Archive for December, 2011

Father of Hollywood star helped Allies defeat Germany in World War II, authors say   

MSNBC – 12/27/2011  

LONDON— A British engineer regarded for decades as a Nazi spy was really Britain’s first double-agent who helped the Allies defeat Germany, according to a recently released book.

The authors of “Snow: The Double Life of a World War II Spy,” also reveal that spy Arthur Owens is the father of Hollywood actress Patricia Owens, who starred in “The Fly” in 1958 and “Sayonara” with Marlon Brando in 1957.

Arthur Owens was a Welsh nationalist, according to the book by espionage writer Nigel West (pen name of Rupert Allason) and Welsh author and film producer Madoc Roberts, The Telegraph of London reported.

The Germans recruited Arthur Owens, a failed inventor who needed money, to spy when he was on a 1935 business trip to Belgium.

Under the code name Johnny O’Brien, Owens gave the Nazis vital information about Britain’s military buildup ahead of World War II.

Later, the book claims, he agreed to become a double agent for MI5, the British spy agency. Re-dubbed Snow, Owens paved the way for a string of successful double agents and helped deliver scores of German spies to the British, the book says.

The book, which has a Facebook page, describes Owens’ cover as so deep that neither side was ever wholly confident of his loyalties, the Telegraph said. In 1941, Owens’ MI5 handlers ordered him interred in Dartmoor prison, where he gained the confidence of German inmates and fed information back to his spymasters.

“Arthur Owens was the foundation of the double-cross system which proved so vital in helping the Allies in so many areas,” West told the Telegraph. “His contribution has never fully been appreciated, but it is hard to overstate how important his role was.”

Roberts called Owens’ character complex.

“His contribution to the war effort is undeniable, but what is less certain is what his motivations were,” Roberts told the Telegraph. “Ultimately he was probably out for himself. But even if his intentions were not entirely honorable, without him the entire course of the war may have been different.”

As for his daughter, Patricia Owens never fully acknowledged who her father was, the Telegraph said, because she feared backlash from people who considered her father a traitor.

Owens’ contributions were officially revealed when documents were declassified in the 1970s, the Telegraph said, but few people took notice.

After the war, Arthur Owens lived in anonymity in Canada and later Ireland, the Telegraph said.

By Alex Constantine

“After Milk’s body was cremated, the ashes were enshrined at his prior direction with bubble bath…and several packets of Kool-Aid, a clue that Milk left behind, per the will he’d revised a week before the shootings, to signify Jim Jones of the People’s Temple…” – Michael Meiers, Was Jonestown a CIA Medical Experiment?

The murders of Moscone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk had all the earmarks of mind control. Dan White, their assassin, had been a paratrooper in the 173rd Airborne Division, in which capacity he served in Vietnam. He was discharged from Fort Bragg in 1967, returned to San Francisco and joined the police department. He lived in Sausalito, drove a Porsche and generally lived far beyond his means. In 1972 he gave it all up and took a vacation since known as White’s “missing year.”

Back in San Francisco, he joined the fire department. His temper tantrums were an embarrassment to co-workers, though his work record was without blemish. In his run for the Board of Supervisors, White spoke as if he was “programmed,” according to Stan Smith, a local labor leader. During Board sessions, White was known to slip into lapses of silence punctuated by goose-stepping walks around the chambers.

White used illegal hollow-point bullets. After Milk’s body was cremated, the ashes were enshrined at his prior direction with bubble bath, signifying his homosexuality, and several packets of Kool-Aid, a clue that Milk left behind, per the will he’d revised a week before the shootings, to signify Jim Jones of the People’s Temple, a CIA mind control experiment that ended with the destruction of 1200 subjects.

“I can be killed with ease,” Milk noted in a poem written the month he died, “I can be cut right down.” In his new will, he wrote: “Let the bullets that rip through my brain smash every closet door in the country.”

