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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Monday, September 22, 2008

Food Paranoia

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Do you like bugs in your food? Neither do I. But not so long ago, that was a fairly common occurrence.
Sorry to gross you out here, but it used to be possible that you’d open a box of pancake mix, or a bag of flour or instant potatoes that had been sitting around a couple of months and find... weevils!
Those are beetle larvae for those of you who flunked biology.
Then the food industry started irradiating all of the above in the 1980s. This involves zapping food with a burst of high-energy radiation. It not only killed the critters and bug eggs that hatched in these products, but did away with a lot of bacteria and micro-organisms that make people sick. It also served as a preservative -- doubling the shelf life of strawberries, for instance.
I once interviewed a scientist at Oakland University who ate a piece of steak that had been sitting on a shelf for two years without refrigeration. The steak had been irradiated and sealed in a plastic bag. Since all of its bacteria had been killed, it was still safe to eat two years after being zapped.
Monday, September 15, 2008

The Bellstone revisits Gallery 544

Art Robert Downes Marcia Bellinger will be bringing back some familiar faces for the Sept. 19 Art Walk in downtown Traverse City. Dan Oberschulte, former owner of Gallery 544, and many of the artists he used to feature there, will be the focus of Bellinger’s show at her Belstone Gallery.
“The Art Walk is a wonderful event, with all the downtown art galleries,” Bellinger said. “I do a show every Artwalk. Most are up two weeks to a month. This display will run through the end of October.”
In addition to Oberschulte, the “Gallery 544 Revisited” show will feature Mary Fuscaldo, Joe De Luca, Jerry Gates, Dorothy Grow, Dan Heron, Joe Stearns, Angela Saxon, Flora Stuck, Nancy Hoffman, Billie Hoxie and Julie Pearson.
Monday, September 15, 2008

When good intentions go off the rails

Random Thoughts Robert Downes There was an historic moment last month which Michigan Senator Carl Levin can be proud of: the U.S. Senate passed his legislation for the Great Lakes Compact by a unanimous vote, protecting our water for all time.
Or does it?
The Compact bans the diversion of water from the Great Lakes. The agreement has already been signed by the governors of eight states along the lakes, including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
“Senate passage of this compact will help us protect the Great Lakes from water diversions and preserve this invaluable resource for future generations,” said Sen. Levin in a published report.
The Compact is also considered a slam-dunk for approval by the U.S. House of Representatives, and President Bush will surely sign it. Plus, the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec have already passed the Compact.
“It’s looking like an unstoppable tide now,” said Cameron Davis, president of the Alliance for the Great Lakes.
Monday, September 8, 2008

Rootstand throws a Rootenanny

Music Robert Downes If you see the members of Rootstand wanted for arson one of these days, you’ll know they’ve set another dance floor on fire with their hot licks and burning rhythms.
A Rootstand show has the flavor of a Grange hall stomp when the harvest is finally all-in. There’s a sense of joy in the air with that old-timey music kicked up a notch. The explosive power of the band’s bluegrass-meets-reggae sound seems to literally blast people onto the dance floor from the moment they kick off their show. And that’s saying a lot, considering the band uses traditional instruments including acoustic guitars, a banjo, mandolin and harmonica.
“Our sound has evolved based on who we’re playing for,” says John Snyder, 32, who performs on acoustic guitar and harmonica. “We’re proficient in many forms of music. Depending on the crowd, we can either play bluegrass or bust out with some hip-hop stuff.”
Monday, September 8, 2008

Why not Geena?

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Choosing Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate for vice president was a brilliant idea -- if you were trying to write a comedy skit for Mad TV or the Conan O’Brien Show, that is.
John McCain has a lot of wear on his tires. Five years in a Vietnamese prison camp played hell with his health, and he’s also battled skin cancer three times. If he takes office at the age of 72, McCain will be two years away from the average life expectancy of the American male.
So, it’s nice to know that he picked someone younger “just in case.”
But Sarah Palin? She’s been governor of one of the least-populated states in the country for just two years. Prior to that, she was mayor of Wasilla, a town of 7,000 people.
Monday, September 1, 2008

Richard Schemm

Art Robert Downes Walk into Richard Schemm’s studio in a cool forest valley west of Traverse City and you’ll be pleasantly overwhelmed by color and creative energy. Dozens of small paintings hang on the wall, surrounded by larger works in colors as vibrant and alive as the neon of butterfly wings.
Schemm’s paintings have a distinct sense of depth. They contain veils, swirls, canyons and fissures that lead your eye ever deeper into the work. You get the sense that there is a ‘story’ within each painting, and if you go deep enough, your imagination will be fired with visions of what’s around the next bend in the canvas. There is a sublime power here -- and energy -- that goes far beyond other examples of abstract art in Northern Michigan.
“There’s a lot of storytelling in my work,” says Schemm, 56, whose personal intensity is as vibrant as his work. “In a way, these are not ‘abstract’ paintings. They’re abstract compared to realism, but they aren’t without content that informs.”
Monday, September 1, 2008

Great gear for guys

Features Robert Downes The advancement of tech gear is whooshing along faster than a Mercedes in the left hand lane of the Autobahn. And given the innovations of the past several years, it’s more affordable than ever, too; things like miniature videogame systems, USB storage sticks, portable MP3 players, cell phones that can handle phone calls and text messages, plus video and miniature applications of all kinds. All of these high-tech gadgets were unattainable except for the wealthy folks a mere 10 years ago - but now they can all be snagged for around $100 or under. But what are the newest must-haves, especially for guys, in 2008? We’ve uncovered a selection from $99 on up that you just might find tugging at both your wallet and your gearhead sensibilities.
Monday, August 25, 2008

Staying safe abroad

Books Robert Downes Ed Lee has lived a life of adventure, working in some of the most dangerous countries in the world as a security consultant. Riots, bombs, bullets and kidnappings -- he’s dealt with it all -- and he’s used his wits to keep himself and others out of harm’s way.
But today, Lee, 64, is relying on more than 30 years of experience as an international security consultant to help keep readers out of trouble overseas with his new book: “Staying Safe Abroad -- Traveling, Working and Living in a Post-9/11 World.”
The 327-page book, published by his own Sleeping Bear Risk Solutions press, is packed with hair-raising stories, timely statistics and common-sense tips that will rate as valuable cargo on your next foreign vacation. In fact, if there’s any fault to the book, it’s that you may not want to venture much farther than your back porch after reading its cautionary tales, much less across the U.S. border.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Meet your sister...

