Editorial April 17, 2015



The Devil is in the Details

Many bills the House passed are done with the agreement of the Democrat minority but, on occasion, usually from the Minority Whip, Democrats take exception with a bill.

Such is the case with HR 650 and HR 658 the Preserving Access to Manufactured Housing Act of 2015 and the Mortgage Choice Act or 2015, respectively.

Typically bills are titled to explain in a few words what the bill is about or does but often the title is selling something that isn’t there. Of course Democrats would not hesitate to point out any contradictions between the title and the content as they did with these two Republican bills.

About HR 658 Hoyer concluded that “The bill modifies the Truth in Lending Act, changing the definition of “points and fees,” to exclude fees paid to title service providers owned by or affiliated with creditors, as well as insurance paid at closing into escrow, from this 3% cap on points and fees associated with “qualified mortgages.”  And that’s true. “While the bill claims to clarify conflicting definitions under current law and thereby ensure that mortgage loans to low- and middle-income borrowers remain affordable, by excluding certain fees from the cap it actually creates a loophole that could result in mortgages that are not affordable for borrowers.” And that’s true too which raises the question does the bill really preserve access to manufactured housing or does it just allow certain title businesses and insurers to increase their fees?

HR 650, according to Hoyer, also has some significant flaws; “This bill would modify the definition of “high-cost mortgage”, raising the Average Prime Offer Rate (APRO) interest rates prescribed by HOEPA, from 6.5% to 10% for loans between $50,000 and $75,000 and from 8.5% to 10% for loans under $50,000. Further, it would amend the Truth in Lending Act, changing the definition of “loan originator” such that rules established by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for marketing and documenting consumer financial transactions do not apply to manufactured housing salespeople that offer credit to borrowers.  Both of these changes would make borrowers more susceptible to predatory lending and with higher costs.” The bill title, the Mortgage Choice Act, promises to somehow provide choice but the bill does not provide any choices, rather raises rates on loans to buy manufactured housing. We agree with Hoyer; we see no such benefit just, perhaps, the assumption that the bill goes easier on borrowers by raising interest rates only 1.5% on loans under $50,000 but takes a bigger bite (3.5%) on loans between $50,000 and $75,000. And, we ask, what about manufactured homes selling for $100,000 and more as many now are sold? The bill is silent on those transaction.

Hamilton on Congress


For the Media, Traditional Values Still Matter

By Lee H. Hamilton



I have been involved in politics and policy-making for over 50 years, and as you can imagine I hold strong feelings about reporters and the media. They’re not what you might think, however.

Far from considering journalists to be irritating pains in the neck — though I’ve known a few who qualified — I believe them to be indispensable to our democracy. Our system rests on citizens’ ability to make discriminating judgments about policies and politicians. Without the news, information, and analysis that the media provides, this would be impossible.
We depend on journalists and the outlets they work for to be our surrogates in holding government accountable; they can serve as a formidable institutional check on the government’s abuse of power.
So I am uneasy about some of the directions I see journalism taking these days. I admire the role that the press has played throughout our history, and fervently hope that it can right itself to play such a role again.
Let me note at the outset that I can find exceptions to everything I’m about to say. There are journalists doing reporting that is clear-eyed, fearless, and grounded in an honest evaluation of the facts — I’m thinking, for instance, of some of the work in recent years on the NSA — and this work has moved the national debate forward.
But far too often, journalism falls short. Reporters often seem to take what politicians and their handlers say at face value, writing what they hear without ensuring that the facts bear it out. They look for winners and losers at the expense of nuance. They strive to give the appearance of even-handedness by creating a false balance between two sides that do not deserve equal weight. They elevate politics, polls and personality over substance and measured analysis.
Too often, on Fox or MSNBC or any of a plethora of broadcast, print and online outlets, they slant the news. They engage in pack journalism, reminding me of blackbirds on a telephone line — one comes and others follow. And they delight in spotlighting the screw-up, the mistake, or the gaffe, which might be entertaining to readers but sheds no light on the underlying issues that could make government better if addressed.
I also worry about the increasingly sophisticated efforts by the government and powerful interests to tell us only what they want us to know. Reporters want to be part of the media elite, and the White House in particular — under presidents of both parties — has become quite skillful at manipulating them. Reporters have to keep policy makers at arms length, and not be intimidated by them.
I believe that much contemporary journalism has come untethered from a set of traditional values that served the country well over many years:
— Journalism needs to be in the service of justice, asking questions, telling stories, and inspiring those in power and those who vote for them to do the right thing.
— It should be a check on power, ferreting out the stories that those who hold public office don’t want revealed, and reporting the truths that we, as Americans, have the right to hear. More….
What’s Happening in…


Hadi Fornaji reported in the Libya Herald that 400 Libyan fleeing the country from its ISIS occupation have drowned as the boat taking them across the Mediterranean to Italy capsized.



Samira Shackle reports in Marsad Libya on the rise of ISIS in Libya that “the group is simply one part of a complicated picture of violence in Libya: a symptom, rather than a cause, of the chaos in the country.”

Marsad LIbya


Libya News Agency reported The UN Support Mission in Libya official website quoted UN Special Envoy to Libya Bernardino Leon as saying in remarks at the opening meeting to draft an agreement for a solution to the crisis in Libya in Algiers ‘we are here today to send a strong message that there will be no killing in Libya, and that all Libyans should be able to live together.’

Libya News Agency


The Syria Times reported U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric noting he “will begin consulting with key players to try to re-launch political negotiations aimed at ending the crisis in Syria, in its fifth year, the United Nations said Tuesday, according to AP.”

Syria TImes


The Syrian Human Rights Committee reports on April 12th “In the capital Damascus and its suburbs, eight civilians were killed; three shot by a regime sniper, four in shelling on Ain Tarma and one died after developing Jaundice, caused by the lack of food and medicine, due to the siege imposed on eastern Ghouta”



Yemen On Line reported “After weeks of closed-door negotiations between diplomats from Persian Gulf states and Russia, the Security Council on Tuesday imposed an arms embargo on the Houthi fighters battling for control of Yemen and left it to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to negotiate the delivery of humanitarian aid to Yemenis who have endured nearly three weeks of Saudi-led airstrikes.”



Saif Saleh Al-Oliby reports on gary.net “civilians including women and children have been killed and 3897 others have been wounded since the Saudi-led aggression launched its aerial campaign against Yemen 18 days ago as the coalition continues to target provincial residences displacing more than 40 thousand families”