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 17, 2007

Tough times... what to do?

Random Thoughts Robert Downes There‘s a lot of pain in Northern Michigan these days as local agencies feel the lash of cutbacks in state funding.
The arts, foster care, libraries, mental health... People are hurting in our state due to Michigan‘s “structural deficit.” Meaning, the 25% of manufacturing jobs we’ve lost over the past seven years have taken their tax dollars with them, and chances are those jobs won’t be back anytime soon. We’ve lost some 330,000 manufacturing jobs here since 2000, according to the University of Michigan.
Even if those jobs come back, chances are it will be with the proviso of huge tax breaks, or less fruitful jobs in America’s new “service economy,” such as it is.
We hear brave voices, speaking on behalf of orphaned children, the mentally ill, the elderly and the poor. We understand the need for art, education, a pure environment, good roads, strong hospitals and all of the benefits of life here in Michigan.
Thursday, May 10, 2007

Local CDs

Music Robert Downes What’s the latest on local music? The following is a round-up of CDs by musicians from around Northern Michigan. Reviews by Robert Downes.

All Odds Against • All Odds Against
Who would have suspected that Gaylord would have produced such a dead-on homage to the current state of hardcore? All Odds Against got their start in the winter of 2003 and have since been through numerous changes in their lineup while keeping true to their vision of extreme metal.
The band includes Derek on bass, Greg on guitar, Olen on guitar and Steve on drums (alas, no last names included in the liner notes), with an assist on vocals by Frances Damoth. Most of the band members perform on vocals, dishing up croaking screams and howls in the best tradition of today’s hardcore yellers, with an effect like sandy jalapeno peppers inching through a colitic bowel. All Odds Against have clear command of their instruments on this six-song EP. We liked the operatic “Sands Through the Hourglass” for throwing down the hammer and upholding Gaylord’s place in the pantheon of aggressive metal.
Thursday, May 10, 2007

Then Changes

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Heard that a couple of teens got kicked out of a local high school the other day for getting caught with alcohol. Hope they pull through... And did you hear about the first-grader who was kicked out of school for pointing his finger at some kids and yelling “bang“?
It made me think that we sure judge kids by a harsher standard today than when I was a carefree young terrorist.
Times sure have changed, by cracky. Back when teenagers ruled the world in the late 60s, the administrators at my high school were busy creating an experimental smoking lounge for students so we wouldn’t have to go outside to smoke. The experiment lasted less than a year, but still, in that social climate I can’t imagine any of our principals would have expelled a student for getting caught with a beer.
Looking in the rearview mirror from the age of Klebold and Harris, I shiver to think of how we parents would have been judged if today’s standards of zero tolerance were shipped to the days of our youth in the Wayback Machine.
Thursday, May 3, 2007

WJML-AM Balancing Act

Features Robert Downes After years of enduring the divisive blare of conservative and far-right views on commercial talk radio, Northern Michigan is finally getting a powerful new station that will air liberal viewpoints as well.
Broadcaster Rick Stone is bringing his even-handed format to the Grand Traverse area from Petoskey. With a 50,000-watt signal, listeners will get a more diverse mix of viewpoints loud and clear on WJML-AM-1210 in Traverse City and AM-1110 in Petoskey.
Thursday, April 26, 2007

Recruiting More Killers

Random Thoughts Robert Downes You couldn‘t turn on your TV last week without seeing hour after endless hour of demented Cho Seung-Hui in fullblown Natural Born Killer pose, brandishing his weapons and mumbling his crazed manifesto.
After awhile, the endless montage of photos took on the quality of a recruitment poster for all of the disturbed and angry nutcases in America. No doubt, a legion of these guys managed to look up from playing their Doom or Grand Theft Auto video games long enough to think: Gee, maybe if I shoot up a school I‘ll be a big celebrity like Cho Seung-Hui... One wanna-be copycat killer was caught just last Thursday in California.
MSNBC and other networks are scrambling to do damage control in regard to airing the Cho videos, but they still don‘t seem to get it. The problem isn‘t that the videos were aired -- the problem is that they were played over and over, hour after hour, similar to the 9/11 jet crash videos. Or for that matter, the endless Don Imus apologies. It‘s like the networks get a case of obsessive-compulsive disorder on single issue stories these days and the rest of the news goes out the window.
Thursday, April 19, 2007

Are you carbon nuetral?

Random Thoughts Robert Downes After he won the Oscar last month for his global warming documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, former Vice President Al Gore was blindsided by an “inconvenient truth” of his own. Turns out Gore has a whopper of an electric bill -- averaging $1,359 per month.
A conservative think tank called the Tennessee Center for Policy Research claims that Gore’s 20-room mansion uses more electricity each month than the average American family uses in a year. Plus, the natural gas bills for Gore’s home and guest house averaged $1,080 per month last year -- in balmy Tennessee. His combined electrical and gas bills for 2006 came to nearly $30,000.
Thursday, April 12, 2007

Book Roundup

Books Robert Downes Self-publishing has become a cottage industry in Northern Michigan with a slew of do-it-yourself authors making their mark on the literary world.
Here’s an update on who’s doing what on the shelves of local bookstores, borrowing freely from the authors’ press releases:

Murder in the Keweenaw
By Harley Sachs

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Mark Staycer...Is he The Next Best Thing?

