We need a Plan B to deal with climate change

Adapting to a changing climate is the only feasible option

We need a Plan B to deal with climate changeDrawing heavily from physicist Steven Koonin’s recent book – Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters – my last column looked at some of the challenges involved in getting to global carbon-free by mid-century. Koonin actually calls it “a practical impossibility.” Now let’s talk about contingency planning. If carbon…

The road to a carbon-free future will be rougher than we thought

If aspirations and reality collide, always bet on reality

The road to a carbon-free future will be rougher than we thoughtIf you’ve been following international news lately, you’ll have noticed a new development. Europe and Asia are suddenly worried about energy. With winter coming, costs are soaring and there’s even concern about shortages that might trigger industrial shutdowns and endanger people’s ability to heat their homes. From an object of loathing and scorn, fossil fuels…

The bloody end of Anwar Sadat

Sadat had committed the cardinal sin of making peace with Israel

The bloody end of Anwar SadatOn Oct. 6, 1981, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was gunned down while presiding over a ceremony celebrating the eighth anniversary of the Yom Kippur War. It was a brutal reminder of how passionate political differences can claim the lives of even the most prominent. Political assassinations weren’t exactly unheard of in the second half of…

Trudeau is more of a celebrity than political giant

His adoring fans attribute to him qualities he doesn't actually have

Trudeau is more of a celebrity than political giantWith the dust settling from Sept. 20’s federal election, here are three takeaways: Justin Trudeau isn’t – and never was – a political giant When Justin Trudeau thwarted Stephen Harper’s 2015 effort for an unprecedented fourth consecutive term, he looked like a political rock star. He had charisma to burn, adoring fans, media enthusiasm and…

Rocky Marciano was formidable from his first fight to his last

Rocky was all about brute force, relentless aggression, destructive punching power and a non-fastidious attitude toward the rules

Rocky Marciano was formidable from his first fight to his lastBeing heavyweight champion of the world was a big deal when professional boxing was a mainstream sport – a very big deal. And in the early 1950s, an Italian-American called Rocky Marciano was the guy. Born Rocco Marchegiano on Sept. 1, 1923, he was one of six children in a working-class Italian immigrant family –…

When Reagan fired the air traffic controllers

It was assumed that Reagan would cave to the aggressive labour action. He didn't

When Reagan fired the air traffic controllersSomething unusual happened in August 1981. Ronald Reagan, then president of the United States, fired the country’s illegally-striking air traffic controllers. Most observers were astonished. This wasn’t part of the normal political playbook. Increasing union militancy had become a prevalent feature of the economic landscape since the 1960s. And when faced with aggressive labour action…

Bill Davis, the man who understood Ontario

His sense of what Ontario wanted was on the money

Bill Davis, the man who understood OntarioBill Davis, the former Ontario premier, died on Aug. 8. He was the first Conservative I ever voted for. It happened in the October 1971 provincial election. My previous trip to the polls – in 1968 to vote for Pierre Trudeau’s federal Liberals – had been an enthusiastic occasion. Not this time. Davis wasn’t the…

In praise of talented storytellers Forsyth, Follett

If you’re partial to thrillers but aren’t familiar with either man, find a copy of The Day of the Jackal or Eye of the Needle and enjoy a riveting read

In praise of talented storytellers Forsyth, FollettThis summer marks the 50th anniversary of Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal. It’d be hard to conceive of a more spectacular novelistic debut. Forsyth was a “flat broke,” unemployed English journalist in his early 30s. Hopefully, a novel would help clear his debts. While the book’s inspiration was the failed 1962 assassination attempt…

Vandalizing Emily Murphy for no good reason

Was the icon of feminism really a racist?

Vandalizing Emily Murphy for no good reasonOh, dear, the statue-defacing vigilantes are at it again! One of the latest targets is erstwhile Canadian feminist icon Emily Murphy (no relation). Her Edmonton statue got the red paint treatment in mid-July. Predictably, the ‘racist’ epithet was deployed. Indeed, the National Post’s news story went beyond merely noting the racist allegation. It accepted it…

If history is any guide, a Liberal majority government is within reach

The current Liberal iteration hasn’t been in power long enough for serious fatigue to set in and Justin Trudeau isn’t Paul Martin

If history is any guide, a Liberal majority government is within reachShould the mooted federal election materialize, it’ll be the third time in 50 years that a minority Liberal government took an early trip to the polls. So will the result resemble Pierre Trudeau of 1972 and 1974 (a minority followed by a big victory) or Paul Martin of 2004 and 2006 (a minority followed by…

