Monday, June 30, 2008

The Rectum of Edmund Fitzgerald

The Rectum of Edmund Fitzgeraldby John Prittie © 2007 - 2008

His hips and his thighs, were American-sized
Full of hamburg and cheese from Wisconsin
But as big asses go his was bigger than most
And he liked his kielbasa well seasoned
The hotdogs he ate bowlin’ sometimes stayed in his colon
While the beer just went straight to his belly
And surrounded his chest like a warm goose-down vest
That shook when he laughed like mint jelly

In a hospital suite in Detroit they all meet
Called the Gastro-Enterology Clinic
The proctologist chimes let’s get started on time
Because lads this won’t be any picnic
The gurney they found took all six hundred pounds
That’s what Mr. Fitzgerald weighed empty
Then later that night the endoscope went out of sight
In the rectum of Edmund Fitzgerald

Does anyone know where potato chips go
When you eat the whole bag in one sitting
How they churn in your gut ‘till they turn for your butt
It’s no topic for polite conversation
And further below it’s the colo-recto,
That takes in all the seeds you’ve been sewin’
It all gets passed along like an old sailor’s song,
But that ain’t the north wind that’s a’blowin’

They get really big fees for colonoscopies
And it helps fill the hospitals’ coffers
But if you’ve let yourself go it’s much better to know
For your wives and your sons and your daughters
So the doctor said Ed put this mask on your head
It’s time for your examination
Your 50 years old and if you haven’t been told
You’re one pretty unhealthy lookin’ specimen

Edmund lay on his side fully anesthetized
While the doctor played alien invader
Through caverns so tall, they had nodes in the wall,
‘Bout the size of old rusty lake freighters
And now the legend lives on from the nurses on down
To the guys that mopped up at their peril
And one medical journal even ran the internals
Of the rectum of Edmund Fitzgerald


The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, parody: The Rectum of Edmund Fitzgeraldparody of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (1976) by Gordon Lightfoot


The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down of the big lake they called "Gitche Gumee."
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead when the skies of November turn gloomy.
With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty, that good ship and true was a bone to be chewed when the "Gales of November" came early.

The ship was the pride of the American side coming back from some mill in Wisconsin.
As the big freighters go, it was bigger than most with a crew and good captain well seasoned,
concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
when they left fully loaded for Cleveland.
And later that night when the ship's bell rang,
could it be the north wind they'd been feelin'?


Housing/Subprime/Credit Roundup — June 30, 2008

Items of Interest:

BusinessWeek: The Home Price AbyssBusinessWeek
The Housing Abyss -- Why the worst may be yet to come as forces battering the market gain strength. And the remedy coming from Congress? It's likely to fall short of the mark. The housing crisis is entering a new and frightening stage. On June 24, Standard & Poor's announced that the S&P/Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index had fallen more than 15% in April from a year earlier. Adjusted for inflation, the decline is the biggest since 1940-42, according to data collected by Yale University economist Robert Shiller. The risk for the financial system and the economy is that the price drop, already horrifying, will start feeding on itself. When home values fall low enough, hard-pressed homeowners become less able or less willing to keep paying their mortgages. That forces lenders to repossess homes and then dump them back on the market at fire-sale prices, which depresses prices further and leads to even more foreclosures...

mortgages 60 days past dueNY Times:
As Housing Bill Evolves, Crisis Grows Deeper -- When Congress started fashioning a sweeping rescue package for struggling homeowners earlier this year, 2.6 million loans were in trouble. But the problem has grown considerably in just six months and is continuing to worsen.

More than three million borrowers are in distress, and analysts are forecasting a couple of million more will fall behind on their payments in the coming year as home prices fall further and the economy weakens...

Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts and a central force behind the legislation, said on Friday that recent reports about falling home prices have rallied support for the plan. But he acknowledged that the plan may not do enough to help homeowners or the housing market. Mr. Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said that even after a bill like this, “you may need more.” ...
The Big Picture:
Should Congress Let Home Prices Fall? -- What I find astonishing is that Congress somehow believes they need to do something to help prop up housing prices. When it comes to free markets, the quadrennial Socialists in Washington talk a good game, but push comes to shove, they don't really believe it.

Its the same with half of the "Free-market" pundits on T.V. As long as things are going well, they want no supervision, no regulation, no interference with markets. As soon as the going gets tough, they come crawling to mummy and daddy for a bailout, begging for all sorts of FOMC and government intervention. Hypocrite is too soft a word for this ilk...
Thomas Friedman / NY Times:
Anxious in America -- My fellow Americans: We are a country in debt and in decline — not terminal, not irreversible, but in decline. Our political system seems incapable of producing long-range answers to big problems or big opportunities. We are the ones who need a better-functioning democracy — more than the Iraqis and Afghans. We are the ones in need of nation-building. It is our political system that is not working.
NY Times:
As Gas Prices Rise, Teenagers’ Cruising Declines -- For car-loving American teenagers, this is turning out to be the summer the cruising died.

Kevin Ballschmiede, 16, pined for his 1999 Dodge Ram — “my pride and joy” — the other night as he hung out in a parking lot in this town outside Chicago. Given that filling the 26-gallon tank can now cost more than $100, he had left it at home and caught a ride.

From coast to coast, American teenagers appear to be driving less this summer. Police officers who keep watch on weekend cruising zones say fewer youths are spending their time driving around in circles, with more of them hanging out in parking lots, malls or movie theaters...

Saturday, June 28, 2008

50 Famous Americans Who Died While in Their 50's

The sudden death of television journalist Tim Russert at age 58 was a painful reminder to baby boomers, who are now mostly in their 50's, that there are no guarantees about reaching age 60. Here is a list of 50 famous Americans who died while still in their 50's.

Fred 'Rerun' Berry died at age 52Fred "Rerun" Berry (March 13, 1951 – October 21, 2003) was an American actor best known for playing the role of the jolly and rotund Freddie "Rerun" Stubbs on the popular 1970s television show What's Happening!!.

During the 1980s, Berry battled drug addiction and alcoholism. He revived the character of Rerun in the series What's Happening Now!!, but would only be on that show for 1 year.

Berry died on October 21, 2003 at his Los Angeles home where he was recovering from a stroke. He was 52.
Bill Bixby (born Wilfred Bailey Bixby on January 22, 1934 – November 21, 1993) was an American film and television actor, director and frequent game show panelist. His career spanned over three decades, appearing on stage, in motion pictures and starring in five TV series, such as My Favorite Martian and The Incredible Hulk.

