Monthly Archives: November 2011

S&P/CASE-SHILLER: Home Prices Weaken; Back to Early 2003 Levels

By David M. Kinchen
S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices: Home Prices Weaken as the Third Quarter of 2011 Ends; Nationally Home Prices Back to Early 2003 Levels
 Data through September 2011, releasedTuesday, Nov. 29, 2011  by S&P Indices for its
S&P/Case-Shiller  Home Price Indices  show that nationally home prices did not register a significant change in the third quarter of 2011, with the U.S. National Home Price Index up by only 0.1% from its second quarter level.

The national index posted an annual decline of 3.9%, an improvement over the 5.8% decline posted in the second quarter. Nationally, home prices are back to their first quarter of 2003 levels.

“Home prices drifted lower in September and the third quarter,” said David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the
Index Committee at S&P Indices. “The National Index was down 3.9% versus the third quarter of 2010
and up only 0.1% from the previous quarter. Three cities posted new index lows in September 2011 –
Atlanta, Las Vegas and Phoenix. Seventeen of the 20 cities and both Composites were down for the
month. Over the last year home prices in most cities drifted lower.  The plunging collapse of prices seen
in 2007-2009 seems to be behind us.  Any chance for a sustained recovery will probably need a stronger
economy,” he added.

“Detroit and Washington DC posted positive annual rates of change and also saw an improvement in
these rates compared to August. Only New York, Portland and Washington DC posted positive monthly
returns versus August,” Blitzer said. “It is a bit disturbing that we saw three cities post new crisis lows.  For the prior three or four months, only Las Vegas was weakening each month. Now Atlanta and Phoenix have fallen to new lows too. On a monthly basis, Atlanta actually posted a record low rate of -5.9% in September over August. The markets are fairly thin, and the  relative lack of closed transactions might be
exacerbating the downside. The relative good news is that 14 cities saw improvements in their annual
rates of change, versus the six that weakened.”

As of September 2011, the annual rate of change in 14 of the 20 MSAs and both Composites, covered by
S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, improved versus August. Atlanta, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San
Francisco, Seattle and Tampa recorded lower annual declines in September compared to August. Detroit
and Washington DC were the only two MSAs to post positive annual rates of +3.7% and +1.0%
respectively. Detroit has now recorded three consecutive months of positive annual rates.

The S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index, which covers all nine U.S. census divisions, recorded a 3.9% decline in the third quarter of 2011 over the third quarter of 2010. In September, the 10- and 20-City Composites posted annual rates of decline of
3.3% and 3.6%, respectively. Eighteen of the 20 MSAs and both monthly Composites had negative
annual rates in September 2011, the only exceptions being Detroit and Washington DC.

As of the third quarter, the National Index level has recovered by +3.9% from  its recent index low in the first quarter of 2011. However, it is 3.9% below its 2010 Q3 level.  Atlanta, Las Vegas and Phoenix posted record index lows with September’s data. While Phoenix home prices are almost back to their January 2000 levels, Atlanta and Las Vegas prices have fallen below these levels.

More than 24 years of history for these data series is available,  and can be accessed in full by going to
www.homeprice.standardandpoors.com. For home prices in selected cities, click here.

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BOOK REVIEW: ‘Founding Rivals’: How Madison’s Defeat of Monroe in 1789 Congressional Election Gave Us the Bill of Rights

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen

BOOK REVIEW: 'Founding Rivals': How Madison's Defeat of Monroe in 1789 Resulted in Bill of Rights -- And Saved the Young United States of America

If it had’t been for Virginia’s Lutherans and Baptists and a congressional race between two friendly rivals, America might never have had a Bill of Rights and might have been strangled while still an infant country because of squabbles over federal vs. state power  says Chris DeRose in “Founding Rivals:Madison vs. Monroe The Bill of Rights and the Election That Saved a Nation” (Regnery History, 336 pages, $27.99).

The Madison of the title, of course, is James Madison (1751-1836), later the fourth president of the U.S., serving from 1809-1817,  and the Monroe is his successor, the fifth president, serving from 1817-1825, James Monroe (1758-1831), famous for the Monroe Doctrine.

In “Founding Rivals” DeRose hasn’t written a dual biography so much as a detailed account of the two Virginians who faced off in the commonwealth’s 5th Congressional district in 1789 in an America with intense political partisanship, crushing national debt owed to foreign nations, citizens losing their homes to foreclosure, and a nation in danger of separating at the seams.

This all sounds familiar today with the nation facing similar problems; unfortunately we don’t appear to have statesmen/politicians of the caliber of the two Virginians. So much the pity!

DeRose’s book kept my attention to the end, revealing an important but until now neglected element of American history. OK, I’m a history junkie, but even those who aren’t addicted to history will find this book eye-opening.   I was unaware of the importance of the election — an election I had never been aware of.
“Founding Rivals” tells the story of a congressional race that has been largely ignored by historians that DeRose believes saved the nation. In this book, DeRose relives the campaign, retraces the candidates’ footsteps, and offers the first insightful, comprehensive history of the most important congressional race in American history, the only congressional contest in which two future presidents ran against each other.
Chris DeRose

Chris DeRose
The election was important, DeRose writes, because Madison, the principal author of the recently passed Constitution — which replaced the Articles of Confederation (links to both documents on the Avalon Project at Yale University:
link to Articles of Confederation: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/artconf.asp
link to U.S. Constitution: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/usconst.asp) — was in need of amendments, Madison argued.    Specifically, the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, in force Dec. 15, 1791

For one thing, Virginia’s dissenters from the Episcopal Church, primarily Baptists and Lutherans, wanted guarantees that they wouldn’t have to fund a state established church, something the Bill of Rights that Madison crafted after he won the election in a district that had been gerrymandered against him. The first amendment of the Bill of Rights guaranteed rights of dissenters by stating that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

  Actually, DeRose says, the district had been “Henrymandered” against Madison by Patrick Henry, who favored Monroe and didn’t like the Constitution because it gave the federal government too much  power. Yes, that “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” Patrick Henry.

