Monthly Archives: August 2011

PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Praise for Fed Audit: Vermont’s Bernie Sanders Edges Out Ron Paul on ‘Progressive’ News Site

By David M. Kinchen

PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Praise for Fed Audit: Vermont's Bernie Sanders Edges Out Ron Paul on 'Progressive' News Site

Rep. Ron Paul, R-TX, is widely known for his opposition to the Federal Reserve Board. He’s even written a book about it, “End the Fed.” (for my Sept. 16, 2009 review of this important book, click:  http://archives.huntingtonnews.net/columns/090916-kinchen-columnsbookreview.html).

So why doesn’t Matthew Cardinale in his significant — as in should be read by all concerned about the state of the nation’s financial health — mention the Texas congressman and GOP presidential candidate in an artlcle praising Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders under the headline “First Federal Reserve Audit Reveals Trillions in Secret Bailouts”? (Link: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=26276).

I found the Cardinale article on the “progressive” news site Reader Supported News (link: http://readersupportednews.org/). I subscribe to many news sites, progressive, liberal, conservative and libertarian. RSN isn’t a fan of Ron Paul — far from it — and even warns its readers about the dangers of supporting “Dr. No” — as he’s sometimes called (he’s a physician) — for his opposition to many things that liberals and “progressives” would normally support, like not getting involved in the civil wars and squabbles of other countries as the world’s broke policeman.

Ron Paul

Ron Paul

Cardinale writes that “The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) audit itself was the result of at least two years of grassroots lobbying. IPS reported in June 2009 a wide bi-partisan coalition of Members of Congress had co-sponsored legislation to audit the Federal Reserve.”

No mention of Ron Paul, who sponsored legislation for regular audits of the Fed, not just the one-time audit called for in an amendment by Sanders “as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act – a major banking overhaul passed by President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress in 2010.” Link to Ron Paul’s blog on his 30-year effort to conduct regular audits of the Fed (http://www.ronpaul.com/congress/legislation/audit-the-federal-reserve-fed-hr-459-s202/). (Link to the  text of Dodd-Frank http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-111publ203/pdf/PLAW-111publ203.pdf and html version of the law’s executive summary http://banking.senate.gov/public/_files/070110_Dodd_Frank_Wall_Street_Reform_comprehensive_summary_Final.pdf.)

Sanders is a lawmaker I admire, even though he isn’t always in agreement with Ron Paul. He’s on target when he’s quoted by Cardinale, who starts off his piece by saying that the first-ever audit of the U.S. Federal Reserve (in almost 100 years, since the Fed came into existence in 1913!) “…has revealed 16 trillion dollars in secret bank bailouts and has raised more questions about the quasi-private agency’s opaque operations. ‘This is a clear case of socialism for the rich and rugged, you’re-on-your-own individualism for everyone else,’… Sanders said in a statement.”

Noting that the majority of loans were issued by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRBNY) — the Big Dog in the Fed System — Cardinale states that  “From late 2007 through mid-2010, Reserve Banks provided more than a trillion dollars… in emergency loans to the financial sector to address strains in credit markets and to avert failures of individual institutions believed to be a threat to the stability of the financial system,” the audit report states.

Cardinale’s excellent piece (excellent, that is, except for any mention of Fed critic Ron Paul) notes that the Fed doesn’t past the “smell test”: “The GAO also found existing Federal Reserve policies do not prevent significant conflicts of interest. For example, “the FRBNY’s existing restrictions on its employees’ financial interests did not specifically prohibit investments in certain non-bank institutions that received emergency assistance,” the report stated.

Read the following from Cardinale’s piece and try to remain calm after you finish it:
“From late 2007 through mid-2010, Reserve Banks provided more than a trillion dollars… in emergency loans to the financial sector to address strains in credit markets and to avert failures of individual institutions believed to be a threat to the stability of the financial system,” the audit report states.

“The scale and nature of this assistance amounted to an unprecedented expansion of the Federal Reserve System’s traditional role as lender-of-last-resort to depository institutions,” according to the report.

The report notes that all the short-term, emergency loans were repaid, or are expected to be repaid.

The emergency loans included eight broad-based programmes, and also provided assistance for certain individual financial institutions. The Fed provided loans to JP Morgan Chase bank to acquire Bear Stears, a failed investment firm; provided loans to keep American International Group (AIG), a multinational insurance corporation, afloat; extended lending commitments to Bank of America and Citigroup; and purchased risky mortgage-backed securities to get them off private banks’ books.

Overall, the greatest borrowing was done by a small number of institutions. Over the three years, Citigroup borrowed a total of 2.5 trillion dollars, Morgan Stanley borrowed two trillion; Merrill Lynch, which was acquired by Bank of America, borrowed 1.9 trillion; and Bank of America borrowed 1.3 trillion.

Banks based in counties other than the U.S. also received money from the Fed, including Barclays of the United Kingdom, the Royal Bank of Scotland Group (UK), Deutsche Bank (Germany), UBS (Switzerland), Credit Suisse Group (Switzerland), Bank of Scotland (UK), BNP Paribas (France), Dexia (Belgium), Dresdner Bank (Germany), and Societe General (France).