In early 1991, Bixby was diagnosed with prostate cancer and underwent treatment for the disease. On November 21, 1993, six days after his final assignment on the television series Blossom, Bixby died of complications from cancer in Century City, California. He was 59.
Bobby Bonds died at age 57Bobby Bonds (March 15, 1946 – August 23, 2003) was an American right fielder in Major League Baseball from 1968 to 1981, primarily with the San Francisco Giants.

Bonds was noted for his outstanding combination of power hitting and speed, he was the first player to have more than two seasons of 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases, doing so a record five times (the record was matched only by his son Barry Bonds), and was the first to accomplish the feat in both major leagues; he became the second player to hit 300 career home runs and steal 300 bases, joining Willie Mays. Together with Barry, he is part of baseball's most accomplished father-son combination, holding the record for combined home runs, RBIs, and stolen bases.

Bonds died of complications from lung cancer and a brain tumor in San Carlos, California. He was 57.

Humphrey Bogart (December 25, 1899 – January 14, 1957), was an Academy Award-winning American actor and film star. In 1999, the American Film Institute named Bogart the 'Greatest Male Star of All Time.'

Bogart's most notable films include The Maltese Falcon (1941), Casablanca (1942), To Have and Have Not (1944), The Big Sleep (1946), Key Largo (1948), and The African Queen (1951) (for which he won an Academy Award for Best Actor).

Bogart, a heavy smoker, contracted cancer of the esophagus. Bogart had just turned 57 and weighed 80 pounds (36 kg) when he died on January 14, 1957 after falling into a coma.
Nell CarterNell Carter (September 13, 1948 – January 23, 2003) was an American singer and film, stage, and television actress. She broke into stardom in the musical Ain't Misbehavin, for which she won a Tony Award in 1978. She also won an Emmy for the same role in a televised performance in 1982. Additional Broadway credits included Dude and Annie.

She also played the role as housekeeper Nell Harper on the sitcom Gimme a Break!, for which she earned Golden Globe and Emmy Award nominations. The popular show lasted from 1981 to 1987.

Carter died from heart disease complicated by diabetes and obesity on January 23, 2003. She was 54 years old. At the time of her death, Carter had been rehearsing for a production of Raisin, a stage musical of A Raisin in the Sun in Long Beach, California, and filming a movie, Swing.
Willie Davenport (June 8, 1943 – June 17, 2002) was an American athlete, born in Troy, Alabama. He participated in hurdling events in four Olympic Games, winning the title in 1968. In 1980, he also took part in the Olympic Winter Games as a runner for the American bobsleigh team.

Davenport took part in his first Olympics in 1964, reaching the semi-finals of the 110 m hurdles event. In Mexico, in 1968, he reached the final and won: "From the first step, the gun, I knew I had won the race." In 1972 he finished fourth, and in his fourth consecutive Olympic 110 m hurdles final, in 1976, he finished third to capture the bronze medal.

He died of a heart attack at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on June 17, 2002. He was 59.
Jo Ann Davis (June 29, 1950 – October 6, 2007) was a Republican from the United States Commonwealth of Virginia, who represented the state's 1st congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2001 until her death. She was the second woman and first Republican woman elected to Congress from Virginia.

Davis died on October 6, 2007 at her home in Gloucester, Virginia. She was reportedly recovering from a second bout with breast cancer, but her condition deteriorated rapidly over the previous week. She was 57 at the time of her death.
sandy DennisSandy Dennis (April 27, 1937 – March 2, 1992) was an American award-winning theater and film actress. She first won fame for her work on Broadway. There she won two consecutive Tony Awards for her performances in A Thousand Clowns in 1963 and Any Wednesday in 1964. In 1966, she was given an Academy Award for best supporting actress in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe. She won a Golden Globe in 1970 for her role in The Out-of-Towners.

An advocate of method acting, Dennis was often described as neurotic and mannered in her performances; her signature style included running words together and oddly stopping and starting sentences, suddenly going up and down octaves as she spoke, and fluttering her hands. Walter Kerr famously remarked that she treated sentences as "weak, injured things" that needed to be slowly helped "across the street.

Dennis died from ovarian cancer in Westport, Connecticut, aged 54.
John Denver (December 31, 1943 – October 12, 1997), born Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr., was an American Country Music/folk singer-songwriter and folk rock musician who was one of the most popular artists of the 1970s. He recorded and released some 300 songs, about half of which he had composed, and was named Poet Laureate of Colorado in 1977.

On October 12, 1997, Denver was killed when the EZ Lite aircraft he was piloting crashed just off the coast of California at Pacific Grove, shortly after taking off from the Monterey Peninsula Airport.
Jim FixxJim Fixx (April 23, 1932 – July 20, 1984) was the author of the 1977 best-selling book, The Complete Book of Running, which sold over a million copies. He is credited with helping start America's fitness revolution, popularizing the sport of running and demonstrating the health benefits of regular jogging.
Fixx started running in 1967 at age 35. He weighed 240 pounds (108.8 kilograms) and smoked two packs of cigarettes per day. Ten years later, when his book, The Complete Book of Running (which spent 11 weeks at No. 1 on the best-seller list) was published, he was 60 pounds lighter and smoke-free.

The book inspired millions of people to take up running and jogging. In his books and on television talk shows, he extolled the benefits of physical exercise and how it considerably increased the average human being's life expectancy.

Ironically Fixx died at the age of 52 of a massive heart attack, after his daily run, on Route 15 in Hardwick, Vermont. The autopsy revealed that atherosclerosis had blocked one coronary artery 95%, a second 85%, and a third 50%.
Curt Flood (January 18, 1938 – January 20, 1997) was a Major League Baseball player who spent most of his career as a center fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals.

His major claim to fame is becoming one of the pivotal figures in the sport's labor history when he refused to accept a trade following the 1969 season, ultimately appealing his case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Although his legal challenge was unsuccessful, it brought about additional solidarity among players as they fought against baseball's reserve clause and sought free agency.

For years a heavy drinker and smoker, Flood stopped smoking in 1979, and drinking in 1985. Diagnosed with throat cancer in 1995, Flood was originally given a 90% chance of survival. But the chemotherapy proved too much for him, and Flood died in Los Angeles, California at age 59.
Dan FogelbergDan Fogelberg (August 13, 1951 – December 16, 2007) was an American singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, whose music was inspired by sources as diverse as folk, pop, classical, jazz, and bluegrass music.

The Innocent Age, released in October 1981, was Fogelberg's critical and commercial peak. This double album song cycle included four of his biggest hits: "Leader of the Band," "Hard To Say," "Run for the Roses", and "Same Old Lang Syne," based on a real-life accidental meeting with a former girlfriend (Jill Anderson). In 1984, he rocked a little again with the album Windows And Walls.

