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Letters 10/6/08

- October 6th, 2008
Who‘s to blame?
The consensus is that the crisis in financial markets relates to the sub-prime mortgage scandal. Until mortgages are under control, even the Fed cannot bail us out and return prosperity in America.
But no one is addressing the cause, or fixing the blame for the crisis. That is a bad mistake. People who get caught doing wrong always say, “Don’t look back; let’s just fix the problem.”
Blame is important because it acknowledges that a right way of doing things still exists, as opposed to what happened here. If there is no blame, then the public gets the mistaken impression that “the system” is flawed. Instead of focusing the problem where it belongs – on the crooks who created and then milked a disaster – the public sees the entire system as at fault, and takes money out of the system, further damaging it.
I‘m reminded of something I read earlier this year: a February 14 article, “Predatory Lenders’ Partner in Crime,” in the Washington Post by then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.
Spitzer, who was later caught in a scandal, wrote that the sub-prime crisis, which caused the current banking crisis, was not caused by a mysterious, insoluble flaw in the American system. It was caused by predatory lending – bankers and mortgage companies enticed people to borrow money without the slightest ability to pay it back. Then they sold the mortgages to others, who invested in mortgage-backed securities.
As of 2003 – years ago – 50 state attorney generals filed suit or brought civil claims against subprime lenders to stop the gathering disaster. Fifty state attorney generals saw the risk of this crisis.
The Bush administration – the “partner in crime” – forced the 50 states to stop their civil actions. The Bush administration turned loose the speculators and manipulators, and sided with financial rogues against the American public.
The financial crisis that threatens the world did not come out of nowhere. Real, live bad people caused this to happen. They hurt real, live Americans trying to make a living and save for retirement. They hurt, for example, local hospitals that invest savings and provide medical help to the community. They hurt school teachers; they hurt yard workers; they hurt Republicans and Democrats alike.
And the Bush administration intentionally assisted in this crime. As of 2003 the states were trying to stop this disaster. The Bush administration actively prevented lawyers from saving American citizens from this financial disaster – a disaster my children will be paying for over the next 50 years.
My message may be a little strange, but here it is – The American system is a good system that has worked for many decades. It has not failed. What failed is a corrupt presidential administration.

Grant W. Parsons • TC

In defense of Exxon
As a frequent reader of your publication, I am used to liberally-biased, ill-informed diatribes on the letters page. After reading one particular letter in the September 22 issue concerning the Exxon corporation, I could stand idly by no more.
Exxon Mobile is the second largest corporation in the world and it stands to reason that their total profit would also be huge. According to Fortune magazine, Exxon has a profit of 10.89% when compared to their total earnings for the year 2008. This “obscene” amount of profit makes them worthy of a boycott, so let’s go even further.
By the logic of the letter writer, she’s going to have to boycott a lot more things than Exxon gas. No more GE light bulbs for her (profit margin - 12.57%); no more Pepsi (14.33%). She could switch to Coke. Oops they have a 20.73% profit margin. No more Disney movies (13.06%). She will have to give up her PC as well (Microsoft - 27.51%). She is probably an Apple user - damn (14.56% for Apple). She could call her representative, but wait: AT&T has a profit margin of 10.05%. Planning home improvement projects? Can’t go to Lowe‘s (13.89%). No more post-it-notes (3M - 16.74%); no more insurance (Allstate - 12.61%); no more shampoo or toothpaste (Procter & Gamble - 13.52%), (Johnson & Johnson - 17.31%).
I could go on, but do you get my point? I am sure to the letter writer these are all evil corporations, but why do we begrudge companies from turning a healthy profit? I don’t like paying high costs for fuel, but obviously Exxon’s profit margin is not so excessive as compared to other companies.
As to the letter writer, enjoy your life full of boycotts, but do the rest of us have to join you in your pointless and ridiculous exercise? I think not.

Mark A. Herberger • Manistee

Expert qualifications
By the time President Bush ended his short statement to the press on the morning following Congress’ rejection of the Wall Street bailout, it was sadly evident that the poor guy, once again, didn’t have a clue as to what he was talking about.
The camera showed him stepping to the rostrum, looking down at his notes and, without again looking up, reading as would a fifth grader (“I can do this, I can do this”) to the conclusion. He then turned and walked away. Obviously, someone inside the Oval Office had said to him, “The notes are on the rostrum. Walk up to the microphone, read the notes, and come back.” And that’s what he did.
A question crossed my mind: Would we, the American public, have had any greater reassurance had the message been presented by, say, Vice President Palin? It’s hard to believe she could do any worse than George. In fact, I began to think, she might just do a hellova‘ lot better. And there’s good reason for this.
The fact of the matter is that if you go to the second floor of Sarah Palin’s home and look out the corner window of the guest bedroom, on a clear day you can easily see the top of the branch office of the Alaska State Bank in downtown Wasilla.
In case you were wondering, that makes Sarah a financial expert.

