Nero Slept While Rome Burned.

We did it.  We held a Town Hall in Traverse City.  We were able to organize this inside of ONE WEEK, and two VENUE CHANGES, and still had 200 PEOPLE show up. Congress?  Are you listening?  You are in deep trouble, as these folks are looking for a way to be heard. And since you weren’t providing that means.. we gave it to them with a forum to discuss the concerns, fears, and outrage they have with “the way things are going..”

Of course, A phone call from a local news outlet to one of the guest speakers, Ken Braun from the Mackinac Center just prior to the start of the Traverse City “Your Voice” Town Hall confirmed that because there would be no “politician” at the event, there would also be no news coverage for the event which had the most important speakers of all… The citizens.

The local TV station I suppose, has its priorities, a knitting party for cat wear will trump a real grass roots event EVERY TIME. In all fairness, the TV Stations have had to cut their budgets just like the many citizens, and driving to an event such as this may use some of the generator fuel they have left.  Budgets are a funny thing..  Apparently government is the only entity that doesn’t have to consider coloring its budgets inside the lines. But I digress..


It wasn’t the absence of the news that was troubling, but rather the absence of our elected officials which was the reasoning for the news to ignore the 200 person crowd. While the recess continues, there are few opportunities for the elected representation to come together with the people they purport to represent. This was one of those opportunities. And though we had even confirmed a “subordinate” from our local congressman Dave Camp’s office, it was two days before the event, he decided to find “better things to do.”

This is a partial shot of the folks who turned out Aug 13, at 7pm for the Traverse City Town Hall Event In this photo, Ray Pleva, one of the guest speakers discusses some of the nutraceutical  products he is currently working on.

Ray Pleva Speaking on the benefits of his nutraceutical cherry product.

Ray Pleva Speaking on the benefits of his nutraceutical cherry products

The media is missing the point with the disagreements in town halls.  These people are hardly tools of any special interest, as they are merely confused as to why our government is trying to push forward a health care plan that is rife with untenable language and consequence. Maybe the news folks hope to find contentious behavior only, and with a politician handy to yell at, it certainly could happen.  And maybe THAT sells advertising.

But the fact that there is not a Stabenow, Levin, Camp, or Stupak (though Traverse city outside his district) present where such things are being discussed should not go un-noticed. Even given the short notice of the event, it would have been enough for any of them to have their own events in our region or somewhere that the constituents could have reached them. I suppose however, that if they had such events planned on their own, it would follow a protocol such as this:

No shouting. Congressional representatives cannot sell Obamacare with mobs of unruly senior citizens and small business owners interrupting to press them on specific sections of the bill. Limit your objections to a library whisper (30dB or less) and only challenge your lawmakers with hushed, dulcet tones. Otherwise, you will scare them and they will be forced to hide behind teleconference calls, sick children at hospitals, or union bosses.

Yeah.. that’s the ticket.

But you know what?  We got things done.  People learned things.  We conversed. A couple of Doctors spoke, and even Madonna’s Dad weighed in let us all know he wanted government to back off. And now, more letters are being written today, yet our representatives are sleeping it off still at the resort of their choice during their “well earned vacations”


As an aside..  This “Your Voice” Town hall format was new and untried.  It was HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL, and I would encourage those who wish to put on their own to contact me for the format design, which allows for REAL conversation with your neighbors. Also, I will be working over the weekend to put together the video we have, and will have an audio track available that spans the entire Town Hall ready hopefully later today. – J

25 comments for “Nero Slept While Rome Burned.

  1. Bill
    August 14, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    A lot of seniors there, I see. I take they’re (of course) burning their social security checks and paying for medical bills out of their own pockets instead of stooping to socialist/commie behavior?


    Your family, too?

    Yeah, I thought so. Let’s get back to what our founding fathers wanted–but leave social security, medicare, farm subsidies, and my company’s big-ass tax abatements (among many other things) alone.

    There have been nice soundbites coming out of these things, I admit. But most of the people spouting these lines are hypocrites (most of the unknowingly, as they really haven’t thought it through how much they rely on–and love–the government tit).

