Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Random Thoughts · The Faraway Land
. . . .

The Faraway Land

Robert Downes - November 22nd, 2007
The women of India are like wildflowers, each one dressed in colors to make a garden blush.
Canary and tangerine salwar suits; saris in coral, turquoise and royal purple, ribboned with silver and gold or spangled with sequins. Colors of sapphire, topaz and electric red... Most women here dress to kill, dripping with heavy, intricate jewelry of silver and gold and often wearing the tikka powder spot on their foreheads which marks them as Hindus.
And, it must be said, their hair is one of the wonders of this country, falling thick and lustrous in raven black tresses, always looking freshly washed.
I’m starting this column with a pleasant image of India because it has taken me a week to begin looking past the poverty and squalor to begin seeing this legendary land in a clearer light.
Nearly two weeks ago, my jet dropped out of the clouds in one of those nosedive landings Air India is famous for, hurtling toward a vast forest of rotting high-rise apartment towers, smeared in colors of tea and gray. I saw people scrambling on the streets below and then a landslide of slums tumbling for miles around the airport.
Welcome to Bombay, baby.
The first thing I saw as my taxi rounded the corner from the airport was a baby crawling just a foot from the curb of a five-lane highway where thousands of three-wheeled tuk-tuks and old beater Fiat taxis stampeded in a mad rush.
The baby’s family were chatting on the sidewalk, their ramshackle home built of odds and ends spilling to the edge of the curb. No one paid the baby a lick of attention as we sped past, but it looked happy enough, crawling around in the grime.
I practically jumped out of my skin on the hour-long ride into town. The sensory overload of sight, sounds and smells seemed almost too much to bear. The route looked like it had been through an aerial bombardment, with people lounging without a care in the filth and trash lining the tin roofs of their homes and the crumbling sidewalks. But these were some of the better homes, because soon there were warrens of ghastly slums with kids running naked through dirt lanes, and then the homeless street persons, propped up against walls with all their possessions spread out on the sidewalk. There looked to be thousands of these folks, bedding down for the night on the sticky, black sidewalks. I could see other toddlers playing in the street, jumping around amid the reckless traffic.
Outside my three-star hotel, in what I later learned was an iffy part of town, there were people sleeping on the street just outside the door. I saw a young mother, as thin as a beggar’s chicken, with the look of a kicked dog in her eyes. At her feet were her two daughters, the same ages as my granddaughters -- about one and three-years-old -- sleeping on rags and a mat of cardboard.
I spent three days in Bombay -- known today as Mumbai -- joining the throng of millions and marching for miles around town. I came across many other homeless street people and beggars, some of whom were still nursing the raw wounds of amputations. Ten rupees went to a leper with no fingers on the stubs of either hand -- not much, but enough to feed him for a day.
By the way, my apologies to Cairo for calling that pristine city “filthy” in a prior column, because that jewel of Egypt is impeccable compared to Bombay where there are no trash cans anywhere, not even in Colaba, the “classy” tourist part of town. People just toss litter wherever, creating a patina of grimy trash, excrement, urine and sticky stuff, cooking in the dense smog and 90 degree heat.
With 20 million people or more, Bombay is home to India’s biggest slum. Some of these folks are recruited into its notorious mafia -- the city is said to be packed with gangsters, pickpockets pimps, whores, religious fanatics and hitmen who will kill for $5 or less. I managed to dodge these characters, even though I was the only Westerner I saw for hours at a time, walking for miles around the city far outside the tourist zone and into the night.
Instead, I ran afoul of those I call the Helpful Harrys. “Sir, would you like to buy a toy whirlybird helicopter?” No thanks. “A spirograph to make lovely circles on paper, sir?” Nope. “Postcard?” No thanks. “Are you sure you wouldn’t like a postcard, sir?” And so on. One guy even tried to scoop wax out of my ears with a metal spoon as I was walking by, producing a loud squawk on my part.
Then too, in the hotels, there is a room boy, a laundry boy, luggage carriers, doormen and at least 10 waiters hovering over you. I don’t have the heart to tell them I can spoon my own rice onto my plate, or push the elevator button by myself. They’re dying for something to do.
Traffic? You bet. The driving technique here involves blasting the horn the entire way, whiplashing through a maelstrom of junky old buses, tuk-tuks, bicycles, motorcycles with whole families onboard, pedestrians and other taxis, while veering into oncoming traffic at breakneck speed every so often just for kicks. Potholes the size of bathtubs, roller-coaster pavement and rotting concrete come standard, along with a plastic Jesus on the dashboard, or Ganesh, the elephant-headed god of good luck.
But it’s not all filth and anarchy here. Beyond Bombay, the countryside opens up in a lush, lovely green of palm trees, rice fields and grazing cows, raising your spirits. Misty blue mountains rise like Hindu gods in the distant haze.
Slowly, I see past the blindfold of my Western viewpoint to discover a booming middle class in India, with many new cars, motorcycles and SUVs on the road. The boom is driven by the information technology and call center industries, with manufacturing also on the rise.
I’m 1,000 miles south of Bombay now, visiting towns with exotic names such as Ernakalum, Udhagamandalam, Mysore and Pondicherry. It’s much cleaner here and there are wild elephants by the road in the jungles of the Blue Mountains, along with water buffalo, monkeys and deer. And of course, each town has its contingent of goats and sacred cows, munching trash in the busy streets.
Most tourists visit northern India to see the Taj Mahal and such, but I’ve opted for the slower pace of the south for my long trip around the world. My itinerary will take me 1,500 miles in a circuit around the tip of India, wrapping up in the ultimate beach party hangout of Goa.
I imagine that each of you readers has an ultimate travel goal in mind for sometime in your lives. Mine has always been India. When I started traveling as a young man, India represented the end of the long backpackers’ trail through the world that started in London and Amsterdam, running through Istanbul, Afghanistan and this faraway land to Goa.
On the other hand, I’ve found that India is not the kind of place you visit for a “fun” vacation. It’s a bit more like an ordeal, with the heat, the crowds, the hustlers and “Delhi Belly” being the price you pay to see one of the strangest lands on earth. Is it worth it? I’ve got three more weeks to find out.

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