Music Robert Downes Check out the new Next Best Thing show on ABC this summer and you could see Traverse City’s own Mark Staycer, competing for a $100,000 prize in his role as John Lennon.
Staycer cautions that his participation on the new celebrity impersonator show is not a done deal yet; he’s a semi-finalist still waiting to hear from ABC. But he did pass his audition in Orlando a couple of weeks ago “with flying colors.”
And, he beat out about 150 other top-notch celebrity impersonators from all over the country.
“They had everyone there, from someone like me who does this for a living, to a guy from the GM Tech Center who does an imitation of Jack Nicholson,” he says of the audition.
Auditions were also held in Las Vegas and New York. If his participation in the show is a go, then Staycer could be in Hollywood, producing the first program as early as May 1.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

In Gear/ Cherry Capital Cycling Club

Features Robert Downes Members of the Cherry Capital Cycling Club have something to spin their wheels about this spring: the Traverse City-based club has a new website, a new racing division, a new bike map, and a pumped-up schedule of rides.
In early April, 35-40 members of the club kicked off the first Monday night ride of the season, streaming out Old Mission Peninsula in a rite of spring that dates back to the club’s formation in 1984.
Thursday, April 12, 2007

Reved up for Spring

Features Robert Downes The latest, greatest sport styles & technology
Bike paths and running trails across Northern Michigan are already filling up with weekend warriors, dreaming of summer.
What to wear? What to ride? What to do? Here are some ideas on the newest gear from sport specialists across the region:
Thursday, April 5, 2007

Our Front Row Seat on the War

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Thanks to the Traverse City Film Festival, some of us locals are a bit more tuned in to the value of documentary film. I dare say we’re even more in the know about documentaries now than cinema hipsters and film connoisseurs living in artsy places like SoHo or L.A.
With its focus on documentaries, the festival has brought us everything from the joys of being eaten by grizzly bears to the perils of obsessing over crossword puzzles.
And there‘s no better tool for understanding the war in Iraq.
Documentaries on the war take us into the hearts and minds of the soldiers and civilians caught in Iraq. Watch a few of these films and you’ll soon discover how miserable the mainstream TV network coverage is by comparison.
Thursday, April 5, 2007

Taking Action on Autism

Features Robert Downes When Carly Robinson’s son Isaak was diagnosed with autism while still a toddler, she put her life on hold to put her heart and soul into helping him overcome the mysterious disorder.
Today, Isaak Crawford, 6, is making good progress on his skills at communication and reaching out to others, thanks to years of participation in a Cadillac School District program for autistic kids and the efforts of his family.
And Carly, 29, is doing her best to keep him on track and to reach out to other parents, particularly this April, which is Autism Awareness Month. A waitress at Mackinaw Brewing Co. in downtown Traverse City, she’s selling T-shirts at the venue for the second year in a row, with all proceeds going to the Autism Society of America.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Protest songs score big on Neil Young‘s hit list

Music Robert Downes Two Northern Michigan songwriters are enjoying the thrill of a lifetime as their original tunes skyrocket up the list of a protest song website established by Neil Young.
The “Living With War” link at www.neilyoung.com features more than 1,500 protest songs, many of which have an anti-war theme. Players featured on the site range from the likes of J.J. Cale, Eric Clapton and Son Volt, to Northern Michigan’s own Adair Correll and Les Dalgliesh.
Last week, Correll’s song, “Georgie Porgie the Can Do Guy,” moved up to #26 on the site, while Dalgliesh’s song “The Cost of Comfort” moved up to #33.
“I’m not sure why all this is happening, but both Les and I moved up again,” says Correll, best known in the region for his work as a founder and facilitator of Songwriters in the Round. “I don’t think this will put us in the rich and famous category, but for a couple of unknowns it has been kind of fun.”
Thursday, March 29, 2007

Best local music

Music Robert Downes Best Blues Band: Bacon & Eggs
The Bacon & Eggs blues band have honed a reputation as one of Northern Michigan’s hardest-working groups over the past few years. They’re currently performing nearly every week at venues ranging from Harbor Springs, Charlevoix and Benzie County all the way to Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo.
The band performs Chicago-style blues, a genre with an urban edge. They’ve also distinguished themselves by playing outside the box with their own original songs and innovative take on the blues.
Bacon & Eggs have a sense of authenticity -- they’re not “blues bores” or poseurs. They have a crisp and confident laid-back style that lures in the listener and then springs a surprise with a dual-guitar attack that builds a sense of power and suspense. Nor do they neglect the classics -- late in a Bacon & Eggs show, you’ll find the band cutting loose with a rocking take on blues standards that lights up the crowd.
Recently, the band recorded their second album of 10 songs, “Out of Touch,” with all tunes written by Dan “Lumpy Jones” Chrystler, who performs on vocals and guitar. Rounding out the band are Donn Johnson on guitar, Freddie “G” Guetschow on drums, Matt Marsh on bass/vocals, and Phil “Mississippi” Coryell on harp. Keyboardist Tim Wire lent his talents to the new CD. Check them out at venues such as the Big Eazy in TC, the Flight Deck in Charlevoix, and the Villa Marine in Frankfort. For info, check out
Thursday, March 29, 2007

Fairchild is ready to rock

Music Robert Downes One of the original voices of rock in Northern Michigan is back at center stage with a new band and hopes of capturing a new generation of fans.
After several years of casting his fate with the Detroit rock scene, singer/guitarist Tim Callaghan is back in Traverse City with Fairchild, a new glam rock band that includes the talents of Aaron Wolinski on bass, Pete Birchler on guitar and Mike Dunbar on drums. The band plays its debut show at the Loading Dock in Traverse City this Saturday, March 31.
Why the name, Fairchild?
“It’s a tip of the hat to my son, Duncan,” Callaghan says of his seven-year-old. “He’s the fairest child in the land.”
Callaghan says the group will be performing cuts from an album he recorded in Detroit last year, some of which will be familiar to Northern Michigan listeners. “I’ve reformed the band here in Northern Michigan with new players and went for the ‘A’ list of musicians,” he notes.