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- November 30th, 2009
Escape from Afghanistan
The best way to get rid of a good idea is to give it to a committee that never meets.
Some people are growing impatient with President Obama for not making a decision about sending more troops to Afghanistan. What he’s doing is waiting for the whole idea of having troops there to die on the vine, and for good reason.
There is no definition of victory in Afghanistan. We are not going to convert Afghans to Christianity or turn them into Republicans and Democrats. An authority on what it would take for Karzai to equip and maintain a militia to hold onto power in the country estimates it would cost four billion a year, while the entire gross national product of the country is only one billion. It is not going to happen.
The Taliban are not the enemy of the
United States, though we are converting them fast to hate us. Our enemy is al Qaeda, an invisible, international group of fanatic terrorists with no borders and no uniforms. The Soviets had 300,000 troops in Afghanistan and lost. The country has been the death of empires that tried to subdue those fighting folks. You don’t go to bed with rattlesnakes.
So what’s the exist strategy? Simple: convene a conference of all countries that have their troops there and admit that the Taliban versus Karzai’s government is an internal conflict and none of our business. The U.S. cannot simply back out unilaterally without looking like a bunch of quitters and wimps, but if the consensus of the countries contributing troops is that there is no definition of victory, shutting down the effort is smart.
Sure, it will leave Karzai twisting in the wind, which he surely will at the end of a rope when the Taliban retake control of their country but remember: it is their country. We are interlopers, invaders, even crusaders if you will. We can offer Mr. Karzai asylum to save his hide, but that’s just a small factor in the end game.
With half of our own children dependent on food stamps and millions unemployed we have no business pumping money into a corrupt government where everyone steals and we stand to gain nothing but enemies whose culture believes in revenge, not reconciliation.
Keep on waiting, President Obama. Let the committee decide.

Harley Sachs • Houghton, MI

Huntin‘ camp blues
Almost 50 years ago a couple of us put together a 12‘x16‘ portable hunting shack using 4‘x8‘ sections with a tubing framed tarp roof. For several years we took it up to the U.P. and set up a deer camp. Made lots of precious memories.
Then it got put up in the barn for several years until about 10 years ago we got it out and set up the first “Old Farts Deer Camp” up by Devils Creek. We have set it up every year since but have moved it around to different sites. Each time being very careful to leave the site in better shape than we found it.
Well this year we had a new experience. We all know about the old 15-day rule for camp sites on State Property that was originally put in place so that the sites would be promptly cleaned up after use and not left from year to year. We set the camp up this year on November 1. It takes a little longer now than it used to. Several of us have passed on and several of us aren’t much help anymore (we all grew up here). On November 15 a young DNR officer comes to camp and tells us that our 15 days is up and that we have to move out. We tried to talk some common sense into him but without any luck.
Today our camp has been moved a couple miles and set up again but we will never feel quite the same about our DNR. We have always questioned their methods but like most law abiding citizens have tolerated them. Do you remember the old “game warden” who would actually make major decisions like “they ain’t botherin’ nobody --- let’s leave em alone”?
Don’t you think that in these days of “aging government” that it’s time for us to put all of our laws to the “common sense test”? There are laws against almost everything today and new ones made every day. But is one ever taken off the books? Our freedoms are slowly being taken away from us. Isn’t it time to use some common sense and do our duty as a citizen and not necessarily question authority, but at least question where it comes from?

Walt Lund • Kalkaska

Life in the balance
Anne Stanton asks Representative Stupak if his bill is not in effect trading the lives of 18,000-plus citizens who die from lack of health care each year for the lives of the unborn (re: “Stupak‘s Risky Strategy,” 11/17). She emphasizes her point by pointing out that 41 representatives have signed a letter stating their intent to vote against the bill if the Stupak language is included.
How would it not be equally fair, then, to ask if those 41 representatives are not willing to trade those 18,000 lives for the premise of having taxpayers pay for the termination of the lives of untold thousands of the unborn?

John M. Casteel • TC

Fresh Food clarification
I was pleased to see an article spotlighting Sandra Svec and the Community Meals program by Rick Coates in the Northern Express. Sandra works tirelessly in our community to serve people in need and she deserves recognition for her work. However, I would like to make one correction in the article. The Fresh Food Partnership is a partnership of local non-profit organizations that work with the Northwest Food Coalition and the region’s food pantries. The caption for the picture of Sandra states that farmers “come from all over” to donate items. Actually, the produce at the monthly meetings, as well as the produce we deliver to the pantries is purchased from the farmers and donated to the pantry representatives by the Fresh Food Partnership.
The Fresh Food Partnership raises money through donations, gifts and grants to purchase food at fair market value from local farms, giving them direct financial support. In this way, we assure that people in need have high-quality, fresh produce to eat and we support the success of local agriculture. While many farmers also provide generous donations to the community through our program, that is not our primary source of produce.
In short, our efforts go beyond simply quelling hunger. We want to assure that people in emergency situations receive locally grown fresh foods that support healthy living. We also believe in reinvesting dollars in the Grand Traverse region and thereby strengthening the area’s agricultural economy. Your readers can visit our website at to learn more about what we do in our community.

Dianne Navarro, RN • Program Coordinator, Fresh Food Partnership

(The photo caption was the error of the editor and not Rick Coates. -- ed.)

Slick idea: recycled oil
Thank you for your recent article on re-refined oil (“Pretty Slick,” 11/23). With all the discussion about peak oil, climate change, and dependence on foreign oil, this is truly a product whose time has come.
Combined with alternative energy sources, re-refined oil can save this country millions of gallons of imported oil every year. When one considers that it takes 42 gallons of crude oil to produce what can be produced from one gallon of used oil, the annual refinery production of approximately 22 million gallons with about a 76% yield of lubricant base stocks has the potential of saving 702,240,000 gallons of crude oil every year.
I encourage everyone to use re-refined oil. I do. If it is not convenient to visit the locations mentioned in your article, ask your current service provider to carry it.

John S. Owsley • Empire

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