Monthly Archives: March 2012

BOOK REVIEW: ‘500 Cameras’: Tracing the History of Photography Through the Wide Variety of Cameras That Turned Light Into Art

  • Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
BOOK REVIEW: '500 Cameras': Tracing the History of Photography Through the Wide Variety of Cameras That Turned Light Into Art

If you’re a camera collector, Todd Gustavson’s “500 Cameras: 170 Years of Photographic Innovation” (Sterling Publishing, Sterling Signature, quality paperback, 480 pages, index, $26.95) is an invaluable addition to your reference shelf — and will make you drooling for specimens you’ve always wanted but couldn’t afford or find. If you’re not a collector and are interested in photography, it’s an ideal book to trace the history of photography through the astounding variety of cameras that made making pictures a reality.

Beautifully photographed in full color, the cameras are from the from the world-famous collection in George Eastman House — the Rochester, NY mansion that was the home of Eastman Kodak founder George Eastman. Gustavson, curator of technology at the George Eastman House, organizes the cameras into genealogical categories — from detective to digital, stereo to subminiature, to instant photography, including a variety of Polaroid Land Cameras. Alongside 35mm cameras like Nikons, Canons, Leicas, Arguses, etc., etc., you’ll see curiosities like stereoscopic cameras, postcard cameras, and spy cameras hidden in watches, buttons, and fountain pens. Digital cameras, which have pretty much taken over from analogue or film ones, are well represented, with both professional and consumer models displayed and described.

 

Gustavson’s brief essays are excellent, giving information about each camera and its place in photographic history. Rather than just one Leica or Nikon or Canon rangefinder camera, for example, Gustavson selects a number of them. An excellent approach that will appeal to collectors who may already know much of this information (or not) and other readers who don’t.

 

BOOK REVIEW: '500 Cameras': Tracing the History of Photography Through the Wide Variety of Cameras That Turned Light Into Art

 

Additioinally, succinct essays by experts in the field — including Robert Shanebrook, Martin Scott, and Mark Osterman — trace the technological development of the camera and provide insight into the innovators behind the lens. As a collector (even though I’m in a continuing state of denial about this!) and user of cameras myself, I was pleased to see essays by collectors like Jerry Friedman (subminiature cameras) and Rolf Fricke (history of the Leica camera firm, and president emeritus of the Leica Historical Society of America). Collectors have played a major role in preserving cameras, and have also donated items to the Eastman House’s marvelous collection.

 

At least two of the cameras in the book were used by famous photographers: The Anniversary Speed Graphic 4×5 on Page 304 was used by Joe Rosenthal to capture the famous flag raising at Iwo Jima in 1945. The famous image garnered the Pulitzer Prize for press photographer Rosenthal. The RB Auto Graflex on Page 158 was used by Alfred Stieglitz and was donated by his famous model and companion, artist Georgia O’Keeffe.

 

There are essays on toy cameras, including the famous Diana camera that spawned a whole segment of photography by people who use the Diana and its spinoffs the Holga and Lomo to take pictures that capitalize on the light leaks and other defects of these one-time throwaway cameras to create abstract photos.

 

BOOK REVIEW: '500 Cameras': Tracing the History of Photography Through the Wide Variety of Cameras That Turned Light Into Art

 

The cameras in the book are often works of art themselves, especially the beautifully designed wooden daguerrotype cameras of the 1840s and 1850s. The variety of cameras is astonishing and people who think 3D is new will be shocked to find 3D cameras from the same period. 3D enjoyed a revival around the turn of the 20th century and again in the 1950s and cameras from all these periods are in the book, including the Stereo Realist camera that’s still prized today. I wouldn’t be surprised if 3D makes another comeback in the form of digital cameras. The book is also a poignant reminder that once upon a time, America actually manufactured fine cameras.
About the Author

Todd Gustavson is curator of technology at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York. He is responsible for the cataloging, storage, and maintenance of one of the world’s largest collections of photographic and cinematic equipment, containing more than 20,000 artifacts. He has curated or co-curated many exhibitions for the museum, including the critically acclaimed traveling exhibition “The Brownie at 100.” His previous book, Camera: A History of Photography from Daguerreotype to Digital, was published by Sterling in 2009.

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One Day in the Life of a Jew in France

  Note from David M. Kinchen: I received this from a friend in the Seattle area and thought it was worth posting — especially since the mainstream media is not reporting these incidents. France and Europe, thanks to Islamic hatred and the collaboration (sound familiar) of the “ordinary” French, is well on the way to repeating the crimes of the Nazi, fascist era. I just saw on Fox News Channel, one of the few news outlets that is reporting on crimes against France’s Jews, that the French government is finally doing something about the Islamofascists responsible for these outrages. More power to them!

http://cloud.frontpagemag.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/france 

I received this post from a friend in NY. One of his friends is living in France and posted this to him with the request that he distribute it to his American friends. He prefaces with:

Once again, the real news in France is conveniently not being reported as it should.

To give you an idea of what’s going on in France where there are now between 5 and 6 million Muslims and about 600,000 Jews, here is an email that came from a Jew living in France. Will the world say nothing again – as it did in Hitler’s time? He writes:

I am a Jew — therefore I am forwarding this to everyone on all my e-mail lists. I will not sit back and do nothing. 

