Blame the Boxmakers

Letters published July 19, 2006

Sharks in the lease-world food chain: I left the leasing business after a 20-year career, but still follow some stories ["Breaking the Bank," July 5]. Justice, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder.

Norvergence sold its service to small-business people, many of them unsophisticated. Norvergence then transferred the leases to banks and commercial finance companies, many of them very sophisticated. I worked at a five-person company, and when we heard the funding pitch, it took about three to five minutes to realize this was not paper we wanted to fund.

In this food chain, while ultimate liability may rest with the small-business owner, the responsibility and sophistication lie with the funders. The business owners made relatively small decisions -- changing a phone carrier. Their ability to invest in due diligence was limited. After all, how much time can one spend shopping for phone service?

The funders, however, were each committing hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars on high-yield transactions. The high yield is the key; it means more risk. High yield means more need to understand why the yields are so high. Greed often wins. The yields were too enticing to pass up, and funders filled their portfolios with Norvergence paper. It didn't hurt that Norvergence had hired a former leasing-association president and bank leasing manager to market its paper.

The Norvergence "black box" had minimal resale value; hence, it was pretty clear to anyone who asked the question that the phone service was key to the deal working. Without the phone service, the black boxes did not have much value and were not used by other carriers. If something went wrong with the service, the customers likely would need alternative phone service, and a sophisticated lessor can reasonably anticipate that customers would simply stop paying.

That doesn't mean the end-user customers should get a walk-away-free card, but they should not shoulder the bulk of the financial burden. In this food chain, the sophistication lies at the top.

David Rabinovitz
Marlborough, Massachusetts

Pirates and Fools
Dead Man's Chest overcomes its criticism:
If you are going to send a reviewer out to watch a film, please make certain he does so with an open mind and actually pays attention to the movie.

I just watched Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. It is blatantly obvious that your reviewer, Robert Wilonsky, had made up his mind to dislike it even before seeing it. In his review ["Fool's Gold," July 5], he was making incorrect statements and asking questions that were answered.

Please, sending a reviewer incapable of watching a movie with an open mind and unable just to sit back and enjoy a fun, action-packed film is like sending a food critic who can't stand sweets to review a gourmet ice-cream shop. It's stupid, makes you and him look foolish, and wastes my time by having me read a piece-of-crap review about a thoroughly entertaining film.

Jessica Sholtis
North Olmsted

When God Weighs In
Cheating pastors don't get a pass:
This is so sick ["Thy Neighbor's Wife," June 21]. I don't understand why they would find this man not guilty. She confessed. He confessed. What is the problem? Phenomenal.

I am so sick of people who abuse their authority and positions. God is obviously gonna have to deal with him.

LaTanya Davis
Dallas, Texas

Mad Props
Wicked's dragon mystery solved:
I found the dragon prop confusing when I saw the musical, too ["Little Pretty," June 28]. If one reads the novel, things are a little clearer. The dragon must be the Time Dragon, one of two or three atavistic figures in Oz mythology as envisioned by Gregory Maguire. It is represented in the novel near the beginning and end as a kind of clockwork traveling exhibit, along the lines of those elaborate German clocks where figures come and go through little doors. The characters in the novel have only the vaguest superstitious understanding of these figures themselves.

Larry Baldanza

Fear Factors
Home births and midwives deserve better:
Your lead article this week ["Midwife Crisis," June 28] was misleading and unfortunate. The problem with the birth described was terrible, but not because there was a midwife present or because it was done at home.

She was an uninformed midwife attempting to do a high-risk birth at home. Poor judgment and lack of experience with shoulder dystocia were leading factors in the outcomes being bad. Shoulder dystocia is a very scary problem, and at least half the time it occurs, there are no "risk factors." Knowing how to deal with it, practicing how to deal with it, and having an aware and able team are important. This birth you reported is not defensible in a court of law or in the moral court of the heart.

Birth is scary, and all our society says to fear it, but, ironically, fear actually creates problems. Maybe not the ones in this article, but many others. How do you account for the fact that nearly all Amish women have low-intervention out-of-hospital births without problems?

You brought up many issues with half-truths (how midwives practice, safety of home birth, why birth was driven into the hospital, to name a few).

Susan Greene
Cleveland Heights

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