Letters

Letters 07-21-2014

Disheartened

While observing Fox News, it was disheartening to see what their viewers were subjected to. It seems the Republicans’ far right wing extremists are conveying their idealistic visions against various nationalities, social diversities or political beliefs with an absence of emotion concerning women’s health issues, children’s rights, voter suppression, Seniors, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid...

Things That Matter

All of us in small towns and large not only have the right to speak on behalf of our neighbors and ourselves, we have the duty and responsibility to do so -- and 238 years ago, we made a clear Declaration to do just that...

An Anecdote Driven Mind

So, is Thomas Kachadurian now the Northern Express’ official resident ranter? His recent factfree, hard-hearted column suggests it. While others complain about the poor condition of Michigan’s roads and highways, he rants against those we employ to fix them...

No On Prop 1

Are we being conned? Are those urging us to say “yes” to supposedly ”revenue neutral” ballot proposal 1 on August 5 telling us all the pertinent facts? Proposal 1 would eliminate the personal property tax businesses pay to local governments, replacing its revenue with a share of Michigan’s 6 percent use tax paid by us all on out-of-state purchases, hotel accommodations, some equipment rentals, and telecommunications...

Fix VA Tragedy

The problems within the Veterans Administration identified under former President Bush continue to hinder the delivery of quality health care to the influx of physically wounded and emotionally damaged young men and women...

Women Take Note

I find an interesting link between the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby and the crisis on the southern border. Angry protesters shout at children to go home. These children are scared, tired, hungry and thirsty, sent to US prisons awaiting deportation to a country where they may very likely be killed...


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Random Thoughts

 
Monday, November 23, 2009

The death of Jake

Random Thoughts Robert Downes The Death of Jake
There’s a lot of pain and emotion in Bart Arrigo’s voice as he tells the story of the court-ordered destruction of his pet dog, Jake.
“The officials of Kalkaska County had no care or remorse -- they destroyed a wonderful animal... an injustice was done,” he says, echoing the sadness of anyone who’s ever lost a pet.
Jake, a 14-month-old Great Dane, made the mistake of biting a friend’s child in the face last August. Bart, who owns an excavating company in Kalkaska, had just returned from boating that day with his girlfriend and their neighbor friends. They were sitting around a fire, having a good time, when 10-year-old Cory was bitten on the cheek by Jake.
 
Monday, November 16, 2009

Singing for their supper

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Singing for Their Supper

“The absolute transformation of everything that we ever thought about music will take place within 10 years, and nothing is going to be able to stop it.”
-- David Bowie, 2002

Some of the best musicians in Northern Michigan have packed up their guitars and left town in recent months in the hope of making it big somewhere else.
The migration began last year when Mark Camp (The Dopes, Rusty Blaides) moved to Austin, Texas, the music capital of the Southwest. This fall, singer-songwriter Mike Moran moved to San Diego. Two weeks ago, Jeff “Jabo” Bihlman (The Bihlman Bros.) held a farewell party at his home in Interlochen, days before moving to Las Vegas to seek a career in the film and TV industry. And last weekend, Ryan Whyte Maloney (Indulge) stopped by his old hometown to play an acoustic set at The Loading Dock, prior to signing a contract in Nashville.
 
Monday, November 9, 2009

Random Thoughts: More cultural stuff? Not so fast...

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Random Thoughts: More cultural stuff? Not so fast...
Robert Downes 11/9/09

The big entertainment news in Traverse City this month involves the possibility of East Lansing’s Wharton Center of Performing Arts taking over the management of our City Opera House.
Drawing on the creative power and resources of Michigan State University, the Wharton Center earns rave reviews from theater-goers for bringing Broadway
musicals such as Wicked to East Lansing, along with dozens of musical acts and comedians each year.
It sounds like a slam-dunk good idea when you look at their roster of upcoming performances by the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, Jeff
Foxworthy, Wilco and The Lion King. Negotiations are underway to see what Wharton can do for the City Opera House, with a proposal to be presented to the TC City Commission later this month.
Still, the philistine in me says we should think this over, lest we “toss the baby with the bathwater.”
 
Monday, November 2, 2009

Random Thoughts: Untying the knots of justice

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Random Thoughts
Robert Downes 11/2/09
Untying the Knots of Injustice
We get a lot of requests to investigate stories of the “she said, he said” variety here at the Express. Often, these are a result of a perceived failure of the local courts and the feeling that justice has been denied.
Custody battles, disputes with builders, issues over getting fired, anger over court decisions and claims of harassment by the cops... these are typical of the requests we receive at the Express on a weekly basis. Many requests involve knotty issues that could take days or weeks to unravel, if ever.
Sometimes, people feel they’ve gotten the runaround by the law, or they’ve taken their problem along with an eight-page summary all the way to Michigan’s attorney general, where it is most likely sitting in a file cabinet or a waste basket.
Some people with grievances have taken no legal action at all, but are “planning” to sue a shady builder or the boss who fired them unfairly. These callers often feel that a newspaper article listing all of the injustices against them will somehow fix the problem, or at least offer the satisfaction of sticking it to the person who did them wrong.
 
