Shadow Stats to Raise Prices Next Year

Cullen RocheShadow Government Statistics, usually referred to as simply Shadow Stats, is a company that provides, “Analysis Behind and Beyond Government Economic Reporting.” And by and large, people who ought to know think they do a pretty decent job of gather information and grind it into data. But it is also conspiratorial. It claims to be a newsletter that “exposes and analyzes flaws in current US government economic data and reporting.” And it is the ultimate fallback source for those who claim that inflation is actually really high but the government is hiding it from you.

Let me say something about that “inflation is higher than the government claims” claim. Wouldn’t you notice? I mean, a Sausage McMuffin is one dollar. And a Sausage McMuffin has been one dollar since at least the last Bush administration. If inflation were really high, I would have noticed it. Everyone would have noticed it! Some things, like milk do go up and down in price. So do gas prices, but even that tends to be pretty stable. But there is no talking to some people. I think it mostly comes from libertarians and others who really believe in the gold standard. They want there to be high inflation so they can justify their preferred policy. But the fact remains that inflation in the United States has been far lower and less volatile than it was when we were on the gold standard. Really: I want to pull my hair out talking to these people.

Anyway, there is this guy Cullen Roche. He runs a financial research company called, Orcam Financial Group, LLC. So unlike Shadow Stats that seems mostly to appeal to cranks who have an ideological ax to grind, Orcam has customers who have actual money on the line and need good information. Thus, we have a bit of a conflict here. Back in 2011, Roche wrote, “Shadow Stats has been predicting hyperinflation for at least 6 years now and every year the forecast gets bumped to the next year.”

In that same article, he used the Wayback Machine to show that while the prices of some things might have gone up, the price for a subscription of Shadow Stats had not. In 2006, it was $175 per year. And in 2011, it was $175 per year. Well, two months ago, Roche was back, Update: There’s Still Deflation in Hyperinflation Forecasts. In it, he noted that it is now eight years and Shadow Stats is still $175 per year. I decided to graph it to look at the trend in the price:

Shadow Stats Subscription Price Time Series

Now, Cullen Roche is not serious and neither am I. Or at least, not especially serious. But let’s just imagine for a second that the inflation rate in the United States was 15% per year since 2006 when Shadow Stats began predicting hyperinflation. The $175 subscription price would now be the equivalent of less than $50—just over 25% of it’s original value. Or to put it the other way, if the price had kept up with this “real” inflation level of 15%, it would now cost over $500 for a subscription. So if John Williams (the owner and writer of Shadow Stats) really saw his cost of living increase at that rate (Much less 50% per month!) he would have increased the price.

But I’m sure that John Williams and everyone else knows intuitively that inflation isn’t high, because the cost of living is very much the same as it has been for a long time. Which of course, brings us back to Roche’s original complaint: that Shadow Stats (and all of the inflation hysterics) always say that next year the inflation will arrive. It’s like Linus after the Great Pumpkin doesn’t arrive, “Just wait until next year!” The only problem is that Linus is five years old and a cartoon character. I don’t know what excuse the Shadow Stats folks have.

H/T: Paul Krugman

Cruz and Beck Distribute Crisp, Refreshing Dasani Sparkling Water to Brown Children

Satire is DeadSatire is hard in this world. There are a number of reasons for this. One is that anyone can publish anything. Another is that everything is published so quickly. But this is hardly new. As I discussed in Indian Rope Trick, in the 19th century, a reporter made up the mythical magic trick out of whole cloth. And no one really noticed for about a century. So it is easy enough to be fooled. We have things like Sarah Palin calling for the impeachment of the President without ever mentioning what his “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” are. And the amazing Kathleen O’Brien Wilhelm who seriously thought that Deer Crossing signs were a waste of money because Deer Can’t Read! In such a world, what exactly is satire? It would seem that our entire political system is self-satirizing.

