Monday, March 22, 2010

Mark Steyn: errors, self-plagiarism?

It’s tough being a “one-man global content provider”. You would have to do a lot of recycling – but don’t readers deserve to know about it? And do editors know about it? And what if the “content” you’re providing is years out of date or erroneous?

I’ve already noted numerous examples here – sometimes word for word sections, sometimes slightly altered paragraphs - that appear in two or more different Mark Steyn columns in different venues. Months after requesting a correction for an April 9, 2009 article ("We're in the fast lane to polygamy") that claimed gay marriage had led to rampant polygamy, in which Mark Steyn somehow turned this 2008 Toronto Star quote:

“In the past five years, Hindy said he has officiated or "blessed" more than 30 polygamous marriages; the most recent was two months ago.”

into this:

“Last year, Aly Hindy, a Scarborough imam, told the Toronto Star that he’d performed 30 polygamous marriages just in the last few weeks”.

a closer look at the rest of that article again reveals swaths of text similar to another of his publications from a few years earlier – a 2006 article in the now defunct Western Standard.

Oddly enough, Steyn begins his 2009 Maclean’s column by citing a different 2004 Western Standard article from which he provides an identified quote. Unable to access that text, I can’t tell if there are other sections that also appear in the Maclean’s piece. But given Steyn’s acknowledgement of the 2004 column, why does he choose not to cite the more substantial paragraphs from 2006, or a similar paragraph from a separate 2008 article?

Note: the following excerpts are presented in random sequence, at times with indicated ellipsis for words I omitted for purposes of comparison. No link is available for the Western Standard.

Steyn, “History swings both ways”, Western Standard, Feb. 27, 2006: “In these pages in 2004, I suggested that polygamy was ‘closer than you think’"

Maclean’s, 2009: “What’s my line on legalized polygamy? Oh, I pretty much said it all back in 2004, in a column for Ezra Levant’s Western Standard. Headline: ‘It’s Closer Than They Think.’”

Maclean’s, April 9, 2009: “A couple of years ago, Nicole Langlois of the London Free Press went to see Brokeback Mountain, the Oscar-winning gay cowboy movie, and found herself oddly distracted. ‘I watched it—the lush, majestic beauty of mountains and streams; the struggle and surrender between the two men,’ gushed Miss Langlois, ‘and I thought of Stephen Harper.’

Each to her own. When I saw Brokeback Mountain, Stephen Harper was the last thing on my mind. At the moment of ‘struggle and surrender between the two men,’ I don’t remember looking at Jake Gyllenhaal and thinking, ‘The West wants in.’ But to Miss Langlois, brooding on the Prime Minister, the scene underlined ‘how truly powerless he is . . . against the rising tide of cultural acceptance for gays.’

Rising tides lift all kinds of boats…”

“History swings both ways”, 2006, Western Standard: “The other day Nicole Langlois of The London Free Press went to see Brokeback Mountain, the Oscar-nominated "gay western," and found herself strangely distracted. ‘I watched it--the lush, majestic beauty of mountains and streams; the struggle and surrender between the two men,’ she cooed, ‘and I thought of Stephen Harper.’

Well, each to her own. I saw Brokeback in Montreal and Stephen Harper was the furthest thing from my mind. At the moment of ‘struggle and surrender between the two men,’ I don't recall looking at Jake Gyllenhaall and thinking, ‘The West wants in.’ But to Ms. Langlois the scene underlined…. Stephen Harper… ‘how truly powerless he is--no matter that he now holds the so-called reins of power--against the rising tide of cultural acceptance for gays.’…

…One might also note that a rising tide lifts all boats.”

Maclean’s, 2009: If the sex of the participants is no longer relevant, why should the number be?”

Western Standard, 2006: “If the sex of the participants should not be relevant in our marriage laws (as Ms. Langlois believes) why should the number of participants?”

Maclean’s, 2009: “...Martha Bailey advocating polygamy on economic grounds: ‘Stressing ‘the multicultural nature of Canadian society,’ Bailey claims that Canada has an urgent practical need for more Muslim immigrants. If Canada can just ‘expand the pool of applicants,’ says Bailey, it just may win ‘the global competition for highly skilled immigrants.’… I’m not myself persuaded that there’s any correlation between polygamy and “skills…”

Western Standard, 2006: “Martha Bailey has been determined to move Canadian marriage ‘beyond conjugality’ …’Stressing 'the multicultural nature of Canadian society,' Bailey claims that Canada has an urgent practical need for more Muslim immigrants. If Canada can just 'expand the pool of applicants,' says Bailey, it just may win 'the global competition for highly skilled immigrants.'… do polygamy and ‘high skills’ correlate in any way?”

