The tangled tragedy of Mary, Queen of Scots

Over the past four-plus centuries, Mary’s reputation has waxed and waned. A movie due out this year should put a positive spin on it

The tangled tragedy of Mary, Queen of ScotsThis Christmas, cinema patrons will be offered the historical drama Mary, Queen of Scots. With Saoirse Ronan in the title role and Margot Robbie as Elizabeth I of England, the movie casts two of today’s prominent actresses in a retelling of the 16th century’s most compelling personal rivalry. As the movie is based on John…

Meddling in other countries’ elections isn’t always outrageous

There are plenty of instances of foreign influence, including in Canada. Why is it okay for Kennedy and Obama but not Putin?

Meddling in other countries’ elections isn’t always outrageousYou’d have to be living in a cave to be unaware of the controversy over Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. And much of the related discussion has approached apocalyptic levels. We’re told that when one country meddles in another’s election, it’s a hostile act. Some have even likened it to war. But…

What if Bobby Kennedy had lived?

It’s still a stretch to believe he could have become president in 1972 or later, given his beliefs and the circumstances of the time

What if Bobby Kennedy had lived?Coincident with the 50th anniversary of U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy’s murder, I wrote a column several weeks ago wondering whether he’d have otherwise been elected president in 1968. My sense was negative. In fact, I didn’t think he’d have won the Democratic nomination that year. However, that doesn’t mean that his presidential prospects were…

The man who cheated death again and again

Caryl Chessman won eight stays of execution until the gas chamber finally caught up with him on May, 2, 1960

The man who cheated death again and againHe’s a forgotten figure now but there was a time when anyone following the news cycle would have known who Caryl Chessman was. Sentenced to death in California on June 25, 1948, Chessman won eight stays of execution until the gas chamber finally caught up with him on May, 2, 1960. In the process, he…

Is Ontario’s Big Blue Machine rolling again?

There's no evidence the tribal loyalty of the past can exist today. And today's financial limits will ultimately handicap any government

Is Ontario’s Big Blue Machine rolling again?With Doug Ford’s surprisingly decisive Ontario election win, you might wonder about going back to the future. Specifically, is the Progressive Conservatives’ fabled Big Blue Machine rolling again? Younger voters may find this hard to credit, but there was a time when the Progressive Conservatives consistently dominated Ontario politics. Beginning in 1943, they won 12…

The Black Death and its aftermath

Surprisingly, post-Black Death populations tended to live longer and enjoy better health and standards of living

The Black Death and its aftermathBubonic plague came to England in the summer of 1348. Popularly known as the Black Death, the disease arrived via a French ship that docked in what is now Weymouth on the south coast. From there, it spread rapidly inland and westwards over the water to Ireland. It was also transmitted across the North Sea…

Would Bobby Kennedy have been elected president?

On the 50th anniversary of his assassination, a close look at the facts suggests another Kennedy president was unlikely

Would Bobby Kennedy have been elected president?It’s now 50 years since U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was murdered on the night of his victory in the California Democratic presidential primary, on June 6, 1968. The shooter, a Palestinian immigrant with Jordanian citizenship, was apparently angry at Kennedy’s support for Israel. Kennedy, generally referred to as Bobby, was a controversial figure in…

Ronald Reagan’s remarkable mission to Moscow

The American president's loathing for nuclear weapons and his desire to see new freedoms in the Soviet Union framed his trip

Ronald Reagan’s remarkable mission to MoscowLate in his presidency, Ronald Reagan went to Moscow for a visit that generated some dramatic images and memorable moments. If you’d predicted this when he was elected in 1980, most people – pundits and experts especially – would’ve scoffed at you. Reagan, so the narrative went, was a dangerous cowboy, a warmonger and a…

Britain’s social (and economic) revolution

A stunning 94% of Britain’s richest made their money themselves. Land ownership no longer holds the keys to the kingdom

Britain’s social (and economic) revolutionIf you watched the royal wedding, you’d be tempted to think of Britain’s social order as immutable. While the bride’s background introduced a degree of diversity, the image of Britain as hereditarily hierarchical seemed to be alive and well. Reality, though, is different. The tectonic plates have shifted significantly over the past half-century, transforming what…

Movie musical Grease turns 40 this summer

Forty years after its release, the movie poses a conundrum for those disposed to view everything through an ideologically-tinted lens

Movie musical Grease turns 40 this summerBelieve it or not, the movie musical Grease turns 40 this summer. It’s no exaggeration to say that it took the 1978 box office by storm. Indeed, the radio-ubiquitous title song caught the mood of the moment perfectly: Grease is the word. Alas, the simple joys can never stay simple. In the fraught temper of…

Marxism “the opium of the intellectuals”

On the 200th anniversary of Marx's birth, let's admit Marxism has nothing useful to say to the modern world

Marxism “the opium of the intellectuals”Karl Marx is buried in England, in the north London suburb of Highgate. I know that because I came across his grave in the summer of 1964. Topped by a large bronze bust on a marble pedestal, the tomb is hard to miss. And although you might think of Marx as a quaint figure, you’d…

Ireland’s abortion referendum puts it all on the table

If you probe the granular views of most people, I suspect you’ll find they’re somewhere between the two extremes

Ireland’s abortion referendum puts it all on the tableThere is no abortion law in Canada. Canadians uneasy about that can look across the Atlantic for an alternative way of doing things. On May 25, the Republic of Ireland goes to the polls in an abortion-related constitutional referendum. Abortion was outlawed in Ireland by the Offences Against the Person Act passed by the United…

What happens if America stops underwriting world order?

Because there are bad guys and bullies out there, a muscular cop – however imperfect – brings a degree of reassurance

What happens if America stops underwriting world order?Pax Americana is the Latin term for the idea that American power underwrites the post-1945 world order. If there’s a major international problem, the underlying assumption is that the United States needs to take the lead in resolving or containing it. Other countries may play a supporting role but the Americans need to do the…

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…
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