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 · Features · White men can run: A report...
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White men can run: A report from Run Across Ethiopia

Anne Stanton - January 17th, 2011
White Men Can Run: A report from Run Across Ethiopia 1/17/11
By Anne Stanton
On January 5, six runners left Traverse City to “Run Across Ethiopia”
-- an 11-day, 250-mile (plus) ultra-marathon conceived by Chris
Treter, who buys coffee beans from farmers in Southern Ethiopia. They
run at elevations of 6,000-7,700 feet in temperatures ranging up to
115 degrees.
There are 10 runners in all, and each had to raise $15,000, a sum that
would pay their expenses, with the remainder — about $11,000 — going
toward building three schools in a corner of the world where there is
currently scant hope for a better life.
The runners were joined (at their own expense) by other Traverse City
folks, including myself from Northern Express Weekly. I’ve been
updating people back home via my Facebook page. The following are
excerpts of what I’ve seen and experienced in landlocked Ethiopia, the
second most populous country on the African continent. Half the
population, incredibly, is age 14 or younger. There aren’t many
elderly here, with longevity averaging around 46 years of age.

As background, Treter is the owner of Higher Grounds Coffee, which
pays a “fair trade” price for coffee beans in developing countries.
Treter believes a living wage is the only way out of generational
poverty, but only about 10% of Ethiopian coffee bean farmers receive
fair price. But even a living wage won’t completely solve poverty,
which is why he founded On the Ground. It’s a nonprofit business that
Treter launched to help communities with water, schools, and health
Treter has teamed up with an Ethiopian man, Tadesse Meskala, who has
organized the coffee bean farmers into a union called the Oromia
Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union. Meskala, one of the few heavy men
you’ll meet in Ethiopia, and who appears to have a cell phone
continuously connected to his ear, has been instrumental in organizing
the run’s logistics.
Some Traverse City folks have criticized the fund-raising project as a
waste of money. Why pay airfare when the money could be better used to
— well, build even more schools? The answer isn’t easy, but Treter
says you can only create change by developing genuine relationships
and airfare is a small price to pay. The lives of both peoples are
changed in a way that’s difficult to describe as compared to sending a
check to an unknown organization.
Following are excerpts from Anne Stanton’s Facebook page as she
follows the runners on their trek. To see pictures and video of the
ongoing event, go to runacrossethiopia.org.

First day in Ethiopia • Friday, January 7 • 10:26am

So today we went to a Catholic charities home for children and adults
who have HIV, tuberculosis, all kinds of maladies. Ohmygod, what an
experience. These children just loved to be loved. I had my reporter’s
notebook, and they drew pictures and ripped off the page and gave to
(singer-songwriters) Seth and May Erlewine, who were singing for
It was Christmas today, so we tried singing Christmas songs for them,
and they sang Christmas songs for us. Women drummed, we all danced, me
holding this little guy (who I think was a girl but wasn’t exactly
sure, but had the biggest smile I’ve ever seen), and then I left and
just cried for all the people there. They were not in good shape, and
I mean NOT in good shape, but well taken care of.
Some of the patients were giving other patients IV. Some were so down
and out, they didn’t want to look at us. But I am telling you,
bringing Seth and May on this trip was a stroke of genius. The people
LOVED them. The head sister told us that the men patients liked
Michael Jackson, so Seth and May came up with a couple Michael Jackson
tunes. You would not believe their huge smiles. The little kids put on
sunglasses and strutted around.
Tomorrow, the runners are going to do a little run in the Entoto
Mountain, and, yes, I will go with them. They are worried that the
Ethiopian runners, who are going with us, will not be able to hold
themselves back. Anyway, weather is perfect and I am so grateful I am

2nd day in Ehtiopia • January 8 • 8:56am

So far, nobody sick. Matt Desmond accidentally bit himself on the
finger falling down, Mary Moore got a blister from her new Tevas, and
May Erlewine was actually feeling queasy during yesterday’s
performance (unbeknownst to anyone). But no one violently ill.
Last night we went to an Ethiopian restaurant that is famous for its
food and dancers. A very nice place. So the tradition is that you wash
up before the meal. The waiter brings you liquid soap, a pitcher of
hot water and a bowl, and everybody scrubs up for the meal. Which is
the same every time.
This weird bread, enjara, that has the texture of those round things
that you use when you can’t open a lid (kind of stickyish), beige,
with lots of holes. It sort of reminds me of coral reef, only, as I
said, it’s beige... So the enjara is rolled up like a roll of medical
tape, and served on a tray of a different variety of foods to eat it
with--spinach, green beans, hummus, etc. But it’s the same variety
every time. So how happy I was to go to a restaurant today where they
served PASTA. Yeah.
… We drove up to the Entoto Mountain where the 10 runners and maybe
six Ethiopians ran together for the first time. I stayed back and hung
out with the 10-year-old goat herder and other little kids. The
altitude was 10,500 feet, and, okay, I did not think I could do it.
But Jacob Wheeler, another reporter, did and kept up. He said he was
thankful for a gang of baboons showing up, giving them a rest as they
watched them (they ran away, didn’t attack).