“No agency of the United States government should be allowed to bailout a foreign bank or corporation without the direct approval of Congress and the President,” Sanders wrote. 
Right on, Bernie! Maybe we can draft Ron Paul for President and have Bernie Sanders as vice president. An Odd Couple indeed, but one right for the U.S.
* * *
I pride myself on following business news, but I didn’t know the Fed had lent money to The Royal Bank of Scotland, which can afford Sean Connery as a spokesman and to France’s gigantic BNP Paribas, which can afford to be a major sponsor of the French Open tennis tournament. Bailing out German and Swiss banks! What fresh hell is this? as the late great Dorothy Parker said. Where is the front-page coverage of this revolting development.
Cardinale says that “The GAO is currently working on a more detailed report regarding Federal Reserve conflicts of interest, which is due on Oct. 18, 2011.”  Talk about “Fright Night” just before Halloween!  You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

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REALTYTRAC: Short Sales Jump 19 Percent From First Quarter, REO Sales Flat

By David M. Kinchen

REALTYTRAC: Short Sales Jump 19 Percent From First Quarter, REO Sales Flat
Sales of houses that were in some stage of foreclosure or bank owned — commonly called “short sales” —  accounted for 31 percent of all U.S. residential sales in the second quarter of 2011, down from nearly 36 percent of all sales in the first quarter but up from 24 percent of all sales in the second quarter of 2010, according to a report released this week from Irvine, CA-based RealtyTrac.
Despite the increase in share of total sales from a year ago, sales of real estate in some stage of foreclosure (NOD, LIS, NTS, NFS) or bank-owned (REO) decreased from a year ago in terms of raw numbers. Third parties purchased a total of 265,087 homes in foreclosure or bank owned nationwide in the second quarter, up 6 percent from a revised first quarter total but still down 11 percent from the second quarter of 2010.

The average sales price of homes in foreclosure or bank owned was $164,217 in the second quarter, down less than 1 percent from the first quarter and down nearly 5 percent from the second quarter of 2010. The average sales price for homes in foreclosure or bank owned was 32 percent below the average sales price of homes not in foreclosure.

“With average prices on distressed real estate trending down and average discounts trending up, this report is clearly good news for well-positioned buyers and investors looking for bargain real estate that will build them wealth in the long term and often cash flow as rental real estate in the short term,” said RealtyTrac CEO James Saccacio. “Maybe less evident, however, is the good news in this report for distressed homeowners looking to sell, and even lenders saddled with large portfolios of delinquent loans.”

“The jump in pre-foreclosure sales volume coupled with bigger discounts on pre-foreclosures and a shorter average time to sell pre-foreclosures all point to a housing market that is starting to focus on more efficiently clearing distressed inventory through more streamlined short sales — at least in some areas,” Saccacio added. “This gives distressed homeowners who do not qualify for loan modification or refinancing — or who are not interested in those options and want to sell — a better chance of completing a short sale to avoid foreclosure. Streamlined short sales also give lenders the opportunity to more pre-emptively purge non-performing loans from their portfolios and avoid the long, costly and increasingly messy process of foreclosure and the subsequent sale of an REO — which may end up selling for a lower price than it would have as a pre-foreclosure short sale and in the meantime further stresses already overloaded REO departments.”

A total of 102,407 pre-foreclosure homes — in default or scheduled for auction — sold to third parties in the second quarter, an increase of 19 percent from the previous quarter but still down 12 percent from the second quarter of 2010. Pre-foreclosure sales accounted for 12 percent of all sales, the same percentage as in the first quarter but up from 10 percent of all sales in the second quarter of 2010.

Some of the states with the biggest quarterly increases in pre-foreclosure home salesincluded Nevada with a 43 percent increase, Washington with a 39 percent increase, California with a 38 percent increase, and Texas with a 34 percent increase.

Pre-foreclosures, which are often sold via short sale, had an average sales price nationwide of $192,129, a discount of 21 percent below the average sales price of non-foreclosure homes. That discount was up from a 17 percent discount in the previous quarter and a 14 percent discount in the second quarter of 2010. Pre-foreclosures sold in the second quarter took an average of 245 days to sell after receiving the initial foreclosure notice, down from an average of 256 days in the first quarter — following three straight quarters of increases in the average time to sell pre-foreclosures.

A total of 162,680 bank-owned (REO) homessold to third parties in the second quarter, virtually unchanged from the 162,900 in the first quarter and down 10 percent from the second quarter of 2010. REO sales accounted for 19 percent of all sales in the second quarter, down from 23 percent of all sales in the first quarter but up from 15 percent of all sales in the second quarter of 2010.

Nationally, REOs had an average sales price of $145,211, a discount of nearly 40 percent below the average sales price of non-foreclosure homes. This is an increase from a 36 percent discount in the previous quarter and a 34 percent discount in the second quarter of 2010. REOs that sold in the second quarter took an average of 178 days to sell after being foreclosed on, up from 176 days in the first quarter and up from 164 days in the second quarter of 2010.

Foreclosure-related sales accounted for 65 percent of all residential sales in Nevada during the second quarter, the highest percentage of any state. Third parties purchased a total of 15,685 homes in foreclosure or bank owned in Nevada during the second quarter, up 24 percent from the first quarter and up 31 percent from the second quarter of 2010.

Arizona foreclosure-related sales also increased on a quarterly and annual basis, accounting for 57 percent of all sales in the state during the second quarter — the second highest percentage of any state.

Third parties purchased a total of 69,897 homes in foreclosure or bank owned in California during the second quarter, 51 percent of all sales in the state. Foreclosure-related sales in California increased 12 percent from the first quarter but were virtually unchanged from the second quarter of 2010.

Michigan foreclosure-related sales accounted for 41 percent of all sales in the state during the second quarter, the fourth highest percentage among the states, and Georgia foreclosure-related sales accounted for 38 percent of all sales in the state during the second quarter, the fifth highest percentage.

Other states where foreclosure-related sales accounted for at least 30 percent of all sales were Colorado (36 percent), Florida (35 percent), Illinois (34 percent), Oregon (33 percent), and Idaho (30 percent).

Among metropolitan statistical areas with at least 100 foreclosure-related sales during the second quarter, the Louisville, Ky., metro area posted the biggest foreclosure discount. Third parties purchased a total of 527 homes in foreclosure or bank owned in the metro area during the quarter at an average sales price of $85,211 — 54 percent below the average sales price of non-foreclosure homes.

