Letters for October 12, 2006

Best in umpteen years

Re “Sacramento, I love you!” (SN&R Best of Sacramento, September 28):

Loved, loved, loved your “Best of Sacramento” issue. I had just returned from a trip back East and was thrilled I hadn’t missed this outpouring of love for my city. The love letters and list of winners always open my eyes to things I’ve been missing (except for that praise for Rob Fong, who is selling us down the proverbial river to the Maloofs).

This really was your best “Best of” ever, and I’ve been reading them since you first started umpteen years ago.

Shelly Keller

Best writer writes to us

Re “Readers’ choice: Best local book author” (SN&R Best of Sacramento, September 28):

Many thanks to SN&R readers for voting me “Best local book author,” along with Suzanne Brooks, in the annual Best of Sacramento issue.

For those who’d like to know more about the novel Gomez or my other fiction titles, my Web site, at http://stores.ebay.com/bpbooks, has information. In addition, The Book Collector in Midtown carries all my work, as do the Tower Books locations and the Sacramento Public Library.

Thanks again.

Bill Pieper

Ransom praise

Re “King’s ransom” (SN&R Feature Story, October 5):

Wild list

Re “World gone wild” (SN&R Editorial, September 28):

The reasons for the drop in Bush’s approval are simple:

Drunken driving and cocaine sniffing; National Guard AWOL; election fraud; Brown College; religious rhetoric; Bechtel, Halliburton and the Carlyle Group; Karl Rove; Enron; ignoring a presidential daily briefing titled “Bin Laden determined to attack U.S.”; Iraq; torture; Guantánamo; Abu Ghraib; “rendering”; secret prisons; Patriot Act; Trent Lott; energy inflation; Medicare drug plan; outsourcing; record deficits; a free Osama Bin Laden; no weapons of mass destruction; Valerie Plame; Jack Abramoff; domestic spying; Harriet Miers; Katrina; the United Arab Emirates port deal; Cheney’s near-manslaughter; and passing responsibility for the Iraq exit plan to the next president.

These factors—and many others—have clearly caused this administration to lose its appeal.

The real mystery is why Republicans still approve of Bush by a margin of around 70 percent. Republicans withhold no criticism of Democrats, no matter how trivial, but lack the guts to address even the grossest of abuses when a member of their own party commits them.

L.C. Bennett
Fair Oaks

If all else fails, just confuse ’em

Re “World gone wild” (SN&R Editorial, September 28):

Bush’s war in Iraq has dramatically increased the number of terrorists and terrorist attacks around the world, yet the talking heads in the Bush administration and Republican Party continue to spin the myth that their war in Iraq is making America safer. Truth and freedom have given way to propaganda under Bush-Republican dominance.

As Hitler said, “The receptivity of the great mass is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. … All effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand.” Neoconservatives and the White House are basically using the same strategy on Americans.

Bush, Cheney and Republicans will be talking nonstop about terrorism until November 7, trying to confuse as many Americans as possible.

Ron Lowe
Grass Valley

Voices? Or good advertising?

Re “Hearing voices” by Amy Yannello (SN&R News, September 28):

The goal of the “virtual hallucinations” simulator designed by Janssen Pharmaceutica is less to increase understanding toward those labeled schizophrenic than to boost support for its antipsychotic drugs.

Janssen makes Risperdal (risperidone), one of the more expensive anti-psychotics on the market. As reported in Robert Whitaker’s 2002 book, Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill, Janssen, along with Eli Lilly and other drug companies, routinely skewed research in favor of its drug to get FDA approval. Part of this skewing involved doctors abruptly taking patients off their current medications and not putting them on anything else and then using them as a “control group.” These patients did worse than the ones on whatever medicine was being tested, at least partly because they were going through withdrawal. Some of the patients so used committed suicide.

Many anti-psychotics can cause severe side effects, including diabetes, Parkinson’s, tardive dyskinesia (uncontrollable muscle movements) and early death. They have also been shown to permanently shrink the frontal lobes of the brain. Moreover, people put on such drugs after a psychotic episode are more likely to relapse than those who aren’t, even if they continue to faithfully take their medicine.

I’m glad Sylvia Carleton’s symptoms are being controlled by medication. I support a person’s right to choose medication if they are informed of the risks, though they often aren’t. But for everyone who says they’re being helped by such medicine, there are at least as many being harmed.

Liz Purcell

More education, for both lenders and buyers

Re “Has the bubble burst?” by Sasha Abramsky (SN&R Feature Story, September 21):

Thousands are facing the problems of declining property values and payment increases on loans they never understood. There’s plenty of blame to go around:

“Exotic” loan programs aren’t new and were controversial when I became a loan officer 20 years ago (rates were double back then). Few loan officers explained potential rate increases or negative amortization to their clients, and conveniently didn’t mention prepayment penalties.

For several years, I trained loan officers for a national lender. The training included reading disclosures for complex loan programs, calculating payments and explaining complex loan programs.

Today, few lenders train staff and rely on the borrowers to interpret the loan disclosures. Apply online and then try to discuss programs with “qualified” staff in India! With rates at historic lows, swamped lenders hired people to answer phones and do data entry. People entered our industry for easy money and exited when the loan volume subsided.

Consumers will spend hours shopping for laptops yet spend little time researching a loan! If a dedicated loan officer explains the loan, borrowers hear only pieces, dreaming about new furniture!

People purchased multiple homes for a quick profit or leveraged their home to buy “toys.” Real-estate agents and developers fueled this madness by consistently raising prices and demanding unrealistic approval timeframes from lenders, preventing borrowers from comparison shopping. (Note: Get pre-approved!)

But the article had some discrepancies:

Banks aren’t always “reluctant to finance risky mortgages.” They have aggressive Community Reinvestment Act loan goals for low- to moderate-income individuals. Many actively market these programs, which feature subsidized rates and relaxed qualifying standards.

The Philbrooks have in fact built up equity! Their home was $244,000 in 2004; it appraised in 2006 for $300,000, and they thought about listing it for $279,000. Not bad. They enjoyed a tax deduction for the interest paid, in spite of a crummy loan and no reduction in the loan balance (which isn’t much anyway).

When the lender sends loan disclosures, read them! Contact the lender (or nonprofit agency) and get the details. If the lender is unwilling—or unable—to do that, shop elsewhere.

And fire the real-estate agent who plays loan specialist and insists you use his or her buddy for your home loan!

Bob Rystad
Citrus Heights