Letters 08-03-2015

Real Brownfields Deserve Dollars I read with interest the story on Brownfield development dollars in the July 20 issue. I applaud Dan Lathrop and other county commissioners who voted “No” on the Randolph Street project...

Hopping Mad Carlin Smith is hopping mad (“Will You Get Mad With Me?” 7-20-15). Somebody filed a fraudulent return using his identity, and he’s not alone. The AP estimates the government “pays more than $5 billion annually in fraudulent tax refunds.” Well, many of us have been hopping mad for years. This is because the number one tool Congress has used to fix this problem has been to cut the IRS budget –by $1.2 billion in the last 5 years...

Just Grumbling, No Solutions Mark Pontoni’s grumblings [recent Northern Express column] tell us much about him and virtually nothing about those he chooses to denigrate. We do learn that Pontoni may be the perfect political candidate. He’s arrogant, opinionated and obviously dimwitted...

A Racist Symbol I have to respond to Gordon Lee Dean’s letter claiming that the confederate battle flag is just a symbol of southern heritage and should not be banned from state displays. The heritage it represents was the treasonous effort to continue slavery by seceding from a democratic nation unwilling to maintain such a consummate evil...

Not So Thanks I would like to thank the individual who ran into and knocked over my Triumph motorcycle while it was parked at Lowe’s in TC on Friday the 24th. The $3,000 worth of damage was greatly appreciated. The big dent in the gas tank under the completely destroyed chrome badge was an especially nice touch...

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Letters 8/8/02

Various - August 8th, 2002
Follow the oil: Cheney created war for profit
As more and more corporate accounting scandals emerge - the latest involving Vice President Dick Cheney during his watch as CEO of Halliburton Co. - an even bigger offense lurks in the shadows.
Perhaps the greatest crime committed here is by those who would play upon the highest sentiments of human beings for the basest of reasons. For this is often how wars get fought, and how the innocent and the courageous get killed by the thousands. To paraphrase “Deep Throat” - just “follow the oil.”

“I cannot think of a time when we have had a region emerge as suddenly to become as strategically significant as the Caspian.”
- Dick Cheney, CEO of Halliburton Oil Services Co.,1998 (now under a several million dollar domestic fraud investigation).

Cheney was referring to the largest new oil discovery on earth, in the region of... you guessed it... Afghanistan and its neighbors. By 2050, the U.S. expects to import more than 80 percent of its petroleum from this region, and much of that oil would be extracted from beneath the deserts of Afghanistan and Pakistan. As the CEO of Halliburton in 1998, Cheney was looking forward to the day when 50 million barrels of oil and natural gas would begin flowing into corporate hands via pipelines to U.S.-controlled terminals and ships in the Caspian sea. One small problem though. America’s nemesis Iran was the most direct pipeline route to get the oil out into U.S. hands.
“The Good Lord didn’t see fit to put oil and gas where there are democratically elected regimes... But we go where the business is,” Dick Cheney rationalized back then.
As CEO, Dick Cheney’s “profits over principles” leadership of Halliburton included lobbying against US human rights sanctions imposed on his key clients - Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Indonesia, Iran and Azerbaijan. Halliburton routinely violated US trade sanctions to do business with Iran.
But with Congressional opposition and trade sanctions against Iran holding firm, an alternate scheme to get at the oil had to be devised.
“From the U.S. standpoint,” Brown University anthropologist William Beeman
observed, “the only way to deny Iran everything is for the anti-Iranian Taliban to win in Afghanistan and to agree to the pipeline through their territory.” That is exactly what happened - the Taliban did win the Afghan civil war - with a little help from the CIA.
Then, for awhile, the Taliban became Big Oil’s favorite sons. Taliban leaders were flown to Washington and Houston for lavish barbecues and put up in five-star hotels. In 1998 California-based energy giant UNICAL signed a deal with the Taliban to build a 890-mile pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan, but the plan was thwarted by continuing civil war. UNICAL informed the U.S. Department of Energy that the gas pipeline would not proceed until “an internationally recognized government was in place in Afghanistan.”
And so events and people conspired to install a former UNICAL consultant, Hamid Karzai, as the new president of Afghanistan
today. And all the while bombs were falling and killing thousands for this strategic policy change (estimates are 5,000 innocent Afghan civilians were killed during our carpet bombing raids, and the bombs still fall today).
And all the while, someone was appealing to our higher sentiments to go to war “in defense of liberty and the American way.”
-Excerpts and information for this commentary were drawn from the Earth
Island Journal, Spring 2002, and from the work of award - winning investigative journalist John Pilger.