Nowhere have the flames of anti-Semitism burned more furiously than in France: In Lyon, a car was rammed into a synagogue and set on fire. In Montpellier, the Jewish religious center was firebombed; so were synagogues in Strasbourg and Marseilles; so was a Jewish school in Creteil – all recently. A Jewish sports club in Toulouse was attacked with Molotov cocktails, and on the statue of Alfred Dreyfus in Paris, the words “Dirty Jew” were painted. In Bondy, 15 men beat up members of a Jewish football team with sticks and metal bars. The bus that takes Jewish children to school in Aubervilliers has been attacked three times in the last 14 months.

According to the Police, metropolitan Paris has seen 10 to 12 anti-Jewish incidents PER DAY in the past 30 days. Walls in Jewish neighborhoods have been defaced with slogans proclaiming ˜Jews to the gas chambers” and “Death to the Jews.” A gunman opened fire on a kosher butcher’s shop (and, of course, the butcher) in Toulouse, France; a Jewish couple in their 20’s were beaten up by five men in Villeurbanne, France The woman was pregnant; a Jewish school was broken into and vandalized in Sarcelles, France.  This was just in the past week.

So I call on you, whether you are a fellow Jew, a friend, or merely a person with the capacity and desire to distinguish decency from depravity, to do, at least, these three simple things:

First, care enough to stay informed. Don’t ever let yourself become deluded into thinking that this is not your fight. I remind you of what Pastor Neimoller said in World War II: ˜First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up, because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.”

 Second, boycott France and French products. Only the Arab countries are more toxically anti-Semitic and, unlike them, France exports more than just oil and hatred. So boycott their wines and their perfumes. Boycott their clothes and their foodstuffs. Boycott their movies. Definitely boycott their shores. If we are resolved we can exert amazing pressure and, whatever else we may know about the French, we most certainly know that they are like a cobweb in a hurricane in the face of well-directed pressure.

Third, send this along to your family, your friends, and your co-workers. Think of all of the people of good conscience that you know and let them know that you and the people that you care about need their help.

The number one bestselling book in France is “September 11: The Frightening Fraud”,  which argues that no plane ever hit the Pentagon.

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Out of Sight, Out of Time’: Suspense Builds to Fever Pitch in Fifth Book in Ally Carter’s ‘Gallagher Girls’ Series

BOOK REVIEW: 'Out of Sight, Out of Time': Suspense Builds to Fever Pitch in Fifth Book in Ally Carter's 'Gallagher Girls' Series

Young Adult fiction is a bright spot in the business model of the publishing industry — as the success of the “Twilight,” “Harry Potter” and “Hunger Games” books clearly demonstrate — and “The Gallagher Girls” series by Ally Carter is part of this success story, with sales of more than 1.8 million copies of her four novels featuring Cameron Ann “Cammie” Morgan and the Gallagher Academy.

The fifth in the series by Carter, “Out of Sight, Out of Time” (Disney-Hyperion, 304 pages, $16.99, also available in audio and eBook version) finds 17-year-old Cammie Morgan leaving the Roseville, Virginia mansion housing the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women in the summer between her junior and senior years, to protect her friends and family from the Circle of Cavan, an ancient terrorist organization that has been hunting her for more than a year. Cammie wakes up in a monastery in the Austrian Alps, unable to remember how she got there.

For those unfamiliar with the Gallagher Academy and its Gallagher Girls, don’t worry; the book stands by itself without reference to the four novels that came before. That said, readers of “Out of Sight, Out of Time” will want to go back and read the previous books and discover the adventures of Cammie, Macey, Bex, Tina, Eva, Liz and the other Gallagher Girls.

On the surface, the Academy — founded in 1865 by Gillian Gallagher — is just another boarding school for affluent young girls. Cammie’s mom, Rachel Morgan, is the headmistress. The reality is that the school founded by Gilly Gallagher trains spies — teen-age girl spies — many of whom go on to work for the Central Intelligence Agency and other spy shops.

Cammie awakes in the monastery to find her memory gone. She has bruises on her body and dirt under her nails and she wants to go home to Virginia. Once back at the Academy, she discovers one of her teachers, Joe Solomon, is in a coma and her mom and her Aunt Abigail trying to help her recover. She’s rescued from the monastery by a team from Gallagher and, on her arrival in Virginia, she discovers that the all girls school has a boy student, her boyfriend Zachary Goode, a student at a nearby boarding school, Blackthorne, that trains teen boy spies.

Ally Carter

Ally Carter

Cammie undergoes a battery of tests, including a psychological exam by the academy’s resident shrink, Dr. Steve. Before all — or almost all — is revealed at the end of the book, Cammie and her friends are chased by agents of the Circle of Cavan in Rome and Ireland. There’s more than enough suspense, danger and car chases to satisfy the most demanding teen and adult reader.

That’s another element of Young Adult fiction: It appeals to older readers, too. I found a story from late last year by Meredith Goldstein in the Boston Globe (Link: http://articles.boston.com/2011-11-16/ae/30406597_1_young-adult-hunger-games-third-book) that discusses this phenomenon. Goldstein writes that Young Adult novels like Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series and Suzanne  Collins’s “Hunger Games” trilogy have moved from the back of the Brookline Booksmith to the front, along with the mainstream adult fiction. And the YA books are outselling adult fiction, by large numbers. So, despite the lower list price, they’re extremely profitable, Goldstein writes, adding that many of the customers for the YA books are middle aged.