In Founding Rivals DeRose writes:

* Why the 1789 race between Madison and Monroe was more important than most presidential elections.

* How Madison came from behind to win a narrow victory (by a margin of only 336 votes) in a district gerrymandered against him.

* How the Bill of Rights would never have survived the First Congress if Monroe had won in 1789, and how Monroe convinced Madison of the importance of the Bill of Rights.

* Why James Monroe opposed ratification of the Constitution.

Madison’s achievement in drafting and securing passage of the Bill of Rights drew praise from even his opponent Patrick Henry who wrote Monroe: “Although the form of government into which my countrymen determined to place themselves had my country, yet we are one and all embarked, it is natural to care for the crazy machine, at least so long as we are out of sight of a port to refit.”  If Henry thought it was a “crazy machine” back then, I wonder what he would make of our dysfunctional Congress today!

And, it’s a fitting tribute to Madison that Congressman Fisher Ames from Massachusetts — a frequent opponent of Madison — wrote in a letter to a friend: “He is our first man.”

About the Author 

Chris DeRose is an attorney and also serves as a political strategist for candidates in state and federal office. For the past fifteen years, he has been involved in campaigns at every level in five different states. DeRose lives in Phoenix, Arizona. He is a graduate of Northern Illinois University and Pepperdine University School of Law.

 Publisher’s website: www.regneryhistory.com

ABOUT REAL ESTATE: Whacky Laws Affect Homeowners in Every State

  • By David W. Myers, King Features Syndicate
David W. Myers

David W. Myers
A man’s home may be his castle, but the government is sill king when deciding what he can and cannot do while he lives there.

DEAR MR. MYERS: We are newcomers to Arizona and would like to remove a 20-foot-tall Saguaro cactus from our back yard. A neighbor told us that we’d have to get a government permit first. Is this true?

ANSWER: Yes, it’s true. The cactus blossom of the mighty Saguaro is Arizona’s official state flower and you must get a permit from the state’s Agriculture Department to remove it.

The Saguaro was once endangered, so the law requiring the permit makes sense. But a check of several internet web sites suggests that every state has whacky laws or municipal ordinances that dictate what Americans can or cannot do in and around their own homes, even though many of the laws are no longer enforced.

In Mobile, Alabama, it’s illegal for pigeons to eat pebbles from a composite roof. Homeowners who feed them from such a rooftop can become real-life jailbirds.

You can shoot a bear if he rambles onto your property in Alaska, but you can’t wake one up to take his picture.  In Arkansas, you can be cited for mispronouncing the state’s name.

Out in Los Angeles, it’s OK for a husband to beat his wife with a belt in their bedroom, provided that the belt is less than two-inches wide. He can use a broader strap, but only if the spouse approves.

Denver authorities won’t let you lend your vacuum cleaner to a neighbor. Homeowners in Guilford, Conn., can display only white lights on their house at Christmas. Mobile homes are illegal in Fenwick Island, Del.

State lawmakers can’t seem to pass balanced budgets, but they sure like to protect animals. Founding Fathers in Florida banned sex with a porcupine (ouch!), even in the privacy of a bedroom. You cannot keep a donkey in a bathtub if you live in Georgia.

In Honolulu, it’s illegal to sing loudly in your yard or a public place after sunset.  And even if you live next to a stream or lake in idyllic Idaho, the state won’t let you fish … if you’re sitting on a camel.

Chicagoans can’t eat in a home or restaurant if the place is on fire. If you eat garlic for lunch or dinner, you can’t go to a movie theater until four hours later if you live in Gary, Ind.

Iowa homeowners who have pet monkeys can’t let their chimps smoke cigarettes.  You can’t cook up a snake in your kitchen on a Sunday if you live in Kansas.

In Kentucky, you need a license to walk around nude in your own abode.

Louisiana state law specially allows homeowners and their offspring “to grow as tall as they like.” It’s illegal to leave your holiday lights up after Jan. 14 in Maine.

State law in Maryland strictly prohibits homeowners from taking a pet lion to a movie theater. You can’t snore with the bedroom windows open in Massachusetts.

It’s illegal for a man to smooch his wife in their home on a Sunday in Michigan. An old law that’s still on the books in Minnesota says kids under the age of 12 can’t use a home-phone without adult supervision.

Unmarried couples who live together and have sex in Mississippi face a $500 fine and six months in jail. State law in Missouri allows any city to levy a tax on garage bands, provided that the local mayor “plays piccolo and each band member can eat peas with a knife.”

Dogs can’t get within four feet of a fire hydrant in Sheridan, Mont. Homeowners in Nebraska can be arrested if their kid burps in Church, but not if they belch in their own home.

The economy in Nevada is tough, but state law makes it illegal for owners to pawn their dentures to make their mortgage payments.  New Hampshire bans using the toilet on Sundays while looking up.

Property owners can’t paint their house on Sundays in New Jersey. In White Horse, N.M., a woman can’t eat onions in her house on Sabbath and then walk the streets unless she’s trailed by her spouse who must “follow 20 paces behind, carrying a loaded musket over his left shoulder.”

Men with poor taste in clothing probably don’t want to live in Carmel, New York, where it’s illegal to leave a house with pants and a shirt that do not match. It’s against the law to sing-out-of-tune in North Carolina.

Homeowners can’t sleep in their shoes in North Dakota, while women can’t legally sport patent-leather footwear outside of their house if they live in Ohio.