Jim Norgaard • Petoskey

In God We Trust
In their fabled “angry youth“ many persons take on the established religion as a bogus and false support system for the disenfranchised as well as the politically and socially motivated. This country was indeed founded upon basic religious principles exemplified in the freedom we now take for granted, albeit constantly challenged, in court and Congress. That there is hypocrisy in church affairs is quantitative. Apostasy is rampant. Science of some 300 years has absolutely led to the wonders of modern existence as compared to ecclesiastically-based agrarian cultures of the past.
There never was any so-called separation of church and state but only in rhetorical wording for sake of appearances of propriety in declaiming the European era prior to the takeover of America. That former Inquisition-led rule of life had evidently to be overridden in the founding of a new world, but kept its basic premise of a supreme being as that worthy of adhering to in morality and ethics. Slavery and indentured servitude aside, all races inherent to the early days of the states united had a strong base in religious matters. Religious right, liberal left, the silent majority, all have dealt with their own version of spirituality. Rationality, that philosophical vector garnered through Greek and Roman statesmen and lawgivers of old, began the basis for questioning a supreme being; this carried on down the ages through the various disclaimers of that posture, and landing squarely at the feet of lawyers of today who do indeed enjoy the freedoms of comfort and technology but also the choice of negating an adherence to obeisance toward a God unseen. The liberal left appears to be the bastion of disbelief in the supreme presence, though this was not so throughout the middle century but for the radicals who shouted in protest the loudest.
That money itself beclaims belief io God is seemingly enough of a proof of belief since otherwise the dollar and coinage would merely state In Money We Trust. And that may be true to some extent though a vote would need be taken without benefit of a Supreme Court overruling or tainted ballot box count. By all accounts the landslide belief in a supreme being would be the result of such nationwide ballot.
The Bill of Rights and portions of the original Constitution have already been undermined and superseded. To put the thoughts of omitting a God of love and compassion into the minds of children may be a refection of the decay in society we must deal with now. A belief in God, a supreme being, has often been a deterrent to truculent and guileful hegemony over others. The vengeful Allah of certain peoples might be a reaction to this declining of integrity in a people who still profess belief but do not quite live it. To rid the culture of the concept of God is to face the Brave New World of stratified homogeneity without benefit of a guiding force, unseen but felt by most.

Mitchell Jon MacKay • East Jordan

The candidates & tourism
I attended the recent final debate in Petoskey between Lt. Gov. Posthumus and Sen. Schwarz. A question addressed by the candidates related to the importance of tourism to Northern Michigan’s economy, and what was their plans to stimulate tourism and restore Michigan as a national leader in the industry. As the second largest industry in the state, it seems tourism deserves more respect than either candidate was willing to give it.
I was very disappointed in their answers. Both alluded to their plans to improve our roads, which seemed like their major solution. While good roads are very important, better roads will not entice people to vacation in Michigan. Both referred to Public Act 59 (establishment of Convention & Visitors Bureaus by local lodging assessments) as the “cornerstone” of promotion and advertising for the industry in Michigan.
Many small communities in Michigan have been eliminated from inclusion in state and local programs and promotions because they are not affiliated with a CVB. These small chambers of commerce are left on their own with very little resources. Also, many CVB’s compete with each other for the same tourist dollar rather than working together to promote and stimulate new travel and broaden the market.
Sen. Schwarz did mention the poor condition of our public parks and camp grounds, and the need to restore some funding and staff so the DNR could address that problem. It’s true that the politicization and cut backs in the DNR have had an adverse effect on tourism (including the clear cutting of State forest land without consideration for tourism interests), and this should be addressed.
No mention was made of the fact that Travel Michigan, the State’s official tourism promotion office, has undergone cuts in funding and personnel plus the elimination of many effective programs over the past 10 years. Travel Michigan will soon be losing more dedicated, knowledgeable personnel to the Engler early retirement initiative. Despite unprecedented prosperity during this period, Michigan has only seen a token 2-3% annual increase in tourism. At the same time, adjacent states have increased their promotional budgets and shown impressive tourism growth.
Tourism creates jobs and reduces unemployment. The sales taxes, business taxes, gasoline taxes and personal income taxes generated directly impact local and state revenues. A renewed aggressive approach to marketing and promoting travel in Michigan is necessary before more damage is done. During this time of economic slow-down, it will be especially difficult to recover what we have lost, but an investment in tourism will pay terrific dividends as tourist related businesses do well and cycle new dollars throughout the State economy. We need to help tourist related businesses hire at capacity and extend their seasons.
I feel confident that a Democratic governor would work to restore Michigan to it’s status as a model in tourist promotions nationwide. I get the feeling Mr. Posthumus or Sen. Schwarz would continue the Engler approach and let us slip further behind in tourism.
At a previous presentation in Petoskey on the upcoming election by Bob Labrant of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, he credited Gov. Engler with the prosperity of the business community in Michigan the past 12 years. Mr. Labrant must not consider tourism a vital component of Michigan’s economy. While many large businesses and corporations have done well, it’s debatable whether many tourist related businesses have thrived despite the unprecedented prosperity during most of that period. This is especially true in Northern Michigan which is heavily dependent on tourism.
With the current economic climate in the United States, Michigan’s tourist economy is especially suffering. The lack of support and tourism promotion on the state level has affected many small and seasonal businesses, especially in Northern Michigan. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce would do well to factor that into the equation before giving John Engler such high marks.

Joe Breidenstein • Walloon Lake
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