Interesting things I saw out of my bus window in Addis Ababa • January
8 • 9:27am

- Boys playing on a soccer field, kicking the ball among goats and cows.
- A guy walking down the street behind what appeared to be a Brahmin bull.
- Large round sticks used for scaffolding instead of metal.
- These funny horse taxis, with big black rubber wheels and the driver
sitting on a wooden kind of cart.
- Houses slabbed together with corrugated metal for walls and roofs and fences.
- There are all kinds of VW buses used for public transportation (seat
12 or so) and they are filled to the brim.
- Only have seen one burkha.
- A horse walking down the road--by itself. (and, yes, you will see
the occasional horse walking right down the street).
- The Ethiopians love their scarves, even men. No one wears shorts. In
fact, for 75 degree weather people here dress really warm.
- A Beyonce poster on a bus window that got everyone in our bus excited.
- A woman who had made a permanent home out of a pile of rocks.
- A throng of crippled and sick and elderly in wheelchairs hanging in
front of church compounds. I was told that if you don’t have someone
to take care of you in the hospital (as in to empty your bed pan,
change your sheets, get you dressed), you are not admitted. Churches
appear to be the social services agency. Not to be political, but I
would ask anyone who is really sincere about eliminating Social
Security and Medicare to please visit this country.

Part Three: The Snap In The Middle Of The Road • January 10 • 2:19pm

Today, the team ran 28 miles (amazing), and I ran six (four, then one,
then one), and it was hotter than hell. Poor Claire wasn’t feeling
well at all and STILL ran 28 miles. As we were running out of town,
this little guy in a school uniform broke away from his friends and
ran with us, smiling and laughing -- he was running fast, and just as
I was getting worried about him, he ran up the driveway to his school.
It was like that the whole run, little guys joining us, some even
A “runner’s bus” follows the runners, and stops every 30 minutes with
water, and every hour with some kind of sustenance. Even so, two of
the runners “bonked” because they didn’t eat enough food. Every day,
there’s a kind of recap meeting where we discuss what went right and
wrong, and everyone unanimously agreed we need an earlier start
because of the heat.
 …There were times today when I was the only white person on the bus
with eight of the Ethiopians, who were rocking out with the Ethiopian
music and chatting, chatting. The runners, of course, are rock-hard.
Two of the Ethiopian women went ahead of the group (probably
frustrated with the pace), and ran all the way into town, at which
point another Ethiopian had to come and find them. They were kind of
“timed-out” today on the bus but will run again tomorrow…

Day three of the run • January 11 • 12:50pm

… Claire is better today and ran the entire 30 or so miles. Ah, to be
young. Wait, I was young, and I never ran 30 miles. It is interesting
to be around serious runners. They are a rare breed who talk about
peeing and pooping as easily as you might talk about the weather. Who
is constipated, who is having the runs… You pee (or poop) as necessary
by the road, so you always have a tissue in your pocket. Thankfully,
Ethiopians out in the country do too, so they don’t find it strange.
Today an Ethiopian runner got hit by the runs, and, yes, she did the
entire run, which was about 29 miles. And then there’s 30 miles the
next day, and the next, and the next. Then the miles will stop
And today, it got hard for some of us. I couldn’t run more than a mile
or two at a time, although I’m not sure why...
Once we were out of the city, we were faced with a choice. Run on the
smooth, hard pavement, or down on the trail that’s riddled with stones
and acacia, a thorny bush that’s all over the place. I chose the trail
and within about 10 minutes, poor Chris Girrbach (a phenomenal runner,
btw) stepped on a thorn. One of the Ethiopian guys was able to pull it
out. Chris decided to save it for a nose piercing. Kidding.
Even though you’re out in the country, there are still all kinds of
people along the road. One woman was shaping liquid poop into these
perfectly round, pizza pan sized circles that I imagine they must use
to burn as fuel.
Later on in the day, the runners went by a lake, where there was a
fruit market and we bought 5 watermelons to split up for the runners.
We also stopped near a little village for a lunch break. We usually
draw a few people to the bus when we stop, but there was quite a crowd
at this little village. I usually take pictures of the folks at the
stops and show them the picture, and it’s fun. But got a little hairy
at this little village. At the end of the stops, we give out water
bottles, which the villagers like because they need it to transport
water. But it was hot, and there was some tension, and one of the men
pulled out a switch (that they use on donkeys) and started waving it
around (not using it)—I guess it’s the version of Ethiopian crowd

