The Odd Lies Of Sarah Palin XLVIII: Grocery Inflation, Ctd

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A reader writes:

Here’s an inflation chart for your fun and amusement. Nothing new to the dialog you’ve been having but it’s fun to see how pictures show the story. It shows the annual percent change for “food at home,” one of the major subindexes within the overall consumer price index.

What’s remarkable about the chart is that prices were contracting for most of the last few years. Deflation, not inflation, was the real story, at least when it comes to the cost of putting food on the table. In the latest data, food prices have since turned back up but remain well below the long-term average. Perhaps food inflation will actually surge in a replay of the mid-seventies. But that is an economic forecast and not a statement of recent fact.

Another writes:

In the debate over grocery prices, I think you've missed the bigger lie in Palin's statement:

"Now I realize I'm just a former governor and current housewife from Alaska, but even humble folks like me can read the newspaper. I'm surprised a prestigious reporter for the Wall Street Journal doesn't."

Current housewife?  Seriously?  Does she believe that?  Does anyone?  She's the de facto chairperson of the RNC.  She's one of the biggest Republican fundraisers in the country. She is also a reality television star and political pundit.  I know many housewives.  It is a full-time job.  She is not a housewife.  She's a full-time politician.

In her mind, she is what she says she is. That will change depending on the audience and time of day – like reality itself.

(Correction: for many of the more recent odd lies, I got my Roman numerals wrong, putting a C where an L should be. From now on, we'll get it right. My bad – and my old Latin teachers would be appalled. Still, I never really thought we'd be closing in on fifty of them.)

The Odd Lies Of Sarah Palin XCVIII: Grocery Inflation, Ctd

A reader writes:

Are you really going to make me defend Sarah Palin?

It is a fact that some food prices have seen sharp increases in their prices over the past year, and these prices have been felt by consumers at the supermarket, especially for core food items such as milk and meat.  From the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Sept. 09 to Sept. 10 increases for specific items:

Ground beef: 12 percent
Bacon: 27 percent
Ham: 15 percent
Eggs: 7.7 percent
Milk: 10 percent
Butter: 27 percent
Sugar: 8.6 percent

If you want to argue that double digit increases in American staples such as bacon, milk, and butter don't represent a significant increase because you can buy more bananas, then go right ahead.  Is Palin stretching the argument?  Maybe.  But in terms of a "lie" from a politician, this one is as benign as they come.  Selective use of facts is a tried and true practice for politicians.  You should focus on the outright lies.

Selective use of facts is not a direct lie – unless it is designed to propagate a general argument which is untrue. So to pick some foodstuffs and not others to confirm your view is dishonest, which is why the overall rate of food prices (which includes declines in, say, flour, rice, bread, chicken,tomatoes, beans) is the only fair measure of grocery prices. And when this modest increase follows a year in which food price increases have been lower than in two decades, you are a liar. The same with selective quotation. Here is Palin's own use of a selective quote to buttress an untruth:

"An inflationary tide is beginning to ripple through America’s supermarkets and restaurants, threatening to end the tamest year of food pricing in nearly two decades."

If you can deliberately omit the part of the sentence in italics above, in order to argue that quantitative easing has led to big food price increases under Obama, you are a pre-meditated liar.

The Odd Lies Of Sarah Palin XCVIII: Grocery Inflation, Ctd

A reader writes:

Hard as it is to believe, you're being too easy on Sarah Palin in today's installment of Odd Lies. Here was her post:

The article noted that “an inflationary tide is beginning to ripple through America’s supermarkets and restaurants … Prices of staples including milk, beef, coffee, cocoa and sugar have risen sharply in recent months.”

Notice that ellipsis? What was in it? Well, she deleted the exact phrase that proves her lie (and which you cite in your post later). The full sentence is:

"An inflationary tide is beginning to ripple through America’s supermarkets and restaurants, threatening to end the tamest year of food pricing in nearly two decades."

So it wasn't just that the article contradicted Palin's claim, it's that it did so in the very same sentence Palin quoted.