Goldstein: “The market shift is considerable. An example: Jonathan Franzen’s much-anticipated novel ‘Freedom’ has sold more than 600,000 hardcover copies since it was released in August 2010, according to Nielsen BookScan, while Suzanne Collins’s ‘Mockingjay,’ the third book in her ‘Hunger Games’’ trilogy — released that same month and geared to young adults — has sold more than 1.3 million single, hardcover copies to date.”

The Nov. 16, 2011 Boston Globe story notes that “Respected adult-market novelists, such as Meg Wolitzer of ‘The Uncoupling’’ and bestseller Harlan Coben, are now writing young adult books (Coben’s YA debut, ‘Shelter,’ came out in September).”

I noticed this appeal of YA books to older people when I went to see the movie version of “The Hunger Games” last weekend. Many of the people in the audience were middle aged or even older. To all this I say “Bravo!” Anything that encourages young people to read is great. The writing quality of the YA books I’ve read is first-rate, and many of the authors — including Ally Carter — have written books aimed at older readers.
About the Author

Ally Carter is the New York Times best-selling author of the four previous books in the Gallagher Girls series: I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You; Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy; Don’t Judge a Girl by Her Cover; and Only the Good Spy Young; as well as Heist Society and its sequel,Uncommon Criminals. Ally lives in Oklahoma, where she is cooking up new adventures for the Gallagher Girls. Her website: www.allycarter.com.
Publisher’s website: www.hyperionforteens.com

S&P CASE-SHILLER: Home Prices Continue to Decline; Back to Levels of Early 2003

  • By David M. Kinchen
S&P CASE-SHILLER: Home Prices Continue to Decline; Back to Levels of Early 2003

Data through January 2012, released Tuesday, March 27, 2012, by S&P Indices for its S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices showed annual declines of 3.9% and 3.8% for the 10- and 20-City Composites, respectively. Both composites saw price declines of 0.8% in the month of January.

As of January 2012, average home prices across the United States are back to the levels where they were nearly a decade ago – in early 2003. Measured from their June/July 2006 peaks through January 2012, the peak-to-current decline for both the 10-City Composite and 20-City Composite is 34.4%. January’s levels are new lows for both Composites in the current housing cycle.

 

Sixteen of 19 MSAs also saw home prices decrease over the month; only Miami, Phoenix and Washington DC home prices went up versus December 2011. (Due to delays in data reporting, the January 2012 index values for Charlotte are not included in this month’s release). Eight MSAs and both Composites posted new index lows in January. The 10- and 20-City Composites recorded marginal improvements in annual returns over December 2011 when they each posted -4.1%. In addition to the Composites, Dallas, Denver, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Phoenix, San Diego, Seattle, Tampa and Washington DC saw their annual rates improve compared to December; while nine of the MSAs saw their annual returns worsen compared to what was reported for December 2011. Denver, Detroit and Phoenix were the only cities to post positive annual growth rates of +0.2%, +1.7% and +1.3%, respectively. Atlanta again posted the lowest annual (and only double-digit negative) return at -14.8%.

“Despite some positive economic signs, home prices continued to drop. The 10- and 20- City Composites and eight cities – Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Las Vegas, New York, Portland, Seattle and Tampa – made new lows,” says David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Indices, the leading measure of U.S. home prices. “Detroit and Phoenix, two cities that have suffered massive price declines, plus Denver, saw increasing prices versus January 2011. The 10-City Composite was down 3.9% and the 20-City was down 3.8% compared to January 2011.
“Atlanta continues to stand out in terms of recent relative weakness. It was down 2.1% over the month, and has fallen by a cumulative 19.7% over the last six months. It also posted the worst annual return, down 14.8%. Seven of the cities were down by 1.0% or more over the month. With the new lows, both Composites are now 34.4% off their relative 2006 peaks.”

In January 2012, Denver, Detroit and Phoenix were the only MSAs to post positive annual returns. Month- over-month, Miami, Phoenix and Washington DC were the only cities that recorded positive gains — up 0.6%, 0.9% and 0.7% in January 2012, respectively. Both the 10-City and 20-City Composites were down 0.8% from their December 2011 levels. Eights MSAs (Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Las Vegas, New York, Portland, Seattle and Tampa) and both Composites posted new index lows in January 2012. Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit and Las Vegas continue to have average home prices below their January 2000 levels.

For more information about S&P Indices, please visit www.standardandpoors.com/indices

 

BOOK REVIEW: ‘THE Choice’: What Would Reagan Say, Do in Campaign Against Obama

  • Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
BOOK REVIEW: 'THE Choice': What Would Reagan Say, Do in Campaign Against Obama

The husband and wife writing team of Matthew Lysiak and Bridget Reddan have resurrected Ronald Wilson Reagan, made him 33 years younger and pitted him as the Republican candidate in 2012 against President Obama in “THE Choice: Ronald Reagan Versus Barack Obama and the Campaign of 2012” (Gadfly Publishing, 172 pages, $12.96 on Amazon.com).

In an alternate universe political novel, Reagan, born in 1944 (instead of 1911) was defeated by John McCain for the GOP nomination in 2008. The former governor of California has outlasted the current crop of contenders — Romney, Santorum, Gingrich, Paul — gained the nomination and hopes to do in 2012 what the elder Reagan did in 1980 — defeat a Democratic candidate, denying him a second term. (For those of you who slept through American history — or who weren’t even alive in 1980 — Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter in November 1980. He went on to be re-elected in 1984).

