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Max Aitken and the limits of unidirectional power

The Canadian who did most to change the world in the first half of the 20th century did so as a a British tycoon. Max Aitken, First Baron Beaverbrook (1879-1964), a small pixie in appearance, was a phenomenon of energy. Son of a Scottish clergyman, growing up in New Brunswick, he made his first fortune in Canada as a bold and adventurous company promoter and stockbroker, becoming a millionaire before he was thirty. He left permanently for Britain in 1910 and became a Commons MP less than a year later. He then set about becoming the richest and most politically influential of the British press barons. He built the Daily Express, from a circulation of 40,000 when he acquired it, into a giant, with hundreds of thousands of readers by the end of the 1920s; after 1945 it reached daily sales of almost 4 million, highest of any newspaper in the world. By then, he owned as well a large string of other newspapers and businesses, and maintained a dozen luxurious homes in England, France, Canada, and the U.S., famous as well for his many affairs and for the lively conversation of his dinner table. Aitken was both a whirlwind business expansionist and a writer of real talent. Near the end of his life, over eighty and dying of cancer, he still sometimes telephoned orders to his employees, barking “You gotta gotta say...” I knew some Daily Express reporters in London in the early 1960s; an otherwise irreverent crew, they all held "the Beaver" in awe. They recognized his astuteness about what readers wanted, and his own literary gifts. His many books included three brilliant ones about British politics in the First World War. He also hired other first-class writers, including Evelyn Waugh, who lampooned him in two of his… Read More

Justin’s fawning for Castro

The most telling indictment of the death of Fidel Castro this past week came not from a network TV savant but from an anonymous partier in Miami’s Little Havana. Asked how Castro’s brutal regime should be portrayed by the media, he said, “You didn’t see anyone trying to launch a Toyota Prius flotilla to go from here to Havana, did you?” Indeed. But watch CBS/PBS pool boy Charlie Rose in Cuba parsing his language over the death of Castro. The poor man can’t seem to form the word “murderer,” “Global reputation”, “hero to some” and “enormous political figure” come tumbling from his lips, but making note of the blood-soaked ground beneath him seems to escape the poor man. He can’t bring himself to condemn evil. No one in Rose’s respectable press row would ever describe the death of Hitler or Mussolini or Augusto Pinochet without some descriptives about mass murder, torture or watching snuff videos of their terrified victims. Those crimes were true about them, and their place in history is blackened by these inhumanities. These crimes were also true of Castro over a period of 50 years. His history is drenched with death. But like Bernie Sanders’ pals in the Kremlin, Fidel was part of the Great Project. For the generations brought up on the romance of revolutionaries in the Spanish Civil War or Bethune’s China, Papa Joe Stalin was a man of a “shaper of destinies.” Just ask the 10 million he starved to death in the Ukraine what they thought of the destiny Stalin decreed for them. Charlie Rose can’t seem to form the word “murderer,” “Global reputation”, “hero to some” and “enormous political figure” come tumbling from his lips, but making note of the blood-soaked ground beneath him seems to escape the poor man. He can’t… Read More

Parental Alienation Syndrome in the Pitt-Jolie affair?

As all the world knows, Hollywood stars Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are not only divorcing after 12 years together, they are not on speaking terms as a result of Jolie’s immediate bid for sole custody of the couple’s six children and refusal to give Pitt more than the most meager, supervised access to him. By all accounts, Pitt was caught completely off guard by the swiftness and hostility of Jolie’s actions. US Magazine reported that Pit was “totally crushed” by the split and “can’t believe” how his life has changed so dramatically. It took weeks to get his legal act together and file (Nov 4) for joint physical and legal custody of his children. The whole story has yet to be revealed. We have no idea if Jolie’s vague claim of “abuse” of the children or that the “health of her family” was at stake have merit. What we do know is that Pitt cooperated fully with the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), voluntarily submitting to multiple drug tests, entering therapy and agreeing to all recommendations. According to a reliable source close to the investigation quoted in In Touch magazine – yes, but only at the hairdresser, and by the way, magazines like this and the National Enquirer are more trustworthy than many other sources, because they get sued so often they are very careful about fact-checking – one of the children made an allegation of abuse, then “in a follow-up interview he had trouble recalling what had happened and basically recanted the story.” The source added: “This was very concerning to social workers for obvious reasons.” I will predict that neither of the two will come off looking like an angel, but there are plenty of non-angels parenting children in intact households. If in fact the… Read More

