Dan Gardner is the New York Times best-selling author of Risk, Future Babble, Superforecasting (co-authored with Philip E. Tetlock), and How Big Things Get Done (co-authored with Bent Flyvbjerg). His books have been published in 26 countries and 20 languages. Prior to becoming an author, Gardner was an award-winning investigative journalist. More >


The Ottawa LRT Debacle

Mar 13, 2023

(Originally published in the Globe and Mail, February 10, 2023)

Mention Ottawa’s new multibillion-dollar Light Rail Transit (LRT) line to residents of the city and you will hear things that cannot be printed in this newspaper.More >

My Shiny New Book

Dec 14, 2022

Over at my Substack newsletter, PastPresentFuture, I wrote a piece updating readers on what I'm working on these days. And more importantly, what my forthcoming book is all about. Please More >

In Harvard Business Review, Bent Flyvbjerg and I have an essay about the legendary architect Frank Gehry and a... More >

Over at Substack, I started a newsletter called PastPresentFuture which is about "exploring history to understand today and shape a better tomorrow." Here's a link: https://dgardner.substack.comMore >

Stage one: A threat is foreseen. When and how it will strike isn’t known but that it will, sooner or later, is clear.

Stage two: We do little or nothing.

Stage three: The threat strikes. Lives are lost. Our failure to prepa... More >

Originally published in The Boston Globe, April 1, 2021

Bent Flyvbjerg and Dan Gardner

As Biden administration officials prepare the big push for the president's $2 trillion infrastructure program, they are focused on polit... More >

Originally published in the Globe and Mail June 24, 2020

You can sense it in the air. A feeling. A good feeling. The cold fear that gripped us in the early weeks of the pandemic is melting away. Muscles long tensed are st... More >

Originally published in the Globe and Mail April 12, 2020

In 2003, a novel coronavirus emerged from Asia, spread to two dozen countries, sickened about 8,000 people and killed 774. But SARS was stopped. That close call was... More >

Words In A Crisis

Apr 10, 2020

Originally published by CNBC April 7, 2020

One of the classic British posters from World War II is severe, almost brutal. It shows an unsmiling Winston Churchill raising his right hand to jab a finger at the viewer, with t... More >

The Disaster Myth

Apr 10, 2020

Originally published in the Boston Globe, April 3, 2020

In the 2011 movie “Contagion,” a virus sweeps the globe and people panic. Pharmacies and grocery stores are looted. In suburban Minneapolis, the US Army distributes f... More >

Originally published in the Globe and Mail, March 28, 2020

A black hood covered the prisoner’s head. A deafening roar filled the air. “I didn’t know what was going on, where I was or who was doing what to me,” the prisoner... More >

The Canadian Queen

Dec 12, 2019

Originally published in the Ottawa Citizen, August 11, 2012

It's absurd that a foreigner is head of state, someone wrote in response to your correspondent's recent ode to the longevity of Her Majesty. "And don't give... More >

Originally published in the Globe and Mail, June 22, 2019

One in three Canadians thinks nuclear power emits as much carbon dioxide as burning oil. Almost three in 10 think it emits more.

There are several reasons to ... More >

At sea on plastics

Jun 21, 2019

Originally published in the Globe and Mail, June 11, 2019

We’ve all seen the rolling masses of plastic choking the oceans, the plastic clogging the bellies of dead whales, the plastic littering remote beaches and even the ... More >

Originally published in The Globe and Mail, March 8, 2019

Chemicals are in the food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the earth we stand on. And they are in us – in our urine, blood, bone and tissues. Many of... More >

Published in The Globe and Mail, January 2, 2019

Roughly 1,700 Canadians are killed and 10,000 seriously injured on the roads each year. Nine in 10 collisions are the result of human error.

These two facts mean auto... More >

(Originally published in the Globe and Mail, December 21, 2018.)

This essay is about a riddle. I’ll start by revealing the answer: It’s a cat that is simultaneously dead and alive.

Now here is the riddle: Why aren’t we more ... More >

(Published in the Globe and Mail, October 20, 2018.)

If you think the unemployment rate is a wonderfully low 3 per cent but I think it is a frighteningly high 15 per cent, and we both have sources that tell us we are right and both... More >

(Published in the Globe and Mail, August 3, 2018.)

If a nation reveals itself in what it celebrates, what does it say about Canada that the holiday at the height of our precious summer goes by a welter of official names no one use... More >

Published in the Globe and Mail (Toronto), November 23, 2016

Dan Gardner and Philip E. Tetlock

It seems almost the entire pollster-and-pundit ... More >

Published in the Washington Post, November 4, 2016<... More >

Spying on Money

Oct 24, 2013

Published November 17, 2001

Finance Minister Paul Martin was in good company when he promised to use this weekend's G20 summit to "strengthen international measures to counter terrorist financing." Days after Sept. 11, British Pri... More >

Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner.

Liberals had good reason to be delighted with the presidential election of 2012.

Not only did most polls accurately foresee a victory for Barack Obama, the poll-based analysis of Nate Silver ... More >

While it's far from clear who will win next week's presidential election, four outcomes are within watermelon-seed-spitting distance from certain.

One, the margin of victory will be slim. Two, the media will see that as proof of t... More >

Reasonable people can debate what exactly history is, but some things are beyond dispute.

Legends unsupported by rigorous examination of the available evidence are not history. Boy's-own adventure stories and tales of derring-do a... More >

The long and successful project to bring peace to Europe is one of the greatest achievements in modern human history. That fact is indisputable. And it is seldom spoken plainly. So while it's undoubtedly true that the awarding of this ye... More >

It was good news in a bad year: Back in 2009, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Office (FAO) announced that the number of chronically undernourished people in the world, which had been falling fairly steadily since 1995, was expect... More >

During Barack Obama's time in the White House, the mastermind of 9/11 was shot to death, three Middle Eastern dictators were overthrown, and a fourth was pushed to the edge of a cliff. And yet the dominant perception of Obama's Middle Ea... More >

Announcing his candidacy for the Liberal leadership, Justin Trudeau got a round of applause when he declared that, in seeking solutions to problems, "the only ideology that must guide us is evidence. Hard, scientific facts and data. It m... More >

The divide in opinion about Omar Khadr is wide and deep and it will not be closed by any words written in a newspaper. But there are two things - one fact and one hope - which we should be able to agree on.

The fact: He is in Cana... More >

Let's play word association. Ready? "Jimmy Carter." Chances are you thought "failed president." Or "weak." Or "soft liberal." Or maybe "better ex-president than president." The common thread is failure. Jimmy Carter was a weak, indecisiv... More >

Someone says, draws, writes, or films something offensive to devout Muslims. Riots break out in Muslim countries. People die.

We saw this movie yet again last week. And we had the usual discussion that follows, which mostly involv... More >

Pining For The Fjords

Sep 22, 2012

The parrot is dead. It's lying on the floor of the House of Commons and it's not moving. Because it's dead.

Of course you remember the Monty Python skit where a man walks into a shop carrying a bird cage. "I wish to complain about... More >

This is how democracy works.

Politician Jones identifies a problem. He proposes Solution X. Many people think Solution X will work. Politician Jones is elected.

Politician Jones implements Solution X. Time passes.

