Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Florida Real Estate Froth

(empty, i.e. "new", condos near Marco Island)

After returning from Naples, Florida this weekend I am convinced more than ever that there will be a painful real estate collapse.

First of all, they are building everywhere: new developments, additions to old developments, strip malls, etc. These new buildings spring up in no time flat and they won’t stop even when prices abate.

I met a guy who has made a few million bucks flipping homes, condos, and lots down there all in the last 5 years or so. One lot he bought for 200k and is now selling for almost $2 million only 4 years later. He told me that everyone down in Naples was “in real estate”. I asked if that meant they had made a few bucks speculating or were really in the real estate business. “Speculating” he answered with a wry smile.

Sorry, I just had a flashback of my buddy that quit his investment banking career to "daytrade" in the last bubble.

It will be interesting to see how this real estate market plays out. When prices soften, what will people do? Will they opt to sell their homes in the north or their condos in Florida? I have got to think that this winter’s impending energy cost spike will convince some fence straddlers to permanently move to the south.

(For those unaware, natural gas and heating oil could be double last year’s prices. Also electricity is looking up 27% from last year as well because it is generated by natural gas.)

I think everyone knows somebody who bought a condo in Florida a few years ago for 200k and now it is “worth” 500k. But here is something to remember. That condo may have only cost 160k to build. Five years later, the construction cost of a similar condo is still no more than 200k. Those builders built the original condo for a mere 40k profit and will continue building more until those prices get all the way back to 240k. In the northeast there is very little new construction – in fact my house that was built in 1970 is considered “new”. But when I was house shopping in Charlotte I noticed that homes only 5 years old traded at a significant discount (10%) to the brand new construction. Similarly, condos in Florida will always have to compete with new construction being built nearby.

One last point about Naples – Interstate-75, the main highway down there is a complete mess. I was told that during the “season” (i.e. October-April), that I-75 is a parking lot. In other words it moves at a snail’s pace. Given the traffic we dealt with in the “off-season”, it is pretty easy to see what they were talking about.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

CNBC's Economic Illiteracy

I am only 31 years old and admittedly have so much to learn. But all day I listen and watch CNBC reporters 10-20 years older utter such ignorant tripe that I have to constantly hit the mute button.

Just last week, anchor Ted David said,

" took thousands dying in New Orleans to..."

Hey Ted, the number is well under 1000, "thousands" would imply at least 2,000.

CNBC was promoting a segment later in the day,

"With the rising cost of healthcare, who should pay? The worker or the employer?"

One would think that CNBC, a putative business channel, would be able to see beyond trite socialist argumentation. Even if the employer paid it all, it would still be borne by the employee in terms of lower raises and fewer employees. It is a stupid question that I would expect more from econo-illiterates than CNBC.

The real question is how can we lower healthcare costs (for everyone)?

Yesterday, CNBC had a guy on who claimed there was no housing bubble because house prices are based on the affordability of monthly payments and not on sticker prices. You would think they might ask him about adjustable mortgages, interest-only loans, and over-leveraged borrowers but there was no such probing.

What about the cost of heat? Everyone in the northeast is aware that at today’s energy prices, it may cost twice as much to heat their homes this winter. My guess is that 2000 square feet cost about $4,000 a year to heat (I have to check this). Doesn’t this raise the monthly cost of home ownership?

These questions were only raised in my living room.

This same boob said that home prices in the cities (unlike the rest of the country), San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and Boston will not come down because there is no new supply in these cities. It is funny because many others have said the opposite – that home prices in the non-coastal regions are more stable because they are insulated from the urban home price bubble.

Everyone has a favorite self-serving canard that their home won’t decline in value.

Amidst the no-profit internet tech bubble, Coca-Cola hit $85 a share in 1998. I remember hearing how Coke was a real company, with real earnings unlike those bubbly tech names – no way it could go down. Here we are 7 years hence and Coke stock is still worth half of its 1998 value.

Likewise Home Depot is 45% off from its 1999 high. Not even this massive housing bubble could get Home Depot close to it former highs, no matter how “insulated” it was from the dot-com bubble.

