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, April 27, 2009

Why we must investigate torture

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Why we must investigate torture
Robert Downes 4/27/09
In 1947 the United States convicted a number of Japanese war criminals to life in prison for waterboarding U.S. soldiers.
In one case, a Japanese officer named Chinsaku Yuki made his victim strip off all his clothes, after which he was tied naked to a bench. Then Yuki poured water over a cloth wrapped around the victim’s face until he drowned and passed out. When the man was revived, he’d find Yuki sitting on his belly and the process would start all over again.
One U.S. soldier testified that he was drowned four or five times, losing consciousness, then revived for more punishment.
We gave the Japanese and Nazi war criminals the harshest penalties that a military tribunal could mete out for their hideous acts. But now, our nation finds itself gazing in a mirror, faced with the same question: Should the Bush administration be investigated for condoning and encouraging torture?
Monday, April 20, 2009

Going Natural ... Off-Line

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Going Natural ... Off-Line
Robert Downes 4/20/09

Here’s one of those news items that’s so quirky compared to the spirit of our time that it sounds like an item from News of the Weird or a gag story from The Onion. It appeared in the online newsletter published by ForeWord magazine in Traverse City:

“Former Librarian Quits the Internet
The Grayslake Review reports that Jack Hicks, a 69-year-old retiree, has cancelled the Internet. Hicks was the director of Illinois’ Glenview Public Library, one of the first libraries in the Chicago area to offer free Internet access.
‘Mainly, it’s a time-waster. And there’s so little time. Why waste it?’ Hicks said. “In retirement, I’m interested in real life, not an imitation of life.’”
At the Express, we now have readers who can’t even recall a time when there was no Internet -- it was up and running before they were born. And many of us would be fish out of the water without the sea of information we swim in each day.
Monday, April 13, 2009

Pure Boredom

Random Thoughts Robert Downes “It was 1989, my thoughts were short, my hair was long,
Caught somewhere between a boy and man;
She was 17, and she was far from in-between,
It was summertime in Northern Michigan.“

-- Kid Rock, ‘All Summer Long‘

Have you seen the new television commercials promoting the state of Utah? They feature a funky, old beater truck loaded with kayaks, mountain bikes, surfboards, tents, beach gear. You see a family driving around to all of the spectacular sights in Utah, having a blast. They’re hiking through canyons, biking across desert plateaus, white-water rafting down a raging river -- the works.
Monday, April 6, 2009

The bright side of bankruptcy

Random Thoughts Robert Downes The bright side of bankrupcy

A friend compares the current economic crisis to the stomach flu. “I hate to throw up,” he says. “You resist and resist and keep feeling sicker until you can’t take it anymore. Then you’re glad you threw up and got it over with.”
It’s a good metaphor for what ails General Motors and the Big 3 automakers. Should taxpayers give GM a heave and get it over with, or should we keep resisting the company’s bankruptcy until we just can’t take it anymore?
Either way, like the consequences of stomach flu, it’s starting to seem inevitable.
Now, it looks as if the federal government is holding up the toilet seat and giving GM a comforting pat on the back to do the Thing That Must Be Done.
Last September, the feds gave the Big 3 automakers a $25 billion loan. In November the automakers were back, asking for $50 billion more. They were told to get their act together and come up with a plan for reviving the auto industry.
Monday, March 30, 2009

What‘s new at Northern Express

Random Thoughts George Foster What‘s new at Northern Express
Geprge Foster 3/30/09
Here at the bustling compound of the Northern Express Weekly administrative offices, we received a revealing phone call last week. The caller wondered if the Express had gone out of business. It seems our newspapers were missing from their usual shelf in a local business when the caller stopped by to pick up his copy.
The absence of papers was actually due to a different problem - the Express papers had all been gobbled up at the location in question. While some of the other free publications seem to always languish on the newsstands, Northern Express is more popular than ever.
Monday, March 23, 2009

All Abourd?

