April 7, 2020

Trouble Near and Far

By Stephen Tuttle | Aug. 19, 2017

This is not so good. There is trouble both near and far. Let's start with near.

The nurses at Munson Medical Center voted to unionize. Or not. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has questioned 81 ballots, a potential difference-maker in what was a 50-vote victory margin for the pro-union side. Union organizers also have filed a complaint with the NLRB, claiming Munson unfairly campaigned for the “no” side. We're told it could take months to resolve both issues. 

We in Grand Traverse County have a new county administrator, or at least we have chosen one. Vicki Uppal, late of Washington County, Mississippi, was approved on a 4–3 vote, not exactly a ringing endorsement. A salary was negotiated, to which she agreed, only to have board members object. So the salary and benefits were reduced and approved — you guessed it — on a 4–3 vote. 

One of the opposing commissioners, Dan Lathrop, said he would do all he could to support her but, “I really don't think she's qualified for this. I hope she proves me wrong.” Maybe he could start supporting her by not badmouthing her. Welcome to Grand Traverse County, Ms. Uppal.  

Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) has discovered it doesn't own all of Thirlby Field, the City of Traverse City has discovered it still can't afford to build a third parking deck, TCAPS has sold the vacant lot adjacent to Thirlby Field to a developer who plans to build 12 homes starting at $450,000, the Grand Traverse County is likely to be sued because of an inmate suicide at the jail, and Kalkaska still has a village president who wants to kill an entire religion.  

Back in Washington, the bombast contest between President Donald Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong-un has continued apace. Trump is upset because the megalomaniacal pipsqueak won't do what he's told. So, as is Trump's wont, he threatens military action consisting of “fire and fury.” Kim responds by threatening to lob missiles at Guam. 

It's incredibly unlikely Trump's threats will have any more impact than did those of President George W. Bush or President Barack Obama. For more than half a century, North Koreans have been brainwashed by three generations of delusional dictators into believing the United States is on the verge of invading, so Trump's rhetoric feeds their national paranoia. Plus, they aren't actually likely to attack us. 

So far, it's just a schoolyard bark-off between competing bullies. 

Not content to be involved just in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and threatening action in North Korea, Trump also raised the specter of military intervention in Venezuela. Yes, Venezuela. 

Venezuela is a mess. Led by Nicolas Maduro, a “populist” who turned out to be a Marxist dictator in the Hugo Chavez mold, the oil-dependent Venezuelan economy has cratered. It has triple-digit — and sometimes quadruple-digit — inflation, and regular, violent civil unrest.

Maduro recently pushed through a fraudulent plebiscite amending the country’s constitution, giving him the authority to remove all the democratically elected members of its legislature and replace them with his appointees. More riots ensued. 

Where the threat to our national security comes into play isn't apparent. Maybe it's because Maduro's son threatened to “come to New York with rifles” and “take over the White House.” He might need a little history lesson.  

We expected a quicker response from the president to the horrifying ugliness that unfolded in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Using the planned removal of a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee as their excuse, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and others traveling the same road of hatred showed up to protest. They hate minorities, immigrants, Jews, women, and clearly, themselves. Counter-protesters also showed up, and the inevitable violence ensued. One neo-Nazi decided to drive his car into a group of counter-demonstrators, killing one and injuring 19. 

Trump waited 48 hours to denounce, by name, the groups responsible. Then he decided to blame “both sides,” implying a moral equivalence that did not exist; only one side was wearing hoods and carrying flags with swastikas.

(Maybe somebody should point out to these folks the Nazi's notion of Aryan supremacy was a lie; they lost. And the South using state's rights as their excuse to continue slavery was a lie; they lost, too.) 

Trump's unwillingness to criticize those in the most extreme far right hate groups, a pattern that began early in his campaign, is deeply troubling.  

Meanwhile, Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into all things connecting the Trump team and Russia is proceeding no matter how many times the White House calls it a witch hunt. A grand jury has been impaneled, and it appears former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is the first in the crosshairs. His closest circle of advisors have wisely obtained private legal counsel, and on we go.





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