Some dummy said to me the other day (he just bought a house here in Massachusetts) that home values are safe here because there are so many colleges and thus there will always be people that want to live here. Hey dummy, not if they leave because they can’t find work or can’t afford to live here. Also, there has always been many colleges here – so that is already been priced into the market. You didn’t unearth that fact.

Back to CNBC. Every time they interview an oil trader the first question they ask is always about OPEC. And every single time, the trader tells them that OPEC is irrelevant and that they pay no attention to what OPEC says. These traders think about, watch, and trade oil all day for years. Furthermore, most of them risk their own substantial money on their “opinions”. Yet almost daily, CNBC talks about OPEC - so much for CNBC being a learning organization. They would rather speak the lexicon of econo-illiterate “economists”, politicians, and sheepish fund managers.

CNBC will put any boob on TV if they meet their criteria. They have to have some high falutin credentials and or maybe the requisite smile and ability to utter cliched sound bites.

They used to interview some guy from Tahoe Trading, an options trading firm on the American Stock Exchange, to get his take on the day's market action. I knew a guy that worked with him and every time CNBC put the dolt on TV, I would get an instant message from his co-worker telling me how much money the guy was currently down. His trading deficit of around 300k didn't prevent CNBC from giving him international air time. At least he looked and sounded smart.

Another pet peeve of mine is the term “profit taking”.

Whenever a security or commodity falls in price the clueless news anchors attribute it to “profit taking”. But there is no such thing as “loss taking”. Presumably all people do is make “profits”. Did Enron really go to zero because of “profit taking”?

This comes from the media’s incessant desire to inform and explain. The problem is that most security price movements are beyond the ken of pundits. Trying to explain the unexplainable isn't just shoddy journalism, it is intellectual arrogance.

I don’t care if CNBC is owned by the great General Electric – the TV producers leave a lot to be desired.

Another thing about Katrina, I haven’t heard one person correct the spurious claim that Katrina will cost more than 9/11. What everyone is forgetting (or more likely ignoring) are the hundreds of billions (maybe a trillion) lost in the stock market after 9/11. Maybe it was just innocuous "profit taking"?

Katrina didn’t move the stock market one bit, nor should it have.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

What Social Security Crisis?

I have finally cancelled my anti-Businessweek subscription. There is no reason to further subsidize agitprop. I have fisked their articles in prior posts and basically am just fed up with how they bastardize economic and political dialogue.

A guy recently told me that,

” …Social Security is funded until 2041, according to the AARP…..So it doesn’t need to be reformed.”

Without informing him as to the complete lack of integrity, conflicts of interest, and political agenda of the AARP, I responded,

“…2041…. That is great. That is about the year I start collecting Social Security. Do you mean to tell me that you don’t give a sh*t if I, and everyone else my age and younger, pay 6.2% of our incomes to Social Security recipients for the next 35 years and may get nothing when we retire?”

(By the way, self-employed people like myself pay 12.4% of our incomes in Social Security taxes.)

There was no response but I doubt I changed his mind. The guy has no kids and he is probably comfortable as a selfish person.

But most people have children, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren. So logic would imply that they do care about the legacy they leave for young America.

I just reread my fisking of anti-Businessweek’s Social Security article and it made my skin boil yet again.

It’s not just Businessweek, it is the entire Mainstream Media. The Social Security issue may be the paragon of political bullsh*t. The problem is as crystal clear as the solution, yet the MSM has successfully muddled the public dialogue. Almost every article on the subject is false and deliberately misleading.

I just googled “social security poll bush” and got a news story today from a San Diego paper with this disgusting excerpt.

The administration's original blueprint would have involved steep reductions in planned future benefits for workers under age 55.

Those “steep reductions” are more than offset by the higher returns from a partial privatizion. There are no mentions of the other partial privatization benefits such as the protection of having a personal account or the ablility to keep/bequeath your benefits after you die. Furthermore, that excerpt is another example of the playbook media trick of FALSE COMPARISON. They want to compare what the under 55 demographic would receive with a number that is not relevant, be it today’s level of payouts or whatnot. Social Security will be bankrupt in 35 years, much of the under 55 demographic is on track to get nothing at all. This FALSE COMPARISON ignores that fact.

