Falun Follow-up

Plus: Porn Priorities?, House Woes, Sit on It

'Rooing arbitration: I would like to thank you for the article regarding the pitfalls of binding arbitration ["Buyers' Remorse," by Wendy Grossman, June 20]. People in this country are learning the painful lessons imposed by this kangaroo court on a daily basis.

Never in history has our corporate world been held in such low esteem by the public, and this kind of so-called justice is fueling the fire of those honest citizens who have trusted their builders to deliver what they promised. Trust in others is a God-given trait in humans, and it is systematically being destroyed by practices such as binding arbitration, which is nothing more than a process created by businesses to allow them to negate their obligations to their customers.

I applaud you for your courage to tackle this subject and give the real facts to the public. We need many more like you to expose this practice for what it really is: a bulletproof shield for unscrupulous businesspeople.

Jo Hayman

BBBe smart: Reader Cindy Schnackel of Edmond, Oklahoma ["Breaking the Mold," Letters, July 11], suggested that traditional sources of consumer information such as the Better Business Bureau are ineffective about home builders. Her suggestion serves only to deprive consumers of one avenue that they might use to educate and protect themselves.

And, before Ms. Schnackel or her organization attempts to portray this as a shameless plug for BBB-member home builders, consider some stats:

We have 313 files on various home builders in our seven-county service area. Only about one-third are BBB members. Ninety have "satisfactory" ratings as far as complaint handling. Another 78 are rated "unsatisfactory." The remainder have limited file information.

We just parted company with a large local builder that refused to use the bureau's forum for mediation and arbitration. Considering that we will have meaningful complaint information (or lack thereof) on virtually all of these businesses, is it really wise to ignore the BBB as a source?

No, we are not the final word on customer experiences, but we are a fine place to start and maybe get a little bit of consumer information. Maybe that's not available in Edmond, Oklahoma, but it damn sure is here!

Dan Parsons, president
BBB of Metropolitan Houston, Inc.

Sit on It

Cut the crap: I can't even imagine writing 2,000 words about the "Chron's" editors [News Hostage, by Richard Connelly, July 11]. What is it with the Press? Have your writers nothing better to do than constantly criticize the "Chron," regardless of what it does or doesn't do?

So what if they have some columnists that suck -- so do you. You might just take a few pointers from the "Chron" and limit your sleaze to a few columns instead of half your paper.

Mary-Katherine Marion

Editor's note: You were imagining that much writing. Counting the headline, the column item contained only 456 words of sleaze.

Focus on the arts: One man's misfortune may be thousands of readers' good fortune.

It's great that Mr. Cohen is shaking things up at the Chronicle. I doubt the Hearst Corporation sent him here with a mandate to do nothing.

Now, if he'll only do something about making the fine arts area an aggressive and progressive journalistic leader.

Who knows? Maybe the Chronicle, with the seventh-largest daily circulation in the country, will become a great newspaper.

Eli Bensky

In the Bags

No CEP fan: Margaret Downing's latest story on Community Education Partners ["Million-Dollar Babies," June 27] confirms that CEP is a scumbag company enabled by scumbag politicians financed by scumbag governments.

It also confirms that public education reporting in the Houston Chronicle has been and remains journalistically incompetent, professionally corrupt and intellectually dishonest.

George H. Scott

Hey, Revere: Dismount!

No name shame: Brad Emmons ["The British Are Coming!" Letters, July 11] might be delighted to learn that the corporate name BP no longer indicates British Petroleum, and hasn't (officially) for well over a year now. When half your workforce worldwide is American, the name "British" might be construed as deceptive.

If BP stands for anything these days, it's feel-good stuff like "Big Progress": We're the largest solar-power company in the world and North America's biggest producer of clean-burning natural gas. The prideful Americans at BP were happy to be a part of Power of Freedom, and we're looking forward to just as big a party next year.

Yeah, there was some good-natured ribbing around the office. A Londoner commented, "We've reason to celebrate, too -- it's when we got rid of your lot."

As far as I'm concerned, BP is one of those low-key corporate good guys who don't get near enough recognition for the progressive stuff they do. It's enough to make this rabid liberal proud to be a BP employee.

L. A. Johnson

California Dreamin'

Texas terrors: The plight of Mr. Termine ["Med Check," by Jennifer Mathieu, July 4] reminded me of something an attorney friend in Dallas told me more than ten years ago, soon after I moved from San Diego to Houston: "Texas is 100 years behind the rest of the country; California is 100 years ahead. No wonder you're confused!" He was referring to the legal system, where who you know (and which judge your attorney has in his pocket) and how much money you spend for an attorney usually determine the course of child-custody cases -- not the best interests of the child.

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