Friday, May 16, 2008

"Cooking" the Headlines

Ok, folks, you need to really keep on your toes now.  "They" have apparently decided that "fear itself" is looking pretty scary, and "they" are now presenting us with "GOOD NEWS!" that is just totally astonishing bull puckey.

From today's New York Times: "Housing Starts Rise Unexpectedly". 

A "housing start", in case you're not familiar, is a report by some contractor, somewhere, that they are starting to build a building, of some kind.   Well, actually, it means they're thinking about starting.   The data can be gleaned in a number of ways, including building permits issued.  As part of the housing bubble, "starts" have been dropping, constantly, for quite some time now, into the "record low" area.  Basically, since there are millions (literally) of McMansions sitting empty, foreclosed and or unsold - who in their right mind would build more?
Not the contractors, apparently, in spite of that cheerful headline: 

"But most of the gain came in multifamily housing, masking further bad news on single-family homes, whose groundbreakings dropped to a 17-year low."

So, the translation, into plain English is "the building industry has started building apartments- because millions of people have discovered they cannot afford a home, and they don't see that changing."

And, from the BBC: "World Food Prices Fall in April"

hey, hot diggety damn, that's great news!  Except it's a total LIE.

Which they tell you - if you're paying attention, in the first paragraph.

"World food prices fell in April for the first time in 15 months, according to figures from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Its food price index fell to 216.7 from 217.0 in March, having surged from last April's figure of 141.7."

You wanna run that by me again?  The FAO "food price index" FELL from 217.0 to 216.7 - and this is good news??  Lessee; that's .3 whatevers; out of 217 whatevers; a  total of 0.14% of the statistic - (check my math, Colin!) IF the statistic reflects reality.

Anybody know anything about the accuracy of world food statistics?  I do.  They suck.  It's every bit as likely that prices rose by 10% in April, and the reporting and compiling of numbers just didn't catch it.

Not to mention that this index was at 141 a year ago.

I can't imagine a more stellar example of Benjamin Disraeli's well known plaint: "There are three kinds of lies; Lies; Damned Lies; and Statistics."

ha ha ha.  not funny.

Beware of headlines.  They're being skewed right now to produce happy consumers, and a majority of them are reporting "Economists were delighted this month because; while the rate a which we're going to hell accelerated by 40% - this was less than the 41% predicted!  Forty-seven bank presidents have announced that this is clear evidence of the economic turn-around.  The worst is over! (please put your retirement money back in the stock market)."

I kid you not; read carefully these days.

These are just two examples of many- I invite you to send in your own in the comments.

addendum - Sharon has a parallel post today - with lots more detail, surprise.  :-)


Anonymous said...

Sad, but true.
We are manipulated through fear or false hopes.

Kick me now, but I'm a former Republican. (Now independent.) I just can't do it anymore. I read the headline that said "if a Democrat is voted in and ends the war in Iraq too soon, America could again be under attack". Do they really think we are all skitterish sheep who will run to our GOP protectors to save us from the evil threat of "them"? Apparently they do. And apparently, it has worked before. It just makes me sad.

I know this is off-topic sorta. I just have such a heavy feeling about all of this fear-mongering and false hopes.


Christy said...

As someone who has a house on the market so I can move to a small farm, I'm all for the media convincing people the economy is getting better! I just want my house to sell.

Chile said...

Me, too, Christy. Really, the picture is rosy here. Everybody wants to move here! (big innocent eyes)

Anonymous said...

I, too, find most of the MSM economics reporting to be hilarious.
And that has been true since about 1965 when I got interested in that world. OK, my father is a retired banker/financier/economist and I was raised reading his once read executive version Business Weeks and getting the kitchen table lowdown on high finance every night from a tender age.
It is a crime that in a capitalist country {yeah, I happen to like capitalism} one may be educated in the school systems right through graduate level and NEVER be taught even one hour of basic basic economics.
Of course you nicely point out here that the first lesson is that the statistics are cooked, completely.
None of this is a theory but it may well be a conspiracy, I don't know.
I do know that those readers selling a house right now or looking for a construction loan are experiencing the reality, and it isn't pretty.

Anonymous said...

Very true. Here in Vancouver where people still think real estate will NEVER go down, the newspaper printed a full page article dispelling "15 myths about Vancouver Real Estate". It was a bunch of propaganda to satisfy their biggest advertisers (the realtors and developers). They even when so far as to delete the slew of negative comments they got from people who know a bubble about to burst when they see one. You can read about it at But hey, anything to keep the consumers spending, right?