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 · Risky business: Sebastian...
. . . .

Risky business: Sebastian Junger

Robert Downes - May 16th, 2011
Risky Business: Sebastian Junger on the hazards of journalism
By Robert Downes
Sebastian Junger has lived a life of risk and near-misses. Not to mention
an ability to surprise his readers at every turn: He’s written about
firefighters battling 300-foot flames, doomed fishermen going down in a
hurricane, a serial killer working in his parent’s own home in a suburb of
Boston, and half-mad soldiers bottled up in an outpost in Afghanistan’s
“Valley of Death.”
Yet the world-famous journalist and best-selling author says that even he
doesn’t know what he’ll be writing about next.
“I don’t know, it’s like how do you decide who to fall in love with?”
Junger says via phone from his home in New York City. “You know, it’s not
really a decision so much as a response to something. It takes longer to
write a book than many marriages last, so it has to be something that
you’re really compelled by.
“That’s one of the reasons I’m a journalist,” he adds, “because I really
enjoy delving into these disparate and fascinating topics -- it’s what
keeps me doing it.”
Not that Junger at the age of 49 has any urgent need to plunge into any
new stories: His latest bestseller, War, comes out this week in paperback
and his Oscar-nominated documentary Restrepo was recently released on DVD.
He’ll share those experiences and many others when he appears as a guest
of the Traverse City National Writers Series this Tuesday, May 17 at 7
p.m. at the City Opera House.

Junger is still coping with the death of his friend and colleague, Tim
Hetherington, 40, who was killed on April 20 while photographing the civil
war in Libya. Hetherington and fellow combat photographer Chris Hondros
were hit by shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade while covering a
battle in the city of Misrata.
The two met four years ago while on assignment for Vanity Fair and went on
to collaborate on Restrepo. Junger and Hetherington were embedded with a
platoon of the 173rd Airborne brigade in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley off
and on over the course of 14 months, filming everything from the boredom
of camp life to the jumpy chaos of a firefight and the anxiety of manning
a remote outpost in what is called the “Valley of Death.”
“I started working with Tim in September of 2007 and we were very close
from the beginning and worked together for three years,”Junger says,
adding that they conceived the film while sharing their experience at the
“I wanted to make a documentary while I was writing my book out there, so
I started shooting video on my first trip, and on my second trip I was
lucky enough to start working with Tim, who was assigned to the story as a
photographer for Vanity Fair. He quickly became as entranced by the topic
as I was and we immediately started collaborating.”

Junger wrote an homage to his friend in this issue of Vanity Fair in which
he said, “You and I were always talking about risk because she was the
beautiful woman we were both in love with, right? The one who made us
feel the most special, the most alive? We were always trying to have one
more dance with her without paying the price…”
That dance goes back to Junger’s earliest days as a writer. In the
introduction to his book, Fire, he recalls working as a tree-trimmer in
his home state of Massachusetts in his late 20s while mulling over the
idea of becoming a writer. It’s a dangerous, terrifying job, dangling from
trees with a chain saw. “Inevitably, I was going to have an accident,” he
wrote, “almost every climber I knew had.”
Sure enough, Junger nipped his ankle with his saw, exposing his Achilles
tendon as well as a new career outlook. The wound provided the impetus
for him to launch a career as a freelance journalist. “The accident was
sloppy and unfortunate, but it made me realize that I didn’t want to be a
climber and struggling writer forever,” he wrote. “I was 30 years old: I
should either tackle a book project or get out of the writing business
Inspired by the firefighters of the Western wilderness, Junger financed
his own trip to Boise, Idaho to interview smoke jumpers for an article
that sold to Men’s Journal. His next project was a book on the fate of
the Andrea Gail, a swordfishing craft out of Gloucester, Mass. That book,
The Perfect Storm, went on to become a huge bestseller for the virtually
unknown writer, and then a film starring Mark Wahlberg and George Clooney.
It also earned Junger an appellation that is music to any writer’s ears:
“the next Hemingway.”

But getting back to combat journalism and Tim’s death, does Junger feel
that his work as a war correspondent in battlegrounds as diverse as
Cyprus, Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan has the same sense of
inevitability as his work years ago with a chainsaw?
“Of course, I mean we all know it’s dangerous and all of us in the
profession know someone who’s been killed,” he says. “In my case, this was
the first time losing someone who was very, very close to me.
“But for sure, there’s a heightened awareness of your mortality,” Junger
adds. “I’m 49 and I’m thinking very seriously about not getting shot
at anymore. Partly for the sake of my wife and partly for the sake of me.”
He says “me” with a bit of a laugh and seems pretty solid on that score,
even reiterating later that he’s not sure he’ll be doing much in the way
of combat journalism from here on out. But you have to wonder; this after
all, was one of the last journalists to interview Ahmad Shah Massoud, “the
Lion of the Panjshir,” who led the Northern Alliance against the Taliban
in Afghanistan. This is the guy who went to Sierra Leone in 1999 at a
time of near-cannibalistic violence to investigate the blood diamond
trade. Not to mention traveling alone to Sarajevo in 1993, winging it in
the middle of a civil war. In Fire, Junger wrote that he was “rarely in
serious danger” pursuing these stories… but one might imagine that his
personal idea of danger and risk -- compared to that of the average reader
-- is probably miles apart.

Junger’s Greatest Hits

• The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea (1997) --
describes the events of an epic storm that took the lives of six crew
members of the Andrea Gail off the coast of Nova Scotia. Beautifully
written, this is a ‘must’ for any student of writing, with journalism as
rich, interconnected and detailed as a fine watch.

• Fire (2001) -- A collection of magazine articles that includes
Junger’s stories on smoke-jumpers, Ahmad Massoud, blood diamonds and
mountain man Jim Colter, among others.

• A Death in Belmont (2006) -- the starting point for this book is a
photo of Junger as a baby with his mother and two workmen at their home
in a Boston suburb -- it later turned out that one of the handymen was
Albert DeSalvo, the Boston Strangler (!). The same day that DeSalvo was
working in the Junger home, a rape-murder was committed a little more
than a mile away. Junger speculates that DeSalvo may have killed Bessie
Goldberg on a lunch break, with another man taking the fall.

• Restrepo/War -- the 2009 documentary and accompanying book depict life
on the frontlines of Afghanistan, focusing on the lives of soldiers
manning an outpost named after a dead comrade in the “Valley of Death.”

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5