Tag Archives: six years

Glenn Beck at NRA convention

Glenn Beck

It’s been years since I’ve mentioned Glenn Beck on this blog. There is generally no reason to bring him up. In my mind, you shouldn’t mention him in polite company. Although there are some Americans who believe that Glenn Beck is a “real American,” I think the data would show us otherwise. He is nothing more than an opportunist. He pedals conspiracy theories and plays to the fears of vulnerable Americans.

Glenn Beck was true to form when he delivered a speech that was over two hours long in Houston at the NRA. First of all, I cannot imagine anybody sitting still and listen to Glenn Beck for over two hours. Secondly, he went back into his old bag of tricks and pulled out the conspiracy declaring that “they want to fundamentally transform our country and they’re just about finished with the project.” Who are they? Glenn Beck never says. It is somewhat implied that it is liberals. He then launched into some misguided attempt at defining the Second Amendment as protecting our “natural rights” and throwing off the chains of tyranny. Have you heard this before? You should have. Glenn Beck says this type of stuff all the time.

I just don’t understand how the chains of tyranny can be defined as a background check before you purchase a gun. I simply don’t understand how not allowing Americans to purchase assault weapons equals tyranny. In order to sit still and listen to Glenn Beck drone on for over two hours, you have to believe that everybody is lying to you. This fight over gun control is not about limiting guns (and removing them from folks who have proved that they shouldn’t have weapons), but instead it is about actually taking guns away from law-abiding Americans. No one has seriously suggested this. No one. Yet, Mr. I Petal Paranoia is trying to stoke the fears of law-abiding Americans. Then again, the far right has been pushing this mantra for more than six years.

Role of investors in housing bubble

My good friend, Theron, pointed this out some time ago. I don’t recall what data he was citing, but it appears to have been 100% correct. I have only recently begun to understand that every day Americans who thought that they were one house flip away from riches were a big factor in the bubble.

From CalculatedRisk Blog:

Several readers have asked me to comment on this new paper from Fed economists Haughwout, Lee, Tracy, and van der Klaauw: “Flip This House”: Investor Speculation and the Housing Bubble (ht Josh)

[W]e present new findings from our recent New York Fed study that uses unique data to suggest that real estate “investors”—borrowers who use financial leverage in the form of mortgage credit to purchase multiple residential properties—played a previously unrecognized, but very important, role. These investors likely helped push prices up during 2004-06; but when prices turned down in early 2006, they defaulted in large numbers and thereby contributed importantly to the intensity of the housing cycle’s downward leg.

It was pretty obvious that investor buying was pushing up prices in 2004 and 2005. I wrote a post in April 2005 (over six years ago!) on that subject: Housing: Speculation is the Key (Note: in that 2005 post I treated speculation as storage and showed how speculation pushes up prices during the bubble – and pushes down prices after the bubble bursts).

Hurricane Katrina – six years later

It was six years ago today that Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Louisiana/Mississippi Gulf Coast. I remember the dire warnings prior to Katrina. I remember the initial news reports suggesting the damage wasn’t as bad as we expected. Six years ago, I had just moved to Asheville, North Carolina. I was sitting in a rental house exchanging e-mails with some friends in a discussion group. This was a medical discussion group which was made up of people throughout the world. There are approximately 1000 people who participate in this discussion group. It was around midnight when someone suggested that the levees had broken. I looked everywhere. I looked at every single website that I could think of but couldn’t find any information about the levees. Even the New Orleans Times Picayune which, as I recall, had moved its headquarters from New Orleans and most of its staff writers were in Lafayette or Baton Rouge, had nothing about the levees breaking. I remember saying something like we need to stick to the facts and we shouldn’t speculate. The member of the discussion group was insistent that his information was correct. I remember having an extremely sick feeling in my stomach. Over the next several days, we saw a city, a region of the country, cry out for help. For five days there was no response.

Over the last six years I’ve written on Katrina many many times (herehere, here and here. This last one is an interview with James Perry who was running for mayor of New Orleans at the time.) I think there are a lot of lessons that can be learned from this disaster. I’ve been to New Orleans twice in the last six years. New Orleans is a city that I truly love. New Orleans is a city that is completely different than any other city in the South. It’s not like Atlanta or Miami or even nearby Houston. The only city in the United States, in my opinion, that comes close to the feeling of pre-Katrina New Orleans would be San Francisco. There was something wonderful about New Orleans. It wasn’t simply a great mecca for music. It wasn’t simply one of the best places in the United States to eat. It wasn’t the unique architecture of the French quarter or even the garden district. It wasn’t brunch at Commander’s Palace or the fabulous art shops where we can buy original paintings from national and internationally known artists at prices the 10th of which you’d find in New York or Chicago. It wasn’t the abject poverty or the wealth of the financial district. It was all of this and more which made New Orleans a great city.

The tragedy of Katrina is that it exposed a dysfunctional political system. New Orleans politics has been famously dysfunctional for decades. Louisiana politics is almost laughable. It was nearly impossible to get anything done in Louisiana unless you “knew somebody.” Then, on top of this dysfunctional system you had the Bush administration. You had an administration that actually hated government. You add all of this together and tens of thousands of people suffered needlessly. My conclusion after reading tons of information on Hurricane Katrina is simply that we need to treat each other better.

I found this article in the New Orleans Times Picayune:

In April 2010, four and a half years into recovery, the Census Bureau found that Katrina cost New Orleans 29 percent of its population; Jefferson, 5 percent; St. Bernard, 47 percent; Plaquemines, 14 percent.

Some of those people settled nearby. St. Tammany’s population grew 22 percent; St. Charles Parish grew 10 percent; St. John the Baptist grew 7 percent.

But census takers counted a net loss of nearly 150,000 people who were driven out of a metropolitan area of what was once 1.3 million.

Allison Plyer of the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, a co-author with Elaine Ortiz of “The New Orleans Index at Six,” an annual recovery analysis, said the region has showed unusual resilience in facing not only Katrina, but the 2008 recession and last year’s BP oil spill. (more…)

Update: Melissa Harris-Perry does a great job at summing up the lessons of Katrina.

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