The Sebastian-Vero Beach metro area in Florida documented an average foreclosure-related sales price of $97,175, a 53 percent discount, and the Saginaw, Mich., metro area documented an average foreclosure-related sales price of $48,977, also a 53 percent discount.

Other metro areas with a foreclosure discount of 50 percent or more were Milwaukee (51 percent), Pittsburgh (51 percent), and Kalamazoo, Mich. (50 percent).

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Don’t Let the Kids Drink the Kool-Aid’: Does a Gigantic Left Wing Conspiracy Control Education in U.S.?

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen

BOOK REVIEW: 'Don't Let the Kids Drink the Kool-Aid': Does a Gigantic Left Wing Conspiracy Control Education in U.S.?

Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about a science book
Don’t know much about the French I took 
 — Sam Cooke, “Wonderful World (Don’t Know Much)”

Maybe Marybeth Hicks should have used a title that today’s undereducated but thoroughly indoctrinated students could understand rather than “Don’t Let the Kids Drink the Kool-Aid” (Regnery, 224 pages, $24.95), her scathing indictment of the education/industrial complex (my shorthand coinage for the nation’s failed attempt to educate young people, but the wildly successful effort to brainwash them). The reference to the powdered drink — Kool-Aid — of course refers to cult leader Jim Jones and his so-called “Peoples Temple” followers who were killed with poisoned Kool-Aid in the jungles of the South American country of Guyana in 1978. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonestown).

Riffing on the familiar phrase, “Do you know where your children are?” Hicks substitutes: “Do You Know What Your Kids Are Thinking?” adding that you might be surprised. She says, and provides copious examples of how a generation of (I was tempted to borrow Philip Wylie’s great title “A Generation of Vipers”) young Americans have indoctrinated rather than educated. Don’t assume that this generation is like any other, Hicks says. They’re not. “Not even close… Numerous polls show the same result on issue after issue. Frightening percentages of our kids believe that”

.  Socialism is better than the free market
. Christianity is judgmental, and just plain mean
. America is the villain of world history
. Family does not mean marriage
. Human greed is destroying the Earth
Hicks adds: “And, of course, we all need the government to take care of us.”

Marybeth Hicks

Marybeth Hicks

While she says that the far left demonizes our Judeo-Christian culture, the same haters of religion go out of their way to kiss up to Islam. On pages 141-143, she describes  how a pro-Islam series, “History Alive,” distorts the message of radical Islam in an attempt to reach out to school kids. Why teaching Islam is OK, while teaching Christianity or Judaism isn’t is not explained in a textbook approved for  use in California, Texas (the two states that set the standards for the rest of the country), Illinois, Florida and Washington state. My personal view is that an objective course in comparative religion would be a great idea in high school or even middle school, but how to go about that enormous task! It’s impossible to be objective about religion, in my opinion.

People on the far left, including and especially Friend of Obama and supposedly recovering Weather Underground leader Bill Ayers, who recently retired from the University of Illinois Chicago as a professor of education, have won the indoctrination battle, Hicks says. The far left collectivists mounted  relentless attacks on the American character and culture  and have finally succeeded, and are ushering in the first authentically socialist generation of Americans who believe they will need and are entitled to a lifetime of government care, the author adds.

Hicks: “It’s not just that Leftists are attempting to instill their radical beliefs in the minds and hearts of children. It’s that our children have swallowed these lessons hook, line, and sinker. Polls prove that on issue after issue, American young people are buying what the Left is selling.”

Needless to say, Hicks has few good words to say about the National Education Association (NEA), the most powerful union of public school teachers, and, she notes, the union uses the word “bastards” to refer to right-wingers like Hicks. I didn’t see any mention of the competing American Federation of Teachers, which is a pygmy compared to the NEA, which represents 2.3 million teachers and nearly another million support workers, college teachers and retirees. The NEA is the Bigfoot of American labor unions, representing more than half of all the nation’s union members.

I wish Hicks had covered the right wing folks — including religious fundamentalists — and their influence on education. My view, from a libertarian stance, is to say “a plague on both your houses” (how many of you out there know where that phrase came from? Answer at the bottom of this review). I’m just as opposed to the right wing’s so-called “Intelligent Design” and “Creationism” as I am to the full-blown collectivist indoctrination of the lefties. As a resident of Texas for the past three years (I lived in California from 1976 to 1992) I’m fully aware of the often baleful influence of these two megastates on the textbook industry and I’m just as opposed to right-wing propaganda from Texans as I am to the left-wing variety from Californians.

Hicks mentions a favorite writer of mine, academic and textbook critic Diane Ravitch. Here’s an excerpt from my review of Ravitch’s “The Language Police” (link: http://econc10.bu.edu/DECAMEDU/Decline/Ravitch_language_police.htm):

“What started out as a legitimate redressing of sexist and racist stereotypes in the 1960s has become a dead hand on learning, Ravitch argues. And it has undoubtedly contributed to the dismal state of education in the U.S. today.  Ravitch, … thoroughly examined the K-12 textbook production and selection process, …. She finds the content of her research discouraging. Censors and pressure groups on the right and left have formed a de facto unholy alliance to dumb down textbooks, leaving a large majority of them are worse than useless-they are harmful.

She writes: …Right-wing groups exert more influence on general books while left-wing groups concentrate on textbooks. Both have lined up to attack such literary classics as Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Fundamentalist groups are well known for attacking textbooks that discuss evolution without balancing Darwin’s theory of evolution with biblical creationism.”

Another academic, James Loewen, spoke out against indoctrination in a 2005 book titled “Lies My Teacher Told Me” (for my review: http://archives.huntingtonnews.net/columns/051212-kinchen-lies.html. Here’s an excerpt from that review:

“Lies My Teacher Told Me” is a scorched-earth look at the way history is presented to adolescent minds. Biology and mathematics are taught in a fairly straightforward manner, although I think the latest flap over Darwin, creationism and Intelligent Design might make the point about biology questionable. Loewen blasts everyone involved, but has special scorn for publishers and state textbook adoption groups who take all the reality out of history and drive students to distraction.

