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 · Wesley the Owl
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Wesley the Owl

Elizabeth Buzzelli - March 16th, 2009
Wesley the Owl
Stacey O’Brien
Free Press Publishers

By Elizabeth Buzzelli 3/23/09

Rene Descartes was wrong. The 17th century philosopher/mathematician/scientist declared absolutely that animals do not possess real feelings and with that pronouncement he wiped away centuries of experiential evidence. Then came B.F. Skinner in the 20th century likening animals to furry automatons. They care nothing for anything or anyone beyond their own survival, scientists proclaimed. A lab’s head in your lap when you’re crying means only that your lap is a convenient place to rest. A cat draping herself over your shoulders and purring in your ear signifies an automatic response. A bird needing to cuddle exhibits nesting instinct. They can’t love; can’t care about each other or anything else; don’t grieve; don’t worry...
Twaddle and hogwash, said Jane Goodall after her years of close observation of apes in their native habitat as they loved and mourned and interacted in complex ways, exploding the ‘furry automaton’ myth to pieces.
Now comes a charming little book about a girl and her owl, capturing the imagination of animal lovers everywhere and once again opening a world of possibility.
Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl by Stacey O’Brien, isn’t about anthropomorphizing her feathered friend, Wesley, but about finding true affection and continued understanding between two such disparate creatures as a biologist and a barn owl.

Wesley came into Stacey O’Brien’s life in 1985, when he was four days old, brought to the California Institute of Technology where O’Brien worked as a biologist, because his wing was badly injured and it was doubtful he would ever fly. Wesley was in need of a permanent home since he couldn’t exist in the wild as he was.
O’Brien writes: “The little owl was so tiny and helpless he couldn’t even lift his head or keep himself warm. His eyes weren’t open yet, and except for a tuft of white down feathers on his head and three rows of fluff along his back, his body was pink and naked.”
From that first moment O’Brien dedicated herself to the small bird, learning, in sometimes painful increments, what she came to call “the way of the owl.”
As a scientist, O’Brien welcomed the opportunity to study a barn owl in close quarters and agreed to keep notes on Wesley’s behavior over the ensuring years, keeping him in her home—even as she moved again and again—for the next 19 years.
As with so many purely academic pursuits involving animals, it wasn’t long before the relationship grew caring and concerned, therefore emotional. Both woman and owl came to depend on each other; to exhibit stress when they were apart; and relief when they were back together, often indulging in cuddling behaviors and wild displays of happiness.
Years passed and Wesley became a firm center in O’Brien’s life. His taste in boyfriends was loud and raucous, breaking up more than one relationship Stacy had formed. He was never shy with his opinions of people, scaring most away, not letting the ones he didn’t like near him. As if a barometer of the worthy, those accepted by Wesley were allowed to enter his room, clean up his messes, bring him a juicy dead mouse, and even touch his feathers. Others were greeted by screeches and daring feats of flying which could involve claws.

It would take a scientist, such as O’Brien, to endure Wesley’s diet, consisting only of mice—both dead and alive. Providing these live mice for Wesley didn’t faze O’Brien, except when the mice escaped in her car or when they took off during a fancy dinner party at her house.
For the squeamish, tales of flying mouse guts and mass mouse killing might be a bit much. Still, it’s worth it to stay with this memoir. As Stacey and Wesley grew closer the story of their odd inter-species respect and emotional connection proves what most animal lovers have always known. Ask any dog lover if his dog is without emotion. If worry, love, shame, anger aren’t part of their pet’s personality. Now it seems even birds have their own form of love.
Stories abound, in literature and common knowledge, of animals responding with emotion and even forethought. I was recently treated to a crow story which broke my heart. A friend was driving home from work when she saw a flutter of black feathers ahead of her in the road. She stopped. The commotion was caused by a distraught crow leaping and flying to the side of his dead mate, lying in the road, killed by a car. Crows mate for life. This crow, the woman told me, would land next to his mate, throw back his head and make the most mournful of gurgling sounds deep in his throat. Even with her car stopped close by, the crow refused to leave his mate’s side, continuing his mourning as she pulled away.
Desert travelers have reported coming on raven gatherings where the birds congregate around a central spot, much like an altar, staying for several days as more birds continued arriving to attend their strange, communal ceremony.
This winter, while traveling much too fast on a northern back road, my car was suddenly attacked by crows. Crows threw their bodies at me, narrowly missing the windshield. They swooped and dived, forcing me to slow my car. I’d found myself connecting to crows lately but never received attention like this. A couple of hundred feet further on, the road surface turned to pure ice. I controlled my car because I’d slowed way down. I don’t know what brought on the crow attack, but I’m grateful.
O’Brien tells of how 21st century science is slowly awakening to the differences between species and what those differences tell us. She writes: “Scientists used to think bird’s brains were simpler than those of mammals, now we think they may be just as complex, but in a very different way... Even with different structures taking on different functions, however, the groups developed similar kinds of intelligence, so similar, in fact, that we can communicate and share emotions with each other.”
Science aside, thousands of years of friendship and interdependence can’t be wrong. If someone would have given Descartes a parrot, or a poodle, experience and reciprocated emotion would have pointed out the error of his ways.
Maybe we live in a Dr. Doolittle world after all, with Wesley the Owl leading the way.

Elizabeth Buzzelli’s mystery novel, “Dead Floating Lovers,” second in the Emily Kincaid series, will be out in July.

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