Also see – Death of dreams: in November 1978, Harvey Milk”s murder and the mass suicides at Jonestown nearly broke San Francisco”s spirit. Eerily, Milk knew and worked with Jonestown founder Jim Jones.(Harvey Milk & Jonestown: 25 years later)

Publication Date: 25-NOV-03 Publication Title: The Advocate(The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine) Format: Online – approximately 1942 words Author:VanDecarr, Paul

Click to enlarge.


Revisiting the horror of that day of death For those who are old enough, the memory is searing Carl Nolte, Chronicle Staff Writer November 26, 2003

When University of San Francisco Professor Peter Novak proposed to his students that they produce a series of events commemorating the 25th anniversary of the assassination of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, he got a shock — most of his students had not heard of Moscone or Milk.

They are 18, 19 and 20, young people from a newer time. To them, Moscone is the Moscone Center, Harvey Milk is the name of a plaza in the Castro. “They didn’t know the story at all,” Novak said.

Those who have no memory of that day — Nov. 27, 1978 — are the lucky ones. Many of those who were at San Francisco City Hall when Dan White killed the two men can never forget it. The slayings happened 25 years ago Thursday, and the memory is searing.

Rudy Nothenberg was a deputy mayor. He can still see Moscone’s body lying on the floor of his private office, can still see the smoke from the mayor’s cigarette curling up. “It was awful,” he said. “It was shock and panic. You don’t know what you can do for him. You scream for the cops, which is what I did.”

Dianne Feinstein was president of the Board of Supervisors. Her office was on the other side of City Hall. She heard a door slam in Milk’s office, heard shots, saw the killer run out, went in herself and found Harvey Milk’s body. “I put my finger to see if there was any pulse, and it went in a bullet hole in his chest,” she said the other day. “I think of it as if it were yesterday. I remember Harvey’s body, his blood on me. I see it all.”

Christopher Moscone was then a high school student. Even now, a quarter of a century later, the son can see his father as he was, his sleeves rolled up, working. “The family remembers him — good memories, good stories, at Christmas, holidays, birthdays,” the younger Moscone said. “Sometimes I dream of him, and when I do, I can talk to him.

“I love the city,” he said, “and I hate the city for that.”

That autumn was a terrible time anyway in San Francisco, the worst of times.

The years when people wore flowers in their hair were long gone.

There were serial slayings — a killer named Zodiac who taunted the police, another named Zebra who shot down people on the street. Ten days before Moscone and Milk were killed, a mad San Francisco preacher named Jim Jones and 914 of his followers perished in a South American jungle. The city was rocked to its roots. “What a bizarre period,” Feinstein said.

And then, out of the blue on a beautiful Monday morning, the mayor of San Francisco was killed in his own office, and the killer then walked through the classic City Hall and shot down the most important gay political figure in the country. The killer was not a stranger, either. He was San Francisco born and bred, a former cop, former fireman, former member of the Board of Supervisors.

And that wasn’t all. White was tried a few months later and in May was found guilty, not of murder but only of voluntary manslaughter. A peaceful march to protest the verdict turned into a riot, and the mob attacked City Hall. “The hatred in the city was just enormous,” Feinstein said. “It was a terrible, terrible time.”

“Research on Harvey Milk Renews Calls for Reappraisal of Peoples Temple”

by Michael Bellefountaine

Harvey Milk’s name appears throughout San Francisco. A municipal railway station and plaza, a park and recreation building and one of the city’s most influential political clubs are all named in his memory. A local elementary school is known as the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, and the Eureka Valley Library is now called the Harvey Milk Branch. The theme for this year’s gay pride parade was “give them hope,” Milk’s inspirational rallying cry from gays and lesbians in San Francisco to their brothers and sisters living in rural America. The International Gay and Lesbian Historical Society is producing an extensive exhibit of Milk memorabilia which includes the blood-stained suit he was wearing when he and Mayor George Moscone were gunned down in San Francisco City Hall on November 27, 1978. Twenty-five years after his murder, Harvey Milk has been catapulted to the level of gay martyr. Without question, he has left his mark on San Francisco.

Despite all the exhibits and memorials of Harvey Milk throughout San Francisco, though, none of them acknowledges Milk’s relationship with Jim Jones and Peoples Temple.

