Letters

Letters 11-24-2014

Dangerous Votes You voted for Dr. Dan. Thanks!Rep. Benishek failed to cosponsor H.R. 601. It stops subsidies for big oil companies. He failed to cosponsor H.R. 1084. There is an exemption for hydraulic fracturing written into the Safe Drinking Water Act. H.R. 1084. It would require the contents of fracking fluids to be publicly disclosed to protect the public health.

Solar Is The Answer There have been many excellent letters about the need for our region, state and nation to take action on climate change. Now there is a viable solution to this ever-growing problem: Solar energy is the future.

Real Minimum Wage In 1966, a first class stamp cost 5 cents and minimum wage was $1.25. Today, a first class stamp is 49 cents, so federal minimum wage should be $11.25.

Doesn’t Seem Warmer I enjoy the “environmentalists” twisting themselves into pretzels trying to convince us that it is getting warmer. Sure it is... 

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Random Thoughts

 
Thursday, February 16, 2006

Not Fade Away

Random Thoughts Robert Downes The whole world seemed divided into two camps last week: those who thought the Rolling Stones sucked at the Super Bowl and those who thought the “World’s Greatest Rock Band” still had the juice.
Personally, I was pleasantly surprised. The Stones were all so trim they looked like they exist on NutraSweet and cigarettes. And despite a crappy P.A., there was a level of density to the music that was as beefy as a meat locker sparring session. And surely the frenzied crowd must have woken up the next morning with sore ribs from their fist-pumping show of support.
But there were critics. In the Village Voice, one young writer was appalled by Mick Jagger’s croaky-crow voice, his tasteless belly shirt, and the gall of dancing around the stage at the past-shelf-life age of 62. Then there was his withered, wrinkled face and ropey arms -- gross, he said.
And the writer added that the Stone’s didn’t deliver half the show that Justin Timberlake and Janice Jackson put on a coupla‘ years ago. Ouch... talk about fighting words.
Well, some folks would complain even if they were hung with a new rope. Jagger has never had a particularly good voice -- it’s always sounded like a fight between two cats, a violin and a washboard -- but he succeeds because his voice oozes character and nuance. And if Sir Mick can’t be tasteless, who can? He helped invent tasteless.
 
Thursday, February 9, 2006

Frey‘s Fudge

Random Thoughts Robert Downes I wake to the drone of an airplane engine and the feeling of something warm dripping down my chin.  I lift my hand to feel my face.  My front four teeth are gone, I have a hole in my cheek, my nose is broken and my eyes are swollen nearly shut.  I open them and I look around and I’m in the back of a plane and there’s no one near me.  I look at my clothes and my clothes are covered with a colorful mixture of spit, snot, urine, vomit and blood.  I reach for the call button and I find it and I push it and I wait and thirty seconds later an Attendant arrives.
How can I help you?
Where am I going?
You don’t know?
No.
You’re going to Chicago, Sir.
How did I get here?”

Those are the opening lines of James Frey’s book, “A Million Little Pieces,” about a drug addict who hits rock bottom so hard that pebbles trickle from his ears.
 
Thursday, February 2, 2006

Detroit‘s Real Super Bowl Battle

Random Thoughts George Foster Did you ever notice everyone has an opinion of the city of Detroit - even if they have never traveled to Michigan? Whether you hate, fear, feel sorry for or wish you lived in Motown - the name of that city usually triggers some emotional response.
Well, it didn’t take long for the grousing to begin after the announcement of Detroit’s Ford Field as the site for the 2006 Super Bowl. “Why Detroit?” No one wants to go there.” A Super bowl in the Murder Capital?” And on and on.
 
