"He’s not doing it to us, M’ Lord, so we don’t care”

There are greater threats to national security, Mr. President, than 20,000 hippies giving the forest a collective hug.

From the June 29 edition of the DenverPost.com


""We're not picking on innocent people," said Denise Ottaviano, a U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman who came to Steamboat Springs from Washington as part of the task force. "Everyone there is part of an illegal gathering."

“Hundreds of those ticketed are set to appear before a federal magistrate in a makeshift courtroom today. The magistrate, manning the bench in a firehouse a few miles from the gathering site, could impose up to a $5,000 fine and six months of jail time on each defendant.”


"Federal officials contend the gathering is being held illegally, and officers last week began issuing citations to dozens of participants."

"The civil case, filed Tuesday by Denver attorney David Lane, argues that closed hearings on those citations being held in a nearby firehouse violate the Sixth Amendment".

US constitution, 1st Amendment

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

US Constitution 6th amendment

"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence."

Can someone explain to me what constitutes an “illegal gathering” in this country?

From an e-mail circulating on the subject

"The Bush Administration has spent millions of dollars trying to stop the Rainbow Gatherings. They are enforcing a 'Noncommercial Group Use' permit regulation that is impossible for unaffiliated individuals to comply with. 36 CFR 251.54 They require that that someone sign as an agent for a fictional group entity named as permit Holder -- which then must assume full liability from the Government and bind participants vicariously to its terms."

"By the creed of the gatherings, no one can appoint themselves to such a position. More importantly, such an ad hoc gathering has no legal capacity to designate agents or act as a group party in any way."

So there is the “legal” issue. Do I need to re-quote the constitution? I haven’t tracked down the law in question to verify its contents, but it would appear to be a pro-forma permit requirement of little real consequence… until now.

Last tally I heard was that over 500 people had been ticketed and that those ticketed were herded into makeshift detention centers and tried in a local fire station without adequate legal representation.

This sort of unwarranted and unnecessary conflict does nothing to quell the very real fears of American citizens that their president is abusing his power.

What possible threat does a bunch of tree hugging hippies pose to national security? If they pose no threat to national security, why are we spending a bazillion dollars arresting them?

A bunch of hippies is going to look after the forest in the same way that a bunch of devout Catholics will be respectful of St Peter’s Basillica. Of all citizens who gather in the forest in summer, these are the ones who present least threat of all.

This same non-cohesive gathering of The Rainbow Family has been meeting in national forests for 30 years without causing a major fire, or even leaving a major mess. That’s an impressive track record.

From the same e-mail.

"The Forest Service requires that a permit be applied for in advance of the gathering. And they use any excuse possible to deny a permit application when we [Rainbow Gathering] manage to submit one. This year their denial was based on the fact that a logging company had a permit to log in a nearby parcel of the national forest, even though there is no logging activity present whatsoever. The site is far remote from any inhabitants -- but still the Forest Service is all over our case."

"Millions of taxpayer dollars are being spent to block this harmless gathering from taking place."

So, here is the situation that the Federal Government is faced with.

A group has requested permission to gather in a national forest. The group has no designated authority; such authority is antithetical to the group’s nature. It is better described as a gathering than a group. This gathering is perhaps 20,000 people or so, it is a BIG gathering.

These people can’t sign a liability guarantee due to the nature of the gathering.

Looking at the track record of this gathering, they have been meeting for 30 years in National Forests, in summer, without lasting harm to the forest or to the surrounding communities.

A logging company has a permit that includes the parcel of forest near to the gathering, but is not being actively logged during the timeframe of the gathering. Basically, the logging is a non-issue, though the company should be advised of the presence and duration of the gathering.

So, we can let these people gather, as is their constitutional right, and we can waive liability guarantee based on the group’s track record of responsible behaviour, or we can spend a gazillion dollars rounding them up and ticketing them because their paperwork is not in order.

Guess which course of action our federal government has taken. Yep, you guessed it, our tax dollars are being spent rounding up and arresting, detaining, and charging hippies, because they want to gather together and hug some trees.

The fiscal conservatives in the Republican Party should be spitting nails about this. This is a very expensive show of force that serves no useful purpose.

The trillion dollar deficit continues to grow, our liberties continue to be eroded, and the republicans are sitting around their campfire singing “kum-ba-ya… He’s not doing it to us, M’ Lord, so we don’t care”

These are not the actions of an administration that is watching out for its citizens, these are the actions of an administration bullying a marginal group of citizens in an attempt to prove how tough it is.

