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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Thursday, May 30, 2002

Great Book Stores in the Big Easy

Books Nancy Sundstrom New Orleans is my favorite city in the world, partially because like others (the list including London, Paris, New York, Chicago, and San Francisco), it has a remarkable literary heritage - one rich as a dessert of Grand Marnier bread pudding at Commander’s Palace, as spicy as the great gumbo found everywhere, and as varied as the human drama that plays itself out every five feet on the endlessly fascinating streets of the French Quarter.
Somewhat to the consternation of my family, I really indulged myself by spending more time than usual in the bookstores of the Quarter on a recent vacation to the Big Easy. The stores themselves truly reflect the marvelous tapestry of life in one of America’s oldest and most unique cities. It just doesn’t cut it to wander in to a national chain store (you know the names), when you can browse in the likes of the Garden District Book Shop where Anne Rice does all of her book signings, or lose yourself dreaming about taking home one of the rare collectibles at Faulkner House Books, a store that is, hands down, and like the city, my favorite in the world.
Thursday, May 16, 2002

Goth & Doom Revealed

Books Nancy Sundstrom New twists on the gothic horror novel and the biography result in some startling fresh takes on these genres in two works out in paperback from Vintage Books, a New York-based publishing company who never seem at a loss for discovering or printing provocative works and authors.
In this case, the tomes are “Observatory Mansions,“ the first novel from English playwright and illustrator Edward Carey, and “The Fatal Englishman: Three Short Lives,“ by Sebastian Faulks, the bestselling author of “Birdsong“ and “Charlotte Gray,“ which was recently made into a film with Cate Blanchett.
Both are compelling works that breathe new air into their respective genres. There‘s never a shortage of powerful, moving, eloquent, or stylishly crafted books in the literary world, but if one subscribes to the idea that there really are no new ideas, you can go along with the reasoning that it becomes more difficult to introduce a sense of wonder or discovery into a particular category of storytelling. Happily, these two books provide a strong argument to that thinking.
Thursday, May 9, 2002

The Clan Carries on with Shelters of Stone

Books Nancy Sundstrom Gimme Shelter!
That’s what fans of Jean Auel have been screaming for awhile now, as they have waited patiently over the past 12 years for “The Shelters of Stone,“ the fifth installment in her phenomenal Earth’s Children’s series, to come out.
At long last, it has, and faster than you can say “Cro-Magnon“ three times really fast, it has shot to the top of best seller lists, though it has been out for just a week now.
Fans, especially those who have followed the series since it burst onto the literary world in 1980 with “Clan of the Cave Bear“ and possessing all the crackle of the first-ever sparks of flame being lit, won’t be disappointed at all. The length of time that has passed may actually have been a savvy move in ushering in a new generation of readers to heroine Ayla, a cavewoman raised by Neanderthals whose intelligence, beauty, and uncanny ability to light fires, heal, tame wild animals, and endure the harshest fates nature and humankind can dish at her renders her an outsider in her own tribe and a soulmate to hunky Jondalar.
Thursday, May 2, 2002

He was Blinded by the Right

Books Nancy Sundstrom Remember the brouhaha that took place a few years back when Hillary Rodham Clinton declared that a “vast right wing conspiracy“ existed in America? What do you know - it turns out she was right, at least according to David Brock, the original right-wing scandal reporter whose brand new book, “Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative,“ has created just as much controversy.
If you don’t recognize Brock’s name or from his contributions to Esquire, Rolling Stone, Talk, New York Times, Washington Post op-ed pages, or National Public Radio, to name a few, you very likely might know him as the author of “The Real Anita Hill“ and “The Seduction of Hillary Rodham.“
Thursday, April 25, 2002

The Lessons of Terror: Why Wars Against Civilians are Doomed to Fail

Books Nancy Sundstrom “If a man is slain unjustly, his heir shall be entitled to satisfaction. But let him not carry his vengeance to excess, for his victim is sure to be assisted and avenged.“ –The Koran, 17:33

Caleb Carr has a point. He begins his latest tome, a slim, yet fascinating volume entitled “The Lessons of Terror: A History of Warfare Against Civilians: Why It Has Always Failed and Why It Will Fail Again,“ with this declaration: “To be emblematic of our age is to bear an evil burden.“ The 20th Century, he believes will be remembered largely for its non-stop succession of wars, genocides, and massacres, and we barely set foot in the new millennium before the event that will most likely define its first decade took place on September 11, 2001.
How did we come to this? How have we gotten to a point where men and women, in the name of a myriad of different causes, are capable not only of committing unthinkable atrocities, but doing so as a self-righteous act of war? What can possibly be done to reverse a centuries-old practice of targeting civilians in order to affect the political operation of nations? Why do our leaders continue to ignore history, thus repeating past mistakes when it comes to combating terrorism?
Thursday, April 18, 2002