Illinois native Loewen had first-hand experience with bland textbooks when he co-authored one in 1974 that told the truth about Mississippi, where he was teaching, in a book – “Mississippi: Conflict and Change” – that was rejected by school boards in the state. His book finally – after a lawsuit – was adopted by a few school districts in the state, he relates.

As anyone who has taken a look at textbooks today, they’re crammed with illustrations, factoids and propaganda, almost like a 1,000 page USA Today gone amok on coated paper. Loewen calls much of the facts in textbooks “twigs.” (As in “can’t see the forest for the trees”). I have a gut feeling that history textbooks the world over are not much better than the Dirty Dozen he examines in “Lies…”

* * *

While the message in “Don’t Let the Kids Drink the Kool-Aid” is serious, the writing style is fast and funny. I liked the book, with the above caveats about the lack of material about right-wing, fundamentalist brainwashing.

The answer to my quote about “a plague on both your houses”….Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” of course, Act 3, Scene I: Mercutio cries out after being stabbed by Tybalt: “I am hurt. A plague o’ both your houses!” (referring to the Montagues and the Capulets).


About the Author: Marybeth  Hicks is a weekly columnist for the Washington Times, the editor of Family Events, a guest on many radio and TV shows and a frequent speaker. A former writer in the Reagan White House, she is the author of Bringing Up Geeks and The Perfect World inside My Minivan. A  graduate of Michigan State University, she and her husband Jim Hicks, a law professor, make their home in East Lansing, Mich. and are the parents of four children. Her website: www.marybethhicks.com.

‘Coolest Small Town’: Lewisburg Shows The Potential Of Every West Virginia Town and City

By David M. Kinchen

Looking for the “Coolest Small Town in West Virginia?”  How about the “Coolest Small Town in America?” They’re the same place,  Lewisburg, West Virginia, the county seat of Greenbrier County. (Link to my February 2011 story: http://www.huntingtonnews.net/1652
Budget Travel Magazine recently dubbed the city  “The Coolest Small Town in America”  and features it in the September 2011 issue.  West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant  this week presented a proclamation to Mayor John Manchester honoring that achievement.

The votes have been tallied. (link: http://mountainmessenger.com/lewisburg-wins-americas-coolest-small-town-…) Lewisburg was voted “America’s Coolest Small Town.”

Final votes: Lewisburg, WV – 139,016, Astoria, OR – 127,748; Clayton, NY – 25,334; Eureka Springs, AR – 19,362; La Pointe, WI – 17,429; Phoenicia, NY – 15,439; Newtown Borough, PA – 15,079; Cedar Key, FL – 14,302; Ripon, WI – 12,313; Greensburg, KS – 10,680.

Traveling through this Greenbrier County community one notices busy shops, bustling sidewalks, and streets filled with eager people looking for a place to park. Several outstanding restaurants, at least two bakeries, Carnegie Hall for entertainment, live theater, a really cool and authentic Irish Pub on Washington make downtown Lewisburg a special place. Add in the State Fair of West Virginia, held every August in adjacent Fairlea, and The Greenbrier, one of the nation’s outstanding resorts, in nearby White Sulphur Springs, and you have a magical place.

“This place is really something special,” Tennant said. “And it can serve as an example to every other city and town in West Virginia. Every city and town can be like Lewisburg and have a strong economy that attracts people from all over – especially out of state.”

With a population of around 3,800,  Lewisburg isn’t one of West Virginia’s largest cities, but it does boast an extremely low violent crime rate, Tennant said.  Pair that with bold entrepreneurs with unique business ideas and strong municipal and county leadership, and Tennant – who was a small business owner herself before being elected Secretary of State – says all the ingredients exist for something special to occur.

“The economy of West Virginia depends on small businesses,” she said. “It is business owners like the ones in Lewisburg who have a great idea that they believe in and are brave enough to start that business. They generate money for the state, they employ local people, and they reinvest that money back into their business. It’s a process where everyone wins – the business owner, the employee, the local economy, and the state economy.”

Tennant said her office has several tools small businesses can use to increase productivity. Every year businesses such as limited liability companies and professional limited liability companies are required to file annual reports with the Secretary of State. By using the online filing website www.business4wv.com, the business owner can file his or her annual report quickly and easily online. The service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“That allows the business owner to focus on their product and not paperwork,” Tennant says. “The best part about running a business is running that business – not filing a bunch of paperwork.”

Business owners can also use the business entity search feature on the Secretary of State’s website, as well as obtain certificates of existence and authority.

Right: Lewisburg’s Carnegie Hall

BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Company We Keep’: Husband, Wife CIA Operatives Reveal How Real Life Spies Function

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen

BOOK REVIEW: 'The Company We Keep': Husband, Wife CIA Operatives Reveal How Real Life Spies Function

If you suspect that TV spy shows like “Covert Affairs,” and “Burn Notice” don’t tell the real story of spies, you might want to pick up a copy of “The Company We Keep: A Husband and Wife True-Life Spy Story” *(Crown, 320 pages, $26.00) by Robert Baer and Dayna Baer.

As a working journalist, I know that shows about print journalists are full of errors, so I suspect that the above two USA Channel shows — favorites of mine — are doing likewise. There is a husband and wife team in “Covert Affairs,” played by Peter Gallagher and Kari Matchett, but I doubt that they were inspired by the lives of Robert and Dayna Baer.

Baer’s book “See No Evil” was the inspiration for the George Clooney movie “Syriana,” so the 59-year-old native Californian knows what happens when a book is translated to the big screen. I’d like to see a series based on “The Company We Keep.” It would include comic elements, like the way Bob Baer and Dayna Williamson met in Sarajevo, Bosnia, as war raged in the Balkans. It wasn’t quite the “cute meet” that TV and movies love so much, but it has a comic “McGuffin,” in the form of a bright green English station wagon — a Vauxhall —  plastered with advertising slogans. Bob Baer had borrowed the vehicle from a friend in a place where rental cars were scarce.