Steve Morse • Suttons Bay

Flawed article
I am disappointed that the Northern Express published the obsolete, biased and innuendo-laden piece entitled “The Other Presidential Candidates” by Tom Proebsting, in the Sept. 29 issue. Written months ago, the author clearly has a bone to pick with third party candidates in general and with Ron Paul in particular (who ended his campaign long ago). Is this insulting screed intended to be quality election coverage or crude satire?
The commentary demeans most of the candidates mentioned, calling Ron Paul “angry,” painting Cynthia McKinney as a crazy conspiracy theorist, and labeling Ralph Nader a “waste of a vote and time.” It goes on to suggest that the Constitution is a relic of agrarian times, and restoring Constitutional government (i.e. rule of law) is “akin to turning back the clock to 1776” (the Constitution was adopted in 1787, actually).
The article gives short shrift to the serious issues third party candidates champion.
The author would have us believe that the Republicrats (Democrats + Republicans) have a wonderful record of fixing the economy, protecting civil liberties, stopping government corruption, protecting the environment, etc. You only need see how the Republicrat leadership eagerly pushed for Wall Street’s Bailout Boondoggle of 2008 to realize that they are shills for their corporate friends.
The Republicrats have a record of dismantling of our civil liberties via the Patriot Acts, propagating our unsustainable empire abroad, and implementing reckless inflationary monetary and fiscal policy.
We wonder why after always voting for the Republicrats, we never see “change.” If you truly want “change,” look up these third party candidates on Google, form your own opinion, and seriously consider voting for them. The wasted vote is the one for a Republicrat.

Zack Fivenson • TC

Slap in the face
Antrim County has some unhappy and very costly experience with waste disposal methods which were thought at the time to be safe -- just as the Star Township injection well for Bay Harbor waste this time around is “suggested” by the DEQ to be safe -- but which, in hard fact, generated toxic plumes that have ruined dozens of wells, polluted prize trout streams, and cost several million dollars to cope with... so far.
In the Bay Harbor-Alba-well case, where CMS is responsible for clean-up, six of Michigan’s most honored river headwaters are threatened by the injection method, which has a history of 10% failure. As an offset to the possibility of failure, the state requires a performance bond – enough money to assure a realistic cleanup in the event of need.
In this case, the bond was set at $40,000. No, I didn’t lose any zeroes. That’s it – enough to pay for a couple weeks with a big back hoe. That’s the performance bond in a project costing $140,000,000? What explains this sleight of hand? This is hard to swallow.
The state has noted that the applicant, CMS’s subsidiary, The Beeland Group, LLC, had no environmental black marks in its history, thereby deserving a low bond rate.
Well, OF COURSE it had no historical black marks. It had no history at all. The state knew more about Little Bo Peep’s environmental propensities than it did about Beeland’s, because the firm was invented by CMS just for this project. CMS’s own history might not have justified any such piddling performance bond, so Beeland was invented. Same street address.
As Representative Elsenheimer has so well said, and emphasized to the governor, this arrangement constitutes a real slap in the face to area residents.

Jack Norris • via email

Flawed logic
Congratulations on Ann Stanton’s Bay Harbor article! Bulldozing the formerly inert -- though toxic -- cement kiln dust underwater where it could and would and did brew up a killer-soup was about as devoid of rational thought as things can get. But that’s past.
Looking to the future in a constructive frame of mind, another point merits attention: the matter of tonnage transport. Spokesmen for CMS’s giddy notion of squirting the noxious leachate under pressure down a hole in Star Township explain their disregard of the EPA’s earlier order (to remove, contain, or isolate the cement kiln dust) on grounds of the “logistic impossibility” of trucking away 2.5 million tons of it. But, hold on a sec. The trucking of leachate at 135,000 gallons per day for 20 years – envisioned in the permit application – adds up to just a bit over 4.1 million tons. How come the easier one is impossible and the harder one is okay? Or is this the new math?
And note in passing that were the truck-and-squirt technique to be used for 20 years, less than three to eight percent of the actual lechate would have been captured and the rest of the lechate would continue to run into the bay for thousands of years.

Rick Beemon • Charlevoix

What surge?
We all know what a “surge” is. We have surge protectors on our computer plugs. Rivers have levees for surges in the water level. By definition a surge is temporary. What goes up comes down.
We have not yet seen a “surge” in troop levels in the war in Iraq. We have seen only the increase. We cannot discuss the success of the surge until the troop levels decrease. If we continue to remain in Iraq in the same force, the “surge” has not succeeded. It has failed. If we do not see thousands of dead or captured Al Qaida, we have not defeated them and the war on terror; we have just driven the terrorists to Iran or to Afghanistan or elsewhere.
In addition to the surge in the military troop level in Iraq, the level of armed U. S. civilians – Blackwater, Haliburton, etc. – has reached 180,000 such mercenaries, according to Virginia Senator Jim Webb in his book A Time to Fight. Billions in our taxes are being paid to these civilian companies who are not interested in having the U.S. pull-out of Iraq.
Senator Barack Obama has promised as President to get us out of Iraq and to redeploy troops and tax dollars where they are needed in the war on terror.

Mike Wyzgoski • Elk Rapids
No nukes, please
How does John McCain keep a straight face while touting more nuclear power plants? The self-styled “straight talk” presidential candidate says nothing about nuclear power being dirty, dangerous, and energy-intensive during its entire production cycle. Nor does he connect the dots between nuclear power plants and their potential sources of material for nuclear weapons.
True “straight talk” would be about solving thorny problems facing us and the world ever since the horrific atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima 63 years ago in August.

Barbara MacArthur • Charlevoix

Due to the high volume of letters received during the election period, we‘d like to remind readers to keep their letters to 300 words or less

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