Blogs > Frye on the News

Keeping his eye on the news and offering commentaries and insights on what is happening in Oakland County, around the world, on the tube and in the news.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Who to believe with economic crisis

Three times now, I have listened to President George W. Bush describe
in fairly dire terms the need for the bailout. I've been paying
attention for months as I've watched stocks for several financial
companies fall -- and fall quickly -- far below highs reached in
early 2007.
Stock prices dipping from the $90s to the teens tell one that there
is a serious correction going on in our markets.
Then the bailouts started with banks and the powerful mortgage
brokers, Frannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Then Lehman crashed; Merrill
might have been saved from disaster with a takeover bid by Bank of
America; and the government bailed out AIG.
Finally comes the proposed bailout, a $700 billion investment by the
American government and taxpayers in financial institutions who have
failed when left with minimal regulations.
All the talking heads, political leaders and financial experts
promise substantial problems if this bailout is not approved: no
credit for families trying to buy cars, get student loans or buy new
houses as well as no credit for businesses trying to expand or even
cover payrolls.
Can we believe this?
I don't know, but credibility is earned, and our leaders have no
credibility left.
Such dire warnings were spewed about Iraq, weapons of mass
destruction and an imminent mushroom cloud. Turns out none of that
was true, though a ruthless leader was cast aside. Of course, the
country is still filled with an occupying army and violence, though
down, still exists. We're still paying for this mess with lives and
money years later -- with no end in sight.
So now we're promised a disaster if we don't rush into an quick fix.
I'm not buying it.
If the situation is as bad as promised, then I don't think $700
billion will be enough to fix an economy that is based on borrowing
what cannot be paid back. Isn't that what got us into this mess --
home mortgages that could not be paid back mixed with sinking home
values (or a correction for over-inflated home prices)?
And all these threats of no credit to keep the gears of the economic
engine turning? If I don't have the money to survive now, how is my
situation going to improve -- to stabilize -- by getting deeper into
If the problem is loans not being paid back, then shouldn't American
families and businesses work to reduce their debt?
Also, if the situation is this dire, then why weren't these threats
to our economic stability discussed until we reached this point of
urgent repairs. These failures in our system did not just become
apparent. For everyone to pretend this just came about reeks of more
While the official line is that the bailout is needed from all the
concerned parties, I don't think the public is buying it. Our online
poll here at shows two-thirds of readers
rejecting the bailout.
The numbers have been consistent since the bailout was proposed, with
67 percent saying no. Only six percent say that it should be done and
done quickly, as 27 percent say it should be done but only after
careful review and having a close eye kept on the money.
Here's an idea.
I'd bet that polls would shift substantially, though not completely
around, if Bush came out and said, I know I was wrong about Iraq and
the warnings sounded then came from faulty intelligence; but this
time I'm serious.
Admitting a lie actually plays pretty well to the public, and this
time, he might be believed.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

About time! Can the market be fixed next?

Many expected the "Fire Millen" chants to sound for years, despite
how bad the team has been. Critics of the Lions' ownership cite
longtime general manager, Russ Thomas, who remained with the team
despite years of poor performances.
But today, it appears that Millen's eight-year tenure ends, as the
31-84 record — worst in the league during this period — has ended.
During Millen's record, several teams have reached the bottom and
then climbed out to succeed again. Look at Millen's former offensive
coordinator, taking the hapless 49ers and running all over the Lions'
Everyone has wondered when will it get so bad that it finally has to
get better.
Little confidence was felt about the Lions, but now a change is being
made. So what's next?
Has the housing market finally bottomed out, meaning that homeowners
can look forward to better news next year?
Will gasoline prices continue a downward trend and approach former
Will the stock market begin growing and stabilizing?
Is the economy ready to right its ship, with employment rising, the
auto industry rebounding and health care prices dropping?
OK, probably not and things likely will continue to worsen, as a
political battle over the bailout providing an extra dose of anxiety.
But with William Clay Ford finally axing the only man who makes Kwame
Kilpatrick seem well-liked in the Detroit community, maybe things can
improve for the better.
Let's hope.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Looking out for self while city crumbles

