Wente Watch

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Mind your own business

Everyone among us knows of the gossipy old woman - the busybody who is always nosing into everyone's personal lives. The Marie character on Everybody Loves Raymond, although a caricature, reflects real people whom nearly all of us have known at one time or another.

Well, here is a real-life example: Margaret Wente. Last week she was telling women what they can and can't wear. Now she is setting herself up as judge on whether or not they can have children.

Here's a challenge for Wente. Go to Vernon, B.C, and tell Felicia Simms, to her face, that her children should have been aborted.

This column is full of the self-serving hypocrisy that marks so much of Wente's writing. I don't begrudge the expense these poor infants will incur. Bullshit. Why would she even be writing this column if she didn't grudge the expense? She wants her tax cuts so badly that disabled children must be aborted to pay for them.

Wente can't resist mentioning that the children's mother is on social assistance. You can almost taste the upper-class snobbery; contempt for the rabble who dare make reproductive decisions for themselves. They're supposed to be cleaning Wente's nails for slave wages, not having families and living their own lives.

A woman's right to choose to end a pregnancy is a precious right. But it only applies to her own pregnancy. Not to anyone else's.

Saturday, October 28, 2006


Wente doesn't know much about technology.

For once she actually admits when she doesn't know something. I wish she'd do that on other subjects.

Friday, October 27, 2006

It's getting warm in Maseru

Wente chatted today about the veil and global warming, again.

This is frankly getting repetitive. Wente says nothing that she hasn't already stated in two columns on the subject. So instead let me point out this Karen Armstrong article, probably the best piece I've seen so far on the niqab.

On global warming, she claims that reducing greenhouse gases would require going to the economic standards of Lesotho! And yet, apparently, it's environmentalists who are the scaremongers. Never mind that the Kyoto treaty calls for cuts back to 1990 levels. Last I heard, Canada was well ahead of Lesotho at that time.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Global warming and hot air

Wente thinks that, since Canada produces only 2% of carbon dioxide emissions, any cuts it makes will have no meaning.

Yes, and since one ballot rarely swings an election, it's not worth voting. Or since one person's taxes are barely a blip on total government revenues, there's no point in paying them.

This birdbrain is a National Newspaper Award-winning columnist?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Veiled hostility

Can Wente ever give it a rest?

Today's column is basically a repeat of two weeks ago.

Wente writes For many people, [the niqab] stands for the deliberate rejection of Western norms. They argue that it is a political symbol as much as a religious one. Funny how everyone has an opinion on what the niqab means except the people actually wearing it.

We are seeing the rise of reverse political correctness, where inferences are drawn from even the tiniest statements or practices. Ideological hawks monitor people's words, and now, their clothing. To a sane person, a niqab is a sign of a particular cultural attitude; but to the new ideological thought police, it is a sign saying "I hate the West".

Wente can cite no survey correlating niqab wearing with radical or extremist political views. She just assumes things, inferring words into people's minds. The niqab furor says more about those who oppose it than those who wear it. Fundamentally, it is about being uncomfortable with people who are visibly different, or seem alien.

If you don't like the niqab, don't look at it. Why is that so hard?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Boycott Wente

Weekend Wente mocks consumer boycotts.

An old tactic of right-wingers is to find the most extreme, easy-to-caricature leftist position they can find and make it sound like the mainstream of progressive thinking. So Wente waxes eloquent about the United Church's anti-bottled water campaign, or a British bishop's criticism of air travel.

But right-wingers have plenty of silly ideas of their own. How about that Globe columnist, Margaret Wente, who believes that Janet Jackson makes teens have oral sex, and that 50 Cent makes black people commit murders. Not to mention her belief, until recently, that global warming is a myth.

There's enough material to come up with an entire blog devoted to mocking Wente.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Stars in her eyes

Wente snarks at the Star for infighting.

Really, who cares? It's not as if the Globe has never had infighting.

The fact remains that for decades the Star has enjoyed a higher circulation than the Globe. It is the only liberal paper in a liberal city, with three conservative competitors. You do the math.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Oh say does that star-spangled delusion yet wave

Wente's latest paean to the United States.

If a Somali immigrant wrote a similar piece saying how Somalia is much better than Canada, Wente would be the first grumbing they should have stayed there. But it's okay for American immigrants to moan about home.

Even that might be okay if she recited real facts instead of ideological stereotypes. As usual, she does not.