I thought this country was founded by people who wanted something better than this.

Any administration, Republican or Democrat, that rounds up an orderly gathering of innocent people; which then detains and charges them without adequate legal representation on charges of insufficient paperwork, needs to be watched very carefully indeed, for these are actions befitting a tyrant…

I wonder if the Germans were singing a similar song in the 30’s as their democratically elected government led them down the path of tyranny.?

How does it go now?

“He’s not doing it to us, M’ Lord, so we don’t care”

Take Care



A Question of Violence

A Question of Violence.

This is an article that I have been mulling over since the “offended” post.

The issue of abortion should not be debated in terms of “rights”, but in terms of violence, and in particular, the level of violence we are prepared to abide within the framework of our civilized societies.

Abortion has been present in organized civilizations for as long as societies have provided compelling reasons for a pregnancy to be unwanted. The reasons vary form one society to the next, and indeed form one person to the next, but they are compelling, or there would be no call for the service.

Many folk traditions have herbal concoctions that will terminate a pregnancy. These are not the quaint folk traditions that tourists travel the world to see; these are the traditions that were rarely discussed in polite company, and never made into a spectacle… and neither should they be. If there were no compelling reason to seek termination, this lore would not exist.

So, abortion has been with us for a long time. In our modern days of clinical and surgical medicine, we feel confident in surgical procedures where we may be less inclined to know about, or seek out, ancient folklore. Unfortunately, when a surgical procedure is illegal, the risks posed to the patient increase dramatically, risks including disease, sterility, or even death.

The gravity of the decision to terminate directly implies that the consequences of not doing so are graver than the removal of the spark of life from a developing child.

I’m not going to attempt to argue the morality of that decision.

Regardless of what I think of the decision to terminate in esoteric, moral, or religious terms, the fact remains that people weigh up their options and take the decision to terminate daily. And these people have always existed within civilized society.

People will take that decision whether it is legal or not.

I remember one of my schoolmates left town for a few weeks to have an abortion. She was pregnant to one of my other schoolmates. Broken condom. I was 16 at the time, and so were they. They were both nice kids, they never seemed to be the same after that. It was kept very quiet because it was still illegal back then. Rumour was, the abortion made her sterile. I remember talking with my classmate (the guy) about that possibility before the event. I know it haunted him for years afterwards. I don’t think she ever got over it. I’m not sure that she could have.

So, abortion laws and protests do not stop the act. They never have. The fact that illegal abortions are unsafe, high risk, enormously traumatic experiences doesn’t deter people from seeking them out.

Rights issues are entirely eclipsed by the facts.

The facts remain despite the arguments about the rights of unborn children, and the rights for women to decide what happens to them.

Women do abort, whether they have the right to or not. Whatever rights an unborn child may or may not have, these are terminated daily.

To solve the problem of abortion, one must first create a society in which every child, and every pregnancy, is welcome. Our society is far too violent for that to be the case any time soon.

We are far too concerned with making pronouncements on how other folks should live their lives to welcome every child born into our world. In many cases, we remain judgemental about those who have children out of wedlock, and for reasons I have never understood, blame the child for its situation.

We have yet to devise a mechanism to effectively support parents in the most important job they have- raising our children. Other countries are making inroads in this direction, the US is still sadly lacking.

There should be no question in anybody’s mind that abortion is an act of violence. It is. Irrevocable harm is done to healthy human tissue. Patients know it, practitioners know it, and even protestors know it.

The question is not one of rights, then, but one of control. How do we minimize the societal impact of an act of violence that will continue whether we condone it or not?

To make abortion illegal is to add significantly to the dangers inherent with surgical procedures. It puts our women of childbearing age at greater risk than legalization does. Those who survive an illegal abortion and are not sterile may well be marred for life by the trauma of an event for which they were not mentally and emotionally prepared.

It is my opinion that, as a society, we do better if those who find themselves weighing up the issue have a means for making this onerous choice with appropriate counselling, and in a facility that puts them at less risk of injury, sterility or death.

Less violence is done to our women as a society by allowing abortion than by banning it. It is a sad paradox, but there it is.

In my estimation, the violent people who display images of a dismembered foetus do a far greater violence in our society than those practitioners whose presence they protest.

The placard holders assault our entire community and desensitise our children to gruesome dismemberment. The ramifications of this act are profound. I don’t want to live in a community that is not disturbed by such images.

