This is Part 2 in a series looking at psychic predictions for 2009 by John Hogue and Sylvia Browne. See Part 1 for John Hogue.
If there’s one positive thing we can learn from Sylvia Browne, it’s that absolutely anyone can do anything to make money. A secondary lesson may be that even in this economy, if you’re popular enough, poor job performance is irrelevant to income. So there’s that I guess.
For this analysis I’ll be referring to the first 15 minutes (the rest is book promotion and answering people’s inquiries) of this video from December 2008.
Whoa! Even after all these years, I can’t get used to that voice.
In the first few seconds she claims to have predicted the outcome of the last presidential election although as you’ll see in this analysis of her “prediction”, she hedged her bet so that either candidate winning would be construed as a hit. So we’re off to a great start. She separates her many “predictions” into categories for the ease of evaluating her fail, and (spoiler?) fail she did.
I don’t tolerate bet hedgery or barrel fishing. I’m taking claims at face value in the context that they’re implied and she gets no points, for example, for predicting that California will have earthquakes – of course California will have earthquakes. I will score SUCCESS if she gets the gist of what she said right and FAIL for incorrect or fish-in-a-barrel predictions. If there is not enough information or her prediction was vague, she will get a score of INCONCLUSIVE.
She make several claims on certain sub-themes, so for length I’ll rearrange things and take some statements together.
- FAIL Government: The economy will “rebound” a great deal around May. The White House will pull us out of economic slump, we’re not going to go into a depression. Nope. I’m not an economic expert, but it seems like predicting “not a depression” in 2008 was like predicting “the moon will not slam into us”.
- FAIL Taxes: Increased taxes, but not severely because more jobs become available with better benefits midyear. These tables seem to indicate that taxes decreased between 2008 and 2009.
- FAIL Wall Street: Interest rates will fall in September. More regulations concerning Wall Street and loan and stock companies. New loan companies will spring up that are government regulated. The majority of banks are safe so we shouldn’t panic. “Interest rates” could mean a few things, but this table says she’s wrong in the general sense. I could find no new legislation regarding regulation. Look at the number of banks that have closed in the last 2 years vs other years.
- INCONCLUSIVE Jobs: We’re going to see people working on railroads and more people getting to work on new types of cars. Employment statistics for the US are only available up to 2008.
- FAIL Oil: Oil prices will fall and more drastically by spring. More resources in gas and oil in Alaska, Texas, and Arkansas. Will use more US resources than before. (Take that John Hogue.) Oil prices were dropping by late 2008 and rose again in 2009. Predicting oil where oil is = not impressive.
- SUCCESS (PARTIAL) Iraq: The war will gradually end with troops coming home gradually in December and another large group in the spring of 2010, by fall 2010 it will be over. She’s off on her dates, but the president did announce an exit strategy in 2009 and troops began to exit key areas in Iraq in June. But full withdrawal isn’t expected until 2011.
- FAIL Business: “Mom and Pop” operations will start up again. We’ll get away from the big huge giant conglomerates, more and more people will start their own businesses. A 94 billion dollar franchise says otherwise.
- FAIL As in 2008, the coastal regions will be his by multiple hurricanes. Nope and nope.
- FAIL Small earthquakes on the California coast. [blinks]
- FAIL More earthquakes in the Far East. Seriously?
- SUCCESS Flooding in Kansas, Missouri – “a lot of the southern states”. This is as bad as the earthquakes, but there was one particularly notable flood in a few southern US states so I’ll give her credit even though floods are not uncommon.
- FAIL Tornadoes will hit Oklahoma, parts of Illinois, Kansas, and Missouri in April and May. Tornadoes in tornado alley during tornado season? Imagine my surprise.
- FAIL Terrible weather in the Midwest, Florida, and “the islands”, but weather will be mild for most of the east except for Boston and Philadelphia (because we’re in a “polar tilt” that’s causing crazy weather). We’re always in a polar tilt. No temperature extremes in the US in 2009 except for a record low in Maine in January. No major hurricanes or associated deaths in Florida or “the islands” and no other notable weather extremes in Florida (though they have been experiencing a drought since 2005). The Midwest (which she already talked about a little with Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois) generally experienced their usual weather.
- FAIL Many blackouts in eastern US this winter and brownouts in Midwest after January. Storms knock out power all the time and she didn’t specify severity. There was one large winter power outage in Kentucky, but that’s hardly “many”.
- SUCCESS (PARTIAL) Overall a bad year for hurricanes, tsunamis, and tornadoes. The hurricane season was active in the Pacific (though most didn’t make landfall) and quiet in the Atlantic. The tornado season was normal. There was a tsunami in Samoa in 2009. Not an “overall a bad year” and she did not predict a specific event, but I’ll give partial credit for the tsunami.
- FAIL Brad Pitt and Angelia [her pronunciation] Jolie are “in trouble” and could separate by end of year. Nope.
- INCONCLUSIVE Harrison Ford will have a health a scare. A search for this turned up nothing, but “health scare” could mean many things.