Thursday, January 26, 2006

Alone in the Dark

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Random Thoughts by Robert Downes
Recent research suggests that we may be quite alone in the universe.
Reason? A study published in Nature last year revealed that most of the 150-plus planets we’ve discovered around other stars have long, eliptical orbits. These collosal oval-shaped orbits result in extreme planetary temperatures -- from hot as a furnace to shattering cold --  that could make it impossible to sustain life.
The study notes that our solar system, by contrast, is a model of harmony. The Earth revolves around the Sun in a neat circle, keeping our planet nice and comfy-cozy. It’s this constant temperate zone that allowed not only life to develop, but intelligent life.
We’ll know more in 2007 when NASA’s Kepler Mission begins searching for habitable planets around 100,000 neighboring stars.   The mission will use a  space-based telescope to search for Earth-sized planets in habitable zones around other stars.   
To date, we’ve only searched for habitable planets around a few thousand stars, according to Fred Rasio, an astrophysicist from Northwestern University in Chicago, who published the Nature article along with Verene Lystad and Eric Ford.  The planets we’ve found circling other stars have been gas giants on par with Jupiter or Saturn.
Rasio noted in a Chicago Reader article that once we’ve completed the Kepler Mission, we’ll have a much clearer idea as to how singular life is here on earth. We’ll be able to guess, for instance, whether life is a 1-in-150 planet proposition, or a 1-in-100 million chance.
The study makes you realize how lucky we are -- we’ve won the priceless riches of the Intergalactic Lottery just by existing.   
“We know primitive life  can exist in extremely harsh conditions,” Rasio says in the Reader interview by Harold Henderson. “Perhaps in other systems an eccentric Jupter, say, might have a moon where bacteria could live despite temperatures swerving from arctic to ovenlike because of its orbit.  But to evolve from bacteria to intelligent beings takes a very long time and a lot more stable conditions.  And that may not be very common at all.” 
Consider the size of the universe.  Scientists estimate it ranges anywhere from 14 billion  to 156 billion light years across (the larger number is the estimate of a science writer at Space.com).  Considering light travels 5,865,696,000,000 miles in a single year (more than five trillion miles), then that‘s quite a stroll.
Then consider that there are 100 billion stars in our own tiny Milky Way galaxy. Then consider that the Hubble Space Telescope has helped us estimate that there may be 125 billion galaxies in the universe, ranging from 10 million to one trillion stars in size.
You start to realize it’s a pretty big place we live in.  A big place to be alone in the dark.

       





Random Thoughts by Robert Downes
Recent research suggests that we may be quite alone in the universe.
Reason? A study published in Nature last year revealed that most of the 150-plus planets we’ve discovered around other stars have long, eliptical orbits. These collosal oval-shaped orbits result in extreme planetary temperatures -- from hot as a furnace to shattering cold --  that could make it impossible to sustain life.
The study notes that our solar system, by contrast, is a model of harmony. The Earth revolves around the Sun in a neat circle, keeping our planet nice and comfy-cozy. It’s this constant temperate zone that allowed not only life to develop, but intelligent life.
We’ll know more in 2007 when NASA’s Kepler Mission begins searching for habitable planets around 100,000 neighboring stars.   The mission will use a  space-based telescope to search for Earth-sized planets in habitable zones around other stars.   
To date, we’ve only searched for habitable planets around a few thousand stars, according to Fred Rasio, an astrophysicist from Northwestern University in Chicago, who published the Nature article along with Verene Lystad and Eric Ford.  The planets we’ve found circling other stars have been gas giants on par with Jupiter or Saturn.
Rasio noted in a Chicago Reader article that once we’ve completed the Kepler Mission, we’ll have a much clearer idea as to how singular life is here on earth. We’ll be able to guess, for instance, whether life is a 1-in-150 planet proposition, or a 1-in-100 million chance.
The study makes you realize how lucky we are -- we’ve won the priceless riches of the Intergalactic Lottery just by existing.   
“We know primitive life  can exist in extremely harsh conditions,” Rasio says in the Reader interview by Harold Henderson. “Perhaps in other systems an eccentric Jupter, say, might have a moon where bacteria could live despite temperatures swerving from arctic to ovenlike because of its orbit.  But to evolve from bacteria to intelligent beings takes a very long time and a lot more stable conditions.  And that may not be very common at all.” 
Consider the size of the universe.  Scientists estimate it ranges anywhere from 14 billion  to 156 billion light years across (the larger number is the estimate of a science writer at Space.com).  Considering light travels 5,865,696,000,000 miles in a single year (more than five trillion miles), then that‘s quite a stroll.
Then consider that there are 100 billion stars in our own tiny Milky Way galaxy. Then consider that the Hubble Space Telescope has helped us estimate that there may be 125 billion galaxies in the universe, ranging from 10 million to one trillion stars in size.
You start to realize it’s a pretty big place we live in.  A big place to be alone in the dark.