If... More >

As a general rule, a public figure cannot become a polarizing figure without having done or said a great deal, or, at an absolute minimum, without having done or said at least one extra-ordinary thing.

But that rule, like others, ... More >

Four years ago, first when Barack Obama became the Democratic nominee for president, then again when he won the election, there was a wave of commentary about how much the United States, and the whole Western world, had changed for the b... More >

The morning after a man opened fire at a Parti Québécois rally, killing one person and injuring another, we knew the police had arrested a man at the scene. We knew the man had worn a ski mask and a bathrobe. We knew he was 62 years old,... More >

Being a dour man with a taste for hyperbole, H.L. Mencken exaggerated for bleak effect when he wrote that "the saddest life is that of a political aspirant under democracy. His failure is ignominious and his success disgraceful." There a... More >

Mark Carney said something terribly rude last week.

Canadian companies have $562 billion in cash reserves, noted the governor of the Bank of Canada, up from $370 billion when the recession ended in mid-2009. That's a giant pile of... More >

It's absurd that a foreigner is head of state, someone wrote in response to your correspondent's recent ode to the longevity of Her Majesty. "And don't give me that line that she's Queen of Canada. She wouldn't know a hockey puck from a ... More >

They say the prime minister is a policy wonk with a keen appreciation for free markets. If that's true, I have an idea he's going to love.

One word: plastics.

No, sorry. That's a line from The Graduate. But my idea is almos... More >

Kids say the darndest things. So do partisans.

Take Vic Toews. The release of 2011 crime statistics this week prompted the public safety minister to say something positively adorable.

"Crime rate down 6 per cent," Toews twe... More >

What's wrong with the United States of America? It's a question countless people are asking, in the United States and around the world, following the massacre at a movie theatre in Colorado. Why does the United States spawn such madness,... More >

According to the International Monetary Fund, the net public debt of Finland was -59.9 per cent in 2011.

What's that, you say? Why, yes! That is boring. But please, keep going. I promise there's an important and relevant point com... More >

It's not about Omar Khadr. That's the key thing to remember about the latest twist in the seemingly endless saga of Omar Khadr. It's not about Omar Khadr.

On Friday, Khadr's lawyers filed yet another application with yet an-other ... More >

It's a hot day in July. A politician is at a barbecue in his hometown. He gives a little speech.

"What a wonderful day with wonderful people! I'm so glad to be here! What a great town this is! It's the greatest town in the greates... More >

The rule of law is like a 1960s-era Jaguar. It looks sleek and shiny in the showroom. Every-one wants it. But, after you buy it and take it for a drive, it breaks down, so you get it fixed, and it breaks down again, and pretty soon it's ... More >

On Wednesday, a minor and largely irrelevant minister was replaced by a minor and largely irrelevant minister, and with that the cabinet shuffle was complete. Thus, a prime minister who dominates the political landscape more than any bef... More >

A few years ago, in a dusty little Ottawa Valley antique store, I found a portrait of the Queen dating from the coronation. The frame was handmade from roughhewed cedar planks. The portrait was newsprint - a page taken from the Toronto S... More >

Bloomberg is Right

Jun 15, 2012

With due respect to Jon Stewart and everyone else mocking New York mayor Michael Bloomberg for wanting to ban soft drink cups larger than 16 ounces, you're wrong. Indisputably so, in one regard. Arguably so in another.

To understa... More >

The Power of One MP

Jun 13, 2012

There are 308 members of Parliament. In the House of Commons, Elizabeth May occupies seat number 309.

There couldn't be a better symbol of irrelevance, which seems fitting. May is the sole MP from the Green party, which lacks offi... More >

The Polarizing Centre

May 31, 2012

There's probably some incomprehensible new physics that explains how a thing can simultaneously cluster around a median point while polarizing rapidly. But in the realm of politics, it's a bizarre and seemingly impossible state of affair... More >

Last week, when Barack Obama declared his support for gay marriage, the president was lionized by many, who thought it was an act of courageous leadership, and mocked by others, who saw it as nothing more than a politician scrambling to ... More >

Let's recap the Harper government's record on climate change, shall we?

In the beginning, the Conservatives said nothing. Climate change wasn't even mentioned in the 2006 election platform.

In 2007, though, climate change b... More >

As in the Sherlock Holmes story of the dog that didn't bark, what can be most interesting is what didn't happen. So what hound didn't howl during the first year of Stephen Harper's Conservative majority government?

The hardcore ri... More >

Abortion and Liberty

Apr 30, 2012

When Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth introduced a private member's motion on the status of the fetus last week, the government was expected to distance itself. But when Conservative whip Gordon O'Connor stood to deliver the government ... More >

In the 1921 novel We, Yevgeny Zamyatin imagined a future where every building is made of glass so the authorities can see what citizens are doing at all times. Is that the world Big Data will construct? Some pessimists worry that it coul... More >

If history repeats, we are about a decade away from the publication of a book called "The Strange Death of Liberal Canada."

The history in question is that of Britain's Liberal party, which dominated British politics in the late 1... More >

On the weekend, at the Summit of the Americas, Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressed doubt about the war on drugs. "I think what everybody believes and agrees with, and to be frank myself, is that the current approach is not working, b... More >

Many people hate the idea of clinics where people can inject illicit drugs under the supervision of nurses and counsellors. Others want them set up immediately. They include the University of Toronto researchers who recommended this week... More >

In British Columbia, the premier is a woman. In Alberta, the premier is a woman. Both women inherited successful political dynasties. Both are likely to lead their parties to defeat.

Call it the "Kim Campbell Phenomenon." Successf... More >

As big as the F-35 fiasco appears, its true import is bigger. And more worrisome.

To see it, we first need to look at the world of 75 years ago.

In the 1930s, liberal democracies withered while authoritarianism blossomed. A... More >

I was born in the middle of generation X. The job market I entered was dismal, so I got nowhere, went back to school, piled up debt, and returned to a slightly less dismal job market. Then I turned 30. And the whole time I envied baby bo... More >

The Obama Strategy

Mar 30, 2012

American presidents who seek re-election when the economy is weak almost always lose. Badly. To buck that trend, the Obama campaign is trying a new and challenging strategy.

"What do we remember in November, 2008?" The voice, fami... More >

So it's agreed then. The NDP split between a stodgy old guard and those willing to move the party to the centre and 24 Sussex Drive. The latter won. Now, Thomas Mulcair will move the NDP to the centre in a bid to take power.

Or so... More >

I understand why people are furious at the two-year sentence imposed on Graham James but all the angry shouting and demands for tougher punishments won't do anything to correct the very real problems with criminal sentencing in Canada. I... More >

The House of Commons was tense. "We have, on numerous occasions, called for a judicial inquiry into the scandal," the Opposition leader said. "In order to reassure us that there will be no interference in the investigation into the prime... More >

Should Israel or the United States bomb Iran? In newspapers and magazines, in blogs and tweets, on television pundit panels, the answer is clear and emphatic.

Yes, say many.

Iran has a long history of supporting terrorism a... More >

You're going to buy a house. A big house. How much does it cost? You don't know. You didn't ask.

How big will the mortgage be? What about the monthly payments? Can you manage them? What effect will they have on your overall financ... More >

In March, 1954, newspapers in Seattle reported that some car windshields were damaged in a city 80 miles away. Vandalism was suspected. But then something strange happened.

