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..

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Random Thoughts

Thursday, July 26, 2007

On the road, revisited

Random Thoughts Robert Downes On the Road, Revisited
I’m always amazed by how many high school and college students have read “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac. The rambling, stream-of-consciousness book celebrates its 50th anniversary this September.
Of course, these young people tend to be those who enjoyed studying literature in school. But still, it seems pretty cool that “On the Road” still has some legs 50 years after it was written.
I read “On the Road” three times at a similar age, from 17 to 19, and couldn’t make a lick of sense of it. It’s America’s version of James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” which is a completely unreadable book about a single day’s events in Dublin.
“On the Road” is much the same. It’s basically an autobiography of Jack Kerouac’s seven years of bumming around America in the 1940s in search of a new “hip” way of life, inspired by poetry, jazz, drugs, casual sex, and living rough on the streets.
Thursday, July 19, 2007

Show some gumption, Governors

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Maybe it‘s the nature of the beast, but it sure seems like the National Governors Association (NGA) comes up with some snoozy topics for their annual meetings.
With the war in Iraq consuming our nation‘s resources, New Orleans still a wreck, and the breakdown in the rule of law in the White House and U.S. Justice Department, you‘d think that there would be a historic meeting in Traverse City this week when the NGA comes to town. You‘d think our nation‘s governors would be spreading some hellfire and brimstone.
After all, Michigan is in the fight of its life with a deficit of $800 million, and last week, Pennsylvania‘s financial woes required the shutdown of much of the state‘s government. There are crying domestic issues in America that demand action from our nation‘s governors.
Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Flutter of Wings

Random Thoughts Robert Downes You have to wonder if it was Detective Tom Heller’s guardian angel who put his finger in the barrel of the shotgun that misfired outside of a court in Montmorency County a couple of weeks ago.
Heller had a .20 gauge shotgun fired at his chest at point-blank range, and it failed to go off.
Don’t know if anyone heard the flutter of wings when the gun failed to fire, but it wouldn’t surprise me.
The Grand Traverse County detective was chasing Robert Becker, who had just been convicted of first-degree criminal sexual charges for molesting a 14-year-old boy. Upon hearing the jury’s verdict, Becker bolted from the courthouse and ran to his car with Heller and a sheriff’s deputy on his heels. Becker pulled a loaded shotgun from his car and fired at the detective, who wasn’t wearing his bullet-proof vest.
It’s easy to snicker at the idea of a guardian angel, but this case sure offers some food for thought. Many religions believe in some sort of protective angel, hovering around in the background like Invisible Woman Sue Storm of the Fantastic Four, ready to warn you away from the tainted chicken salad or the car flying through a red light.
Guardian angels are said to be especially attentive to children, keeping them from falling backwards down the steps and such. And some religions believe that the ghosts of ancestors step in from time to time to lend a protective hand. Or, as noted in the Encyclopedia Brittanica: “other spiritual beings that have been placated by sacrifices or other rituals, assist man in achieving a proper rapport with God...”
Of course, you only have to look in the weekly “News of the Weird” column in the Express to note that a lot of guardian angels must be sleeping on the job, if they really do exist. But in Det. Heller’s case, there is reason to believe that his supernatural sidekick deserves a departmental citation.
Thursday, July 5, 2007

Stuff I learned while looking up other stuff

Random Thoughts Robert Downes There were more horror stories in the Detroit Free Press last week about the continuing meltdown at Northwest Airlines. Of course, this meltdown has been going on for about 20 years now, so it’s just more business as usual for the airline which is one of our chief flight links here in Northern Michigan.
One story was of a passenger who waited more than seven hours for a 60 mile flight from Detroit to Flint that was eventually cancelled.
Thursday, June 28, 2007

Are you a victim of ageism? Who isn‘t?

