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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Robert Downes

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Dear Old Ireland

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Have you ever been to Moyvore? Not many people have. It‘s a tiny village in County Westmeath in the very center of Ireland. It‘s not on any tourist route -- there’s nothing much to do there. It’s an anonymous place of lumpy fields, populated mostly by sheep and cows.
Yet it is was from here in 1850 that my great, great (great?) grandfather, Michael Downes, emigrated to the United States. I am his 259th descendant.
If you have more than a dash of Irish blood in ye, chances are that someday you’ll travel to the Emerald Isle in search of your roots. The place is teeming with American visitors, packed into tour buses.
We Americans mob Ireland searching for clues to our past in the picturesque pubs, which are as lacquered and ornate as antique music boxes. We look hopefully to the heather, the occasional thatched-roof cottage, and the rocky walls of the old country, seeking signs of our roots. It’s an impulse we Irish-Americans have, similar to the need of every good Muslim to visit the holy city of Mecca at least once in a lifetime, or the quasi-expectation of every American parent to take their kids to Disneyworld.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Gold Coast Trail

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Great Britain has an idea that could be a good fit for Northern Michigan. It’s called Sustrans, which is short for “Sustainable Transportation.” It’s a charity which “works on practical projects to help reduce motor traffic.”
Sustrans has established a 5,000-mile National Cycle Network of trails that criss-cross England, Wales and Scotland. Bike-friendly routes such as the C2C Trail in northern England and the Reivers Route along the border of Scotland attract tens of thousands of cycle tourers every summer from all over Europe, and even overseas.
Thursday, September 27, 2007

Learning to love nature

Random Thoughts Robert Downes The mice were quite inconsiderate at our cottage this year.
For starters, four of them had the poor taste to die under our bathroom sink cabinet, creating a stink like rancid gym socks (only far worse). I pried a board off the cabinet and found them all dried out in there. One got stuck in the vacuum cleaner hose, glaring defiantly with his little dead mousie eyes.
They also chewed up a bunch of stuff: a box of Kleenex was shredded for bedding and they gnawed a hole through a vinyl/canvas car top that was stored out in the garage. They chewed a hole in an expensive sail. Who would do such a thing?
Thursday, September 13, 2007

A journey through war & peace

Random Thoughts Robert Downes We tend to shy away from reviewing self-published books at the Express, because generally, they are - how you say? Not so good.
But there’s a poignancy to the story of Father Walter Marek that tugs at the heartstrings on almost every page of his memoir: “Cache the Czech -- A Divine Journey to America.”
It’s a small, plain-spoken book -- just 99 pages -- but its 89-year-old author weaves a tumultuous tale from simple threads as he takes us on a journey through war and peace. As a young man, he lived through the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Nazi Germany, and then through the occupation of his country by the Soviet Union. The book tells of his calling as a Catholic priest and subsequent escape from the Communist secret police, narrowly escaping possible torture and execution. It tells how he made his way to America as a refugee priest to make a new life in western Michigan.
Thursday, September 6, 2007

Our Men‘s Issue

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Hey, whatever happened to old
what’s-his-name? The so-called Angry White Male of the ’90s? He swept the Republicans into absolute power and marched around for a decade or so, pounding his chest with his neoconservative views.
He’s been pretty quiet lately. These days, you barely hear a peep out of him.
Maybe he‘s rethinking a few things that used to send him into a tizzy.
Thursday, September 6, 2007

Electronic Waste

Features Robert Downes Got an old computer that’s ready to be rebooted to the junkyard? Don’t be a polluter -- send it to Shawn Kasner for recycling.
Kasner, 34, has launched E Waste Electronic Recycling, a business that strips computers and other electronic gear of their components for reuse.
“A lot of people are starting to realize the necessity of not throwing their old computers in landfills,” Kasner says.
He notes that the cumulative effect of trashing millions of obsolete computers has made electronic waste a topic of national concern.
Kasner’s business is located at 515 Franklin in Traverse City, where he and his partner, Brandon McMaster, recycle outdated monitors, keyboards, computers, scanners, printers and copiers, “dead or alive.”
Thursday, August 30, 2007

Michael Vick‘s bad trip

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Michael Vick‘s Bad Trip
Animal abuse cases are not unknown in Northern Michigan. Stories of abused horses or reeking homes filled with starving dogs and cats have been in the news here in recent years.
But each time a story of animal abuse surfaces, it touches the heart of our humanity and generates outrage. To have a sense of humanity means caring for those weaker than yourself -- be they children, the poor, the less fortunate, and even pets or farm animals.
Thursday, August 16, 2007

Spin City/Local CDs

Music Robert Downes Summer produced a bumper crop of new CDs from local musicians this year, most of which are well worth a listen. Check out the following discs at musician-friendly venues, with many also available online from the performers’ websites or through cdbaby.com.