The practitioner is providing a discreet service, complete with counselling and support, for those members of our society who have weighed the gravity of their situation and find themselves without a viable compassionate alternative.

It is better that we face abortion and minimize the damage that it does in our society, than to hide from it and pretend it won’t happen because we told people not to do it.

The prohibitionist approach didn’t work for Moses and hasn’t worked any time since that I can tell.

No, our society is nowhere near compassionate enough to welcome every pregnancy. Our society is, sadly, not ready to dispense with abortion.

Take Care



Open Meetings and All That

Paul Schreiber and the Open Meetings Act.

If the worst thing you can say about Paul Schreiber is that he may have contravened the open meetings act, then you really haven’t got much mud to throw at him.

Lets get this in perspective.

The open meetings act is very clear on the type of circumstances in which a closed meeting can be called. There is nothing in there that says “because the matter under discussion is damned embarrassing” though I’ll bet there are a few thousand committee chairs wish it did from time to time.

So, Paul has called a couple of closed meetings, the grounds for which are arguably spurious. The YHC attorney made it clear last Thursday night that he saw no infraction of the open meetings act, though I’d like to see him explain how the embarrassing subject of building code violations comes under any of the headings described in the open meetings act, article 15.268 Closed sessions; permissible purposes. Sec. 8.

I suspect that the attorney is resting on the premise that nothing will come of the inquiry; therefore there is no legal issue (however, I’ll wager that the YHC clerk is WELL ABREAST of the open meetings act now).

This act only really becomes a legal issue if someone wants to challenge a decision made during such a closed meeting (those decisions SHOULD be on the public record). Then there is the issue of correct minute taking, a part of the act that was possibly contravened, and which may present some embarrassment should anyone want to contest such a decision.

So, the legal issue is a non-event unless someone is aggrieved by a decision made in one of the closed meetings, and has the means and inclination to take their grievance to court.

The legal implications do not absolve Paul of the political issue.

It is only a little bit of mud that has been thrown, but the question remains, what is Paul’s commitment to open government? Will he deal with embarrassing situations behind the scenes?

Lord only knows that the actions of the present city council have been directed more from behind the scenes than in the public meetings. It is true that all the decisions are made in public and in a proper and orderly manner, but the votes are apparently tallied and arms apparently twisted long before the oath of allegiance is ever sworn in a public meeting.

I’d like an answer from all of the candidates on that question.

As I said in my first blog, were I inclined to vote for Paul in the first place, this issue would not sway my vote at all, however if I was swinging, I’d have to weigh Steve and Paul fairly carefully.

If Lois ever makes a public statement about what she hopes to achieve as Mayor, we can weigh her in the balance as well.

Take Care




Yes I was Offended!

Anybody who knows me at all knows that it is pretty hard to offend me. You’ve got to be REALLY trying to get up my nose.

I spent most of my first year in the USA apologizing because I inadvertently offended folks by being more frank than is the custom in these parts.

You can imagine my horror, then, as I drove down the main street of our fair town recently to be confronted by enormous placards of a dismembered, late term fetus.

I mean, what gives? I understand that the constitution enshrines the right to free speech. Does that include the right to violent visual assault?

If I were to find a TV program offensive, I could change channels or turn it off (presuming I had a TV in the first place.) If I find a newspaper article offensive, I can choose not to read. If I find a film or performance offensive, I can walk out. I have control of what I expose myself to, and far more importantly, I mostly have control over the level of visual violence I expose my 3-year-old son to.

I am driving my car. I not only have to pay attention to the road, but to the pedestrians lining the street, on the off chance that one of those god-awful placards has a child darting from behind it.

It is an outrageous offence that these people are permitted to make such a gruesome display on public streets particularly at a time when children are out and about. Its wrong!. A mutilated corpse is not something anyone should have to confront while going about his or her business.

The most bitter irony of all of this is that these are the folks who campaign on “Family Values”. Family values be damned. Their "Family Values" are entirely betrayed by their actions. At what age is it acceptable to assault a child’s sensibilities in this manner? How dare these people take it upon themselves to decide that my kids should see this.

Thank the gods my child was asleep in the car as I drove through!! I can imagine the question from the back seat

“What’s that picture Dad?”

“Oh, nothing son, just bits and pieces of an unborn child”

The rest of the conversation might have gone “Why are these people holding up those awful pictures?” and my answer would have to be “Apparently they don’t find them awful, and they apparently don’t think we should find them awful either. There are some sick and violent people in the world, aren’t there?”

