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

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Fatwa of Osama bin Laden

Random Thoughts Robert Downes The fatwa of Osama bin Laden
Experienced travelers know that the world is generally a safe place where
one is far more likely to encounter smiles and the hand of friendship than
the kind of scary situations we see on the TV news each night.
But it’s never wise to travel blind, and for Americans in particular, that
has meant being mindful of the fatwa of Osama bin Laden over the past 13
Monday, May 9, 2011

The Fatwa of Osama bin Laden

Random Thoughts Robert Downes The fatwa of Osama bin Laden
Experienced travelers know that the world is generally a safe place where
one is far more likely to encounter smiles and the hand of friendship than
the kind of scary situations we see on the TV news each night.
But it’s never wise to travel blind, and for Americans in particular, that
has meant being mindful of the fatwa of Osama bin Laden over the past 13
Monday, May 2, 2011

Three cups of uproar

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Three Cups of Uproar
A tempest in a teapot for humanitarian Greg Mortenson
“When it comes right down to it I am nothing more than a fellow who took a
wrong turn in the mountains and never quite managed to find his way home.”

-- Greg Mortenson, Stones into Schools

Is author and adventurer Greg Mortenson -- who wrote Three Cups of Tea --
an outrageous liar or just a good-hearted humanitarian who happens to have
really sloppy business practices?
It depends on who you ask.
Monday, April 25, 2011

To the shores of Tripoli

Random Thoughts Robert Downes 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.
Monday, April 18, 2011

Unions under the gun

Random Thoughts Robert Downes I‘ve been a member of four unions during my life, but didn‘t always
appreciate what it meant to be part of the brotherhood of labor.
For instance, as a newly-minted member of the UAW many years ago, I
scoffed at the idea of receiving health insurance as a union benefit.
Why would I ever need such a thing? I wondered.
I was 19 at the time and health insurance was a rare and novel thing,
entirely unknown among my peers. If you weren’t a union member or a
government employee, chances are you didn’t have it.
Monday, April 11, 2011

Matters of style 4/11/11

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Matters of Style
Someone once said that “style is a form of limitation.” By this, I
take it to mean that Lady Gaga probably wouldn’t do well on a
camping trip in her raw meat dress or one of her spacegirl suits
because her “style” has placed limits on what she can do in a
practical sense - like canoeing or pitching a tent.
Monday, April 4, 2011

Exploratory surgery 4/4/11

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Exploratory Surgery
Remember the days of exploratory surgery? Probably not if you’re under the
age of 40, but in the days before the CT scan came into wide use back in
the ’70s, and certainly long before MRIs, surgeons had little choice but
to open you up and peek around at your innards if something like a tumor,
hernia, or internal bleeding was suspected.
Of course, this was a dangerous and uncertain form of diagnosis, fraught
with the risk of infection and sure to leave you with a painful surgical
wound with no guarantee that the surgeon would even find anything.
Perhaps it’s a misplaced metaphor, but I can’t help thinking that our new
Governor Rick Snyder is wearing those same bloody shoe covers in the
operating room of the state capital, trying to find out why his patient is
hemorrhaging and how to pump life back into Michigan before our state dies
on the table.
Monday, March 28, 2011

We‘ll miss Anne Stanton 3/28/11

Random Thoughts Robert Downes We‘ll miss Anne Stanton
At Anne Stanton’s farewell luncheon last week, we took some time to think back on some of the amazing stories she’s written during her seven years at Northern Express.
My personal favorite was “The Wolfman of Brethren,” in which Anne wrote of John Patrick Sutherland, who died in a hail of bullets from overzealous police officers over the attempted micro-chipping of his 14 wolf dogs in September of 2005. That story won a Michigan Press Association award in 2006.
Monday, March 21, 2011

