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 · Do travel writers go to Hell
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Do travel writers go to Hell

Robert Downes - June 30th, 2008
Indiana Jones, look out: when it comes to gutsy adventurers and studly chick magnets, you’re no match for Lonely Planet travel guide writer Thomas Kohnstamm, who has penned a gonzo memoir of six smokin’ hot weeks in Brazil.
Er, make that “ex”-Lonely Planet writer because Kohnstamm is currently persona non grata at the travel guide publishing house, owing to the damning details of his new memoir, “Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?” in which he admits that he made up much of the information he collected in a Lonely Planet guide to northeast Brazil.
And not only that, but in subsequent news reports, Kohnstamm outed himself as a fraud, claiming that he made up details in 12 Lonely Planet guidebooks and didn’t even bother visiting Columbia for his research. He wrote the book from his apartment in San Francisco.
“They didn’t pay me enough to go (to) Columbia,” he is widely reported as stating in what has become a Jayson Blair-style scandal in the travel writing industry. “I wrote the book in San Francisco. I got the information from a chick I was dating - an intern in the Colombian Consulate.”
The controversy over Kohnstamm’s confession has raged in the travel writing press and blogosphere for weeks since the publication of “Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?” Since that time, he’s redeemed himself somewhat by noting that his work on Lonely Planet’s Columbia guidebook was strictly intended as a company-approved “desk rewrite” via information skimmed from the Internet.
As for inventing the information in other guidebooks, Kohnstamm goes into lengthy detail in his new book on the hellish process of travel writing, explaining that Lonely Planet doesn’t give its poverty-stricken writers nearly enough time or money to complete the encyclopedic task of revising its guidebooks.
Whatever, Kohnstamm’s reputation has been blown to a million little pieces, so to speak, but that doesn’t keep “Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?” from being a wildly entertaining read that will have travel junkies glued to their chairs, flipping pages and laughing out loud.
The only problem with the book is, how do you believe this guy? He swears in the introduction that the six weeks he spent in Brazil were all true, barring a few blended characters, name changes, and shifts in time.
But you can’t help wondering if the book, subtitled “A Swashbuckling Tale of High Adventures, Questionable Ethics and Professional Hedonism” is a tall tale of the sort that would make Pecos Bill and Paul Bunyan blush at the audacity of its fibs.
For starters, Kohnstamm beds so many beautiful women at the drop of a hat that the reader can only imagine he’s got Tom Cruise beat in the looks department, and the charm of Johnny Depp. Perhaps his photos don’t do him justice.
But that’s getting ahead of the story: As Kohnstamm tells it, he was raised by parents who loved to travel, taking him from his home in Seattle each summer to trips across the country, Europe and North Africa. He lived for a time in India, and then after college, bummed around Spain in an old hearse; studied Portugese and international affairs in Buenos Aires; and spent three years in Costa Rica.
But as the book opens, Kohnstamm finds himself working in an office cubicle in New York City, doing low-profile tasks such as filing and creating spreadsheets for a law firm that’s trying to get some dot.com crooks off the hook. In an epiphany that his life is soulless and going nowhere, Kohnstamm tells his boss to shove it and accepts a travel writing assignment from Lonely Planet to cover northeast Brazil. This is by dint of his having already written a book for the company on how to speak Central American Spanish.
Arriving in Rio, Kohnstamm quickly beds a beautiful six-foot-tall, blond Lufthansa airline hostess and falls in with a colorful cast of international backpackers (an aging drug dealer, an Israeli ex-commando, hookers, etc.) at a hostel just off the Copacabana beach. Endless lines of coke are snorted and oceans of beers are consumed as the sun rises over the Sugarloaf.
Kohnstamm pushes on to northeast Brazil and beach towns such as Recife, rapidly spending his book advance. He finds it impossible to complete the research Lonely Planet demands, noting that he has some 60 towns to cover over more than 1,000 miles, including all the details of the hotels, restaurants, travel information, nightlife and many other items for each one.
Running low on cash with his deadline looming, the crux of the book is how Kohnstamm manages to get the job done by tempting hotel owners to “comp” him on the basis of his prestigious Lonely Travel credentials (which could result in favorable reviews in the guide). He shares an apartment with a “model” who turns out to be something else; dabbles at selling Ecstasy to backpackers; has more casual sex with ever-willing women (including “friendly table service” with a waitress after hours); and spends much of his time drunk or stoned.
It’s a fascinating page-turner of a book, but should be read in the same spirit as “Tropic of Cancer” by Henry Miller, which was a scandalous memoir of what goes on in the erotic corners of a man’s imagination, rather than a true story.
For instance, Kohnstamm may claim his tale is all true, but he also told the New York Times that he was beaten and pistol-whipped by a gang of thugs in Columbia, prior to admitting that he had never been to the country before. And then later claiming that the incident happened on another trip to Columbia... Sure Thomas, we don’t want to doubt ya.
But whether Kohnstamm is really the drunken Casanova he claims to be, there’s no disputing that he’s a gifted writer who tells a hell of a story. If nothing else, you’ll have a good time trying to decipher whether Kohnstamm is a genuine adventurer, or a world class BS’er.
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