Why else would they be shoving them in my face?

Now, before some well-meaning individual tells me that “this is happening every day”, and “it’s the truth” and waxes gruesome about the evils of abortion, I was well aware of these facts a long time before these violent people assaulted me with their images of gore. I don’t need a visual prompt to tell me that abortion is an unsavory business.

I certainly don’t want to have to explain to my pre-school son how it is that such violent people are allowed to make such a foul display of our streets. My son is completely unable to comprehend the complexities of the abortion issue, and I have no intention of explaining it to him before he is able to understand it.

The abortion clinic that opened up does not have a billboard display, I have no idea who runs it, nor do I care, I am unlikely ever to need its services. For those who feel the need for its services, it is a legal facility operating under the protection of state law. The clinic is not in my face about its work, nor should it be.

If these people want to get in someone’s face about the issue, they should start with the legislature and issue their macabre pictures in discreet folios. They might want to make a power point presentation of gory picks, or even a gruesome movie…

That’s it… they can take their god-awful material and publish it on the “adult” sites on the Internet where it can be censored by their own “Family Values” filters for its repulsive content.

Whatever these violent people do with their gory pictures, I must commend the group of citizens who took it upon themselves to hold up sheets in protest of the protest. WELL DONE!!

Just in case you think I haven’t heard the other side of this dispute, I was in a public meeting a week ago when a member of our community stood up and complained bitterly that a 10-year-old boy penned a less-than-perfect letter to the editor outlining why he was offended by this display.

I was offended by that display and I’m a lot older than 10.

I would expect any 10-year-old to be deeply troubled by such violence being thrust on him, and SHAME ON YOU to those violent people who argue for life and yet revel in images of brutal death. TAKE YOUR DISGUSTING IMAGES OFF OUR STREETS.

There, that feels better

Take Care



Steve answers his critics.

Steve Answers his critics.

As I expected, Steve was quick to jump on the bankruptcy rumor and I can’t say I blame him.

I’ll add a couple of carefully chosen quotes here rather than giving you the full response. It is representative of what he said, and I’m sure he will comment if I have made any conspicuous omissions or altered his intent.

Steve opens his response with a couple of clear assertions.

Wow, rumors of bankruptcy. That is a new one. No idea where that is coming from.

“I have never declared bankruptcy and I always pay my bills. No idea where this is coming from. ”

He goes on to elaborate on his early working life. The most important disclosure here is one that he has made many times.

“When I was 20 years old I was head of marketing for a company called Innovative Woodworking. It was a woodworking shop with about $100,000 of high end woodworking tools and shop equipment. We were in a 3,000 square foot building in what was at the time in 1983 booming Aurora, Colorado. It was a cool concept. It worked like a health club, you paid a membership and you could use the shop. After a year the business failed for a variety of reasons, one of the big ones was the inexperience of all three principals of which I was one of them.

That business cratered after spending $500,000 of investor money including money of some very close friends. It was a hell of an experience. So, passionate to understand why the business failed, I went back to school and got a business degree. What I learned was the business professors had no idea how to run a business either. What I did learn from that experience was the importance of cash flow and if you don't have receivables, you better not be spending cash. Another thing I learned is that, when you are in trouble, ask for help. There were good people all around us that could have and would have helped, and we didn't reach out while things were savable.

When you talk to successful businessmen all over the world, they will tell you, that the best experience they ever got was from a business that failed, more so than one that succeeded. Moreover, if you don't fail or fall down every once in a while, you aren't trying hard enough. The true measure of your character is how you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and then get back in the game…”

“…From that experience, I have been involved in at least 5 start-up or high growth companies, every one of them is either a going concern or was sold.”

Steve went on to outline his many contributions in the Ypsilanti community and made it clear that he has indeed been a persuasive voice for change.

Rather than risk becoming member of his promotional team, I’ll let you ask Steve about his achievements, I’m sure he’ll be happy to tell you.

Take Care



well, here goes nothing.

So... Who's gonna be Mayor of Ypsilanti?

Who Cares?

Ypsi citizens should, the rest of the world will sleep well regardless.

Many readers will know me from the Ypsilanti Courier, where I made pocket money as a correspondent for a while. The problem is that the pocket money wasn't enough to buy a decent dinner most weeks, and City Hall is a beat that requires a lot of time and effort if one is going to do it well.