Harvey Milk was able to draw large, diverse crowds during his campaigns, which evolved over time from focusing on the needs of small business owners to championing the politics of senior, poor and other disenfranchised people. As the first openly gay man elected in California, and one of the most prominent gay men in America, Milk’s murder galvanized a politically fractured and fledgling queer community. Longtime political opponents of Milk – and there were many – suppressed their deep-seated negativity, joined with Milk supporters and, over time, fashioned a deified image of him, as is evidenced by the Gay Historical Society’s exhibit which is titled “Saint Harvey.”

Dan White

When Milk and Moscone were killed, San Franciscans were still reeling from the murder of Representative Leo Ryan and the news that hundreds of Jonestown residents, previously thought to have saved themselves by running into the jungle, were apparently willing participants in a suicide ritual. In the aftermath of their murders all mention of connections between Milk, Moscone and Jones were intentionally obscured. Out of respect for the politicians, their followers took all necessary steps to sever Milk and Moscone from the pariah Jones. It was not the only mass exodus of political support in the wake of the Jonestown tragedy. Politicians who once enjoyed volunteers, donations and votes from Peoples Temple, could not distance themselves from Jim Jones fast enough. Many of these people are still in politics today.

Because Milk and Moscone were murdered so soon after the Jonestown tragedy, there was immediate speculation that Peoples Temple was somehow involved. Ann Kronenberg, Milk’s hand- picked successor, told Milk biographer Randy Shilts, that when she first heard Milk was murdered, she thought Jim Jones was responsible. Rumors began to circulate (and some persist today) of obscure connections between Jim Jones and Milk’s murderer, Dan White. Vague rumors of a falling out between Milk and Jones also surfaced. One story has it that Milk asked Peoples Temple to remove his name from the church’s list of supporters when reports of violence and theft first came to light, and that he was outraged when the Temple failed to comply with his demand. Eventually, history settled on an official story: Jim Jones was a master manipulator who used unwitting local politicians to gain power for himself. The politicians, including Milk and Moscone, used Jones for volunteers and votes, while remaining personally distant and blissfully unaware of rumors of Temple violence, abuse, theft and even murder. The timing of Dan White’s murderous rampage was deemed coincidental.

However, upon closer inspection, it is clear that Harvey Milk was a strong advocate for Peoples Temple and Jim Jones during his political career, including the tumultuous year leading up to the Jonestown tragedy. Milk spoke at the Temple often, wrote personal letters to Jim Jones, contacted other elected officials on the Temple’s behalf, and used space in his weekly column to support the works of the Temple, even after the negative New West article went to press. Milk appeared in the pages of the Peoples Forum, the Temple newspaper, and received over fifty letters of sympathy from the residents of Jonestown when his lover, Jack Lira, killed himself in September 1978.

It is readily apparent from the letters and historical memorabilia that Milk and the Temple enjoyed a mutually supportive relationship until their concurrent deaths. Why then is the relationship such a secret, even taboo to discuss? The only biography of Milk to date, The Mayor of Castro Street, by Randy Shilts, downplays the Milk/Temple relationship, even going so far as to paint Milk as one of the countless people who cruelly ridiculed and ostracized the surviving Temple members and their supporters. Like most historians, Shilts opted for an image of an expedient politician, instead of truthfully portraying how Milk worked with Peoples Temple until the end of his life.

Enough time has passed since Milk’s brutal murder to reanalyze this relationship, to explore how and why Harvey Milk supported Peoples Temple. As people who hold Milk in high esteem, we should honestly and openly explore and reevaluate what we know about Peoples Temple, to see what it was about the church that appealed to Milk. Whether it was its pro-gay public persona, its support for embattled gay teachers, its opposition to anti-gay ballot measures, its active opposition to racism and sexism, the multiple stories throughout the pages of the Peoples Forum denouncing violence against gays and lesbians, or simply its acceptance of him and its continued support for his political campaigns – whatever the reason – Harvey Milk irrefutably supported Peoples Temple.

