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, May 26, 2008

A soldier‘s tale

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Not long ago, I met an old soldier who had made the crossing in the D-Day invasion of June 6, 1944 -- that was 64 years ago. Still as spry as spring at the age of 84, he came over to say hello as I was walking my bike through a local farm market. I’m sorry to say I didn’t catch his name.
“I wish I could ride a bike,” he said. “You save all that money riding a bike. But my joints are all roughed up and I lost my hearing when a cannon went off next to my head at Omaha Beach. You know what you get from the government when you lose your hearing? Not much. And these hearing aids cost $6,000.”
Monday, May 19, 2008

Visions of Mackinac

Books Robert Downes If there’s one book you simply must have on your coffee table this summer, it’s “A Picturesque Situation: Mackinac Before Photography 1615-1860” by Brian Leigh Dunnigan.
The book is a treasure trove of the days when the Straits area served as North America’s ‘wild northwest,’ lifting the reader’s soul with visions of our colorful, rough-and-tumble past. Filled with 330 paintings, drawings, maps and documents, “A Picturesque Situation” tells the story of the Straits area at a time when it was the western terminus to the resources of North America.
Monday, May 19, 2008

Planting a seed

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Can ordinary citizens take charge of Northern Michigan’s destiny and help shape what our region will look like over the next 20 to 50 years?
That’s the dream of the folks behind the Grand Vision, a series of workshops which has been attracting visionary citizens from six counties over the past few months to share their ideas on the future of Northern Michigan.
Starting in Grand Traverse County, where 1,500 participants shared their ideas on land use and transportation alternatives, the Grand Vision has expanded to Kalkaska, Leelanau, Antrim, Benzie and Wexford counties, with 109 governmental participating.
Monday, May 12, 2008

Relearning how to eat

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Relearning How to Eat
There’s a touch of suspense in our visits to the grocery store these days. We creep cautiously over to the milk aisle, bracing for the price. If it’s under $3 a gallon, a small victory has been won, but the trend seems to be heading in the other direction, and someday I suppose that $3 milk will be just a misty memory.
So, put this in the “One More Thing to Worry About” file: the rising cost
of food.
Those of you who buy milk each week probably don’t need a bunch of fancy statistics to underline the fact that food is getting more expensive, but here goes:
Food prices went up by four percent last year on top of 2.4 percent the year before, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. And prices could rise as much as 10 percent this year.
So, let’s be optimists and assume the worst: by 2009, food prices could be up as much as 16.4 percent of what you paid in 2005.
But some staples have gone even higher: in the past year alone, milk rose 13.3 percent, white bread went up 16.3 percent, and eggs were up 29.9 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A record 28 million Americans will be on food stamps this year.
Monday, May 5, 2008

Ritchie Havens

Music Robert Downes Richie Havens sure seems to be having a good time.
In fact, the folk legend has been on a roll for more than 40 years now in a life filled with honors, wisdom, travel, friends, and always the joy of making some of the most singular music in American history.
Havens, 67, is performing in Northern Michigan twice this summer, starting with a show at the Traverse City Opera House this Friday, May 9 at 8 p.m., and again at the Dunegrass and Blues Festival in August. Between those gigs, you’ll find him flying back and forth between Colorado, Oregon, New York, Paris, Switzerland and Monaco, among other destinations.
“I’m always traveling,” he says in a phone interview. “I started out playing six days a week for the first seven years of my career, and for the past 29 years it’s been every weekend all year ’round.”
Havens is a living treasure of Americana. Like Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul & Mary, he was one of the seminal influences and players in the Greenwich Village folk scene in the late ’50s and early ’60s, and has maintained an enduring popularity ever since.
Monday, May 5, 2008

A Meijer Moment

Random Thoughts Robert Downes While reaching for a bag of corn chips in the snack aisle recently, an unexpected thought flew into my head: Why the heck am I shopping at Meijer?
Although I’m a member of our local co-op and also support independent supermarkets in the area, there are times when the need for some hardware or whatever leads me down the miles of aisles at the big M.
But lately, you can’t help but wonder if Meijer is the sort of “good neighbor” that’s worth supporting.
It’s troubling to see, for instance, that Meijer has replaced many of its cashiers with digital scan terminals. If a large corporation isn’t bringing jobs to our community, why should we support it? I can’t imagine that many of the cashiers replaced by digital robots were exactly on Easy Street to begin with.
Monday, May 5, 2008


Features Robert Downes When Sally Pomante walked into the spotlight at the Leelanau Sands Showroom to claim the title of Miss Grand Traverse last month, it was a familiar moment. After all, she had won the same bodybuilding title as the “best of the best” 11 years ago.
Today, Sally, 51, looks rock-solid and ripped from her long hours in the gym and months of an extreme diet. At the April show, she won the masters 35-and-older class as well as the ‘short’ class in order to take the top title. Not bad for the mother of two grown children, Jen, 17, and Sara, 22. “In fact, I’m also a grandma, since Sara has two boys, ages three and one,” she says.
A resident of Kalkaska, where she lives with six pet dogs and operates her Champion Cleaning Company, Pomante has always been attracted to physical pursuits. She raced stock cars as an 18-year-old back in the day when she was running a ‘68 Camaro around the track in Elmira. She also tried figure skating and still enjoys kick-boxing.
Monday, April 28, 2008