Owners of aquariums should beware if they live in Oklahoma: State law says you can’t get your fish drunk. It’s illegal to buy or sell marijuana in Oregon, but it’s OK to smoke it in your home.

It’s a misdemeanor to sing in a bathtub in Pennsylvania. You’ll face up to 20 years in prison if you bite off a neighbor’s leg in Rhode Island.

Firefighters in Charleston, South Carolina, can blow up your home if they need to create a firebreak. In South Dakota, farmers and other property owners can set off otherwise illegal explosives if they have a sunflower field.

You can’t throw bottles at a tree in your yard in Bell Buckle, Tenn. Sitting on the sidewalk in front of your house in Galveston, Texas, can result in a $500 fine; tossing snowballs with your kids can cost you $50 in Provo, Utah.

All residents in Barre, Vt., must bath every Saturday night. Owners in rural Virginian can’t shine a spotlight on their chicken coop if it causes the poultry to panic.

It’s illegal for someone to set fire to your home in Seattle, unless you give them permission first. You can’t whistle underwater in your tub or pool if you live in West Virginia.

Screens are required on all windows from May through October in Hudson, Wisc. And in Wyoming, it’s illegal to take a shower on Wednesday or to take a picture of a rabbit in your back yard in June.

* * *
Our booklet, “Straight Talk About Living Trusts,” explains how even low- and middle-income homeowners can now reap the same benefits that creating an inexpensive trust once provided only to the wealthiest families. For a copy, send $4 and a self-addressed, stamped envelope to David Myers/Trust, P.O. Box 2960, Culver City, CA 90231-2960. Send questions to that same address and we’ll try to respond in a future column.   Editor’s Note: David W. Myers and David M. Kinchen of HNN worked at the real estate section of the Los Angeles Times for several years.

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Full Bone Moon’: Someone’s Killing Hitchhiking College Women in Morgantown, WV — Again!


Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
BOOK REVIEW: 'Full Bone Moon': Someone's Killing Hitchhiking College Women in Morgantown -- Again!
Growing up in Morgantown, West Virginia, G. Cameron Fuller couldn’t escape the publicity of the gruesome murders of two West Virginia University women students — the news media used the now Politically Incorrect word “coed” back then — whose headless bodies were discovered south of Morgantown on Jan. 18, 1970.

Fuller’s thriller novel “Full Bone Moon” (Woodland Press, Chapmanville, WV, 276 pages, trade paperback, $25.99) was inspired by the murders of Mared Malarik and Karen Ferrell in a town where violent crime then as now is rare.
In fact, West Virginia ranks way down the list on violent crime, according to the 2006 numbers from the Statistical Abstract of the U.S.: 39th, with 280 violent crimes per 100,000 population. By way of contrast, the District of Columbia, not a state, had a whopping 1,508 violent crimes per 100,000 people and would far outrank the most violent state, South Carolina, which had 766 violent crimes per 100,000 people. Tennessee was the second most violent state, with 760 per 100,000, followed by Nevada, Florida and Louisiana.

Maybe this is why violent crimes like the Malarik and Ferrell murders and the June 25, 1980  murders of  Vicky Durian and Nancy Santomero, women hitchhikers attending the  Rainbow Gathering in a national forest in West Virginia,   made such an impact on a relatively nonviolent state — and perhaps inspired the “Wrong Turn” movies. Joseph Paul Franklin, a native of Mobile, Alabama,  confessed to the Durian-Santomero murders, among many others. He is on death row in a Missouri penitentiary, convicted of a murder in Missouri in 1997.

“Full Bone Moon” takes place in an “alternate universe” Morgantown, with many places, like Woodburn Circle and Wise Library familiar to those who know the town, but with reporter Michael Chase working for the Herald-Dispatch rather than the town’s actual newspaper, the Dominion-Post. For those not familiar with West Virginia media, the Herald-Dispatch is Huntington’s daily newspaper.

E.P. Clawson, 30 at the time, was convicted of the 1970 murders of Malarik and Ferrell, who were hitchhiking home after seeing the movie “Oliver,”  but many believe he was not the murderer. He was sentenced to life in prison (West Virginia abolished the death penalty in 1965) and died in 2009 in the state’s Mount Olive Correctional Complex in Fayette County.

“Full Bone Moon” employs many of the rumors and speculations that engulfed the Morgantown area after the killings — and that continue to this day. Rumors of cult activity, high society complicity, police corruption and cover-up and FBI treachery are woven together to make this a thriller that  — in the right directorial hands — would make a good movie.

In an e-mail, Fuller said he doesn’t know of any other novel that riffs on the Malarik-Ferrell murders of 1970.

Inspired by the actual murders of Mared Malarik and Karen Ferrell in Morgantown in 1970, Full Bone Moon employs the many rumors and speculation that swirled around the Morgantown area after the killings, and continue to this day. Rumors of cult activity, high society complicity, police corruption and coverup, and FBI treachery are woven together in Full Bone Moon to take you on a wild ride—a fast-paced fictional thriller—through the Coed Murders as they could have happened.

The action takes place in 1976, six years after the Malarik-Ferrell murders. Reporter Michael Chase, is off the police/crime beat, perhaps because of his prior relationship with Police Chief Carol Braxton, but he can’t resist delving into the latest murders, also involving WVU coeds. Students at the university have been warned not to hitchhike, but students being students, some of them ignore the warnings. And they begin ending up dead in what appears to ritual, satanic circumstances.

Fuller has enough characters in “Full Bone Moon” to provide plenty of red herrings and suspects. It’s a page-turner that should appeal to anyone interested in crime and West Virginia — not necessarily in that order!