       





 
Thursday, January 19, 2006

Embezzlement 101

Random Thoughts Robert Downes A few of us here in Northern Michigan received a surprise bonus over the Christmas holidays. It was a payout from a distant and obscure banking organization to former members of the old Bay Area Medical Federal Credit Union many years ago.
It was so long ago that I’d all but forgotten the matter until receiving a check for $153 -- my share from an amount that had been embezzled, repayed, parsed and trickled down through the years after all the lawyers, accountants and regulators got their cut, I’m sure.
I remember the Fouch family who were at the heart of looting the credit union for $2.5 million or more. They were nice people. Every two weeks I’d stop by the credit union to cash my check and we‘d make small talk about things like vacation plans. Whenever there was something squirrelly about the balance in my checkbook, manager Jay Fouch -- the family patriarch -- would hasten to explain that it was just a fund balance transfer miscrepancy or some such rigamarole, and the problem would be fixed until the next time.
 
Thursday, January 12, 2006

Marriage survival tips ( for husbands)

Random Thoughts George Foster How did weddings suddenly become a high-end, growth industry?
In the 1960s and 1970s, most marriage ceremonies I attended consisted of  barefootin’ on the beach and other creative, casual affairs. The newlyweds gratefully received my standard gift of freshly baked, whole-grain bread along with candles, incense, and love beads from others. 
By 2005, though, more than two million weddings were performed in the U.S. with an average price tag of $25,000 each. Just try bringing a gift of homemade bread to one of these costly, highly choreographed events now. 
 
Thursday, January 5, 2006

Our drug problem & what to do about it

Random Thoughts Robert Downes If you read the Express each week you may have noticed that the paper has been on an anti-drug crusade over the past few months, highlighting reporter Anne Stanton’s excellent series on the spread of methamphetamine in Northern Michigan, along with last week’s story on crack cocaine.
America’s meth plague is a subject we take very seriously here, thanks to warnings in magazines such as Newsweek and because of word-of-mouth reports from readers who are close to the problem. After one of Anne’s stories was published, a young addict called to say that meth use is epidemic in many towns across the country, and a walk through a downtown in a state such as California can mean bumping into dozens of people strung out on the drug.
 
Thursday, December 29, 2005

Words - Action = ?

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Saw King Kong yesterday. It was okay, but hardly the four-star blowout I expected.
The problem is, I‘d already seen the high points of the movie umpteen times in TV previews or
specials on the making of the film on the Sci-Fi Channel and HBO. The dinosaur fights, the
biplane attack, the pretty blonde screaming and the line, “‘Twas Beauty killed the Beast“ spoiled
the film for me with too much hype.
Why go if you know how it ends? Why kill the suspense? ‘Twas hype killed the beastie flick.
Then there was President Bush‘s pep talk on the war in Iraq before Christmas. I listened to one
of the speeches and thought Bush made good sense on the idea of finishing what we have
started, if only not to leave a lot of trusting people hanging over there. I too believe that the
American system of democracy is the best in the world and would be a fine thing if we could
plant its seed everywhere, disposing of dictatorships and royal families. If the governments of
the world have an American face by 2100 with people everywhere able to elect their own
leaders, then George Bush may well deserve credit as the forward-thinking Winston Churchill
of our time.
 
Thursday, December 22, 2005

Bigotry and Christmas

Random Thoughts George Foster December 11, 2005 - Sydney, Australia: A mob of five thousand whites roam the beaches, trains, and shopping malls chanting racist slogans, waving national flags, and assaulting Middle-Easterners. Scores are injured.
On the next day, hundreds of young Arab men drive to Anglo suburbs with cricket (baseball) bats, smashing the windows of neighborhood cars and creating havoc. It is thought to be the worst race riot in Aussie history.
 
Thursday, December 15, 2005

Visions of Other Worlds

Random Thoughts Robert Downes You don’t hear much about alien abduction these days, but in the ‘90s weird tales of body-poking mischief by creepy E.T.‘s were all the rage.
Remember “Communion” by Whitley Strieber? It was a “true story” bestseller that started with a bang in the night. Strieber and his family were staying in a remote cabin in upstate New York during Christmas of 1985, oblivious to sightings of large, unidentified objects floating around the night sky. On Christmas night, Strieber discovers spooky humanoids creeping into his bedroom. Frozen with fear, he realizes that he isn’t dreaming before he blacks out and is spirited away for six lost hours. Only later, under hypnosis, does Strieber discover that aliens have been playing hokey-pokey with him all night long for some sinister purpose.
During the course of interviewing other abductees, Strieber discovers that the aliens seem to be collecting eggs and breeding with ladies who will soon end up sharing their stories on “Oprah” or “The Jerry Springer Show.” Abductees report seeing creatures which are half-human, half alien, peering over them on the operating tables aboard the space ships.
At the end of one book, Strieber intones darkly that if it’s true that aliens are breeding with human beings, then his would be the most important book ever written, thanks to the warning it provides.
Indeed, that would be true, except that no one has seen any little green people lately this side of the mosh pit at a Disturbed concert. Along came the 9/11 attacks and the War on Terrorism and -- poof! -- the whole alien abduction thing disappeared in a cloud of fairy dust.
***
 
