Housing help falls short

The final shape of the housing bill in Congress is becoming clear. A fairly narrow group of homeowners facing foreclosure due to subprime mortgage failures will be able to refinance fixed-rate mortgages at roughly 15 percent below the property’s sale price. Home values have fallen an average of 16.5 percent nationally and are expected by many to fall closer to 30 percent or more from their peak values, a measure of how far speculation became removed from real value.

The entire process is voluntary, and there are substantial fees involved in negotiating any new mortgages.

However, the bill’s refinance provisions will not prevent most foreclosures. Most of those defrauded by the unregulated, bandit mortgage brokers will be left to fend for themselves. Someone will get the billion dollars set aside for this but it will not be families facing foreclosure.

The $4 billion to assist communities redevelop abandoned properties is the best part of the bill. But it is likely to be discarded or also reduced to invisibility by Bush veto threats unless a sufficient campaign is mounted to prevent it.

It’s amazing, staggering in fact, to see Bush and McCain satisfied leaving ghost towns all over the country, and everyone who lived in one should just pick up and move on! Unless, of course, the “ghost town” starts to invade the areas around country clubs! Then — “OK,” they say, “let’s lift some caps and get some refinancing for anyone who can still pay some bills and club fees.”

While many states and communities are taking bold action, a strong and broad effort by the federal government is badly needed. But that’s not what Congress and the White House have been doing.

John Case
Harpers Ferry WV

Parole for juveniles?

Should juvenile offenders be afforded the opportunity for parole? This is a question Illinois state lawmakers are trying to answer through legislation (HB 4384) submitted by Rep. Robert Molaro.

In the state of Illinois 103 juveniles ages 13 to 17 years have been sentenced to natural life without the possibility of parole. Some of these inmates have been incarcerated since 1979 within the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Natural life sentences given to juvenile offenders are greatly disproportionately administered by Illinois court judges. Seventy-four (of the 103) are African Americans. Nearly all the 103 came from Cook County. Some are victims of Chicago police torture, some could not read or write, many were taken to the police station and denied juvenile officers to oversee their rights. Some were beaten or tricked into signing confessions mainly because they suffered from mental problems.

Do you feel that kids should be locked up forever inside Illinois prisons and never given some form of parole opportunity after 10 years? Please contact your Illinois state representative or senator and voice your opinion now.

Mark Clements
Pontiac Correctional Center
Pontiac IL

Musings on democracy

America is a free country. By free I do not mean just to speak and write anything and everything one likes. But, just the idea of walking into a coffee shop or traveling from Texas to Alaska, or from California to New York, dressed as you please. Again the only limit is the size of your wallet.

On the other hand, democracy is an entirely strange animal. American democracy is not designed to protect minorities, it protects majority groups. Problems of accommodating minorities, or vesting them with equal power in the larger society — will the parliamentary system as practiced in Western Europe or Israel be the solution? Or how about the African traditional system decision by consensus?

Society is always evolving. My senior citizen friends in the Bronx tell me at one time in America, Jews, Italians, Polish and Irish were all discriminated against. One fellow senior citizen in fact told me that at one time there were signs in storefronts in Riverside announcing, “No Irish need apply for jobs here.”

I believe we can discuss, debate, analyze and arrive at some kind of conclusion or consensus to make this a more perfect democracy.

Gus Kifle
Bronx NY

Boot straps or getting the boot?

The wealthy and powerful who control the American economic system preach to those on the bottom of the religious and political ladder that they must pull themselves up by their boot straps into the system.

However, as a result of capitalist profiteering, the cost of boots is too high to purchase to wear while climbing the economic ladder.

Then there are those like President George W. Bush and company, who, with their boots, step on those people on the bottom of society.

Raymond Daugerdas
Pittsburgh PA