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Is Canada Becoming More Conservative?

Wednesday, 07 December 2011 12:46

Lots of Canadians think Canada is an increasingly conservative country. Look at the last three federal elections. Look at the polls. Isn't it obvious that political values are shifting?

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Why Good News Is An Oxymoron

Saturday, 22 October 2011 09:04

If you followed the news this week, you heard about riots and protests, the killing of a dictator, the suicide of a bullied teenager, and a child ignored by passersby after being struck by a car. A litany of violence and tragedy, in other words. Much like every other week.

What you probably did not hear about was a World Health Organization report which shows that a major decline in the rate of deaths caused by malaria over the past decade saved the lives of an estimated 1.1 million people. Most were young children. That's 300 people a day, every day, for a decade.

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Don't Believe The Economic Hype

Friday, 09 September 2011 11:00

How very sad. It seems Canada's brief period of economic glory has ended.

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Pundits And The Silly Stories They Tell

Wednesday, 22 June 2011 10:45

The Vancouver riot demonstrated how the worship of a violent and chaotic sport breeds violence and chaos. Or perhaps it revealed hidden socio-economic tensions.

Or the amorality of a generation.

Or the nihilism bred by the welfare state.

Take your pick. You could even toss a bunch of these hypotheses into a stew and conclude, as two writers in the Georgia Straight did, that we live in "a sick f***ing culture."

Just don't make the mistake of thinking this gives you any real insight into why the riot happened. Vapid hypothesizing says lots about the beliefs and ideologies of the pundits who make these claims and the people who nod when they hear them. But it says very little, if anything, about the riot.

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Remember That "Eurabian Civil War"?

Thursday, 06 January 2011 11:06

If someone mentioned terrorism in Europe, you would probably have an idea about the size of the threat and who's responsible.

It's big, you would think. And growing. As for who's responsible, that's obvious. It's Muslims. Or if you're a little more careful with your language, it's radical Muslims, or "Islamists."

After all, they were at it again just in the past month. On Dec. 11, a 28- year-old naturalized Swede - originally from Iraq - injured two people when he blew himself up on the way to a shopping district. And on Dec. 29, police in Denmark said they thwarted a plan by five Muslims to storm the office of a Danish newspaper and kill as many people as possible.

So the danger is big and growing, and Islamists are the source. Right?

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Clear, Confident, And Wrong

Friday, 22 October 2010 14:43

Imagine it is some time ago. You turn on the television and see an expert talking about how the economy will perform in the coming year.

"I know the first half of the year is going to be tough, there's no doubt about it," he says quickly and forcefully. "But by the second half of the year, all these interest rate cuts will work their way through the system. Obviously, I think the housing market will be a lot better than it's been. The auto market. Jobs. And I think inflation's going to be held in check." The stock market will heat up, too. The Dow will likely hit an all-time high.

The expert wears an expensive suit, a gold tie, and a silk pocket square. He exudes confidence. He is a Master of the Universe.

Now imagine it is Wednesday of this week and another expert is on television forecasting the future.

His earlier forecast was off, the expert acknowledges. He now expects only modest economic growth. "In advanced economies, temporary factors supporting growth in 2010, such as the inventory cycle and pent-up demand, have largely run their course and fiscal stimulus will shift to fiscal consolidation over the projection horizon," he says. But this is all far from certain. "Important risks remain around this outlook," he says. Three complex factors may produce stronger economic growth than expected, he notes. But three other factors may push things in the opposite direction.

The first expert is certain. The second is tentative. The first expert tells a simple and clear story with a crisp conclusion. The second says things are complex and uncertain and we can only be sure what will happen when it happens.

The first expert is interesting and compelling. The second is boring. Who wants to listen to "on the one hand, on the other hand"?

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In 1995, when a right-wing anti-government extremist named Timothy McVeigh detonated a bomb in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people, U.S. President Bill Clinton pointed a finger at the rhetoric of "culture war." Talk radio hosts and their audiences didn't simply disagree with fellow citizens who happened to be on the other side of the political fence, Clinton said. They despised them. They called them "enemies." They used vicious language. They had no sense of fairness and accuracy. They used any evidence they could get their hands on, however tenuous, to concoct wild stories of conspiracies that would "destroy America as we know it."

Clinton warned that a Petri dish filled with that stuff will grow some dangerous forms of hate.

It all seems so long ago.

The bad news bias

Friday, 27 March 2009 13:58

Two huge medical studies wrap up. Both assess the value of screening for prostate cancer. Both are published in the same edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

One of the studies is American. It finds there is no difference in the mortality rate of men screened for prostate cancer and those who are not.

The other study is European. It finds screened men are less likely to die, although the difference is modest.

Prostate cancer is a hot topic and these are landmark studies. So how will the results be reported?

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Agreeing to disagree

Wednesday, 02 January 2008 13:08

Francis Bacon observed that people tend to ignore evidence contrary to their beliefs. Centuries later, with a world of knowledge at our fingertips, this is more true than ever.

On any given day of the week, readers send e-mails in response to what they read in this space. Some write nice things. Others are not so happy. But in almost every case, my correspondents feel it important to tell me that they do, or do not, agree with me.

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Recently, readers have e-mailed to inform me that I am a thug-hugging, dope-smoking member of the liberal media elite that is cramming its stinking socialist agenda down the throats of ordinary Canadians. Oh, and I hate Western civilization.

Other readers do not share that opinion. They have been in touch to explain that I am a climate-change-denying, cancer-promoting stooge of the corporate media that is cramming its neo-conservative agenda down the throats of ordinary Canadians. And I hate David Suzuki.

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