    • ns
      November 8, 2009 at 9:55 pm

      Senior citizen yes get social security, and medicade/medicare but most of
      them worked all there life and Money is taken out of there check every week
      and pays for it so it is not free. People that work payed into it, now there
      are people who never worked and never put into that fund should not receive
      it but our government has stoled that from the American taxpayer. Healthcare
      we can not Fund because it will destroy America. Why does healthcare cost
      so much if run by non-profit organization.

  2. Bill
    August 14, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    Hey, I’m interested in having a conversation with my neighbors. Why is what I asked apparently not publishable-worthy here?

    It’s a fair question. Many of these people don’t want socialism. They’re concerned about where the country is headed. They want to get back to what our founding fathers intended–correct?

    If so, I have to assume they are not cashing social security checks, not partaking in medicare, not buying government-subsidized food products, not living in government housing, not accepting government graft in the form of tax abatements.

    Is that unfair to assume that? If so, why?

    • jgillman
      August 14, 2009 at 9:54 pm

      My goodness you have little patience.

      These folks feel as though they have paid in, contributed, and supported already, and are simply don’t want the rules changed to their detriment now that they have less of a means to deal with those changes.

      You are surely might be able to guess my stance on social programs in general, but I AM a person who believes in contract. And when the rules change affecting people after decisions have been made, it hits the uncomfortable point. Its one of the reasons I think Roosevelt was an imbecile, and screwed things up for this country in a major way.

      If you want to be heard, offer a suggestion. The floor is always open, …well at least until, and if this administration gets its way.

  3. August 15, 2009 at 12:47 am

    A contract made with people long ago to take the money of people who were born afterwards and never agreed to it? Here’s a relevant excerpt from my blog:

    “…there is no “fund” to draw the money from. A government lending the money to itself is not an investment any more than if you lent yourself your entire 401K for a vacation and then bragged that you’re getting a great rate from yourself and so will retire rich someday. This is an important point, because it suggests that this is actually just another welfare program by which those working now have their money taken and given to others.

    Even if you are in favor of some welfare, is it fair to take money from the poor young guy working at the gas station and trying to raise a family just so a couple with a million dollars in assets can quit working and sit on the beach in Florida spending it on margaritas? Should those who are relatively wealthy be allowed to feed their slot-machine addictions off of those who are relatively poor and working hard to survive?

    I can guess what arguments are forming in readers’ minds. It was a promise by the government? A “social” contract? If billions in Ethiopian government bonds from the 1940s were discovered and the only way to repay them now was to enslave and starve the people living now, would that be right? Extreme example? Of course, but it’s only a matter of degree. How poor does a man have to be before it is wrong for the rich to keep taking his money to enhance their lifestyles?”

    This doesn’t suggest eliminating welfare whether in the form of social security or not. I leave that argument for another day. But certainly there is a point at which we are not obligated to pay for all the promises made by others, and it is a crime to take from the poor and middle class to help out those who don’t need it. Set an income and asset limit and kick everyone over those off of medicare and social security. It is really only fair.

    Unfortunately anyone (conservative or liberal) who expresses consistent yet unpopular positions will lose support. Politics cannot be anywhere near honest at this point in time. Who would have considered getting before that crowd and suggesting that we could be more fair and still cut government spending if we paid for medical care for the truly poor by eliminating medicare and social security for those who don’t need it?

    • Anna
      August 15, 2009 at 9:26 am

      Whether or not the person on social security is rich doesn’t matter. Isn’t it still wrong to take money from those who worked for it and give it to those who didn’t?

      • jgillman
        August 15, 2009 at 10:45 am

        It is wrong.

        The difficult part is the confusion over how much seniors feel they have paid in. In the late to mid 60s, the amount paid in began to ratchet up, but an earlier maximum contribution of $96 is what many of today’s recipients have paid in. The “promise” has been untouched by politicians, and money that was theoretically a part of the “retirement plan” of Social Security became usable for other things as well, including health care for the older Americans.

        The problem really comes when people rely on the promises made for such an unsustainable situation, and make their decisions based on lies.

