Letters

Letters 11-24-2014

Dangerous Votes You voted for Dr. Dan. Thanks!Rep. Benishek failed to cosponsor H.R. 601. It stops subsidies for big oil companies. He failed to cosponsor H.R. 1084. There is an exemption for hydraulic fracturing written into the Safe Drinking Water Act. H.R. 1084. It would require the contents of fracking fluids to be publicly disclosed to protect the public health.

Solar Is The Answer There have been many excellent letters about the need for our region, state and nation to take action on climate change. Now there is a viable solution to this ever-growing problem: Solar energy is the future.

Real Minimum Wage In 1966, a first class stamp cost 5 cents and minimum wage was $1.25. Today, a first class stamp is 49 cents, so federal minimum wage should be $11.25.

Doesn’t Seem Warmer I enjoy the “environmentalists” twisting themselves into pretzels trying to convince us that it is getting warmer. Sure it is... 

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Thursday, March 31, 2005

Letters 3/31/05

Letters Various A matter of life
Terri Schiavo‘s case illustrates the fact that the pro life issue has many more dimensions than the protection of the unborn. In this instance we have conflicting views concerning the medical state of this woman.
Several physicians who have examined her as well as a court-appointed guardian have determined her to be in a persistent vegetative state, meaning that she has no cognitive mental function left. Yet her parents claim that she responds to them with strong vocalizations and real emotion which indicates that Terri does have some mental abilities left. Given that there is some doubt as to her true mental state, should we not, as President Bush stated, err on the side of life in this matter?
This is one case where I believe the pro life movement is right on target. I am generally pro choice and known as such and I am generally known as a Democrat and a liberal. However anyone who can look at this case objectively and who has any sense of morality and ethics would agree that Terri Schiavo deserves another hearing and another opportunity to live. There is no proof that she wouldn‘t want such measures to be taken on her behalf. Her husband claims to have had a conversation regarding this issue with Terri almost 20 years ago and yet there is no proof of such a claim other than his own statements. In addition, Terri’s former husband has a financial interest in her demise and is living with a common law wife. His life would be made much simpler if Terri were to completely pass away from the scene.
I am appalled at the statements of those who are so caught up in the politics of this case that they can‘t see the larger moral issue involved. Those with such a hatred for President Bush and the pro life movement generally cannot even make the grudging admission that there are legitimate instances where the right to life does exist. To those who are pro choice, and I still count myself among them, I pose this question. Where is the choice for Terri Schiavo in this matter? Are we to completely starve this woman to death absent some document like a living will? Are we to take the word of her husband who has an obvious motive in discontinuing care?
I think it a misnomer to call those who react in such a knee jerk fashion against Terri Shiavo in this case “liberal.” There is nothing liberal about starving someone to death. There is nothing liberal about a callous disregard for human life. In this particular instance the true “liberals” are those in the pro life movement who are doing everything they can to keep this woman alive.

Brian R. Morgan • Gaylord
 
Thursday, March 24, 2005

Letters 3/24/05

Letters Various The Golden Cat
Re: “Track of the Cat,“ 3/10/05:
On 07/21/90 - en route to be married the following day in Houghton Michigan - I was driving my beloved and I westbound on M-28. Our 1990 Honda CRX - a two seater - was approximately 15 minutes west of Seney. The northern border of Seney National Wildlife Refuge was on the left.
From the right, a golden cat lept from the underbrush beyond the emergency lane, landing on the yellow paint dividing the highway. After recoiling, the cat leapt again, landing beyond the emergency lane for eastbound, into the brush. This all occurred in the span of perhaps three seconds. The cat, when it landed, was six feet in front of the CRX.
My wife-to-be and I looked in a knowing way.

