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 · Music · Steel Wheels 4/4/11
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Steel Wheels 4/4/11

Kristi Kates - April 4th, 2011
Steel Wheels’ Rolling Medicine Show
By Kristi Kates
 Blissfest’s concise description of the four-piece band known as The Steel
Wheels is simply this: “an old time medicine show with modern energy and
an Americana heart.”
“Americana” being the operative word there, as the group’s focus is on a
wide range of music that falls both smoothly and awkwardly into that
“We often mistakenly get branded as a bluegrass band due to some of our
instrumentation,” explains bass player, Brian Dickel, “but while there are
some definite bluegrass elements there, it has more influence from
old-time, blues, gospel, folk, and singer-songwriter stylings. I guess
that is why it is so difficult to classify this music genre that is called
Americana. And that is part of the reason that we like it - because we
don’t fit neatly into any one of those categories by itself, but there are
elements of all of them that we really enjoy.”
The only “external” element that the band says they’ve stuck to
consistently is keeping their music acoustic - and fitting in inspiration
from a wider range of artists than one might expect.
“We all came to this music from a lot of different backgrounds and
approaches, and that shows up in the music,” Dickel says. “We listen to
just about anything. We have a great respect and admiration for the bands
of today, but try to do our own thing.”
“Some of my influences that led me to the music I write now are artists
like Townes Van Zandt, Jerry Garcia, and David Grisman, to name just a
few,” singer/guitarist/banjoist Trent Wagler says.

Formed in Indiana, but now residents of Virginia, Michigan, and
Pennsylvania, The Steel Wheels have found yet another inspiration for
their own music - that being their surroundings.
“There are a lot of musicians (in the Virginia area) that are just
incredible,” Wagler enthuses, “I feel that the Shenandoah Valley has
always had more music going on outside of the venues than many people
realize. This is especially true of acoustic music. One of the neat
cross-sections of the valley is the longstanding quiet, rooted,
traditional scene that is intersecting with new energy. That intersection
represents me - I came to the valley in college, and this music found me.
The Steel Wheels try to incorporate that.”
Wagler also says that being in “a beautiful part of the country” very much
inspires his writing, while his bandmates find that the band’s diverse
locales help keep things fresh in their music.
“We call ourselves Virginia-based, but currently we’re living all over the
place,” Dickel says, “Trent and I live in Virginia, but Jay lives in Ann
Arbor, Michigan, and Oliver lives near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Although
the touring arrangements require a bit more thought, we are able to bring
a bit of our regional influences into the mix. We get to experience many
different musicians and bands that we may not know as well if we were all
from one location.”
The person helping center all of their music is frontman Wagler, whom
Dickel calls “the main force” behind the lyrics of The Steel Wheels’
“His songs speak to so many different walks of life and viewpoints, which,
in my opinion, is the mark of a great writer. He is not a big fan of
spelling out a story from start to finish in a manner that you know
exactly his viewpoint on it, so it allows the listener to paint their own
picture of what is going on,” Dickel says.

Another location - well, locations - that likely inspire the band are
those that they see during their unusual Spokesongs tours. The name, of
course, is inspired by their own band name, while the tour itself was
conceived from the bandmates’ appreciation of - y’all ready for this?
“The idea for Spokesongs came out of the many ‘bike to work’ events and
awareness campaigns held all over the country,” Dickel explains, “touring
happens to be our work, so therefore we thought why not involve ourselves
in the bike to work movement. If you note our schedule, it’s obviously not
practical to do this everywhere, but it’s a small token of awareness of
touring green.”
The band, who say that they make very conscience ‘green’ decisions in
everything from their CD packaging to their t-shirts, consider the
Spokesongs tours - in which they literally tour by bicycle with no support
vehicles (all instruments, merchandise, microphones, clothing, etc., are
hauled by them, on their bicycles) - a natural extension of their work
toward greening the rest of their band experience.
“One bicycle is an elongated bicycle by a company called Xtracycle, that
two or three instruments and other gear can fit on,” Dickel says, “it
tipped the scales at well over 100 pounds last year. The rest of the
riders are pulling trailers with all the gear behind them. There is a
short documentary on our website that shows how all this was done.”
Dickel says that they’re planning to post many pictures and videos of this
year’s tour - which begins August 4, and has most of its show dates in
Michigan - as “everyone wants to see the upright bass behind a bicycle.

They’ll also be appearing on the NPR show, Mountain Stage (due to air the
week following April 8, more info at www.mountainstage.org), and they’ve
also confirmed tours to a number of Eastern, Midwestern, and Southern
states, plus two tours to Alberta, Canada.
“We stay busy,” Dickel chuckles.
A new album is also in the works, with the band planning recording
sessions in June, and aiming at an early 2012 release.
Any particular inspiration - Americana or otherwise - behind the new
album? Will there be a pop, rock, rap, or jazz-inspired Steel Wheels album
in the near future?
“We don’t necessarily follow the trends of what’s happening out there,”
Dickel says, “if those trends intersect with what we do, that’s great -
and if they don’t, we are fine with that, too. Good music is good music -
it doesn’t matter what the source is.”

The Steel Wheels will be appearing at the Crooked Tree Arts Center in
Petoskey as part of the Blissfest Concert Series on Saturday, April 9 at 8
p.m. Tickets are available via www.blissfest.org. Check out the band at

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