Funny Dog
Susan Gilbert & Plastic Duck

No one in Northern Michigan outdoes Susan Gilbert when it comes to experimental music. Her Frankfort-based band employs instruments such as the musical saw, a tin can drum kit and “various animal and vegetable noisemakers.”
On this CD, however, the music seems more accessible than past efforts -- dare we say, even mainstream? But no more so than you’d expect from the likes of Kate Bush, who offered the same sort of quirky lyrics and melodies in her ‘80s heyday.
Gilbert performs on keyboard and vocals, with “perpetrators” Richard Curtis on flute and alto sax, Nate Bynum on bass and saw, and Bill Wagner on percussion, conga and the aforementioned animal/veggie effects. There’s also an assist from Amanda Strong on harmony and Don Julin on mandolin.
This is imaginative, whimsical music, sometimes with a stream-of-consciousness sense of freedom, as on the poppy “Girlfriend.” And please note: sometimes experimental music types have an inclination to grind out depressing dirges, but that’s not the case for Susan Gilbert; her music is upbeat and optimistic, like a “bag of cheerful humor
Thursday, August 16, 2007

Summer Scrapbook

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Whoops -- looks like Rick Coates‘ story on nude beaches in our Super Summer Guide had an all-too predictable result. When you visit Otter Creek Beach in Benzie County these days, you see park rangers roaming up and down the beach, presumably looking for outlaw weenie roasters.
I feel sorry for the rangers -- they‘re dressed in full uniforms that look terribly hot in a polyester sort of way, and it‘s got to be tough wading through the sand in your Florsheims in search of elusive nudies. Also, I‘ve seen some of the Otter Creek nudists, and it‘s not a very pretty sight. There ought to be extra compensation -- like combat pay -- for putting the rangers through a thankless task.
Thursday, August 9, 2007

Space: The final frontier for careers?

Features Robert Downes College students in search of a major might want to give a heads-up to the infinite potential of outer space, where career opportunities are literally firing up with a bang.
Astronomer Michael Foerster notes that the field of space is wide open to college students with opportunities at NASA and the private sector ranging from aeronautical engineering to space tourism and hotel management.
“There are a lot of space jobs out there,” he says. “Not just as astronauts on the shuttle, but with the tens of thousands of people on the ground who make the space missions possible.”
Thursday, August 2, 2007

Local musicians rock the Film Festival

Music Robert Downes Mike Sullivan, guitarist for the Song of the Lakes folk band and The Turtlenecks jazz trio, has been the hardest workin’ man in showbiz over the past few weeks, rounding up talent to perform at Traverse City Film Festival parties and before the films themselves.
Thursday, August 2, 2007

May I have a word with you?

Random Thoughts Robert Downes May I have a word with you?
Some of you who are regular readers of our Letters to the Editor page probably scratched your heads last week at the letter, “No cherry for the slice of pie I’m holding,” from Don Swan, who has a penchant for Capitalizing many Words without any Rhyme Or reason, much In the Style of the German Language.
I happen to know Don -- a local musician who heads up a band called The Company. I ran into him a few days before we ran his letter and said, “You know, Don, you might want to clean up the grammar in your letter because it’s not proper to have all of those capitalized letters.”
Thursday, July 26, 2007

Foever young in Hoxeyville

Music Robert Downes If you’re looking for the best new acts on Michigan’s acoustic and jam-band music scene, then don’t miss the Hoxeyville Music Festival, which has spent the past five years cultivating some of the hottest -- and youngest -- artists in the state.
Packing more performers than ever -- 26 and counting -- the event takes place this weekend, July 27-29, at Coyote Crossing Resort, a few miles west of Cadillac.
“It gets bigger every year -- last year we had 200 or 300 people attending from Kalamazoo alone,” says founder and creative director Jake Robinson. “We kind of call it an ‘away’ home game.”
The Kalamazoo-Cadillac connection is key to the success of the festival. Robinson, 29, is a native of Cadillac who graduated from high school there in 1996. He’s since created a career as an acoustic guitar maker in Kalamazoo and has tapped into that city’s rich musical talent to supply Hoxeyville with top-notch entertainers.
Thursday, July 26, 2007

On the road, revisited

Random Thoughts Robert Downes On the Road, Revisited
I’m always amazed by how many high school and college students have read “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac. The rambling, stream-of-consciousness book celebrates its 50th anniversary this September.
Of course, these young people tend to be those who enjoyed studying literature in school. But still, it seems pretty cool that “On the Road” still has some legs 50 years after it was written.
I read “On the Road” three times at a similar age, from 17 to 19, and couldn’t make a lick of sense of it. It’s America’s version of James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” which is a completely unreadable book about a single day’s events in Dublin.
“On the Road” is much the same. It’s basically an autobiography of Jack Kerouac’s seven years of bumming around America in the 1940s in search of a new “hip” way of life, inspired by poetry, jazz, drugs, casual sex, and living rough on the streets.
Thursday, July 19, 2007

Show some gumption, Governors

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Maybe it‘s the nature of the beast, but it sure seems like the National Governors Association (NGA) comes up with some snoozy topics for their annual meetings.
With the war in Iraq consuming our nation‘s resources, New Orleans still a wreck, and the breakdown in the rule of law in the White House and U.S. Justice Department, you‘d think that there would be a historic meeting in Traverse City this week when the NGA comes to town. You‘d think our nation‘s governors would be spreading some hellfire and brimstone.
After all, Michigan is in the fight of its life with a deficit of $800 million, and last week, Pennsylvania‘s financial woes required the shutdown of much of the state‘s government. There are crying domestic issues in America that demand action from our nation‘s governors.