Publisher’s website: www.woodlandpress.com

BOOK REVIEW: ‘War Is A Lie’: Handbook for Peace Seekers Debunks The Endless Lies About War


Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
BOOK REVIEW: 'War Is A Lie': Handbook for Peace Seekers Debunks The Endless Lies About War

And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh. — Ecclesiastes 12:12, King James Version

To paraphrase Ecclesiastes 12:12:  “Of making of many wars there is no end,” but peace advocate David Swanson is thinking about issuing a revised version of his October 2010 self-published book “War Is A Lie” (Charlottesville, VA. 372 pages, $25.00, available from Amazon.comand other online sites). As I was nearing the end of the book, I e-mailed Swanson and asked for a comment on the book to include in my review.

He responded: “I wrote it to prevent what is happening now regarding Iran.  I’m considering publishing a special Iran edition in hopes that might work.” He might have added a comment about the current bellicose talk between NATO and Russia over missile deployment, with NATO missiles only 35 miles from Russia’s Kaliningrad oblast (the former German East Prussia). (link: http://www.wbj.pl/article-57037-russia-again-threatens-to-deploy-missiles-on-polish-border.html?typ=wbj).

Having reviewed Swanson’s 2011 book about the Kellogg-Briand pact of 1928 on this site:  “When The World Outlawed War (link:www.huntingtonnews.net › Entertainment) I had to review the comprehensive book that was published a year before. The title is apt because the basis of all wars is a lie, many lies for many wars, Swanson believes. He makes a good case and this book would be a good handbook for the Occupy Everywhere people. More about that later in this review.

David Swanson

David Swanson

If you think the U.S. was blameless in the Dec. 7, 1941 “sneak” attack atPearl Harbor — the 70th anniversary of which we mark in a few days — read pages 57-65 of “War Is A Lie” to discover how we provoked the admittedly warlike and aggressive Japanese Empire (they invaded Manchuria in 1931 and conducted the “Rape of Nanking” in China in 1937) to attack the U.S. and bring us into a war Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted, on the side of the Allies.

After all, FDR was assistant secretary of the Navy in the administration of another great war interventionist, President Woodrow Wilson, who lied constantly to get us involved in a war we had no business being in, what later was called World War I. The ocean liner  Lusitania  torpedoed by the Germans in 1915  was carrying munitions for the Allies, as well as Canadian troops, Swanson writes. The Germans had taken out advertisements in all the New York newspapers warning that the British liner was traveling in a war zone.

Swanson’s interpretation of Pearl Harbor is no longer considered revisionist history — it’s pretty much accepted as the real version by WWII historians. We knew about the plans of the Japanese, who had been provoked by the U.S. with an oil and scrap metal embargo, thanks to our breaking of their codes. Those who died on Dec. 7, 1941 were, to tell the whole truth, murdered by the U.S. government.

FDR, Wilson, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower: They all lied about war. But this is nothing new in American history, with the acquisition of Texas, Arizona,New Mexico and California all based on lies about Mexico in the 1840s by the Polk Administration. Wars = Lies.

I’m going to select only a few examples from Swanson’s book to discuss, and I urge everyone to get their hands on this book and study it…”study war no more” but study peace.

I’ve been cynical for most of my life about the human species, but Swanson points out that war is not a constant, that there are peaceful nations. He lists the Top 20 on Page 110 and I’m listing them in the order he presents them: New Zealand, Iceland, Japan, Austria, Norway, Ireland, Denmark, Luxembourg, Finland,Sweden, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Portugal, Canada, Qatar, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Australiaand Hungary.

Countries can change from warlike to peaceful, as the inclusion of Germany and Japan on that list clearly shows. They just have to decide — as we most certainly haven’t even under the administration of a president — Barack Obama — who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 for no apparent achievements. By the way, that prize was never awarded to Gandhi, although warmakers like Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Kissinger received it. To be fair to the Norwegians, who administer the prize, it did go to Frank Kellogg, co-author of the Kellogg-Briand pact of 1928.

I was pleased to see the inclusion of Marine Corps Major Gen. Smedley D. Butler (1881-1940) in Swanson’s book (Pages 174 ff). Butler, the most decorated Marine, with two Medals of Honor (often erroneously called Congressional Medals of Honor), who wrote a 1935 book entitled “War Is A Racket.” (read it here: www.ratical.org/ratville/CAH/warisaracket.pdf).  Swanson points out — on Page 174 — that Butler’s most famous lines are not in that short book but in a 1935 issue of the Socialist newspaper Common Sense:

“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers.  In short I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism….”

Read this passage over and over again and think about the Occupy Everywhere movements. I think — and I know Swanson would agree with me — that the Occupy people should concentrate on targeting the lies that are behind all wars. They should occupy the Pentagon and protest at military bases and companies that profit from war, which would mean virtually every company in this country and the world. They should boycott Starbucks, too, because the Seattle coffeehouse chain has a Starbucks at Guantanamo Bay — something that was news to me!

The Occupy Everywhere people should study Page 283 in “War Is A Lie,” where Swanson’s cites Steven Hill’s book “Europe’s Promise: Why the European Way Is the Best Hope in an Insecure Age.”  Swanson says Hill’s argument is that the EU (European Union) “is the world’s largest and most competitive economy and most of those living in it are wealthier, healthier, and happier than most Americans. Europeans work shorter hours, have a greater say in how their employers behave, receive lengthier paid vacations and paid parental leave, can rely on guaranteed paid pension, have free or extremely inexpensive healthcare, enjoy free or inexpensive educations from preschool to college….”  Whether this will continue given the economic shocks the EU is undergoing is problematical, but I don’t see many Europeans emigrating to the U.S. anymore.

“War Is A Lie” is a thorough refutation of every major argument used to justify wars, drawing on evidence from numerous past wars, with a focus on those wars that have been most widely defended as just and good. This is a handbook of sorts, a manual to be used in debunking future lies before future wars have a chance to begin. For more information visit WarIsALie.org.

