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, April 12, 2007

Spring Sports Roundup

Random Thoughts George Foster You can just sense the baseball ghosts of Mickey Lolich, Al Kaline, Jack Morris, Kirk Gibson, and other World Series heroes lurking around Comerica Park in downtown Detroit this year. Almost everyone is expecting another run at the World Series for the Tigers. It’s amazing how seriously the experts are taking them after decades of losing seasons.
The main reason for the sudden success is the man behind the scenes, Dave Dombrowski. The Detroit general manager has stockpiled the Tigers system with numerous young arms whose pitching could carry the Tigers into contention for the post-season for at least the next decade.
Thursday, April 5, 2007

Our Front Row Seat on the War

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Thanks to the Traverse City Film Festival, some of us locals are a bit more tuned in to the value of documentary film. I dare say we’re even more in the know about documentaries now than cinema hipsters and film connoisseurs living in artsy places like SoHo or L.A.
With its focus on documentaries, the festival has brought us everything from the joys of being eaten by grizzly bears to the perils of obsessing over crossword puzzles.
And there‘s no better tool for understanding the war in Iraq.
Documentaries on the war take us into the hearts and minds of the soldiers and civilians caught in Iraq. Watch a few of these films and you’ll soon discover how miserable the mainstream TV network coverage is by comparison.
Thursday, March 29, 2007

Most Scandalous Presidents

Random Thoughts George Foster It seems like political corruption increases with each new presidential administration. Or could it be that noise from opponents is more deafening each term?
Lately, political junkies have been in heaven. It seems like a new political scandal breaks out almost every hour. Over the last couple of weeks, we have been treated to the following disclosures: Vice-Presidential aide Scooter Libby’s perjury conviction, the Walter Reed Hospital deficiencies in care for wounded soldiers, accusations of U.S. government funds being funneled to Sunni groups with terrorist ties, millions of Iraqis leaving war-torn Iraq for Syria and Jordan (our administration doesn’t acknowledge a refugee problem), the callous treatment of Iraqis who have put their lives on the line by working with the U.S. Government, word from some soldiers that the U.S. military is sending injured troops back to Iraq, Halliburton moving its headquarters to Dubai, the mid-term firing of U.S. attorneys for political reasons, and... whew, that’s enough for now.
Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Math Rebellion

Random Thoughts Robert Downes It looks as though the Great Math Rebellion of 2007 is starting to wind down in Traverse City as school officials and parents do the arithmetic of gettin’ their heads together and solving the problem. Whew!
Some kids reportedly can’t understand the new “reformed math,” which employs a new problem-solving process. Ditto for parents, trying to help out.
I asked an expert what she thought of the high school math program: my daughter Chloe, who graduated a couple of years ago and is now in business school (I’m proud to say). She said she liked her high school Compass math program because it taught her how to work out problems in the real world... although in new ways that might be adrift from what us parents recall from our readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic daze...
So, different strokes for different folks.
Thursday, March 15, 2007

Abby and Me

Random Thoughts George Foster I live with a cat that may be one of the orneriest cats to ever strut around Northern Michigan.
After years of being around her, she still growled and swatted at my intruding feet when I walked too closely. She tolerates being petted around her neck, but only fools accidentally stray below her head - a sudden hiss and bite await these encroachments. And I like cats... at least I used to.
When I married recently, I knew this cat was part of my wife’s household.
Thursday, March 8, 2007

The Spiritual Thing

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Are you a spiritual person? This being our annual “Mind-Body-Spirit” issue, it seems a good time to ask.
What does it mean to be “spiritual”?
That’s a question my generation has struggled with since the ’60s, when we read “Siddhartha” in college, discovered yoga, transcendental meditation, the I Ching, turned Jesus freak, joined communes... But, being Americans, our quest was more about style than substance, so when the next big thing came along (disco, the “Me Generation,” the running boom, Reaganism... ), we bailed out on spirituality.
Plus, no one could ever quite figure out what it was to be “spiritual,” other than acting kind of dreamy and yearning to live “up there” in a disembodied existence, as vacant as a glass of water in Buddha’s kitchen. The rock group Procol Harum summed-up the mumbo-jumbo of the spiritual quest in their song about a wise old yogi telling a young seeker the meaning of life: “Oh, my son -- life is like a beanstalk, isn’t it?”
Thursday, March 1, 2007

A Puff of Freedom

Random Thoughts Robert Downes As a former smoker, I can’t say enough bad things about this evil addiction. It kills 500,000 Americans every year and is surely as addictive as heroin. In a rational world, smoking would be outlawed completely as being as dangerous as cocaine in the long run.
And yet, I couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief when Grand Traverse County voted against taking the steps which would result in a county-wide ordinance to ban smoking in public places.
Why? Because as county commissioner Dick Thomas stated in a recent Record-Eagle article, such a ban would mean “more big brotherism.” And brother, we’ve got too much of that in America as it is.
Unfortunately, there’s a streak of neo-puritanism that runs deep in our country which knows no ideology. For every conservative who’s worried about what you do in the privacy of your own bedroom, there’s a progressive counterpart hell-bent on legislating morality “for your own good.” And both political camps tend to have paid, professional advocates working full time to chip away at individual liberties.
Thursday, February 22, 2007