        As an aside, stay active politically. We’ll be counting on your generation for solutions as well.

  4. Bill
    August 15, 2009 at 8:40 am

    Contracts…hmm…I guess that means you’re in favor of legacy costs for retirees? Hey, they had contracts as well.

    I understand where you stand on these issues. And I applaud you for being consistent in those views. What I don’t respect is the Right whipping up these seniors via the old “we’re going to socialist hell in a handbasket” rhetoric–when both they and the seniors don’t have the balls to touch the massive “socialist” things already in the government.

    It’s a bit convenient, wouldn’t you say? And, sorry, nowhere have I heard the rhetoric spouted of “we don’t want to become more socialist than we already are”–it’s “we don’t want TO BECOME SOCIALIST”–like we haven’t never ever had anything like that in goverment and that commie Obama can go straight back to Russia cuz I’m an American and I don’t need me no government in my medicare!!

    You know it and I know it 😉 These people are jacked up and asking at townhall meetings what politicians will do to “get the country back to what the founding fathers wanted.”

    Well, okay then: put your money where your mouth is brave ranters: Cut social security. And Medicare. And you–the farmer in the back row–wave goodbye to your socialist farm subsidies.

    I think the politicians whipping these people up have an obligation to follow through, don’t you?

    Fortunately, we’re starting to see some in the media call out this hypocrisy–and because of it some of these “brave” right-wing politicians back peddle big time.

    Your retort is weak. This is the achilles heel of those tactics that will very soon do that approach in for good.

    • jgillman
      August 15, 2009 at 10:26 am

      Which is why I lay the blame on the insanity of Roosevelt, the new deal etc.. Those things that set us up for long term obligations that bind our children who have no say in the matter should be a little more carefully considered. Money debts shouldn’t really exist, as Govt should be run on a Pay as you go basis, which is now impossible.

      I DO however believe in some Bankruptcy solutions, I wonder at what point this country will realize its government has been bankrupt for some time?

  5. Bill
    August 15, 2009 at 8:55 am


    Why wait for another day to have that argument? Why don’t you and Gillman, when you organize these types of townhall meetings, start the meeting off by expressing those sentiments?

    Come on, they’re all on board with it, right? Who wants a commie-pinko country? Use that golden opportunity to tell those seniors we’re not stopping at the current health care debate: everything else is getting whacked and we’re going back to what our founding fathers wanted!!

    I mean, the rhetoric is already there. Just need the actions now.


    Oh, I forgot: if you start being HONEST with these folks the crowds will probably thin out big time. We don’t want these people we’ve riled up to think THAT much 😉

  6. Bill
    August 15, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    You’re twisting in the wind a bit here, Gillman. Anna, I only wish the big politicos on your side had the guts to say those things at the townhall meetings.

    But they don’t. And you and I both know why: they love the soundbites and love getting the troops riled up with the soundbites–but let’s not think about this too deeply, ‘kay?

    Lawrence on Hardball nailed a GOP congressman from Texas last night big time on this very issue. Set him all up and allowed him to chest-thump and them–bam: “well, certainly you’re in favor of repealing social security?” Man, that dude spent 10 minutes looking like a frightened deer in headlights. Hilarious.

    • jgillman
      August 15, 2009 at 7:16 pm

      Social Security is and has been the third rail.. Am I twisting in the wind? I don’t think so. And I have been trying to ignore your attempts to belittle either the conversation, or at the very least the acknowledgment of the true causes.

      Tell me what are your solutions?

      You seem to prefer that antagonistic tone, which is why I keep you on a leash here. Who gives a rats ass about Hardball, which is a set up show for the egos of Matthews and his Tingly legs. That peacock production is as relevant and sick as a certain N Korean President.. Only the die hard leftists watch that crap and think it means anything.

      Don’t bother continuing unless you really have something to add as a solution. You’ve become a boor. .. ‘Kay?