Dayna, trained at the CIA “farm” in Virginia with weapons of all kinds and the kind of driver training spies need in the protective service branch she was assigned, writes that the car stood out like an ice cream truck. Ideally, a spy’s vehicle should be nondescript, preferably brown and covered with dust. Bob, Dayna and their colleagues were in Bosnia to spy on the Hezbollah, allies of the Bosnian Muslims.

Robert and Dayna Baer

Robert and Dayna Baer

There was a tiny spark, with Bob’s marriage coming to an end, and Dayna’s too in a shaky state, in this book where the authors alternate chapters. When they met again at CIA headquarters in Langley, VA, the relationship began in earnest.

Robert Baer, born in Los Angeles in 1952,  was known inside the Agency as perhaps the best operative working the Middle East. Over several decades he served everywhere from Iraq to New Delhi and racked up such an impressive list of accomplishments that he was eventually awarded the Career Intelligence Medal.

In contrast to his career, which was everything a spy might aspire to, his personal life was a shambles. He rarely saw his wife and children, who lived in their home in Corgoloin, France. Baer had few enduring non-work friendships, only contacts and acquaintances. The absences as he went about his work  in places like Lebanon and Tajikistan contributed to the deterioration of his marriage. I’ve often wondered why the Agency hires married people in the first place, since the work contributes to divorces.

Dayna Williamson, who grew up in Corona del Mar, next to Newport Beach in Orange County, California,  thought of herself as just an ordinary California girl. Living in the most expensive part of Orange County, she was financially successful. Still, she was always looking to get closer to the edge. She was missing something in her too settled life.

When she joined the CIA, her first assignment was doing background checks on people applying for posts with the  Agency, a job that was boring beyond belief.  When her boss, the woman in charge of the Los Angeles CIA office, asked her if she wanted to move to Virginia for further field training, she discussed it with her husband, a circuit court judge, who said to accept it. “I can always visit, can’t I?” he told her. This was what most of her male colleagues joined the Company for, so she accepted the transfer, hoping it would get her to her “edge.”

Although she had only fired a pistol in her brief training at the “Farm,”  Dayna, a UC-Berkeley graduate,  quickly distinguished herself as someone who could thrive in the field, and she was eventually assigned to “Protective Operations” training where she learned to handle weapons and explosives and conduct high-speed escape and evasion. Serving in some of the world’s most dangerous places, Dayna discovered an inner strength and resourcefulness she’d never known — but she also came to see that the spy life exacts a heavy toll.  Her marriage came to an, her parents grew distant, and she lost touch with friends.

When they left the CIA, the couple didn’t realize at first that turning in their Agency I.D. cards would not be enough to put their covert past behind.  The fact was, their clandestine relationships remained.  Living as “civilians” in conflict-ridden Beirut, they fielded assassination proposals, met with Arab sheiks, wily oil tycoons, terrorists, and assorted outlaws – and came perilously close to dying.  But even then they couldn’t know that their most formidable challenge lay ahead.

The saga of Bob and Dayna’s adoption of a Pakistani Christian girl is worth the price of the book, which I recommend for anyone interested in spying. If you long for a job with the Agency, or similar outfits, be careful what you wish for!

About the authors

ROBERT BAER is the author of three New York Times bestsellers involving the CIA:” See No Evil” (which was the basis for the acclaimed film “Syriana”), “Sleeping with the Devil”, and “The Devil We Know.” He has become one of the most authoritative voices on American intelligence and frequently appears as a media commentator. DAYNA BAER, before leaving the agency to settle down with Bob, was herself an accomplished CIA operative.

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Acceptable Loss’: William and Hester Monk Shine in Anne Perry’s Sequel to ‘Execution Dock’

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen

BOOK REVIEW: 'Acceptable Loss': William and Hester Monk Shine in Anne Perry's Sequel to 'Execution Dock'

If you’ve read Anne Perry’s 2009 novel “Execution Dock” featuring William and Hester Monk, her new “Acceptable Loss” (Ballantine Books, 320 pages, $26.00) will sound familiar. If you haven’t, not to worry: Perry has included more than enough information from the previous novel to make “Acceptable Loss” stand on its own two legs.

Of course, you wouldn’t have said “legs” in the Victorian London period of the novel: maybe “limbs” or, better yet, you wouldn’t mention it at all in an era when even piano legs were clothed in fabric. Underneath all that hypocrisy is the depraved, not-so-hidden London that is familiar to those who’ve read previous William Monk novels, as well as Dickens and Wilde.

As the commander of the River Police that patrols London’s longest street, the River Thames, William Monk has survived the ordeal he experienced in “Execution Dock”, where he discovered boats anchored in the Thames that served up pornography and sex between men and very young boys. Monk knows the case isn’t closed; he still has to find out who’s been financing these boats.

Anne Perry

Anne Perry
When the body of a small-time crook named Mickey Parfitt washes up on the tide, most people are tempted to say — or think —  “good riddance, he deserved it”. But when the coroner shows Monk an expensive silk cravat that was used to strangle Parfitt after he was bashed on the head, the fearless and methodical detective — assisted by his wife Hester and a young boy named Scuff whom they rescued in the previous novel — realizes that Parfitt is only a pawn in a dangerous and sordid game. Monk begins a relentless search that connects the cravat to a prominent young man of “substance” and men at the highest levels of English society. It’s a dangerous game for Monk, who could lose his job if he persists in his probing.

It turns out that Parfitt had been running another sex show boat, with support from a rich man of “substance” who runs a blackmailing scheme, taking photographs of the men of society in compromising positions with the young boys.

