- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 26, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Educating mortgage consumers

In “Mortgage ‘crisis’ fixes” (Editorial, Monday), you rightly compliment the Department of Housing and Urban Development for trying “to help borrowers better understand what they are getting into.” Indeed, I believe the most obvious long-term reform to the American mortgage finance system is to make sure borrowers understand the obligations of the mortgage — and don’t commit to them if they don’t make sense. As HUD Secretary Alphonso R. Jackson earlier told The Washington Times about his personal experience with complex mortgage documentation, “I didn’t read it — and I doubt anyone around this table read it” (“HUD plan tackles crisis,” Page 1, Friday).

HUD is proposing a four-page disclosure form. This proposal is a step in the right direction. However, the form does not include three essential elements: the total monthly mortgage payment, including not only principal and interest, but also property insurance and taxes; the borrower’s income on which the loan is based; and the percent of that income that the total monthly payment will consume (for adjustable-rate mortgages, at both the initial rate and the fully indexed rate). The lender has to know this to underwrite the loan, and the borrower equally needs to know it.

Moreover, the essential information for the borrower can be put on one page. I have proposed such a one-page form, “The Basic Facts About Your Mortgage Loan,” available on the American Enterprise Institute Web site at www.aei.org. A similar one-page form is contained in New York Democratic Sen. Charles E. Schumer’s bill, S. 2296, introduced in November.

Let’s hope we really do create short, clear, straightforward mortgage disclosures.

ALEX J. POLLOCK

Resident Fellow

American Enterprise Institute

Washington

Tear down the wall

Mehmet Ali Talat, president of the unrecognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, as reported in The Washington Times (“Leader to seek Turkish unity,” World, Thursday) “considers the 2004 U.N. proposal for a federal solution as the only viable basis for talks”

The so-called Annan plan, named after former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, explicitly provisioned that tens of thousands of foreign troops commandeered by the Republic of Turkey be given the right to remain on the territory of the sovereign Republic of Cyprus and to intervene over all of Cyprus. Effectively, the nation of Cypress would be forced to live under the rule of another nation.

In recent weeks, Mr. Talat stated in a public “salute to independent Kosovo” that “no nation may be forced to live under the rule of another nation.”

Isn’t it time for Mr. Talat to put into practice what he preaches? Mr. Talat, even one foreign soldier of occupation is tens of thousands of times too many. Tear down the wall that divides us, end the only ongoing military occupation in Europe and set our people free.

NIKOLAOS TANERIS

Press officer

Cyprus Action Network of America

New York

Checks and balances

Gregory D. Foster accuses Michael Barone of “profound ignorance of the U.S. military officer corps and a shallow inability to get beyond the trite civil-military platitudes of the past” (“Fallon’s fall,” Letters, Monday). That’s quite a mouthful to tell Mr. Barone that he is wrong in thinking that Adm. William Fallon’s public opposition to the Iraq war constitutes insubordination.

He lectures Mr. Barone by saying: ” those in uniform have every right to receive (and even demand) strategically sound direction (unsullied by ulterior partisan political motives) from strategically literate civilian overlords” and “he military should be expected to serve as an institutional check and balance to counter strategic illiteracy and incompetence as well as militaristic impetuosity from their civilian masters.”

His prescription is what you would expect in a banana republic, where an unelected strongman could decide what is “unsullied by ulterior partisan political motives” and go political himself as “an institutional check and balance” to take over.

Checks and balances in the civilian political arena are working quite well here. Leave them alone. This may be another “trite civil-military platitude of the past,” but Mr. Foster needs to make a better argument than the one offered in his letter to prove it.

ALI F. SEVIN

Fort Washington

Special interests

As a longtime nontheist and humanist, I found reading Kristen Fyfe’s Sunday Commentary column, “Gospel of godlessness,” a rather surreal experience.

After all, in these United States, during the whole of my nearly 60 years of life, I’ve watched traditional religion, Christianity in particular, get the “free ride” Ms. Fyfe laments that atheists may have received for the single year of 2007.

I suppose such complaints are to be expected. Times are indeed changing. I remember when it was OK to attack the civil-rights movement. Then, when things got better, it was OK to lament that blacks were getting a “free ride.”

Next came women. Then gays.

Every time victims of an old prejudice stand up for themselves and make headway, there are those who decry the change and weep for the supposedly oppressed majority. All that has really happened, though, is that the playing field has begun to level, and those of former privilege suddenly notice the earth moving.

FRED EDWORDS

Director of communications

American Humanist Association

Washington

BillClinton is no Joe McCarthy

Retired Air Force Gen. Merrill “Tony” McPeak’s recent comparison between Sen. Joseph McCarthy and former President Bill Clinton is factually wrong and politically misleading (“Obama aide compares Clinton to McCarthy,” Page A7, Saturday).

Mr. McCarthy was a Marine Corps officer who served his country faithfully and patriotically. As a senator, he staunchly defended the United States against communism.

Records revealed after the end of the Cold War indicate he was correct. Mr. McCarthy was vehemently attacked by the left wing in this country, primarily by Democrats, who continue to attack him.

Mr. Clinton was a draft dodger who signed an executive order authorizing the sale of nuclear secrets to communist China. An impeached president, he risked America’s national security for campaign contributions. He was embraced by the left wing, primarily Democrats.

To compare the two is a travesty. Gen. McPeak owes the United States and the memory of Mr. McCarthy an apology.

RICHARD T. DUMONT

Silver Spring

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