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 · To the shores of...
. . . .

To the shores of Tripoli

Robert Downes - April 25th, 2011
To the Shores of Tripoli
Here’s a Trivia Pursuit history question for you: What was the first
country to ever declare war on the United States?
The answer is the North African country of Tripoli, which is known today
as Libya.
In 1801, Tripoli had the honor of being the first nation on earth to
declare war on the youthful U.S. (The British, remember, fought a war with
their colony, not the nation that came after the Revolution.)
The war gave rise to a tale of derring-do, America’s first secret agent,
and a “special ops” mission across 500 miles of the brutal Libyan Desert
by 8 U.S. Marines to the “shores of Tripoli” in a raid to rescue 307
Americans held captive by pirates.
The events of this secret mission are recounted in an excellent book, “The
Pirate Coast,” by Richard Zacks -- a slice of history which reads like a
thriller. Perhaps our current misadventure in Libya will shed light on
this little-known story, which every American might enjoy with pride.
In the early 1800s, piracy was big business in the Mediterranean Sea.
Lateen-sailed galleys brimming with pirates swept off the Barbary Coast,
augmented by slaves chained to 40-foot oars.
Many square-rigged ships of the time were powerless to resist these
galleys, which weren’t dependent on the prevailing winds to attack.
Galleys swarming with hundreds of cutlass-waving pirates could attack from
any corner, avoiding broadsides of cannon fire and chasing down ships
which could only travel in the direction of the wind -- and at its current
speed or lack of it.
At the oars were white, Christian slaves, plucked from Europe and
condemned to row until sweet Death granted them a pardon.
The pirates were so persistent and effective that most nations elected to
simply pay them tribute. Denmark and Sweden even provided the timber to
build their galleys.
Initially, the United States paid tribute of up to $1 million per year for
safe passage past the pirate coast and to ransom American hostages. But
Thomas Jefferson argued for an end to the tribute. In 1801, Yusuf
Karamanli, the Bashaw (ruler) of Tripoli, declared war when Jefferson
refused his demand of $225,000 as protection money.
Game on. Although the U.S. had only seven ships in service (compared to
600 in the British Navy, which nonetheless paid tribute), we set out to
“sink, burn and destroy” pirate ships wherever they could be found.
But things took a turn for the worse when the newly-built USS Philadelphia
was grounded on a sandbar outside the harbor of Tripoli while chasing a
pirate corsair in the fall of 1803.
Captain William Bainbridge surrendered his ship and 307 men to a single
gunboat a few hours later without firing a shot, even though slavery to
the Muslims was considered to be a horror worse than death at the time.
The admiral of the Tripolitan fleet laughed when he heard the news, noting
that the 44-gun Philadelphia would have floated free on the tide if
Bainbridge had waited until nightfall. The pirates of Tripoli planned to
turn the Philadelphia into their flagship.
Thus began America’s first hostage crisis and one of the U.S. Navy’s most
humiliating defeats.
“The Bashaw, a wily and worthy adversary, would set his first demand for
the American slaves at $1,690,000,” Zacks writes, “more than the entire
military budget of the United States.”
Although many Americans know the subsequent story of how Lt. Stephen
Decateur conducted a stealth raid on Tripoli harbor in 1804 and burned the
Philadelphia to the waterline to keep it out of pirate hands, few know the
tale of secret agent William Eaton.
Eaton had served as consul to the neighboring country of Tunisia. “Eaton,
a New England patriot, was appalled that the United States would pay
bribes to pirates and was deeply annoyed at having personally to hand our
diamond-encrusted watches, gold watches, pairs of gold-mounted pistols,
gold tobacco boxes, silks and many other items to 60 different government
officials in Tunis... including the infamously ugly eunuch who guarded the
Bey‘s harem,” Zacks writes.
“One of the most unlikely diplomats ever to be forgotten by history,”
Eaton was “a bulldog of a man,” who was “blunt-spoken and exceedingly
direct” -- the kind of man who’d rip you a new one for treading on his --
or America’s -- honor. He was reputed to be such a reckless daredevil
that members of his family doubted he would survive his childhood.
“Against all common sense,” Zacks writes, while serving as a diplomat in
Tunis, Eaton lent $5,000 of his own money to an Italian father to ransom
his young daughter from the pirates. He also outfitted his own warship in
a plot to replace the Bashaw with the ruler’s younger brother, Hamet.
But when he returned home to Washington, D.C. with $40,000 in diplomatic
debts (a sum that would be millions today), Jefferson and Congress refused
to pay. Eaton would have been a ruined man, but for the disaster with the
USS Philadelphia.
He seized on the hostage crisis as a way out of his debts by proposing a
secret mission to track down prince Hamet in Egypt and launch a raid on
Initially, Jefferson and Secretary of State James Madison gave their
approval to the coup, but then pulled Eaton’s, supplies, cash and troops
because they were philosophically opposed to “intermeddling” with the
internal affairs of another nation... even though Tripoli was holding our
sailors hostage.
Eaton ignored Jefferson’s orders to desist. He located the exiled prince
Hamet in Egypt and raised a mercenary army of 500 Greeks, Berbers and
Arabs, led by a squad of 8 U.S. Marines. This rag-tag army marched 500
miles across the Libyan Desert from Alexandria to capture the Tripolitan
city of Derne in the spring of 1805 with the help of a naval bombardment.
This expedition was one of the finest hours for the Marines -- a branch of
service which got no respect up until that time -- with the battle
enshrined in the Marine Corp Hymn.
This, combined with naval raids and a blockade of Tripoli harbor, was too
much for the Bashaw, who signed a treaty that June, ending the war. But
the Bashaw had the last laugh, receiving a ransom of $60,000 in exchange
for the American hostages. Eaton never got over this insult to his
There’s more -- read Richard Zack’s thrilling book for the juice. But the
message is, we’ve been through all of this “intermeddling” with Libya
before -- today once again working with a rag-tag force that may not
prevail this time around. History is a roulette wheel that does indeed
repeat itself, but also tends to land on a slightly different marker each
time it’s spun.

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