Monthly Archives: August 2006

The third way’s third strike

Ten years ago, Tony Blair’s triumph looked world-historic. He seemed like a real-life Jed Bartlet, TV’s West Wing dream liberal Democrat with a social conscience, a Nobel Prize in economics and a backbone in foreign policy. And, philosophically, Blair’s “third way” offered what progressives had long sought: anti-conservative politics that didn’t spell immediate economic, social and diplomatic catastrophe. A decade on, Blair is in horrible political trouble (his press secretary has made it clear that Blair will resign sometime next year, at the latest) and his third way looks like the biggest bust since Y2K.

John O’Sullivan, the Liverpool-born former adviser to Margaret Thatcher and National Review editor-at-large, concedes that Blair rescued the Labour party from antediluvian Marxism. But, he says, it was politically necessary to accept “the Thatcher legacy… or they would never have got back into power.” In his famous 1999 “Forces of Conservatism” speech, Blair told Labour’s Bournemouth conference: “The class war is over,” and rejected accusations of mimicking Tory economic policy by puckishly boasting he’d gone further, cutting deficits and “at long last reforming welfare, making work pay more than benefit for hard-working families.” But he wasn’t a conservative; he promised “A New Britain” because “New Labour, confident at having modernised itself . . . can modernise the nation, sweep away those forces of conservatism to set the people free.” A key passage: “The Third Way is not a new way between progressive and conservative politics. It is progressive politics distinguishing itself from conservatism of left or right.”

It sure sounded good. Progressive governance summits were irresistible to trendy people like the U.S.’s Bill Clinton and Canada’s Paul Martin. And while Blair warned in 1999 that Labour had never won two straight elections, he has won three and his foes are still in disarray. But so now is his government. Continue reading

The pain of home ownership

William Levitt, the American founder of prefab suburbia, once said “no man who owns his own house and lot can be a communist. He has too much to do.” Perhaps. On the other hand, by the time he’s finished doing it all he’ll certainly be poor enough to become one. And possibly bitter enough as well.

Take me, for instance. I recently put a new roof on my shed. It’s so lovely that if you ever come to my house and fail spontaneously to praise it I will throw you out. The previous owners apparently felt that if they ignored moisture it would ignore them, so the stench of decay and the steady pitter-patter inside the shed of little bits of dirt that was probably once wood couldn’t mean anything. Surprisingly, this approach proved flawed.

About 300 screws and 900 nails later, the roof looked as good as my arms and legs looked bad. Did you know ladders can bruise? Homeowners do. If you come over for dinner I will serve it in the shed. It’s very dry now. And you will notice that, of course, the new roof is so splendid it throws the rest of the structure into hideous relief. We need to replace the doors which we can’t do until we replace the decaying doorframe into which we would have to screw the new hinges if the relevant bits hadn’t fallen off last November. So first we have to do something about the posts to which the frame is attached. And the walls, parts of which might soon fall onto the busted-up cement floor. Unless they smash what’s left of the windows. Oh the door bone’s connected to the frame bone, and the frame bone’s connected to the wall bone, now shout the name of the Lord. Continue reading

Rescuing defeat from the jaws of victory

Former Chinese Communist premier Chou En-lai’s famous statement that it was too soon to evaluate the French Revolution never impressed me. Surely it is obvious that everybody lost. And while it really is still too early to evaluate the Lebanese war of 2006, it’s clearly heading in the same direction.

The conflicting claims of the warring parties are superficially uninstructive. Of course Hezbollah and its backers claim a glorious victory. They always do. Mideast radicals think they’ve won every war with Israel, first in 1948 by confining it to a small contiguous area, then in 1967 by pushing it to the banks of the Jordan and the southern tip of Gaza and finally in 1973 by forcing some Israeli units clear across the Suez canal.

Israeli deputy prime minister Shimon Peres’ assessment that the IDF killed or wounded roughly half of Hezbollah’s hardcore members is probably fairly accurate while Hezbollah’s claim to have lost only 80 fighters is an obvious typical lie. But Peres’ further claim that Hezbollah must now lick its wounds doesn’t exactly amount to a shout of triumph. Continue reading

Sanctimonious killjoys are sweet on banning pleasure

Oh, here’s a cheerful summertime story. You can buy your kid a T-shirt with “Sugar Free Baby” on it. If you’re what the National Post’s Body & Health section calls “a vigilant yet playful” parent. It also works if you’re a sanctimonious hovering killjoy.

The Post article said to “Call it radical parenting.” I’m willing to call slapping polemical slogans on your kid radical, but I’m not so sure about the parenting bit. The source of this sartorial equivalent of cod liver oil is a Toronto mom who says if her two-year-old has cake at a birthday party “he becomes kind of aggressive and just not the [name withheld to avoid mortifying the infant] we’re used to.” So when he is “around other kids and with other parents or child-care providers, they just need to know he can’t have three cookies and he can’t have two Popsicles because he might get unruly.”

Right. And an unruly little boy at a birthday party would be: (a) fun; (b) the end of western civilization; (c) not very feminist; (d) something a hypersensitive parent might not want so never mind the kid. Wait a minute. How did option (d) get in there? Continue reading

Wake up, Mr. Ignatieff, please wake up

Dreamland. It’s a bad name for the Middle East.

Dreamland, though, is a very good title for Roy Rempel’s 2006 book about “Canada’s pretend foreign policy.” (Disclaimer: I helped edit it and have an ongoing relationship with the publishers, while Roy now works for Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day.) On reading it I added a “dreamland” category to my files and it gets bigger each day.

Dreamland is a place where the enemies of the West cannot be defeated militarily or politically and Canada is a neutral nation that speaks with a voice like thunder. Where something called “pressure” is forever building on right-wing politicians to do what left-wing journalists want and we trust news stories filed under the watchful eye of Hezbollah guys with guns. And Michael Ignatieff, a certified Deep Thinker, just hurled a thick sheaf of nonsense into my file with his Aug. 1 statement on the Middle East. Continue reading