is a negation of hakarasha’tov, which is a foundation of Yiddishkeit.
In the 17 years since the issue was first raised, there have been numerous studies published in reputable publications that show that there is no causal relationship between autism and vaccines.
For some people it still won’t matter, unfortunately.
There are various factors that contribute to the mindset of people in the anti-vaccination movement, just as these factors contribute to the mindset of people in the anti-seatbelt movement. When dealing with the anti-seatbelt people you can show them studies from here to tomorrow, and nothing you can do can change their minds. They are entrenched in their thinking.
There are also believers in shark-cartilage cures for cancer who spend tens of thousands of dollars on useless and expensive treatments.
Thankfully, the CDC and the government have ignored these views and have helped eliminate some terrible diseases through these vaccination programs.
Edward Jenner, the pioneer of the smallpox vaccine, was called mi-chassidei umos ha’olam by the leading rabbis of the 19th century—for good reason. The immunologists and doctors who are on the frontlines preventing disease should be looked at as heroes—they have collectively saved millions of lives. Painting them as villains is, in this author’s opinion, a tragic and terrible lack of hakarasha’tov. There are older people alive who lived through polio and its horrific devastation. The cavalier dismissal of the Salk and Sabin vaccines that some anti-vaxxers are prone to do is actually a matter that is painful to those that lived through it.
The chart above represents the benefits of vaccines.
See the full version of this response at 5TJT.com for an extensive list of research articles that debunk any purported association between autism and vaccines.
Rabbi Yair Hoffman
(all ages) if no
|Smallpox||5.0 million||5.0 million||–||100|
|Measles||2.7 million||1.6 million||1.1 million||60|
|Neonatal tetanus||1.2 million||0.7 million||0.5 million||58|
|Hepatitis B||1.2 million||0.4 million||0.8 million||33|
|Tuberculosis||3.2 million||0.2 million||3.0 million||6|
|Polio (cases of lifelong paralysis)||640,000||550,000||90,000||86|
|Malaria/other parasitic infections||2.2 million||–||2.2 million||0|
|HIV/sexually transmitted diseases||1.3 million||–||1.3 million||0|
|Diarrhea/enteric fevers||3.0 million||–||3.0 million||0|
|Acute respiratory infections||3.7 million||–||3.7 million||0|
A Case Against Bibi
Re: your article regarding the upcoming elections in EretzYisrael (“If Labor Wins,” February 13). There is no real difference in my opinion between Netanyahu and Hertzog. Netanyahu has stated on a number of occasions his approval of a future Palestinian state. As far as I can remember, he never said no to any kind of division of Yerushalayim. It is already somewhat divided. HarHaBayit is basically not in our control and the Arabs basically run day-to-day operations in east Jerusalem. Netanyahu actually surprised the chareidim when he fell for Lapid whose platform was so anti-chareidi—whether or not you believe in chareidim learning in kollel or going to the army is not the issue right now. The gezeiros that he made—financial burdens against kollel families and kollelim in general—will not be forgotten. Netanyahu must pay through election for what he supported. It is my hope he loses big time. True, there will be no picnic with Hertzog. But we had left-wing governments before and who gave away the most land? Who gave away Gush Katif? What is Gush Katif today? Shame on Netanyahu. He was a big disappointment.