People started to find car windshields speckled with tiny... More >

You must be exhausted, Mark. Being the governor of the Bank of Canada during a worldwide financial crisis isn't a small job. And now you're moonlighting at the Financial Stability Board in Switzerland. The chairman, no less. I read that ... More >

If we fully develop Alberta's oilsands and burn the oil they produce, we will raise the temperature measurably all over the planet. That's the conclusion of an analysis by University of Victoria scientists Andrew Weaver and Neil Swart an... More >

I thought I'd begin this column by noting that on several occasions over the past week I wanted to puke on my shoes. My editor demurred. It's too crude, he said. "We have standards."

I should respect that. It's increasingly rare.<... More >

This week, the Conservative government introduced legislation which would create a vast system of warrantless Internet surveillance. Civil libertarians howled in protest.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews told them they could eithe... More >

The government insists disaster will befall the nation if Old Age Security costs aren't curtailed. The opposition says that's nonsense and vows to fight any change. Most Canadians have lined up with one side or the other. The trenches ar... More >

Last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a frightening claim about Iran. "I look at the rhetoric and the kind of philosophy that drives the Iranian regime, the kind of threats they have made to others in the world," he said, "and my... More >

Conspicuously missing in the uproar about Old Age Security is the most basic question: Why do we have a publicly funded retirement pension? Let's answer that. Then we can talk about when the age of eligibility should be.

German Ch... More >

What Prime Minister Stephen Harper said last week was courageous and admirable. It was also misleading.

I'll begin with the "misleading" part because that's always the most fun.

In a major speech in Davos, Switzerland, the ... More >

Last week, a physicians' group called on governments to make helmets mandatory for both children and adults on ski slopes. Lots of people support that. They feel that skiers should not be permitted to decide for themselves whether to wea... More >

In two recent interviews, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the government of Iran is attempting to develop nuclear weapons. That's not a controversial claim. But the prime minister also said that if Iran develops nuclear weapons it wil... More >

When the Conservative party gathered at the Ottawa Convention Centre in June, the turnout was impressive. When the Liberal party gathered at the Ottawa Convention Centre last weekend, the turnout was impressive. The Conservatives had ene... More >

In Praise of Gridlock

Jan 11, 2012

Oh dear. We seem to be having a Mussolini moment.

You remember Mussolini. Big guy. Bit of a bully. Had a thing for uniforms. Some people didn't like how he did this or that but, hey, he made the trains run on time.

That's t... More >

The key to understanding Stephen Harper's federalism is heroin.

Got your attention? Good. The word "federalism" tends to put people to sleep, but this is important stuff so I'll try to sex it up. Hence, heroin.

There's lots... More >

Shortly before Christmas, Prime Minister Stephen Harper did something extraordinary. He had a conversation with reporters. And when the conversation turned to the provinces, health care, and the threat of spiralling costs, he did somethi... More >

At the beginning of 2011, the United States government's vast and sophisticated intelligence agencies thoroughly analyzed the situation in Egypt. "Our assessment," said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, "is that the Egyptian government... More >

Are you an aggrieved Christian? Convinced that you are stigmatized for your faith? Angry at the "war on Christmas"? This column is for you.

You are not the persecuted minority you believe yourself to be. Yes, you suffer occasional... More >

It's true that living conditions on the Attawapiskat reserve are abysmal relative to living conditions throughout most of Canada. But before we go to all the expense and bother of trying to improve them, we should ask whether they are re... More >

Sartorial Apartheid

Dec 14, 2011

On Monday, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney directed that anyone taking the citizenship oath must bare his or her face. Muslim women who wear a veil and refuse to comply will not be permitted to take the oath. And if they don't take the... More >

When he was a younger man, Fidel Castro was known for his work ethic. He read everything, talked to everyone, and laboured endlessly. Sometimes he would work for days without sleeping. He was inexhaustible.

But it made no differen... More >

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?

"As the country has evolved, I wouldn't say ... More >

A few blocks from where I live in suburban Ottawa, there is an English Catholic elementary school that just opened.

A block north of that is an impressive new English Catholic high school. At the end of my street, a French Catholi... More >

We are a social species, hardwired to keep a keen eye on what others have and to feel a twinge if they get more than us. Politicians know this. They may not have learned it in psychology class. But, oh, do they know it.

On Monday,... More >

With power centralized more than ever, with complete dominance of Parliament, with absolute control of his party, Stephen Harper is the most powerful prime minister in Canadian history. Or, if you prefer something a little less dramatic,... More >

Not for the first time, Stephen Harper's Conservatives have puzzled many pundits.

They won an unassailable majority. Their party is united. They face an opposition that is weak, divided, leaderless. Their dominance is complete and... More >

With the release of an important new report, and the launch of another Charter challenge, the debate about euthanasia is flaring up again. It will be passionate. You will hear emotional claims from both sides. Many people will listen to ... More >

You can't kill a zombie with a pen. Jab it in the eye. Spear it in the chest. It will just keep shuffling along, moaning and snarling and trying to eat your brain.

Here comes one now.

"To think that marijuana today is the s... More >

Last week, a desperate Europe asked a flush China for cash. It was a big moment. No mistaking that. But what did it mean?

No, this isn't a column about banking. Or globalization. It's about something much more important. It's abou... More >

There's a store in my neighbourhood. It's got all sorts of stuff. And it doesn't charge me for most of what I buy. Really. I can get whatever I want and most of the bill is divided up and sent to my 10 neighbours. They have to pay, even ... More >

In a sense, it's perfectly reasonable that the government is severely restricting the amount of time Parliament can spend discussing a long list of complex bills that have appeared at various times in various forms in the past and will n... More >

Let's play word association. Ready? "Jimmy Carter." Chances are you thought "failed president." Or "weak." Or "soft liberal." Or maybe "better ex-president than president." The common thread is failure. Jimmy Carter was a weak, indecisive, ... More >

According to the United Nations, the world's population will top seven billion on Oct. 31. By 2050, there will likely be more than nine billion people on Earth.

So how do you feel about that? For many, these statistics are frighte... More >

Last week, the federal government announced the results of a competition for $33 billion in shipbuilding contracts and everyone was satisfied that the outcome was fair and reasonable. (Well, not everyone. Nycole Turmel grumbled. But the ... More >

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 othe... More >

It is a fact not often recognized in discussions about the Conservative government and criminal justice policy that the government is right. Not about the nature of the problems. Or about the solutions. But still, it is right.

It'... More >

The standard argument in favour of mandatory minimum sentences is that they deliver certainty. "If you do X, the minimum punishment you will receive is Y." It's simple, clear, and predictable. And that makes mandatory minimum sentences a... More >

You are an official in the government making important decisions about public policy. This is serious stuff. Do your work well and many people will benefit. Screw up and they will suffer needlessly.

So what's the one thing you wil... More >

Is progress possible? I took part in a panel discussion of that question some time ago.

