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Navy Boot Camp 1977

  I stepped off the bus at Great Lakes Naval Recruit Training Center north of Chicago on the night of October 3, 1977. The group of scraggly misfits I was with were herded through a short checking-in process, given sheets and blankets and unceremoniously ushered into a two-story barracks building. I was scared and apprehensive, yet in awe as well, as I lay in bed thinking, “Here I am actually in the Navy now.” “Boot camp is hell” were the first words I wrote home two days later. “We march everywhere, stand in lines about one-quarter mile long for chow, everyone looks the same. But things should get better. Next week we will be moved into better quarters with more free time. Right now we have almost none. I live in a very long room with 86 other men.”   I had been aware before I joined the Navy about recruiters’ sometime reputation as salesmen and con artists, but I didn’t believe it. My assessment began to be reassessed on the occasion of my first morning in the Navy. The rec

New web site for St. Louis news

The St. Louis Chronicle has a new name and a new internet address. The new name is St. Louis Sentinel. The new address is stlouissentinel.com . Please check out the new site and let me know what you think. If you've subscribed to posts on this site, you can do the same on the new site. And I hope you do. Ralph Echtinaw Editor and Publisher

Was this dog playing me?

I had an interesting dog encounter while out for a walk Thursday evening. The dog in question is a golden retriever who lives with my acquaintance Tallon and his wife on corner of Berea and Prospect. I was walking south on Berea and noticed dog in yard. But she didn't seem to notice me, so I kept walking. A few steps later the dog was suddenly bounding toward me, having gone around the house to the south. I don't want to give the dog too much credit for intelligence. But it seems to me that she might have seen me, recognized me (because I've pet her before) and decided to pretend to ignore me, then surprise me. I'm not sure dogs are that intelligent, but maybe they are.

The Time For Change Has Come

Have you ever resisted some change that came along but grew to like it after a short while? My guess is that you have. It seems to be human nature to want to stick with what is familiar. Such is the case with the American people and dollar coins. Most of us don’t like them.  It’s interesting that we have a federal government that isn’t shy about foisting dubious major changes on we the people (such as the Affordable Care Act), but when it comes to streamlining our coins and currency it acts with the greatest timidity. Four times since 1971 our government has tried to get Americans to accept dollar coins as a replacement for dollar bills, which is a great cost-saving measure because coins last far longer than currency.  First there was the Eisenhower dollar in 1971, replaced by the Susan B. Anthony dollar in 1979, replaced by the Sacagawea (a.k.a. Sasquatch) dollar in 2000, replaced by dollar coins depicting US presidents in 2007. That was discontinued in 2011, and we a

Government lotteries play us for suckers

Here is a piece that first appeared Sept. 10, 2015, on the Gratiot County Republican web site. Back in 1988 when I was the sole reporter for a small weekly newspaper in New Baltimore, I started buying Lotto tickets and discovered the reason why people play the lottery. It gives them a license to dream. When that ticket is in your pocket you can fantasize about how much better life will be if you win. But after losing 50 times in a row I stopped buying tickets. I decided I’d rather spend that money on something else; almost anything else to be honest. But many people feel differently and spend hundreds of dollars a years on lottery tickets.  I’m not opposed to gambling in general, and no level of government prohibition would eliminate it in any case. But for the government itself to be “the house” is just wrong. Government should encourage us to be better, more productive citizens. Each of us should be improving ourselves and making a contribution to the whole. Encouraging us

Term limits protect voters from themselves

This was uploaded to Gratiot County Republican web site on Aug. 12, 2015. "Washington is a very easy city for you to forget where you came from and why you got there in the first place." Harry S Truman “Politicians are like diapers. They should be changed regularly, and for the same reason.” Old joke I’ve never understood the mass appeal of term limits among the general population. Term limits are widely seen as a restriction on elected officials, and they are in the sense that officials are prohibited from seeking re-election after a certain number of years. But the primary restriction is on voters who are essentially told, “We know you like this guy and would re-elect him, but you don’t know what’s good for you so he isn’t on the ballot anymore.” Yes, term limits are the stop-me-before-I-reelect-this-bum-again law. Support for term limits is a tacit admission that voters are too ignorant to know when an elected official has been captured by the system a

Good government is boring

This was published on Gratiot County Republican Party web site on July 30, 2015 When I worked as a reporter for the Observer & Eccentric Newspapers (1990-2001) I learned that honest, efficient, effective government is boring. Oh, it’s great for residents of a city or township. But when one covers good government for a newspaper the stories are enough to put you to sleep. My responsibilities with the West Bloomfield Eccentric (in Detroit suburbs) were covering the township government and crime, which were sometimes the same thing. Ironically, a newspaper reporter wants exactly the opposite from a board he covers than a resident of the municipality. As a reporter, I want a board with lots of rivalry, back-stabbing, jealousy, secrecy and controversy. In short: bad government. And that's what I got from West Bloomfield Township. To set the scene: It was 1991, and a venerable and respected township supervisor had died. The board of trustees appointed a community activis