Maclean’s, 2009: “…Martha Bailey’s pitch for immigrants: how many highly skilled polygamists and their legions of wives have to emigrate to Canada before “’the rising tide of cultural acceptance for gays’ begins to ebb?”

Western Standard, 2006: “But let's say Ms. Bailey gets her way… in attracting more skilled Muslim men and their legions of wives to Canada. What proportion of the population has to be Muslim before Nicole Langlois notices that ‘the rising tide of cultural acceptance for gays’ is beginning to recede?”

Maclean’s, 2009: In fairness to your big-time polygamist in Yemen or Waziristan, he has to do it on his own dime. If he wants to get the taxpayer to pick up the tab, he has to hop a flight to Toronto. East is east and west is west, and these days when the twain meet you usually get the worst of both worlds, of which government-funded polygamy would appear to be a near parodic example”.

From “Lights out on Liberty”, Imprimis/Investigate, August, 2008: “Kipling wrote that East is East and West is West, and ne'er the twain shall meet. But when the twain do meet, you often wind up with the worst of both worlds. Say what you like about a polygamist in Waziristan or Somalia, but he has to do it on his own dime. To collect a welfare check for each spouse, he has to move to London or Toronto. Government-subsidized polygamy is an innovation of the Western world.”

Western Standard, 2006: “After all, there are potentially far more takers for polygamous marriage than there ever will be for gay marriage.”

Maclean’s, 2009: “There are many more takers for polygamy than there ever will be for gay marriage.”

Self-plagiarism, defined in some J schools as “the submission of work by a person that is the same or substantially the same work for which he or she has already received academic or professional credit”, doesn’t get as much play as the non-reflexive kind, but it's not exactly

recommended, and seems to be associated with a certain dishonesty, according to some

sources. It can also end up providing out of date information that readers will be unaware of - as happened in at least one of the earlier instances where Steyn, in a recent Maclean’s article on Ignatieff, reused an almost identical paragraph from an earlier publication that itself contained events recycled from 2003, presented as new evidence of creeping – well, the usual creeping stuff you find in a Mark Steyn article.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

David Warren Errors – a pattern?

Some early examples and perspective

David Warren and a wikipedia hoax: Narcissism

In an article several years ago, David Warren observes: “Babies spend months in self-contemplation and do not even begin to learn language until they notice the first thing outside themselves usually a dotard mama”. Now, since new mothers are not usually senile, we will assume he meant to say “doting”, and move on to the more important stuff: “On a spur I ‘googled’ the web”, he writes.

And apparently stumbled on a hoax…

Here is Warren describing the typical narcissist who: "flaunts himself in balletomanic (sic) posturing, alarming arm and hand gestures…. exhibitionist clothing, unnecessary adornments, and an endless search for the Klieg lights…It is the old human search for glory….enhanced by that radiant gingival smile. (The one that shows the gums, and not the teeth only)."

Warren doesn’t cite or mention the gentleman, but in what would later be exposed as a wikipedia hoax, Anthony Benis wrote about what he called the "NPA theory of narcissism". Here is his description of the narcissist – complete with the same teeth, gums, and “radiant gingival smile”: "self-flaunting body posturing, expansive arm gestures…instinctive self-adornment, and a natural attraction to the limelight of personal recognition…a striving for glory….the radiant gingival smile (broadly exposing gums and teeth)".

(Now, should Warren have attributed that wording and analysis?)

At any rate, New Scientist explains the bigger problem with borrowing from Benis: "Over a period of months Anthony M Benis carefully built a Wikipedia entry describing his narcissism, perfectionism and aggression (NPA) personality theory." "Benis' theory is far from even the fringes of psychology….It has only ever been described in one book - written by Benis and published in 1985". Benis’ wikipedia entry was later removed.