It may be understandable why in November 1978 the supporters of Milk would attempt to distance the newly martyred supervisor from the still-unfolding horrors of Jonestown. However, we as witnesses, historians, researchers and writers have an obligation to tell future generations the whole truth, as we understand it, to record as much documentation as possible and let the biases and subsequent interpretations transform over time. As Dr. Susan Stryker states in the curator’s statement of the Milk exhibit, “While I wanted to respect Harvey Milk’s legacy, I also wanted to suggest that in venerating him, we risk obscuring a great deal of other equally compelling gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender history.”

If Milk supported Peoples Temple, now is the pivotal time for us to unveil the truth. What we cannot do is let our animosity toward Jim Jones and our horror of Jonestown taint our understanding of the individuals who made up Peoples Temple, including their incredible community based work as well as their relationships with prominent people like Harvey Milk. We should challenge the image of Temple members as mindless, uneducated zombies, and instead, portray them as the passionate, loyal and committed people who inspired Harvey Milk. It is most important that we not participate in or settle for the revisionism and obfuscation that has passed for the historical account of this relationship to date.

The extent of Milk’s relationship with Peoples Temple may never be fully known. Certainly his murder, along with that of Mayor Moscone, was yet another blow to Temple survivors. Milk and Moscone were the two most powerful San Francisco politicians who maintained close ties to Jim Jones and Peoples Temple; they could have demanded an investigation into the murder of Leo Ryan and the Jonestown tragedy. When Jones tells the residents of Jonestown in the community’s last hours that the “folks in San Francisco won’t be idle over this,” he could have been referring, in part, to Milk and Moscone. Indeed, recently-uncovered research refutes the supposition that Jones ordered Dan White to execute Milk and Moscone; to the contrary, if there were any connection between the City Hall murders and Peoples Temple, it would clearly have been because Milk and Moscone were too closely tied to Jones and the Temple.

A Lavender Look at the Temple, scheduled to be published in early 2004, examines the connections between Harvey Milk and Peoples Temple as part of its consideration of the church’s internal and external relationship with gay men and lesbians. Reviewing letters from Milk, news clippings and first hand accounts, A Lavender Look not only pieces together this complex and obscured relationship, it also includes accounts from gay and lesbian Temple members and Jonestown survivors.

We are still conducting research for this project, and are still seeking gay or lesbian members of the church who are willing to be interviewed for their perspective. As gay men and lesbians ourselves, we understand and appreciate the difficulty of coming forward with information, and will abide by whatever conditions you stipulate before such an interview takes place. We ask you to contact Michael Bellefountaine at 415-864-6686 or

By Alex Constantine

In Hollywood, his father is remembered as one of the most gifted actors of film noir and the Golden Age of movies. But Christopher “Chris” Mitchum’s own acting career was star-crossed. His brief rise to the celebrity stratum began brightly enough in the 1960s, entered a long phase of decline in the ’70s, straight to the cinematic gutter. As interviewer John Nada summarizes it, “Mitchem could be described as a severe case of bad luck,” who “explored the nether regions of B, C, and F cinema.”

Mitchum’s first professional acting role was a “dead man.”

While studying English literature at the University of Arizona, he paid his tuition by working as an extra. Sam Maners, production manager of the TV show Dundee and the Culhane, offered him a part for one day. “I was very excited – until I read the script,” he recalls. “I died before the opening credits, off screen. I played a dead man.”

Before long, he had a part on the Danny Thomas Hour, a series of 60-minute dramas. He was even given a role in Rio Lobo, starring John Wayne, directed by the legendary Howard Hawks, as the studio era entered its final phase of decline.

Photoplay honored him with the Gold Medal Award for Best New Actor. He won a role in Big Jake, another John Wayne film.

But at this point in his career, stars crossed. He was unable to find work in Hollywood, he says. A casting director explained the problem to him: “You starred with John Wayne.” The Duke, of course, was an outspoken hawk during the Vietnam War. Much of liberal Hollywood was turned off by Wayne’s pro-war rhetoric. The Duke went on to make pictures, but many of those who worked with him didn’t, Mitchum says.