About the Author

David Swanson is an American author, blogger, and anti-war activist. He served as press secretary forOhio congressman Dennis Kucinich’s 2004 presidential campaign. He is a contributor to Huntington News Network.  He was a key figure in making the Downing Street Memo known across America. The memo, the leaked minutes of a meeting of the British war cabinet, exposed the lies behind the war in Iraq and was a key element in turning the majority of American people against the war in Iraq.

BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Doors’: A Fan’s Tribute to Staying Power of Short-Lived, Landmark Band

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen

BOOK REVIEW: 'The Doors': A  Fan's Tribute to the Cultural Influences, Staying Power of a Short-Lived, Landmark Band
Greil Marcus admits to being a major league, heavy duty fan of The Doors and his book “The Doors: A Lifetime of Listening to Five Mean Years” (PublicAffairs, 224 pages, $21.99) is a worthy tribute to the band and its iconic lead singer Jim Morrison.
The renowned and prolific — boy, is he prolific! —  cultural critic examines the music of The Doors, and takes on the lasting songs and legendary performances that have endured far beyond the band’s short life. Fortunately, the publishers have provided an index — not always standard equipment these days — so you can track down a reference to say, Thomas Pynchon’s 2009 novel “Inherent Vice,” set in L.A. and rocking to the sound of the Doors’ hit “L.A. Woman.” For my review of “Inherent Vice” click: www.huntingtonnews.net/…/090917-kinchen-columnsbookreview.ht)

A fan from the moment The Doors’ first album took over KMPX, the revolutionary FM rock & roll station inSan Francisco, Greil Marcus saw the band many times at the legendary Fillmore Auditorium and the Avalon Ballroom in 1967.

By the way, the name of the band came from the title of a 1954 book, “The Doors of Perception,”  by Aldous Huxley, the renowned author of “Brave New World.” Huxley’s death was barely covered since he died at age 69 in Los Angeles on Nov. 22, 1963, the same Friday 48 years ago when JFK was gunned down in Dallas, Texas. “The Doors of Perception” appropriately deals with Huxley’s experiences while taking mescaline. Huxley took his title from William Blake’s poem “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.” All this is appropriate because drug-using Morrison, who came up with the band’s name,  was also a talented poet.

Five years after the band was formed in Venice, CA. in 1965 it was all over, with the last concert Dec. 12, 1970 at the Warehouse in New Orleans.  Forty years after the singer Jim Morrison (1943-1971) was found dead in Paris and the group disbanded, Marcus says a rock music devotee could drive around town or across the country, changing from one FM pop station to another, and be all but guaranteed to hear two, three, four Doors songs in an hour—every hour.

Could anyone say that about, say, The Blasters, which I saw in performance at Club 88 on Pico Boulevard  in West L.A. in the early 1980s and which has largely faded from the cultural scene. Critically acclaimed, the band formed in 1979 by Dave and Phil Alvin sadly never achieved the popularity of The Doors. This is a shame because  The Blasters was and is an outstanding group.

Jim Morrison dominates the book, as he dominated The Doors, but Marcus doesn’t neglect the other band members: Robby Krieger, Ray Manzarek and John Densmore. I was surprised to find that Marcus liked the 1991 Oliver Stone movie “The Doors” with Val Kilmer playing Morrison, Kyle MacLachlan as Manzarek, Frank Whalley as Krieger and Kevin Dillon as  Densmore: “all of them right, and Val Kilmer as Morrison, more than right,” Marcus says. I agree with him and disagree with the critics and others who trashed the flick. It’s worth watching. Oliver Stone may be an acquired taste, but “The Doors” will endure.

Griel’s book isn’t so much about the band’s myth, their mystique, and the death cult of both Jim Morrison and the era he was made to personify as it is on the music and the cultural influence of that music. If you”re a fan of The Doors, this is an important book. Even if you’re not, it’s worth reading.

Marcus did omit one Doors reference, but maybe it’s because he’s not a “Wayne’s World” fan; the reference to Jim Morrison and the Naked Indian in “Wayne’s World 2”. I couldn’t find it in the index, either. Michael A. Nickles played Morrison in the 1993 movie, and Larry Sellers portrayed the Naked Indian, who was not all that naked.

From “Wayne’s World 2”:

Jim: Ask me a question.
Wayne: Okay, two trains are coming at each other at sixty miles an hour, one from Chicago, one from Los Angeles.
Jim: [cutting him off] No, ask me a question about your life.


 About the author

Greil Marcus, born 1945, is the author of “Bob Dylan by Griel Marcus”, “Lipstick Traces,”  “When that Rough God Goes Riding”, “The Shape of Things to Come,” “Mystery Train”, “Dead Elvis”, “In the Fascist Bathroom”, “Double Trouble”, “Like a Rolling Stone”, and “The Old Weird America.” With Werner Sollors he is the editor of “A New Literary History of America”, published last year by Harvard University Press. Since 2000 he has taught at Princeton, Berkeley, Minnesota, and the New School in New York; his column “Real Life Rock Top 10” appears regularly in The Believer. He has lectured at UC Berkeley, The Whitney Museum of Art, and Princeton University. He lives in Oakland, CA.
Publisher’s website: www.publicaffairsbooks.com

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Narrows Gate’: Mario Puzo Fans: Your Replacement Has Arrived

  • Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
BOOK REVIEW: 'Narrows Gate': Attention Mario Puzo Fans: Your Replacement  -- And Then Some -- Has Arrived
Just when I thought I had Jim Fusilli’s “Narrows Gate” (AmazonEncore, Las Vegas, NV,  574 pages, $14.95 trade paperback, $9.95 eBook) all figured out, the crafty mystery writer slipped me a mickey or bashed my noggin with a sap, I don’t know which. At least he didn’t drill me with a snubbie!