After battling prostate cancer for three years, Fogelberg died on December 16, 2007 at his home in Maine with his wife Jean by his side. He was 56.
Clark Gable (February 1, 1901 – November 16, 1960) was an iconic American actor nicknamed "The King of Hollywood" in his heyday. In 1999, the American Film Institute named Gable seventh among the Greatest Male Stars of All Time.

His most famous role was Rhett Butler in the 1939 epic film Gone with the Wind, in which he starred with Vivien Leigh. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for three films that included, Gone with the Wind (1939), Mutiny on the Bounty (1935); he won for It Happened One Night (1934). Another memorable performance was his last film The Misfits (1961), co-starring Marilyn Monroe. It was also her last film.

Gable died in Los Angeles, California on November 16, 1960, the result of a fourth heart attack. He was 59.
Jerry GarciaJerry Garcia (August 1, 1942 – August 9, 1995) was a musician, songwriter, artist, and lead guitarist and vocalist of the psychedelic rock band the Grateful Dead. Though he vehemently disavowed the role, Garcia was viewed by many as the leader or "spokesman" of the group.

One of the original founders of the Grateful Dead, Garcia performed with the Dead for its entire three-decade career (which spanned from 1965 to 1995).

On August 9, 1995, at 4:23 AM, Garcia's body was discovered in his room at a rehabilitation clinic. The cause of death was a heart attack. Garcia had long struggled with tobacco, drug addiction, weight problems, and sleep apnea, all of which contributed to his physical decline. He was 53 when he died.

Bob Hayes (December 20, 1942 – September 18, 2002) was an Olympic Gold-Medal sprinter turned star receiver for the Dallas Cowboys and was once considered the world's fastest man. Bob Hayes is one of the select few players to have been chosen by the Cowboys to be in the "Ring of Honor." Before pro-football, Bob Hayes was an American track and field athlete.

On September 18, 2002, Hayes died in his hometown Jacksonville of kidney failure aged 59, after battling prostate cancer and liver ailments.
Gregory Hines (February 14, 1946 – August 9, 2003) was an American award-winning actor, singer, dancer, and choreographer.

Hines appeared in such movies as The Cotton Club, White Nights, Running Scared, and Tap. On television, he starred in his own series in 1997 called The Gregory Hines Show, as well as in the recurring role of Ben Doucette on Will & Grace. He won the Tony Award for the revue Jelly's Last Jam (1992).

Hines died of liver cancer in Los Angeles, California at age 57.
Wolfman Jack nee Robert (Bob) Weston SmithWolfman Jack (Robert 'Bob' Weston Smith, 21 January 1938 – 1 July 1995) was a gravelly-voiced, American disc jockey who became world famous in the 1960s and 1970s.

In 1973 he appeared in director George Lucas' second feature film, American Graffiti, as himself. His broadcasts tie the film together, and a main character catches a glimpse of the mysterious Wolfman in a pivotal scene. In gratitude for Wolfman Jack's participation, Lucas gave him a fraction of a "point" -- the division of the profits from a film -- and the massive financial success of American Graffiti provided him with a regular income for life.

Wolfman Jack died of a heart attack in Belvidere, North Carolina, on July 1, 1995, age 57. The day before his death, he had finished broadcasting his last live radio program, a weekly program nationally syndicated from Planet Hollywood in downtown Washington, D.C. Wolfman Jack said that night, "I can't wait to get home and give Lou a hug, I haven't missed her this much in years." Wolfman had been on the road, promoting his new autobiography Have Mercy!. When he got home, he entered his house, hugged his wife, said "Oh, it is so good to be home!", and died in his wife's arms.
Rick James (born James Ambrose Johnson, Jr., February 1, 1948 – August 6, 2004) was one of the most popular artists on the Motown label during the late 1970s and early 1980s. James was famous for his wild brand of funk music and his even wilder lifestyle. As time went on, James was given the unofficial title The King of Punk-Funk. In later life, James's legal problems relating to drug abuse received much publicity.

On the morning of August 6, 2004, Rick James was found dead in his Burbank, California home at the Oakwoods on Barham Boulevard by his caretaker. James had died from pulmonary failure and cardiac failure with his various health conditions of diabetes, stroke, a pacemaker, and according to the Internet Movie Database, a heart attack being listed as contributing factors. Minimal traces of cocaine were found in his bloodstream.

A coroner's report released September 16, 2004 officially ruled his death as accidental, reporting nine drugs found in James's bloodstream.
Steve Jobs (February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011) was an American computer entrepreneur and inventor. He was co-founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Apple Inc.

Jobs reinvented the technology world four or five times, first with the Apple II, a beautiful personal computer in the 1970s; then in the 1980s with the Macintosh, driven by a mouse and presenting a clean screen that made computing inviting; the ubiquitous iPod debuted in 2001, the iPhone in 2007 and in 2010 the iPad.

During a commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005, he said: "Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything -- all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure -- these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."

Jobs had died at age 56 due to pancreatic cancer.
Dennis Johnson (September 18, 1954 – February 22, 2007) nicknamed "DJ", was an American professional basketball player for the National Basketball Association Seattle SuperSonics, Phoenix Suns and the Boston Celtics. He won three NBA championships with the Celtics, winning the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award in the 1979 NBA Finals.

On February 22, 2007, at the Austin Convention Center, Johnson had a heart attack and collapsed at the end of the Austin Toros' practice. After being rushed to a nearby hospital, he could not be revived and was later pronounced dead.
Barbara Jordan died at age 59Barbara Jordan (February 21, 1936 – January 17, 1996) was an American politician from Texas. She served as a congresswoman in the United States House of Representatives from 1973 to 1979.

In 1973, Jordan began to suffer from multiple sclerosis. She had difficulty climbing stairs, and she started using a cane and eventually a wheelchair. She fought a 20-year struggle against debilitating illnesses, including multiple sclerosis and leukemia, which took her life at the age of 59.

Jordan was a lesbian with a longtime companion of more than 20 years, Nancy Earl. Jordan never publicly acknowledged her sexual orientation, but in her obituary, the Houston Chronicle mentioned her longtime relationship with Earl.
Madeline Kahn (September 29, 1942 – December 3, 1999) was an American multiple award-winning actress, known primarily for her comedic roles. Director Mel Brooks — who directed her in four films — said of her: "She is one of the most talented people that ever lived. I mean, either in stand-up comedy, or acting, or whatever you want, you can't beat Madeline Kahn."