The answer is obvious and undeniable, I said. We are by far the wealthiest and healthiest people who ever lived. If the child mortality rate t... More >

A big thank you to the politicians and people of Ontario. You knocked on doors, hammered in lawn signs, answered a hundred calls from pollsters, and called talk radio to air your opinions about foreigners, perverts, and cross-dressing si... More >

Please, Not This Again

Oct 05, 2011

I am a unilingual Ontario Anglo whose longest personal exposure to Quebec was playing in a pee wee hockey tournament in Val d'Or that culminated in a championship game between our guys and a hometown team supported by what seemed to be a... More >

Minds Welded Shut

Oct 04, 2011

Let's compare and contrast statements about Insite, the supervised injection centre in Vancouver's downtown eastside neighbourhood.

"The decision to implement a supervised safe injection site was the result of years of research, p... More >

In conventional political classification, Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan are in quite different categories. But still there are remarkable parallels between the two.

Both Obama and Reagan first campaigned for the presidency in dar... More >

I suppose I could write a substantive and serious column about the government's omnibus crime bill.

First, I'd explain the many proposals. Then I'd say they are a terrible mistake. They will not reduce crime, but they will waste b... More >

The United States of America is in trouble. The mammoth deficit. The gargantuan debt. The moribund economy and appalling unemployment. It's hard times in the land of plenty - as anyone could see with just a glance at the thin, exhausted ... More >

There are moments when Stephen Harper is utterly unfathomable.

The latest came last week, in an interview with the CBC. Almost casually, the prime minister said he would reinstate emergency anti-terrorism powers - allowing judges ... More >

Tim Hudak is the sort of politician who searches for the inchoate fears and hatreds that lie, unspoken, just below the surface of consciousness. When he finds them, he drags them up and waves them for all to see, hoping that ugly emotion... More >

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

"Canadian economic growth stalled in the second quarter," the Bank of Canada noted on Wednesday. It was one raindrop in a downpour of bad news. "Canada fall... More >

Of course everyone remembers precisely where they were when they heard about 9/11 - what they were doing, who told them, how they felt - but imagine you had been the president of the United States. That singular moment would have burned ... More >

In early 2005, Richard Clarke, the former White House counter-terrorism chief, imagined himself in 2011, looking back on the decade that followed the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. What he saw was horrifying.

The slide into ... More >

Last week's tears and testimonials have given rise to a new conventional wisdom. "The response to Jack Layton's death suggests Canadians are looking for a political leader who transcends the grubby world of politics as usual," as John Iv... More >

Without exception, a successful politician is a lucky politician. But some successful politicians are more successful, and luckier, than others. Stephen Harper is a very successful politician.

As an undistinguished former MP and h... More >

Jack Layton was a politician and a partisan, to the bone, but he didn't treat politics as a dark art. With his famous smile and boundless enthusiasm, he won people over, in his party and others, and got them to work together in pursuit o... More >

This column will delight many conservatives and annoy liberals. As I'll explain at the end, that reaction is the point of the column. Don't disappoint me.

Fine, now, let's go back to the very beginning of this year. Remember the b... More >

Shortly after the first reports of terror attacks in Norway, pundits and security experts confidently blamed Islamists. They were wrong. And in the days following the arrest of Anders Behring Breivik, they were excoriated for having let ... More >

The Harper government is absolutely right that we have a problem with charities getting involved in politics: They don't do it nearly enough.

"Many charities have acquired a wealth of knowledge about how government policies affect... More >

The United Nations and national governments the world over, including Canada's, are actively promoting an epidemic. They are infecting people by the tens and hundreds of thousands. God knows how many will die.

A report released th... More >

On Sanity and Evil

Jul 25, 2011

I need to learn more about him, an agonized young Norwegian woman told the CBC reporter interviewing her. "Hopefully, he's a psychopath." The man in question is, of course, Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian believed to have committed o... More >
Well done, concerned citizens. For weeks, in vast numbers, across the nation, you expressed outrage that a public school in Toronto permits Muslim students to pray for half an hour each Friday. In the school cafeteria. A cafeteria built wit... More >
Much as I want Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the few others in his government who matter to lie down on a couch and answer my probing questions about their psychological state, it is not likely to happen. And so I must ponder from afar.... More >
It is now conventional wisdom that the Harper Conservatives are transforming Canadian criminal justice, a fact which many pundits cite as evidence of the incremental Harperization of Canadian society. It's pretty hard to disagree. The Cons... More >
The Conservatives have found their Welfare Queen. Her name is Europe. The original Welfare Queen, you will recall, was a stock character in Ronald Reagan's speeches. "There's a woman in Chicago," Reagan said in 1976. "She has 80 names, 30 ... More >
Go to the Governor General's website, look at the main page introducing the Governor General, and you see a photograph of Queen Elizabeth II shaking hands with someone whose back is turned to the camera. That someone is David Johnston, the ... More >
Americans may have celebrated July 4th with the usual hotdogs and fireworks, but Uncle Sam was a sick old man on his 235th birthday. Deficits and debt. A moribund economy. Appalling unemployment. Crumbling infrastructure. Endless foreign wa... More >
Allow me to suggest that the best measure of a civilization's vitality is not the number of palaces and monuments it erects, nor is it the strength and splendour of its armed forces, nor even the longevity, education, and wealth of its citi... More >
Federal and provincial governments employ many scientists and underwrite the work of many more. Why? Oh, politicians say their decisions are informed by science but that's a fairy tale they tell sleepy children and reporters. In reality, p... More >
Last week, Henry Kissinger participated in a public debate. That may not seem remarkable but Kissinger - former U.S. secretary of state, Nobel Peace Prize winner, consultant, scholar - is 88 years old. And he had never before debated in pub... More >

Originally published in The Ottawa Citizen June 22, 2011

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 th... More >

"Friends, remember we are not here to do politics," Prime Minister Stephen Harper told a packed and cheering crowd at last week's Conservative convention. "Sure, we do politics. But that's the instrument; it's not the music." "Our party is... More >
With rare exceptions, discussions of food policy in Canada are limited to the joys of eating organic and how hard-pressed farmers need more help from the government. What you never hear is this: As a result of rising population and wealth,... More >
There's a good scare when a columnist needs one? The announcement last week was so promising. "Cellphones may cause cancer." Fabulous. Few consumer goods are as common as cellphones and few diseases are as frightening as cancer. Connect th... More >

Drug War Deja Vu

Jun 03, 2011

On Thursday, a panel of eminent persons released a report calling on the world's governments to dramatically change how they deal with illicit drugs. "The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and soc... More >
Reading through the policy platform of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, it's immediately apparent that PC Leader Tim Hudak loves families -mentioned 90 times in 44 pages -as much as he hates experiments. "Expensive experiments have s... More >
I've been writing a lot about the indefensible concentration of power in the hands of the prime minister and for my troubles I have been called a Harper-hater, a Liberal shill, a hypocrite, and various other names that cannot be repeated he... More >
Rather awkwardly for the evangelist who said the world would end Saturday, it did not. But Harold Camping is an irrepressible fellow and, after further study, he announced that he was merely off on timing. The world will end Oct. 21. Really... More >
A scene that said much about Prime Minister Stephen Harper unfolded last week at the Supreme Court of Canada. At a hearing about the legal status of Insite, the supervised injection site in Vancouver, a lawyer representing the federal gove... More >
Given the track record of such things, predictions of the world's end are best ignored. But still I think we should we pay attention to Harold Camping, the influential 89-year-old evangelist who says Jesus will return on May 21. It's not t... More >
Pierre Trudeau centralized power in the prime minister's office so much he was accused of running a "presidential" government. Brian Mulroney centralized power still more and was attacked by the Liberals for his "arrogant style of leadershi... More >
In 2003, an American man who served 14 years on death row was found not guilty of murder after evidence of prosecutorial misconduct surfaced. He sued and a jury awarded him $14 million. But that award was appealed. And in March of this year... More >

Will The Centre Hold?