Geoffery Von Lau • Eastport
 
Thursday, March 17, 2005

Letters 3/17/05

Letters Various A no-win plan
On February 23rd, a Republican group outside Senator Rick Santorum’s Social Security town hall meeting in Philadelphia was caught on CNN chanting, “Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Social Security has got to go.”
The “Social Security has got to go” chants of Republicans show that for the Republican base, privatization is just the first step towards getting rid of Social Security. The Republican Party opposed Social Security when it started and has opposed its expansion.
George Bush’s plan would make massive cuts in Social Security benefits for future retirees in order to pay for private accounts. Privatization diverts Social Security taxes used to pay current benefits into private accounts.
Privatization means trillions of dollars of new national debt. Because current Social Security taxes are used to pay for private accounts taking that money out means huge deficits -- as high as $15 trillion over the next 40 years.
The Republican plan would turn a guaranteed benefit into a guaranteed gamble. The stock market is risky and can’t be predicted -- that could mean millions of people won’t have the money they need when they need it.
The only clear winner of this plan are the members of Wall Street who receive a commission on every dollar invested, ranging from 1-5%. With annual management fees, and up front commissions, the rich get richer, and the rest of us get stuck paying the bill.
Jeff Culver • TC
 
Thursday, March 10, 2005

Letters 3/10/05

Letters Various Why we despair
After reading Lisa Franseen’s recent Express article on environmental despair (3/3), I was left with the distinct sense that the only way I could honestly deal with my feelings was by immediately buying tickets to her upcoming seminar.
But as I am impecunious -- that is, I don’t have the money to purchase admission to seminars -- I was able to resist this impulse. So, I was forced to take up a most desperate alternative: thinking about what Franseen had written. This in spite of the fact that Franseen warns against thinking as a mere “distraction” from important business like attending seminars.
Reading Franseen’s experience with the disappearance of the field she used to play on as a child struck a chord with me, as I‘m sure it does with many readers. The feelings Franseen describes are quite like my feelings when I visit my old stomping grounds in New Jersey. I feel sad when I see the old corner store has closed, or that the freight rail lines where I used to play are now defunct, or that the parking lot I played stickball on is now fenced off, or that the warehouse I watched burn down as a child is now a brownfield redevelopment, or that there is no longer a junkyard. I get a tear in my eye when I see all these changes.
That lump has nothing to do with environmental degradation, though. The place I lived in New Jersey is considered by most people to be a wasteland. By any objective measure, the town I grew up in was an armpit, and today it’d be fair to say that it’s a slightly de-odorized armpit.
And in spite of the fact that many of the changes I see are actually improvements, I still get a lump in my throat. Why?
Because that old place that I knew and loved in spite of -- no, FOR -- its faults is lost to me forever. I wouldn’t care if they turned my junkyard into an institute that found the cure for cancer; I’m sad to see it gone.
These feelings do not constitute despair over the fate of the Lebanese guys who ran the corner store, or for a generation of Americans who will grow up not knowing the pleasure of hopping a freight, these feelings are about me, my sense of loss, and, ultimately, about my mortality. For I, too, will go away someday, to be missed by a few for a while and after a while forgotten about.
It’s easy when you have feelings like these to latch them onto some idea to give it a less selfish shape. You might condemn today’s youth, or question what the world is coming to, or be bitter about change or even tell yourself that what you really feel bad about is global environmental degradation.
But, if you dare to think and reflect a bit, you might see that your concerns are focused rather closer to home: what you really despair of is you. I’m not Ayn Rand: I don’t think we ought to celebrate our selfishness, but we ought to recognize it.
If you have any trouble seeing these feelings in yourself, I’ll be holding a seminar in the near future to help you rid yourself of avoidance strategies and finally come to grips with reality.

Oran Kelley • TC
 
Thursday, March 3, 2005

Letters 3/3/05

Letters Various So long, Hunter
Everyone in America, especially those in my generation, will always remember where we were when the World Trade Center fell, or how we felt when we saw the first eerie green, nightvision blips as yet another war in Iraq was getting underway. But only a select few will have long-lasting recollections burned into our memories of just where we were and what was happening when we first heard news of the death of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.
Though the suicide of one man is utterly incomparable to the horrible and inexplicable tragedies of terrorism and war, the event was still jarring in its own way to everyone who loved and admired Dr. Thompson and his body of work. I felt his loss almost as deeply as if I had known him personally, and so did many others. A truly unique, fearless and brutally honest voice is gone forever, and in today’s mess of amalgamated news and mass monoculture, it will be sorely missed.
Yet, I fear no lack of new, fresh, and independent writers, journalists, and artists of any and all kinds in this generation, for many of us learned well from those iconoclasts who came before us, and that can never be obscured by the cheap whitewash of spiritless pop culture, anti-intellectualism or novelty political concepts like “compassionate conservatism.”
There’s not much else I can say in dedication to the good doctor that hasn’t already been said, except a Southern-gentlemanly “Good-bye, and thank you very much.”