  7. Bill
    August 16, 2009 at 1:08 am

    There needs to be a public option to compete with private insurance. And this won’t kill private companies (lol), only make them honest (which they clearly are not). And it will stop them from canceling insurance on people with serious illness. And it will stop them from getting in between doctors and their patients as they do now by arbitrarily deciding what to cover and not to cover (not based on the HEALTH of the WELL BEING of the patient but $$$). And it will stop the need for spaghetti-dinner fundraisers for people who are already paying premiums through the ass but find out the coverage is shit when they actually need to stay in the hospital more than 1 day.

    And guess what? The insurance companies will still make a bajillion dollars under reform. Just not a gazillion.

    And answer a question instead of throwing lame-ass red herrings out there about being antagonistic. The Right has used as a major strategy the propaganda that Obama is a socialist (and not even an American to boot) and that “we don’t need no commie-pinko health care plan”–while allowing the whipped-up base time to cash social security checks and get medicare doctor office visits and cook their subsidized food for dinner before heading to the townhall meetings with torches.

    You don’t see that as hypocritical, though. Of course not. Again: why not be honest with these masses that have been whipped up? Why not jump in when an average citizen like the woman in Penn says “What will you do to get us back to the country our founding fathers wanted?” and say “I’m glad you asked: we going to take away YOUR social security and Your mom’s medicare and YOUR food subsidies. For starters.”

    Why not?

    You still haven’t answered.

    • jgillman
      August 16, 2009 at 10:46 am

      No public option. No further intrusion into the process.

      Waste of money. Look at the Post office as a public option. Even The big “O” said it stinks. And you want that done to health care? Some have pointed out it is the camels nose under the tent. I agree MORE government is NOT the solution.

      You answer/deny my comments on your antagonism.. by being more antagonistic? Obama is a Socialist, Fascist, Authoritarian. And as to the other part of your argument, you aren’t being very coherent.. come again? Are you trying to say it is hypocritical that I call for free market solutions and have associated with seniors? What?

      And I agree with those who argue the government needs to get back to constitutional rule. In fact.. Many of the folks in the Townhall said so as well.

      And there you go saying I haven’t answered .. WHAT? Geez Bill, what is the question? I am trying to understand where you are coming from .. really..

      IF you are asking if I support Social Security, I have already said it is an insipid and imbecilic creation spawned by an imbecilic president. But it is is here.
      If you are asking what is my solution, I would say offer to eliminate the contributions for those people younger than 50 for an opportunity to opt out completely with NO further public umbrella. Further, because even that won’t solve the current load of new seniors, raise the age again, and limit to those who have little or no assets or other income. THEN sunset the stupid process, and allow families to build real wealth and a support system by eliminating death taxes entirely.

      Government screwed this up. Government needs to start backing out of the process except to enforce contract, and maintain a civil process where people can be made right.

      Attrition of services provided might be an acceptable manner in which to implement a withdrawal of government from the process, not the addition of more bureaucracy through a public health option.

  8. Bill
    August 18, 2009 at 10:04 am

    I fully understand your views on social security and any kind of government intervention. My point was that those “leading the charge” at these townhall meetings and encouraging the masses to yell and scream about the need to go back to the basics (as it were) need to follow through and clearly and publicly ask all of these towners and tea baggists to burn their social security checks, pay cash instead of using medicare, and stop buying subsidized food (for starters).

    my point is clear: these people want their own government tit while they bravely yell about our socialist country.

    • jgillman
      August 18, 2009 at 1:56 pm

      As is mine.. Were it not for the socialist meanderings of prior administrations, we would not be having this conversation.

      If you see a whit of difference between the FDR administration and the current one, it would have to be that this (current) one is eminently more suicidal in its efforts to undermine the constitution. (Pushing a little harder and more rapidly than the common folks are willing to accept) But BOTH are, and were wrong in their views, and history demonstrates the current problems arise implicitly from the gerrymandering of economic resources in this country.

      Now we must deal with it. Most of us knew we might at some point, but some likely hoped it would be after they were dead and gone.

      Identifying the problem is simply a first step in the solutions process. The next is the CAUSE of the problem. But don’t stop at criticizing those folks who thought they had a deal. Suggest a path for backing up a step.