 

Lysiak and Reddan put words in the mouths of Reagan and Obama, but only the words the two have already uttered, with slight modifications.

This technique makes for a political junkie’s dream book, especially since most of the current GOP candidates have already assumed the mantle of the original Reagan and re-created themselves as Reagan 2.0.

 

As the authors say in their synopsis of the book: “Listening to the candidates recite the rules of Reaganomics at each debate, one could be forgiven for believing that the battle for the Republican Nomination was decided long ago with Reagan the clear victor. And in a way, he is. The timelessness and enduring appeal of Ronald Reagan s message still resonates, especially today, with the Keynesian model having replaced that of the free market as our country’s driving economic force….”

 

The parallels between 1980 and 2012 are eerily similar, Lysiak and Reddan write: In 1979, when Reagan jumped into the race, then-President Carter presided over runaway inflation, and high unemployment. Many believed that our best days as a country were behind us. Under Obama, the recovery, despite a stimulus, seems to have stalled, with high gasoline prices, very limited job creation and the lingering after effects of the housing meltdown.

 

In “THE Choice” we are treated — subjected? — to a debate sponsored by Fox News Channel between Obama and Reagan. Held in Cleveland on Oct. 28, 2012, the questioners are real news personalities, including Megyn Kelly, Brit Hume, Chris Wallace, Mara Liasson and Juan Williams of Fox News Channel. I’m kidding about that “subjected” comment: It’s a lively interchange, although, of course today’s so-called debates are really press conferences.

 

Here are some quotes from the book:

Reagan on Obamacare:

“Now what reason could these other people have for backing a bill which says we insist on compulsory health insurance for citizens regardless of whether they are worth millions of dollars, whether they have an income, or whether they have savings? I think we can be excused for believing that this was simply an excuse to bring about what they wanted the entire time — socialized medicine.”

Reagan on Wall Street Bailouts and the RNC:

“The country cannot be limited to the country club, big business image that it is burdened with today. The new Republican Party I am speaking about is going to have room for the working class man and woman, for the farmer, for the cop on the beat.”

Reagan on the Tea Party:

“Our party must be the party of the individual. It must not sell out the individual to cater to the group. No greater challenge faces our society today than ensuring that each one of us can maintain his dignity and his identity to an increasingly complex, centralized society.”

“THE Choice” is a tour de force that can be enjoyed by Democrats, Republicans and independents. So who’s Reagan’s running mate? i’m not telling! Read “THE Choice” and find out.

 

* * *

 

About Matthew Lysiak 
Matthew Lysiak is a New York based writer who has appeared as a contributor on the Today Show, Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN. Matthew is currently a staff reporter for the New York Daily News.

About Bridget Reddan 
Bridget Reddan is a writer whose work has appeared in the New York Daily News. Reddan lives in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. She’s married to Matthew Lysiak.

 

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Daughters of the Declaration’: How Women ‘Social Entrepreneurs’ from 1778 to 1938 Spearheaded Drive to Make the Declaration of Independence More Than Just Words

  • Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
BOOK REVIEW: 'Daughters of the Declaration': How Women 'Social Entrepreneurs' from 1778 to 1938 Spearheaded Drive to Make the Declaration of Independence More Than Just Words

The Declaration of Independence — written by a man, Thomas Jefferson, with input from Benjamin Franklin and John Adams — presented a framework for the unique experiment that was the United States of America, but it took women “social entrepreneurs” of all classes, white and black, gentile and Jewish, from privileged backgrounds like Olivia Sage to those of extreme poverty like Mary McLeod Bethune to make the document a reality from 1778 to 1938, say Claire Gaudiani and David Graham Burnett in their groundbreaking “Daughters of the Declaration: How Women Social Entrepreneurs Built the American Dream” (PublicAffairs, 352 pages, notes, bibliography, index, $26.99).

The pioneering Declaration of Independence in 1776 stated that the new nation created from a diverse group of British colonies would be built on the belief that “all men are created equal, and are endowed…with a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” To an overwhelming extent, the challenge of turning these ideals into reality for all citizens was taken up by many exceptional American women from diverse backgrounds.

Some are familiar — although none are as celebrated as they should be — and others are relatively unknown except to scholars.

 

David Graham Burnett,

David Graham Burnett

Among those in the latter category during the Revolutionary period the authors cite Catherine Ferguson (c1774-1854), an enslaved woman who bought her freedom and raised the capital to create a home-based “Sabbath-school”, to teach poor black and white children to read on their only day off from toil. Her system was replicated throughout New York City.

 

“Her first challenge was simply to reach the children,” Gaudiani and Burnett write. “The only day of the week that might work was ‘the Sabbath,’ the day when child laborers were not required to work. So Ferguson initiated the nation’s first “Sabbath School” in her home in 1793. It was not the Sunday School of more modern times. It was a full class day focused on a mostly secular curriculum. Ferguson accepted black and white students.
“Poor children could not, of course, pay for tuition. Ferguson would have to fundraise to keep her school going. Undaunted, she put her baking talents to work. Her specialty was wedding cakes and she used the income from her baking enterprise to buy books and to pay additional instructors — to assist in tutoring the children.”

