Maybe it‘s the nature of the beast, but it sure seems like the National Governors Association (NGA) comes up with some snoozy topics for their annual meetings.
With the war in Iraq consuming our nation‘s resources, New Orleans still a wreck, and the breakdown in the rule of law in the White House and U.S. Justice Department, you‘d think that there would be a historic meeting in Traverse City this week when the NGA comes to town. You‘d think our nation‘s governors would be spreading some hellfire and brimstone.
After all, Michigan is in the fight of its life with a deficit of $800 million, and last week, Pennsylvania‘s financial woes required the shutdown of much of the state‘s government. There are crying domestic issues in America that demand action from our nation‘s governors.
Instead, roughly 35 governors will make their way to the Grand Traverse Resort to focus on “the importance of providing a quality math and science education, helping colleges and universities better prepare the workers of tomorrow and promoting investment in businesses and technologies of the future.“
Ho-hum. Now, science education and helping kids do better at math is a worthy topic, but is this the time and place for it?
Show some gumption, governors. This week you‘ll be showered with samples of our cherry pie and local wines, you‘ll hear endless tales of what a fine vacation paradise we have here in Northern Michigan -- and then you‘ll go home, ejecting all of that booster talk from your heads like the explosive bolts on the space shuttle‘s escape module. Boom!
And the gravest problems of our time will still remain, even though the mission of the NGA is supposed to be to, “identify priority issues and deal collectively with issues of public policy and governance at both the national and state level.“
So do it.
Do our governors really want to improve science and math education for our kids? Well, how about diverting the flood of cash going to the war, for starters?
Our nation has spent nearly $450 billion on a war which has now lasted longer than America‘s involvement in World War II. Soon, the five-year war in Iraq will have eclipsed even the Civil War in duration.
According to the National Priorities Project, which runs a “cost of war“ counter at www.costofwar.com, that $450 billion could have provided more than 21 million Americans with four-year scholarships to public universities. How‘s that for improving science and math in America?
The money blown on Iraq could have paid for more than 58 million kids to attend a year of Head Start programs.
Money sent to Iraq could have employed 7,659,291 additional public school teachers per year in our nation‘s schools.
It could have provided health insurance to the equivalent of 265,000,000 kids.
But suppose we wanted to spend the money in other ways? Michigan‘s share of the loot spent on Iraq would come to more than $11 billion; Pennsylvania‘s share would be nearly $17 billion; and Lousiana would have more than $3 billion to help rebuild New Orleans.
No more potholes, no worries about underfunded schools, or a lack of cops on our streets, if that money came home where it belongs.
So, yes, it would be a fine thing for the governors to talk about science and math education this week. And enjoy our cherries, wines and scenery. But don‘t ignore that long dark shadow falling over your shoulder, guv, because we need you now. America needs you.
Bill Bustance‘s Surprise Visitor
Boxing trainer Bill Bustance got the surprise of a lifetime last week when three guys riding Harley-Davidsons stopped by his Trigger Gym in Traverse City to do a little sparring.
Bill maintains a salon just off his gym, and he finished up some haircuts while his guests threw some punches around. Then, although it was closing time, he stepped in to offer some professional training advice.
One guy, a scrawny older gentleman in full boxing head gear, seemed to need a little extra attention. So Bill, who stands about 6‘ 4“ and has a Marine drill sergeant style of training, gave him the works.
“Look me in the eyes and throw a jab -- hit me! Come on, hit me!“ Bill urged, holding up his pads. The rookie got the same rough encouragement and straight talk that Bill is famous for.
Of course, the guest turned out to be Bob Dylan, who happens to be a big boxing fan.
Did Bill know? “Hell no! I thought he was just some old guy.“
But they had a nice chat and Dylan got a cool Trigger Gym t-shirt for stopping in, giving Bill and his wife Robyn free seats to his Interlochen concert, right up front...
Cherry Festival High-Five
Hats off to the National Cherry Festival, which had the best lineup of concerts ever this year. I heard many comments that the festival staff did a great job with the new layout of the Bayside Stage and food court. And the new beverage tent setup next to the concert stage made for the best jam-packed party ever.
With that said, it also felt like some of the old community spirit has gone out of the balloon, due to the cancellation of some of the “hands on“ stuff of the past.
Remember when the Captain from KHQ used to emcee the “Milk Carton Regatta“? I recall that wacky boat race of locals being one of the best things about the festival in years gone by. And what happened to the tug-of-war?
It was a mistake to get rid of the Heritage Parade, because all of those old farmers on their jaunty old tractors produced a warm, fuzzy feeling. That was the heartwarming spirit of the Cherry Festival on parade -- a good thing in a small town farm festival.
What‘s the secret of the best festivals on earth, like Rio‘s Carnival or Mardi Gras? They get thousands of people involved in wacky, corny, fun things -- things we‘re missing now, like the old Milk Carton Regatta.
So again, an A-plus grade to the Cherry Festival for the great new layout and spectacular concerts, but also a plea to bring back some of the warm-fuzzy stuff... and a place to wash your hands at the food court, please.