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 · Books · Dominic Sondy‘s Saigon...
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Dominic Sondy‘s Saigon Shuffle

Robert Downes - November 23rd, 2006
Another war, another time. For author and photographer Dominic R. Sondy,
there are parallels between his days in Vietnam 38 years ago and today’s
struggle in Iraq.
Those similarities and contrasts make his new book, “Saigon Shuffle” all
the more poignant, weaving the tale of one soldier’s life in the mobile
infantry and behind the lens of a camera in the U.S. Army.
A trade show photographer from Traverse City, Sondy, 59, employs a
gambling metaphor to describe the workings of fate behind the “Saigon
Shuffle” of young soldiers betting their lives on the war. In his case,
the bet involved enlisting in the hope of obtaining G.I. Bill benefits to
continue his college education... if he survived the fury of Vietnam in
“Governments controlled the shuffle to Saigon,” he writes. “Thousands of
young men were forced to hurry up and wait as fate mixed the deck that
determined their destiny. They lined up, counted off, and were dealt
assignments. If the cards were stacked against you, you could be forced
to cash our way too early. Or, you might just get lucky.”
Sondy was one of the lucky ones. After an early stint as a machine gunner
in a mechanized infantry unit, a background in photojournalism landed him
a nine-month assignment as a military photographer.

His roots in photography go back to his days growing up in the Detroit
suburb of Roseville and helping to wash and dry prints in his father’s
commercial darkroom at the age of 10. Soon, he was was employed in his
family’s photo business, developing film and prints. That led to stints
with his high school yearbook and newspaper.
After high school, Sondy was eager to continue his education in college,
but found several roadblocks. “My parents were divorcing and there was no
money,” he recalls. “I couldn’t even afford to go to Wayne State
Solution? He volunteered for the draft at a time when the fighting in
Vietnam was at its most ferocious. “If you enlisted, you had to serve in
the Army for four years, but if you volunteered, you were only in for
two,” he recalls. “My goal was to get through the military in order to get
the GI Bill and continue my education.”
He joined up in March, 1968, and after training as a light weapons
specialist at Fort Polk, Louisiana, was shipped out to Vietnam in October.
His specialty was operating an M-60 machine gun, which fires a heavy .30
caliber round. It was a job he sought because he didn’t put much faith in
the lighter M-16 rifle assigned to the bulk of the infantry.
“The M-16 was the most useless weapon there ever was and it’s still being
used,” he says. Sondy’s complaint with the M-16 is that although it was
capable of rapid fire, it used a light round which was easily deflected,
especially in the dense jungles of Vietnam.

Being in the infantry meant spending weeks at a time in the jungle,
sleeping on the ground with no mosquito net, and wallowing in your own
“It was three months with that unit and in that time I only took three
showers and changed my clothes only three times,” Sondy remembers.
“Besides being shot at, there were so many things you had to deal with.
For me, one of those was getting back to base and finding out that my
locker had been broken into and my things were gone.”
Combat is an unforgettable experience.
“The funny thing is that every day -- every single day -- is etched in
your head,” he says. “There’s no sound like that of a bullet whizzing
past your head.”
But his luck changed when Sondy was offered a chance to become a
photographer with the 1st Infantry Division, shooting photos for both the
Army and newspapers around the world.
He was given one week to prove himself with a borrowed camera, with the
stipulation being that he land a photo in “Stars and Stripes,” the
military’s premier newspaper.
As luck would have it, that week Sondy tagged along with a major who was
adopting a girl from a Vietnamese orphanage. His tender photos of the
visit not only ran in “Stars and Stripes,” but were also picked up by the
AP and UPI news services and appeared in newspapers in 13 states back
After that, Sondy was issued a Leica 33 mm and was given pretty much free
reign to photograph the war from the military perspective.
“We could shoot any photos we wanted
as long as there were no dead, dirty or
wounded GIs.”

The photography assignment allowed Sondy to view modern warfare from the
front lines as well as the rear.
“I did a lot of human interest stories about GIs and also a lot of combat
photography,” he recalls. There were also assignments photographing pretty
starlets and singers on USO tours and the mundane side of life in camp.
Sondy’s 178-page memoir includes 60 photos from those days in ‘Nam and
beyond, including a veterans’ parade in Chicago in 1986.
One memorable photo story involved the driver of a massive bulldozer-plow
which was being used to clear the jungle. A bee’s nest fell on the
unfortunate driver who was stung 130 times, barely escaping with his life.
Fortunately, a sergeant grabbed the screaming man and dragged him into the
exhaust flume of the plow to drive the bees away.
Sondy notes that some of his best stuff never saw print: gritty combat
photos that crossed the line on the “dead, dirty or wounded” side of
Vietnam. He developed some of his edgier film and sent it home to his
mother for safekeeping.
“It was the stuff that I thought would get me a job later on or win a
Pulitzer,” he recalls. But, by the time he got around to thinking of
writing a book in 2000, he learned that his mother had tossed the photos
out. Fortunately, he had copies which he was able to clean up with
computer software.

After leaving the Army, Sondy achieved his dream of attending college,
landing a job as a photo copy boy at the Detroit News. Eventually, he
found himself drawn to the advertising side of newspaper work with the
Detroit Free Press and Chicago Tribune. In 1990, he began a new career in
trade show photography, snapping celebrities and events all over the
In 2000, he and his family moved to Northern Michigan. His wife, Joann, is
a graphic designer who did the handsome layout and design of his memoir.
They self-published the book through a print-on-demand outfit and order
copies on an as-needed basis. Currently, “Saigon Shuffle” is on its
seventh edition. It’s available at Horizon Books, the Art & Soul Gallery
and the InsideOut Gallery in TC, the Twisted Fish in Elk Rapids, and the
Gallery on Main in Bay Harbor.
Besides being the chronicle of a young man’s odyssey through the perils of
war, Sondy sees his book as a timely reflection of America’s current
crisis in Iraq.
“Vietnam is relevant today because it ties into Iraq with some of the same
similarities,” he says. “We got talked into both wars on some shady
premises. Both involved fighting in hot countries far away and both
involved fighting insurgents; the Viet Cong were the insurgents of
And both involved gambling one’s
life in a military shuffle with no predict-able outcome.

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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