E. J. Lepke • TC
 
Monday, February 21, 2005

Letters 2/21/05

Letters Various Women in Black
Thank you for your excellent coverage of WOMEN OF PEACE (Jan. 31-Feb 6). There are now hundreds of groups throughouth the United States and the world like those in your story. The Women in Black demonstrations that began in Jerusalem, Israel in 1988 against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza had its ups and downs over the years, but has now grown to a grass-roots movement of women (and men) who know that violence only begets more violence and the only hope for peace is justice. I trust the Friday demonstrations will grow as terror worsens.
Thank you also for the article about Randy Bond during the previous week. I was with Randy and Kay Bond in 1995 in Hebron a few month after the beginning of the Christian Peace Maker Teams were invited by the mayor to provide a peace presence there, the only city in the West Bank where Israeli settlers were permitted inside the city limits, claiming the city was theirs. The residents have suffered much from the occupation and are eager for some real signs of peace.

Margaret Purchase • Pleasant Hill, TN
 
Thursday, February 17, 2005

Letters 2/17/05

Letters Various A body bearer‘s tale
Two of the four years I was in the service I was stationed at a U.S. Naval Station in Washington D.C. in the Navy’s Ceremonial Guard unit.
After three months of regular boot camp we had three more months of boot camp where we were instructed of our duties at the State Department, Pentagon, White House and Arlington National Cemetery. Over 90% of my time was spent practicing and being a body bearer for funerals at Arlington.
All movement of the six body bearers had to be in unison. We practiced folding burial flags hundreds of times. The perfect flag was four stars up, no red showing.
From 1969-1971 I was a body bearer in well over 1,000 funerals at Arlington. I witnessed families in pain where, unfortunately, our administration seems to have a more abstract view of these families‘ losses.
There is one constant from the Revolutionary War, Civil War, WWI, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, and now the Iraq War. Soldiers died and their families are left with a grief that changes their lives forever. Empty rhetoric and words of dubious sincerity will not help these families. In all war the pain is the same.
Most funerals at Arlington are conducted in a somber and dignified manner. Then there are others that are much more emotional and unpredictable.
These funerals are generally for service men killed in action. The families are distraught and in pain, almost zombie like.
In one funeral, we were carrying the casket out of the Arlington Chapel, down the stairs to a horse-drawn caisson when the widow dove onto the casket, screaming for her husband. All we could do was stop, try not to lose the casket and wait for our ushers and family members to remove this poor woman. We put the flag back and we continued through the service.
At the grave sites, six of us stand, holding the flag over the casket. There is the priest and family that encircle us. The first row of mourners is only a foot or two away from us (they are very close). You can hear them try to console those who can’t be consoled. You see a boy sitting ramrod straight, trying to be brave for his father, but he seems to be melting around the edges. His sister has already melted into a lump of grief in her mother’s lap.
One time during a service a little boy moved up next to me half under the flag with his hands on the casket talking to his “daddy” while unconsciously bumping my leg. ‘
These kinds of funeral made focusing on our job more difficult. After the priest is finished he steps back, which is a signal for the firing squad to begin.
At the first volley most of the mourners jump, because it is quite loud. After the third volley “Taps” begins and we fold the flag. This is also when families know this is the end, the last time they’ll be with their loved ones.
After the flag is folded the head body bearer gives the flag to an officer who in turn presents it to the widow or another member of the family.
While the officer gives the “on behalf of a grateful nation speech” the head body bearer gives a quiet command. We turn in unison and march slowly back to the bus to await the next funeral.
This current war has produced nearly 1,200 burial flags. Flags that will never wave on porch or pole. Flags that have become unwanted family heirlooms, with their four stars up, no red showing.

