An old housing scam

Anyone acquainted with the political wheeling and dealing with real estate in Philadelphia for 30 years will recognize that the narrative about Judge Willis W. Berry Jr. ("Dilapidation on his docket," April 29) isn't unusual.

Politically connected individuals and corporations get special access to city-controlled properties (of which there are many) and have the ownership run through one or more straw purchasers to conceal the ultimate recipient, the one who will profit.

Deals of this type have been crafted through City Council offices, the Redevelopment Authority, the Sheriff's Department, and other city agencies. Only insider collaboration at many levels allows these kinds of frauds to have staying power.

Allowing properties to deteriorate is often intended when the purchase is made. Slum creation by design is a tool of insiders who wait for the big money when a city, state or federal agency finally takes action. Getting through the years without maintaining the property in the interim is part of the arrangement.

In some cases the "cash-out" comes sooner if someone on the inside gives notice of an upcoming major expenditure, and then the selected few buy in just before the big payoff.

Berry did not invent this process. Many in high places keep the program alive.

Jim Foster

A princely example

Whether one agrees with the Iraq war or not, England's Prince Harry is being extremely courageous by going to Iraq on active duty. He didn't have to go, but he insisted. Which begs this question: How many of our leaders - Bush administration officials, senators and congressmen who have loudly supported this war - have encouraged their children to serve in Iraq? Few. What hypocrisy.

Jenny Godwin

Hair politics

I enjoy the columns by Leonard Pitts Jr. and almost always agree with him. He is again on solid ground in "The populist and the $400 haircuts," April 30, which points out the ludicrous disparity between presidential candidate John Edwards' campaign message of being the "son of a millworker" standing up for the common man and his $400 haircuts. How could you disagree?

And yet, ironically, a man born to wealth and privilege did more for his countrymen on the lower rungs of the ladder than any individual in our history. I have no idea what Franklin Delano Roosevelt paid for his haircuts and couldn't care less.

John J. Donohue Jr.


A candidate of liberty

Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, unlike the other Republican presidential candidates, is a principled proponent of individual liberty and limited, constitutional government. His congressional record speaks for itself, as he has never voted for a tax increase, he has never voted for an unbalanced budget, and he has never voted for a federal restriction on gun ownership. None of the other candidates has a similar record.

Unlike some of the Democratic candidates, Paul voted against the Iraq war resolution and against the Patriot Act and is a fierce opponent of the failed war on drugs. Unlike others in the race, Paul's stances are based on the constraints of the Constitution. He is the only candidate who will check the expansion of government and restore individual liberty.
Garry Cobb
Cherry Hill

Capus' bad judgment

Steve Capus, president of NBC News, has a problem that intelligence, experience and hard work will not overcome: Bad judgment. I don't care that he is a pillar of calm in a tempestuous field ("No news would (briefly) be welcome news," May 1).

I watched him on every station after he decided to fire Don Imus. I wasn't sure if I needed to puke or just turn off the TV. He said he fired Imus after discussions with employees. Does he think anyone believes that? Then there was the debacle of broadcasting the Virginia Tech suspect's video. Capus is not a credit to Temple University.

Andrew J. Anderson

All that money

Does anyone else find it absurd that the candidates are comparing how many millions they have to spend to become mayor of a city whose schools are in desperate need of increased funding; many of whose citizens lack food, shelter and health care; and whose neighborhoods cry out for security and rebuilding?

Marie Conn