William of Orange was no charmer but he left a lasting legacy

Inspired the founding of the Orange Order

William of Orange was no charmer but he left a lasting legacyAs the marching season in Northern Ireland rolls around again, William of Orange (1650-1702) comes to mind. The memory of William – or King Billy – inspired the founding of the Orange Order almost a century after his death. Steadfast and stubborn in its championing of Irish Protestant identity, the Order remains committed to maintaining…

Richard Nixon’s shocking summer and its big payoff

He wanted to be seen as a man of action, someone taking charge

Richard Nixon’s shocking summer and its big payoffIn the summer of 1971, Richard Nixon demonstrated how his charismatic deficiencies didn’t preclude daring moves. His detractors were taken by surprise. Nixon was in the third year of his first U.S. presidential term and he came into that summer on the back foot. The inherited Vietnam War was grinding on and the policy of…

What we get wrong about the Islamic empire and crusader armies

Author Steve Tibble’s message is that much of the crusader narrative is simplistic caricature. But it can’t erase facts

What we get wrong about the Islamic empire and crusader armiesAs imperial enterprises went, it was a stunning performance. Coming from apparently nowhere, an extensive Islamic empire was born in the century following the Prophet Muhammad’s 632 death. Arab armies swept out of the remote Arabian peninsula to conquer the Middle East and North Africa, subsequently crossing the straits of Gibraltar to Spain and establishing…

Stalin, Hitler and the fatal mistakes of Operation Barbarossa

Stalin never lost his penchant for executing his officers. In the catastrophic early days of the German invasion, he shot eight generals

Stalin, Hitler and the fatal mistakes of Operation BarbarossaAdolf Hitler launched the German invasion of the Soviet Union – Operation Barbarossa – in the early hours of June 22, 1941. Initially, it looked like a triumph. The Soviets were caught flatfooted and German troops advanced 480 km into Soviet territory within the first week. It looked like an eastern version of the blitzkrieg…

J.F.K. dug a deep hole in his relationship with Khrushchev

Because of the Bay of Pigs disaster, Khrushchev pegged Kennedy as a pushover

J.F.K. dug a deep hole in his relationship with KhrushchevThings didn’t go well when U.S. President John F. Kennedy met with Soviet First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev in June 1961. Or at least they didn’t from Kennedy’s perspective. Speaking to American journalist James Reston after the Vienna summit’s second and final day, Kennedy described it as the “roughest thing in my life.” Khrushchev, he said,…

TV series shines a light on Norway and its war

As historically-inspired dramas go, the eight-part PBS series Atlantic Crossing is unusually authentic

TV series shines a light on Norway and its warWe’ve just finished watching the eight-part PBS series Atlantic Crossing. It’s an excellent drama that shines a light on an interesting aspect of Norway’s Second World War experience. The main focus is on the relationship between Crown Princess Martha of Norway and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In addition to his own anti-Nazi leanings, Roosevelt…

Is Scotland poised to push forward with separation?

Recent election results provided a comfortable majority for parties committed to a second referendum on Scottish independence

Is Scotland poised to push forward with separation?An early May column took an advance look at the May 6 elections in the United Kingdom. Now that the results are in and the dust has settled, let’s review what actually happened. And of even greater import, let’s consider where things might go from here. There were two topics of particular interest in the…

Napoleon was a bitter man in his final years

He bitterly resented his exile to St. Helena, blaming it all on Wellington

Napoleon was a bitter man in his final yearsA childhood history book included a reproduction of Jacques-Louis David’s famous portrait of Napoleon crossing the Alps. It’s an idealized representation, not a realistic one. Mounted on a rearing Marengo – his grey Arabian stallion – the man who became emperor of the French and conqueror of Europe gives off an invincible vibe. Two recent…

Will the tide turn on Scottish independence after May 6 election?

If Brexit has put wind in Scottish nationalist sails, it has also upped the complexity. Pulling off a successful secession has gotten tougher

Will the tide turn on Scottish independence after May 6 election?May 6 will be an interesting day for anyone following politics in the United Kingdom. Along with various local council votes, there’ll be an election for all 129 seats in the Scottish Parliament and a byelection for the vacant Westminster seat in Hartlepool. The results of the last two will be keenly watched. There’s not…

If China invades, will Taiwan be on its own?