I’ve written before on this topic, When Satire Becomes News. That was about the Boston Globe mistaking an article by the satirical The Daily Currant for news, Paul Krugman Declares Personal Bankruptcy. Admittedly, there is nothing particularly satirical about that, but the lede is pretty funny, “Economist and columnist Paul Krugman declared personal bankruptcy today following a failed attempt to spend his way out of debt.” And I’ve even been caught myself, showing What I Think of George W Bush.

But perhaps the Boston Globe can be forgiven; The Daily Currant is known to be incredibly dry. And I was certainly not alone in my thinking some fake Bush paintings were real; you will commonly see them thrown together with real Bush paintings. But National Report is a very well known satirical site that is generally at least as obvious with its satire as The Onion. So it was a big deal when Fox News got caught in the same trap.

Today, I was fooled again, although it was only for a few seconds. I saw the headline, Glenn Beck And Ted Cruz: “We’ll Pray the Mexican Away.” I saw it on Google+, with the description, “Cruz and Beck are spending Saturday on the US-Mexican border distributing much needed material and spiritual relief to literally dozens of children…” Now, I’m not a complete idiot. I figured it was on some sarcastic liberal blog, but no, it was from National Report, and it was great. And, one would hope, it is also obvious. I mean, Beck and Cruz going to the border to pray for the kids doesn’t sound too out of line. The play on “pray the gay away” is funny, but very much how someone like me might characterize what they had supposedly done.

The best part about the article is how it actually comes off more as an ad for, “Crisp, refreshing Dasani sparkling water.” In case you didn’t know (I didn’t!) it is made by the Coca Cola Company—repeated twice, just so you know. What is especially funny about this is that you can hardly go to a public event that has more than a hundred people at it that is not “sponsored” by some company. So in addition to all that more serious satire, there is this silly refrain. Here is a bit of it:

Their effort to de-politicize the plight of the sad little brown children the Obama Administration only view as political pawns and future votes has won widespread praise throughout the Conservative community. Central to the success of the program is a pledge the children sign before they receive their apple and choose which flavor of crisp, refreshing Dasani sparkling water they’d like. The pledge states that they renounce Satan, Mexico and the Obama Administration and, after completing their Mexican Reparation Therapy promise to only vote for GOP candidates.”It’s a win-win-win,” says Reince Priebus, current chairman of the Republican National Committee. “At the moment, only about 1% of the GOP is Mexican. This allows us to confidently project that by the 2024 and 2028 election that number will be up to possibly even 5% which makes a big demographic impact.”

In the words of one child (as translated by The Blaze): “Thank you for the hope that I no longer have to be Mexican for the rest of my life and for the crisp, refreshing Dasani sparkling water, a product of the Coca Cola Company.”

I don’t think anyone will mistake this for anything but satire. And it gets at an important point. I don’t think (if the geography would allow it) that there would be this kind of uproar if Russians were seeking asylum through Canada. I know it’s not nice to say, but if racism were removed from the Republican Party, what would they get? Ten percent of the vote? Maybe?

See also: Cons Think Colbert Is a Double Agent.

“Your God” by Cheryl Wheeler

Cheryl WheelerOne of my regular readers (JMF, I think Rick Fane, it turns out) turned me on to singer-songwriter Cheryl Wheeler. She is an amazing talent. But that’s pretty much a given when someone can stand up with a guitar and entertain an audience. She has a powerful, but interesting voice, and writes well-crafted, often deeply moving songs. She’s also very funny, which is not exactly unusual for folk singers. It may be just a matter of being more grounded than most musicians. And if you were as angry as a lot of folk singers are without a sense of humor, you’d probably go into political organizing.

I’m no kind of expert on her. I’ve heard perhaps a dozen or so of her songs. I’ll probably create a Pandora channel for her, because I am sometimes in the mood to listen to this kind of music. In general, she reminds me of Cris Williamson and Holly Near, although at this point I like her quite a bit more. Anyway, I came upon one of her songs, “Your God.” It is a very simple song, but the lyrics are funny and insightful. I’m thinking of learning it so I can play it for the Jehovah’s Witnesses the next time they come to my door. (Not that it would matter to them.)