May 05, 2011

If there's one thing we should learn from this election, but probably won't, it's that our ability to understand fast-moving events and foresee where they are going is far more limited than we believe. I'll try to swallow that bitter medici... More >
This is the last column I'll publish before the election and so I will lay out how I think the big day will unfold. I predict there will be an election. Many people will vote. The election will either produce major change, in line with rec... More >
Other countries have founding myths featuring prison breaks, rebellions, wars, and all manner of bloodshed. But not this country. The central event in the story of Canada's founding was a conference. Participants sat at a table. They talke... More >
Stephen Harper's Conservatives are pleased to be known as the party that cuts taxes. Critics like to emphasize it, too. It's "American-style," they say. Specifically, it's lifted from the Republican playbook. The comparison with Republican... More >

Kaiser Michael's War

Apr 20, 2011

Michael Ignatieff has a doctorate in history so he may enjoy this column. Up to a point. Then he really won't like it at all. Anyway, here comes the history. From the founding of the modern German state in 1871, Imperial Germany had a big... More >

Crime and Prejudice

Apr 19, 2011

Another election, another round of blather about crime. More punishment, say the Conservatives. That's how you control crime. No, the Liberals and NDP respond. Prevention and rehabilitation work. Emphasize that. In an ideal world, this wo... More >
In every speech, Stephen Harper describes Canada as a uniquely sunlit island of tranquillity in a storm-ravaged ocean of uncertainty. And he knows who's responsible for Canada's good fortune. He is. "Our plan is working," Harper said recen... More >
Parliament is a squalid irrelevance. Debate is noisy discord. The differing viewpoints of individuals and parties is nothing more than bickering that distracts from what matters. Many Canadians feel this way about Parliament, and certainly... More >
They think you are stupid. They are talking down to you. There. That is the short and simple idea I want to get across. Now I will repeat it, and repeat it, always using precisely the same language, as if I were training an unusually thick... More >
The man who wrote Two Cheers for Minority Government doesn't cheer the prospect of yet another Harper minority. "The status quo is just not tenable, for anybody," says Peter Russell, professor emeritus at the University of Toronto and one o... More >
One of the most difficult and important problems confronting the international community is what to do when a government turns its guns on its own people. In Libya, Canada and other countries chose military intervention. Our jets are in the... More >
"I support sweetness and sunshine," the campaigning politician says, "but my opponent has done nothing for sweetness and once voted against sunshine!" That's the way elections go. Politicians claim the contrasts between them and their oppon... More >
As the logic of conflict drives Parliament irresistibly toward the moment when the great assembly is dissolved and a nation is called on to decide its destiny, I hope my fellow citizens will bear in mind the sage observation that one esteem... More >

Think back to the end of 2010. As always, there were lots of experts making predictions. About the stock market. The economy. Politics. War. How many of those experts said that within three months there would be a rebellion against the d... More >

Prime Minister Nixon

Mar 17, 2011

On Tuesday, we got another glimpse into the soul of what truly is the Harper government.

At issue was the new citizenship guide. "In Canada, men and women are equal under the law," the guide says. "Canada's openness and generosity... More >

Remember those ads attacking Michael Ignatieff - "he didn't come back for you" - that the Conservatives released earlier this year? Ever since they appeared, I've been conducting a little experiment. The results are in. But first, some bac... More >
It's March, 1980. You are 19 years old and sitting at the wheel of your lime-green AMC Gremlin. Normally, you'd feel pretty cool. But you just left the gas station and it cost a fortune to fill up. Apparently, there was a revolution in the ... More >
No one knows where Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and the other countries of North Africa and the Middle East are headed. It could be heaven or hell. Or a thousand points between. But the gloomy pundits who despair because they can see nothing but ... More >
If there's an election this spring, cuts to corporate in-Icome taxes are likely to play a big role. Conservatives are in favour. Liberals are opposed. Conservatives say cuts will make the economy stronger. Liberals say they'll drown the bud... More >
In 1999, three men in suits shared the cover of Time magazine. One man suppressed a smirk, as if he were a math geek who had just solved a problem everyone else said was too hard. Another grinned like a cat with a full belly. The third look... More >
A bill goes before Parliament. Implementing it will cost money. How much? That's obviously a question that has to be answered before MPs can decide whether to vote for the bill or not. To pass legislation without knowing the cost would be i... More >
The other day I picked up a sledgehammer and smashed my television. The wife and kids were somewhat surprised. "Honey," my wife said gently. "Why did you do that?" "Didn't like the picture quality," I replied. "But we've had that TV for ... More >
For free-market zealots, the Harper Conservatives sure are behaving like Communists on climate change. And yes, I know that's not the standard take. Stephen Harper has oil in his veins, we are told. He thinks climate change is a fraud and ... More >
Do laws apply to the United States and its president as they do to other nations and men? On the weekend, Swiss officials were very nearly forced to answer that explosive question. Depending on George W. Bush's travel schedule, Canadian off... More >
One of the most dazzling feats in the history of political prognostication begins with a mistake. "Today is February 6, 2011, and the nation is celebrating ex-President Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday. Mr. Reagan is spending the day quietly ... More >
If you're a fan of Stephen Harper, please move along. I hope that's not rude. It's just that right now I want to talk to people who wish, as I do, that Stephen Harper would try his hand at another line of work. Something better suited to hi... More >
The protesters were as astonished as they were angry. Not long before, no one imagined the regime was vulnerable. Now the streets were filled with millions of people marching and shouting. The Shah must go! For those struggling to understa... More >
*Originally published November 23, 2003.* CAIRO, Egypt - The old woman sits cross-legged on a dirty floor, moaning and weeping. A cockroach scuttles across her bare foot but she doesn't notice, lost as she is in the memory of a murdered so... More >
I'm not very good at reading minds and so, absent other evidence, I can't say if Michael Ignatieff is secretly planning to defile all that is good and righteous by forming a postelection coalition government with socialists, separatists, an... More >
Ronald Reagan is in deep trouble. He probably won't be re-elected. He may not even run. That was the conventional wisdom in January 1982, when Reagan delivered his third State of the Union address. Barack Obama is at precisely the same poi... More >
Here is one argument Prime Minister Stephen Harper can make to defend his purchase of F-35 jet fighters: "No one can predict the future and no one knows what challenges Canada's military will have to meet in the decades ahead. This is why t... More >
In an ordinary place full of ordinary people, violence explodes. The world's electronic eyes turn and we watch, horrified. Why did it happen? Who or what is to blame? The loudest and most certain seize the microphones and op-ed pages. Finge... More >

