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Letters 2/16/09

- February 16th, 2009
The need for nudists
On my local NPR station in Ann
Arbor, I heard a report that attendance at the Sleeping Bears Dunes National Lakeshore had been down considerably this past summer. This was blamed on the economy.
Not considered was the effect of the suppression by the park authority of nudism on Otter Creek Beach. I know a lot of naturists (aka nudists) who have given up going to Empire because of the harassment by park authorities on this traditional clothing-optional beach.
A public nude beach is a big tourist attraction. Haulover Beach near Miami (Florida), an official nude beach run by Dade County, is the most used park in the Dade County Parks system and generates major dollars for the parks and the community.
Nude beaches are legal in Michigan if the local community agrees to it. Many people who live in Leelanau and Grand Traverse counties enjoy skinny-dipping and nude sunbathing; but they are not
organized. What is needed is a local naturist group to work with the local governments to create an official, clothing-
optional beach. Anyone interested in
doing so can find an article on creating a naturist group on the website,
A nude beach is good for the economy and good for personal freedom!

Matthew Kerwin • Chelsea

Israel‘s infamy
I read January 19-25’s letters with disbelief. I thought that the lack of cheerleading for Israel’s latest collective punishment of civilians in the local letters pages meant that the Israel-first, Israel-at-any-cost folks were feeling conflicted enough to at least keep silent about hundreds of men, women, and children in an open-air prison being blown to bits by some nasty new weaponry being tested in Gaza so Israel can sell that technology to a fearful world. But no. The mythmakers are well here too.
Israel violated the latest cease-fire by assassinating six people on November 4, after blockading the Gaza Strip by land, air, and sea so that the people were denied food, medicine, and everything else for almost two years. This was their punishment for democratically electing Hamas, which is not as corrupt and discredited as the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank.
Israel’s response to Palestinian moderation has been to build the Apartheid Wall, to steal land and water, to build checkpoints and Israeli-only roads that criss-cross the landscape, stealing Palestinians’ time and daily lives, as it has for more than 40 years--all with America’s blessing and billions in our tax dollars. Wouldn’t you resist if you were Palestinian? Wouldn’t anyone?
I am sure Hamas extends its apologies to Israel for not setting up a clearly-marked military installation and then putting its members there for them to more easily identify and bomb. Hamas members live in their communities, with their families, in the most densely populated place on earth. Perhaps the fact that Israel’s smart weapons couldn’t tell the difference between a civilian and a militant meant that Israel, the one with all the power, ought to have found another way.
But Israel isn’t very interested in peace, contrary to its public relations. See what the Israeli peace movement says at

Bill Watson • TC

Auto import disaster
Recently I read where the United States has increased the number of vehicles that South Korea can export to us from 640,000 to 660,000 units. Let me try to put that number in perspective.
An auto assembly plant, on average, produces 60 cars per hour, depending on the type of vehicle. 60 vehicles per hour multiplied by two eight -hour shifts equals 960 vehicles per day. Multiply that figure by an average of 230 working days per year equals 220,800 vehicles per year. That means, three assembly plants would be required to produce 662,400 vehicles per year. Using a simple average of 2,000 employees to run a plant means it would take 6,000 people to run those three plants.
In addition to those 6,000 assembly workers, there are hundreds of support people needed, including to name a few, design staff, engineers, payroll and benefits employees, and many more. Add to that figure the numerous auto suppliers, steel plants, job shops, tool and die workers and local construction workers. And then there are all the neighborhood people that benefit from auto plants. Places like gas stations, mom and pop stores, insurance companies, and on and on.
One of the biggest benefits that are lost, when three auto plants are closed because of imports is, the loss of tax revenue in all those states and communities where autos are built. Although perhaps, the biggest loss is, the loss of all those good paying manufacturing jobs that we hear so much about. And remember, not one manufacturing tax revenue dollar is generated from imports. And Michigan is one of the biggest losers.
The article I read also said that Japan is not allowing any vehicles from South Korea to be imported into their country. Protectionism? Or is it self preservation and they’re just smarter than we are?!