- FAIL Clint Eastwood will develop “leg problems” (varicose veins). Tabloids have been commenting on Clint Eastwood’s varicose veins since at least 1999.
- SUCCESS Robert Redford honoured for award-winning documentary and Sundance. His wiki cites no awards for 2009, nor does his IMDb page. He was given a general career award and a university award for environmental work. Maybe several others, as well. Predicting that a popular actor will get an award in any given year, given the huge number of possible awards, is not a risky bet. But fine, I’ll throw her a bone.
- FAIL Paris Hilton will land in jail over an accident. So far, her only jail time was in 2007 for a DUI.
- FAIL Britney Spears will become ill and not able to perform for 4 months midyear. Britney Spears was on her Circus tour from March-November 2009 without such interruption.
- FAIL Katie Couric will be replaced on CBS Nightly News by someone who has been on “one of the Good Morning America shows or something like that”. Nope.
- FAIL Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins will start an organization related to fuel shortage and solar energy. This couple broke up in late 2009 and neither wiki page describes such an organization in their “political activism” or “personal life” sections, respectively.
- FAIL Nicole Richie will separate from Joel Madden. They are still together and have 2 children, one born in 2009.
- FAIL The Olsen twins will be “picked up and questioned” about drugs. I found no evidence that this happened.
Accidents, Terrorisms [her word], and Crimes
- FAIL A large liner goes aground in March sending many people in the water. Of the incidents regarding major cruise liners reported in 2009, most were missing passengers. 2 ships did run aground (according to this list): one was a ferry and one was a liner, but passengers didn’t end up in the water and both incidents were in December.
- INCONCLUSIVE Many train accidents because not enough attention is being paid. As with any other year, there were a few train accidents in 2009. 4 accidents on this list were in the US and 1 was in Canada, which is actually down a bit from the 2 previous years. But it’s difficult to evaluate such a vague statement. What’s “many”? What kind of train? What constitutes an “accident”?
- FAIL 2 plane crashes near the east coast in August/September. There are several plane incidents every year, but she was fairly specific. For Aug/Sep 2009 there were 7 incidents involving aircraft: 3 were crashes and none were on the east coast of North America.
- FAIL A terror attack overseas near Paris, France in January/February and no one will be hurt. No terrorist attacks in Paris at all in 2009. There was one small incident in Corse (Corsica) on January 27 and no one was hurt. She specified “near Paris”, though. Corsica is an island to the south of France and Paris is in Northern France – a distance of over 1000 km.
- FAIL 2 more terror attacks (she indicated 3 total – I think the other she hinted at was the Mumbai attacks in late 2008) in India in February. Nope.
- FAIL Workers from the east and west coasts in the following industries will go on strike in June/July: building, dock workers, and waste management. There were no strikes notable enough to make this list of strikes. There were some minor strikes in various municipalities, but nothing on the scale she described (many industries all at once).
- FAIL A large bank robbery in Las Vegas involving a Brinks truck in June and they get away with it. I found no evidence of an event fitting these details. However I found the last sentence of this article (about a December 2009 robbery) relevant: “This is the 70th robbery or attempted bank robbery this year in Las Vegas. Last year that number was 76.” When shooting fish in a barrel, it’s best not to first identify a specific fish.
- INCONCLUSIVE Gangs get “out of hand” in Los Angeles and especially Texas and Louisiana so people are afraid to go outside. Gangs are all over the US, including the areas she mentioned, and have been increasing activity steadily over time. This [.pdf] was the most recent data I could find. I didn’t find any stand-out news reports for the areas she mentioned in 2009 specifically. The FBI only has data available up until 2008, but the numbers are fairly steady.
- FAIL Oakland, California has some sort of uprising related to police and gangs. I found no evidence of this and the wiki page for the city indicates that crime dropped in 2009 compared to 2008.
Poor show, Sylvia. One of our own bloggers is more accurate than this. Nevertheless it is amusing (and important) to continue to demonstrate the quality of her “predictions”: too vague to evaluate, factually incorrect, or as impressive as predicting the sun will rise tomorrow. Sylvia Browne has not convincingly demonstrated that she is psychic and this exercise illustrates that even if she is, she’s not skilled at interpreting the messages she allegedly receives.
If this is how bad she is for general predictions, how bad is she for personal predictions? Robert Lancaster’s fantastic site, Stop Sylvia, has more details of her failure to do the job for which she’s paid exorbitant amounts of money. If this effort saves even one person the hard-earned 850$ it costs to get her on the phone, then I’m happy.
Side note: The Most Insensitive Person of the Year award goes to Sylvia for pointing out how much money she has because she runs her own businesses so she doesn’t have to worry about the recession. Neither would most people who can charge $850 for a 20-30 minute phone call. I wonder how many calls she gets these days from people worrying about their finances…
*Please let me know in the comments of any factual errors, omissions, or anything I misheard. I will make corrections as promptly as possible.