Warren’s reference to “NPA” in the following quote strongly suggests that his piece is based on Benis, and his “radiant gingival smile” and other descriptors taken from him, since NPA is the invention of Mr. Benis alone and not found elsewhere in the literature. Warren himself then appears to contribute his own apparent clinical discoveries: "We have heard of 'WMD' (weapons of mass destruction), which break down into 'NBC' (nuclear, biological, and chemical). In pop psychology we have 'MPD' (massive personality disorders) which would seem to consist of 'NPA' (narcissism, perfectionism and aggression)".

Now “dotard” might apply better here. It seems that Warren again didn’t google the web for supporting sources. “MPD” normally refers to multiple personality disorder.

“Mourning for Ourselves”, David Warren, Feb. 6, 2008

Warren: “I have a list before me of confirmed Islamist terror attacks since 9/11, in Iraq and all over the world. More than 10,000 of them. In Iraq, the number peaked at 478 bombings in 2005 -- an understatement, because multiple bombings in a single location were counted as one event. The list goes on like a telephone directory”.

This list appears to come from the “anti-Islamic” website The Religion of Peace

(an amateur site providing no independent verification for a supposed “list” of Muslim atrocities). Religion of Peace features headings like this: “Muslims were outraged to learn that Coalition forces 
in Afghanistan may have temporarily detained Islamic terrorists 
in dog pens. We're pretty sure the dogs felt more insulted”. Codes of conduct indicate that journalists should identify a source unless there is a justifiable reason to protect its identity. When a column purports to be based on statistics… readers have the right to know where the statistics come from". Refusing to identify public websites of questionable validity may protect the writer from scrutiny; but this has little to do with protecting a source or serving the public interest.

Thousands of Christian martyrs’ heads on pikes? Not according to the “enemy” journalists from AP and BBC reporting from the ground.

In "Muslims engage in selective outrage" (this was the title in the Citizen) which ran on Dec. 5, 2001 as a news story, Warren, who seems to be standing on a chair “on his tippy toes”, reports breathlessly: "As I write, a large number, quite possibly thousands, of Christians are being massacred in Indonesia by the Islamic Laskar Jihad ('Holy War Army'). This is happening in the interior of the island of Sulawesi, in and around the town of Tentena, about 40 kilometers south of the city of Poso…In the time since Sept. 11…Christian women (have been) raped and all those unable to flee either butchered or forcibly 'converted' to Islam. My information is from Christian mission Websites and email, and my estimate is conservative". The Laskar Jihad "tend to arrive with a collection of heads from the last village, mounted on pikes", and large numbers of Christians have agreed to be beheaded” rather than forcibly convert. They are "actual martyrs, incidentally", Warren reports, condemning the lack of Muslim protest around the globe at "this proposal - to commit a genocide against 18 million people".

While there had been significant sectarian violence in the region in previous years, reports about this incident in major media (AP, BBC, CNN), listed the number of dead from sectarian clashes around Tentena, Sulawesi at this time at about 8 individuals (presumably from both sides) rather than in the “thousands”. Apparently the army arrived to restore order while Warren’s tin can contraption was down (even the one-sided missionary reports, published elsewhere, do not support Warren’s claims). “At least eight people have been killed in the past week” says CNN, the BBC and an AP report in the Globe and Mail at the time. Reports also note the role of armed Christian paramilitary groups in the conflict (the Christian groups were descended from the original head hunting tribes). Apparently “large numbers” of ‘actual Christian martyrs’ did not “agree” to have their heads put on pikes.

On Jan. 26, 2003, Warren writes about: “the ‘Islamization’ of contemporary France. (Did you know for instance that the majority of babies born in French hospitals today are to Muslim parents?)”

But two years later on Nov. 9, 2005, Warren’s “majority” has decreased sharply. He describes France as a country: in which there will be a Muslim majority within two generations. (Already, at least 40 per cent of the children born in French hospitals are to Muslim parents.) On present trends, the Islamicization of France, within the lifetime of most of my readers, is inevitable”.

That’s a pretty significant and alarming prediction without any support. Again, no source for the statistics, one or both of which are clearly wrong. Hard to see how there could be a Muslim majority within two generations when your own figures show a precipitous decline in Muslim births over only two years. But, as (again) uncorrected and isolated erroneous examples, they serve the purpose of creating fear and resentment about impending ‘Islamization’ or ‘Islamicization’ (like the statistics, you can apparently take your pick).