Ben Lillie • Retired GM employee

Everyday heroism
Hey, George: good column in the 2/2 edition (Random Thoughts: “Coming Together“). “My dad’s family took in two children left homeless by the sudden death of a co-worker.” This is heroism of the highest order, isn’t it?
The other day on the radio there was a report on a couple who merged their family--his kids, her kids--and then took in four homeless brothers who rode on the schoolbus she drove. Stunning. These people always leave me feeling completely inadequate.
We’re always bombarded with images of celebrities and urged to emulate and envy them. But the really deserving folks are the ones who step up when a need presents itself and who take on the burden. Most of them don’t make much noise, so we just don’t notice.
On the wall next to my desk, I’ve taped two articles about Liviu Librescu, the professor at Virginia Tech who blocked the classroom door with his body while his students escaped during the mass shootings there. He was 76, a Holocaust survivor, a father and grandfather, a PhD. He could have leaped out the window first, or hidden under the desk, or played dead. But he didn’t.
We’re surrounded by people of genuine heroism and courage, not all of it well known. Michael Moore brought in the Ely Landau documentary on Martin Luther King Jr. The MLK story is one of stunning heroism, of course, but what really struck me was the images of the ordinary people in the meetings at their churches, people of limited financial resources who had a lot at risk but who joined in anyway. That was a dark and threatening time and they rose to the occasion in their many ways.
Most of us never have to face situations in which we are called on to demonstrate heroism (or not). Aren’t we lucky? Seeing your article, though, and reading others from time to time, I am reminded what a redeeming quality it is. It’s what gives me hope for human beings. Keep reminding us of these unseen acts of sacrifice.

Chris Campbell • via email

Dire predictions
It would be nice to believe in all of the fantasies that have been written about in the Express for months now (most of them by Robert Downes), however, reality dictates that it would behoove us to batten down the hatches and prepare for the responses that Peak Oil is demanding of us (stagnating and ultimately shrinking economy).
Your pep talk firmly enters the territory of “delusion.” What you may or may not know is that global oil production peaked three years ago. Oil is the lifeblood for our global industrial civilization. The economy is based on an unending availability of cheap fossil fuels. That dependence is now threatened. Look at the economy. Look around you. It’s pretty easy to follow.
Regarding a more recent piece about “renewable energy,” I am here to inform you and others that these technologies all rely on cheap fossil fuel for their experiments to be conducted. The materials that solar panels and wind turbines are made from need to be mined, fabricated, manufactured, and transported, and that whole chain of events relies 100 percent on cheap fossil fuels.
Another point that you and others ignore or are unaware of is the current state of our national grid. It is in dire need of investment, to a cost that simply cannot be covered. Blackouts (and brownouts) are becoming more common and lasting longer. And you get excited about desperate entrepreneurial claims to add more demand in the form of electric cars? Please note that each car—whether ultimately running on electricity or gasoline--still requires 50 to 90 barrels of oil to manufacture.
I do appreciate the apparently unintentional irony in your asking--again and again, “Who’s going to pay for it?” Indeed, who in their right mind would? And, who can? The car-based lifestyle is OVER. Who can even afford cars anymore? And why are so few questioning Obama’s infrastructure fantasies?
There is no need to “get our share,” Robert. We already have it. We have a wonderful food-growing region, strong enough winters to keep most folks out, and plenty of fresh water. The future of transportation? Horse, mule and boat (sail or row).
If Detroit wants to make itself relevant again, it needs to switch its manufacturing focus to TRAINS (and boats?). The future of our economy? Barter. The future of employment? Each of our backs and our hands, making things with hand tools. The future of energy? The amount of food we and our animals are able to grow and consume locally without the benefit--or detriment--of fertilizers and pesticides. The future of communication? Face to face.
I hope most folks do not share the level of denial I see printed each week in the Express (doom and gloom vs. don’t worry—be happy). What we need now--more than ever is a level of determination, steadfastness, and flexibility to the unending barrage of changes that are coming our way.

Stuart Kunkle • TC

(Thanks Stuart, I prefer optimism, but I‘ll be sure to toot the horn on my made-in-America electric car when I see you out riding your mule. -- R.D.)

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