The New Jersey town of Narrows Gate, across the Hudson River fromManhattan,  has many similarities with Hoboken, the hometown of Frank Sinatra, and William “Bebe” Marsala has a career arc similar to that other blue-eyed Italian crooner. Mafia and mob addicts can attach real life identities to Fusilli’s characters in this novel that surrounds the World War II era.

Ziggy Baum, whose money-skimming activities resembled that of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, meets a similar fate to that of Bugsy in post-WWII Las Vegas. And Senator Dunney from South Carolina resembles the real-life Sen. Estes Kefauver of Tennessee, who conducted hearings on organized crime at a time when FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover denied the existence of same.

Fusilli, who is also the rock and pop music critic for the Wall Street Journal, is a page-turning author who will remind many readers of Mario Puzo, James Ellroy and other writers, but he has his own distinctive voice as “Narrows Gate” demonstrates. His encyclopedic knowledge of music is displayed in “Narrows Gate.”

Rather than to compare the cast of characters that Fusilli helpfully supplies with real mobsters, its more fun to let the Fusilli prose waft over you than to try to figure out who’s who among the bent-nose fraternity.

My favorite part of the book is the friendship between two unlikely kids, Salvatore Benno and Leonardo Bell.  Unlike Leo Bell, Sal Benno is not much for the books, but he’s a lot like Henry Hill in Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” — a useful “delivery boy” who faithfully serves the Narrows Gate mobsters for many years. The closer he gets to the beating heart of the mob, the more endangered his life becomes, but he has few options, having lost one eye as a result of miserable emergency room procedures to treat a sty.

His buddy Leo Bell is drawn to books and learning and yearns to escape the world of A&P where he works produce. His closeness to Benno and the mob comes to the attention of a recruiter for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) the predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The O.S.S. needs people familiar with Sicily as the invasion — Operation Husky — of the island nears and Bell meets the needs of O.S.S. man Lt. Tyler. Bell joins the Army and is assigned to the OSS with the rank of private, along with a promise that he’ll get a four-year full scholarship to a top-flight university after the war. Tyler even sells him an $800 car for $400. (In that era, $800 would buy a new Ford, Chevrolet or Plymouth).

Leo’s dad is a typewriter repairman, a useful occupation in those simpler, pre-computer days, but Leo doesn’t want to work on platens, ribbon reverse mechanisms or similar details of typewriters — and he has a secret about his identity that only his best buddy Benno knows. If word got out, his closeness to the Sicilian Americans of the mob would be at an end and possibly his life, too.

I’m not going to delve further into the plot of “Narrows Gate” other than to say that the novel explores the immigrant experience in the New York metropolitan area in a way that will educate many and entertain all. The idea of the tweedy “Ivy League” O.S.S. (its detractors said the letters stood for “Oh So Social”) dipping into the gritty immigrant community for talent might sound a bit far-fetched, but it’s based on real incidents during World War II.

About the Author

Jim Fusilli has been the  rock and pop music critic of the Wall Street Journal since 2008. Born in Hoboken, NJ, he’s the author Closing Time; A Well-Known Secret; Tribeca Blues; Hard, Hard City, Mystery Ink magazine’s 2004 Novel of the Year; Pet Sounds; and Marley Z and the Bloodstained Violin. He served as the editor of, and contributed chapters to, the award-winning serial thrillers The Chopin Manuscript and The Copper Bracelet. He developed Narrows Gate as a setting in numerous published short stories. “Chellini’s Solution,” which appeared in the 2007 edition of the Best American Mystery Stories, features Narrows Gate in the years following World War II. “Digby, Attorney at Law” portrays the fictional city in the early 1960s. “Digby” was nominated for the Edgar and Macavity awards in 2010. Fusilli lives in New York Citywith his wife, the former Diane Holuk. Their daughter Cara is a graduate of the New School.   a

REALTORS: October Existing Home Sales Rise, Unsold Inventory, Home Prices Continue to Fall

By David M. Kinchen

Existing home sales improved in October while the number of homes on the market continued to decline — along with home prices — according to a report released Monday, Nov. 21 by the National Association of Realtors NAR).

Total existing home sales– completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops — rose 1.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.97 million in October from a downwardly revised 4.90 million in September, and are 13.5 percent above the 4.38 million unit level inOctober 2010.

NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said the market has been fairly steady but at a lower than desired level. “Home sales have been stuck in a narrow range despite several improving factors that generally lead to higher home sales such as job creation, rising rents and high affordability conditions. Many people who are attempting to buy homes are thwarted in the process,” he said.

“A higher rate of contract failures has held back a sales recovery. Contract failures reported by NAR members jumped to 33 percent in October from 18 percent in September, and were only 8 percent a year ago, so we should be seeing stronger sales,” Yun added.

Yun defined contract failures as cancellations caused by declined mortgage applications, failures in loan underwriting from appraised values coming in below the negotiated price, or other problems including home inspections and employment losses.    “Other recent factors include disruption in the National Flood Insurance Program  and lower loan limits for conventional mortgages, which paradoxically force some of the most creditworthy consumers to pay unnecessarily higher interest rates,” Yun said.

  The national median existing home price  for all housing types was $162,500 in October  — 4.7 percent below October 2010. Distressed homes – foreclosures and short sales typically sold at deep discounts – slipped to 28 percent of sales in October from 30 percent in September (17 percent were foreclosures and 11 percent were short sales); they were 34 percent in October 2010.