Yes, Culture Matters

Jan 12, 2011

Imagine two people. One is sure in his bones that he can succeed, but only if he works as hard as he can, gets the best education, and constantly puts off small rewards today for greater rewards tomorrow. The other doesn't believe his actio... More >
Are the Harper Conservatives changing Canada or is Canada changing the Harper Conservatives? Much as I like to complain about the government, I tend to think the answer is closer to the latter. One big reason? I follow American politics clo... More >
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 li... More >
We're coming to the end of the year and the pundits are lining up to tell us what's going to happen in the one to follow. And why not? People want to hear predictions. And for the expert, there's no way he can lose. If the prediction hits, ... More >
Foreign Policy magazine is devoted to big thinking about big issues and its December issue -- "The 100 Top Global Thinkers of 2010" -- is bigger than most. I commend it. For two reasons. First, there's the entry for the Harvard psychologis... More >
'I gotta show you something," Jay Leno told the Tonight Show audience in December 2004. "You know this is the time of year you start to see all those safety demonstrations about Christmas trees and Christmas tree fires. I saw one. This is r... More >
(Note: the following was originally published December, 2007, in the Ottawa Citizen. I thought I'd repeat it because, well, this stuff never goes out of fashion, does it?) I am an atheist. I do not believe in Zeus, Thor, Quetzalcoatl, Gane... More >
It has been another dismal year. The economy slouches along. Unemployment is high. Debt steadily mounts. Greece, Ireland, and half a dozen other countries cling to the edge of a cliff. Pakistan was flooded. Haiti got cholera. And it's incre... More >
When a slick and smiling Jeff Rubin appeared in a Harry Rosen ad earlier this year, it was clear that the former CIBC World Markets chief economist has become more than a practitioner of the dismal science. He is a brand. A rock star. An in... More >
Sometimes what's most interesting is what isn't happening. And what's not happening in politics today is the left. In the United Kingdom, an austerity budget introduced by the governing coalition of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats has ... More >
On Sept. 12, 2001, George W. Bush said something he had avoided saying the day before. "The deliberate and deadly attacks which were carried out yesterday against our country were more than acts of terror," he told reporters. "They were act... More >
On Wednesday, in response to a question from the opposition, a minister of the Crown stood in the House of Commons and assured the honourable members that neither he nor the Prime Minister of Canada advocates the murder of Julian Assange. ... More >
At a recent town hall, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff took a question from the audience about the prostitution laws. Almost two months ago, an Ontario judge ruled that Canada's prostitution laws put prostitutes at greater risk of violenc... More >
The "road to prosperity" is clear, wrote Pat Toomey in a book published last year. Cut taxes. Deregulate. Get government out of the way and let the free market rip. This isn't dogma, emphasized Toomey, a former Republican Congressman and fo... More >
With the recent NATO summit in Lisbon, the media have been filled with stories about Afghanistan. Stories about tactics, training, troop levels and timelines. Stories about governance and corruption. Stories about the hard slog of fighting ... More >
Should the government of Canada spend $16 billion on 65 of those supercool F-35 stealth fighter jets? I don't know. But I do know one of the arguments often made in the debate, explicitly or implicitly, is dangerously misguided. Worse, it's... More >

That 70s Show

Nov 16, 2010

Mounting deficits. Economic stagnation, high unemployment, and fears of worsening inflation. Peak oil. Calls for a return to the gold standard. Declining American power. Deepening pessimism and an unpopular president. And what's with the s... More >
For the government of the United States of America, the status quo is not sustainable. About that, there can be no debate. The latest Congressional Budget Office projections see federal debt hitting 90 per cent of Gross Domestic Product wi... More >
Does anyone remember the issue that Stephen Harper called "perhaps the biggest threat to confront the future of humanity today"? No, it wasn't terrorism. Or nuclear proliferation. Or the rickety global financial system. Or a coalition of th... More >
In psychology, the "von Restorff Effect" is a basic insight into human cognition: We tend to notice and remember what is unusual or what has changed, while paying much less attention to what is usual and unchanged. We saw a mass demonstrati... More >
At the time of writing, the results of the American midterm elections are not known. And yet, I can predict three outcomes with near-metaphysical certainty. One, some pundits will have predicted the results. Two, all pundits will explain ... More >

What Is Torture?

Oct 29, 2010

Omar Khadr was not tortured. He may have been hooded, shoved, shackled to a wall, humiliated, threatened with guard dogs, told he was going to be sent to the Middle East for torture, forced into painful stress positions, and deprived of sle... More >
On Sunday, reporters and other Serious People referred to Omar Khadr as an "accused terrorist." On Monday, when Khadr stood before a military commission in Guantanamo and accepted a plea bargain, he became a "confessed terrorist." This is n... More >
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 a... More >
Omar Khadr, meet John Walker Lindh. John, Omar. I probably don't need to tell John about you, Omar. You've been all over the news lately. But it's been many years since John made headlines. In November, 2001, John Walker Lindh, an all-Ame... More >
As campaign controversies go, it was minor stuff: Ottawa mayor Larry O'Brien accused the government of Ontario of funding a study to examine the feasibility of safe-injection sites in the province -- and of keeping the study under wraps unt... More >


I hand the worn and faded book to the old man, and he smiles. He remembers it well.

He is Professor Monkombu Sambasivan Swaminathan. Little-known in this country, Swamin... More >

Barack Obama is in trouble because he's lost the magic that got him elected, we are told. The "passion and myth" that Obama summoned so powerfully during his campaign "are sorely missing from his presidency," writes Maureen Dowd in the New ... More >
Anyone following the American media knows that Americans are in an uproar. Disgust with the federal government is worse than ever. Extremist political views are spreading rapidly. The Tea Party movement has become a massive populist revolt.... More >
On Tuesday, a judge in Ontario concluded that the three most important criminal laws forbidding activities related to prostitution prevent prostitutes from taking simple safety precautions that would reduce their risk of violence at the han... More >
It's a soggy Monday night but the pews in one of Ottawa's most spacious churches are overflowing with believers. "We have tried to assume the position of the gods," the angry man at the lectern thunders, "without the knowledge to manage our... More >
Bear with me. I'm going to discuss the work of the Auditor General without any reference to a politically damaging scandal. Yes, it will be boring. But it's important. And I promise to talk about the gun registry just to give everybody some... More >
Please allow me to put in print what an awful lot of Latin American politicians would like to say to their Canadian colleagues: You know how the illicit drug trade has plagued the countries of Latin America for decades? You know how it spr... More >
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 audi... More >
There's a good chance that a private member's bill to scrap the long-gun registry will be defeated next week. If it is, there's an even better chance that the registry will be a major issue in the next election. And that's absurd, because t... More >
At the time of writing, it is not clear if that strange little man in Florida, or the strange little man in Kansas, or some other strange little man somewhere, will go ahead with a much-discussed plan to burn a stack of Korans. But a few th... More >
Judging by the controversy surrounding the refusal of the federal government to fund clinical trials of the "liberation treatment" of multiple sclerosis, the media and the public have forgotten one of the biggest health stories of the early... More >