I can’t find it now, but I read a while back that polls which show support for partial privatization drop drastically when it is framed as “Bush’s plan”. I generally put no stock in polls because the results can vary greatly depending on the wording, preceding questions, and sample group. Nonetheless, this drop off in support for partial privatization shows that unfortunately partisanship is still trumping good ideas, not just from politicians, but from the public as well. (It is not like there are any other plans to reform Social Security, the reform opponents maintain there is no crisis.)

Click here to see a great example of PUSH POLLING and the Social Security issue.

You can call these Social Security reform opponents, partisan, socialist, moronic, or whatnot. But regardless of the label, make no mistake that anyone who is against reforming Social Security is giving young Americans a giant middle finger.

From President Clinton's 1998 State of the Union speech,

"I have a simple four-word answer: Save Social Security first."

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Boston Globe Condescension

Why do New Englanders read the Globe. Read below to see the elites at the Globe condescend on 60,000 Patriots fans after their opening night game against the Raiders.

And we got remotes of rapper Kanye West and pop rockers Maroon 5 from a generic-looking, red-white-and-blue stage in Los Angeles.

Maroon 5 came off vapidly (doing just one song, ''Harder to Breathe"), while West did one tune, ''Heard 'Em Say." Yet it was DISCONCERTING to hear his name booed loudly by Patriots fans who evidently didn't appreciate his nationally televised comment the other night on a Hurricane Katrina benefit that President Bush ''doesn't care about black people." The boos were thunderous and lasted for much of his number.

Why couldn’t the Globe just report what happened? Why did they have to editorialize the booing with “DISCONCERTING”?

The answer is because they just can’t help themselves. They are unabashed elitists.

And before anyone claims that that the “disconcerting” jibe was but the work of one journalist (Steve Morse), I want to remind them that this article passed the scrutiny of the editors. “Disconcerting” was a deliberate potshot at the fans, 65% of whom probably voted against President Bush (if they reflect the general population in Massachusetts).

Just imagine what the Globe thinks of the other 35%.

(Also, ABC didn't broadcast any of the booing - don't think that was accidental.)

(click to enlarge this funny looting warning.)

One quick note about Hurricane Katrina, "racism", and President Bush.

You hear this flawed reasoning all of the time, "many African-Americans are poor, so anything that hurts poor people is an act of racism...."

So it was no surprise that the televised images of Katrina in New Orleans brought out all of the race hustlers such as newbie Kanye West and his claim that "Bush doesn't care about black people."

Well Bill O'Reilly slammed that claim in his Talking Points Memo last night.

The issue was described this way by Newsweek reporter Evan Thomas, a liberal guy but not alone, who writes, "Liberals will say [the authorities] were indifferent to the plight of poor African-Americans. It is true that Katrina laid bare society's massive neglect of its least fortunate."

Massive neglect? Let's take a look at that bit of overstatement. Halfway through President Clinton's tenure in office in 1996, the poverty rate was 13.7 percent. Halfway through President Bush's tenure, the rate is 12.7 percent, a full point lower.

In 1996, the Clinton budget allotted $191 billion for poverty entitlements. That was 12.2 percent of the budget and a whopping amount of money. That's why Bill Clinton (search) was called the first black president by some.

However, the Bush 2006 budget allots a record shattering $368 billion for poverty entitlements, 14.6 percent of the entire budget, a huge increase over Clinton's spending on poverty entitlements.

What would rappers and guys like Evan Thomas say about President Bush if he had actually cut poverty entitlements?

So instead of a dialogue on the effectiveness of entitlement spending, the "alternative" media has to spend its energy debunking fallacious claims, another example of the Ills of a Media Duopoly.

It is also worth noting that the poverty rate is dropping, despite the constant raising of the bar by the poverty industry.

The chasm between reality and what Big Media reports is astounding.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Attention Morons, Gas IS NOT an Entitlement

Before I moved to Boston, my blog topics were usually inspired by what I read or heard from a media source, but here in Boston, all I have to do is talk to people.