“I was blackballed in some circles.” This is the point, Mitchum says, where his acting career enters the terminal stage. He was offered a part in a Spanish film. “Of course, once you become a ‘foreign star, you’re regarded as a ‘B’ actor and fall out of the loop.”

Mitchum fell hard, even in Spain, and into the Asian film market:

“When Franco was alive, Spain had a great film industry with great, worldwide distribution,” Mitchum says. “When he died, about a month after I had moved back to the States, the film industry fell apart there. All they wanted to do was make porn and anti-Franco films. Because of the films in Spain and Europe, I became a major star throughout Asia. I started getting film offers from that part of the world. In fact, my first film there was H-Bomb, in Thailand.”

He also appeared in Commando Mengele, alternately titled, Angel of Death, directed by Andrea Bianchi. By the 90s, however, the offers stopped coming. He turned to screenwriting. Nine of his scripts were turned into movies.

Then it was politics. Chris Mitchum was the GOP nominee in the 1998 general election for the 35th district (Santa Barbara County) of the California State Assembly. He lost to Democrat Hannah-Beth Jackson.

By 2011, he was a charter Tea Party member, ran in a Republican straw poll, and won.

“Since the Democrats shoved Obamacare down our throats,” he told the Santa Barbara News-Press in November, “ this country’s been in dire straits. I’m in this race to do all that I can to get this country back on track.”

He intends to run against Lois Capps, a popular Democratic Congresswoman who Mitchum dismisses as a “socialist.” Far-right Mitchum vs. progressive Capps will be “bloody,” he says.

Doubtless. Crossroads GPS, a right-wing 501(c)(4) group, has already spent some $1.4 million on television ads castigating ten Democratic representatives. Capps is the only Californian targeted by the conservative organization.

But Mitchum has proclaimed that his true opposition is not Capps, but President Obama. The star of Angel of Death views Obamacare as one of the most pressing issues of our time.

“The United States has the best medicine in the world,” he told the Santa Barbara News-Press, “adding that the public shares some of the blame in higher costs for expecting too much and leaving health-care professionals vulnerable to massive malpractice awards.”

“We need radical tort reform,” he claims.

Cookie-cutter Tea Party rhetoric with a corporate bias. Tune in Tea Party candidates around the country, and it’s the same “ideals” cast in the same dead, insincere, partisan Republican tones.

On Herman Cain: “We could do a lot worse.”

Mitchum’s take on Obama’s first term: “Oh my gosh, we did a lot worse.”  Mitchum’s right-wing rhetoric is supposed to ring like Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America” promo, but plops like a wet tea bag.

A recent campaign mailer to residents of Santa Barbara County takes aim at the Marxist (?) left with echoes of Mitchum’s old Hollywood mentor, The Duke:

Dear Friends:

In 2008, our country suffered a bloodless coup. Socialists took control of two of the three branches of government. It is ironic that the very system they wish to tear down is what allowed them to gain power. Fortunately, our Founding Fathers built into the Constitution the means for revolt. It’s called an election and with that process, using ballots instead of bullets, we can regain control of our government. … God Bless America!

And God bless Chris Mitchum, a failed actor on his way to becoming a failed politician. Lois Capps has dropped a number of noisy, jingoistic GOP opponents. Does anyone doubt that Mitchum is only the next in line?

” … A growing number of objectors, led by historians and teachers from the region in which Rommel was born and raised, have begun to provoke a radical reappraisal of the wartime general. His critics say they want to expose the lies and propaganda which have helped to create what they say is the ‘myth’ of the chivalrous Nazi. … “

The reputation of Erwin Rommel, a German general admired by Churchill, is now looking tarnished

Tony Paterson, Berlin

 04 December 2011

Germany’s memorial to Field Marshal Erwin Rommel is perched on a hillside overlooking the middle-class town of Heidenheim an der Brenz where he was born 120 years ago. The words inscribed on the white limestone monument describe the legendary Second World War general as “chivalrous”, “brave” and as a “victim of tyranny”.

