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 · Turning a page
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Turning a page

Robert Downes - January 24th, 2011
Turning a Page

Congratulations to the Traverse City Record-Eagle, which has started
charging for a portion of its local online content. It’s about time,
and anyone who cares about the fate of newspapers in America should
hope this trend continues.
Scores of newspapers have gone under in the past few years and
thousands of journalists have lost their jobs under the delusion that
providing their work free of charge online is some kind of mandate.
That notion is a meme -- a thought virus -- that infects all of print
journalism, no matter how many newsrooms are stripped to the bone of
reporters and editors. It’s an industry-wide mental illness.
Print journalists have reached a point of such wretched, low
self-esteem that they feel their work must be offered free of charge
online with no other viable alternative. Imagine if your boss told you
that your company was going to start giving its products away for free
and you could expect a future of unpaid furloughs, pay cuts, lay-offs
and a decline in the company’s quality. That’s the bizarre state of
American newspapers today.
By its nature, the Internet encourages its users to flit from
site-to-site in a matter of seconds, and there seem to be more
websites out in cyberspace than there are trees in Siberia.
But newspapers persist in believing that if they just keep doing the
same online thing over and over again, ad infinitum, then the readers
will someday come around to spending quality time with their
increasingly archaic-looking websites and the ad revenues will flow
again. This too is a classic definition of insanity.
The meme infecting the newspaper industry is abetted by fear of
missing out on the revolution in information. A recent Harris poll
claims that out of 2,000 adults surveyed, 77% said they “wouldn‘t pay
anything” to read newspaper stories online.
Yeah, sure, everyone likes something for nothing, but this is patently
ridiculous. If there was absolutely no free online option, people
would likely prefer to pay a small amount to be informed than to
remain in the dark about what’s happening in their hometowns.
The recent shooting in TC is a case in point. It was the talk of the
town for a week, and if the story hadn’t been offered free of charge
online, the Record-Eagle surely would have roped in plenty of paying
online subscriptions from born-again newspaper readers.
The Harris poll also noted that younger readers aren’t inclined to
read newspapers at all. Who can blame them?
What’s been lost in the frenzy to move online is the fact that
newspapers have failed to keep themselves interesting. Many are
appallingly dull, dated and uninspired. Beetle Bailey on the comics
page? Whole sections devoted to baking macaroni or fudge brownies? A
complete absence of anything titillating or humorous? Same old
broadsheet format that looks right in step with the ’70s? That‘s
today’s newspaper, far removed from the coarse traditions of William
Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, who had wildly popular papers
packed with stories of sex, crime and scandal. You know, like the
stuff you find on the Internet.
Instead of improving their products with more local reporting,
gripping features, exciting designs and content that’s “with it,” the
corporate goal of the so-called “McPapers” over the past 10 years has
been to cut staff in favor of wire service copy and stodgy formats
that have changed little in 50 years.
Newspapers aren’t the only media suffering from delusions; our local
television and radio stations are infected by the same meme, believing
that their ho-hum websites are worth the bother of pitching resources
into, instead of improving their broadcasts.
Within a few years, every publication in the world will be
available on some version of the iPad. Great, Northern Express has
been ahead of that curve for more than a year now with our Virtual
Express -- www.northernexpress.com -- an online paper that ‘flips’ its
pages and connects to the websites of our advertisers.
But unless mainstream newspapers start charging for their own virtual
editions in order to pay their reporters, they’re history. And with
them will go all of the watchdog functions over city and state
government, the courts, crime, neighborhood issues, the environment --
the works -- that inform us as citizens.
Sure, you can do the same thing online with specialty sites that are
tailored for geeks of city government, the environment and niche
politics, but to inform and empower the general public in a way that
goes deeper than the gloss of TV news, you need solid, reputable,
general-interest newspapers that uphold 300 years of tradition in
reporting the facts.
Some newspapers, including the New York Times, have tried tepid
half-measures to charge for a small amount of their content, with
little luck. But this is like trying to quit smoking by allowing
yourself half a pack a day. Newspapers will never succeed until they
adopt an all-or-nothing approach. This strategy has worked for the
Wall Street Journal and a few daring regional newspapers across the
country. One publisher even charges more for his online paper than for
home delivery of the print version.
I can’t imagine the corporate owners of the Record-Eagle or the
Petoskey News-Review would value my opinion on this matter, or perhaps
even care to read it, but if I were in their shoes, there would be a
charge for the online content of their newspapers equal to that of
their print editions, enacted immediately. This is the Alamo, guys --
quit wasting your bullets on a strategy that’s proven a dud for
newspapers and, in a word, “charge!”

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