Warren does not identify where he got his statistics (as he should do, according to practice guidelines). Maybe he got his figures from websites like “The Religion of Peace”. Maybe he got them from the kind of chain email or extremist websites that carried those faux ‘Sharia punishment’ photos he later wrote about, or that also featured debunked chain email claims about Obama’s supposed “143 days” of Senate experience – a false number Warren also reported, along with Obama’s “more Arab than Luo” heritage. Maybe he got them from the kind of chain email that contained the same analysis and errors about Democrat lawyers he corrected a few weeks ago. Maybe he got the statistics from “googling the web”.

And maybe Warren doesn’t recognize these as errors. To quote just one of many similar claims he has published about other journalists and their accepted standards of accuracy and objectivity: “Once again I must say -- without qualification -- that our mainstream media are despite their protestations of innocence and ‘objectivity’ objectively working for the enemy”.

Isolated view, or a widely held opinion? After all Warren is not just some blogger; he’s writing for Canada’s largest media organization, whose (former) CEO, Leonard Asper, has called other journalists 'lazy, dishonest, biased Marxists'. If Warren is indeed indicative of what Mr. Asper’s preferred practice looks like, I think the public would benefit from a much larger discussion.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

From the David Warren error archives

The Ottawa Citizen version of "The economics of madness" (David Warren, Feb. 14, 2009) has been taken down, but is still available here.

It seems we can forget the stalled, watered down health care proposals in the U.S. Not needed. A year ago, according to Warren, the economic stimulus bill contained provisions that would "impose socialized medicine across America" by creating a new "National Coordinator of Health Information Technology". The Citizen would not permit the falsehoods in this article to be addressed in any form when they were published - either through a letter or corrections. Earlier, Warren had also falsely claimed that the stimulus bill contained provisions for oil shale drilling.

In his article, Warren first wrongly suggests that the final 1,071 page bill was unpublished. It was of course widely available in early drafts, and published in final form before Warren’s article. CNS news had reported: “The final bill, crafted by a House-Senate conference committee, was posted on the Website of the House Appropriations Committee …Thursday...1,071 pages.”

More importantly, the specific falsehoods Warren parrots appear to come from an earlier discredited opinion piece by Betsy McCaughey - that would be this Betsy McCaughey. They had already been debunked by major media outlets, like CNN, the Washington Post, and others.

Like McCaughey, Warren writes that on the advice of the since-discredited Tom Daschle” Democrats “stuffed in an earlier draft” of the bill “provisions to establish and fund the office of a ‘National Coordinator of Health Information Technology’".

This is flatly false. The National Coordinator of Health Information Technology was “established and funded” by George Bush in 2004 to encourage electronic medical records.

As’s lengthy entry explains: McCaughey “claims that the new board’s goals are described in a book by former Sen. Tom Daschle… That’s wrong”.

Warren continues: “Posing as an innocent make-work project that will improve the flow of information to doctors on the latest medical findings, the new bureaucracy will in fact be endowed with huge and perpetually increasing powers to enforce standardization, by penalizing doctors who deviate for whatever reason — often a very good one — from electronically-delivered protocols. In other words, it is a device for imposing socialized medicine across America by the back door…”.

This is remarkable – even Betsy (”death panels”) McCaughey didn’t go that far.

Earlier, on Feb. 11, the Washington Monthly reported on McCaughey: “The claim, not surprisingly, isn't true. The National Coordinator for Health Information Technology isn't "new"; it was created by George W. Bush five years ago. More importantly, the measure is about medical records, not limiting physicians treatments...”

On Feb. 12 the Atlantic described McCaughey’s piece as “...flatly disprovable lies. (Eg, the "new" bureaucracy she warns about already exists, and was established under GW Bush.)"

The Washington Post: "President Bush established the National Health Information Technology Coordinator position with an executive order in April 2004, 'to provide leadership for 
the development and nationwide implementation of an interoperable health information technology infrastructure,' or, basically, to start the transition to electronic medical records…the coordinator would be tasked with working towards assuring that every American has a 'certified electronic health record' by 2014". McCaughey’s “claim that the new stimulus law says the government will tell physicians what procedures can and can't be performed. It doesn't.”

Here are some of McCaughey’s words with Warren’s embroidered claims:

McCaughey: “Keeping doctors informed of the newest medical findings is important, but enforcing uniformity goes too far...Hospitals and doctors that are not “meaningful users” of the new system will face penalties...(for) going beyond electronically delivered protocols”.