Last week, however, nearly half a century after it was proudly unveiled, a group of angry protesters carried out a night raid on the memorial and smothered it with a banner proclaiming: “No more monuments for Nazi generals”. Only days earlier, the memorial had been defaced with graffiti and holed with chisels.

The protests have shocked many Germans. Even Winston Churchill described Rommel as “great general” and until very recently it was taken for granted that the legendary Desert Fox had secured a permanent place in the nation’s troubled history as one of the Nazis’ few “decent” military commanders.

But a growing number of objectors, led by historians and teachers from the region in which Rommel was born and raised, have begun to provoke a radical reappraisal of the wartime general. His critics say they want to expose the lies and propaganda which have helped to create what they say is the “myth” of the chivalrous Nazi.

The campaign to rid Heidenheim, and for that matter Germany, of its “Rommel legend” is being spearheaded by Wolfgang Proske, a historian and author of a book about 16 Nazi war criminals from southern Germany, including Rommel. Mr Proske, who also teaches history at a grammar school in Heidenheim, describes Rommel as a “run-of-the-mill war criminal”.

In an interview with The Independent on Sunday Mr Proske said: “Rommel was a deeply convinced Nazi and, contrary to popular opinion, he was also an anti-Semite. It is not only the Germans who have fallen into the trap of believing that Rommel was chivalrous. The British have been convinced by these stories as well.”

As Commander-in-Chief of Hitler’s Afrika Korps, Rommel won fame and popularity for his initial victories against the British during the Nazi military campaign in North Africa, launched in 1941. Hitler promoted him to the rank of field marshal as a reward for his successes, and Nazi propaganda ensured that he soon achieved celebrity status at home.

Defeated by General Bernard Montgomery’s Desert Rats at the battle of El Alamein, Rommel nevertheless claimed that his battles against the British were chivalrous affairs and the “nearest thing to war without hate”.

However, Mr Proske claims to have found hitherto ignored historical evidence which casts serious doubt on the general’s unblemished reputation and the widely accepted clam that he opposed the rabid anti-Semitism of the Nazis. “At the time when Rommel marched into Tripoli, more than a quarter of the city’s population were Jews,” he said. “There is evidence which shows that Rommel forbad his troops to buy anything from Jewish traders. Later on, he used the Jews as slave labourers. Some of them were even used as so-called ‘mine dogs’ who were ordered to walk over minefields ahead of his advancing troops.”

Mr Proske says his anti-Rommel campaign is backed by fellow history teachers, historians, and even the children of former Afrika Korps soldiers. However, he claims that his attempts to debunk the orthodox view of the general are so controversial that none of the region’s politicians will risk talking about the subject in public.

In an attempt to defuse the row, Heidenheim’s mayor recently ordered an additional plaque to be mounted on the town’s Rommel monument. A new inscription attempts to gloss over the controversy by insisting that half a century on from the time when the monument was first unveiled a “new generation has grown up and found a home in a united and peaceful Europe”.

Yet eminent historians have since dismissed the fresh plaque as a transparent attempt to avoid addressing the new questions about Rommel.

Mr Proske is not the only German historian committed to reappraising the general. A new warts-and-all feature film about Rommel is scheduled to be shown on German television next year. Apart from examining his wartime role in the desert, the film by Germany’s SWR broadcasting channel is also expected to cast doubt on claims that he was also deeply involved in the failed 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler.

Rommel’s alleged role in the plot prompted the Nazis to arrest him and offer him the choice of trial and certain execution or suicide. He chose the latter. Historians have since concluded that Rommel was not one of the plotters against Hitler, although those who were involved wanted him to join them.

Nick Stein, the film’s director, argues that the production attempts to portray Rommel as a military leader who belonged to a generation of wartime Germans who “realised only too late that the person they have served with such a passion is a criminal”.

Although it has yet to be screened, the film has already elicited an angry response from the Rommel family. Its members include Rommel’s son, Manfred, the 82-year-old former conservative mayor of Stuttgart. The family has complained that the advance publicity for the film wrongly portrays Rommel as an “upstart, a favourite of Hitler”, and as a Nazi war criminal. “This is simply untrue. These are lies,” the family complained in a letter to SWR’s director general.

