Letters

Letters 12-14-2014

Come Together There is a time-honored war strategy known as “divide and conquer,” and never has it been more effective than now. The enemy is using it against us through television, internet and other social media. I opened a Facebook account a couple of years back to gain more entries in local contests. Since then I had fallen under its spell; I rushed into judgment on several social issues based on information found on those pages

Quiet The Phones! This weekend we attended two beautiful Christmas musical events and the enjoyment of both were significantly diminished by self-absorbed boors holding their stupid iPhones high overhead to capture extremely crucial and highly needed photos. We too own iPhones, but during a public concert we possess the decency and manners to leave them turned off and/or at home. Today’s performance, the annual Messiah Sing at Traverse City’s Central Methodist Church, was a new low: we watched as Mr. Self-Absorbed not only took several photos but then afterwards immediately posted them to his Facebook page. We were dumbfounded.

A Torturous Defense In defense of the C.I.A.’s use of torture in a mostly fruitless search for vital information, some suggest that the dire situation facing us after 9-11, justified the use of torture even at the expense of the potential loss of much of our nation’s moral authority.

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Exploratory surgery 4/4/11

Robert Downes - April 4th, 2011
Exploratory Surgery
Remember the days of exploratory surgery? Probably not if you’re under the
age of 40, but in the days before the CT scan came into wide use back in
the ’70s, and certainly long before MRIs, surgeons had little choice but
to open you up and peek around at your innards if something like a tumor,
hernia, or internal bleeding was suspected.
Of course, this was a dangerous and uncertain form of diagnosis, fraught
with the risk of infection and sure to leave you with a painful surgical
wound with no guarantee that the surgeon would even find anything.
Perhaps it’s a misplaced metaphor, but I can’t help thinking that our new
Governor Rick Snyder is wearing those same bloody shoe covers in the
operating room of the state capital, trying to find out why his patient is
hemorrhaging and how to pump life back into Michigan before our state dies
on the table.
The difference of course, is that we don’t need exploratory surgery to
tell us why Michigan is in trouble: we have unfunded mandates with no
money to pay for them; we’ve suffered the loss of much of our
manufacturing base, along with their tax revenues; we’ve got too many
prisoners in our corrections system to house and feed; and most recently,
we’ve got a declining census, to name a few.
So personally, I’ve withheld judgement on some of the things Gov. Snyder
has proposed, because this is the point in the show where Drs. Kildare,
Grey and Ross are screaming for more crash carts, clamps and tourniquets
in what can only be a dangerous operation with an uncertain outcome.
If nothing else, our new governor has people talking. Between the flood of
letters to newspapers across the state and the protests in Lansing, we’re
discussing Michigan’s direction as we’ve never done before.
Some of what Gov. Snyder has proposed strikes me as ill-advised. Recently,
for instance, George Clooney was in Ann Arbor and Clawson filming his
latest, The Ides of March. The film employed 1,000 extras in Ann Arbor and
surely pumped some dollars into the state economy, as did the new release,
Cedar Rapids, which was also filmed in Michigan. So is it wise to cap the
tax credits on Michigan’s film industry just when it’s starting to show
promise? We need more glamour in our state, not less, and that’s an
intangible benefit that should be considered.
Then there’s his idea for licensing more coal plants in Michigan. That’s
not very forward-looking, and Snyder campaigned in part on his “green”
credentials.
On the other hand, it’s hard to believe that ending the earned income tax
credit for “the poor” will actually make much of a difference to people in
that situation, as protesters claim. And taxing pensions at the much
reduced state rate (compared to the federal tax on pensions) sounds like a
sensible idea, considering that other states are doing the same. After
all, as guest opinion writer Michael Estes notes elsewhere in this issue,
the 401k’s of those of us who don’t have pensions are taxed.
As for Snyder’s idea of Emergency Financial Managers taking over
municipalities and school systems that are train wrecks, that’s a
dictatorship plain and simple.
But how do you fix something like the Detroit Public Schools, which had a
budget deficit of $363 million last year and a dropout rate of 75% of its
students, despite all of the tax dollars we shovel in its direction?
What about Detroit and Flint, which have degenerated into third world
cities, notorious for their political stagnation? Will their suffering
residents protest if an Emergency Financial Manager steps in to improve
their lives?
The funny thing about Gov. Snyder is that he’s a Republican and claims to
be a conservative, yet some of his solutions would be blasted as being
radically liberal -- even Marxist -- if they had been proposed by a
Democrat. Can you imagine the grief that Republicans would have rained
down if Gov. Granholm had suggested taxing pensions as a way out of
Michigan’s problems?
Each election cycle, many of us promise that we’ll vote for “change.” We
toss out the old, ineffectual governors and legislators and vote for the
person who convinces us that he or she has that “change” thing down in
spades.
But as with surgery, “change” can be a synonym for “pain.” Change doesn’t
mean we get promised a rose garden -- it means we get promised the thorns.
Gov. Snyder is the change we voted for; right or wrong, he’s shown us that
healing Michigan will be a painful process.

 
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