Random Thoughts Robert Downes All Aboard
Robert Downes 3/23/09

Wouldn’t it be nice to travel from Northern Michigan to Detroit or Chicago at 200-300 miles per hour on a magnetic levitation train?
That’s still in the realm of science fiction, but last week’s announcement of plans for a hydrogen-powered MagLev train linking Detroit, Ann Arbor and Lansing does get the wheels of possibility spinning for the future...
Last week, State Representatives Bill Rogers (R-Brighton) and Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City) announced the creation of a bipartisan task force to study the possibility of building a MagLev rail system down the medians of Michigan’s freeway system.
Monday, March 16, 2009

Re-inventing the book store

Random Thoughts Robert Downes In Ray Bradbury’s novel, Fahrenheit 451, the ‘firemen‘ of a fascist society in the near future have the task of burning books in an attempt to stamp out knowledge, truth and beauty. A few brave rebels save what’s left of literature by memorizing books and passing them on to their children by word of mouth.
Gee, if only it were that simple.
Today’s bonfire is the digitization of books and the way that they are being sold online via amazon.com and Google. The trend is to live-stream books for sale over the Internet. Amazon.com has 240,000 books available for downloads, with hundreds of thousands more offered by Google.
These forces, combined with the recession and the fact that fewer young people are reading books, have put the beloved institution of the book store in peril.
Booksellers are wrestling with survival issues on par with those that are driving CD stores to extinction. Rolling Stone reports that 2,680 music stores have closed in the past four years, and the CD is on its way to oblivion.
One scheme would make books available for in-store downloads onto your iPod or reading device while you browse a much-reduced inventory on the shelves. Another idea being explored is to install in-store printers which will be capable of whipping up books while you wait.
Monday, March 9, 2009

The dropout dilemma

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Raising Michigan’s high school dropout age to 18 sounds like a good idea in principle. But one could also argue that the new legislation may harm students who are committed to graduating by forcing them to endure the company of disruptive kids who are turned off by high school.
On March 4, the Michigan House of Representatives voted 71-31 to approve passage of House Bill 4030, which will require students to attend high school until the age of 18. The bill has gone on to the State Senate, where it faces an uncertain future.
Sponsored by State Rep. Doug Geiss (D-Taylor), the bill is the first change in Michigan’s allowable dropout age in 113 years. In 1896, the legislature ruled that students could leave school at the age of 16, primarily to help work on family farms.
Rep. Geiss makes some good points in promoting his bill. He notes that 70 percent of prisoners in Michigan are high school dropouts. He points out that requiring students to spend an extra two years in high school will better prepare them to find jobs, instead of being a drag on society.
Monday, March 2, 2009

Beyond Human

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Do your sprockets need oiling? Did you reboot your head this morning because you woke up feeling like a Vista system crash?
Well, maybe soon, because if the techno prophets are right, the human race will begin merging with our machines any time now...
(Cue up some eerie sci-fi theremin music here, folks, and hang onto your hood ornaments.)
This being our annual Body, Mind, Spirit issue, I’m delighted to report the latest news from scientists who keep track of a coming event known as “The Singularity.”
The Singularity is the point at which computers will become more intelligent than the human race and attain consciousness. At that point, we will find ourselves merging with our machines.
If this sounds like the plot of the new Terminator film or another remake of The Matrix, rest assured, it is.
Monday, February 23, 2009

The new home

Random Thoughts Robert Downes There’s a rare sight in my neighborhood these days: teams of contractors are working to finish a new home.
It’s the completion of a saga that began about five years ago. An older home was torn down to make way for the newcomer. Then, the owner‘s personal problems intervened and the project was abandoned, lingering half-finished for several years. In some places, the roof hadn’t been completely shingled, and the unsided walls were left exposed to the wind, rain and snow.
When it was begun, the new home looked to be in the $400,000 range -- a far cry from the homes in our neighborhood which total half that amount on the average. But as the years rolled by without a buyer for the “as is” home,
the price drifted down to an affordable level and
was sold.
Monday, February 16, 2009