China insists that unification with Taiwan is non-negotiable. If it can’t be achieved peacefully, it’ll be done militarily

If China invades, will Taiwan be on its own?Taiwan – an island off the southern coast of China – is home to over 23 million people. It’s also a prosperous democracy, albeit one that’s become something of a diplomatic outcast. The island came into China’s political orbit during the 17th century and was formally annexed in 1683. The origins of the major Chinese…

The Bay of Pigs fiasco upended J.F.K.’s presidential honeymoon

In his first serious foreign policy test in 1961, the new American president flunked badly. He was in way over his head

The Bay of Pigs fiasco upended J.F.K.’s presidential honeymoonThings were going swimmingly for U.S. President John F. Kennedy immediately following his January 1961 inauguration. Despite being elected by a mere whisker, his approval ratings were stratospheric and much of the media was in love with him. It was as if he was a political superman. Then came the fiasco at the Bay of…

A glimpse at Larry McMurtry’s prodigious, resonant output

A glimpse at Larry McMurtry’s prodigious, resonant outputLarry McMurtry, who died recently aged 84, was an American writer and a prodigious worker. Beginning in 1961, he produced dozens of books, plus various screenplays for movies and television. Sometimes the screenplays were adaptations of his own literary output and sometimes they weren’t. McMurtry was born in rural Texas in 1936. And while it…

Taking the temperature of U.S. Republicans

2024 Republican nomination will be a prize worth winning. Not an automatic ticket to the White House but more than a consolation prize

Taking the temperature of U.S. RepublicansAn interesting new American poll, conducted by the firm Fabrizio, Lee & Associates, surveyed Republican voters to ascertain what they want from their party going forward. Bottom line: They still like Donald Trump – a lot. The poll’s analysis sees the Republicans as consisting of five separate tribes, four of which are well disposed towards…

An Irish hero for St. Patrick’s Day

Sarsfield was the de facto commander of James’s forces in Ireland. The mission failed but his reputation for gallantry was assured

An Irish hero for St. Patrick’s DayThis being the season of St. Patrick’s Day, an Irish-themed column seems appropriate. And a recent news story provides a suitable prompt. Born between 1655 and 1658, Patrick Sarsfield was a dashing Irish hero. He was brave, patriotic and charismatic. And the fact that he was mortally wounded leading a cavalry charge at the 1693…

The cultural ripples of the fight of the century

First Ali-Frazier fight was surrounded by name calling and racial strife, with political overtones

The cultural ripples of the fight of the centuryIt was 50 years ago this month – March 8, 1971 – that Madison Square Garden, in New York, hosted what was billed as the fight of the century. Or as it’s otherwise known, Ali-Frazier I. Previous generations might’ve begged to differ. Jack Dempsey-Gene Tunney in the 1920s or Joe Louis-Max Schmeling in the 1930s…

Digging deep into John Wayne’s western films to find gems

Digging deep into John Wayne’s western films to find gemsJohn Wayne (1907-1979) is best remembered for his western movies. And he made scads of them, ranging from mediocre to excellent. Indeed, three Wayne vehicles appear on the American Film Institute’s list of the top 10 westerns of all time. No other star has more than a single entry. So if any actor can be…

Understated George Shultz left a lasting legacy

As Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state, he played a key role in bringing about the end of the Cold War

Understated George Shultz left a lasting legacyGeorge Shultz, who died on Feb. 6 at the age of 100, was an important 20th-century figure. He was one of the good guys. An economist by profession, Shultz was born in New York in 1920. He graduated from Princeton in 1942, served in the Marine Corps during the Second World War and subsequently earned…

If you like medieval drama, The Last Kingdom fits the bill

While not scrupulously accurate, it is still quite engrossing

If you like medieval drama, The Last Kingdom fits the billAn electrician in to do some wiring work a couple of months ago ran his eye over the media shelf, noticed the Vikings DVD set and announced that The Last Kingdom was better. So in the midst of a pandemic winter, we tracked down the extant four seasons and gave it a whirl. The series…

Boris Johnson: the man who got Brexit done

Boris Johnson: the man who got Brexit doneIn December 2019, I wrote a column arguing that United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson was shaping up as a genuinely consequential politician. And the recent announcement of a new trade deal between the U.K. and the European Union bears that out. First, though, a clarification of terms. Declaring someone as consequential isn’t necessarily an…

Eisenhower was cagey but Kennedy rushed in

In 1961, as a young president prepared to take over from an aging one, their perspectives on military responsibility were starkly different

Eisenhower was cagey but Kennedy rushed inIn the third week of January 1961, two American political figures made important speeches. One was the outgoing president, Dwight D. Eisenhower. And the other was the new guy, John F. Kennedy. Eisenhower was first up with his Jan. 17 farewell address. Aged 70, he was at that time the oldest president in United States…
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