 

Claire Gaudiani

Claire Gaudiani

 

Many years later, women like Florence Kelley (1859-1932), Julia Lathrop (1858-1932) and Lillian Wald (1867-1940) were advocates for such varied areas of interest as professionalizing nursing, ending child labor and using scientific research skills to work on behalf of juvenile justice.

 

Both Kelley, who wrote the pioneering anti-child labor book “Our Toiling Children” and Lathrop, appointed by President William Howard Taft in 1912 to head the newly created Children’s Bureau, were law school graduates but were prohibited by the laws of much of their lives from practicing their profession — a handicap they overcame by their networking abilities, their friendship and their inspiration from Jane Addams (1860-1935) of Chicago’s famous Hull House, a model for settlement houses throughout the nation. The authors stress (Page 218) that women social entrepreneurs were much better at coalition building that the men who ran the competing labor unions, none of which accepted women as members. Chicago plays a major role in creating opportunities for women social entrepreneurs, the authors write, noting the contributions of the University of Chicago, which accepted women graduate students from its founding by John D. Rockefeller in 1892, as well as Hull House.

 

Frances Perkins (1882-1965), the first woman to be named to a cabinet post when she was appointed Secretary of Labor by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933, is perhaps the most famous woman profiled in the book. The authors write that she was a driven, determined woman who never let a bunch of carping, sniveling, men get in her way. She was, like Mary Bethune and Julia Lathrop, a successful social entrepreneur before she entered government work in New York state under the Al Smith and Franklin Roosevelt administrations, and later serving FDR and Truman in her long life. She was the driving force behind creating the Social Security system in 1935, something the authors say FDR was not driven to do. The authors quote Maurine Mulliner, a senatorial assistant who left that post to join the Social Security Board: “I don’t think that President Roosevelt had the remotest interest in a Social Security bill or program. He was simply pacifying Frances.”

Among the many women profiled by the authors in “Daughters of the Declaration”:

* Elizabeth Seton, a widowed mother of four raised as an Episcopalian who converted to Catholicism, the founder of the first American religious order, the Sisters of Charity. This enterprise created and staffed schools and orphanages that educated millions of the nation’s poorest citizens.

 

* Mary Elizabeth Lange, a black Caribbean refugee who founded the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the world’s first black religious order. Both the Sisters of Charity and the Oblate Sisters of Providence are still in business “creating human capital.”

 

* Elizabeth Stott, in an effort to create a “market-driven” solution to enable local female victims of “sudden calamities” to support themselves, founded the Philadelphia Women’s Depository, which sold hand-made goods on consignment. The idea was taken up by Candace Wheeler, who built the women’s exchange idea into a national network selling millions of dollars of goods and services, enabling millions of women to achieve self-reliance.

 

* Frances Willard, who campaigned fearlessly for an end to the abuse of alcohol. Her Home Protection League attracted more women than the much more radical women’s suffrage-focused organizations, the authors write.

 

* Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage (1828-1918) inherited great wealth from her husband, railroad magnate and financier Russell Sage, and named the foundation she created for him. The Russell Sage Foundation, founded in 1907 and still in operation, was, the authors write, one of the nation’s first “think-tank foundations”, the model for ones later created by Rockefeller and Ford. Olivia Sage was Russell Sage’s second wife and also endowed Russell Sage College.

 

I did see a couple of errors in the book: On Page 109, the authors mention the assassination of President “William” Garfield. The second president to be assassinated (after Lincoln) was James A. Garfield. (Four American presidents have been assassinated: Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley and John F. Kennedy). On Page 185, they mention Chicago department store founder Marshall “Fields”. Of course it’s Marshall Field, as they correctly write on Page 73. The authors state on Page 105 that Lincoln’s inaugural ball was in 1860; it was held the evening of March 4, 1861, after Lincoln was sworn in.

 

These quibbles aside, I heartily recommend “Daughters of the Declaration” as required reading for March, Women’s History Month. It’s not only informative, it’s entertaining.
About the authors

Claire Gaudiani, PhD, is an expert on the history and economics of American philanthropy. She served from 1988–2001 as president of Connecticut College, where she was also professor of French. During her tenure at the Yale Law School (2001–2004), she wrote The Greater Good: How Philanthropy Drives the American Economy and Can Save Capitalism (Henry Holt/Times Books). From 2004-2009 she served as clinical professor at the Heyman Center for Philanthropy at New York University. Gaudiani has served as director of numerous corporate and social profit enterprises specializing in corporate governance issues. Her current directorships include The Henry Luce Foundation, MBIA Inc., and The Council for Economic Education. Gaudiani is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a recipient of the Rosso Medal for Distinguished Service to Philanthropy from Indiana University. She has received ten honorary doctorates and three distinguished teaching awards. For more information, visitwww.clairegaudiani.com

David Graham Burnett, PhD, is Claire’s husband of forty-three years as well as her partner in Gaudiani Associates. Burnett is a continuing educator who has held senior administrative positions at Indiana University and the University of Pennsylvania. He joined the research division of Pfizer, Inc. in 1988 as director of human resources. In 1999, he became head of the Pfizer Research University, responsible for the management and dissemination of proprietary scientific knowledge across the research division. He retired in 2004, and serves on the Advisory Board of the Graduate School of New York University. He is a graduate of Princeton and Indiana universities.