Kahn was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in early 1999. She underwent treatment and continued to work, even continuing her role on Cosby. However, the disease progressed rapidly, and on December 3, 1999, Kahn died at the age of 57.
Grace Kelly (later Grace, Princess of Monaco; November 12, 1929 – September 14, 1982) was an Academy Award-winning American film and stage actress. Upon marrying Rainier III, Prince of Monaco in 1956, she became Her Serene Highness The Princess of Monaco, but was generally known as Princess Grace of Monaco. Princess Grace maintained dual American and Monegasque citizenship after her marriage.

On September 13, 1982, while driving with her daughter Stéphanie to Monaco from their country home, Princess Grace, then 52, suffered a stroke, which caused her to drive her Rover P6 off the serpentine road down a mountainside. Princess Grace was pulled alive from the wreckage, but had suffered serious injuries and was unconscious. She died the following day at The Princess Grace Hospital Centre, having never regained consciousness.
Charlie Lau (born April 12, 1933 – March 18, 1984) was an American catcher and hitting coach in Major League Baseball.
After his playing career ended, Lau taught his hitting technique to the Orioles, Oakland Athletics, Kansas City Royals, New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox as a hitting instructor. He wrote the book How to Hit .300, which supplanted Ted Williams's The Science of Hitting as the "Bible of Batting."

He died in Key Biscayne, Florida at the age of 50 after a long bout with cancer.
Chris LeDouxChris LeDoux (October 2, 1948–March 9, 2005) was an American country music singer-songwriter, bronze sculptor and rodeo champion. During his career LeDoux recorded thirty-six albums (many self-released) which have sold more than six million units in the United States as of January 2007. He was awarded one platinum and two gold album certifications from the RIAA, and was nominated for a Grammy Award and the Academy of Country Music Music Pioneer Award.

In 2000, LeDoux suffered an illness that required him to receive a liver transplant. Garth Brooks volunteered to donate part of his liver, but it was found to be incompatible. An alternative donor was located, and LeDoux did receive a transplant. After his recovery he released two additional albums. LeDoux died on March 9, 2005 of complications from liver cancer.
Linda Lovelace died at age 53
Linda Lovelace (January 10, 1949 – April 22, 2002), real name Linda Susan Boreman, became famous after starring in the 1972 hardcore porn film Deep Throat. She later became a spokeswoman for the anti-pornography movement.

Boreman contracted hepatitis from the blood transfusion in 1970 as a result of a car accident. In 1987, this required her to undergo a liver transplant.

On April 3, 2002, Boreman lost control of her car, which rolled twice. She suffered massive trauma and internal injuries. On April 22, 2002 she was taken off life support and died in Denver, Colorado, aged 53.

 Curtis Mayfield (June 3, 1942 – December 26, 1999) was an American soul, R&B, and funk singer, songwriter, and record producer best known for his anthemic music with The Impressions and composing the soundtrack to the blaxploitation film Super Fly.

On August 13, 1990, Mayfield was paralyzed from the neck down after stage lighting equipment fell on him at an outdoor concert at Wingate Field in Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York. In February, 1998, he had to have his right leg amputated due to diabetes. Mayfield died on December 26, 1999 in Roswell, Georgia surrounded by his family.
Bernie Mac died of complications from pneumonia, suffered from sarcoidosisBernard Jeffrey "Bernie Mac" McCullough (October 5, 1957 – August 9, 2008) was a two time Emmy Award-nominated American actor and comedian. He was also twice nominated for the Golden Globe Award for "Outstanding Actor in Comedy/Musical series. Mac was number 72 on Comedy Central's list of the 100 greatest standup comedians of all time. His sitcom called The Bernie Mac Show was on the Fox network from 2001 to 2006.

The comedian suffered from sarcoidosis, an inflammatory lung disease that produces tiny lumps of cells in the body's organs, but he had said the condition went into remission in 2005. Mac, age 50, died at a hospital in the Chicago area of complications due to pneumonia.
Tug McGraw (August 30, 1944 – January 5, 2004) was a colorful Major League Baseball relief pitcher and the father of country music singer Tim McGraw. He was born in Martinez, California and gained sports stardom during the New York Mets World Series victory in 1969 and is remembered for coining the motto "Ya Gotta Believe" during the New York Mets' run for the 1973 World Series. He is also renowned as the star reliever who pitched the final strike for the 1980 World Champion Philadelphia Phillies, which is their only World Series Championship in team history.

On March 12, 2003, McGraw was working as a spring training instructor for the Phillies when he was hospitalized with a brain tumor. When surgery was performed to remove it, it revealed the tumor was malignant and inoperable. Given three weeks to live by doctors, he managed to survive nine months.

He was age 59 at his death.
Steve McQueen died at age 50
Steve McQueen (March 24, 1930 – November 7, 1980) was an Academy Award-nominated American movie actor, nicknamed "The King of Cool". His "anti-hero" persona, which he developed at the height of the Vietnam counterculture, made him one of the top box-office draws of the 1960s and 1970s. After appearing in the 1974 film The Towering Inferno, he became the highest paid movie star in the world. He was also an avid racer of both motorcycles and cars.

McQueen died at the age of 50 in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico from two heart attacks caused by blood clots following a seven-hour operation to remove or reduce a metastatic tumor in his stomach. He had been diagnosed with mesothelioma in December 1979, and had traveled to Mexico in July 1980 for unconventional treatment after his doctors advised him that they could do nothing more to prolong his life.
Roger Miller (January 2, 1936 – October 25, 1992) was an American singer, songwriter and musician, best known for his mid-1960s country/pop hits such as "King of the Road", "Dang Me," and "England Swings." He also wrote the music and lyrics for the Tony-award winning Broadway musical Big River (1985).

A lifelong cigarette smoker, Miller died of lung and throat cancer in 1992 at age 56.
June Pointer (November 30, 1953 – April 11, 2006) was an American Pop/R&B singer and was a founding member of the vocal group The Pointer Sisters.

June died at 1:10pm on April 11, 2006 at the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, California from bone cancer, liver cancer, and lung cancer. She died in the arms of her older sisters and brothers Ruth, Anita, Aaron, and Fritz. She was 52 years old.
Darrell Porter died at age 50
Darrell Porter (January 17, 1952 – August 5, 2002) was a former American catcher in Major League Baseball, and one of the first American professional athletes to publicly admit he had a problem with substance abuse.

He played in three World Series, in 1980 with the Royals and in 1982 and 1985 with the St. Louis Cardinals, winning the World Series MVP Award in 1982.

On August 5, 2002, Porter left home, saying he was going to buy a newspaper and go to the park. He was found dead in Sugar Creek, Missouri, outside his vehicle that evening. An autopsy said he had died of "toxic effects of cocaine"; the level of cocaine in his system, consistent with recreational use, induced a condition called excited delirium that caused his heart to stop. He was 50.
Eddie Rabbit died at age 53Eddie Rabbitt (born November 27, 1941 - May 7, 1998) was a country music singer. He enjoyed much pop success in his career, helping develop the crossover-influenced sound in country music during the 1970s and 80s. During his career, he scored 26 number-ones on Billboard's country chart.