Warren: “...information to doctors on the latest medical findings, the new bureaucracy will in fact be endowed with huge and perpetually increasing powers to enforce standardization, by penalizing doctors who deviate for whatever reason...from electronically-delivered protocols.”

CNN and Media Matters expose McCaughey’s claims as false:

“In fact, the language in the House bill that McCaughey referred to does not establish authority to ‘monitor treatments’ or restrict what ‘your doctor is doing’ with regard to patient care but, rather, addresses establishing an electronic records system...Indeed, CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen reported during the February 11 edition of CNN Newsroom, "I had a PDF of the bill up on my computer. I said, 'Show me where in the bill it says that this bill is going to have the government telling your doctor what to do.' And [McCaughey] directed me to language -- it didn't actually say that… 'preposterous' and 'completely and wildly untrue.' "

Should we be concerned when a major Canadian newspaper repeats, and even exaggerates, the claims of someone like this? In the U.S., one can be fairly sure that “flatly disprovable lies” will at least be exposed by other journalists and fact checking bodies. But Canada’s largest media organization makes sure David Warren’s versions are not exposed or questioned in its pages.


"When dealing with punks, there's no time to be a liberal", David Warren, Jan, 11, 2009

Warren tries to discredit the UN, saying UNRWA provides for terrorists and Palestinians in Gaza with a “budget several times larger than the combined UN effort on behalf of all the other refugees on the planet." This is false.

UNRWA’s 2008 budget was $541 million. The 2008 UNHCR budget – for “all the other refugees on the planet” - is listed as $1.57 billion on their website. UNRWA's budget is clearly not, as Warren claims, "several times larger".

While she doesn’t make that error, half of Warren’s column is very similar to Claudia Rosett's Jan. 8, 2009 article on He mentions Rosett’s earlier attacks on UNRWA, but doesn’t credit her Jan 8, 2009 piece for instances like the following (presented here out of sequence for the purposes of comparison):

Rosett: And following the Israeli withdrawal in 2005, the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hamas began consolidating power in Gaza...Since then, Hamas has been running Gaza as a territory reduced to basically two industries: aid and terrorism.

Warren: Since the complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005...Hamas has been able to consolidate its political power over the enclave, while consolidating Gaza's economy around just two industries: terrorism and foreign aid.

Rosett: UNRWA officials... have become de facto enablers of Hamas' terrorist fiefdom in Gaza.

Warren: The UN Relief and Works Agency has acted as the great enabler.

Rosett: Set up in 1949 with a temporary, three-year mandate to provide aid and jobs for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA has survived for almost 60 years, expanding its scope, budget and influence by extending refugee status to descendants of its beneficiaries.... UNRWA now provides for a Palestinian "refugee" clientele of more than 4.6 million.

Warren: Set up in 1949 as a temporary agency to house, feed and resettle fewer than one million Arab refugees ... UNRWA has grown by bureaucratic persistence into a vast, permanent welfare organization for the 4.6-million descendants of its original "client base" – and for their descendants, into the indefinite future.

Rosett: They are spread throughout camps--which physically look more like squalid towns--in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza.

Warren: The agency's camps, which have grown into permanent settlements, are distributed not only through Gaza and the West Bank, but around Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

Rosett: The UN ranks it among the top per-capita aid recipients on the planet.

Warren: It (UNRWA) provides for them with a staff and budget several times larger than the combined UN effort on behalf of all the other refugees on the planet.

Warren’s error about UNRWA’s budget was retracted in "Images from the Canada we knew", but his testy and grudging correction includes another error.

Further attempting to discredit the UN, Warren disparages their accounting practices, claiming, "These UN numbers are not externally audited, and the UN has actively resisted demands for accountability from national donors…".

UN agencies of course undergo regular external audits - some performed by the Auditor General of Canada, others by the "Auditor General (or officer holding the equivalent title)" of other member states. These are independent national agencies - not UN employees.

Ironically, in addition to its regular external audit, a special project by UNRWA was apparently being audited by Price Waterhouse Coopers - CanWest's own external auditors:

From UNRWA’s website: “Price Waterhouse Coopers have been approached to provide pro bono financial review of the initiative and its partners, providing assurances to donors of the financial accountability and transparency…"

“External audit reports are available on the UNHCR website”.

"In addition to internal controls, the Agency (UNRWA) is subject to regular external audits".

No response from the Citizen to that one.