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Recently, we got to talking about ageism at the office -- meaning people who are discriminated against because of their age. A co-worker said she heard that Northern Michigan was a tough place to find a job if you were older -- even if you have far more skills and experience than a younger worker.
That’s no surprise, because it’s tough finding a job most anywhere once you’ve passed a certain shelf life. For instance, we took a pass on hiring an older worker for a position at the Express years ago. The job applicant had plenty of experience, but seemed to be mostly interested in looking for an easier job -- a place to coast until retirement.
Coasting doesn‘t move a business forward. We hired someone with less experience, but much more drive -- who happened to be younger.
So, memo to older job-seekers: use those streetwise years of guile and experience to look like two sticks of dynamite in an orange juice can, ready to explode with energy and ideas to solve every problem your potential employer might have to get past the roadblock of ageism.
Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Euphoria of Rising Gas Prices

Random Thoughts George Foster Driving to work last week, I noticed several service stations reduced their price for regular gasoline from $3.49 to $3.29. The next day it dropped to $3.19. Talk about bad news. My depression has not lifted a week later.
You see, I become overjoyed whenever I see those little numbers representing gas prices on station signs go up-up-up. Each day I give little pep talks from my car, “Don’t stop now, Speedway old buddy, way up there. “You can do it, Shell, charge me more. “Come on Marathon - higher, higher.”
Significant long-term jumps in prices cause most Americans to get serious about energy conservation, whether we want to or not. I do realize increased gas prices have resulted in financial hardships for many families and businesses of late. Believe me, I have not been spared, but overall it is worth the short-term pain.
Thursday, June 14, 2007

40 years ago: Memories of the Summer of Love

Random Thoughts Robert Downes When I saw my first real-life hippies for the first time 40 years ago, I thought they were the strangest critters in zoo.
One of my favorite things to do as a teenager in 1967 was hanging out at the Detroit Zoo. At that time, the zoo was free of charge and I used to spend summer afternoons there, walking the trails and observing the people and the animals.
People, frankly, weren’t all that colorful in a day when bluejeans were still known as “dungarees” and worn by farm kids. Style-wise, most Americans in the white middle class looked pretty much the same. For young men, there was the greaser look, the California beach boy thing, jocks with their varsity jackets, maybe a Beatle haircut here and there, or the fresh-off-the-farm look I was saddled with: white socks, penny loafers, dungarees and a short “Princeton” haircut that was the epitome of nerdiness.
Thursday, June 7, 2007

Get Smart

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Dagwood Bumstead still carpools to work, but outside of the funny papers, you don’t hear much about sharing rides these days.
But maybe Dagwood will have more company now that gasoline is somewhere around the $3.60 per gallon mark.
Since many of our readers weren’t even born when carpooling was invented, let’s take a drive down Memory Lane. In 1973-’74, the Arab countries launched an oil embargo against the U.S. to punish us for supporting Israel. The result was long lines at the pumps, with little gas to go around.
Thursday, May 31, 2007

SICKO goes to CUBA

Random Thoughts George Foster Talk about a story that has it all.
Hot-button issues such as Fidel, Cuba, 9/11 attacks, Hollywood-type liberals, life and death drama - all instigated by who else: Michael Moore.
Moore says his new movie SICKO is supposed to unite conservatives and liberals on the increasingly painful issue of health care. Yet, when Moore’s production crew traveled to Cuba with 9/11 victims (firefighters, and other first responders to the attacks) for better health care, the other Great Uniter, George Bush, decided to question the legality of the trip.
Michael Moore must be doing cartwheels with glee over his good fortune. While investigating Moore’s reverse-flotilla back to Cuba, the U.S. Treasury Department is unwittingly providing SICKO millions of dollars worth of free publicity just before the movie is scheduled to debut.
Thursday, May 24, 2007

So long, Limbo

Random Thoughts Robert Downes was sorry to learn that the Catholic Church got rid of Limbo this spring, because I was planning to stop by there someday on my way to someplace better.
For you nonbelievers, Limbo was a place the Vatican invented hundreds of years ago as a sort of Lost in Space rest stop for folks too innocent to send to Hell, but not quite ready for Heaven.
Unbaptized babies went to Limbo. So did Eskimos, Hottentots and other nice pagan folks from out-of-the-way places who were denied the chance to hear about Jesus Christ by sheer geological barriers. Jews born before Jesus got in too.
Thursday, May 17, 2007

Tough times... what to do?