His biggest hits were "I Love a Rainy Night" (Pop #1), "Drivin' My Life Away" (Pop #5), and "Step By Step" (Pop #5), which were hits for him in 1981. In 1981, he also won an American Music Award for Best Pop Male Vocalist.

On May 7, 1998, Rabbitt died of lung cancer at the age of 56, and is interred in the Calvary Cemetery in Nashville, Tennessee. Although during his career he was widely believed to have been born in 1944, at the time of his death, it was revealed that he was in fact 56 years old, putting his year of birth in 1941.

Johnny Ramone (October 8, 1948 – September 15, 2004), born John William Cummings, was the guitarist for the seminal punk rock group The Ramones. Along with vocalist Jeffrey Hyman, aka Joey Ramone, he remained a member of the band throughout their career. In 2003, Cummings was named the sixteenth greatest guitarist of all time by Rolling Stone.

On September 15, 2004, Cummings died in his Los Angeles home after a five year battle with prostate cancer; Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam) and Rob Zombie were at his side when he died.
Christopher Reeve died at age 52Christopher Reeve (September 25, 1952 — October 10, 2004) was an American actor, director, producer, and writer. He established himself early as a Juilliard-trained stage actor before portraying Superman(Clark Kent) in four films, from 1978 to 1987.

On May 27 1995, Christopher Reeve was paralyzed in an accident during the cross country portion of an Eventing competition. He was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

In early October 2004, he was being treated for a pressure wound that was causing a systemic infection called sepsis, a complication that he had experienced many times before. On October 9, Reeve felt well and attended his son Will's hockey game. That night, he went into cardiac arrest after receiving an antibiotic for the infection. He fell into a coma and was taken to North Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, New York. Eighteen hours later, on October 10, 2004, Reeve died of heart failure at the age of 52. His doctor, John McDonald, believed that it was an adverse reaction to the antibiotic that caused his death.
John Ritter (September 17, 1948 – September 11, 2003) was an Emmy- and Golden Globe award-winning American actor and comedian perhaps best known for his role of Jack Tripper in the sitcom Three's Company.

On September 11, 2003, Ritter fell ill while rehearsing scenes for an episode of 8 Simple Rules. He was taken across the street to Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center, where he died less than an hour later, at the age of 54, in the same hospital in which he was born. The cause of death was an aortic dissection caused by a previously undiagnosed congenital heart defect.
Charles Rocket died at age 56
Charles Rocket (August 24, 1949 – October 7, 2005) was an American film and television actor, notable for his tenure as a cast member on Saturday Night Live as well as for his appearances as the villain Nicholas Andre in the film Dumb & Dumber and Adam, the Angel of Death, in the series Touched by an Angel.

Rocket was found dead in a field near his Connecticut home on October 7, 2005; his throat had been cut. He was 56 years old. The state medical examiner later ruled the death a suicide.

Gene Siskel (January 26, 1946 – February 20, 1999) was one of the world's most famous film critics. Along with on-screen partner Roger Ebert, they pioneered the popular weekly movie review TV show Siskel & Ebert until Siskel's death at age 53.

In 1998, Siskel underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor. He died from complications of the surgery.
Carrie SnodgressCarrie Snodgress (October 27, 1946 - April 1, 2004) was a Golden Globe Award-winning, Academy Award-nominated American actress. Her best known role was in Diary of a Mad Housewife (1970), which earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress and two Golden Globes. Other films include Murphy's Law, White Man's Burden, Pale Rider, and Blue Sky.

She left acting for several years in order to live with rock musician Neil Young and care for their son Zeke, who was born with cerebral palsy, but returned in 1978 in The Fury. She and Neil Young split up about 1975. Sylvester Stallone said she was the first choice for Adrian in the movie Rocky, but she passed on the role.

She was hospitalized awaiting a liver transplant when she died suddenly at age 57 of heart and liver failure in Los Angeles, California.
John Spencer (December 20, 1946 – December 16, 2005) was an Emmy- and Screen Actors Guild Award-winning American television actor best known for his role as Leo McGarry, the White House Chief of Staff on the NBC political drama The West Wing.

He died following a heart attack in a Los Angeles hospital on December 16, 2005, four days before his 59th birthday. West Wing cast mate Stockard Channing was visiting him at the time of his death.
Darryl Stingley (September 18, 1951 - April 5, 2007) was an American professional football wide receiver whose career was cut short by a spinal cord injury. He had a five-year career from 1973 to 1977. He played his entire career with the New England Patriots of the National Football League.

On April 5, 2007, Stingley died at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago after being discovered unresponsive in his home. His death was attributed to heart disease and pneumonia complicated by quadriplegia. The Cook County Medical Examiner listed Stingley's cause of death as an accident.
Conway Twitty died at age 59
Conway Twitty (September 1, 1933 – June 5, 1993), born Harold Lloyd Jenkins, was one of the United States' most successful country music artists of the 20th century.

He had the most singles (55) reach Number 1 on various national music charts. Up until George Strait broke the record for most number 1s on the Billboard country chart with 43, Twitty had 42 (counting his pop number 1 with "It's Only Make Believe", and a B-sided country single). Most commonly thought of as a country music singer, he also enjoyed success in early Rock and Roll, R&B, and Pop music (among others).

Conway Twitty became ill while performing in Branson, Missouri, and was in pain while he was on the tour bus. He died June 5, 1993 in Springfield Missouri at Cox South Hospital from an abdominal aortic aneurysm. He was 59.

Robert Urich (December 19, 1946 – April 16, 2002) was an actor, best known for playing private investigators on the television series Spenser: For Hire (1985–1988) and Vega$ (1978–1981). He also starred in numerous other television series over the years including: S.W.A.T. (1975), Soap (1977) and The Lazarus Man (1996).

In 1996, Urich announced that he had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, synovial cell sarcoma, that attacks joints. Urich ultimately died from this disease, although he continued to appear in film and TV during treatment. His final TV series role was in the sitcom Emeril in 2001.
Luther Vandross (April 20, 1951 – July 1, 2005) was an American R&B and soul singer-songwriter, and record producer. During his career, Vandross sold over twenty-five million albums and won eight Grammy Awards including Best Male R&B Vocal Performance four times. He won four Grammy Awards in 2004 including the Grammy Award for Song of the Year for the track "Dance With My Father", co-written with Richard Marx.

