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In his article, Warren first wrongly suggests that the final 1,071 page bill was unpublished.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.