"Iceland stranded in more ways than one", David Warren, Jan 31, 2009

David Warren lists leverage amounts in relation to “Iceland's three major banks”.

Warren: “...with 25 times leverage, a four percent decline in asset value wipes out your equity”.

An earlier article by Willem Buiter: “With 25 times leverage, a 4 per cent decline in the value of your assets wipes out your equity”.

From Buiter, an almost identical sentence supporting his analysis of Iceland’s bank crisis (and whether that situation can be repeated in the UK). But Buiter is referring to the specific UK bank figures (not Icelandic ones) "giving leverage of 25.8 times (pro forma)”.

Without citing Buiter’s article, Warren writes: "Britain is travelling down the same chute… Warnings of a specifically "Icelandic" collapse now appear in the pages of such sober journals as the Financial Times”.

Can’t do math? An error: Warren claims that Icelanders are now in hock, for at least $40K per head -- for just the last IMF loan ”. With Iceland’s population of 300,000 (which Warren cites), Warren’s figure of $40K per head would make the IMF loan to Iceland $12 billion. But the IMF loan is listed in reports as only $2 billion (the per person cost of which is about $7K).

No response from the Citizen or other CanWest papers that ran the article.


"The radicals are rising", David Warren January 30, 2008

Warren fails to identify or attribute a series of quotes found in a Bret Stephens article in the Wall Street Journal, incorrectly placing one of the quotes with a different source than Stephens.

Warren: Among the slogans being shouted in Egypt's streets: "Arm us, train us, send us to Gaza!" And, "O rulers of Muslims! Where is your honour, where is your religion?" And, "We will take to the streets, even if we are all tried in military courts!"

Stephens: “Arm us, train us and send us to Gaza,” chanted the demonstrators, along with “O rulers of Muslims, where is your honor, where is your religion?” The independent Egyptian daily Almasry Alyoum also described conversations between Hamas leader Khaled Mashal and Mohammed Mahdi Akef, the Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide, to coordinate their activities. “We will take to the streets and defend our brothers in Gaza, even if we are all tried in military courts,” Mr. Akef was reported as saying.

In the WSJ, the last phrase (slightly truncated by Warren) is not "shouted in Egypt's streets", as Warren claims, but apparently occurs in a telephone conversation. The Guardian reports that Khaled Mishal spoke on the phone with Akef. Presumably Stephens is referring to comments made in this conversation.

"Khaled Mishal, the influential Hamas leader in Damascus, has reportedly been on the phone to Mahdi Akef, the Brotherhood leader, to coordinate protests and maintain pressure".

Other comparisons between Warren's article and that of Stephens, who he does not cite as a source for the quotes or similar analysis:

Stephens: "Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood"

Warren: "… Hamas, which controls Gaza, is of Egyptian descent. It is an invention of the Muslim Brotherhood…"

Stephens: "Gaza is sovereign Hamas territory".

Warren: "the Muslim Brotherhood have established their own sovereign beachhead in Gaza".

Stephens: "Egypt, not Israel is the country that has most to fear from a statelet that is at once the toehold, sanctuary and springboard of an Islamist revolution. No wonder liberal Egyptians are reacting with near-hysterical alarm to last Wednesday’s demolition of the border fence between the Gaza Strip and the Sinai".

Warren: "The rhetorical target is Israel. The actual target is the "moderate" Egyptian government, and the response to these rallies, from the authorities, and from Egypt's formerly-articulate "middle class," is panic".

No response from the Ottawa Citizen.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

David Warren: errors, corrections, and chain email?

An update on David Warren's recent corrections regarding Senator Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. In an earlier post, I noted the similarities between Warren’s piece, and Bruce Walker’s 2008 article, and speculated that this might be the “item” Mr. Warren referred to. Puzzled by how Warren might have mixed up the Democrat House Majority Leader with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (who is not a lawyer), I did a little more looking, and discovered that the Walker article had become a widely circulated chain email.

This wouldn’t be the first time.

Most versions of the email altered the format of the first paragraphs, and made the same error. If one of these (rather than the original article) is, as Mr. Warren puts it, the “item a friend forwarded this week”, and if this is the reason for the Pelosi error, the following questions arise: First, are sources such as chain email acceptable for journalists at the Ottawa Citizen, other CanWest outlets, or other newspapers? And given that (unlike those who forwarded the email) Mr. Warren is paid to practice and uphold certain standards of the profession, would it not be reasonable to expect that he or his editors would at least fact check the ‘items friends forward to him’ before publishing them?