Speaking no evil

Sep 03, 2010

Speaking no evilLast spring, female suicide bombers set off massive explosions that tore apart two subway stations in central Moscow, close to the headquarters of the FSB (the domestic successor agency to the KGB). Dozens of people were kil... More >
Lawnmowers, terrorists, and other major threatsI do not wish to alarm the public, but I must urgently report the discovery of a disturbing fact: It seems that in 2006 -- according to the most recent StatsCan data -- two Canadians were kille... More >
Stephen Harper bids adieu to realityA slim majority of Conservative party members believe homosexuals should be arrested and imprisoned in federal dinner theatres, where they would perform The Sound of Music and other wholesome entertainmen... More >
Semrau verdict exposes tragically flawed lawThe situation Captain Robert Semrau encountered was a philosopher's dream and a soldier's nightmare. In hostile territory, what was left of an enemy combatant lay on the ground. His body had been... More >
Why you can trust the census, but not pollsIn 1936, a massive poll of 2.3 million Americans revealed that the forthcoming presidential election would be won in a landslide by Alf Landon. Alf, who? Right. There was indeed a landslide in 1936... More >
Why our drug policy is 'inconsistent' with all available evidenceIt's safe to assume most people have never heard of the "Vienna Declaration." And that simple fact helps explain why public policies that fail -- policies that do vastly more ... More >

Hypocrites On Stilts

Jul 21, 2010

On Monday, Industry minister Tony Clement took to Twitter's ramparts and resumed the Battle of the Census. "Data is valuable to many," he tweeted. "But personal questions you would like to force Cdns to answer on pain of jail is just plain ... More >
Statisticians gone wildTo turn statistical methodology into a political controversy, a government has to really screw up. But to make statisticians shriek and flap their arms like wounded albatrosses, to cause policy wonks to turn purple wi... More >
Nobody takes Paul the Octopus seriously. We're too clever for that. As most of the planet knows by now, Paul the Octopus, the star attraction at an aquarium in Oberhausen, Germany, was asked to "predict" the outcome of Germany's matches at... More >
The thrill of righteous violenceA few years ago in Moscow, I interviewed Edward Limonov, novelist and leader of the National Bolsheviks, a banned political party mostly famous for their party banner -- identical to the flag of Nazi Germany,... More >
John de Chastelain, the acclaimed general and diplomat, said something enormously important last week when he responded to rumours that he would be the next governor general. It's not on, said de Chastelain, who will be 73 in July. He's too... More >

Originally published in the Ottawa Citizen, June, 2010.

Over at the National Post, last week was "Junk Science Week," during which Post writers like Peter Foster and Lawrence Solomon identify and denounce widely publ... More >

Well, it seems I was wrong. All wrong. "Climategate" and the other recent scandals have torn the lid off the rotten science of climate change. The deniers were right. Crank up the air conditioning and open the windows, happy days are here a... More >
So you follow the news, maybe not as closely as you'd like, but you try to stay informed about major issues. And the latest buzz on climate change is unmistakable. The science is breaking up. There is no consensus. Climatologists were caugh... More >

A Gazebo for Tony

Jun 02, 2010

Everyone who reads a newspaper knows that the resort town of Huntsville will play host to the world's economic leaders later this month. They also know the G8 summit will be fantastically expensive. And they are paying the bill. But they p... More >
Ideas come from a lot of places, and some of them are better than others. Is the patient sick? Stick some leeches on him to suck out the bad blood. That made sense to somebody, so they did it, and the patient felt better. It must have work... More >
Environmentalists should be worried about Canada's fertility rate. It's too low. We need to make more babies. It's the green thing to do. This will not be immediately evident to environmentalists, to say the least. In fact, I can say with ... More >

Originally published in the Ottawa Citizen, April 26, 2010.

In 1970, Pierre Trudeau, the patron saint of bilingualism, appointed Bora Laskin to the Supreme Court of Canada. Laskin's work was stellar. In 1973, Trudeau made him chie... More >

Originally published in the Ottawa Citizen, April 16, 2010.

With the reader's indulgence, I'd like to tell a story that may be of interest to those concerned by a bill -- now before the Senate -- that would bar anyon... More >

Want to make $100? It's easy. You send me $550. Cash or cheque. In exchange, I will send you a cool $100. Cash or cheque. Or a money order, if you prefer. Is that a deal or what? No? Only a fool would fall for this? Well, then, the governm... More >
When political parties convene to discuss policy, they generally invite speakers who can be counted on to deliver pleasant platitudes and uncontroversial twaddle. There were some of those speakers at the Liberals' deep-think in Montreal thi... More >

Originally published in the Ottawa Citizen, 2010

Why worry about how many babies Canadians have? If the country needs more people, we can loosen the tap on immigration. Problem solved.

Anyone who has ever sugg... More >

One would think that on the scale of controversial statements, "it would be nice if people had more babies" ranks somewhere between "honesty is the best policy" and "kittens are cute." But judging by the fierce reaction to a recent column o... More >
Let's compare what two documents say about the aging of the Canadian population. One is the speech from the throne. The other is the "Fiscal Sustainability Report" recently issued by the Parliamentary Budget Officer. "This demographic shif... More >

Doomed to be wrong

Feb 27, 2010

Doomed to be wrong'Yes, sir, we've just had our 70 fat years in America, thanks to the Greatest Generation and the bounty of freedom and prosperity they built for us," New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote last week. But it's over.... More >

I'm a believer

Apr 04, 2009

I believe the earth has existed for precisely 3,213 years, five months, seven days, and four hours. Of course the reader will have to adjust these figures somewhat as I am writing this column a day before it will be published. I further be... More >

The bad news bias

Mar 27, 2009

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... More >
Since 1985, Gallup's polling has included a question that reveals a fundamental fact about the relationship between the economy and the environment. Do you agree, Gallup asks, that "protection of the environment should be given priority, e... More >
Ask someone of a progressive bent to identify annoying mental habits of conservatives and a few points are likely to come up. There's the tendency to see simple cartoons instead of complex realities. The disregard of contrary views and evi... More >
Strolling through the business section at Chapters the other day, I noticed that we're all going to die. And soon. Well, I suppose not all of us. I don't want to be alarmist. Many will survive the collapse of civilization, although they m... More >
When Environics pollster Michael Adams asked 2,066 Canadians to name someone they admired -- anyone at all, living or dead -- 21 chose Queen Elizabeth II. That's about one per cent of respondents, which may not seem very impressive. But re... More >
As a long-time student of crime policy, I didn't predict that national crime statistics released last week would show a substantial drop in most categories of crime in most parts of the country. Predicting long-term crime trends is hard. P... More >
The government's handling of drug policy is so ignorant and foolish it is a challenge to explain why in a newspaper column. To expound on stupidity of this magnitude requires a very long book. But two images from this week do come close to... More >

On Drugs and Evidence

May 23, 2008

Health minister Tony Clement insists the government's only concern is sound public policy. Does Insite really work? That's all Mr. Clement cares about. If so, the government will allow the Vancouver drug-injection facility to stay open. If ... More >

The Political Olympics

Apr 12, 2008

'The Olympics shouldn't be about politics, it should be about sport," moaned John Furlong to the Globe and Mail. Furlong is the president of the Vancouver Organizing Committee of the 2010 Winter Games and he was shocked by the sight of prot... More >
Ah, doesn't that feel good? Moral dudgeon is such a pleasant sensation. Thank you, Eliot Spitzer. Having availed himself of a call girl's very expensive services -- and gotten caught -- the governor of New York has shocked the conscience o... More >
More than the conclusions, it is the methods of argumentation that expose anti-Americanism for the prejudice it is. There is the use of gross caricatures. Disregard for complexity and nuance. Trivial anecdotes treated as significant evidenc... More >