Monday, October 26, 2009

Random Thoughts: Charter puts porn ahead of citizenship

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Random Thoughts
Robert Downes 10/26/09
Charter Puts Porn Ahead of Citizenship
“Spank that Booty: Sultry ladies with a lot of junk in their trunk.” That was one show airing on Charter Communications‘ “Juicy” Channel 895 last week. Or you could watch Extreme Euro Kink 3 - “Getting freaky with a frisky foreign fox.”
Fair enough, there’s a demand for that kind of programming and who doesn’t like a “frisky foreign fox”?
But many civic-minded citizens in Traverse City are outraged over Charter’s plan to dump four long-standing public access channels into the digital 990s this December. As it happens, this is just on the other side of Charter‘s porn offerings.
Those public access channels include Up North 2, NMC 13, TCAPS 98, and the local government meetings on Government 99.
These channels are indispensable for people who can‘t make it to government meetings at the Traverse City Commission or the board meetings of Elmwood, Garfield and East Bay townships. They also provide a TV avenue for non-commercial free speech in our community, such as the broadcast of lectures, athletic events and concerts. I myself was honored to appear on Up North 2 recently in a forum on the future of newspapers. Public access “the people‘s“ small slice of the TV media pie.
 
Monday, October 19, 2009

Random Thoughts: Motor City Shrink Wrap

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Random Thoughts: Motor City Shrink Wrap
Robert Downes 10/19/09

Motor City Shrink Wrap
These days, Detroit is the Incredible Shrinking City.
Back in the 1930s, when my grandmother lived there, Detroit was known as the “City of Trees” for its towering elms and forested boulevards. Although those trees were killed off in the ’60s and ’70s by Dutch elm disease, new fields and forests are taking root amid the ruin of the city.
Writing in a recent issue of Newsweek, Bill McGraw of the Detroit Free Press reported that Detroit has lost half its population since the 1950s. And, although its city limits encompass 138 square miles, “experts estimate that about 40 square miles are empty.”
That trend is increasing.
 
Monday, October 12, 2009

Random Thoughts: Death of a gym

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Random Thoughts
Robert Downes 10/12/09
Death of a Gym

When a gym fails, it can be like the death of an old friend to its members. Such is the case at the Fitness Center, which closed its doors last week after 23 years on 8th Street in Traverse City.
Gyms have grown in importance over the past generation. They’re a place to socialize and unwind; a place to break up the black ice of stress in your head and get motivated to take on the challenges of the next day. Gyms are about much more than getting in shape -- they’re about getting your life together and staying sane in what sometimes seems to be a crazy world.
 
Monday, October 5, 2009

Random Thoughts: What‘s wrong with us?

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Random Thoughts: What‘s Wrong With Us?
Robert Downes 10/5/09
We just passed the first anniversary of the collapse of the stock market and the wreck of the world economy. To refresh your memory, a year ago a gang of suicidal financial terrorists flew a jet full of empty promises into the Twin Towers of home ownership and retirement savings on Wall Street. Result? Millions of Americans lost their homes and their 401k savings.
September 15, 2008 is generally held to be the day everything went kerblooey with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers -- the largest in U.S. history.
Lehman Brothers was a global financial firm that was heavily invested in subprime (“dubious“) mortgages. Unable to pass this junk on to its fleeing investors, or to secure a bailout from the U.S. government, the bankruptcy of Lehman kicked off a global meltdown in the economy.
 
Monday, September 28, 2009

Our bicycle revolution

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Random Thoughts
Robert Downes 9/28/09

Our Bicycle Revolution

The sun is setting on the cycling season here in Northern Michigan and another year of advancing the most eco-friendly form of transportation on the planet. Most of us have swallowed our last bug, cussed out our last flat, and (finally) tossed those over-ripe bike shorts in the wash.
Some, such as author Jeff Mapes claim that we’re on the brink of a “Pedaling Revolution” in America (the title of his new book), in which cyclists are changing the landscape of cities across the country. That’s certainly true in Northern Michigan and other parts of the state. Even Detroit is establishing a network of bike paths and greenways to fill in urban areas that have been vacated by its dwindling population.
David Byrne, the former frontman of the Talking Heads, whose own book “The Bicycle Diaries” hit the shelves this month, stated in a recent article that a bicycle has been his primary form of transportation around New York City for the past 30 years.
 
Monday, September 21, 2009

Random Thoughts/ Tough choices for Michigan

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Random Thoughts
Robert Downes 9/21/09
Tough Choices for Michigan

We’re very lucky here in Michigan that we still have something of a social safety net to care for the poor and people who are down on their luck. About 450,000 jobless residents are riding out the recession on
unemployment insurance at present, with tens of thousands of others getting by on
disability payments.
By contrast, I recall giving a coin to a leper sitting on a street corner in one of the most prosperous cities in India. The old man didn’t have any fingers on either hand -- just white stubs at the end of his palms -- and he sat all day long on the filthy pavement, begging in the 95-degree sun as thousands brushed past.
 