      Much like the promises the unions made to their membership, the government is reaching a threshold of its limits more quickly than most, even myself figured might happen. In the UAW situation, there were ultimate concessions, though slight, that has bought the employment of SOME a little time, but don’t think even THAT is solved yet. Look for an article today or tonight on this issue.

  9. Bill
    August 18, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    Well, we have philosophical differences. I’m an FDR fan. His CCC program kept some of my family members from starving to death 70 years ago (and probably some of yours). I hope Obama is as good as FDR was, but I don’t sense he has the resolve that FDR had. Hopefully, Obama will start drawing lines in the sand.

    There can be no meaningful health care reform without a public option. Anything else is just window dressing and petty appeasement and won’t have any effect on long-term costs in this country.

    • jgillman
      August 18, 2009 at 7:41 pm

      I doubt your family members were going to starve sans a federal build up under FDR. So we will continue to disagree on that point.

      I know MY family was resourceful enough to overcome it as the parts I am familiar with did so with solid traditional skills such as plumbing, building, and farming. I imagine yours was as well, but un-ringing the bell is impossible at this point so there is no way for you to unlearn the lesson of government dependence I suppose.

      The public option is bad policy. We hardly need to expand government into what should be a competitive market period. The logic used for the public option is that it provides competitive forces. OK.. then allow cross state insurance with no limits by government. The use of ALA-CART insurance options would bring vitality to the market, and simply enforcing contracts (which under this Administration is a FAIL) through law would make sure no one is abused.

      Ill take the anything else option.. call it what you will.

  10. Bill
    August 19, 2009 at 8:43 am

    I’m glad you know my family so well as to pass judgment. My grandfather worked in the woods cutting pulp well into his 70s. My grandmother saved burlap bags to make underwear during the depression. It was a tad more dire than you flippant dismissal of it. But then again, how would someone who hasn’t even known a world without MTV know that?

    My family’s resourcefulness during that time fascinates me. Even so, they were damn glad to get help. But in your binary world, that must mean they’re lazy. I can guarantee you your family gladly took the help as well. Guaranteed (the macho stories of them bettering themselves over everyone else aside). And I guarantee your family hasn’t burned social security checks. Or refused to buy subsidized food products.

    And you? How did you get through college? Mom and dad? Uncle Sam? Both? What handouts did you get along the way?

    • jgillman
      August 19, 2009 at 9:20 am

      I did express the sentiment that I was sure your family was as capable as necessary. So as for judgment, there was none, merely an observation that if they indeed accepted and trained their offspring to expect government intervention, it is a sad truth that cannot be undone. It hardly means laziness however, and to suggest my thoughts on such matters I would recommend you get to know me better, or save such postulation for a time when its relevant.. If someone offers me $10, I will take that $10. Simply put, a path of least resistance will ALWAYS be followed.

      As for my college expenses, glad you are concerned.. I had a little help in my first year from my parents, Used high school graduation gifts, and wound up working three jobs ultimately to make it work. I was tired, but maintained good grades, and had to extend my degree a year. I was glad to have the initial help, and appreciated my education more for the efforts made to purchase it. How about you? Curiosity compels me to ask..

  11. Bill
    August 19, 2009 at 11:15 am

    well, i got a pair of pants from kmart for my graduation gift and a pat on the back from dad who said “you’re an adult now, go out there and get it.”

    and to think he voted democrat 😉

    anyway. i see the talking point now being expressed by armey, franz, etc. is that obama is trying to take away your medicare. i have to admit the audacity of the right is rather brilliant. how they go overnight from an “obama is socialist pinko who is trying to lead us down the path to socialism” to “obama is trying to take away your socialist medicare” ANd be successful with that message within their base is rhetorically and socially uttery fascinating to me.

    i don’t know whether to laugh or cry, make fun of such nonsense or be frightened for our country.

    • jgillman
      August 19, 2009 at 1:20 pm

      I am aware, yet have not had time yet to look at Armey’s statements, but as a historical note, I suspect you have applied a certain slant and are presenting his words out of context. Done from both sides politically, yet as always hardly productive. Ill take a look at some point.

