Grumpy Morning for The Big Picture

Whoever brewed Barry Ritholtz’s coffee this morning around 6:30 (ET) may want to check to see whether Jamaica Blue Mountain is all that’s going into that bean grinder.  Something else appears to have kicked in just before he posted his rant on former National Association of Realtors chief economist David Lereah this morning, titled “Former NAR Economist David Lereah is a Jackass.”

If you have any doubts as to whether or not the NAR are a bunch of shameless, lying hucksters who deserve to have glass catheters inserted in their urethas then shattered, consider this:

Working for realtors, David Lereah was famously optimistic. Not anymore.
By Donna Rosato

As chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, David Lereah was famously optimistic. Now a private consultant, he’s abandoned what he calls the “positive spin.”

Q: Were you wrong to be so bullish?
A: I worked for an association promoting housing, and it was my job to represent their interests. If you look at my actual forecasts, the numbers were right inline with most forecasts. The difference was that I put a positive spin on it It was easy to do during boom times, harder when times weren’t good. I never thought the whole national real estate market would burst.

Q: The NAR’s latest forecast calls for a slight increase in home prices next year. Thoughts?
A: My views are quite different now. I’m pretty bearish and have been for the past year and a half. Home prices will continue to drop. I think we’ll see a very modest recovery in sales activity in 2009. But we’ve still got excess inventories, a bad economy and a credit crunch that will push prices down further, another 5% to 10% more. It’ll take a long time to get back
to the peak prices we saw in many markets.

Q: Any regrets?
A: I would not have done anything different. But I was a public spokesman writing about
housing having a good future. I was wrong. I have to take responsibility for that.

-DONNA ROSATO – Fri Dec 19 2008, 11:14

Ahhh, so he admits to being nothing more than a paid shill whose mouth was available for a price. How does that job description vary from the Trannies who hang out by the West Side Highway? In my book, not by very much. A whore is a whore is a whore. Anyone who pays attention to the garbage generated by the NAR is a fool.

Oh, and I’m presenting Wednesday at Global Connect:

A World of Innovation, today January 7 at the Marriott Marquis, on the main stage on Wednesday, January 7, 2009.

Session: Wednesday, January 7, 2009, 3:30 pm – 4:15 pm

Description: Bulls vs. Bears: A frank discussion of where we are in the cycle of housing prices.
Panel: Noah Rosenblatt, Nouriel Roubini, Lawrence Yun (NAR), Barry Ritholtz

Lereah’s replacement — Lawrence Yun — is also on the panel. He has yet to demonstrate whether he will be an improvement over Baghdad Bob Lereah.

Ouch! “Glass catheters inserted in their urethas then shattered…?” [at least he didn't mean their urethras, which would really hurt.] Ritholtz’s blast is a 21st Century style tarring-and-feathering of a fellow whom everyone knows had a job description that directed him to warp data into marketing messages during his tenure. What’s odd also is that Barry spares vilification of Lereah’s successor Lawrence Yun, who’s widely regarded as not missing a stride on the vicious sinews of fabrication emitting from the Realtors’ mouthpiece association headquarters.

What trade association has a mission that is not about putting a positive spin on things, valid or not? From the level of his vitriol aimed at Lereah, you’d think that Barry had never heard Mark Twain’s quote of Benjamin Disraeli: “There are three kinds of lies. Lies, damn lies, and statistics.”

We’re not defending the research or the spin. Association data is notoriously undependable for almost every industry sector, and it should always be looked at with healthy skepticism, in good times or bad. Still, taking potshots at Lereah in this way, and turning it into a shameless self-promote for his appearance tomorrow actually stuns us in its splenetic pettiness. It’s beneath “The Big Picture” to stoop to this class of public flagellation. He should pick on somebody his own size.

And if the same person fixes the coffee tomorrow a.m. before Barry’s appearance at the Marriott Marquis, somebody might check his pockets for a catheter or two.

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