If I were to invent the perfect scenario to highlight economic illiteracy I guess it would be the higher gasoline prices caused by Hurricane Katrina. Really, I don’t think anyone could concoct a better catalyst. Idiot after idiot, moron after moron, have all raised their voices to hypothesize, blame, and display their immense collective ignorance.

A guy just asked me, “So who is ripping us off??????”

Apparently, “cheap” gasoline became an entitlement. I must have missed that in the Boston Globe.

Furthermore, why does he assume that someone is ripping him off?

He assumes it because that is the foundation of the anti-business culture of Massachusetts. You will never find an article in the Boston Globe extolling anything about a business – in fact it is laced with the complete opposite. Corporations are “laying people off….”, “Bank of America is evil…”, “they are doing if for PROFITS…”, etc. And since the newspaper represents about 95% of New Englanders’ information base, you have a recipe for economic illiteracy.

Unfortunately, it is not as simple as “a socialist local media causes all of this anti-business sentiment”. New England is geriatric central – most of the people here are retired and/or on a ventilator. I am serious. When we were looking for a place to live up here, we walked by octogenarians in wheelchairs and with breathing tubes in the some of the building lobbies (in Brookline).

What do most old people do every day? Usually the same thing they did yesterday. It would be an understatement to call them creatures of habit. Their daily rituals border on the robotic. Breakfast at 4am, lunch at 10am, and dinner at 3pm. Daily lottery tickets, bingo, church on Sundays, maybe a weekly golf or bowling league,….

A huge part of this routine would no doubt involve the daily newspaper. For many people (mostly older), this is their major, if not only source of information. I hear too many people regurgitating the propaganda of their daily paper as if it were the unadulterated truth. Sure some people claim that they skip the editorials and think for themselves. The problem with that is that it does nothing to counter the journalistic sins of omission. There is and has been so much going on that simply does not get reported by the Mainstream Media. I don't care how many papers someone reads, or which ones for that matter - if they are not supplementing that info with alternative media (primarily on the internet), they will remain ignorant.

Sidebar: Why do the people that otherwise embrace alternative energy, alternative food (vegan, organic, microbrews, etc.), alternative music, and alternative lifestyles, do they consistently indict and shun alternative media?

Back to economic illiteracy. The economy of yesteryear, say 1930-1990, was a completely different animal than today's. Most older people had fewer than 3 jobs, if that, in their entire careers - with many having only had one job in their entire life. These jobs provided security until and after (defined benefit pensions) retirement. But today is much different. Industries come and go, jobs move and change, and marketable skill sets are constantly evolving. Young people today may have had 3-4 different jobs by age thirty. For the most part, young people today view a job as an opportunity to get rich whereas their parents viewed their jobs as stable entitlements. Older folk still bear the scars of the robber baron era and the labor/management wars of decades ago. My parents' generation would take their workplace complaints to their union rep or maybe just suck it up for years. Today, kids quit and find new jobs, go back to school, or maybe start their own business.

The older folk just don't understand economics - they think that "jobs" just appear out of thin air. Remember my prior post on how William Galvin was meddling in the Procter-Gamble/Gillette merger? Well the Gillette CEO is fed up and warned the Boston establishment to STFU. Notice the self-righteous newspaper headline,

Whiny Kilts puts Boston on notice: Gillette head slams Hub, warns critics.

"Procter & Gamble is looking at Massachusetts right now," he warned. "They're trying to decide if Massachusetts is a place where they want to expand and invest."

Kilts, who will become P&G vice chairman, added: "every day, we're making resource trade-offs: `Where are we going to invest?' "

He revealed that Chicago was actively seeking to grab Procter & Gamble investment from Boston.

Aside from the default sin of being a CEO, Kilts made the major Boston faux pas of criticizing the local media.

Back to my point that New Englanders don't understand economics. The complainers here just don't grasp the fact that a hostile business culture SCARES away many more jobs than it protects. When I was a teenager in 1992, I couldn't so much as get a job that paid more than minimum wage (at McDonald's or whatnot). But when I moved to Philadelphia, I immmediately got several jobs, all paying much above the minimum. In Jack Welch's first book, he declared that General Electric wouldn't expand business in Massachusetts because of the greedy self-righteous unions. I hope Gillette pulls all of their jobs out of Boston - they deserve it.