Here are the lyrics:

Is your God the same God who’s working with the Pope?
Is it the same God suspicious of Tinky Winky[1]?
Is it the God corralling virgins into herds of 72,
Deciding where to send them when the glorious martyrs are through?Is your God the same God who’s burning the science books
And trampling lives to hoist the “right to life” signs?
Or is he running the breeding program from the temple by the lake
Till one big in-bred family will be an entire state?

Are they his priests who can’t keep from buggering little boys?
Is your cash retaining their attorneys?
I guess he had to overlook the nastiness with the tykes,
To keep the grace of marriage from the clutches of fags and dykes.

Is your God the same God who won the Super Bowl?
I hope it’s not that loser God the Colts had.
Or is your’s the God decreeing all the women wear a sack,
Presiding over stonings and beheadings in Iraq?

Is your God commanding you
To tell everybody what to do?
To kill your brain, praise his name
Bury the bastard who’s not the same?
Spew your heinous and hateful shit
Like something holy was driving it?
To take over all the earth and skies above?
Oh mercy whatever happened to the God of love?


On a spiritual level, I’m with Terry Eagleton. If you look at the world or the Bible (or other Abrahamic religious books), there is no “God of love.” So at best, I can only see Jesus as calling for a spiritual revolution that would end with heaven on earth. The “God of love” would have to be ourselves, because nothing in the world points to a loving god. And indeed, apologists have given up on the question and simply define everything God does as good. So the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami that killed roughly 300,000 people was yet another example of “God’s love.” What makes Cheryl Wheeler’s song so great is that most of the people who believe in the “God of love” actually make the the world less “heaven on earth” and more just like hell.

[1] Tinky Winky was the character on Teletubbies who Jerry Falwell accused of being a gay role model for children.

Al Kamen Doesn’t Miss the Deficit—but He Should

Dean BakerDean Baker posted something this morning, and I was planning to chastise him for faux naivete. But he was just waiting for the last line of his post. You see, the Washington Post published an article by Al Kamen, So Whatever Happened to the Deficit? That title is actually a bit misleading; the article is about how newspaper coverage of the federal deficit has decreased. The article is fatuous in the extreme.

According to Kamen, the main reason that the deficit isn’t in the news is because it has gone so far down. Well, that’s true, I suppose. But he finished the article by quoting conservative Douglas Holtz-Eakin as saying that the deficit has gone down thanks to the, “American workers, entrepreneurs and families for their work toward economic recovery.” And that, “Washington has done essentially nothing, unless you count stopping making it worse.” Um, no. The economy recovered because economies recover. There is nothing special that the bizarre melange of “workers, entrepreneurs, and families” did for the economic recovery. But it is certainly true that the recovery we’ve had (such as it is) has helped drive down the deficit. But it is also true that the disastrous 2011 budget deal and the 2013 fiscal cliff deals were huge in bringing down the deficit. So Washington has been hugely responsible for pushing the deficit down.

Baker responded, however, that the lower budget deficit is not a good thing. This, of course, is something I rant about all the time here. But he noted, The Washington Post Says it Doesn’t Miss Lower Unemployment and Rising Wages. Because that’s what has actually happened. That’s why the recovery has been so anemic. If federal spending had done what it has always done during recessions since at least Nixon, we would have a roaring recover and our deficit might be even lower than it now is. Baker snarkily noted, “If the deficit hawks at the Post think otherwise they could grab themselves a quick Nobel prize in economics by showing how.”

And what about the two parties? Well, Kamen quoted Bill Galston who rightly noted that Democrats weren’t ever too keen on the deficit obsession. But the Democratic elites certainly were. Obama had a lot of elite Democratic support for his sudden abandonment of jobs in 2011 and sudden obsession with the deficit. It was, of course, just another pathetic example of Obama trying to “reach across the isle.” But Kamen noted that as a result, Democrats haven’t been pushing for credit for the reduction of the deficit. That’s simply not true. What is true is that reporters haven’t been interested in giving them any credit. And example number one is Kamen’s article that ends by saying that Washington should get no credit for the lower deficit.