EDITORIAL: Castro was a test, and Trudeau failed

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's fawning statement for the deceased Fidel Castro is an embarrassment to our country. In portraying one of the 20th century's cruellest dictators as a flowery figure, he has brought gratuitous ridicule upon Canada and supported his critics' portrayal of him as a bubble head. Some of his remarks are so hilarious, they could be easily confused for satire. Being Cuba's "longest serving president" might have meant something if Castro had ever stood for election. A "legendary" orator? Only if one considers six-hour long, cult of personality nonsense to be entertaining theatre. Maybe Trudeau should have asked Jean Chrétien, who was hosted by Castro on a state visit to Cuba in 1998, how great a speaker he was. Trudeau makes Castro out to be some kind of bold policy reformer, delivering the indigent from poverty despite his "controversial" political style. But of course Castro is responsible not for the achievement of a prosperous country but the conversion of one of Latin America's richest nations into a poor and decrepit country. The resorts where Canadian tourists vacation do no justice to the damage wrought by communism. The prime minister should need no reminding of Castro's totalitarianism, nor of the mass murder, torture and imprisonment that befall dissenters to Cuba's Stalinist government. Nor should he be ignorant of how close the Cold War powers came to liquefying the planet in 1962, ushered in by Castro's insistence that his Soviet patron threaten to strike the United States with nuclear weapons stationed in his country. One might have been able to forgive the prime minister had he confined his remarks to the personal instead of the political. While in office, his father developed a friendship with Cuba's dictator and America's local adversary, producing a fondness that Justin clearly inherits. The younger Trudeau might have… Read More

Domestic Challenges Facing Saudi Arabia

Ever since the discovery of its oil reserves in 1938, Saudi Arabia has been building its way towards becoming a global superpower. Currently, they export 19% of the world’s oil, the most out of any other country.   This element combined with the fact that worldwide oil prices are now on the decline means that Saudi Arabia finds itself in a difficult situation as 90% of its economy relies on this precious resource. With that in mind, the country’s social, cultural and political climate greatly contrast that of other industrialized nations making it quite difficult for rapid change to occur. This situation is highlighted by the state’s control over all oil related production and stringent business regulations which makes it difficult for the private sector to develop.   The issues mentioned above are partially linked to strict cultural norms that are deeply engrained within the social fabric of the general population. Firstly, only about 40% of Saudi Arabians have jobs. In the country, opportunities stem from relations between friends and relatives, just like in many other non-western cultures. This contrasts greatly from the situation in industrialized nations. Secondly, a typical workweek starts on a Sunday; workdays are much shorter and contain many more breaks in order for Saudis to perform their daily prayers. This workweek can be quite problematic since they cannot realistically compete with the longer workdays of other markets.   Another important issue is in regards to the divide between men and women as a very small percentage of the former work. On top of that, service sector employment is frowned upon since it does not conform to upheld cultural norms. Lastly, private companies who hire locals find themselves to be quite disappointed with the results. This is because the local population lacks the required technical skills and… Read More

Challenges Facing the South Caucasus

The South Caucasus, that region south of Russia and north of Iran and Turkey, between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea, has suffered from American disengagement after U.S. influence in the 1990s led to its opening as a new "energy province" on the post-Soviet world map.   The fallout effects of this myopia extend beyond the Syria-Iraq nexus into the whole neighbourhood of the Greater Middle East. Whereas the anchor of the region for 40 years was an alliance between the U.S. and Egypt, today it is a Russian-Iranian entente that governs the unfolding of events.   In this complex and evolving situation, the autonomy of the strategically key South Caucasus oil and gas-producer Azerbaijan comes under increasing pressure. Deprived of the American support that it enjoyed for 20 years after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, it has been seeking to adapt to the demands of its neighbours while maintaining some margin of diplomatic manoeuvre.   Thus a few months ago there was held a trilateral meeting, in Baku, of the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan, Iran and Russia where co-operation in the energy and transportation sectors was the focus of discussion. The three countries established a permanent institutional framework for coordinating ministerial-level co-operation. —————— More from the PAH: What is The Federal Idea? by Mathieu Paul Dumont History’s Slow Dance of the Seven Veils by Neil Cameron Why universities should cherish the civil liberties by Mark Mercer —————— Iran hopes for the establishment of railroad links to its Bandar Abbas port all the way from St. Petersburg, depending in part on the project of a railway corridor with Azerbaijan (from Rasht to Astara). Just this month, Azerbaijan and Russia agreed on a technical study of prospects for implementation a rail cargo transit interchange on the Azerbaijan-Iran border. Electricity swaps are also foreseen, as Azerbaijan now overproduces electrical power and has export capacity for this.   Russia has in recent years significantly increased arms sales… Read More
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