Vandross had diabetes, a disease that ran in his family, as well as hypertension. On April 16, 2003, just four days before his 52nd birthday, Vandross suffered a stroke in his home in Manhattan. Vandross died on July 1, 2005 at John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Edison, New Jersey at the age of 54. The cause of his death was never publicly released.
Jim Varney died at age 50
Jim Varney (June 15, 1949 – February 10, 2000) was an American actor. He was best known for his character Ernest P. Worrell, originally created by Nashville advertising agency Carden and Cherry in the 1980s. The character was used in numerous television commercial campaigns and movies in the following years, giving him fame worldwide. He is best known for his slapstick style and his portrayal of "redneck" stereotypes in a friendly, approachable way.

Varney died peacefully in his sleep of lung cancer on February 10, 2000 at 4:45 a.m. in his White House, Tennessee home as his movie Ernest the Pirate neared completion. He was 50.

Barry White (born Barrence Eugene Carter, September 12, 1944 – July 4, 2003) was an American record producer, songwriter and singer.

A multiple Grammy Award-winner known for his deep bass voice and romantic image, White's greatest success came in the 1970s with the Love Unlimited Orchestra, crafting many enduring hit soul and disco songs. Worldwide, White had many gold and platinum albums and singles, with combined sales of over 100 million.

Chart hits by White include "Never, Never Gonna Give You Up" (1973), "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe" (1974), and "You're the First, the Last, My Everything" (1974).

White had been ill with chronically high blood pressure for some time, which resulted in kidney failure in the autumn of 2002. He suffered a stroke in May 2003, after which he was forced to retire from public life. On July 4, 2003, he died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles from renal failure. He was 58.
Tammy Wynette died at age 55
Tammy Wynette (May 5, 1942 - April 6, 1998) was an American country music singer-songwriter and one of country music's best-known artists and biggest-selling female vocalists. She was known as the "First Lady of Country Music" and one of her best-known songs, "Stand by Your Man," was one of the biggest selling hit singles by a woman in the history of the country music genre.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, she dominated the country charts, scoring 17 number one hits. Along with Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and Barbara Mandrell she defined the role of female country vocalists in the 1970s. Her 1969 marriage to legendary country singer, George Jones (which would end in divorce in 1975) created the first country music couple.

After years of medical problems, numerous hospitalizations, approximately twenty-six major surgeries and an addiction to large doses of pain medication, Tammy Wynette died, in her sleep, on April 6, 1998 of a pulmonary blood clot. She was 55.

Frank Zappa (December 21, 1940 – December 4, 1993) was an American composer, musician, and film director. In a career spanning more than 30 years, Zappa established himself as a prolific and highly distinctive composer, electric guitar player and band leader. He worked in various different musical genres and wrote music for rock bands, jazz ensembles, synthesizers and symphony orchestra, as well as musique concrète works constructed from pre-recorded, synthesized or sampled sources.

In 1991, Zappa was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer. After his diagnosis, he devoted most of his energy to modern orchestral and synclavier works. Frank Zappa died on December 4, 1993, age 52, from prostate cancer.
Warren Zevon died at age 56Warren Zevon (January 24, 1947 – September 7, 2003) was a Grammy Award-winning American rock singer-songwriter and musician. He was noted for his offbeat, sardonic view of life which was reflected in his dark, sometimes humorous songs, which often incorporated political or historical themes.

In interviews, Zevon described a lifelong phobia of doctors and said he seldom received medical assessment. In 2002, after a long period of untreated illness and pain, Zevon was encouraged by his dentist to see a physician; when he did so he was diagnosed with inoperable mesothelioma (a form of cancer associated with exposure to asbestos, and also the same cancer that killed Steve McQueen).

Warren Zevon died on September 7, 2003, aged 56, at his home in Los Angeles, California.
Biographical info mostly came from Wikipedia.
updated -- others celebrities for the list:

Victor French (December 4, 1934 - June 15, 1989) was an actor and director. He is most widely known for costarring with Michael Landon on two television series: Little House on the Prairie and Highway to Heaven. A life-long heavy smoker, he died of lung cancer. He was 54.

Marvin Gaye (April 2, 1939 – April 1, 1984) was singer-songwriter, composer, musician, and record producer. Gaye was shot dead by his father on April 1, 1984. He was 54.

Bart Giamatti (April 4, 1938 – September 1, 1989) was the President of Yale University, and later, the seventh Commissioner of Major League Baseball. Died suddenly of a massive heart attack just eight days after banishing Rose and 154 days into his tenure as commissioner. He was 51.

John Hughes, Jr. (February 18, 1950 – August 6, 2009) was an American film director, producer and writer. Hughes died suddenly of a heart attack while walking in Manhattan, where he was visiting his family. He was 59.

Michael Jackson (August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009) was an American recording artist, entertainer and businessman. He collapsed and died due to a cardiac arrest while at his rented home in Los Angeles, CA. He was 50. 

Yolanda King (November 17, 1955 – May 15, 2007) was the first-born child of Coretta Scott King and civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Born in Montgomery, Alabama to Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King. Yolanda King was a human rights activist and actress.

On May 15, 2007, King died at age 51 in Santa Monica, California. Her family has speculated that her death was caused by a heart attack.
Michael Landon (October 31, 1936 – July 1, 1991) was an American actor, writer, director, and producer, who starred in three popular NBC TV series that spanned three decades. He died of pancreatic cancer. He was 54.

Billy Mays (July 20, 1958 – June 28, 2009) was an American television pitchman. A heart attack, while he was at home in bed, was the primary cause of his death. And cocaine was listed as a "contributory cause of death." He was 50.

Doug McLure (May 11, 1935 – February 5, 1995) was an American actor. Best know for his role as Trampas in the NBC western series The Virginian. He died from lung cancer. He was 59.

Lee Remick (December 14, 1935 – July 2, 1991) was an American film and television actress. Remick died at her home in Los Angeles of kidney and liver cancer. She was 55.

Babe Ruth (February 6, 1895 – August 16, 1948) was an American Major League baseball player from 1914–1935. He died from pneumonia due to Naso-pharyngeal cancer. He was 53.

Dwight White (July 30, 1949 – June 6, 2008) was an American defensive end in the National Football League (NFL) who played with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1971 to 1980 and was a member of the famed Steel Curtain defense. Dwight White died of complications that arose from an earlier surgery. A blood clot in his lung, the complication from back surgery, is the suspected cause of death. He was 58.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Housing/Subprime/Credit Roundup — June 27, 2008

Items of Interest:

George Mitchell and his daughter Chandra Chavis in front of his home in Atlanta's Westwood neighborhoodKai Wright / The Nation:
The Subprime Swindle -- Nearly 18,000 homes faced foreclosure in the Atlanta area during the first quarter of 2008, an almost 40 percent jump from the first quarter of 2007. In Fulton County, which encompasses most of the city's core and is heavily African-American, one in 122 homes was in foreclosure in the first week of April. A digest of Atlanta's March 2008 "foreclosure starts" was as thick as the phone book...