Robert Fullerton • Levering
 
Thursday, February 10, 2005

Letters 2/10/05

Letters Various Buy diamonds wisely
As we approach Valentines Day, and as countless couples prepare to celebrate anniversaries or get engaged, no doubt, diamonds are on the mind of many. Before you purchase a diamond, however, be sure to educate yourself on how diamonds may be linked to human rights abuses in some areas of the world.
In Sierra Leone, a country in west Africa, for example, an armed group called the Revolutionary United Front has terrorized the local population for the past decade. They’ve killed, raped and abducted over the diamonds mined in that country - and their trademark is cutting of the limbs and body parts of men, women, children and even babies. The sale of these “blood” or “conflict” diamonds funds their reign of terror with hundreds of millions of dollars each year. And while I’m not trying to play the Al Quaeda card, there are claims that there may even be a link to this group.
Ineffective regulations allow these blood diamonds to enter the world market. Since America purchases 65% of the world’s diamonds, we must bring it upon ourselves to change the diamond industry. Here’s what we can do:
(1) Ask your jeweler about the “Fifth C” - Conflict. Ask them if they have a policy in place to prevent selling conflict diamonds, and if so, what is the policy and is it in writing? Has the company informed its suppliers that it requires a warranty showing that the diamond is conflict free? If so, request to see a sample of a letter written to a supplier and a sample of a warranty provided by a supplier on an invoice. And finally, is the jeweler keeping records of the warranties and having these records verified as part of its financial auditing process?
The diamond industry has set up a system of self-regulation and it’s our job to ensure that they are following up on their promises. Under the self-regulation you are entitled to certification through the system of warranties, so be sure to ask.
(2) Tell our members of Congress to support legislation that bans the sale of conflict diamonds and takes a proactive role in monitoring the diamond industry.
Not all diamonds are conflict diamonds. As Amnesty International points out
(www.amnestyusa.org), boycotting diamonds altogether isn’t the answer, as there are countries in which there are no human rights abuses that depend on the sale of diamonds for their economies. But the more we influence the diamond industry to live up to their promises, and the more we encourage action on the U.S. government’s part, the more soundly we can all sleep knowing that we’re doing our part.

Joan O’Neill • TC
 
Thursday, February 3, 2005

Letters 2/3/05

Letters Various Social Security: the truth
I hope that I’m not the only one suspicious about the recent wave of letters defending the Social Security system in our local papers. I’ve found that many are reprinted from web sites of lobbying groups. I don’t completely understand why they are using scare tactics aimed at the elderly except that it might be self-serving to cause a panic.
The truth about the Social Security situation is simple. It’s a pyramid scheme that would be illegal if it were not run by the government. Just like all the budget surpluses that suddenly disappeared, it’s all just smoke and mirrors. The federal government doesn‘t follow Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). Instead it runs on a cash basis. In essence, it immediately spends every dollar it takes in. It invests nothing for the future. There are no federal bank accounts where social security taxes earn interest and wait to be collected.
Predictions about the future viability of Social Security are, at best, wild guesses.
But here are some facts. Each year the ratio of people paying into the system as compared to collecting from it declines. People are living longer and collecting benefits longer. The cost to care for the elderly is increasing far faster than the rate of inflation and the growth of the GNP.
Social Security was never intended to be a complete retirement plan. It was to supplement individual’s pensions and savings. Even with it’s ups and downs, the stock market is a tangible investment.
Putting money into a simple savings account does more to help our economy grow than letting the government spend tomorrow’s dollars today. We need to fulfill our obligations to seniors but we need to look ahead and design a system that’s built on equity and not wishful thinking.

Charles Russell • Willamsburg
 
Thursday, January 27, 2005

Letters 1/27/05

Letters Various Bush: just a figurehead
It appears that many people have found a scapegoat for this country’s ills and his name is George W. Bush. Our current president my be callous, indifferent, and have sub-par intelligence, but I doubt very much that he is personally responsible for any policy decision this government makes (other than signing his name on the dotted line). W. can’t keep up with his tele-prompter, do you really think the G.O.P. will let him be responsible for legislation?
George W. Bush is a figurehead. He is only the face that Republicans put on their agenda. Bush has proven his figurehead status repeatedly through his actions. He sat in a Florida classroom reading “My Pet Goat” as the second tower of the World Trade Center collapsed. If W. was a man of responsibility, he would have sprang into action.
There was the infamous photo-op in which W. landed on an aircraft carrier in full fightgear, smiling broadly with a “Mission Accomplished” banner in the background. A man with vision would have turned down the stunt, knowing full well that winning one battle does not mean the end of a war. (Perhaps if Bush had been in Vietnam rather than Texas during that conflict, he would have a better understanding of war.)
There are the photographs showing the receiver in Bush’s back during the first debate. W. is not trusted by his own people to provide answers during a debate and, judging by the looks of disgust he made during that debate, they have ample reason for distrusting him. The excuses the G.O.P. came up with for that bulge show a lack of respect for the American people. The Administration claimed that the bulge was an unsightly fold caused by poor dry-cleaning. If you believe that, look up the pictures on the Internet and see for yourself. Obviously, this Administration does not believe that
you know how.
 