“In some areas we’re hearing about shortages of foreclosure inventory in the lower price ranges with multiple bidding on the more desirable properties,” Yun said. “Realtors  in such areas are calling for a faster process of getting foreclosure inventory into the market because they have ready buyers. In addition, extending credit to responsible investors would help to absorb inventory at an even faster pace, which would go a long way toward restoring market balance.”

The national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage, according to Freddie Mac,  fell to a record low 4.07 percent in October from 4.11 percent in September; the rate was 4.23 percent in October 2010.

NAR President Moe Veissi from Miami, FL said consumers can increase their odds of obtaining a mortgage by being aware of how credit scores are determined. “If you want to get a mortgage, don’t buy a car or take on new installment debt or credit cards,” he said.

“Pay all your bills on time, maintain old credit lines and don’t use more than 30 percent of your credit limit. Realtors  can help you understand the issues surrounding access to affordable credit, in addition to helping you find the right home and negotiate terms,” Veissi said.

An ongoing positive trend is a steady decline in the number of homes on the market. Total housing inventory at the end of October fell 2.2 percent to 3.33 million existing homes available for sale, which represents an 8.0-month supply  at the current sales pace, down from an 8.3-month supply in September. Inventories have been trending gradually down since setting a record of 4.58 million in July 2008.

All-cash sales accounted for 29 percent of purchases in October, little changed from 30 percent in September and 29 percent in October 2010; investors make up the bulk of cash transactions.

Investors purchased 18 percent of homes in October, compared with 19 percent in September and 19 percent in October 2010. First-time buyers accounted for 34 percent of transactions in October, up from 32 percent in September; they were 32 percent in October 2010.

Single-family home sales increased 1.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.38 million in October from 4.31 million in September, and are 13.8 percent higher than the 3.85 million-unit pace one year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $161,600 in October, which is 5.8 percent below October 2010.

Existing condominium and co-op sales were unchanged at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 590,000 in October but are 10.5 percent above the 534,000-unit level in October 2010. The median existing condo price  was $160,300 in October, down 1.5 percent from a year ago.

Regionally, existing home sales in the Northeast fell 5.1 percent to an annual level of 750,000 in October but are 1.4 percent above October 2010. The median price in the Northeast was $224,400, down 5.5 percent from a year ago.

Existing home sales in the Midwest rose 2.8 percent in October to a pace of 1.10 million and are 19.6 percent higher than October 2010. The median price in the Midwest was $132,800, which is 4.7 percent below a year ago.

In the South, existing home sales increased 2.1 percent to an annual level of 1.94 million in October and are 14.1 percent above a year ago. The median price in the South was $145,700, down 1.6 percent from October 2010.

Existing home sales in the West rose 4.4 percent to an annual pace of 1.19 million in October and are 15.5 percent higher than October 2010. The median price in the West was $207,500, which is 1.6 percent below a year ago.

Former Fox News Analyst at Center of Pakistani Firestorm

By Jim Kouri

Pakistan’s powerful army has become enraged after a secret memo indicated President Asif Ali Zardari’s government asked for U.S. help to prevent a military coup following the Navy SEAL raid in May that killed Osama bin Laden. – Washington Post, November 18, 2011.
Former Fox News Channel Middle East analyst, businessman Mansoor Ijaz, is at the center of a political firestorm within the Pakistani government as a result of a Washington Post story that appeared in that newspaper on Friday.
The crisis began when Mansoor, a Pakistani-American business tycoon, was asked by a top Pakistani diplomat — Ambassador to the U.S. Hussain Haqqani — to deliver a message from President Asif Ali Zardari to U.S. General Mike Mullen, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The alleged memorandum to Mullen said the Pakistan’s President Zardari was seeking helping in controlling his own army.
Pakistan’s powerful army has become enraged after learning the secret memo indicated President Asif Ali Zardari’s government asked for U.S. help to prevent a military coup following the Navy SEAL raid in May that killed Osama bin Laden.
While Haqqani denies drafting any memo and also offered his resignation to quell an uprising, Gen. Mullen’s office has reportedly confirmed that a memo had been received.
However, officials at the Pentagon said simply it is Pakistan’s internal problem and the U.S. would not interfere. The Mansoor Ijaz released the text of the memo to the media after denials by Pakistan’s U.S. envoy and other government officials.

The opposition parties have mounted pressure on the Pakistani government to clarify its positions on U.S. relations, terrorism and Islamic freedom fighters as well as the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League.

 

The PML has called for a special session of the parliament to discuss the memo issue, and the opposition has also asked for Haqqani to be arrested for treason once he returns to Pakistan from the United States.

 

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yusuf Gilani promised opposition leaders and the National Assembly, Lower House of the parliament on Friday, that he had recalled Ambassador Haqqani in order to question him about the reported memo.

 

Middle East news reports allege that Pakistani President Zardari has denied sending any memo he has written to Gen. Mike Mullen. He reportedly told a meeting of the ruling party that he possesses direct access to the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. President Barack Obama so “why he should use a mediator for contacts with the United States.”

 

The Interior Minister told reporters that the ambassador has been called by the president and the prime minister to give explanation and his point of view.

The controversial memo has added to the problems of the Pakistani government, which is already facing the deadly insurgents, the tough political opposition, energy and power shortage, and economic difficulties.

 

The memo issue is believed to be the most serious matter as the man who claimed to have delivered the document — Mansoor Ijaz — stands by his claim that he was approached by the Pakistani Ambassador and asked to deliver a message to Mike Mullen.

 

Mansoor also said that he has provided evidence to the Pakistani authorities: “I am ready to go to Pakistan to provide more details.”

 

The memo is viewed as a challenge for Pakistan and its weak, beleaguered government. The issue is considered very sensitive as the controversial document has sought the U.S. help to tighten ” control over the army.”