Meanwhile, he noted that the Tea Party has other things to scream about. But the truth is they are still screaming about the deficit. But that just sets up the same old false equivalence, “Democrats say they have cut the deficit, Republicans say they haven’t. Who can say?” As anyone who has watched politics knows, as soon as there is a Republican President, the Tea Party will lose all interest in deficits. Suddenly, all the real economic arguments for running deficits during recessions will make sense. Because it was never about deficits or any other policy; it was always simply that they hate President Obama.

What Kamen’s article is then, above all, is an example of Villager Thinking. Al Kamen is an upper class columnist. He’s not worried about the unemployed. He ended his article, “Well, we don’t miss the deficit.” Dean Baker explained the problem well:

Actually, people who care about jobs and wage growth do very much miss the deficit. The spending that was cut to reduce the deficit was creating jobs. There is no magical process by which this spending will be replaced by demand in the private sector, which means that the reduction in government spending means less demand and jobs in the economy…In addition, fewer jobs means that those at the middle and bottom of the labor force have less market power and therefore less ability to secure higher wages. This is good news for the small segment of the population that owns lots of stock and can benefit from higher corporate profits and cheap help, but it is bad news for the vast majority of people in the country. At least the Post has made clear which side they are on, just in case there was any confusion.

Well, there was never any confusion. There are, after all, almost no “labor” reporters, but no big time newspaper is without a slew of “business” reporters. It doesn’t matter what is happening to the poorer classes. Low deficits mean when Republicans get power again, they can lower taxes on the rich even more. Hooray for the “objective” press!

Lizzie Borden: a Bad Columbo Episode

Lizzie BordenOn this day in 1860, Lizzie Borden was born. She is famous not so much for killing her father and step-mother, but for getting away with it. And, of course, the rhyme:

Lizzie Borden took an ax
And gave her mother forty whacks
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one.

The history of this rhyme is not known, but I’m rather fond of the belief that it was made up by a newspaper seller. You know, like those people you see in the old movies selling papers yelling, “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” For the record, she gave her step-mother 19 whacks and her father only 11. Whatever else you can say about about Lizzie, she wasn’t excessive!

When I was younger, I really loved the television show Columbo. In those cases, the murderers take such great pains to provide themselves alibis. But in the case of Lizzie Borden, she didn’t much take any pains whatsoever. It was a frightfully planned murder plot. For example, two days after the murders, she was caught burning one of her dresses. Even still, as with the O J Simpson trial, the prosecution and police work was very bad. There are really only two reasons I feel certain she did it: she had a huge and multifaceted motive and she was pretty much the only person who could have done it.

There is one interesting aspect of the trial. They cut off the heads of the victims for use in the trial. Since the trial took place about a year later, the bodies had already been buried. So after the trial, the heads were buried at the foot of each grave. It just seems strange to me that they didn’t dig up the coffins and put the heads back in. I mean, these were extremely rich people.

They were also, not surprisingly, all a pretty vile bunch. Daddy, for example, killed all the pigeons in the barn with an ax, because they were attracting kids to hunt them. Lizzy apparently had built a roost for them and was very upset about him killing the birds. That may have been the ultimate cause (but there was lots of money as a sweetener). As Columbo would tell you, it is always the little things.

Regardless, I think people should stop fretting about whether she really did it. I like this line from Verbal in The Usual Suspects, “To a cop the explanation is never that complicated. It’s always simple. There’s no mystery to the street, no arch criminal behind it all. If you got a dead body and you think his brother did it, you’re gonna find out you’re right.” Regardless, the only other person it could possibly have been would have been the maid and the best motive that anyone has had for her is that she was angry about being told to clean the windows on such a hot day. I’m sure that the maid was used to doing whatever the vile Borden family told her to.

Happy birthday Lizzie Borden—you got away with it!