Monday, September 14, 2009

The death of Hip again

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Random Thoughts
Robert Downes 9/14/09
The Death of ‘Hip‘ (Again)
What’s the hippest show on TV these days?
If you believe the critics, along with millions of viewers, four Golden Globe awards and six Emmys, it’s Mad Men, a drama about the stressed-out, hard-drinkin’, skirt-chasin’, underpaid and overworked ad executives of Madison Avenue.
Cue up the Perry Como records.
Mad Men takes place back in the early ‘60s and reinvents the men in the gray flannel suits as brimming with snappy patter, Old Fashioneds, and a devil-may-care attitude about sleeping with their secretaries. You know, like really “hip.”
The funny thing here is that the “Mad Men” are just the sort of worker drones the beatniks and bohemians rebelled against when they came up with the alternative “hipster” lifestyle in the 1950s.
As every English Lit major knows, to be “hip” was to live outside of the mainstream, with Beat writers such as Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs and Allen Ginsburg making it up as they went along; hitchhiking down the highways of America in the late-’40s and 1950s, and pushing on to Mexico, Morocco and India. The Beats borrowed ideas from other, more exotic cultures, not to mention the liberal use of marijuana and hallucinogens such as peyote and ayahuasca.
The late author Norman Mailer wrote a famous essay in 1957 called “The White Negro” on what it meant to be hip: basically, you had to slip into the loose loafers of a black jazz musician, fire up a dooby and swing, man, swing...
So the cynics who invented “hip” would surely scoff at Mad Men as being the epitome of hip today. But then, those long-gone beatniks never would have dreamed that the zenith of hipsters these days -- Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake -- would have been the manufactured products of the Mickey Mouse Club (!).
 
Monday, September 7, 2009

The inevitability of health care reform

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Random Thoughts
The inevitability of health care reform
Robert Downes 9/7/09


If you were at a dinner party and the conversation turned to health care reform, could you explain the single-payer plan used by many countries around the world?
This is just a blind guess, but one can only imagine that the vast majority of Americans don’t have a clue. All they know is that “single-payer” has something to do with Canadian health care and it sounds like a
bureaucratic buzz word, so it must be a shady proposition.
Unfortunately, the Obama Administration hasn’t done a very good job of offering a simple explanation of health care alternatives such as the so-called “public option,” much less a single-payer plan. Instead, much of the debate has been ceded to those who are intent on spreading disinformation.
 
Monday, August 31, 2009

The last daze of summer

Random Thoughts Robert Downes The Last Daze of Summer
Robert Downes 8/31/09

Remember the “Year Without A Summer”? Neither do I, because it happened in 1816. It was also called the “Year Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death.”
Crops failed throughout the U.S. and Europe -- killed off by frost and two huge snowstorms in June. Ice was reported on the lakes and rivers of Pennsylvania in July and August, and (if Wikipedia can be believed) there were temperature swings from as high as 95 degrees to near-freezing within the space of a few hours.
 
Monday, August 24, 2009

A bear trap for homegrown terrorists

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Random Thoughts
Robert Downes 8/24/09
A Bear Trap for Homegrown Terrorists

When Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols blew up the Alfred E. Murrah Building in April, 1995, Americans were rattled and outraged by photos of 168 deaths, including children killed in a nearby daycare. But the Oklahoma City Bombing was nowhere near the bee’s nest kicked up by the fall of the Twin Towers in 2001.
That’s because America has always had a tolerance for paramilitary types, white supremacists, skinheads and political extremists dating back to the raiders of Bloody Kansas in the 1850s and the Ku Klux Klan. We’ve tossed Arab farmers into Guantanamo Prison for eight years without trial on the mere suspicion of being terrorists, yet there is no Gitmo for our own home-grown terrorists.
In contrast to the Muslims, America’s domestic terrorists are largely considered to be colorful characters playing soldier, whose stockpiling of weapons and talk of bringing down the government is not only tolerated like a post-Kindergarten version of ‘show and tell,’ but even tacitly encouraged and egged on by the Rush Limbaugh Jrs. of talk radio or the Glenn Becks of Fox News.
So when one of these guys shoots a doctor in church, as was the case with George Tiller in May; or kills a guard at the Holocaust Museum, as was the fate of museum guard Stephen Johns in June, it makes the news for a couple of days and then people move on until the next school massacre, or whatever.
 
Monday, August 17, 2009

When the mob rules, the people lose

Random Thoughts Robert Downes When the Mob Rules, the People Lose
Robert Downes 8/17/09
When the kings and queens of Europe heard of the American Revolution in the 1770s, they doubted that our experiment in democracy would succeed because they assumed our government would fall prey to anarchy and mob rule.
Given what we’ve seen on television with organized activists disrupting the town hall talks on health care reform, perhaps those royals were right.
Apparently, the protesters all have solid gold Blue Cross/Blue Shield coverage and think our health care system is fine and dandy the way it is, without a concern for their fellow Americans being raked over the coals by the insurance industry. Armed with Internet advice on how to disrupt public meetings, they‘re getting a lot of attention on TV, while Americans who lack health insurance are ignored.
But when the mob rules, the people lose.
 
 
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