The problem is, say that Gillette followed through and phased out Massachusetts jobs, the media, politicians, and econo-illiterate populace would just claim, "see, we told you they were bad...", "they don't want to pay fair wages...", "lying unethical corporation....", etc.

The key thing to remember about Bostonians is that they can spin any situation so that the other guy is lying, irresponsible, unethical, and just bad. Bostonians are never at fault and they are certainly never wrong.

Boston sports reporters aren't vultures, they are "passionate".

The reason business costs in Boston are the highest in the nation is "because our highly skilled (i.e. "smarter") workers demand more pay than elsewhere".

How is that for arrogant spin?

So no matter what Gillete does, they will be the bad guy. This is why Bank of America should never have tried to placate the media/politicians up here (by moving brokerage operations from Manhattan and Charlotte).

Yet the old New Englanders continue to buy these business-bashing newspapers and vote for politicians that echo the same. Meanwhile, costs (both business and household) are pushed up, jobs become scarcer, and young people continue to flee the region.

Massachusetts was the only state in the nation to lose population last year. Between 2001 and 2003, the number of 20-24 year olds fell by 11.5 percent, compared to a national increase of 5.6 percent.

It astounds me that people in Boston, “the most educated city", don’t realize that Anti-Business really means Pro-Higher Consumer Prices and Pro-Less Jobs. The evidence is all around them, but Bostonians apparently think they are exempt from the laws of economics.

Yet ask the majority of Bostonians and they will tell you that Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, William Galvin, and their ilk all protect the "little guy". Even though this "little guy" canard flies in the face of the higher consumer prices and anti-growth policies that constitute their political records.

More on this alleged "little guy". I recently heard this canard promulgated by a doctor, and two other people that have vacation homes. In other words, they are not "little guys" themselves or at least are only in their own minds. In this vein, I think "little guy" could pass as a codeword for an econo-illiterate. The aforementioned people are "little" only in the sense that they don't understand the economy, prices, wages, and more generally what is going on. They think that high gas prices just descend on them from some bogeyman, be it OPEC, oil companies, global warming, other people's SUVs, or the Iraq War. I suggest they put down those newspapers and fire up their rusty brains. that will happen.

So with oil, who is ripping off the "little guy"?

(the real car of the "little guy")

In a word, the DEMOCRATS, the putative defender of little people. They are in bed with the evironmentalists who oppose any and every measure that would lower gas prices.

As expensive as oil is getting, there is no buffer for domestic gasoline supply. This is completely the result of environmental activism that opposes building gasoline refineries. I think the last domestic oil refinery was built over 25 years ago.

There is no way to have a growing economy if you don't have a growing energy supply. The DEMOCRATS have been voting against economic growth for decades, but you will never see such facts pointed out by the Mainstream Media.

Look at this from a recent (post-Katrina) editorial by the Boston Globe.

The challenge that defenders of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge have faced to protect it from oil drilling will likely become even more difficult when drilling advocates point to the damage the petroleum industry has suffered around New Orleans, pushing gasoline prices to $3 a gallon.

The refuge is a critical habitat for polar bears, caribou, snow geese, and wolves. The oil and natural gas industry want to interlace it with hundred of miles of roads and pipelines. The roads and air strips required by the industry would result in immense amounts of gravel being stripped from the refuge's streambeds. These are the migratory destination for millions of birds, many of them from as far as South America.

All of this degradation would be in the service of oil production that, at its peak, would never amount to more than 2 percent of US demand.

That editorial says it all. Even while drivers suffer from $3.50 a gallon gasoline, the elites at the Globe shameless reassert their opposition to drilling for more oil - to protect birds and caribou.

Only bottomless ignorance can explain why the "little guys" in Massachusetts continue to subsidize the Boston Globe.

They flat out tell everyone that birds are more important than people and speciously argue that Alaska would only reduce gas prices by 2%. The problem is, they are against drilling in Alaska, off the coasts of Florida and California. They are for strict environmental regulations on gas stations and refineries that have led to a dearth of refinery capacity and has closed over 30,000 "mom and pop" gas stations over the last decade or so. All of this adds up to much much more than the purported 2%.