Random Thoughts Robert Downes There‘s a lot of pain in Northern Michigan these days as local agencies feel the lash of cutbacks in state funding.
The arts, foster care, libraries, mental health... People are hurting in our state due to Michigan‘s “structural deficit.” Meaning, the 25% of manufacturing jobs we’ve lost over the past seven years have taken their tax dollars with them, and chances are those jobs won’t be back anytime soon. We’ve lost some 330,000 manufacturing jobs here since 2000, according to the University of Michigan.
Even if those jobs come back, chances are it will be with the proviso of huge tax breaks, or less fruitful jobs in America’s new “service economy,” such as it is.
We hear brave voices, speaking on behalf of orphaned children, the mentally ill, the elderly and the poor. We understand the need for art, education, a pure environment, good roads, strong hospitals and all of the benefits of life here in Michigan.
Thursday, May 10, 2007

Then Changes

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Heard that a couple of teens got kicked out of a local high school the other day for getting caught with alcohol. Hope they pull through... And did you hear about the first-grader who was kicked out of school for pointing his finger at some kids and yelling “bang“?
It made me think that we sure judge kids by a harsher standard today than when I was a carefree young terrorist.
Times sure have changed, by cracky. Back when teenagers ruled the world in the late 60s, the administrators at my high school were busy creating an experimental smoking lounge for students so we wouldn’t have to go outside to smoke. The experiment lasted less than a year, but still, in that social climate I can’t imagine any of our principals would have expelled a student for getting caught with a beer.
Looking in the rearview mirror from the age of Klebold and Harris, I shiver to think of how we parents would have been judged if today’s standards of zero tolerance were shipped to the days of our youth in the Wayback Machine.
Thursday, May 3, 2007

Some Things in Life ARE Free

Random Thoughts George Foster ARF-ARF. Man’s best friend has arrived - expressdog.com, that is. You might want to run to your computer and check it out.
The rumors of free classifieds coming to Northern Michigan have been realized. expressdog.com is a new online site that specializes in free want ads and more. Beginning now, anyone who has a computer can go online and place free classifieds or find an ad for anything you might want to sell, buy, or exchange in Northern Michigan.
Thursday, April 26, 2007

Recruiting More Killers

Random Thoughts Robert Downes You couldn‘t turn on your TV last week without seeing hour after endless hour of demented Cho Seung-Hui in fullblown Natural Born Killer pose, brandishing his weapons and mumbling his crazed manifesto.
After awhile, the endless montage of photos took on the quality of a recruitment poster for all of the disturbed and angry nutcases in America. No doubt, a legion of these guys managed to look up from playing their Doom or Grand Theft Auto video games long enough to think: Gee, maybe if I shoot up a school I‘ll be a big celebrity like Cho Seung-Hui... One wanna-be copycat killer was caught just last Thursday in California.
MSNBC and other networks are scrambling to do damage control in regard to airing the Cho videos, but they still don‘t seem to get it. The problem isn‘t that the videos were aired -- the problem is that they were played over and over, hour after hour, similar to the 9/11 jet crash videos. Or for that matter, the endless Don Imus apologies. It‘s like the networks get a case of obsessive-compulsive disorder on single issue stories these days and the rest of the news goes out the window.
Thursday, April 19, 2007

Are you carbon nuetral?

Random Thoughts Robert Downes After he won the Oscar last month for his global warming documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, former Vice President Al Gore was blindsided by an “inconvenient truth” of his own. Turns out Gore has a whopper of an electric bill -- averaging $1,359 per month.
A conservative think tank called the Tennessee Center for Policy Research claims that Gore’s 20-room mansion uses more electricity each month than the average American family uses in a year. Plus, the natural gas bills for Gore’s home and guest house averaged $1,080 per month last year -- in balmy Tennessee. His combined electrical and gas bills for 2006 came to nearly $30,000.