A building problem
Thank you for the story about bricklayer Salvatore Viviano ("Nightmare on Highbury Court," Metro Times, Dec. 12). It's too rare to see exposure like this in the media. I am the secretary of a national consumer advocacy organization, and we get thousands of complaints a year on bad builders. These are not complaints about paint that doesn't match or scratches, but leaky roofs, foundation failure, missing code-required material, deadly electrical hazards, etc. It didn't take long for the additional complaints about predatory lending to surface, either, once builders commonly started setting up in-house lenders. We've seen families destroyed by bad builders.
Going to court with a bad judge, bad lawyer or with no jury can be as bad as the private arbitration process many contractors-builders have written into their contracts. Arbitration takes away a homeowner's right to file suit. The industry makes arbitration mandatory because it favors them.
Whether it's court or arbitration, or even if the case doesn't get that far, it can be financially ruinous to have construction defects. Damages can escalate to tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of dollars. People assume there's consumer protection — laws — in place. But it either doesn't exist or isn't enforced, and we see problems from all 50 states.
Before buying a new house or hiring a contractor, it seems consumers need to become a builder, lawyer, engineer, etc., or plan on hiring such experts to protect them. It's a sad commentary on the construction industry that it needs so much babysitting and investigation, and even then it's no guarantee of not getting ripped off. The industry seems rotten with corruption, and I wonder is there any hope it'll ever return to a position of respect? —Cindy Schnackel, Norman, Okla.
Thank you, Jack, for illuminating the shenanigans surrounding the early primary and voter lists ("Heroes and scoundrels," Metro Times, Nov. 14). I'd like you to revisit this issue in light of how our delegates are to be thrown out. Needless to say, I am not pleased. I, for one, do not think New Hampshire or Iowa have any right to continuously skew our candidate selection process.
Secondly, the idea that the Democratic or Republican parties should "punish" Michigan for trying to have a say in our primaries is not only plain wrong, but it also demonstrates how out of touch our politicians really are with the voters in Michigan. They say necessity is the mother of invention, I say secession is the answer to our necessity. —Brendan Casey, Ann Arbor
I read with interest "You can't make this up" by Jack Lessenberry (Metro Times, Dec.12). Jack's analysis of the Huckabee-vs.-Romney issue is very thoughtful and right on the money. Huckabee appeals to the emotions of the people, whereas Romney stimulates people intellectually. Unfortunately, most people are more emotional than intellectual. There is an old story about a presidential candidate giving a very intellectually stimulating stump speech, at the end of which his campaign workers approached him and told him that the speech was superb and every thinking person after listening to that speech would vote for him. The candidate responded, smilingly, "But I need a majority to win!"
I suspect the Greek philosophers had it wrong when they declared, "Man is a rational animal!" Nothing could be further from truth! Man should be a rational animal, but is more likely to be an emotional animal than a rational animal! The head must always rule the heart, but too often, we let the heart rule the head! The best decisions we make, however, are the ones in which the head determines the direction in which we should go, whereas the heart dictates the passion with which we end up going in that direction. The two have to work in unison for our actions to be effective, efficient and fruitful. —Pradeep Srivastava, Detroit
Re: Lessenberry's "Conyers' hard choice" (Metro Times, Dec. 5). It's a good thing that the architects of the American Revolution didn't have the "we might lose, so let's not even bother" attitude that Jack Lessenberry applauds from John Conyers. Otherwise, the Consitution that Conyers claims to be protecting would not even exist.
And I'm so glad that Conyers is "having the time of his life" as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, but I'd prefer if he took the lives of American and Iraqi people seriously enough to actually live by his convictions — win or lose. This column makes it sound as if Conyers has decided that he's put in 42 years of hard work and so he gets to put his feet up now that he's actually attained the power it takes to make a real difference.
Now is when the real work starts, Mr. Conyers. You have a chance to help the world see that this administration does not speak for the American people, that we know as well as anyone how wrong our government has been. That's the message an impeachment process would send and we need your help to send it.
Please resist the too-easy route, Mr. Conyers. As the late labor and community activist James Boggs would say, "Don't go looking for no cheap-ass victories." —Julia Putnam, Detroit
Your latest article "Conyers' hard choice" reminds me exactly why the liberal left is considered by many to be a weak and defunct party. This article sets the perfect example of the Democrats hyping up a plan for political gain, then dropping their plans like a redheaded stepchild and spewing off a lame excuse as to why they can't do it. Look at their campaign for the last election season. "We're bringing our troops home!" Blah, blah, blah. So, they take over Congress and are lame ducks, as usual. —K. King, Clinton Twp.