Website: www.daughtersofthedeclaration.com

 

Publisher’s website: www.publicaffairsbooks.com

REPORT: February New Single-family Sales 1.6% Below January Pace, But 11.4% Above Feb. 2011

  • By David M. Kinchen
REPORT: February New Single-family Sales 1.6% Below January Pace, But 11.4% Above Feb. 2011

Sales of new single-family houses in February 2012 slowed 1.6 percent at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 313,000 units, according to data released jointly Friday, March 23, 2012 by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The numbers are below  the revised January rate of 318,000, but are 11.4 percent higher than the February 2011 estimate of 281,000.

 

The median sales price of new houses sold in February 2012 was $233,700; the average sales price was $267,700. The seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of February was 150,000, representing a supply of 5.8 months at the current sales rate. 
“While many builders are seeing more traffic through their model homes as the spring buying season gets underway, tight lending conditions and appraisal issues continue to pose significant obstacles to prospective purchasers,” said Barry Rutenberg, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Gainesville, Fla. “These hurdles are definitely slowing the momentum of the housing and economic recovery.”
“To some extent, we believe that exceptionally good weather conditions in December helped pull some home sales forward that would otherwise have occurred in January and February, which partially accounts for the declines we’ve seen at the beginning of this year,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “However, the February sales rate is still 11.4 percent above its year-ago level, and the quarterly average sales pace is at a two-year high. Meanwhile, the inventory of new homes for sale remains at an all-time record low, in part because of the lack of available financing for new-home production.”
Crowe also noted that the sales report indicated greater buying activity in the above-$200,000 range in February. This suggests that those who have higher incomes and can more easily qualify for a mortgage are the ones who are moving forward with a home purchase, while first-timers who are looking in the lower price ranges may be having a tougher time getting qualified, he said.
Regionally, new home sales increased 14.3 percent in the Northeast and 8.0 percent in the West, but declined 2.4 percent in the Midwest and 7.2 percent in the South in February. Meanwhile, the inventory of new homes for sale held unchanged at a record low of 150,000 units in February. This is a 5.8-month supply at the current sales pace.

OP-ED: No rejoicing for Caribbean Travellers

Sir Ronald Sanders

Sir Ronald Sanders

Air transportation in the Caribbean has always been difficult. The news that a privately-owned, low-cost carrier, REDjet, has been forced to suspend its operations has made Caribbean air transportation even more problematic.

Over the last 15 years or so, carriers from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany have only maintained a regular schedule of flights into certain countries in the region if the governments of those countries guarantee payment for a quantity of seats. When the airlines don’t sell those seats, the governments pay.

But, if air transportation into and out of the region from the US, the UK and Germany have been problematic, it has been a lot worse within the Caribbean where governments do not extend the same facility of paying regional airlines for an agreed number of unused seats.

Persons travelling by air within the Caribbean have a choice only between Caribbean Airlines Ltd (CAL), owned wholly by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, or LIAT, a smaller airline mostly-owned by the Governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and St Vincent and the Grenadines. That limitation of choice has led to high fares.

Therefore, the introduction of a low-cost airline, REDjet, into the Caribbean last year was a welcome relief for Caribbean travelers who took to the airline like a duck to water, and cocked a snoot at both LIAT and CAL, so delighted were they to travel at lower prices.

The travellers’ vote for REDJet by using its services rather than CAL’s or LIAT’s was directed particularly at CAL because they know that CAL flies on a huge fuel subsidy from the Trinidad and Tobago government, paying less than half the price for a gallon of fuel than is paid by LIAT, and indeed, was paid by REDjet.

In the view of most travellers – but especially those from Trinidad and Tobago – if taxpayers’ money is being used to subsidize the cost of CAL’s fights, the subsidy should be reflected in a lower cost of airfares. It was particularly galling for passengers to pay CAL’s high fares when its Chairman announced huge profits (on the basis of the fuel subsidy).

As it turns out CAL’s profits are a mirage. Once the fuel subsidy is subtracted from the declared profits, CAL is just another losing airline. The news that emerged that it has also not paid in recent months for the fuel it gets at a reduced price from the state-owned company, National Petroleum, shows that even with subsidized fuel, its operations are not efficient enough to pay its way.

In the case of LIAT, it has been the workhorse of the region for decades, and while its service has been less than exemplary, earning ridicule of its acronym as “Luggage in air Terminal” because passengers’ bags were often left behind, and “Leave Island Any Time” because of constant break-downs of its aging fleet of planes, Caribbean people retained loyalty to it. They appreciated that LIAT flew to destinations other airlines ignored because of the unprofitability of the routes, and that without LIAT movement around the region would be difficult if not impossible.

Despite that loyalty, Caribbean passengers were still upset at LIAT’s rising prices, particularly when the cost of travel between some Caribbean destinations became higher that the fares between the Caribbean and foreign destinations such as Miami, New York and Toronto. Adding to this displeasure is the awareness that, in the past, Caribbean governments have put up taxpayers’ money to keep the airline going and the three main shareholder governments are in debt to the Caribbean Development Bank for a loan they used to pump money into LIAT.

In fairness to LIAT, it has to be pointed out that no subsidy has been paid to the airline by any government in recent years. It also has to deal with almost a dozen trade unions with whom a genuine and empathetic working partnership has never been developed, and whose demands are a drain on the airline’s income.