“Acceptable Loss” is a strongly character driven novel, as are all of Perry’s novels. We care about Monk, Scruff and Hester, who served as a nurse in the Crimean War some 15 years before the action of the novel.

The war between Britain and Russia was fought between October 1853 and February 1856 and was notable for the nurses — most notably Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole — who developed modern procedures while treating the wounded soldiers. The war, another one of the misbegotten conflicts of Europe and mankind in general,  prefigured the American Civil War in its extensive reporting — by William Russell of The Times (of London) — and photography by Roger Fenton.   It’s also famous — or infamous — for the disastrous “Charge of the Light Brigade.”

“Acceptable Loss” features a dramatic courtroom battle, where Monk is pitted against his old friend lawyer Sir Oliver Rathbone, who is defending a man whose daughter, Oliver’s wife Margaret, is both a good friend of Hester and supporter of  Hester’s free clinic and shelter for street women and prostitutes. Parfitt’s murder leads to startling revelations and destroys friendships that seemed permanent. It’s vintage Anne Perry.
Anne Perry’s website: www.anneperry.com. Publisher’s website: www.ballantinebooks.com.

About the Author

Anne Perry is the bestselling author of two acclaimed series set in Victorian England: the William Monk novels, including Execution Dock and Dark Assassin, and the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt novels, including Treason at Lisson Grove and Buckingham Palace Gardens. She is also the author of a series of five World War I novels, as well as eight holiday novels, most recently A Christmas Odyssey, and a historical novel, The Sheen on the Silk, set in the Ottoman Empire. She lives in Scotland. For David M. Kinchen’s review of Treason at Lisson Grove, click: http://www.huntingtonnews.net/3578. For Kinchen’s review of The Sheen on the Silk, click: http://archives.huntingtonnews.net/columns/100518-kinchen-columnsbookreview.html

THE RIGHT WORD FROM THE LEFT COAST: Sneak Preview of Obama’s ‘Economic Plan’

John W. Lillpop

John W. Lillpop
After wasting nearly three years and Lord knows how many trillions of American treasure in a futile effort to purchase jobs with government money, President Obama has signaled that he is finally getting serious.
So serious, in fact, that the president will unveil a new “plan” to jar the economy out of the doldrums while simultaneously giving a boost to his dwindling reelection prospects.

As reported, in part, at the reference:
President Barack Obama said on Wednesday he will propose a plan in September to jump-start the U.S. economy as he struggles to convince skeptical voters that he has something new to offer.

Obama, with his approval ratings falling, is set to propose short-term measures to boost hiring and call on a congressional panel to deliver more than the $1.5 trillion in savings its members seek by November 23, partly through increased tax revenue.

“When Congress gets back in September, my basic argument to them is this: we should not have to choose between getting our fiscal house in order and jobs and growth. We can’t afford to do just one or the other, we’ve got to do both,” Obama said at a town-hall style meeting in Illinois.

The White House offered scant details on what new initiatives Obama would offer to keep the economy from diving back into recession. Administration officials said the plan is still a work in progress.”

How clever of the president to keep Republicans and the nation guessing about the details of his job plan. Build up the suspense and then take a few hundred victory laps before anyone has time to analyze the plan in detail.

Then it will be time for a family vacation on Waikiki beach where the president can bask in the glory of public approval for two weeks, or more.

Another vacation, you ask?

Hell yes, for all that he has been forced to tolerate, Obama will richly deserve a nice long respite from John Boehner and Tea Party savages in Washington.

Besides, all that reading and drinking on Martha’s Vineyard would wear out any president, even one who does not smoke to excess.

Pundits are already speculating about what the president’s plan will contain.

My guess is that he will rely heavily on taxes, fees, levies, and all other means of picking the pockets of white Republicans, natural enemy to most average Americans at least in Obama’s biased eye.

The Obama Plan:

Tax the rich;

Tax big oil and coal to the point of bankruptcy;

Tax the rich;

Close tax loopholes, except those that favor labor unions, Hollywood, Planned Parenthood, and anything green, and

Tax anything and everything too small to fight back.

The big question: Will Obama’s brilliant, new plan work?

The answer: Think his trillion dollar stimulus fiasco. Did that work?

http://news.yahoo.com/obama-set-beyond-1-5-trillion-budget-cuts-130642669.html
* * *

 John W. Lillpop lives in San Jose, CA. He denies that he is the only conservative in Santa Clara County! His email:  johnlillpop@yahoo.com 

REALTORS: Existing-Home Sales Down 3.5% in July but Up 21% From a Year Ago

By David M. Kinchen

REALTORS: Existing-Home Sales Down 3.5% in July but Up 21% From a Year Ago
Existing-home sales declined in July from an upwardly revised June pace but are significantly higher than a year ago, according to a report issued Thursday, Aug. 18 by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Monthly gains in the Northeast and Midwest were offset by declines in the West and South.
Total existing-home sales — completed transactions of single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops — fell 3.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.67 million in July from 4.84 million in June, but are 21 percent above the 3.86 million unit pace in July 2010, which was a cyclical low immediately following the expiration of the home buyer tax credit.

NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said there is a tug and pull on the market. “Affordability conditions this year have been the most favorable on record dating back to 1970, but many buyers are being held back because banks are offering financing to only the most highly qualified borrowers, ignoring a large share of otherwise creditworthy buyers,” he said. “Those potential buyers represent the difference between an uneven recovery and a much more robust housing market that could stimulate additional economic activity and create jobs.”

NAR President Ron Phipps from Warwick, R.I., said an unacceptably high number of potential home buyers are unable to complete transactions. “For both mortgage credit and home appraisals, there’s been a parallel pendulum swing from very loose standards which led to the housing boom, to unnecessarily restrictive practices as an overreaction to the housing correction,” he said.