Addled by Love, a Woman Seeks Atonement

Books Nancy Sundstrom It didn’t seem likely that lightening would strike so quickly again, but it has - in two different regards.
For one, Ian McEwan’s Booker Prize-nominated “Atonement” is his first novel since his marvelous “Amsterdam” took home the prize in 1998. For another, this is the second book of the new millennium, following “The Corrections” by Jonathan Franzen to truly deserve the label “masterpiece.”
One can only speculate as to why this elegant and engrossing novel, which will no doubt be referred to in years to come as one that played a key role in carrying on the rich tradition of British literature, was snubbed for the Booker Prize this year, but suffice it to say, that was a serious oversight.
Thursday, April 11, 2002

Between the Lines & Behind the Scenes in the World of Books

Books Nancy Sundstrom Writing recently about the literary broohahas that developed in response to two quite wonderful books, “Stupid White Men“ by Michael Moore and “The Corrections“ by Jonathan Franzen, reminded me that any successful book usually has some downright juicy scoop attached to it.
In that spirit, this column, usually dedicated to book reviews, is going between the lines, if you will, on some of the more interesting doings in the wonderful world of print.

A few weeks back, I gave a thumbs-down to the obnoxious and boring saga spun by Gene Simmons in “Kiss and Make Up,“ and was eagerly beginning the latest tome from Caleb Carr, “The Lessons of Terror.“ Simultaneously, both authors got into some verbal slugfests with interviewers, with neither one gracefully acquitting themselves. In Simmons‘ case, comments like “If you want to welcome me with open arms, I‘m afraid you‘re also going to have to welcome me with open legs“ did little to curry the favor of the usually unflappable Terry Gross, host of NPR‘s “Fresh Air.“ Gross all but gave Simmons the hook, and since, the two have been giving each other a public dissing, though sentiment has clearly been with Gross.
Thursday, April 4, 2002

The Corrections Examines a Family on a Tightrope

Books Nancy Sundstrom Dazzling. Spellbinding. Exhilarating. Brilliant. Masterpiece.
These adjectives were typical of the sort used last year to describe
Jonathan Franzen‘s “The Corrections,“ a book that has long been on my
reading list and proved to be more than well worth the wait. This is the
type of novel one can actually let age a bit past the initial furor of
its release, and then completely savor because it deserves, if not
surpasses, all of its hype.
In this case, it wasn‘t just that Franzen, the New Yorker and Harper‘s
columnist whose previous two novels were “The Twenty-Seventh City“ and
“Strong Motion,“ had acquitted himself as a Dickens for the new
millennium, he was also at the eye of the storm of the biggest literary
broohaha of 2001.
Thursday, April 4, 2002

The Gatekeepers: John Rohe‘s Book on Mary Lou & John Tanton Warns of a World Headed for Trouble

Books Robert Downes On stormy oceans, sailors batten down the hatches to keep the waves from filling the hold and sinking the ship.
There‘s a similar theme to John Rohe‘s new book, *Mary Lou & John Tanton: A Journey Into American Conservation,* which warns that unless we batten down our own hatches, America and western civilization may be overwhelmed by a tide of immigrants, overpopulation, and cultures which don‘t share such values as democracy and human rights.
It‘s a provocative book, and although it is a biography of two of Northern Michigan‘s most noted conservationists, it is also a book of ideas -- ideas which might have seemed far more radical in the days before the 911 Attack changed our way of looking at the world.
Thursday, March 28, 2002

Michael Moore takes on Stupid White Men

Books Nancy Sundstrom That irascible, cranky, working class champion from Flint is back at it again, and just in time. And he‘s coming to Northwestern Michigan College this Monday, April 1, to promote his new book.
You have to love Michael Moore, the bestselling author of “Downsize This!“, director of the groundbreaking documentary “Roger and Me,“ and creator and host of the Emmy Award winning series “Tv Nation“ and “The Awful Truth.“ And if you don‘t love, you at least have to appreciate what he does. Just when we‘re all getting a little too comfortable with issues we should be downright uneasy about, he‘ll come along and stir up some much-needed self-righteous indignation, all in the form of common sense questions.
This time it‘s through his latest book, “Stupid White Men... And Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation.“ “Mike Strikes Back!“ proclaims the book jacket, and I, for one, take great comfort in that. In true Moore fashion, he fires all cylinders at the “big, ugly special interest group that‘s laying to waste the world as we know it.“ That group is stupid, white men, and they‘re headed up by a cast of the usual suspects, most notably “President“ (as he likes to call him) George W. Bush, his “Co-President“ Dick Cheney, Bill Clinton, The Idiot Nation (to which we all belong), and Corporate America.
Thursday, March 21, 2002