But the disaster is depressingly man-made. And this neighborhood reveals a deeply troubling dimension of it, one that will echo long past the recovery everyone hopes will soon come: for black America, the "mortgage meltdown" looks less like a market hiccup than a massive strip mining of hard-won wealth, a devastating loss that will betray the promise of class mobility for tens of thousands of black families...

Wall Street Journal:
Renovators in Limbo -- Banks Freeze Homeowners' Credit Lines; Fancy Finishes Are Out, Cheaper Appliances In

Lenders are cutting off more home-equity lines of credit, crimping homeowners' plans for honed-stone tiles, copper roofs and other costly improvements.

Borrowing against home equity has been a major source of funds fueling the renovation boom of recent years. But big lenders, including Bank of America, Citibank, Countrywide Financial, Washington Mutual Bank and USAA, collectively have told hundreds of thousands of customers this year that their home-equity lines have been frozen. Lenders typically include language in their agreements that allows them to cap or cut off a credit line if home values decline, or if a borrower fails to make payments on time...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Housing/Subprime/Credit Roundup — June 26, 2008

Items of Interest:

Home Resales in U.S. Rose to 4.99 Million Rate in May -- Sales of previously owned homes in the U.S. rose in May from a record low, signaling depressed prices lured some buyers into the market.

Resales increased 2 percent to a 4.99 million annual rate, higher than forecast, from a 4.89 million pace in April, the National Association of Realtors said today in Washington. The median price dropped 6.3 percent from May last year.

A drop in property values may have spurred demand in some of the most distressed areas, such as California and the Midwest. Even so, rising mortgage rates, a glut of unsold homes, and stricter borrowing rules indicate the real estate recession will persist for most of the year.

``Although it looks like it's improving, the housing market still has a long period of adjustment,'' said Zach Pandl, an economist at Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in New York, who forecast sales would rise to a 5 million pace. ``There is still a huge imbalance'' between sales and inventories.

Economists forecast home resales would rise to a 4.95 million pace, according to the median of 72 projections in a Bloomberg News survey. Estimates ranged from 4.75 million to 5.15 million...

Blown Mortgage:
Past the Spin: Existing home sales down 15.9% from last year -- Ignore the spin folks. Existing home sales are down 31% from their peak in 2005 and nearly 16% from last year. The 2% increase in May doesn’t really tell you much, except for the fact that maybe foreclosure sales are becoming more appealing to folks...

CNN Money:
Existing home sales rise on price drop -- Sales of existing homes rose slightly more than expected in May as home buyers responded to plummeting home prices, according to an industry trade group.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) said Thursday that the number of existing homes sold during May rose 2% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.99 million units in May from a level of 4.89 million in April.

But sales remain 16% below the 5.93 million-unit pace in May 2007, the report showed. And Thursday's report marks only the second time in 10 months that sales have increased...

The Big Picture:
Exisiting Home Sales Fall 15.9%

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Housing/Subprime/Credit Roundup — June 25, 2008

Items of Interest:

New-Home Sales in the U.S. Fell 2.5 Percent in May -- Sales of new U.S. houses fell 2.5 percent in May, signaling the real estate slump will keep weighing on the economy.

Purchases dropped to a 512,000 annual pace, as forecast and the second-fewest in almost 17 years, from a revised 525,000 rate in April, the Commerce Department said today in Washington. A separate report showed demand for long-lasting goods stalled last month...

``You are seeing sales now stable at a roughly low level,'' said Michael Feroli, an economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in New York, who forecast sales would drop to a 510,000 pace. ``There is very slow progress on inventories.'' ...

U.S. MBA's Mortgage Applications Index Fell 9.3% Last Week -- Mortgage applications in the U.S. last week declined to the lowest level in more than six years as recent increases in mortgage rates caused Americans to shy away from refinancing loans.

The Mortgage Bankers Association's index of applications to purchase a home or refinance a loan fell 9.3 percent to 461.3, the lowest level since December 2001, from 508.4 the prior week. The group's purchase index decreased 7.4 percent and its refinancing gauge lost 12.1 percent.

Prospective buyers are hesitant to purchase homes as rising foreclosures add to the glut of properties on the market and push down home values further. Sales may keep dropping as lenders restrict credit, and concern over inflation boosts mortgage rates.

``Until housing deflation ebbs, the risk of more foreclosures and renewed financial instability will remain high,'' Sal Guatieri, a senior economist at BMO Capital Markets in Toronto, said before the report. ``Falling prices are sinking household confidence.'' ...
Housing Wire:
Falling Mortgage Rates Fail to Spur Borrower Interest; Applications Lowest Since End of 2001 -- Despite mortgage rates that it said fell nearly 20 basis points last week, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Wednesday morning that the number of borrowers applying for a new or refinanced mortgage last week fell to levels not seen since the end of 2001...
Texas Real Estate Slump Gives Mexicans a Chance to Take It Back -- More than a century and a half after Mexico lost Texas to the U.S., Virgilio Garza wants a piece of it back.

A ``Texas for Sale'' sign and cowgirls in boots and white hats greeted Garza at the Convex center in Monterrey, Mexico, earlier this month. A Monterrey developer and investor, Garza was in search of foreclosed U.S. property to buy.

``Texas is like our home,'' said Garza, 45, who joined hundreds of Mexicans poring over lists of Texas properties at the four-day event. Garza, who owns manufacturing sites and other land in Mexico, said he and five partners may invest as much as $8 million in Texas. ``We believe there can be some opportunities,'' he said.

A rising peso and an economy growing faster than the U.S. have given some Mexicans the buying power to take advantage of the housing slump in Texas, which became part of the U.S. under an 1848 treaty that ended a three-year war between the two countries...
S&P/Case_Shiller April home pricesBeSpoke:
Plotting the April Case/Shiller Housing Numbers -- Chalk it up to seasonal factors, but it's good to see some green in the month over month readings of the S&P/Case-Shiller Housing indices. As shown at right, 8 of the 20 cities that Case-Shiller track showed increases in home prices from March to April. Cleveland saw the biggest month over month increase at 2.94%, followed by Dallas (1.12%), Denver (0.83%), and Seattle (0.72%).

There were plenty of declines in April as well, however. Miami fell another 4% in just one month, while Las Vegas, Tampa, Minneapolis, LA, San Fran, San Diego and Phoenix all fell by more than 2%.

