Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Music · Poor standards
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Poor standards

Stephen Tuttle - August 15th, 2011

Poor Standards

So, now we’ve been “downgraded” by the estimable Standard and Poor’s
(S&P). We’ve fallen from a top-of-the-line AAA rating to AA+. No one is
certain exactly how far the ripples from this will extend. The giant
mortgage houses known as Freddie Mac (Federal Home Mortgage Association)
and Fannie Mae (Federal National Mortgage Association) have already been
similarly downgraded.
The rating system is supposedly designed to help lenders understand the
credit-worthiness of potential borrowers and for borrowers to receive a
kind of credit score.
The coveted AAA rating simply means the recipient is a solid, stable
country or corporation that fully pays its debt and is likely to do so in
the future.
For corporations, the AAA rating means they can more easily borrow and
that their stock is a safe investment. For a country, it means they can
more easily borrow and have little trouble selling government bonds and
treasury notes.
Standard & Poor’s is one of three rating services (the other two being
Moody’s and Fitch’s, neither of which have similarly downgraded our rating
from AAA). It was started in 1860 by Henry Poor as a service to analyze
the financial condition of railroads. They eventually merged with the
Standard Statistics Bureau, becoming Standard & Poor’s. They were gobbled
up by international publishing and financial information giant McGraw-Hill
in 1966.
So why does anybody care what Standard & Poor’s thinks? Good question.
The theory is there has to be some sort of “independent” guideline for
lenders. S&P has become the leader because of their enormous size and
media savvy. They’ve essentially created the metrics they use to
determine credit-worthiness.
The problem is there is just no way to judge their judgment. The ratings
are opinions based on several factors, many of which are almost entirely
subjective. S&P doesn’t like our current political environment and
suggests the problems are untenable. They don’t think there will be
enough deficit reduction in the next two years and were nice enough to
give us a figure to shoot for.
Some might consider that meddling where they best not. Others have
suggested they are just doing their jobs. Either way, they’re speculating
based on the anticipation of congressional behavior, a fool’s mission in
the extreme.
It’s also troubling to many that on the corporate side, the rating
agencies are paid by the companies they rate.
There is no evidence of overt quid pro quo, payments in exchange for high
ratings. At the same time, all three are top heavy with well-rated
companies. And there is a danger of a kind of osmotic corruption. Even
the most honest analysts must be at least subconsciously aware they’re
looking at a company that may have paid them a great deal of money. If
the rating is poor there is really no point in that company repeating the
process, or the payments, in the years to come.
There is also a question of accuracy. The ratings services pretty much
missed the tech bubble bursting in the late ‘90s and then completely
botched, and in fact helped contribute to, the housing crash that started
in 2007.
As you likely recall, the housing market was a spreading brushfire in the
first few years of this century. More and more people with lower and
lower credit were buying in a housing market that was nearing the peak of
runaway prices. Lending institutions were handing out sub-prime and
adjustable rate mortgages like they were free samples at a trade show.
Some bright folks at the London offices of Goldman Sachs thought it
would be a swell idea to figure out a way to bundle thousands of the
high-risk mortgages into investment instruments that weren’t really
insurance or stocks or securities so they couldn’t really be regulated
by anybody.
Other branches of Goldman Sachs and other investment houses thought
this was a swell idea, too. Banks, insurance companies, pension funds
and others invested in these collateralized debt obligations (CDO).
Things were going just swimmingly until the economy started to stagnate.
Homeowners, especially those who obtained sub-prime mortgages at or near
the zenith of the pricing frenzy, began to default on their loans and the
bundled investment packages crashed. Billions were lost.
This is significant because S&P gave those CDOs the ballyhooed AAA rating
despite the fact that any return on investment was dependent on people
that, at least statistically, were significantly more likely to default.
That rating encouraged even more investment in what was a doomed product.
The high-risk CDOs received the AAA rating. The United States, which
hasn’t defaulted on external debt in 221 years or internal debt in 78, is
downgraded to AA+. The logical conclusion is that Standard & Poor’s uses
poor standards.
No poorer, however, than the celebratory reaction of some Republicans to
the news of the downgrade. They just couldn’t be happier.
Sarah Palin spewed out a delighted “I told you so” and suggested we should
have been listening to her. Other Republican presidential wannabes
followed suit. There were additional rhetorical smiles as the stock
market tanked. None of them have their own specific plan but, hey, if it
hurts Obama they figure it’s good for them.
The rest of us don’t really factor into the equation.
It is not especially encouraging that a rating service and some
politicians have become gleeful fellow travelers on what has seemed like a
long downward economic spiral. Even less so given that Standard & Poor’s
seems intent on contributing to a continued downturn and some folks who
want to be president seem to be hoping for it.

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