Random Thoughts Robert Downes The next time you enjoy a refreshing glass of green tea in downtown Traverse City, be sure to think of your sister. Your Japanese Sister City, that is. It turns out that the green tea crop is as important to Koka, Japan as cherries are to Traverse City.
That‘s one of the things members of the city commission learned last week when they welcomed a delegation of three Japanese visitors who represent our “home away from home“ across the Pacific.
Yoshinobu Lino, Misato Yamagiwa and Yoichi Shirai spent five days here, touring the region as part of a goodwill mission that was established 38 years ago.
Monday, August 25, 2008

A world class ride/ Gaylord to Mackinaw

Features Robert Downes This sure seems like a good place to run into a bear, you think as you roll through the forest north of Vanderbilt. The bike trail skirts the Pigeon River Forest and the trees are thick as a jungle on either side of the path, which runs like an arrow through the green.
Alas, there are no bear sightings today, but tomorrow you spot a porcupine waddling along the new Gaylord-to-Mackinaw Rail Trail, which is a dream come true for Michigan cyclists.
The 62-mile trail opened in the fall of 2007, wending its way through deep forests and along the Sturgeon River and Mullett Lake, all the way from Gaylord to Mackinaw City. Paved with crushed limestone and about eight feet wide, the sparkling white trail is smooth and fast -- ideal for mountain bikes or hybrid cycles (no skinny tire bikes need apply, unless you’re up for a wobbly, white-knuckle ride). In the winter, the trail becomes a pathway for snowmobiles.
Monday, August 25, 2008

OTP plans a dazzling season

Features Robert Downes Look for plenty of sizzle on the stage this year at Old Town Playhouse in Traverse City, which is bringing in some of America’s hottest contemporary plays.
The lineup includes the Vegas-flavored laugh-fest of “Nunsensations!,” the edgy urban satire “Urinetown,” the musical version of “The Producers,” the perennial favorite “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” and a cross-dressing comedy, “Leading Ladies.”
Monday, August 18, 2008

What‘s on your iPod?

Random Thoughts Robert Downes It’s got to be tough being Barack Obama these days: everyone in the media wants to know what’s on his iPod. And that’s kind of personal, like the “boxers or briefs?” question.
Even Ludacris is in the act, rapping about being on Obama’s iPod in his new song, “Politics.” Obama’s peeps scrambled to denounce the song because it took some shots at Hillary, McCain, Jesse and “mentally handicapped” Bush. But it’s a pretty good jam with plenty of bass, drums and heart. If I were Obama, I’d start my day listening to it with the volume way up and a cup of strong coffee.
Beyond that, there’s no accounting for musical tastes. You can tell a lot about people by the kind of music they listen to, so maybe the media is on to something here.
Recently, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen endorsed Obama, so naturally, Jenn Wenner, the editor of Rolling Stone, asked him what Dylan songs he had on his iPod.
“I’ve got probably 30 Dylan songs on my iPod,” Obama said. “I think I have the entire Blood on the Tracks album on there.”
Monday, August 11, 2008

Dunegrass delivers

Music Robert Downes With a daily attendance reaching up to 5,000 people, this year’s Dunegrass & Blues in Empire offered the best music ever in its 16-year history.
Some of the best performances were on three new small stages this year, where festival-goers found respite from the heat, but plenty of hot sounds by bands such as the Texas blues outfit, Papa Mali, the blues of Larry McCray, and the rock sounds of moe, to name a few. Then too, some of the absolute “best” players in the bluegrass world were on hand, including the likes of banjo player Chris Thile, Bela Fleck, Peter Rowan and Tony Rice, and many other players.
Although there was some disappointment that headliner Richie Havens didn’t make the gig, there were so many other performers playing that festival-goers were hard-pressed to take them all in. Here’s a look at the action in Empire.
Monday, August 11, 2008

Choosing a major

Features Robert Downes Going to college? Then obviously, you’re going to leap some major hurdles. Which school should you attend? Which school will accept you? How will you pay for college? What will dorm life be like? Will you like your fellow students?
But perhaps the greatest challenge of all is deciding on a major. After
all, this is the one decision that is likely to affect your entire life, and it often comes down to making up your mind on the spot in your junior year. Or, at the beginning of a two-year program, if you’ve chosen to specialize in a trade.
Unless you’ve known from childhood what you want to do in life, rest assured, most undergrads get the jitters as their junior year looms, along with the need to pick a major.
Will it be English or economics? Accounting or engineering? Anthro-pology or comparative literature? International affairs or forensic science?
Monday, August 11, 2008

New Boardman Nature Center

Features Robert Downes Residents of the Traverse City area will find themselves a little closer to nature this week with the grand opening of the new Boardman River Nature Center on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 16-17.
Located just over a mile south of S. Airport Road on Cass Road south of Traverse City, the new $1 million center will serve as the home offices of the Grand Traverse Conservation District, along with providing a wealth of nature displays, workshops, and programs for kids. Outdoor classes will be offered at an accompanying Oleson Pavilion.