But, LIAT incurred losses in 2010 and 2011, and unless there is a dramatic turn-around in its performance, it will need more money again. The first place it will turn is its shareholder governments which, at this time of severe austerity, have no money to put into it and cannot again borrow to do so.

So, no doubt, there is both a sigh of relief in the Boardrooms of CAL and LIAT that REDjet has suspended its operations, and a hope that the ‘suspension’ is permanent. For during its period of operation, it caused both LIAT and CAL to drop the cost of their airfares.

Undoubtedly, those fares will now rise again. And, they will rise to the level that CAL sets with its subsidized fuel. LIAT will be able to do no more than match CAL as best it can. But, since LIAT has no subsidized fuel, it will only be a question of time, until CAL’s fares and its incursion into LIAT’s only lucrative routes cripple LIAT.

So, Caribbean travellers in the Eastern and Southern Caribbean will again have to endure high costs of travel.

It has always been necessary for governments of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) to address seriously and comprehensively an Air Transportation policy, including an open-skies policy, that best serves the interest of all their member-states and their peoples. They have not done so, but the moment should no longer be deferred. The government of Trinidad and Tobago, in particular, should manifest its regional commitment, not by shelling out money, but by abandoning the protection and promotion of CAL at the expense of the Caribbean people including their own citizens.

REDjet’s suspension of its operations is an occasion for regret not rejoicing.


Sanders is a Consultant and former Caribbean diplomat.
Responses and previous commentaries: www.sirronaldsanders.com

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Portrait of a Spy’: Art Restorer-Spy Gabriel Allon Joins International Search for Terrorist Mastermind

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen

BOOK REVIEW: 'Portrait of a Spy': Art Restorer-Spy Gabriel Allon Joins International Search for Terrorist Mastermind

As I was finishing my reading of the mass market paperback edition of Daniel Silva’s 2011 bestseller “Portrait of a Spy” (Harper, 528 pages, $9.99) (Ouch! I’m getting old: I remember when mass market paperbacks sold for 35 cents, 50 cents, maybe 75 cents for a Mentor) the news of the murderous attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse, France flashed across the world.

Many of useful idiots of the mainstream media immediately assumed it was a neo-Nazi — conveniently ignoring the fact that more than 90 percent of the terrorism attacks in Eurabia are the work of Muslim extremists. When the French police surrounded the suspect’s apartment building, it turned out that 23-year-old Mohammed Merah — struck in the head by a bullet — was a French native of Arab ancestry (Algeria, where the locals really wanted the French settlers to get the hell out. When the Pieds-Noirs left for France, the locals wanted to go there, too). Merah was firing a Colt .45 pistol when he was killed. One of the weapons used in the school attack was a Colt .45 autoloader.

Gabriel Allon, the protagonist of “Portrait of a Spy, would know immediately who was behind the school attack. Making his latest outing in Silva’s page-turning spy/thriller series, Allon knows first-hand who the suicide bombers are and what religion they profess. He’s an expert profiler, with no apologies. Allon now lives in Cornwall with his wife, Chiara. The master art restorer and former Israeli secret agent was hoping to have a pleasant weekend in London, even though the peace of Europe had been shattered by Islamist suicide bombings in Paris and Copenhagen a few weeks before.

Daniel Silva

Daniel Silva

Allon spots a suspicious man in Covent Garden, a very busy part of London. He’s about to take out the man when two men knock Allon to the ground. Seconds later, the man-bomb explodes, killing 18 people and injuring many more. When Allon discusses the events with Graham Seymour of MI5 (the British equivalent of the FBI) during a debriefing he asks Seymour why did they stop him from taking out the suicide bomber. Seymour tells him “Because neither Scotland Yard nor the Security Services wanted a rerun of the Menezes fiasco.”

[From a Google search: Jean Charles de Menezes was shot dead on a London Underground train on July 22, 2005, the day after a foiled series of terrorist attacks on London and two weeks after the 7/7 bombings. Trailed by police on his trip from his home in Tulse Hill, which included two bus journeys, de Menezes was followed down the escalator at Stockwell station and shot with minimal warning by firearms officers. The Met’s defense was that de Menezes had been mistaken for terrorist suspect Hussain Osman, who lived nearby.]

The Covent Garden bombing leads to Allon’s being recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency to track down America’s own equivalent of the French Jewish school shooter. Naturally, he insists in bringing in his own team from the “Office” — as the Israeli security agency in Tel Aviv is called, similar to the nickname “The Company” for the CIA.

The relationship between the two agencies is uneasy from the start, with the American president not wishing to hurt the feelings of Muslims, including the supposed allies the Saudis and the Pakistanis, despite the obvious financial support of terrorists by the Saudis and their acceptance by the Pakistanis.

There are many subplots in “Portrait of a Spy” that will sound familiar to those familiar with the past decade’s terrorism attacks and traitors within the CIA and FBI. The main plot involves Allon’s recruiting of the beautiful daughter of a Saudi businessman, who inherited the business after her father is killed in Cannes, France. The target is an elusive American- born cleric in Yemen — once a paid CIA asset whom Allah has granted “a beautiful and seductive tongue.” The CIA once again has been fooled and Adrian Carter, the unorthodox director of the agency’s National Clandestine Service, realizes that Allon’s Israeli team is better poised to find the cleric and neutralize him permanently.