Thursday, December 8, 2005

Missing the zoo already

Random Thoughts Robert Downes I, for one, will miss the zoo.  And it‘s a sure bet that a lot of parents and kids are going to miss it too when the Clinch Park Zoo closes forever in Traverse City next year.
Each fall, I visit the zoo just to see the bears.  They‘re always as fat as Volkswagens, getting ready for their long winter doze.  Fall is a good time to go because most every critter in the place is out and looking frisky.
The other thing you see at the zoo is kids -- lots of kids running excitedly between the otters, beaver and coyote exhibits with their young parents in tow.  Having the time of their lives.
It‘s easy to understand why the city commission voted 7-5 to close the zoo.  According to an independent study, our zoo isn‘t up to snuff.  It‘s too close to the traffic along the Parkway and the animal‘s living quarters aren‘t as spacious as could be desired.  And it costs $400,000 per year to operate.
 
Thursday, December 1, 2005

Unwinnable war means hard times at home

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Comedian George Carlin offers the best reason yet for pulling out of Iraq: you just can‘t beat an endless stream of religious fanatics who have nothing to lose and are willing to die for their cause, even if it takes forever:
“... don‘t get all excited about this goofy idea, ‘the spread of democracy,’” Carlin writes in his new book. “No matter who the United States puts in charge to bring peace and order in Iraq or Palestine or anywhere else, those people will be killed. It’s that simple. Anyone who supports the United States will be killed. Peace and order will not be tolerated.”
 
Thursday, November 24, 2005

What we want and what we need

Random Thoughts Robert Downes My wife runs a home day care and periodically she buys new toys when the old ones wear out. As you can probably guess, the thing the kids love most is playing with the boxes that the toys come in. But in time, those boxes fall apart and the big, shiny toys have their day.
Yet it wouldn’t surprise me if the kids would just as soon keep playing with the boxes if they would only last. There’s something about crawling through a big box and imagining all of the fanciful critters, worlds and situations inside that captures a child’s imagination. It’s a box, after all, that the kids stroll through in the upcoming film, “Narnia,” to find a magical world.
 
Thursday, November 17, 2005

Back to School for the White House

Random Thoughts George Foster When President Bush recently sent White House staff officials to required classes for ethics instruction it raised many questions.
After reaching middle age, will completing a course in good behavior change someone who has not exhibited ethical conduct before? Specifically, what are the ethical violations of the White House staff that the
Bush administration acknowledges led to such remedial study for its officials? Just what is to be done with any staffer who fails an ethics class?
In part, the President must be requiring such courses because a majority of Americans now say the indictment of White House aide Scooter Libby is an indication of wider ethical problems in the Bush administration. The same polls also show that nearly half of Americans believe that honesty in the government has declined since President Bush took office.
The following is a list of appropriate courses and instructors for the White House staff.
 
Thursday, November 10, 2005

Dave Milarch‘s Ark of Champions

Random Thoughts Robert Downes You’ve got to love Dave Milarch, the founder of the Champion Tree Project. Based out of his nursery in Copemish, Dave and his sons Jared, Jake and other supporters have collected and cloned 125 species of the most majestic trees in America. History-making champions such as the world‘s oldest bristlecone pine tree -- 4,600 years old. Trees under which the patriots planned the American Revolution. Trees which sheltered the Native Americans on long-ago summer nights before Columbus was even a rumor.
He’s a virtual Noah of our country’s greatest trees, tracking down the oldest, biggest, and most noteworthy specimens over the past 10 years through swamp and forest, up hill and down dale, to save them from extinction in the ark of his replanting project. It‘s a project that includes sites such as the Pentagon Memorial Grove, where Milarch planted 12 champion red ash trees in memory of the the 9/11 attack.
 
 
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