David Warren: “This is a point brought home to me by an amusing item a friend forwarded this week, comparing Democrat to Republican party in the United States. The Democrat leadership is all lawyers, and has been for some time. Barack Obama, lawyer; Michelle Obama, lawyer; Hillary Clinton, lawyer; Bill Clinton, lawyer; Bill Reid, lawyer; Nancy Pelosi, lawyer; and so forth. All Democrat presidential candidates since 1984, lawyers — except Al Gore, who somehow failed to graduate from law school.

Compare, if you will, the Republican leadership over the last while, in White House and Congress. The last Republican lawyer to make president was Gerald Ford. Instead: movie actor, spy chief, businessman, successively. Last election: an old soldier, and a PTA lady. Look back at the leaders of the so-called “Republican revolution” in Congress: Newt Gingrich, history professor; Tom Delay, pest exterminator; Dick Armey, economist; Bill Frist, heart surgeon. (And note what the Democrat lawyers did to get rid of them).”

Sample chain email: The Democratic Party has become the Lawyers’ Party:
 Barack Obama is a lawyer. 
Michelle Obama is a lawyer. 
Hillary Clinton is a lawyer
. Bill Clinton is a lawyer.
 John Edwards is a lawyer.
 Elizabeth Edwards is a lawyer.
 Every Democrat nominee since 1984 went to law school (although Gore did not graduate).
Every Democrat vice presidential nominee since 1976, except for Lloyd Bentsen, went to law school.

Democrat Party in Congress: 
Harry Reid is a lawyer. 
Nancy Pelosi is a lawyer. (my caps)

The Republican Party is different: 
President Bush is a businessman.
 Vice President Cheney is a businessman.

The leaders of the Republican Revolution:
 Newt Gingrich was a history professor.
 Tom Delay was an exterminator.
 Dick Armey was an economist.
 House Minority Leader Boehner was a plastic manufacturer.
 The former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is a heart surgeon.

Who was the last Republican president who was a lawyer?
 Gerald Ford, who left office 31 years ago and who barely won the Republican nomination as a sitting president, running against Ronald Reagan in 1976. The Republican Party is made up of real people doing real work, who are often the targets of lawyers.

The Democrat Party is made up of lawyers. Democrats mock and scorn men who create wealth, like Bush and Cheney, or who heal the sick, like Frist, or who immerse themselves in history, like Gingrich….

As for how Harry Reid became Bill Reid, sloppiness, perhaps?

links (Some cite and/or link to Walker’s 2008 article. In a few, comments also include the Shakespeare reference Mr. Warren develops in his article):

Shakespeare comments:

Monday, March 8, 2010

David Warren: errors, retractions, corrections

A little taste of the Ottawa Citizen’s David Warren thumping his chest:

“Normally the pundit who has committed a factual error leaves the correction to the shortest possible postscript at the end of his next column. But I've decided to lead with mine…” (Jan. 23, 2008)

“The instinct of columnists, when they realize to their abject horror that they have made some factual mistake, or misrepresented some speaker in a material way, is to put a little correction in the most discreet and discrete place they can find, generally as an isolated footnote at the end of their next column. But I like the idea of putting it up front, and waving it around a bit.....” (Nov. 15, 2009)

Funny. None of the retractions following errors I found were “put up front” or “waved around”. The most serious, Warren’s description of a debunked, staged photo, was removed entirely from the version on his website - replaced with different material. Compare the last paragraphs in the two otherwise identical “copyright Ottawa Citizen” articles:

A correction about Senator Reid and oil shale drilling appeared at the end of a later article. And this correction, appended to a Jan 25, 2009 piece, is hardly gracious:

“The assertion in my Jan. 11 column, that the budget spent to perpetuate the Palestinian refugee problem is ‘several times larger than the combined UN effort on behalf of all the other refugees on the planet,’ has been challenged. In fact, UNRWA, the agency dealing with Palestinian refugees, had an officially declared budget of about $540 million U.S. for 2008; and the UN High Commission for Refugees an expected budget of about $1.57 billion U.S. I therefore should have inserted the adverb ‘proportionally’."