It was a long and difficult fight for city leaders in Pontiac to
determine how to staff both its fire and police departments. In the
end, several rounds of cuts were made at the police department
because the fire department clung to the city's charter requirement
for minimum manning, requiring a certain staffing level due to
population. That meant that firefighters jobs were saved while police
jobs were cut.
Fast forward several months and look at the city now, besieged with
almost daily shootings, elevating from (how terrible to say) simple
shootings to actual shootouts. How long until a child is struck by a
stray bullet?
This past week alone has seen two homicides out of three (or four, as
the latest incident involves two areas) shootings. The violence as
escalated, with Saturday's fatal shooting of a Pontiac teenager being
carried out when his home was stormed by a group of five people, one
of whom is believed to have had an AK-47.
Then a young man from Clarkston was gunned down while reportedly
driving through a neighborhood, perhaps looking for drugs. Then last
night, two people went to the POH Medical Centers emergency room with
gun shot wounds, prompting the hospital to go into lockdown mode.
Will there come a time when hospitals and their staffs have to lock
their doors instead of receiving victims, as earlier this year one
shooting led to a near riot outside a hospital?
Many people said, especially several of the veteran prosecutors who
had worked in this city with both police investigators and victims of
crimes, they feared lawlessness would prevail and violence would expand.
More than 15 years ago, Pontiac saw homicide rates in the 20s and
30s, but under then-Chief Rollie Gackstetter and his efforts to put
as many officers as he could on the streets working both in the
neighbors and with residents in crime prevention programs, the
homicide rate dipped to as low as three in one year. In 2004, the
city had 170 officers; today, they have 65.
How can this unit patrol the city without constantly scrambling from
one crime scene to another? It cannot.
Today, we're at 20 homicides with three months to go in the year. We
could have had two more last night.
On top of that, throughout the year, numerous shooting injuries get
reported, typically involving someone getting shot in the leg in some
neighborhood. According to a recent story in The Oakland Press, a
rough estimate at POH Medical Centers showed 1,300 victims of crimes
required treatment.
It is too bad that Mayor Clarence Phillips and the City Council could
not find a solution with the fire department to keep officers, and it
is a real shame that fire officials could not work with the city
instead of fighting potential cuts.
Perhaps, the city should have looked at a widespread change, creating
a Department of Public Safety where members perform both police
officer and firefighters duty. Then they could have officers on the
streets, as it is evident that lawlessness has taken over without the
uniformed presence in the neighborhoods.
But it's too late for that, I think, and it will take a long time for
the city to recover economically enough to restore its police
department. That means that this problem could simply get worse.
How bad?
I don't want to know.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Oil drilling sex scandal?

OK, here was one headline I left to The Associated Press.
I knew to stay away from writing a headline for the story about the sex scandal at the Minerals Management Service's Denver office. 

Here is a bit of the story from The A.P.:

The two-year, $5.3 million investigation by Interior's inspector general found workers at the Minerals Management Service's royalty collection office in Denver partying, having sex, using drugs and accepting gifts and ski trips and golf outings from energy company representatives with whom they did government business.
The investigations exposed "a culture of ethical failure" and an agency rife with conflicts of interest, Inspector General Earl E. Devaney said.
Between 2002 and 2006, 19 oil marketers — nearly a third of the Denver office staff — received gifts and gratuities from oil and gas companies, including Chevron Corp., Shell, Hess Corp. and Denver-based Gary-Williams Energy Corp., the investigators found.
"Employees frequently consumed alcohol at industry functions, had used cocaine and marijuana, and had sexual relationships with oil and natural gas company representatives" who referred to some of the government workers as the "MMS Chicks."
The director of the royalty program had a consulting job on the side for a company that paid him $30,000 for marketing its services to various oil and gas companies, the report said.
MMS Director Randall Luthi said in an interview the agency was taking the report "extremely seriously" and would weigh taking appropriate action in coming months.

Sounds like it's perhaps an interesting place to work, but, again, I don't want any messes coming from an appropriately funny headline.
Oh, the headline used by The AP: Oil brokers sex scandal may affect drilling debate

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Jail not always required for felons

Some have made much about the outgoing Detroit mayor avoiding prison
with his guilty plea to felony charges. Some believe that any guilty
or no contest plea to a felony should result in jail or prison;
however, that is not the case.
Most cases, when you sit through any of the dozen or so lengthy
criminal calls in the Oakland County Circuit Court, result in
probation with extensive conditions. Some get to jail, often
suspended if probation is successfully completed. A smaller
percentage gets prison, which indicates the amount of felony cases in
our courts with 55,000 people filling Michigan's prisons.
Most felony cases consist of drug possession (any drug other than
marijuana is a felony to possess) as well as credit card or car
registration fraud. Also, many misdemeanors require felony add-ons if
the person argues with or scuffles with police. Also high up on the
list are retail frauds, if a multiple offense or topping a certain
dollar amount.
The majority of these cases end with probation, usually with rehab or
some kind of substance abuse treatment required. Typically, theft
involves some kind of addiction.
Multiple domestic violence cases also result in felonies, most time
with minimal jail time as the victim usually wants (even needs,
financially) the culprit home.
Then there are the drunken drivings, oh so many, and these would
likely involve probation except the law mandates a minimum jail term
of 30 days. Often they get longer jail terms in Oakland County, and
it is not uncommon for those guys -- especially if they have more
than three arrests -- getting 18 months or more in prison.
So Kwame Kilpatrick is not getting a huge break by avoiding prison by
his pleading to felonies, and chances are, if he wasn't mayor and he
lied about romance on the stand, he'd get probation.
Of course, with all his problems, many would say that he does indeed
deserve prison, and that might very well be true.

Coen amuse

Highlight of the weekend is the new Coen Brothers movie, "Burn After
Reading." George Clooney did a great job in their "O' Brother, Where
Art Thou?" a few years back and I'm looking forward to this one. The
brothers do a great job when they write a comedy while in the middle
of a more serious work, as they have reportedly written this while
working on their eventual Oscar-winning "No County For Old Men."