They end the editorial with this whopper:

New England Republican conservationists such as Representatives Charles Bass and Jeb Bradley of New Hampshire, Nancy Johnson and Christopher Shays of Connecticut, and Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine should join with like-minded Democrats in rejecting this assault on a corner of America that should not have to suffer for what happened in the Gulf of Mexico.

So instead of calling out those ACTUALLY responsible for the higher gas prices, like I have done, they are singling out "Republican conservationists". And that last misplaced metaphor implies that the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico was caused in part by the oil industry's operations down there. Seriously, read it again. They are saying if we drill in Alaska, then we are fomenting a catastrophe there.

Look at all the caribou in this pic.

When the Alaskan pipe line was proposed years ago, the environmentalists claimed that it would wipe out the habitat of caribou. Well, it turns out the heat from the pipeline attracts caribou and shelters them - so much so that after the pipeline was built, they have been procreating like rabbits!!!

If you are a unionized truck driver spending twenty to thirty thousand dollars more on gas this year, do you really want your union dues thrown to politicians that will choose birds and caribou over cheaper gasoline?

Hey but instead of that little shot of self-examination, you can just blame oil companies - it will absolve you of blame. After all, there is no way that could you have been wrong about so much for so long.

So many Morons here in Boston, and so little time to Marginalize them.

Thursday, September 08, 2005


In a prior post, I made my bull argument for Google and now I would like to add to it.

I think that in August of 2010, shares of Google will be trading at $3,000 each. That is a ten fold increase from today’s price of just under $300.

Yes, that would make it almost the first trillion dollar company. (Microsoft is worth $285 billion. I believe Exxon-Mobile is the largest at $385 billion. Google is currently $83 billion – soon to be $87 billion after it completes a secondary offering.)

Everyone wants to find the next Microsoft or Dell, and let’s be honest, the next Microsoft will be many times bigger. This is just the way it has always worked.

My prior bull case is still valid and worth reviewing, but I want to elaborate some more on my argument.

A Google bear (i.e. disbeliever) said to me:

“I have never bought anything from a google ad or keyword search…….”

Fair enough, nor have I. But I also have never bought a car, beer, or mutual fund simply because I saw an advertisement on television either. At least with Google, companies can see the return on investment down to a penny.

For example, some guy pays Google $7 per click-through to have his company listed first in any search for “MOVERS NYC”. If he is shelling out money to Google and not getting any new business, he will simply stop. It is almost an ideal business for both Google and its customers.

I figure about one in twenty people I know googles regularly. The people that do google constitute a young and growing demographic, those that don’t are obviously the dying geriatric Luddites. In five years, I don’t think it is an outrageous prediction to think that three out of 20 people I know will be googling regularly. That conservative forecast would triple the number of googlers and I believe it would also increase the price-point of all keywords. Let me reiterate, three in twenty googling would be extremely conservative – almost to the point to certainty.

On an earnings per share basis, Google is cheaper than both Amazon and Ebay, AND it is growing much much faster. Its revenues were actually up 100% this year.

I predict it will be added to the S&P 500 index before January.

Google announced on August 18th that they would float 14 million more shares to the public. The stock immediately dumped, down to a low of 273.35 because of this massive dilution. Yet the demand for this offering has been overwhelming – it looks like it will place around $294 per share, much higher than the price at the time of the announcement. Today, still before the placement, it actually traded up to $299.28 obviously even higher than the rumored placement price. I can’t remember the last time a stock placed this much higher on a secondary. There is a latent, yet massive institutional demand for shares of Google.

I have only heard a couple of wildly bullish predictions for Google and this makes me more confident. Notably Cramer, he of the Mad Money fame, has been bullish for a while. (But he also said to sell around $250 when it first got there. That was 70 points too soon.) Cramer is still bullish, but calling for a $500 price target – way below mine.

The biggest risk is, not surprisingly, arrogance. I want Google to stay away from aquistions with the same dicipline that Michael Dell showed during the dot-com craze.

When I heard this morning that EBAY was buying SKYPE (an internet telephony company that Googled was rumored to be interested in), I was ecstatic. Had Google paid a few Billion for a barely profitable company I would have been mightily displeased.