The broadcaster has since submitted the film’s script to a prominent group of historians and military experts for examination. They recently praised the film for its “precision”.

The controversy is certain to continue. It also seems destined to present Germany’s municipal and military authorities with an awkward problem. There are 22 Rommel streets in Germany and the armed forces have two military barracks named after him.

By Alex Constantine

I was at the Starbucks on Melrose Ave. this evening, about 6:00 pm, stepped out to the back alley for a wifi break, and couldn’t help noticing that a white Mustang in a carport nearby was on fire.

The blaze escalated quickly and I crept behind the vehicle to snap this photo. A moment after I turned away, the gas line exploded. I scurried behind a wooden fence.

Fire trucks arrived a couple of minutes later, about the time a column of fire shot upwards and the carport ceiling caught fire.

The blaze was extinguished moments before it could spread to the adjacent clothing shop at the corner of Melrose and Curson Ave. There were no injuries.

By John Gittelsohn and Kathleen M. Howley

Bloomberg, Dec 7, 2011

U.S. mortgage debt, a driver of consumer spending during the real estate boom, may be about to enter its fourth year of decline as foreclosures wipe out home loans and housing purchases fall.

The volume of outstanding home mortgages was $9.93 trillion at the end of the second quarter, the lowest since the end of 2006, according to Federal Reserve data. A Fed report today may show further declines in the third quarter, based on lending volume and home repossessions. Mortgage volume peaked at $10.6 trillion in early 2008, the final months of a decade-long borrowing binge.

The mortgage lending that boosted spending and padded bank profits during the 2001 to 2006 surge in home prices is failing to aid the U.S. economic recovery, Doug Duncan, chief economist of mortgage-financier Fannie Mae (FNMA), said in a telephone interview from Washington. Outstanding home-loan volume may drop “for at least another couple of years,” he said.

“Consumers are still leveraged well above average,” Duncan said. “That has to be worked off before you’ll see a return of robust consumption.”

Lending for mortgages to purchase homes probably will fall to $80 billion in the fourth quarter, the lowest since 1991 and one-fifth the volume of a record high in mid-2005, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association in Washington. Home prices are down 31 percent from a July 2006 peak, based on the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index of 20 U.S. cities. …


Homeless are not Criminals

Posted: December 6, 2011 in Far-Right, Media

Letter to the Baltimore Sun:

I just read Rosalind Ellis’ recent letter regarding the expansion of Beans and Bread (“Neighbors right to worry about Beans and Bread,” Nov. 2). It is obvious to me that Ms. Ellis does not personally know anyone who is homeless or out of a job and on the verge of homelessness.

She states the “many who came to Our Daily Bread were drug abusers, shoplifters and aggressive panhandlers” and that the “filthy tent city housed criminals who broke into cars and shoplifted throughout the area.” Apparently she considers the homeless to be the criminal element of our city. It seems to me from reading the newspaper that the greater majority of drug abusers, shoplifters and criminals are listed with addresses. Very few are listed as homeless.

She writes that the “bureaucracy” cares “nothing about the neighborhoods” and “no consideration is given to communities … or to folks who put their life savings and ‘sweat equity’ into improving their homes.” Has she met some of these people she considers to be such criminals? You will find your share of those who put their life savings and sweat equity into their homes, too, only to end up losing them because the company they worked for had to cut back. I have, and have had, friends who, through no fault of their own, lose their job and spend months or years trying every day to find a job only to be told “we’re not hiring right now” or that they overqualified or they don’t have the right “specialty.”

I really don’t think that the homeless are coming from all over the country to take advantage of Charm City’s largesse. But God bless the people of Charm City who care enough to give of their time and their dollars so that those less fortunate can have a hot meal once a day, a bed out of the cold or heat or rain, and an opportunity to try and improve their situation at one of those “adjunct services.”

She states “Beans and Bread shouldn’t worry some neighbors, it should worry the entire city.” I think Beans and Bread, and the city, should worry about people who think like Ms. Ellis.

Sharon Edwards, Baltimore,0,3419414.story