Agreeing to disagree

Jan 02, 2008

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... More >
I'm sure the Dalai Lama is a wise, insightful and altogether wonderful human being. He must be. Everyone says so. Besides, he looks wise, insightful and altogether wonderful. The smiling helps. So does the robe. And when he grins, flips hi... More >
The cover of the latest issue of The Atlantic Monthly is filled with the solemn gaze of a thoughtful, generous, remarkable man. His name is William Jefferson Clinton, although, such is his modesty, he prefers to be known simply as "Bill." ... More >

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 civilizat... More >

It is my privilege today to break major news: In less than a year, the trade in illicit drugs will be all but wiped out. Cocaine. Methamphetamine. Marijuana. All will vanish. And heroin, too. The timing for our soldiers in Afghanistan coul... More >

The Dutch Way

Oct 28, 2006

Much of the commentary about Europe's current troubles with immigration rests on a foundation of assumptions. One is the belief that the countries of Western Europe were, until recently, monocultural. Another is that multiculturalism -- a v... More >
ROTTEDAM - The young man says he doesn't have time to talk to me. He has a train to catch. But as he whips open the door to Rotterdam's central train station, he gives me a two-word answer to my question. "Holland sucks!" Inside, he pauses... More >

The Peacekeeping Myth

Jul 14, 2006

As retired major-general Lewis MacKenzie and other officers noted many times this week, soldiers bitch. Always have, always will. The fact that a soldier killed in combat last Sunday had complained to family and friends abo... More >

Sex, Data And Ideology

Mar 31, 2006

Readers of the New York Times will be familiar with columnist Nicholas Kristof and his crusade -- one of several -- against sex trafficking. The routine is standard by now: The well-travelled Kristof visits a brothel in some fantastically ... More >
Two flies cling to the side of a stagecoach as it rolls across the desert, trailing a thick cloud of dust in its wake. One fly looks back. "Wow!" he says. "Look at what we're kickin' up." OK, it's not exactly a knee-slapping punchline, but... More >

Fun With Crime Numbers

Feb 15, 2006

Be afraid, Canadians. Crime has gone up so rapidly that the rate of assault in this country is now "more than double that of the United States." So is the rate of sexual assault. And even the rate of overall violent crime. Fear, panic, cha... More >
Everyone from Paul Martin to Dalton McGuinty and Jack Layton agrees that tough sentences are part of the solution to gun crime. They're all wrong. But no one is more wrong than Stephen Harper, whose long list of bare-knuckle justice policie... More >
Canadians probably know much less about guns, gangs and murder than Americans, and Malcolm Klein knows more than most Americans. The renowned criminologist and police consultant has good news and bad news for Canadians worried about the gun... More >
On a June evening in 2004, Washington's elite gathered at the Marriott hotel for a black-tie dinner in honour of Condoleezza Rice, currently the U. S. Secretary of State but then the national security adviser to President George W. Bush. Ri... More >

Nexen and the Dictator

Nov 05, 2005

When the Canadian oil company Talisman Energy finally withdrew from war-ravaged Sudan in 2002 -- after the company's reputation had been dragged through the global mud by activists who blamed Talisman for enriching the brutal Sudanese gover... More >
'I hate definitions," says John Ralston Saul. This is not helpful. I've asked him to define "globalization" as he uses it in his new book The Collapse of Globalism and the Reinvention of the World. Globalization is, by any definition, a con... More >

The "Potent Pot" Myth

Mar 19, 2005

Pot today is "as much as seven times stronger than the 'grass' available four years ago," warned an article in Newsweek. That was in 1980. It was already a well-worn theme. And it continues to be a media standard, appearing several times i... More >
KANSAS CITY/TOPEKA -- In suburban Kansas City, where little American flags flutter in flowerbeds and shiny SUVs with "Bush/Cheney 2004" bumper stickers fill church parking lots, it takes courage to stand at a street corner on a brilliant Su... More >
In much of Asia, the AIDS pandemic is driven primarily by injection drug use. In the former Soviet bloc, the rampant spread of AIDS is almost entirely the result of shared needles. Even here in Canada, shooting up is a critical vector for t... More >
"Surely never before was so great a responsibility laid upon a generation of men and on its thinkers and leaders as now when the war is drawing to its end." With those words, Ernst Juenger, the controversial German writer, philosopher and s... More >
Once a sex offender, always a sex offender. Everyone knows that, right? Sex offenders are incurable monsters. They will commit new outrages as soon as they think they can get away with it, which is why the federal government recently passe... More >
"Suppose a terrorist has hidden an atomic bomb on Manhattan Island which will detonate at noon on July 4," wrote philosopher Michael Levin. "Suppose further that he is caught at 10 a.m. of the fateful day, but -- preferring death to failure... More >
'You don't look at their face, even when you put prods in their mouth," a Chilean torturer said in 1984. "You keep their eyes covered. The secret is not to look into their eyes. The other secret is not to draw blood. You leave that for the ... More >

The Face of Torture

Feb 01, 2004

*Part of a series published in the Ottawa Citizen, February, 2004* The other patrons of the little restaurant on a side street in Cairo may have thought the young man was talking excitedly about his studies, his plans for the future, or ma... More >

(originally published in the Ottawa Citizen, 2004)


"I have a little bit more money now and it's fun to buy a pair of shoes or buy a sweater or a book. I love reading. Very soon I'm going to get a computer." Mario... More >

AMSTERDAM -- "The biggest problem is finding the vein," Karsten mutters as he jams the needle into his right arm, over and over, like a robin digging for worms. Nothing. He jams it in a few more times. No luck. He switches hands and hunts i... More >

Skid Row

Jun 08, 2002

VANCOUVER -- "I get yelled at a lot by people driving by," says Jason, staring into his coffee cup. They "come down here from the suburbs and from their houses and they treat the people down here as subhuman."

"Down here" is Vanco... More >

On June 6, 1998, a surprising letter was delivered to Kofi Annan, secretary general of the United Nations. ``We believe,'' the letter declared, ``that the global war on drugs is now causing more harm than drug abuse itself.''

The ... More >

L'etat, c'est Jean

Apr 12, 2000

Conventional wisdom goes like this: In the past, the people of Canada deferred to authority. A few white guys in suits ran things behind closed doors and we, the peasants, thought that was just fine as long as our lords and masters kept ... More >

Perhaps it's a sign of a conflicted personality, but I may be the only simultaneous fan of both Tie Domi and Toller Cranston -- the Yin and Yang of men on skates. No further explanation is needed for admiring the Leafs' enforcer than to ... More >

"Killed At Vimy Ridge"

Oct 11, 1998

ARRAS, France - Tom Spear dabbed away a tear and said, ``You've caught me at an emotional moment.'' So it was for the First World War veteran, and others as well. In a concert in Arras, the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Band had just finis... More >

MONS, Belgium - Minutes to go. At 10:55 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918, Pte. George Price of the Canadian Expeditionary Force held flowers given to him by Belgian townspeople. In minutes, an armistice would take effect. In minutes, the Great War,... More >