“Portrait of a Spy” is up to the high standards of Silva’s work, which set the bar very high. It’s a page-turner that tells the truth about terrorism.

About the author

Daniel Silva (born 1960) is the best-selling American author of 14 thriller and espionage novels. His most recent novel, “Portrait of a Spy” was published July 19, 2011 and was an instant #1 bestseller. His past three books — “The Rembrandt Affair” (2010), “The Defector” (2009) and “Moscow Rules” (2009) all were #1 New York Times bestsellers. His books are published in more than 30 countries and are international bestsellers. Some of his novels are set against Islamic terrorism, some relate to villains set in Russia, as well as historic events related to World War II and the Holocaust. HIs books feature Gabriel Allon, Israeli art restorer, spy and assassin. In January 2009 Silva was appointed to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s United States Holocaust Memorial Council. Silva, his wife reporter Jamie Gangel, and their twin daughters live in Georgetown. His website: www.danielsilvabooks.com

 

 

REALTORS: February Existing Home Sales Slip But Up Strongly From a Year Ago

REALTORS: February Existing Home Sales Slip But Up Strongly From a Year Ago

February existing-home sales declined slightly from an upwardly revised January pace but are well above a year ago, while the median price posted a slight gain, according to a report issued Wednesday, March 21, 2012 by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Sales were up in the Midwest and South, offset by declines in the Northeast and West.

Total existing-home sales — completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops — slipped 0.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.59 million in February from an upwardly revised 4.63 million in January, but are 8.8 percent higher than the 4.22 million-unit level in February 2011. 

 

The national median existing-home price\ for all housing types was $156,600 in February, up 0.3 percent from February 2011. Distressed homes – foreclosures and short sales sold at deep discounts – accounted for 34 percent of February sales (20 percent were foreclosures and 14 percent were short sales), down from 35 percent in January and 39 percent in February 2011.

NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said underlying factors are much better compared to one year ago. “The market is trending up unevenly, with record high consumer buying power and sustained job gains giving buyers the confidence they need to get into the market,” he said. “Although relatively unusual, there will be rising demand for both rental space and homeownership this year. The great suppression in household formation during the past four years was unsustainable, and a pent-up demand could burst forth from the improving economy.”

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage was a record low 3.89 percent in February, down from 3.92 percent in January; the rate was 4.95 percent in February 2011; recordkeeping began in 1971.

NAR President Moe Veissi said market conditions are improving. “Supply and demand have become more balanced in more markets, but with tight supply in the lower price ranges – particularly in the West,” the Miami Realtor said. “When markets are balanced, we normally see prices rise one to two percentage points above the rate of inflation, but foreclosures and short sales are holding back median prices.”

“The bottom line is investors and first-time buyers are competing for bargain-priced properties in much of the country, with home prices showing signs of stabilizing in many areas,” Veissi said. “People realize that homeownership is an investment in their future. Given an apparent over-correction in most areas, over the long term home prices have nowhere to go but up.”

Total housing inventory at the end of February rose 4.3 percent to 2.43 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 6.4-month supply at the current sales pace, up from a 6.0-month supply in January. Even so, unsold listed inventory has trended down from a record 4.04 million in July 2007, and is 19.3 percent below a year ago.

“Falling visible and shadow inventory, combined with a dearth of new-home and apartment construction during the past three years, assure that rents will continue to rise, with likely home price increases in 2012,” Yun said.

Fifty-one percent of NAR members report that contracts settled on time in February, 18 percent had delays and 31 percent experienced contract failures; the cancellation rate was 33 percent in January and 9 percent in February 2011. Contract failures are commonly caused by declined mortgage applications and failures in loan underwriting from appraisals coming in below the negotiated price.

“Many buyers are staying in the market after experiencing a contract failure and making an offer on another property, showing their determination to take advantage of the favorable conditions, but the cancellations are contributing to an uneven sales pattern,” Yun said.

All-cash sales rose to 33 percent of transactions in February from 31 percent in January; they were 33 percent in February 2011. Investors account for the bulk of cash transactions.

Investors purchased 23 percent of homes in February, unchanged from January; they were 20 percent in February 2011. First-time buyers accounted for 32 percent of transactions in February, down from 33 percent in January and 34 percent in February 2011.

Single-family home sales declined 1.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.06 million in February from 4.10 million in January, but are 9.4 percent higher than the 3.71 million-unit level a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $157,100 in February, which is 0.1 percent above February 2011.

Existing condominium and co-op sales were unchanged at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 530,000 in February and are 3.9 percent above the 510,000-unit pace in February 2011. The median existing condo price was $153,000 in February, up 1.6 percent from a year ago.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast fell 3.3 percent to an annual level of 580,000 in February but are 5.5 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $225,800, down 1.9 percent from February 2011.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest rose 1.0 percent in February to a pace of 1.02 million and are 13.3 percent higher than February 2011. The median price in the Midwest was $120,500, which is 0.5 percent below a year ago.

In the South, existing-home sales increased 0.6 percent to an annual level of 1.77 million in February and are 9.3 percent higher than a year ago. The median price in the South was $138,100, up 1.8 percent from February 2011.

Existing-home sales in the West declined 3.2 percent to an annual pace of 1.22 million in February but are 6.1 percent above February 2011. The median price in the West was $195,300, up 3.1 percent from a year ago.