Warren’s latest retraction is again tucked at the end (with no mention of the attribution question):

While Warren addressed the most recent misidentification, he hasn’t done the same for earlier ones: “Hazel Blair, the British Home Office Minister”. That would be Hazel Blears. “Gail Donaldson, a Vancouver lawyer” involved in a “campaign to have George Bush tried in a Canadian court for torture and war crimes”, (according to Warren), is in fact Gail Davidson. “The very senior John Kerr”, was how Warren erroneously introduced a quote from U.S. Principal Deputy Director of Intelligence Donald Kerr. Or this quote from Richard Hooker, which Warren attributes to George Grant: "Lamentation, as George Grant once explained, is not an exercise in negativity. On the contrary, it is a celebration of the good that was, and is now lost, and that we would recall to life for posterity, 'That posterity may know we have not loosely through silence permitted things to pass away as in a dream.’ It was Grant who wrote, so prophetically in 1965, his book, Lament for a Nation”. Those were all left to stand.

There are many similar (and larger) issues - a long list. For today, just a few about Obama.

1. At the end of an article on June 7, 2008, Warren wrote: "Mr. Obama had only 143 days of sessional experience in the U.S. Senate, before his Presidential campaign began".

Warren doesn’t cite a source, but this is the same figure found in a widely circulated blog post/chain email that claimed Obama "logged 143 days of experience in the Senate. That's how many days the Senate was actually in session and working". debunks: "Wrong. That's not the number of days the Senate was in session. From the time Obama was sworn in on Jan. 3, 2005, until the day he announced his exploratory committee on Jan. 16, 2007, the Senate was in session 304 days, according to the Secretary of the Senate's official count".

CNN's "The Facts" addresses the same falsehood, confirming Obama’s overall Senate time (not just voting days): "Obama served 743 days in the Senate from his swearing in to the announcement of his exploratory committee..." "Another anti-Obama piece circulating on the Internet claims that Obama only has 143 days of Senate experience... This is Incorrect". Washington Post: "Obama served 743 days as a senator before presidential bid". Greensboro News-Record: "Obama’s mere 143 days in the U.S. Senate… the number is just plain wrong". And on it goes, but still no correction from Mr. Warren.

2. And days after his election, Warren produced this stunning announcement: "Maybe he wasn't black, but then neither is Barack Obama according to his own account of his ancestry. For even on the Kenyan side, he is more Arab than Luo”. Warren gives no source for a statistical comparative on Obama's "Arab" ethnicity, again similar to wacky internet smears saying "Mr. Obama is only 6.25% African Negro, and 43.75% Arab". A claim at an election “town hall” that Obama was “Arab” was smacked down by an embarrassed John McCain on national television and widely reported. Warren apparently missed that, or has an authentic source to prove Obama’s “Arab” ethnicity. That would be big news - enough to warrant confirmation, which I politely requested in a short letter to editor. No letter. No correction.

3. But then, Obama’s ethnicity appears to be a mutating, changeable thing, perhaps depending on how it can be used (mistakenly, it again seems) against him. In January 2008, following a church massacre in Kiambaa, Kenya, Warren claimed the perpetrators “were mostly Luo”, like “Barack Hussein Obama, whose father was a member of the Luo tribe and Luo opposition leader (now Prime Minister) Raila Odinga. Warren adds this zinger: “Mr Odinga was raised from his childhood (in East Germany) as a Soviet agent. The Soviets aren't there to control him any more; he has his own games going, including an interesting one alleged on the Internet (with documentary evidence) with a certain Sheikh Abdullahi Abdi...”

Biographies confirm that Odinga attended university in Germany, but was not “raised from his childhood” there as a spy or Soviet agent. The “games” and “documentary evidence” with Sheikh Abdi again seem to be debunked claims involving the supposed imposition of Sharia law.

And the Luo thing doesn’t work out quite so well either. Before Warren’s article was published, at least 30 news outlets - Reuters, AP, the Guardian – had reported, like the LA Times, that the perpetrators of the Kiambaa church massacre were "members of the rival Kalenjin tribe", not “mostly Luo”. No corrections.

Note: Warren wasn’t the only one to report the “bogus”(according to Factcheck) “143 days” chain email. On August 30, 2008, in the London Free Press, Edmonton Sun and Toronto Sun, Salim Mansur wrote: "The facts Middle America must consider about the two men vying for its votes is Obama’s record of barely 143 days in Congress with no military service, and McCain’s record of 26 years in Congress with 22 years of military service". No correction appeared.