      But I should ask you.. do you WANT socialism? yes or no? you seem to have a desire to paint many Republicans in some sort of hypocritical brush instead of advocating a position strongly. In other words, why simply attempt to tear down the opposition? Why not try to elevate your positions with logic and reason? what is it YOU want, and how does it help overall? It would be more productive, and maybe some common ground could be found.

      In all sincerity, I doubt that YOU want hard times for the country, and I would lay odds that you probably don’t really think I want hard times for the country, so ultimately, where we diverge, is in the policy that brings about the best results correct? Or am I making a poor assumption?

  12. Craig
    August 19, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    The issue is not whether Levin or Stabenow were present but that fact that both are powerless.

    Levin and Stabenow do not have the respect of their peers in Washington. As a result, they have no power. They have the APPEARANCE of power but not ACTUAL power. Their votes are not courted beyond the perfunctory, routine, Democratic party courting. Their opinions are ignored, their “support” is irrelevant, their credibility is non-existent. They are like the guy at the party that everyone walks away from. They posture and pontificate but it means nothing to anyone who actually DOES have power.

    This is the reason they accomplish nothing for Michigan. This is the reason Michigan, despite our economic disaster-area status, is STILL a net contributor of federal taxes. We pay more into federal tax at all levels than we receive in benefits of any type. Go figure that one out – how we can be dead last economically but not be worthy of help. The reason we do not get help is our senators are powerless.

    The same is true for most of our House reps. Most of them are ignored or actively marginalized. This is what we get for voting people into office that lack the necessary intelligence, education, will, and energy. You can’t play major league ball with the B team.

    Personally, I can’t stand Ted Kennedy but there is no doubt in anyone’s mind how much power he wields in the Senate. If we want Michigan to get the kind of federal money that Massachusetts receives, we need to elect a man the equal of Kennedy – and I don’t mean his equal morally, spiritually, or even as a man. I mean his equal in power, in the ability to carry and swing a very big stick and the will to bash heads with it. Kennedy is a slug…but he’s a powerful slug.

    BTW, this is also the reason Grandholm is unable to be an engine of change. She has no influence, no power, no credibility, and is not respected because she appears to be silly. All she can do is interfere and waste money but the people with genuine power know her days are numbered so she is safely ignored. If she puts a call into the CEO of Ford, the call is not returned. If she calls the CEO of Dow Chemical, he is gone for the day. Nobody in a position of power needs to curry favor with Grandholm. They will go through the motions of respect, even talk a good game on TV…but the Respect is not there.

    • jgillman
      August 19, 2009 at 5:11 pm

      See I would give at least Granholm and Levin a little credit, and say that they DO in fact have influence..

      The problem is that they use it to forward policy that has destroyed the state. And even Stabenow can be counted on to sign on the dotted lines when the craziest of bills comes up. She is just not so bright in my estimation. Levin on the other hand does whatever is necessary to maintain the 30 plus years of seat warming through interest funded re-elections. I believe he understands the damage that he signs on to, and continues to plod forward..

      Granholm? hmm.. not sure if she is evil or just plain insipid.. the jury is out in my mind. I would suspect the latter.. I also think she wishes it was HER who did the Tomb Raider series..

  13. Craig
    August 19, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    jgillman: I’m with you there, but I believe the destruction of our state started with the Milliken. Engler brought us some respite but even he governed from a position of compromise. I don’t believe you can compromise with liberals. I don’t mind conceding a point to them philosophically or discussing how sensitive we could all be if only this were heaven where lions lie down with lambs, etc., but, when it comes to government and “other people’s money”, you cannot give an inch. They believe that they are entitled to decide how limited resources are to be allocated. This is theft…but they cannot see it. Yet if they found someone stealing the lawn mower out of their garage, the call to 911 would be instantaneous…but it is OK to rob a working man of the ability to put his kids through college or retire to Texas and take up bass fishing.

    The intellectual myopia of liberals is remarkable. It is like watching bumblebees fly.

    BTW, if she did Tomb Raider they would be unwatchable. As it is they are boring, silicone notwithstanding. With Grandholm in there, it would be a prison sentance.

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