...anyone can start out in a log cabin, or wheeling a pushcart, or fiddling around with computer code in a garage, and wind up on top. These three ideas — immigrant vitality, entrepreneurship and meritocracy — are the ones that set the United States (and Canada) apart from every other modern state.

Actually, social mobility in the US, once much greater than Europe, is now much less. See this article in the conservative Economist. It is not particularly common for the children of poor migrant Mexican workers to rise to become CEOs. Much less, in fact, than it was for the children of Irish or Italian migrants a century ago.

As Europe struggles with its immigrants, America's immigrants will be charging toward the mainstream. This is rich. The immigrants Europe is struggling with are, of course, largely of North African or Turkish origin. The chief divide between the communities is the belief that the Islamic religion is fundamentally alien and un-assimilable - a belief that Wente herself has done her share to promote.

The problems faced by Europe's Arab communities - weakening family structures, high rates of crime, barriers to the labour market - are also found in large chunks of America's native-born population. Life expectancy for African-Americans in Harlem, for example, is barely ahead of Bangladesh, and well behind Cuba. Has Wente forgotten the horrors of poverty unearthed by Hurricane Katrina? It is hard to imagine something like that happening in Canada or Europe. (Then again, Wente believes that gangsta rap causes black crime.)

And for all [America's] social problems, they're far better ones to have than Europe's. You mean the health care system, most expensive in the world, but barely available to nearly 20 percent of the population? Or the world's most corrupt and lavishly paid CEOs? Or is it most unequal income distribution, highest infant mortality, lowest life expectancy, highest rate of teenage pregnancy, and longest working hours in the developed world?

If you hate this country and love the United States so much, what the hell are you doing here?

Monday, October 16, 2006

They dark, they poor; ergo, they corrupt

Who among us does not feel pity for the plight of Africa? croons Wente. The answer is easy: Wente herself clearly does not. In column after column, including this one, she has shown only withering contempt for the continent and its people.

But of course, Wente doesn't like to admit, even to her fans, just how vicious and ethnocentric she is. So she picks an easier target: celebrities who have tried to help Africa or publicize its problems. It's certainly easier to pick on a wealthy celebrity than a poor AIDS orphan, even though Wente's natural instinct is to side with the rich. In any case, Wente's real goal is to denigrate any effort to help Africa that doesn't come from either conservative think tanks or the Bush administration. Never mind, of course, that those two have come up with nothing more than punishing structural adjustment programs and silly abstinence-only hectoring.

She repeats the same old lies conservative love to spin about Africa. Africa has gotten poorer, in spite of half-a-trillion dollars' worth of Western aid. Said half-trillion dollars is over a period of nearly fifty years. Crunch the numbers and it works out to about $14 per person per year. A good portion of that was military aid during the Cold War, funding right-wing dictators in order to stave off left-wing ones. Most of the civilian aid was, and still is, tied to imports from the donor country. Nor have donors done all they could to stamp out corruption and improve governance; they have, and still do, tried to manipulate it to their advantage in order to win concessions for their own companies.

This is not to stay that Western aid is all Africa needs; ultimately, Africans must find a path to development that works for them on their own. But Wente is not interested in a thoughtful discussion of Africa's problems.

She only cares about her stereotypes and her polemics.

Let them eat snide remarks.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Out, damned spot in my eye

Wente does what she likes best: criticizing nonwhites.

There are perfectly legitimate reasons to oppose the niqab. The most basic are theological; there is no mention of niqabs in the Koran or the hadiths. They were added centuries later, much like celibacy in the Catholic Church. Even today, they are not worn most of the Muslim world. A genuine case exists that they are a symbol of the subjugation of women.

But if the niqab is a symbol of patriarchy, that would be as true in Saudi Arabia as in Canada. Much more, in fact, since in Saudi Arabia thuggish morality police force women to wear it, whereas in Canada it is to a large degree voluntary. It should not matter what country you are wearing it in for it to be right or wrong.

But Wente is not really interested in improving the status of women worldwide. That would be feminist (or, in her mind, man-hating). To her it doesn't really matter if darky women are oppressed in "their" countries. What matters is how they behave in a white country. She quotes a London Times op-ed:

If you don't like living here and don't want to integrate, then what the hell are you doing here?

and adds her own spin:

There is a growing sentiment that immigrants should be more like "us"

"Us", of course, means white people, and "immigrants" means nonwhite people.

