Regarding your March 8 editorial "Because It's Martha Stewart": Stewart's conviction of obstruction and lying to federal officials does not restore my confidence in the market or my faith that everyone is subject to the law - not when our elected officials themselves engage in questionable practices and appear to be for sale to the highest bidder. Until Congress institutes true corporate reforms in accounting standards, pensions, conflicts of interest, and lobbying, we won't have, to use your metaphor, a foundation for the "platform of trust," let alone planks to nail on it.
Martha Stewart may be a small fry in the universe of corporate corruption, but she makes a great scapegoat. She's a celebrity and therefore a high-profile target. I can't escape the thought that sexism played a big part in why she was singled out for prosecution, while male business executives who committed crimes far worse than hers are walking around scot-free. All in all, Stewart was an easy person for the government to sacrifice in an effort to persuade ordinary people that the stock market isn't rigged against them.
Your editorial called her offense "relatively minor" and stated that "Martha Stewart may be a big name, but in terms of wrongdoing, she's not a big fish." It has been estimated that she will get less than a year of jail time. Compared with the sentence of someone who steals $100 from a convenience store, her estimated sentence is a joke. Where is the proportionality? Is there one scale for the rich and another for the rest of us?
Regarding Alan Elsner's March 4 Opinion piece "If US plays global prison ratings game, it ought to play by its own rules": Mr. Elsner used US State Department reports on Iceland and New Zealand to bring attention to his own cause - human-rights abuses within the American penal system. But using US government reports on penal systems in other nations to suggest that the US thinks it's beyond reproach is neither reasoned nor objective.
A careful reader would certainly not think that the US is actually ignoring its domestic problems while criticizing other nations that are so very different from ours in terms of population, religion, ethics, and social customs. Caring about improving US penal institutions and concern about the penal institutions in other nations are not mutually exclusive. We can keep an eye on others while scrutinizing ourselves. Reporting on others is not a way to deflect attention from our own shortcomings or abusive practices. These State Department reports are, I believe, an American exercise in discovery with an eye to reform, not an attempt to veil or to bury our own misdeeds.
Marjorie R. Seldon
Your March 8 article "Why that fuel sipper is a pocketbook sapper" on hybrids should have mentioned how long it would take to recoup the extra $4,000 a car buyer would pay for a hybrid. Assume the average car gets 27.5 miles per gallon versus a hybrid's 40 m.p.g., as stated in your article, and 12,000 miles is driven by both. In that case, the two cars would use 436 and 300 gallons, respectively. Using $2 per gallon as the price of gas, you save $272 per year. It would take almost 15 years (180,000 miles driven) to recoup the cost.
New YorkThe writer is a mathematics professor at PACE University in New York.
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