Wednesday Day Four of the Run • January 12 • 8:02am

Chris Treter made a joke that it’s Groundhog Day. Just like yesterday,
three of the group got up to make breakfast of peanut butter and jelly
sandwiches, coffee, and bottled water. The runners gathered in front
of a motel room at 5:30 a.m.
The motel rooms were rough — someone compared them to a Nigerian
prison with no toilet lids and very little light. Luckily, I was at a
different motel room across the street and had hot water, a working
toilet with a lid, and a really comfortable bed. Unfortunately, it
sounded like dozens of dogs were engaged in civil war during the night
and I did NOT get enough sleep…
So we clean up breakfast as best we can. There are no washcloths, so I
use toilet paper, the cleaning material of choice. We move quickly
because the runners want to get out as soon as possible before the day
heats up. Hard to imagine when everyone at home is shoveling snow and
This is the fourth day of the run, and the plan is to run 30 miles
today, 30 tomorrow and 30 the next day. Hans Voss (Traverse City), who
sprained his ankle in the second mile, but still ran the next 28 miles
yesterday, decided to sit out today’s run. Actually his ankle decided.
It was decidedly bruised and swollen, but he could easily walk.
Almost all the runners have red, swollen lower lips—a result of
putting sunscreen on their lips with their lips closed and then
holding their mouths open as they run. The bus driver this morning
plays pop songs that you’d hear on WKLT, and the bus was rocking, with
Nigel (the oldest and one of the best runners from Texas) doing a
hilarious dance.
I join the run first thing since it’s cool, and I’m a heat wimp. Three
or four miles later after viewing ENORMOUS ant hills, about half the
size as the stick houses, I climb back on. The team is running like a
well-oiled machine with fewer bathroom stops, and a much quicker pace
through the water and food stops.
At mile 12, Dena Piecuch, a pretty 29 year-old blonde from South
Carolina, climbs on. She is spent and not happy about it. She had
trained in 115-degree heat, but the Ethiopian altitude is getting to
her. That and maybe not eating and drinking enough on day 2, due to
the fact she isn’t crazy about Ethiopian food.
The run is harder than she thought, much harder and longer than
originally planned, but she wanted to do it for the kids, and she’s
visibly moved by what she sees outside the window. Because on this
day, it’s clear the families are in much more dire straits than the
first few days. We see our first naked bottoms, and the little ones
are wearing dusty clothes that are shredded from wear...
The bus? Not so fun. Which is a great impetus for me to get off and
run, which I find VERY hard in the heat. And the reason why is that
the bus draws a crowd. When it pulls over, kids run after us like
American kids run after an ice cream truck, and with as much passion.
Mamush, our gentle and intuitive Ethiopian medic, explains to those
who appear that we are raising money for schools. One kid amongst
maybe a group of 20 turned to me and said, “No school,” and pointed to
the others. Like, while you’re at it, can you help us out here too?
As we drove away, Dena pointed to a girl who looked no taller than my
six-year-old son. She was carrying a baby on her back, using her hands
behind her as a cradle. I was really overwhelmed. Chris Girrbach,
another Traverse City runner, keeps saying these kids have no
childhood. As soon as they walk, they are put to work. I thought,
well, American kids could use a little more of that, but Chris is
right. I saw them out at 7 a.m., their staffs in hand and guiding
cows, donkeys and bulls. They don’t seem unhappy, to tell you the
truth, but life has become a matter of survival.
Yesterday we gave the kids empty water bottles and they were
satisfied. Today, they weren’t. They wanted water, and they really
wanted it badly. We gave them food, but quickly found it created a
food fight that you didn’t want to be in the middle of. We quickly
concluded that it was easiest to give the food to the eldest in the
crowd and ask him to pass it out. And then we climbed on the bus,
quickly, and drove away. I haven’t been doing the picture thing as
much, because the crowds were bigger today and a lot hungrier. Chris
told me that the coffee bean people are in even worse shape, which is
hard to believe…

Look for part II of Anne Stanton’s report from Ethiopia in the next
issue of the Express.

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