Thursday, January 20, 2005

Letters 1/20/05

Letters Various One-sided view
Defenders of militant Zionism like Joel Weberman (letter, 12/23/04) draw from a quiver full of arrows to smite anyone who dares support the rights of Palestinians to a free and independent nation of their own. One arrow in the quiver charges that critics of Israeli state policies are anti-Semitic (forgetting that Palestinians themselves are also Semites). Another argues that those who support Palestinian self-determination fail to acknowledge the suffering of Jews during the Holocaust (ignoring the fact that Palestinians shouldn’t be made to suffer for what Europeans did to Europeans.). A third arrow -- directed at Jews who criticize Israeli/U.S. policies and actions against Palestinians (see jewishvoiceforpeace.com, among many Jewish peace and solidarity organizations) -- castigates Jews for being “self hating.” A fourth arrow -- the one that Weberman slings at letter-writer Mary Heffron -- is the “you need a history lesson, dearie” response.
Unleashing these arrows stifles honest and open-minded efforts to understand and support the rights of Palestinians and Israelis in the Middle East. Forget about reading, studying, discussing; the answers are clear and unassailable. Weberman evidently received his history lessons on tablets of stone. Thus, he’s absolutely certain that what most of the rest of the world sees as an Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian people is no such thing. There’s no hope of convincing him otherwise... and it’s not worth trying.
Northern Express readers who wish to learn more about how “history” has been employed to drive political agendas such as Weberman’s are encouraged to read “Lies My Teacher Told Me,“ by James Loewen (New Press, 1995), and “History Lessons: How Textbooks from around the World Portray U.S. History“ by Dana Lindaman and Kyle War (New Press, 2004). Check the website of MidEast: Just Peace for other resources and local educational events: www.mideastjustpeace.org.

Tom Fenton • Cedar
 
Thursday, January 13, 2005

Letters 1/13/05

Letters Various Confidence builder?
Mr. Bush urges us to have “full confidence” in his handling of Social Security. He says it’s broke, but it isn’t, say the experts. So maybe the real issue here is “full confidence,” not economics.
Let’s parse “full confidence” in the Bush panoply of diction, using the historical method. (Following Dana Milbank, Washington Post.)
Iraq czar Paul Bremer had Mr. Bush’s “full confidence,” but unfortunately admitted he needed more troops--a no no-- after dissolving the Iraqi army. Mr. Ashcroft enjoyed the “full confidence” of Mr. Bush before putting his foot on the slippery slope. And Mr. Tenet had the “full confidence” of Mr. Bush as he led him wittingly down the “slam dunk” path. Bush was “fully confident” in our relations with Spain--before Spain withdrew. “We have “full confidence” in his (Kerik’s) integrity” intoned Mr. McClellan, press secretary. McClellan should have updated his resume in June 2003 when Bush said: “I’ve got “full confidence” in my new press secretary.” Now he has “high confidence” in Mr. Rumsfeld...
And so, it should afford some relief to Mr. Gonzales, candidate for Ashcroft‘s replacement, that Mr. Bush has not yet given him the embellishment of “full confidence.” This in spite of his calling the Geneva Convention and International Law “quaint” and giving a big “okay” to torturing prisoners.
It appears that “full confidence” is really another example of “Bushphemism,” a highly virulent form of euphemism.
So, death in Iraq is the “folded flag” given to relatives. Borrowing trillions for Social Security is “upfront transition financing.” Missing weapons of mass destruction are now “weapons of mass destruction program related activities.” Capping lawsuits is “reducing lawsuit abuse.” Eliminating right to choice becomes “a culture of life.” Drilling in ANWR is part of “a comprehensive energy plan.”
Got “confidence”?