911: New Books Relive a Day of Heat and Dust

Books Nancy Sundstrom Throughout the course of the most amazing and trying times in our country‘s history, particularly over the past 100 years, photographs have been used to help us understand what has happened around or to us. With its ability to provide a thousand words through an image, these pictures have provided a silent form of communication and sometimes healing to those who use them to put a human face on events the mind can‘t quite seem to comprehend.
Since we have just passed the six month anniversary of September 11, we seem, as a collective nation and individually, more ready to deal with the realities of that grim tragedy by seeking to understand it through pictures - be they in the recent documentary aired by CBS, or in two new coffee table books that emerge as a testament to those who lost their lives, those who fought to save them, and those who are attempting to rebuild from the ashes.
Thursday, March 14, 2002

Coming Home... to Vietnam

Books Nancy Sundstrom You cannot choose your battlefield, God does that for you; But you can plant a standard Where a standard never flew. -- Stephen Crane, “The Colors“

As it does every few years, or as often as we need to try to grapple again with our unresolved national conflicts on the subject, the Vietnam War has become a hot topic and big business, both in the film and fiction worlds.
The release of the latest Mel Gibson film, “We Were Soldiers“ has prompted the paperback release of Colonel Harold Moore‘s autobiographical tale of the same name about the first major battle in Vietnam. And an excellent and moving novel, “An American Sin,“ unique in that it is written from the perspective of an Asian American who needed to prove he was American by fighting in Vietnam, was published in late 2001 to critical acclaim.
Each has a candor, eye for detail, and a poignancy not often found in books about war, and if there is a common theme between them, it is that in war, more than perhaps any other theater of life, the issues of right and wrong are great, usually fairly obvious, and long-lasting.
Thursday, March 7, 2002

War in a Time of Peace: David Halberstam Probes the Post-Cold War World

Books Nancy Sundstrom A new book from David Halberstam is usually more of an event, and one of the reasons why is that the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of 17 other works has an uncanny ability to not only reflect the mindset of the American public, but usually be at least a few steps ahead of it.
“War in a Time of Peace“ is Halberstam‘s most recent foray into bringing history to life, and it is a most worthy sequel to his classic, “The Best and the Brightest,“ which examined the decisions made during the Vietnam era and the men who made them. Here, he looks at how many of the lessons learned have come to influence American foreign policy in the past two presidential administrations and since the Gulf War.
Lest that sound like a tonic for insomniacs, be assured that it is anything but. Halberstam is a master at creating finely etched character portraits, finding just the right behind-the-scenes anecdote to illustrate a point, and skillfully weaving in pop culture perspectives to keep serious subjects from becoming overwhelming. The result is another journalistic tour-de-force, one guaranteed to make the same kind of long-lasting impact that “The Best and the Brightest“ was destined for 30 years ago.
His primary point in this highly-anticipated follow-up is that the long shadow of the Cold War still looms over American foreign policy, even as shifts in our domestic politics, policies, and players have changed our identity as a nation and as a world power. The dynamics are even more complex than ever reasons Halberstam in a well-presented case that leaves no stone unturned, from egos to the environment.
In the opening chapter, the author sets the stage as the balance of power is about to be passed on to a new administration, one that will place domestic policy ahead of foreign for the first time in nearly five decades. He writes:
Thursday, February 28, 2002

Men of Words

Books Nancy Sundstrom If you love the written word, then it‘s a fair assumption that you‘re likely to be a fan of authors, as well. That being said, there are several stunning new works on available on three important contributors to American literature, and all are highly recommended.
Richard Wright: The Life and Times by Hazel Rowley, “Dashiell Hammett: A Daughter Remembers“ by Jo Hammett, Richard Layman, and Julie M. Rivett, and “Mark Twain: An Illustrated Biography“ by Geoffrey C. Ward, Dayton Duncan, and Ken Burns all serve up their subjects on a platter rich with scope, detail, elegant writing, and plenty of surprises. Rowley‘s book on Wright, in particular, virtually defines what a biography should be, but across the board, each celebrates the business of words and ideas, while providing valuable insights into three extraordinarily fertile minds.

Richard Wright: The Life and Times by Hazel Rowley
“How in hell did you happen?“ a Chicago sociologist once inquired of Richard Wright, the novelist who posed, through his work, some of the most profound questions ever raised in America about the volatile nature of race relations. Well, the answer is found in exquisite and painstaking detail in Rowley‘s engrossing biography, which emerges as dramatic and impressive as Wright was.