She consciously deleted the the part of the sentence proving her wrong, and hid it in an ellipsis. Not just an Odd Lie. An aggressive one.

Ed Morrissey, as usual, twists Palin's words to make it sound like she was making a more nuanced argument. CJR's Ryan Chittum merely sighs.

The Odd Lies Of Sarah Palin XCVIII: Grocery Inflation

I've long been curious about Sarah Palin's views on quantitative easing.  Haven't you? It's not the easiest of subjects to understand, requires deep knowledge of how the financial system works, and might not be easily grasped by your average person. Palin, however, is no average anything. So in her latest rhetorical sortie, Palin grasped the core point:

All this pump priming will come at a serious price. And I mean that literally: everyone who ever goes out shopping for groceries knows that prices have risen significantly over the past year or so. Pump priming would push them even higher.

The underlying argument about whether quantitative easing will indeed lead to inflation is not what's at issue here. What's at issue is her factual assertion that grocery prices have risen significantly over the past year. When you read the speech, it seems to me that this might actually contributed by Palin herself (I have no idea who wrote the rest). But, as sometimes used to happen in American journalism, she was subsequently challenged on this assertion by the Wall Street Journal's Sudeep Reddy, who went so far as to describe this – grab your pearls – as "hyperbole":

Grocery prices haven’t risen all that significantly, in fact. The consumer price index’s measure of food and beverages for the first nine months of this year showed average annual inflation of less than 0.6%, the slowest pace on record (since the Labor Department started keeping this measure in 1968). Even if you pick a single snapshot — say, September’s year-over-year increase in prices — that was just 1.4%, far better than the 6% annual increase for food prices recorded in September 2008.

Palin couldn't handle this. Her stated position was revealed as empirically false. Most people when presented with such data – not about future inflation but recent grocery inflation – correct themselves. Not Palin, who rushed to Facebook to cite a recent WSJ story to pit against its own blogger, under the sarcastic headline "Do Wall Street Journal Reporters Read the Wall Street Journal?":

The article noted that “an inflationary tide is beginning to ripple through America’s supermarkets and restaurants…Prices of staples including milk, beef, coffee, cocoa and sugar have risen sharply in recent months.” Now I realize I’m just a former governor and current housewife from Alaska, but even humble folks like me can read the newspaper. I’m surprised a prestigious reporter for the Wall Street Journal doesn’t.

You will note that even in the sentence Palin cites, the story says that inflation is "beginning" to ripple through the food industry. That does not mean it has already happened. In fact, the article Palin cites to back her up actually states that last year was "the tamest year of food pricing in nearly two decades." Now, it's true that, for example, ground chuck beef is up 4.8 percent over the last year, as Reddy notes in his response. But it's also true that bananas have dropped by 5.3 percent. The overall inflation rate for food and beverages – the only meaningful statistic for "grocery shopping" – is currently the lowest on record. Reddy:

A broad measure of food prices from the Labor Department shows prices rose at an average annual rate of less than 0.6% in the first nine months of the year. September’s increase in food prices — 1.4% for food and beverages at an annual rate — was low by historical standards.(In fact, the lowest average annual inflation rate on record was 1.4%, in 1992.) Commerce Department inflation data show a similarly slow year-over-year increase for food prices, 1.3%.

Again, compare the 0.6 percent price increase in the first nine months of 2010 with September 2008 when grocery prices were rising at 6 percent. This is reality. Palin cannot handle it when it contradicts her. And notice, you could still make the point that you oppose quantiative easing because it could lead to future inflation, while conceding the fact that food prices have been very weak recently. But Palin simply cannot acknowledge error. If reality contradicts her imagined version of it, reality has to concede. 

This is the core truth about Palin: she is a delusional fantasist. She makes anything and everything up. So about that motor home trip

The Odd Lies Of Sarah Palin XCVII: An “Accidental Favoriting”

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Sarah Palin simply denies she favorited a tweet (yes, I just wrote that) linking to the church sign above – because she doesn't know how.