Robert E. Marshall • Lake Leelanau
 
Thursday, January 6, 2005

Letters 1/6/05

Letters Various Cat Stevens is no terrorist
Re: your quote in the 12/30 issue: “‘Wild For You‘ covers pop gems by the likes of James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, and noted terrorist Cat Stevens.“
I suppose Ross Boissoneau considered that referring to Cat Stevens as a noted peace activist wouldn’t have the same effect of grabbing the readers attention. Well, it worked! You got my attention Ross! Unfortunately, what you may not have considered is that you might get the attention of Stevens’ legal counsel as well. Because, even if the comment was written in jest, I think Stevens, now known as Yusuf Islam (not Youssouf Islam as was the spelling of the name on the no-fly list that prompted Homeland Security to remove the former pop-star from the Washington-bound flight in the first place), might consider it libelous. At least two British papers (The Sun and The Sunday Times) have printed apologies and retractions for reports alleging that Islam was involved with and/or supported terrorist activities.
For the record, on the Larry King show, when asked about the possibility that funds from his charity may have gotten into the hands of terrorist organizations, Islam said: “We’re looking for support. So those kind of things we’re very careful about. What happens sometimes -- even the Red Cross, UNICEF, the World Bank, must have been party to something illicit, but it never knew about it. It’s impossible for certain things, I suppose, not to happen, but that’s when you’re in the business of giving charity you can’t let that be a hindrance to making sure -- trying to make sure that the people who do need it get it.” (quote taken from the official Larry King Live CNN.com transcript Oct 7, 2004)
Islam was awarded the Man for Peace Award by the Gorbachev Foundation in November for his “dedication to promoting peace and condemning terrorism” and for the work of his charity “Small Kindness” which provides emergency aid and humanitarian relief in countries including Bosnia, Kosova, Albania and Iraq that have been or continue to be affected by war, poverty and natural disasters.
Need I mention he donated the royalties of his four CD boxed set release to the 9/11 Fund? His efforts to educate Muslim children, especially girls? That he opened a medical centre in Johannesburg, South Africa for AIDS patients? Or that the royalties from his current release in the UK (a cover of his ‘70s song “Father and Son,“ recorded by Ronan Keating and featuring Islam) are going to charity as well.
Noted terrorist? You may want to prepare a retraction.

S. Boyd • Hamilton, Ontario Canada
 
Thursday, December 30, 2004

Letters 12/30/04

Letters Various Man of the Year
As President Bush presides over 60 new Iraqi war dead and 22 Americans, Time Magazine makes him man of the year.
Who is Bush, really? He’s the man who, by setting his sights on Iran, leaves no doubt he desires total war against the Muslim world. Muslims will respond in kind, allowing Bush to hem in civil rights, allowing him to stand aside and smirk while this proud nation marches towards a police state with their hands over their hearts. Bush is more than man of the year. He’ll be remembered as the sneak who brought down history’s most noble democracy by a series of bald-faced lies.

Mark Yokum • via email
 
Thursday, December 16, 2004

Letter 12/16/04

Letters Various Supplements & savings
As one of the many Americans who uses dietary supplements to benefit my health, I am dismayed when I see good news about these products minimized or ignored in the news media.
That‘s why I‘m calling your attention to a new study that links dietary supplements to improved health and health care savings.
The study, which was conducted by the Lewin Group, shows that daily use of calcium would prevent 734,000 hip fractures and save $13.9 billion in health care costs over the next five years. Daily use of folic acid by women would prevent 600 cases of neural tube birth defects yearly, saving $1.3 billion in lifetime medical costs over five years. That’s a total savings of over $15 billion if these simple healthy tips can be implemented.
You can read more about these supplements, and the other three that were studied -- omega-3 fatty acids, Glucosamine and saw palmetto -- at www.supplementinfo.org.
For a number of reasons, there‘s a health care crisis in this country today that needs a solution. I urge you not to ignore information like this study that shows how dietary supplements can play a big role in solving that crisis.

Wade L. Kelso • Harbor Springs
 
 
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