The Two Child Solution

Random Thoughts Robert Downes The Two Child Solution
Want to save the planet? Then forget about solutions like wind power and Earth-friendly fluorescent light bulbs. Forget recycling, “green“ building and carpooling. Forget buzzwords like “sustainable resources“ and all of your good intentions, because they do far too little, too late. There‘s only one obvious way to stop global warming and save ourselves.
We need fewer people on Planet Earth.
Monday, April 28, 2008

Me Style: Rooted to Nature

Features Robert Downes Walk into Rooted to Nature and you’ll be overwhelmed with the rainbow of creative, fun clothing made from organic materials and natural fibers.
Located two miles south of Elk Rapids at 11672 US 31 South, Rooted to Nature is packed with clothing options from around the world, with fabrics made from renewable resources such as bamboo, soy, hemp, cotton, merino wool and other natural fibers.
Monday, April 21, 2008

The Bush Tragedy

Books Robert Downes The Bush Tragedy
By Jacob Weisberg
Random House
269 pages, $26

With the presidency of George W. Bush wrapping up as an historic disaster, authors are lining up to dissect how the president managed to pull so many blunders, including the war in Iraq, the wreck of America’s reputation around the world, and the disaster of New Orleans, to name a few.
Author Jacob Weisberg offers insights in “The Bush Tragedy,” a biography that explores the psychological issues that influenced George W. Bush. The book also examines the motives of Bush’s misguided advisors, Karl Rove and Dick Cheney, who led the inexperienced president into a series of poor decisions.
Weisberg compares Bush to Shakespeare’s Prince Hal, a ne’r-do-well youth who became the warlike and religious King Henry V of England. Like Prince Hal in Shakespeare’s plays “Henry IV” and “Henry V,” George W. stands in the shadow of a famous father: he’s desperate to live up to his father’s legend, and also to outdo his father to make his own mark as a man.
The editor of Slate.com, and a former writer for The New Republic, Weisberg notes that both George W. Bush and Prince Hal also play out roles drawn from even older stories: that of the prodigal son in the Bible and the father-destroying legend of Oedipus.
Monday, April 14, 2008

Proposed theme park a bad trip

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Remember Auto World?
Auto World was the theme park that opened in Flint in July, 1984. It was supposed to tell the glorious story of the automobile with exhibits like a giant car engine. It had all the goodies: animatronic robots, an amusement park... even a mannequin representing Jacob Smith, the founder of Flint. You walked into Smith’s humble cabin, pressed a button, and a film was projected onto the mannequin’s face, welcoming you to Auto World.
But this was one jalopy that soon ran out of gas. It proved to be about as popular as “Refrigerator World” or “Naugahyde Seat World.” Auto World went bankrupt within a year for lack of customers... possibly, they headed just up the way to “Chicken Dinner World” in Frankenmuth instead.
Monday, April 14, 2008

An upgrade for Union Street Station

Features Robert Downes Everything old is new again at Union Street Station in Traverse City, where the popular music destination has had an extensive makeover.
The upgrade began last year when owners Dave and Kate VanOcker painted the exterior of the 114-year-old bar in a rich ocher-red. The new paint job combined with the building’s exquisite stained glass and etched windows gives Union Street Station a pleasant jewelry box look.
But the big change that’s got every customer talking is the addition of 17 high-top tables which have done away with furnishings that were decades-old. Gone is an ancient row of booths, a wall of theater seats and the old tables which hosted thousands of beer glasses.
Monday, April 7, 2008

A choice of flavors

Music Robert Downes Country rock meets modern rock this weekend when two acts at the top of their games perform at Streeters’ Ground Zero. On Friday, April 11, country-rock star Eric Church performs; meanwhile, Chevelle brings more than a decade of mod-rock hits to the stage on Sunday, April 13.
Both acts will be bringing plenty of backup: Revving up the show for Eric Church will be JoCaine & 75 North along with David Shelby. Opening for Chevelle will be Finger Eleven and God or Julie.
Doug Street, owner of Streeters, says the country show is a bit of a new direction for the club, which has backed down somewhat on its hip-hop acts this year, owing to the unreliability of the performers. “Eric Church offered us a good show with tickets at just $15, so we’re happy to have him here,” he says.

Here’s the lowdown on both acts:
Monday, April 7, 2008

Too smart for our own good?

Random Thoughts Robert Downes There’s a new gadget on the market which promises to revolutionize the way we read books.
Or, to put it more simply, it promises to destroy books. Forever.
The Kindle, from Amazon.com, is a reading tablet the size of a paperback book which has a high-resolution display screen that’s easy enough on the eyes to be considered “electronic paper.”
Using wireless technology, owners of the Kindle can download books, newspapers and magazines over a “Whispernet” service on their cellphones. And publications are available for half the price -- or less -- compared to the printed versions.
Monday, April 7, 2008

Tunnel Vision

Features Robert Downes Call it a party on wheels with world-class scenery. That’s the spin on the 19th Annual Zoo-De-Mackinac Bike Bash, which travels 51 miles along the famed “Tunnel of Trees” route north of Harbor Springs, to a night of celebration on Mackinac Island.
On May 17, more than 2,400 cyclists are expected for the bike tour, which heads north from Boyne Highlands and up the coast of Lake Michigan along US-119. The Tunnel of Trees route is draped with superlatives from travel writers the world over, not to mention carpets of trilliums and lilacs in bloom beneath its leafy bower. Riders continue on through the farmlands and forests of Wilderness State Park and finish with spectacular views of the Mackinac Bridge and a party in Mackinaw City.