These Wall Street analysts try to measure the size of the ad market that they think Google can tap. So they look at total TV ad dollars and also the billions spent on the Yellow Pages. They draw some straight lines and try to forecast the possibilities of Google's business, i.e. how much share they can grab from "old school" advertising. But I think they are all underestimating the dynamicism of Google. Kids are already using google to fact check their professors in class, fans use blackberries to check stats while at the games, and who needs GPS in a car when you have the more robust web surfing cell phone?

This is only the tip of the iceberg for Google.

UPDATE - See my follow-up post from April 18th, 2008.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

The Katrina Homerun

I can’t even watch the hurricane coverage on television. It couldn’t be more nauseating, with all of the spinning, politicizing, and blaming.

I find myself muting the news coverage because all I care about is the raw video footage.

Stupid issues like looting or finding, which inept government agency is “more at fault”, "will all of my favorite restaurants be gone" (from sports columnist Bob Ryan), gasoline “price gouging”, race baiting from rappers and the predictable Jesse Jackson/Louis Farrakhan types, and ridiculous comparisons to 9/11. I even just saw a post that criticized President Bush for not ordering the lowering of flags.

First of all, there is no comparison to 9/11. The WTC encompassed maybe 25 blocks total. There was no flood, loss of power or telecommunications. The geographical distances “refugees” had to travel were walk-able. Manhattan is surrounded by bridges, tunnels, and ports that facilitated assistance. Hospitals and resources abounded to help the injured and displaced. So when I hear idiots propound that,

"...if only we had the leadership of Rudy Guiliani……everything would have been fine.",

I want to pull my hair out.

The hurricane was a NATURAL DISASTER, not a Karl Rove plot or an act of racism. Furthermore, anyone who was surprised to see gross ineptitude in the government agencies is a complete moron themselves.

David Brooks in the New York Times suggests, predicts, and hopes that Katrina will enervate an incipient "progressive" movement. Here are some dreamy excerpts:

On Sept. 11, Rudy Giuliani took control. The government response was quick and decisive.

The rich and poor suffered alike.

It's already clear this will be known as the grueling decade, the Hobbesian decade.

Each institutional failure and sign of helplessness is another blow to national morale. The sour mood builds on itself, the outraged and defensive reaction to one event serving as the emotional groundwork for the next.

And the key fact to understanding why this is such a huge cultural moment is this: Last week's national humiliation comes at the end of a string of confidence-shaking institutional failures that have cumulatively changed the nation's psyche.

Americans in 2005 are not quite in that bad a shape, since the fundamental realities of everyday life are good. The economy and the moral culture are strong. But there is a loss of confidence in institutions. In case after case there has been a failure of administration, of sheer competence. Hence, polls show a widespread feeling the country is headed in the wrong direction.

Katrina means that the political culture, already sour and bloody-minded in many quarters, will shift.

Reaganite conservatism was the response to the pessimism and feebleness of the 1970's. Maybe this time there will be a progressive resurgence. Maybe we are entering an age of hardheaded law and order. (Rudy Giuliani, an unlikely G.O.P. nominee a few months ago, could now win in a walk.) Maybe there will be call for McCainist patriotism and nonpartisan independence. All we can be sure of is that the political culture is about to undergo some big change.

We're not really at a tipping point as much as a bursting point. People are mad as hell, unwilling to take it anymore.

In the spirit of my prior post, The Hillary Homerun, I will now refer to Brooks' thesis as The Katrina Homerun.

Brooks, and his ilk, sit around and dream of natural disasters, recessions, military failures, and terrorist attacks. He hopes that one cataclysmic event can convince all of the "idiots" that he has been right all along. I am not sure if this counts as a scarce example of optimism from the Mainstream Media.

But Brooks may be right in a broken clock sort of way.

Katrina may ignite public opinion, but it may push sentiment further in the direction it has been going - that would be, more intolerance for civic incompetence and more disdain for Big Media that shelters it.

Mr. Brooks, be careful what you wish for.

Although I disagree with this poster's suggestion for President Bush to engage his critics, this is a good synopsis of the MSM's coverage: A New Low For The MSM?