The Marshall Plan wasn’t a silver bullet

Called ‘the most generous act of any people, anytime, anywhere, to another people,‘ the post-war economic boost still had flaws

The Marshall Plan wasn’t a silver bulletU.S. President Harry Truman signed the Marshall Plan into law 70 years ago this month. Named after then-U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall, the plan was aimed at the economic reconstruction of Europe in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. It got rave reviews. Its own chief administrator characterized it as “the most…

Did Chappaquiddick kill Kennedy’s White House ambitions?

Mary Jo Kopechne’s death was sensational, but justice was never truly done and far too many questions remain unanswered

Did Chappaquiddick kill Kennedy’s White House ambitions?The new movie Chappaquiddick reminds us of an uncomfortable fact: There was a time when powerful politicians could get away with serious stuff. Or at least they could if their name was Kennedy and the stuff happened in Massachusetts. The basic outline is clear. On the evening of Friday, July 18, 1969, there was a…

The coronation of Pierre Trudeau

Fifty years ago tomorrow, Trudeau was declared winner of the federal Liberal Party’s leadership race. Two weeks later he was prime minister

The coronation of Pierre TrudeauAfter 50 years, I still remember the moment. Shortly before 8 p.m. on April 6, 1968, Pierre Trudeau was declared winner of the federal Liberal Party’s leadership race, thereby positioning him to become the 15th prime minister of Canada two weeks later. It had been a tense, riveting day for those of us glued to…

The overwhelming imagery of the Crucifixion

The child that was me experienced the lead-up to Easter as foreboding rather than inspiring

The overwhelming imagery of the CrucifixionI was never big on Easter. As a Catholic schoolboy in 1950s Ireland, Easter played second fiddle to Christmas. In fact, the competition wasn’t even close. Christmas had several advantages. For one thing, school holidays were longer. Whereas Easter only delivered a week and a half, Christmas tacked on a further full week. The tone,…

The Cambridge Analytica furor is mostly bunk

The truth is that gathering and deploying information to influence people’s voting behaviour has long been a staple of politics

The Cambridge Analytica furor is mostly bunkIf you were an innocent in the world of politics, you might have been shocked by the Cambridge Analytica revelations. There are accusations of “harvesting the private information of millions of Facebook users” and then deploying it to “wage psychological warfare against American democracy.” But let’s be candid: At its core, the handwringing horror is…

The tragedy of Oscar Wilde

The Anglo-Irish playwright, poet and novelist ended up imprisoned, the casualty of his own foolishness

The tragedy of Oscar WildeOnce upon a time, I had an uncomplicated view of capital punishment. I was against it. Period. And a reading of the poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde could reduce me to tears. Even now with a much more nuanced view of the subject, the power of the language still moves me.…

Stalin’s Moscow show trials a blind spot for western intellectuals

The eagerness of western intellectuals to justify the Moscow show trials of the late '30s was what was truly frightening about them

Stalin’s Moscow show trials a blind spot for western intellectualsThe infamous Moscow show trials ended 80 years ago this month. Based on fabricated charges of treason, Josef Stalin systematically eliminated virtually all of the remaining Old Bolsheviks, clearing away potential rivals and consolidating his power in the Soviet Union. The first trial began in August 1936, the second in January 1937 and the third…

Flu pandemic of 1918 brutal, virulent killer

One hundred years ago, a flu pandemic swept across the world, killing tens of millions of people, particularly those in the prime of life

Flu pandemic of 1918 brutal, virulent killerFrom the wet and windswept northwest of Ireland to rural southwestern Ontario, the flu pandemic of 1918 to 1920 was remorseless. My mother and my wife’s father lost siblings to an illness where death might come within 24 hours of first symptoms. And sometimes it was particularly brutal. Historian John Barry has described it this…

Political dynasties: destiny fulfilled or disaster in waiting?

Without her surname, there’s no way Caroline Mulroney would be considered a serious Ontario PC leadership candidate at this point in her career

Political dynasties: destiny fulfilled or disaster in waiting?Political dynasties make me uneasy. Oh, I know reasonable arguments can be made for them. And I’m not saying this unease would determine my vote. Still, the reservation lingers. The subject came to mind when Caroline Mulroney announced her candidacy for leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives. A political neophyte who’s never held elected office,…

Let’s stop gratuitously thrashing historical reputations

Emily Murphy should be celebrated for her accomplishments and how they changed Canadian society for the better, not reviled for her shortcomings

Let’s stop gratuitously thrashing historical reputationsDecades ago, I remember my father complaining about “the new fashion for debunking.” But imbued with the certainty of a university freshman, I wasn’t particularly sympathetic. In retrospect, though, he had a point. I was reminded of this the other day when I came across my research notes for a decade-old historical journal essay on…
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