Who let the hogs out

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Put this in your ‘One More Thing to Worry About’ file: Apparently, there are hordes of vicious wild hogs roaming the Michigan woodlands, and these pigs are in serious danger of becoming an “environmental disaster” for our state.
Who knew? I’ve been tramping around the forests of Michigan for 50 years now and count myself lucky to see an occasional woodchuck or a porcupine. But a band of up to 20 wild hogs? That would be like spotting an elephant.
This news comes from the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy (MWC), based in Bath, Michigan, which is calling for a bounty to exterminate wild hogs.
Don’t want to boar you, but here’s the skinny on a big pig of a problem, according to the Conservancy:
Apparently, these hogs are the descendants of Russian wild boars which have escaped from commercial game ranches over the past decade. They’ve been spotted in 63 of Michigan’s 83 counties and are “reproducing rapidly.”
The impudent hogs cause crop and forest damage and carry a pseudorabies virus which is “a huge threat to Michigan‘s domestic swine industry, which is already reeling from high grain prices and low market pork prices.”
Who knew there was so much drama in the pig industry?
Monday, February 9, 2009

Signs of the Times

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Signs of the Times
Residents of Boyne City were sad to see their local newspaper go under two weeks ago. The Citizen-Journal ended its 128-year run with a two-sentence farewell on page three. Like, how lame can you get?
The Elk Rapids Town Meeting also bit the dust. Both papers were owned by Up North Publishing, which in turn, is owned by the Journal Register Company of Pennsylvania.
Such are the perils of corporate newspaper ownership.
A common practice for newspaper corporations is to buy up other papers with borrowed money. Then, the corporation hollows out the paper, replacing local reporters with wire copy and cutting employees and features to drive up profits. When the paper‘s bottom line looks rosy, the corporation sells the paper to another corporation, which starts the process all over again.
Sound familiar?
But the news-corps have finally stubbed their toes with this practice, and for some, the prognosis may be fatal. Many of these chains are insanely over their heads in debt at a time when auto and real estate ads have vanished, along with classifieds.
Monday, February 2, 2009

Coming Together

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Talk about bad timing.
When Rush Limbaugh states his wish that President Barack Obama’s policies fail, he might as well desire that millions of Americans be laid off. Of course rich talk-show hosts are unlikely to experience the anguish of unemployment, but it seems astonishing that anyone could hope for more suffering by his countrymen.
Is Limbaugh also hoping that Obama is a failure as Commander-in-Chief, leading to unnecessary deaths of our troops? If Rush really feels this way, he must be enjoying attempts to sabotage bi-partisan efforts by our lawmakers that might relieve the pain of Americans unemployed and not covered by health insurance.
Monday, January 26, 2009

Facing up to Facebook

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Facing Up to Facebook
I got a new Facebook account over the holidays and with it came an unpleasant surprise: not a single friend from my high school or college days is a member.
Jim, Tom, Carol, Gary, Mary Jo, Ross, Linda, Anne, where are you? It’s funny how you lose track of your old high school pals through the years and then get nostalgic for them, forgetting the time they put snot in your Coke or whatever.
A bigger shock was going to Facebook’s list of members from Royal Oak High, class of ‘70, and finding that there are only 22 of us who are members. And this is out of a class that had something like 800 graduates. By contrast, the class of 2000 has 134 members, and the class of 2006 has 223.
Monday, January 19, 2009

Recharging Michigan

Random Thoughts Robert Downes We may be down, but we’re not out. Michigan got some great news last week with word that General Motors is planning to open a new battery-pack factoryhere, along with the largest battery lab in the country.
This is an ‘electrifying‘ development; state officials are striving to make Michigan a powerhouse for the batteries which will run the electric cars of tomorrow. “We want to be the battery capital of the world,” Governor Granholm stated in the Detroit Free Press.