 

Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former U.S. State Department director of policy planning, said during a security conference in Canada that the Obama administration would still be ready to assist allies when needed; however, it would no longer be at the forefront of trying to solve the world’s problems.

Instead, the U.S. would rely on other countries to take the lead, as Britain, France, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates did in Libya, she said.

Jim Kouri, CPP, formerly Fifth Vice-President, is currently a Board Member of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, an editor for ConservativeBase.com, and he’s a columnist for Examiner.com.  In addition, he’s a blogger for the Cheyenne, Wyoming Fox News Radio affiliate KGAB (www.kgab.com) and editor of Conservative Base Magazine (www.conservativebase.com). Kouri also serves as political advisor for Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor Michael Moriarty.  

Jim Kouri

BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Witness House’: Nazis and Holocaust Survivors in the Same Boarding House During the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials

BOOK REVIEW: 'The Witness House': Nazis and Holocaust Survivors Were Housed in the Same Villa During the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials
It sounds like an idea only the U.S. Army could come up with: Requisition a villa in Nuremberg, Germany to house both witnesses and victims of Nazi war crimes, along with the accused perpetrators of the crimes, but, as Christiane Kohl writes in “The Witness House: Nazis and Holocaust Survivors Sharing a Villa During the Nuremberg Trials” (Other Press, 272 pages, trade paperback, $14.95, translated from the German by Anthea Bell) it actually happened during the Nuremberg war crimes trials.  The book has an excellent bibliography, as well as brief biographies of the people mentioned in the book. Among them is Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler’s personal photographer, who made a fortune from his work.

This earthbound equivalent of the fictional “Ship of Fools” (by Katherine Anne Porter, later made into a 1965 hit movie directed by Stanley Kramer)  was 24 Novalisstrasse, a villa on the outskirts of Nuremberg, which housed the trial witnesses, the prosecution, and the defense.

The Americans recruited a 36-year-old German born Hungarian countess named Ingeborg Kálnoky, a beautiful blonde who looked like the late actress Jean Harlow. She was separated by the chaos of World War II from her Hungarian husband, and moved into the villa to run it, which she did with elan. She lived in the villa with her young children.

Kálnoky, who spoke four languages, was told to “keep things running smoothly”, a feat she accomplished, often entertaining the inhabitants of the suburban villa with practical jokes and amusing anecdotes. She had as a frequent visitor a U.S. Army Catholic chaplain Major Fabian Flynn, which cause a lot of gossip, and at least one of her guests, the first head of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels, who apparently was having an affair with an aristocratic woman in a much more luxurious house not far away. Diels figures in a book I recently reviewed, Erik Larson’s “In the Garden of Beasts” about the Dodd family in Germany. Diels, a notorious womanizer, was apparently having an affair with the beautiful Martha Dodd, daughter of American ambassador to Nazi Germany William E. Dodd. (Link to my review: www.huntingtonnews.net› Entertainment).

Kohl heard about the villa through her reading of Kálnoky’s ghost-written account of the “Witness House” entitled “The Guest House” published in 1975 by the American publisher Bobbs-Merrill.  Kohl tracked the  countess to a small apartment in Cleveland, Ohio; she and her family moved to the States in the 1950s and the countess talked to Kohl there. Ingeborg Kálnoky was born 1909  and died in Cleveland in 1997.

Kohl was inspired to write a complete account of the “Witness House” because Kálnoky’s 1975 book glossed over many details. Kohl, an experienced journalist, doesn’t make this mistake; she recounts the discovery of a document that listed in detail the elements of the “Final Solution” hammered out in 1942 at the Wannsee Conference that resulted in the Holocaust. Notorious English Holocaust denier David Irving should read this book!

Among the people living in the Witness House was Willy E. Messerschmidt, whose firm used slave labor to construct the Me 262 jet plane and the V-2 rockets. A journalist housed in the villa testified that Messerschmidt worked the inmates of the Dora-Mittelbau concentration camp to death. Despite this, Messerschmidt was acquitted of war crimes and died at a comfortable old age in 1978. Unlike another employer of slave labor, Werner von Braun, he didn’t even have to emigrate to the U.S.

In “The Witness House” Kohl focuses on the guilty, the sympathizers, the undecided, and those who always manage to make themselves fit in.  She explores and explains the social structures that allowed the Nazi regime to flourish and serves as a symbol of the blurred boundaries between accuser and accused that would come to form the basis of postwar Germany. The ghosts of the past are still present in Germany.

I didn’t see any reference to Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s “Hitler’s Willing Executioners” in Kohl’s bibliography, but her powerful book shows that the Germans had more than enough “willing executioners” who got along by going along. This outstanding, very readable book should be read by everyone. It’s a painful book to read, but it’s necessary as incidents of Neo-Nazi violence have surfaced in Germany, as well as recent anti-Semitic incidents in New York City and elsewhere.

Editor’s note: The Nuremberg War Crimes trials began Nov. 20, 1945.


About the Author

Christiane Kohl, born in 1954,  has worked as a correspondent to the Cologne Express, a press officer for the Environment Ministry in Hessen, and, from 1988 to 1998, an editor with Der Spiegel. She worked for several years in Rome for Munich’s Süddeutsche Zeitung and is currently the newspaper’s correspondent for eastern Germany. Her book, “Der Jude und Das Mädchen” (2002), was the basis of Joseph Vilsmaier’s feature film “Leo and Claire”. She lives in Dresden.


About the Translator

Anthea Bell is a freelance translator from German and French, specializing in fiction. She has won a number of translation awards in the UK, the USA, and Europe. Her translations include W.G. Sebald’s “Austerlitz” (and other works by Sebald), a large selection of Stefan Zweig’s novellas and stories, and Wladyslaw Szpilman’s memoir, “The Pianist.”

Publisher’s website: www.otherpress.com