The New Vacation Paradise: Nicaragua

Random Thoughts George Foster Where can you travel for perfect tropical weather, beautiful beaches, magnificent volcanoes, friendly locals, and live well for under $25 a day? Maybe Hawaii in the 16th century, right?
Travel to Nicaragua is well under the radar for North American vacationers. Though I planned such a trip with two other backpackers, who also had some low-budget travel experience in Central America, we didn’t really know what to expect. Most acquaintances ominously warned me to stay away.
Thursday, February 15, 2007

Finding a way forward

Random Thoughts Robert Downes “Our future is directly tied to our ability to develop, attract, and retain concentrations of skilled people.“

-- Mark Murray, president of Meijer, Inc., commenting on Michigan‘s future in the State‘s Emergency Financial Advisory Panel Report

Americans have never been keen on taxes, going back to the days of the Boston Tea Party. And the anti-tax mantra has accelerated since the presidency of Ronald Reagan to the point where any suggestion of raising taxes has become a cardinal sin.
It doesn‘t help that government often wastes our tax dollars with an obscene ineptitude. For instance, the news last week that $9 billion of our tax dollars have gone missing in Iraq. Turns out that the Bush administration bundled up 363 tons of cash in bricks of $100 bills and flew it to Iraq during the early days of the war to help with reconstruction. Then the money simply... disappeared. Apparently, people (including contractors already on our payroll) just showed up in Baghdad with garbage bags and shoveled in the loot under any pretense, with no accountability.
So who can blame Michigan citizens for grumbling over the news that Governor Granholm has proposed a 2% tax on services to help balance the state‘s budget? The services would include everything from haircuts to auto repairs, lawyers, accountants and movie and concert tickets.
Thursday, February 8, 2007

Where all roads lead

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Stumbled across a good book over the holidays. A real page-turner; couldn’t put it down. Even got up at 6 a.m. one weekend to read more. That doesn’t usually happen when a book was written more than 2,000 years ago.
It’s “The Gallic Wars” by Julius Caesar, written during his conquest of Europe during 58-51 B.C. And what Julius went through back then seems eerily familiar today.
In those days the area of Europe including France, Switzerland and the Netherlands was known as Gaul. Caesar led his Roman legions against dozens of tribes, some of which raised armies of 60,000-100,000 warriors, hellbent on protecting their homeland.
Thursday, February 1, 2007

Most memorable Super Bowl moments

Random Thoughts George Foster Ah, it is that time of year again. On Super Bowl Sunday more Americans will be glued to the TV, watching football, than any other sporting event all season. Who will we come away talking about - a superstar who falls flat on his face or some obscure player who rises to the occasion of football’s biggest spotlight? Here are the most unforgettable Super Bowl moments so far (in reverse order):
(10). Pittsburgh’s Lynn Swann makes an acrobatic sensational TD catch while falling down in 1976. The Steelers win again.
Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Bitter Pill

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Ever wonder why prescription drugs cost so much in America when they’re so much cheaper in countries such as Canada?
Do you have prescription drug costs ranging into the thousands of dollars each year? Are you elderly and living on a limited income? Do you have to choose between buying the drugs that will save your life or paying for food and heat?
Well, tough beans. Because according to conservative pundits, you are nothing more than a “greedy granny,” trying to get Uncle Sam or his Canadian counterpart to lend a hand when you should be paying through the nose like everyone else.
Thursday, January 18, 2007

Please come home, Marty Kardes

Random Thoughts George Foster Eleven days ago, on New Years Eve morning, Leonard (Marty) Kardes was last seen walking down Cedar Creek Road (near Fife Lake, Michigan) and hasn’t been seen since.
Finding Kardes very soon is critical since he uses medication for diabetes and has been disoriented and depressed lately. Kardes served as a Navy Seal in the military.
According to family members, his problems could be a result of Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam many years ago.
Thursday, January 11, 2007

To Blog or not to Blog

Random Thoughts Robert Downes To Blog or Not to Blog?
I got you something really nice for Christmas this year that you won’t get from almost any other forward-thinking newspaper editor in the country.
What is it? Take a guess. Give up?
Okay, here it is. I’m going to spare you the torture of reading an Editor’s Blog.
Blogging is the new hot trend in journalism, even though there are millions of blogs in cyberspace already, wiggling like mental spermatozoa in search of a brain to fertilize.
Blogs from editors and reporters are hatching on newspaper websites like a bogful of frog eggs. And mostly, they‘re about as tasty.
Thursday, January 4, 2007

Comfortable numb at the gym

Random Thoughts Robert Downes ’Tis the season to get back in the gym. Some of us have never left it; we’ve been noodling at stairmasters and weights, aerobics and yoga all year long in a lackluster way, waiting for our winter cousins to show up for their annual visit, which tends to run from January through April.
It can get downright lonely in the gym during the heat of the summer, but after the New Year, the place is packed with stinky people once again and it’s hard to find a stray machine in need of company. Every stairmaster, treadmill and exercycle is hammering like an 18-cylinder sports car.