And the year over year numbers are still quite depressing. The Composite 10-City index was down 16.3% from April 2007 to April 2008. And Charlotte, which was the last city to hang onto year over year price gains, finally turned negative versus a year ago....
Andrew Ross Sorkin / NY Times Dealbook:
A ‘Bonfire’ Returns as Heartburn -- Almost exactly a year ago, Tom Wolfe, the author of “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” was wandering the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Dressed in his trademark white suit, he darted around traders and whisked past trading booths, shaking hands and waving, just before the market was about to open...

CNBC reporter pulled Mr. Wolfe aside to ask him what he made of all the hubbub. Mr. Wolfe paused for a moment to contemplate his answer.

And then, with a wry smile, he delivered a prophetic declaration: “We may be witnessing the end of capitalism as we know it.” ...

“It has always interested me that the word ‘credit’ comes from the word ‘credere,’ which means ‘to believe,’ ” Mr. Wolfe said. “It only works if people believe in it.” He’s right, of course: one reason the credit markets have tanked is that people don’t believe anymore...


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Housing/Subprime/Credit Roundup — June 24, 2008

Items of Interest:

S&P/Case-Shiller Home Prices Fell 15.3% in April -- Home prices in 20 U.S. metropolitan areas fell in April by the most on record, signaling the housing recession is far from over, a private survey showed today.

The S&P/Case-Shiller home-price index dropped 15.3 percent from a year earlier, less than forecast, after a 14.3 percent decline in March. The gauge has fallen every month since January 2007. The group began keeping year-over-year records in 2001.

Mortgage defaults and foreclosures are adding to the glut of properties on the market, while stricter loan rules are making it more difficult for prospective buyers to get financing. The prolonged real-estate slump, along with higher fuel prices and a shrinking job market, is taking a toll on consumers and the economy.

``There's such an excess of inventories that we certainly expect to see more price declines,'' said James O'Sullivan, a senior economist at UBS Securities LLC in Stamford, Connecticut. ``The economy is still weakening and housing still looks pretty weak.'' ...

Four years of gains in home prices wiped out -- Home prices across 20 major U.S. cities have dropped a record 15.3% in the past year and are now back to where they were in the summer of 2004, according to the Case-Shiller home price index...
Housing Outlook Grim, As Downturn Called “Worst in a Generation” -- The nation is in the throes of a housing downturn that researchers at Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies said Monday morning was “shaping up to be the worst in a generation.” While the falloff in housing starts, new home sales, and existing home sales already rivals the worst downturns in the post World War II era, the study found that home price declines and mortgage defaults are the worst on records that date back to the 1960s and 1970s.

“The slump in housing markets has not yet run its full course,” said Nicolas Retsinas, the director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies, echoing what has alreadly become prevailing sentiment among most economists. ...
Shaky job market threatens housing recovery -- Housing slump rivals deepest slowdowns in 60-plus years: Report ...
Michigan: Epicenter of Unemployment -- Michigan, once the center of America's industrial heartland, now holds a more dubious distinction: It leads the U.S. in joblessness. The state's unemployment rate hit 8.5% in May. That's up 2 percentage points from April, and compares with a figure of 5.5% for the whole U.S. in May....

Monday, June 23, 2008

Housing/Subprime/Credit Roundup — June 23, 2008

Items of Interest:

Financial Tsunami Ahead -- I have often, in private, compared the financial mess hitting the U.S. to a rare tsunami hitting a lonely shore where someone is standing, armed only with a small bucket to try to stop it.

In the case of financials, the initial problem or underwater earthquake could be the undermining of a multi-decade credit build-up across most of the U.S. economy and the esoteric instruments that go along with the debt....

The Interest Rate Problem...

The real issue is that foreign investors own the U.S. Period. They now own 56% of all of the U.S.' marketable Treasuries. What if they decided to say, "Sell, Mortimer, sell"? ...

Foreign owners of US Treasuries----
Charles Steele / Washington Post:
The Color Of Credit -- The subprime mortgage fiasco is sending tremors through Wall Street and has brought the U.S. economy near (if not into) recession. For African Americans and Latinos -- the primary victims of the debacle -- the mortgage meltdown may widen the considerable gap in wealth that already exists between whites and people of color. Even worse, some proposals to fix the problem of limited access to credit may end up doing more harm than good.

"We estimate the total loss of wealth for people of color to be between $164 billion and $213 billion for subprime loans taken during the past eight years. We believe this represents the greatest loss of wealth for people of color in modern U.S. history," the Boston-based organization United for a Fair Economy noted in its report "Foreclosed: State of the Dream 2008." ...
Shaq O'Neal wants to help homeowners facing foreclosureOrlando Sentinel:
Shaq: I can help homeowners fight off foreclosure -- Shaquille O'Neal says he wants to build a legacy -- literally -- in Orlando.

The NBA star said he is working on plans for real-estate-development projects in Orlando, with an eye toward helping those who are facing foreclosure on their homes.

"I want to come in not to kick them out, but to work with them and save them so they can stay in their homes," O'Neal told the Orlando Sentinel during an impromptu stop Tuesday at Orlando City Hall.

Attorney Mark NeJame, who arranged the visit along with longtime friend and Realtor Curtis Cooper, said the star center wants to buy the mortgages of homeowners who have slipped into foreclosure because of high interest rates. He would sell the homes back to those troubled buyers with more affordable terms, hoping to make a small profit.

"He's become a businessman with a conscience," NeJame said, adding that Shaq might also develop an affordable-housing project...

Orlando Sentinel:
Kazaam! Can Shaq tame mortgage genie?

Wall Street Journal Blogs:
Shaquille O’Neal: Wants to Save Delinquent Homeowners
Shaq where you at?
Seeking Alpha:
Homebuilder Forecasts and Expectations -- Quote of the Day
"At the current stock price of $1.69, he has a bit of a loss, but at least he could have control over the assets until some value could be recovered down the road when the Florida real estate market begins to improve." - Gimme Credit analyst Vicki Bryan on the news that major shareholder Carl Icahn is in talks with homebuilder WCI Communities for some sort of transaction. Bryan estimates that Icahn built his equity stake in WCI at approximately $18-$20/share. (Forbes, June 20th)...
NY Times:
Banks Trimming Limits for Many on Credit Cards -- The easy money that led Americans to depend on credit cards to pay their bills is starting to dry up.

After fostering the explosive growth of consumer debt in recent years, financial companies are reducing the credit limits on cards held by millions of Americans, often without warning.

Banks that issue cards like Visa and MasterCard, as well as the American Express Company, are cutting the limits for customers who have run up big debts, live in areas that have been hit hard by the housing crisis or work for themselves in troubled industries...

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