“Beyond the tight credit problems, all appraisals must be done by valuators with local expertise and using reasonable comparisons – it doesn’t make sense to consistently see so many valuations coming in below negotiated prices, often below replacement construction costs,” Phipps said.

In an environment following a large price correction, Phipps said a price negotiated between a buyer and seller would appear to be a fair market price. “Banks frequently request numerous sales comparisons, well beyond the customary three comps used in the past, with little consideration that some of those properties may be discounted foreclosures used to valuate a traditional home in good condition,” he said. “To a great extent, banks are exerting influence on appraised valuations with negative impacts for both home sales and prices.”

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage was 4.55 percent in July, up from 4.51 percent in June; the rate was 4.56 percent in July 2010. Last week, Freddie Mac reported the 30-year fixed rate dropped to 4.32 percent.

Contract failures – cancellations caused largely by declined mortgage applications or failures in loan underwriting from appraised values coming in below the negotiated price – were unchanged in July, reported by 16 percent of NAR members. In addition, 9 percent of Realtors® report a contract was delayed in the past three months due to low appraisals, and another 13 percent said a contract was renegotiated to a lower sales price because an appraisal was below the initially agreed price.

The national median existing-home price  for all housing types was $174,000 in July, down 4.4 percent from July 2010. Distressed homes   – foreclosures and short sales typically sold at deep discounts – accounted for 29 percent of sales in July, compared with 30 percent in June and 32 percent in July 2010.

Total housing inventory at the end of July fell 1.7 percent to 3.65 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 9.4-month supply4 at the current sales pace, up from a 9.2-month supply in June.

All-cash sales accounted for 29 percent of transactions in July, unchanged from June; they were 30 percent in June 2010; investors account for the bulk of cash purchases.

First-time buyers purchased 32 percent of homes in July, up from 31 percent in June; they were 38 percent in July 2010. Investors accounted for 18 percent of purchase activity in July compared with 19 percent in June and 19 percent in July 2010. The balance of sales was to repeat buyers, which were a 50 percent market share in July, unchanged from June.

Single-family home sales declined 4.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.12 million in July from 4.29 million in June, but are 21.5 percent above the 3.39 million level in July 2010. The median existing single-family home price was $174,800 in July, down 4.5 percent from a year ago.

Existing condominium and co-op sales were unchanged at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 550,000 in July, and are 17.3 percent above the 469,000-unit pace one year ago. The median existing condo price5 was $168,400 in July, down 4.0 percent from July 2010.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast rose 2.7 percent to an annual level of 750,000 in July and are 19.0 percent above July 2010. The median price in the Northeast was $245,600, down 6.8 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest increased 1.0 percent in July to a pace of 1.05 million and are 31.3 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $146,300, down 2.9 percent from July 2010.

In the South, existing-home sales declined 1.6 percent to an annual level of 1.84 million in July but are 19.5 percent above July 2010. The median price in the South was $152,600, which is 2.2 percent below a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West fell 12.6 percent to an annual pace of 1.04 million in July but are 16.9 percent above a year ago. The median price in the West was $208,300 down 7.1 percent from July 2010.

BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Iron Indians’: How A Small College Achieved Football Success With 24 Players, Barebones Budget

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen

BOOK REVIEW: 'The Iron Indians': How A Small College Achieved Football Success With 24 Players, Barebones Budget

Exercise and recreation … are as necessary as reading; I will say rather more necessary, because health is worth more than learning. A strong body makes the mind strong.  —Thomas Jefferson, W&M Class of 1762

Baseball is a nineteenth-century pastoral game.
Football is a twentieth-century technological struggle
. — George Carlin (1937-2008)

College football in 1953 was a completely different game from the mega-technological spectacle of today, writes Rene A. Henry in his chronicle of the 1953 football season at his alma mater, The College of William & Mary:  “The Iron Indians” (Gollywobbler Productions, 100 pages, $14.95). It was more like the pastoral game described by the incomparable Carlin.

The “Indians” in the title refers to the Willamsburg, VA college’s nickname (I noticed on the college’s website that they now use the word “Tribe”), and head coach John J. “Jackie” Freeman (1918-2003) had only 24 players on his squad due to dismissals in the wake of violations of W&M’s honor code. He even canceled spring training.

Rene A. Henry

Rene A. Henry

Back in ’53 (my freshman year of high school began that fall) college football didn’t have today’s two-platoon system: all team members played both offense and defense. Coaches didn’t get paid more than the university president: Freeman made less than $7,000 a year and lived with his family in a two-bedroom apartment behind Sorority Row, writes Henry, a Charleston, WV native, who graduated in 1954.

Rene Henry was the school’s sports information guy and did everything himself with a Speed Graphic press camera, a mimeograph machine, manual typewriters and a very limited long distance phone allowance. He would later go on to a similar position at West Virginia before embarking on his public relations and writing careers.

It’s difficult to compare prices from 1953, when gasoline was 20 or 25 cents a gallon, first class postage was three cents and the average worker earned $4,011 a year and lived in a new house that sold for $17,400 (if he was lucky, more than likely he bought an existing house for half that) and a new Ford or Chevy cost from around $1,500 to $2,400. Let’s use  multiplier of 15, making Freeman’s salary of $6,300 for both head coach and athletic director the equivalent of $94,500 today. A head coach at a major Division I university today is paid at least $500,000, with quite a few earning much more.

With two dozen players  — instead of 50 or 60 — Freeman’s tiny team lost only once in its first six games, despite losing some 30 players, eight starters and both co-captains because of the honor code violation that involved stealing tests.

W&M’s 1953 wins included Wake Forest, North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, and Richmond and a tie against nationally-ranked Navy. Injuries took their toll late in the season, but W&M finished with a 5-4-1 record. The next winning season was in 1965 in Marv Levy’s second year as head coach.

The opening section of the book cites world and U.S. history during the Fifties as well as what was happening on the William & Mary campus. There are romantic, comedic and dramatic anecdotes Henry gained from numerous interviews with classmates and the players and their families.