American Tsunami/On Shaky Ground 3/21/11

Random Thoughts Robert Downes American Tsunami
Over the past four years, America has been swept up in its own economic
tsunami which has arguably been as devastating to our unemployed citizens
as the wreck of Japan.
Millions of jobs have been washed from our shores, but unfortunately, the
rescue has been largely impeded by ideologues on the right who are
presently in the driver’s seat in Congress. You know, the same folks who
argued that General Motors should be allowed to fail along with the
nation’s banks, forgetting that when major institutions go under, they
take us along with them.
Monday, March 14, 2011

Wild Kingdom

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Wild Kingdom
What’s the latest on Michigan’s wild hog crisis? Glad you asked.
Wild hogs were recently classified as an “invasive, exotic and prohibited
species” by the DNR. Outgoing director Rebecca Humphries signed the order
in December and it goes into effect on July 8, giving game ranches and
wild hog breeders time to give porky the boot. Over the years, these
outfits have allowed dangerous variants of the Russian boar to escape into
the wild, creating a virtual hog bomb.
Monday, March 7, 2011

To gather no moss

Random Thoughts Robert Downes To gather no moss
Keith Richards’ new autobiography, Life, offers some insight into what
youth is capable of when the fires of a dream are lit.
“The Rolling Stones spent the first year of their life hanging places,
stealing food and rehearsing,” he writes of their early days.
It doesn’t sound like an auspicious beginning, but Richards adds that he,
Mick Jagger and fellow guitarist Brian Jones spent that entire year
dissecting the songs of American blues musicians, breaking down their
chords, leads, harmonica riffs and vocal nuances in minute detail.
“We moved in in the summer of 1962 and lived there for a year through the
coldest winter since 1740,” he writes of their flat in London, which was
“truly disgusting.”
Monday, February 28, 2011

Another job terminator

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Another Job Terminator
Did anyone feel a chill run down their spine last week when the IBM computer Watson obliterated “Jeopardy” champs Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter in a stunt that has profound ramifications for the human race?
No, not some kind of SkyNet “rise of the machines” fantasy with Terminators running amok. The potential damage of Watson and his ilk is to eliminate millions of jobs in the name of “progress” and “productivity.”
Some background: several years ago, IBM set out to create a computer that could process all of the foibles of human speech: our slang, double-entendres, jokes, you name it, with the test being how well this critter would do on “Jeopardy.” They created a “question answering machine” composed of 400 mainframe computers containing 3,000 computer cores and 15 trillion bytes of memory.
Monday, February 14, 2011

Egypt: Too many people and not enough resources

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Egypt: Too many people and not enough resources
I’s been largely unsaid in the news, but the sight of 50,000 protesters scrambling through the heat and dust of Tahrir Square in Cairo sums up that ill country’s problems in a nutshell:
“Hot, flat and crowded,” to paraphrase the bestselling book by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. That’s Egypt’s real problem -- not just the oppressive government of Hosni Mubarak, which is a symptom of a place that has a population which is far beyond reason.
That’s the Middle East’s problem in general in the strip of 13 desert countries ranging from Morocco in the west to Iran in the east. Many of these countries have virtually no resources. But people? They’ve got loads of angry, restless, frustrated people held down by their medieval religion and despotic leaders.
Consider that virtually all of “Egypt” occupies a strip of green only a few miles wide along 600 miles of the Nile -- no different than during the kingdoms of the Pharaohs dating back 4,000 years. A few steps beyond this thin ribbon of green lies a desert as bleak and lifeless as Death Valley.
Monday, January 24, 2011

Turning a page

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Turning a Page 1/24/11
Congratulations to the Traverse City Record-Eagle, which has started
charging for a portion of its local online content. It’s about time,
and anyone who cares about the fate of newspapers in America should
hope this trend continues.
Monday, January 17, 2011

Gas pains in Emmet/Charlevoix

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Gas Pains In Emmet/Charlevoix 1/17/11
Sometimes, it really does pay to look a gift horse in the mouth...
When oil and gas landmen descended on the Little Traverse area last
summer with promises of easy riches in return for mineral leases and
signing bonuses, many landowners in Emmet, Charlevoix, Antrim and
Cheboygan counties took the bait.