I figured if I'm going to work for peanuts, I might as well work for nothing for a while and truly enjoy writing what I do. This way I am making a contribution to the good citizens of Ypsilanti without contributing to the coffers of corporations who don't know where Ypsilanti is, let alone care what goes on here.

So, Mayor anyone?

I will preface these comments by saying that these are the candidates as I know them. I know Steve better than I know Paul, and I know Steve and Paul better than I know Lois. I haven't dug deeply to find this stuff, so these are the candidates as I see them, with whatever cheap gossip is floating around about them as well. If any or all of them want to set up an interview, I'll be in that, and I'll be happy to publish my thoughts.

Steve Pierce.

Steve is seen as a Johnny-come-lately developer with a lot of good ideas but little track record for lofty accomplishments according to some. Mind you, he DID manage to negotiate a settlement with K-Mart for the old Kresge building, which made way for the loft apartments now occupying that site, and he has sat on as many committees as he can in the community in the time that he has been here. He is at more meetings more often than any other citizen I know (or at least he was when I was covering city hall) so there is no doubt that he has the time and the commitment for the job, and he knows everyone he is likely to be working with should he be called upon to serve as Mayor.

The question on many minds is "can he do it?" and that really remains to be seen. There are those who question his track record with business, rumors of bankruptcy and the like. To the detractors I'll say "put up or shut up." Show me some proof. To Steve I would say "If there is something folks need to know, you need to get it out in the open now."

While matters of personal integrity need to be addressed, it is the City Manager who MUST be a capable administrator, and Ed Koryzno is pretty good at his job by all accounts.

With Steve, what you see is what you get. He has a talent for detail and you can be sure he will interpret details to his advantage. This is not a bad thing, but its worth keeping in mind

Paul Schreiber

My experience of Paul is largely gleaned from the Parkview debacle. It is my estimation that the YHC did what they could to come to the party in that dispute. Paul did a good job representing the YHC position, but unfortunately lacked the clout to push it through. (Mind you, I think the only way to change the city’s decision was to change the mind of a couple of key council members, and I’m not sure anyone could have done that.)

I like Paul. There is no doubting his sincerity or his dedication. Whether he has the time to do the job is another question. While I realize I was never the top name on his in-box, most communication I received from him was very late at night. I was very impressed with Paul’s analysis on the income tax. I believe it is the best synthesis I have seen of the issue anywhere.

The only gossip I have heard about Paul related to a YHC closed session that was called improperly. This is something that should be addressed if it contains a thread of truth, however it is hardly a hanging offence. Its not an event that would sway my vote (not that I can vote in this or any other election), though I’d be watching his interpretation of the rules, and I’d make sure he was open.

Rev. Lois Richardson.

I’ve probably had more exposure to Lois than to the other two candidates, but I don’t know her well. I have watched her represent her constituency with tireless dedication. She has raised many issues in City Hall that have left the administration embarrassed.

If I have a criticism of Lois, it is that I haven’t seen her sway the opinion of City Hall on any key issues. I see her as vocal and tenacious, but not particularly persuasive.

Actually, in my brief stint as a journalist in City Hall, I can’t say that any of these candidates are particularly persuasive people. Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe not.

Of all the members of council and the community that I have seen closely enough to comment, I’d put Trudy Swanson in the mayor’s seat in a heartbeat. She is passionate, persuasive, and believes in doing the right thing BECAUSE it’s the right thing. Its true, she didn’t win Parkview in the end either, but it wasn’t because she didn’t try.

Anyway, those are a few somewhat dated thoughts about the Mayoral race.

I’m glad that Mayor Farmer is not running again. She worked very hard to alter the city charter, and then administered that charter from its inception to the present day. Much of the great work that has been accomplished in this city has been facilitated by her generous contribution (along with that of many others). I feel, however, that she has given enough, and that her most recent term has seen her tired and overcommitted.

I would betray my own voice if I did not also acknowledge that there have been some monumental mistakes made by City Hall under her administration. Parkview and Water street being the two that spring to mind immediately. I am not surprised at the number of folks who have abandoned ship from the heads (and tails) of city departments of late.

The impression left on me by City Hall was one of lip-service to the people with final deference to the “experts”. I hope this will change, for the experts have been sadly lacking in anything resembling expertise to date.

On one hand a good job has been done, on the other a mess has been made. The citizens of Ypsi city will have to cop it sweet and mop up the mess made by the experts, but they do have a better charter to work with and a cleaner city council than they had before.

The new Mayor will have quite a job on his or her hands. Lets hope he or she is up to the task.