Coach Freeman faced challenges that few coaches today would accept. He didn’t have enough players for a full scrimmage so in practice when running plays to the right side of the line, he had the left side play defense and vice versa. Tackling and blocking dummies were used in spaces when players were injured, which was frequent.

This book should be a must read for all college presidents and athletic directors, says Henry. It is an example why college football costs need to be brought under control just like the national debt.

“They need to stop making excuses for football; blaming Title IX for all of their athletic department problems; and stop dropping non-revenue Olympic sports from programs every year,” Henry told me. He is a regular contributor to this site.

The book supplements information from the 1953 media guide with career biographical information on all 24 players and the coaching staff. There are pre-season stories as well as a complete narrative and statistical recaps of all 10 games. Five of the players were veterans returning from Korea. Most of the others entered military service after graduation. Three became prominent attorneys. Six were drafted by or signed professional contracts with NFL teams. Several were Dean s List and one Phi Beta Kappa. Two were pre-season Academic all-Americans. Several grew up in small Pennsylvania coal mining towns. Many married their college sweethearts in what became lifetime relationships.

In a 2010 op-ed, Rene Henry wrote about some of the Iron Indians:

“The quarterback, Charlie Sumner, even called his own plays. The players had to be versatile and flexible like Bill Marfizo who, during the season, played seven positions including center, offensive tackle and end, and defensive halfback and linebacker.

“Sumner passed for touchdowns, punted, rushed for 903 yards, scored 30 points and even intercepted six passes. He went on to play eight years in the NFL as defensive safety for the Chicago Bears and Minneapolis Vikings. During his career as a coach with the Oakland Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots many considered him the best defensive coordinator in the NFL. His last season he was head coach of the Oakland Invaders of the USFL.

“Jerry Sazio, a junior guard and linebacker, who went on to play several years professionally in Canada, missed two games with torn knee ligaments, and in the season’s last game, broke his hand and dislocated his shoulder. The following year Sazio was named first team All-Southern Conference, beating out Sam Huff, West Virginia’s consensus All-American and Hall of Famer.

“Fullback Bill Bowman and lineman John Bednarik were both named honorable mention to All-American teams. Bowman went on to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Detroit Lions. Bednarik was the younger brother of Penn All-American and Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Famer Chuck Bednarik.”
This is Henry’s eighth book and it is being adapted for a screenplay for a feature motion picture.

About the Author
Rene A. Henry has had diverse careers in public relations, sports marketing, housing and real estate, television and entertainment, politics, federal service, higher education and as a trade association executive. He has created and produced award-winning videos and television documentaries and authored books on land investment, utility cogeneration, sports and public relations.   His two books on crisis –  Communicating In A Crisis; You’d Better Have a Hose If You Want to Put Out the Fire – and Marketing Public Relations are used by professionals, professors and students. He received his A.B. degree in economics from The College of William & Mary, did graduate study in marketing at West Virginia University and has taken executive courses at Harvard University and Georgetown University law schools. In 2010 he was awarded the William & Mary Alumni Medallion, the highest honor the college’s alumni association can bestow on a graduate. Website: www.renehenry.com.

PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Why Didn’t Obama Have His ‘Darth Vader’ Bus Built in His Hometown?

By David M. Kinchen

photo: Reuters

photo: Reuters
In addition to picking on President Barack Obama for choosing to spend his summer vacation this month in posh Martha’s Vineyard, Republicans and others are blasting him for going to Canada for the $1.1 million motor coach he’s been using in his just concluded Midwest tour.

The bus is a product of the Prevost (pronounced Pray-Vo) company, based in the Canadian province of  Quebec. Prevost makes tour buses and customized coaches that are favorites of rock stars. The company says it built the “shell,”  which I interpret  to mean the basic bus, with the interior completed in Tennessee (at least they didn’t go to Tijuana for a bargain upholstery job!) Typically, engines and transmissions are chosen by the end user of the coach and America is a major producer of these (Detroit Diesel and Cummins, for example).

Actually, according to news accounts I’ve read, there are two of the black painted, tinted window behemoths, for a total of $2.2 million. The buses were commissioned by the Secret Service and one of them will be used by the Republican nominee in next year’s campaign.

What I’d like to know is why go to Canada, when Obama could have gone to a suburb of his hometown of Chicago, and have Motor Coach Industries (MCI) of Schaumburg, IL build the monster coaches. According to an ABC-News story I found (Link:
http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/obama-tour-bus-made-america/story?id=14324892) MCI is the sole surviving U.S. motor coach manufacturer. The news story misspelled Schaumburg, leaving out the first “u”.  Another major coach manufacturer, Flxible of Loudonville, OH, transferred its manufacturing to China in the 1990s  The  company was founded in 1913 as the Flxible Side Car Co. to make motorcycle sidecars.

According to ABC News, the U.S. Secret Service said it purchased the vehicled from Hemphill Brothers Coach Co., Nashville, Tenn.

Hemphill, which declined to discuss the presidential bus or its business generally, assembles custom motor coaches and customizes the interiors before selling the finished product directly to individuals, businesses or the government.

“We just make the shell. We don’t know anything about the end user,” said Christine Garant of Prevost.

Several industry sources speculated that Hemphill may have installed an American-made engine, such as a Detroit Diesel, in the presidential bus, though that could not be immediately confirmed, according to ABC.

Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan said the agency based its purchase on bus design, looking for the coach with the most available space to accommodate state-of-the-art custom security modifications.

Prevost makes excellent buses. In December 2007 I rode in a Prevost bus from Beckley WV to New York City, so Obama and I have something in common. It was a wonderful ride in a bus driven by John Brakefield, who owns  a Raleigh County, WV bus charter business. Link: http://archives.huntingtonnews.net/columns/071206-kinchen-redeyetour.html.