Sunday, March 23, 2014

No wonder Québec wants to separate

A fascinating correction appears at the end of this Globe and Mail article on the Québec election.  Presumably referring to this now amended sentence, “The new PQ tactic Sunday evoked the laments of the losing Yes side in the 1995 referendum”, the following admission is now appended to the report.
Editor’s Note: An earlier online version of this story incorrectly stated the losing side in 1995 referendum. This online version has been corrected

Canada’s national newspaper didn’t know which side won the last referendum?  

Monday, January 6, 2014

Not so “special”

Why not just say “recycled from”?

In addition to Margaret Wente’s borrowing from the Ottawa citizen’s Dan Gardner, and an earlier example of second life - this Globe and Mail article appears to be, with only a couple minor changes, the same as a slightly longer one by the same author that ran in The Star Phoenix a few weeks ago. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Margaret Wente on facts, figures and The Toronto Star

It would be nice if Margaret Wente did what she's obliged to do – that is, inform readers of the source of statistics used to reach her conclusions.   It seems particularly relevant to uphold accepted standards when you’re slagging other media outlets (like the Toronto Star) for claims “not supported by the facts”.

What facts support Ms. Wente when she writes, Since 1981, Canadians’ real personal disposable income, per capita, has gone up nearly 50 per cent”?

In contrast, The Living Standards Report of the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (2011) states:

“Between 1981 and 2010… real personal disposable income per capita rose 31.4 per cent”.  

Any growth has been unequally shared.  “Median market income per household declined 7.6 per cent, while median total income saw a moderate increase of 1.7 per cent…”

The report adds, “Since 1981, many dimensions of living standards have not improved, in spite of a 52.6 % surge in gross domestic product per capita….”

And since Ms. Wente’s overall argument is that compassion and income equality are doing well specifically under Mr. Harper’s watch, it would make more sense to look at figures since he came to office – rather than since 1981.   Table 9B here shows real disposable income in 1981 at $19,421.  In 2006, when the Conservatives formed a minority government, the number already stood at $24,006, so most of that increase occurred under previous administrations.  The figures stop at 2010, before the majority Conservative government began implementing expansive changes in legislation. 

What does appear to have risen since Conservatives achieved majority is household debt.  Given the barrage of reports (noting, for example, that Canadians owe just over $1.63 for every $1 in disposable income they earn in a year”), it seems a bit unlikely that Canadians’ disposable income has increased as radically as Ms. Wente states - especially recently.  Even for one cherry-picked marker, 30 percent would be nowhere near the 50 at which she pegs it (and little to no increase would seem to be attributable to Mr. Harper’s “compassionate” governance)  Perhaps Ms. Wente has a different source of statistics for her "nearly 50 per cent" claim.  A polite request for supporting figures was sent to The Globe.  No response so far.

Update:  I’m glad to see that The Globe has now updated the claim with a link in the online version (though no source in the print version) to a graph by Stephen Gordon, showing figures to 2013 (though it doesn’t indicate the source of the original data).  Better, though questions remain.

In any case, it should be noted that a woman who, among other things, falsely  turned an unsuspecting student loan recipient (borrowed, without acknowledging her source, from an American blogger) into the “face” of the Occupy protests, presumes to lecture other media outlets about proper ethical practices.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Margaret Wente’s errors and omissions: “grandstanders” Greyson and Loubani

And another Margaret Wente correction – the latest of many such Editor’s Notes - now appears at the bottom of a column about John Greyson and Tarek Loubani, a column that bears striking similarities to an earlier one by Ezra Levant (no link to that place here).

Below are a few other problems with a slag heap which, given their uncertain status in Egypt, could put the two Canadians at continued risk.  Here’s Wente dissing the doctor:

Loubani, 32, is an emergency-room doctor in London, Ont. Recently, at a public meeting, he noisily denounced a federal cabinet minister for reducing health care for refugees. He calls himself a Palestinian refugee, although he was born in Kuwait. (He immigrated to Canada when he was 10.)

In this passage, Wente connects Loubani’s activism to what she suggests is an invented Palestinian persona - omitting that he is indeed of Palestinian parentage.  Whatever one’s view of that particular diaspora, it’s simply a fact that thousands of Palestinians are born in refugee camps across the Middle East.  Hey, even Wente herself is a sort of transnational.  She identifies as both American and as an “Accidental Canadian” – one whose provocative contrarianism might easily be confused with the kind of 'look at me' grandstanding she attributes to the two men.

She also omits important context to Loubani’s protest against federal health care cuts to refugees.  Yes, the video link she provides was bold.  But at the time, many unprecedented ‘noisy denunciations’ (as well as individual actions of exactly the sort Loubani engaged in) were carried out by demonstrating doctors and nurses all across the country, supported by their professional associations.  Here’s just one of many like Loubani’s.  They were joined by a broad cross-section of Canadians, and prominent Jewish Nobel Laureates like Elie Wiesel – “radical grandstanders” all (or maybe just the one with the funny name).

Granted, health care for refugees and immigrants likely wouldn’t be high on Wente’s priority list.  (Writing about how she got to the head of the line for her artificial hips  -“At first, I felt uncomfortable pulling strings, but I got over it”- she seemed unconcerned that her Portuguese cleaning lady, who barely speaks English, has arthritis too. There's no chance she will ever get the access and the state-of-the-art treatment that I did”).

We expect journalists to pose relevant questions. But there are no questions here – except the ones Ms. Wente answers herself.  Will the men be sufficiently grateful?  Hell, no, she assures us, before they’d had the chance to speak.

Greyson, according to Wente, is a ne’er do well gay, “spare time”, professor, and member of a “noxious” group, whose films are “flops”.  He and Loubani are “foolish, reckless, disagreeable” “troublemakers” with “a history of grandstanding”, who’ve “gotten a lot of mileage out of their incarceration”, and who “viscerally despise” the government (though the only vitriol on display seems to emanate from MW).

Cheap, easy characterizations are the stuff of most Wente columns.  (There’s no need to bother with real people when you can collage some handy fake into your story, as Wente did with her Occupy protester "John"). 

If we were to judge Ms. Wente soley by her own past actions (the astonishingly unethical “Johns”, the plagiarism), she doesn’t come out looking too good, though her employer was kind enough to give her the benefit of the doubt.   It would be nice if – once in a while - she could focus on issues, and extend the same courtesy to those with whom she might disagree, or whose looks she doesn’t like.

This kind of writing is sad, thin gruel, and a steady diet makes it less appetizing.

Addendum:  Here’s a little backgrounder to Loubani’s previous (apparently peaceful) protest activities.

Update:  Here's a statement from the Canadian Medical Association Journal decrying attacks by writers like Wente and Levant on Dr. Loubani’s character and motivations.