“Jake, I've never purposefully ‘favorited’ any Tweet. I had to go back to my BlackBerry to even see if such a function was possible. I was traveling to Alaska that day…it was an obvious accidental ‘favoriting,’ but no one can mistake that Ann Coulter was obviously being tongue in cheek with that Tweet. Shall I correct this with whichever wonderful media outlet ran with this (an obviously bored reporter…since there must be nothing going on in the world today, like, um, ramifications of a shake up of power in the U.S. House of Representatives?).”

So she didn't do it because she couldn't do it, and if she did do it, it was a joke anyway. That she also favorited three others that day – well three more accidents. Now, all her favorites have been deleted.

Probably an accident.

The Odd Lies Of Sarah Palin XCVII: The Motor Home Drive From Alaska To Los Angeles

She mentions it again – that motor home she got in and drove all the way down from Alaska to Los Angeles to see Bristol perform on Dancing With The Stars. Except now, it's Todd who did it – not her. Check out the video here. Money quote:

He drove our motor home all the way back from Alaska … he came down he could see Bristol on "Dancing With The Stars." … That's what Todd did, he did load up the motor home.

Here's the first version:

"I tell Bristol, I am texting her and say 'Bristol'…and I wasn't kidding, I thought that this was a practical thing to do … 'How about if Todd and I we load up all the kids in our motorhome and drive down, park on Rodeo Drive and we come to see you.' And I honestly didn't think that it was an unusual thing to suggest, that's what you do, a road trip. (…) But anyway, that's what we did, though, we parked a little bit further away from Rodeo Drive, and we got to watch Bristol."

She just made that first thing up.

The Odd Lies Of Sarah Palin XCVI: Giving Birth Two Weeks After Announcing Her Pregnancy

Well, we thought we had it straight, however bizarre. But Palin will not let the Trig story alone and is now bragging about one of its stranger details:

"I didn't tell anybody for a long time. In fact, I think I probably had the world record. I went seven months without telling anybody I was pregnant, except for Todd, our doctor and a nurse. And matter of fact to this day if I didn't tell anybody … up there in Alaska, it's so cold you just put on more layers, more clothes, and here I am chunking out and my staff is like "Governor, are you really that cold? Do you really want another coat?" "Yes it's chilly in here." But to this day, because my son Trig was born prematurely at seven and a half months and I didn't tell anyone I was pregnant for seven months, to this day, a lot of the haters, a lot of the bloggers out here, still say "'That couldn't have been her kid, because she was only pregnant for two weeks!' And I say, don't make me show you the stretch marks to prove it!"

Yes, please, don't show us. Just a medical record will do. And, by the way, the first person to make this kind of joke was not a "hater" but Palin herself in the New York Times:

At her baby shower, Ms. Palin joked about her months of secrecy, Ms. Lane said. “About the seventh month I thought I’d better let people know,” Ms. Palin said.

“So it was really great,” she continued. “I was only pregnant a month.”

Hence the new odd lie. She now says above that she announced she was pregnant at seven months and gave birth at seven and a half. But that is verifiably untrue in the public record. Palin told the world she was pregnant – to universal disbelief – on March 6, 2008. Trig Palin was born on April 18, 2008. That's six weeks, not two. The story has changed before as well. She gave birth in Wasilla, but recently said it was in Anchorage. You'll also notice that she says she hid her pregnancy under coats and clothes and layers even indoors, blaming the cold. In her original telling of the story, she said she thought her staff had already suspected the truth because they could see her clothes getting tighter and tighter. From the Anchorage Daily News at the time:

"I thought it was becoming obvious," Palin said. "You know, clothes getting snugger and snugger."

Now all of this could be explained – as with everything else – by Palin's generally cavalier attitude toward reality. In fact, that's the likeliest explanation. Every time she tells the story, it gets embellished a little, or changed by bad memory, or just because it has become a schtick. But would it be beyond a reporter to ask her to explain the increasing discrepancies in a story that she keeps telling in stump speeches across the country? And could I really go an anniversary week without a Trig relapse?