Saturday, December 10, 2011

The poor, their power brakes, their power steering and their colour TVs

All assets possessed by the poor whom Margaret Wente stunningly suggests are much better off than we are led to believe. The column is worth reading if only to give you a feel for the callousness of Wente and the constituency she represents. One of the commenters to the online column described it best:

Thinking the poor are doing better is what helps Margaret Wente sleep at night.

What kind of logic is Wente using when she chooses to compare current conditions of poverty with conditions from a century ago?

There is desperate poverty in urban and rural regions across Canada. The kind where low-income individuals and families don't have enough to eat or a safe and healthy place to live (no matter how big or small). The poor trade off decisions such as paying their heating bills against buying food or paying the rent.

There's a glut of showing a direct correlation between poverty and reduced life expectancy and poor health - in countries like Canada and the USA.

What a sad and misguided commentary that trivializes the daily hardships experienced by low income individuals and families.
Indeed. But she doesn't leave it there. As she approaches the end of her verbal bowel movement on the poor she tries an subtly unsuccessful "drive by" of Margaret Atwood and then goes on to attempt to bring our gaze on one particularly offensive caste.
The real problem, argues Prof. Cowen (and I agree), lies with the elites of the financial class who’ve grabbed a gargantuan share of the spoils by means of fancy financial engineering that creates no value, and sometimes destroys it on a massive scale. Nobody knows how to keep them from wrecking the system every so often. The financial lobby is the biggest and most powerful interest group on Earth. Their ability to rig the system so as to enrich themselves has overwhelmed the ability of the politicians and the regulators to keep them in check. As Prof. Meyer puts it, “People don’t mind losing, but they don’t like being cheated.” And that’s the inequality worth worrying about.
That would be true if it weren't so limiting. The truth is something Wente doesn't really want to discuss. The cheating and inequality extends well beyond her so-called "financial class". It goes to corporate executive compensation which has ballooned to unimaginable levels such that a large number of U.S. CEOs are being paid greater than 90 times their median production worker.
While were at it, let's take a look at another of Wente's ramblings where she congratulates Peter Kent for being a true Harper Conservative and herself for being in lager with the likes of Rex Murphy.

As Roger Pielke Jr., one of the saner voices on the climate scene, points out, the hurricanes have failed to blow since Hurricane Wilma hit the Gulf Coast back in 2005. Despite the dire predictions of the experts, the U.S. has now experienced its longest period free of major hurricanes since 1906.
Which is proof that Wente either didn't read this, doesn't know how to read it, didn't have anyone else read it for her or she's being intentionally dishonest.
First, Roger Pielke Jr. is no form of earth scientist at all. He is a political scientist.

Second, Roger Pielke Jr. did not say what Wente suggests at all. He was discussing hurricanes which made landfall on the US coast and the relationship of damage done by those that did. Hurricanes have not failed to blow, as Wente implies. In fact, the 2011, 2010 and 1995 Atlantic hurricane seasons were tied for the third most active on record. 2011 produced 19 Atlantic tropical cyclones against an average of 11. Wente would have you believe that because only one of them made landfall on continental North America that hurricanes are nearing some form of extinction.

Third, labeling Roger Pielke Jr. as "one of the saner voices ..." is purely conjecture on her part. Two years ago junior threw his own little pity party claiming on his blog that he was being smeared by liberals. In his 2005 paper he said this:

Although damage is growing in both frequency and intensity, this trend does not  reflect increased  frequency  or  strength  of  hurricanes.  In  fact,  while hurricane frequencies have varied a great deal over the past 100 + years, they have not increased in recent decades in parallel with increasing damages.
Taken alone that would raise the ire of any earth scientist, especially oceanographers. There is no clear trend on Atlantic basin hurricane frequency or strength farther back than 1970. How can anybody claim to know more than the statistical record? The answer lies in the context of Pielke Jr.'s paper. He was referring to only to US landfalls, (as evidenced by the chart he used and the references supplied). Some might call that misleading, and I would be one of them if I hadn't studied the paper closely.
What Wente and, to a certain degree Pielke Jr., do not report is the conditions which create and strengthen hurricanes in the Atlantic basin. The conditions which create the Cape Verde hurricanes are expanding with consistently increasing sea surface temperatures and wider expanses of dry air.

So, either Wente was duped or she cherry-picked. Either way, it makes her look like a fool.


LuLu said...

Home is the sailor, home from sea
Her far-borne canvas furled
The ship pours shining on the quay
The plunder of the world.

Welcome back, cap''ve been sorely missed :)

Carmichael said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carmichael said...

What can one say.

The G&M cannot be a serious newspaper with this woman being published.

Dave said...

LuLu! Glad to be back where life isn't moving in six degrees of freedom. :)

harebell said...

I get the impression that Wente is suffering from Blatchford envy and only wishes that she could be that bitter and twisted.

Rev.Paperboy said...

Oh, I really doubt that harebell. Wente is plenty bitter and twisted. This is just another of her attempt to be provocative and "non-politically correct"- mostly it is just a sad plea for attention. Like most conservatives these days, it isn't a matter of coming up with actual rational policies or cogent arguments, it's just a matter of trying to come up with something that they imagine will piss off those gosh-darned latte-sipping "Liberals" or "Lefties" or "hippies" or whatever idiotically inaccurate catch-all label they heard on Rush Limbaugh. Even a column like this one from Wente is little more than a justification for being a selfish prick, which is pretty much the entire raison-d'etre for most people self-identifying as conservatives these days. They are selfish pricks who needed to come up with a justification for being selfish pricks, so they constructed a rickety morally-bankrupt psuedo-philosophy to try to defend their awful behaviour.
It was much the same when the civil rights movement was gaining momentum. Lots and lots of comfortable white people came up with all kinds of bullshit reasons that segregation was necessary and even beneficial rather than simply admit that they were racist shitheads. Over time, these bullshit reasons were seen for the bullshit that they were and the racist shitheads recognized as what they were.
So when someone claims they are a Randite libertarian conservative, what it means is they are a selfish prick who just doesn't want to admit they are a selfish prick.

harebell said...

I guess I was being polite. You appear to have hit the nail squarely on the head.
When I run to be MP next time around I will be swiping that little screed wholesale, with correct attribution of course, and using it unashamedly.