Now Wente has never, as far as I know, opposed immigration. To her, nonwhites are welcome to stay in Canada, provided that they dress, talk, eat, listen to the same music, and make themselves indistinguishable from whites. Eating McDonald's and watching Friends reruns is Canadian, but nibbling on chapatis and teaching your kids Punjabi is not. The niqab does not originate in Europe or a European-settled country, therefore it is foreign, and inferior.

A key implication of this idea is that immigrants of colour, no matter how long they may have been in Canada, are not "true" Canadians. They are mere guests in the country, who must be deferential to their white hosts, never complaining or rocking the boat. The key differential is not birth, but ethnicity. A third-generation Canadian of Pakistani origin is an immigrant, while an white immigrant from the United States (such as Wente herself) is every inch a pure laine Canadian.

It logically follows that nonwhites, in spirit if not in law, are second-class citizens. No one would dream of telling Wente to return to her country of birth because of her decidedly un-Canadian right-wing views, but Wente shows no hesitation in telling niqab wearers to leave the country because she doesn't like to look at them.

Wente concludes with please, ladies, take off your veil. If the veil is being worn voluntarily, it is none of Wente's business what other women wear. If the woman is being coerced into it, Wente's pontificating isn't going to make any difference.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Wente transit dance

Step 1: Cheer on politicians who gut funding for public transit.
Step 2: Complain that public transit is slow and inconvenient.
Step 3: Return to step 1.

Wente whines about Toronto transit. I only read the first third of the article (the only part outside the subscription firewall) but it's enough to get the gist.

I'm not even sure Wente's route was the best for her location. She seems to have taken the Queen 501 streetcar all the way from around Main Street to Spadina Avenue, and walked the rest of the way. I won't swear to this, but would it not have been quicker to take the Main 64 bus up to the Bloor-Danforth line and take that across town? She could then have taken the Spadina LRT all the way to Front Street and avoided nearly all her walk.

More fundamentally, Wente misses the reason public transit exists. It is not to provide a complete replacement for the car. Rather, it is there to provide an alternative to the high cost of owning a car. Car ownership costs most people up to $10,000 a year in depreciation, gasoline, insurance, parking, fees, repairs, and maintenance; transit is barely a tenth of that sum. Used cars have less depreciation but much more in repair and maintenance costs; for those on low incomes, they are an option best avoided.

For the very poor, the TTC is a lifeline. When service is cut, their lives are affected for the worse. For Wente, riding the TTC is just a fun experiment, and poor service something to jeer at; for us plebeians, it's a lot more serious.

Even for middle-class suburbanites who can afford cars, downtown remains off limits. Virtually everyone I know who works downtown drives to a subway or GO station and rides the rest of the way. Perhaps Wente gets free parking at the Globe; ordinary mortals pay $200 a month, or more.

The Lakeshore GO line alone takes almost as many people into downtown as the entire Gardiner Expressway, many of whom own cars. If GO didn't exist, Wente's 20 minute car commute would be a lot longer.

Update: Steve Munro has more.

Duck this column

Something about ducks. Whatever point this column was supposed to have escapes me.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Tweedledum and tweedledee

Wente gloats that Dalton McGuinty is not that different from Mike Harris.

Not exactly a surprise, really; this is why Wente endorsed McGuinty in the 2003 election. Her meme is, presumably, that hard-right policies are inevitable, because, in Wente's mind, they are what's best.

Except of course that they're clearly not - witness the overcrowded ERs and school board fiscal crises. Maybe Bob Rae wasn't so bad after all.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

This is the liberal hour

Wente's assorted snark on the Liberal leadership race.

It hardly seems worthwhile to bother refuting this column, since it has no real point. It is just a motley series of snide remarks. Nonetheless, as is usual for Wente, it takes a few liberties with the facts.

[Bob Rae's] real problem is that the people with the clearest memories of his time in office would rather vote for a purple-bottomed baboon. That may be true for conservatives like Wente, but for a Liberal, comparing Bob Rae with Mike Harris is really no contest. Rae is the NDP's version of Pierre Trudeau; deeply unpopular when he left office, but steadily rising in esteem afterward, even as his party tumbled under a hapless successor. Rae is now a leading candidate for the Liberal leadership, while Harris had to stay out of the 2004 Conservative leadership race.

[Stéphane Dion's] biggest problem is that he's French. And west of Montreal, that spells out N-O S-A-L-E. How soon we forget Jean Chrétien and Brian Mulroney. This kind of Central Canadian elitism is the very thing that infuriates Western Canadians.

It's time to draft Belinda.. Odd attitude for someone who wrote a column snarking at Belinda just last week.