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 · Re-inventing the book...
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Re-inventing the book store

Robert Downes - March 16th, 2009
In Ray Bradbury’s novel, Fahrenheit 451, the ‘firemen‘ of a fascist society in the near future have the task of burning books in an attempt to stamp out knowledge, truth and beauty. A few brave rebels save what’s left of literature by memorizing books and passing them on to their children by word of mouth.
Gee, if only it were that simple.
Today’s bonfire is the digitization of books and the way that they are being sold online via amazon.com and Google. The trend is to live-stream books for sale over the Internet. Amazon.com has 240,000 books available for downloads, with hundreds of thousands more offered by Google.
These forces, combined with the recession and the fact that fewer young people are reading books, have put the beloved institution of the book store in peril.
Booksellers are wrestling with survival issues on par with those that are driving CD stores to extinction. Rolling Stone reports that 2,680 music stores have closed in the past four years, and the CD is on its way to oblivion.
One scheme would make books available for in-store downloads onto your iPod or reading device while you browse a much-reduced inventory on the shelves. Another idea being explored is to install in-store printers which will be capable of whipping up books while you wait.
The problem -- and one possible solution -- was outlined in a recent ‘open letter’ in the Ann Arbor Chronicle by Karl Pohrt, owner of that city’s Shaman Drum Bookshop.
Located just a few yards from the heart of the University of Michigan, with tens of thousands of students as potential customers, the Shaman Drum Bookshop is nonetheless in danger of going out of business after a 29-year-run. Pohrt noted in his letter that despite competition from amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and Borders Books, his store was still making a small profit until the university started requiring professors to post their textbooks online prior to the semester. Students stopped shopping at Shaman Drum in order to buy their books online. As a result, the bookstore lost $510,000 in sales last year.
Pohrt has come to believe that this is “the darkest hour“ for booksellers and that the business model for the book store needs to change in order to survive. “I (have) learned that every 500 years a major technological shift occurs,” he writes. “Five centuries ago Gutenberg invented (or perfected) moveable type. Now, with the digitization of print, we find ourselves in the middle of another sea change.”
Things are just as bad for Borders Books, which is also based in Ann Arbor. The chain, which owns 519 book stores, along with Waldenbooks and its 467 stores, is struggling to avoid bankruptcy. Its stock, which sold for more than $11 per share before the crash, hit a low of 35 cents in January.
Two weeks ago, Borders announced that it is closing its flagship store on Michigan Avenue in the heart of Chicago. The 49,881-square-foot store is arguably the Miracle Mile’s most important social institution.
The hope for Borders is that some stores -- including the Traverse City location -- will survive the collapse of the company in the wake of a possible bankruptcy.
Who are today‘s ‘firemen‘ torching the institution of the book store? We are. When you buy a book online, you vote against your community. When you buy a discounted bestseller at Sam’s Club or Walmart, you are killing your local book store. New schemes for live-streaming books via Google or amazon.com at cut-rate prices only add fuel to the fire.
Some might say, so what? When you can buy a used book at amazon.com from a reseller for $3 compared to $15 at your local book store, why shouldn’t you?
You might ask the same question of those millions of Americans who are now out of a job, yet have homes filled with Chinese electronics, clothes made in Honduras, and cars made in Japan... with virtually nothing made in America. When you don‘t buy local, the ultimate victim is yourself.
Fortunately, there is a strong “buy local” ethic in Northern Michigan, commonly shared among readers of the Northern Express. There is a segment of the region’s population who are committed to supporting our downtowns, farm markets, local boutiques, wineries and independent restaurants.
Add book stores to that list because they represent one of our finest local institutions, bringing people together to share ideas, poetry, workshops, music and book clubs.
As an author myself, I‘ve had a chance to observe the passion people have for our book stores during talks at the Horizon Books chain and at Boyne Country Books in Boyne City. Last week, I sat with a full house of high school and college kids in Horizon Books‘ basement, checking out an excellent free concert by songwriter Andrew Sturtz. And book stores such as the Higher Self in TC and McLean & Eakin in Petoskey offer workshops and book club events that breathe culture and ideas into the lifesblood of our towns.
By one estimate, book stores are 10 years behind the times in keeping pace with technology. But keeping up with technology isn’t likely to change the fact that more people seem to be interested in playing video game bastardizations of Lord of the Rings than they are in reading the book.
Ultimately, the way to save book stores might have little to do with technology, and everything to do with becoming a center of social activity in town.
Karl Pohrt believes that the salvation of his store is to have it declared a nonprofit organization, to be renamed the Great Lakes Literary Art Center. He hopes to surrender the Shaman Drum Bookshop to a board of directors and remain on as chief executive officer.
As a tax-exempt non-profit, the store will add more social events, such as author signings, workshops, book clubs, poetry readings, music and plays. Its earnings will be funneled back into the store to benefit the intellectual life of the community.
Could book stores be preserved as tax-free nonprofits with a new focus on culture and social events? There is certainly justification in preserving literature and the exchange of ideas.
Of course, some might claim that music and art supply stores should also be able to become tax-free nonprofits. Perhaps they do. In any case, the experiment in Ann Arbor bears watching if we want to turn the page on the future.

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