Poetry Corner

Le vin du solitaire

Le regard singulier d’une femme galante
Qui se glisse vers nous comme le rayon blanc
Que la lune onduleuse envoie au lac tremblant,
Quand elle y veut baigner sa beauté nonchalante;

Le dernier sac d’écus dans les doigts d’un joueur;
Un baiser libertin de la maigre Adeline;
Les sons d’une musique énervante et câline,
Semblable au cri lointain de l’humaine douleur,

Tout cela ne vaut pas, ô bouteille profonde,
Les baumes pénétrants que ta panse féconde
Garde au coeur altéré du poète pieux;

Tu lui verses l’espoir, la jeunesse et la vie,
– Et l’orgueil, ce trésor de toute gueuserie,
Qui nous rend triomphants et semblables aux Dieux!

— Charles Baudelaire

7.55 p.m., November 30, 2002

3,487 And Counting

Oxford gives four meanings for “whatever.”

1. in any way or manner
2. at any rate
3. in any case
4. to resume, (anyway, as I was saying)

Have you noticed the change in the meaning of No. 4? “Anyway” has become much like “whatever.” Not the “whatever” of that’s crazy but the “whatever” of that’s enough of that, you. Snide and imperious. The way young people speak! I’m surprised every conversation doesn’t end with a knife to the gut.

Anyway, my brief moment in the sun is over. Visitors from VDARE and Lew Rockwell brought me more traffic than at any time since my début. Unfortunately, Lew linked to me on Thanksgiving, which—as I learned when I arrived in San Diego on Thanksgiving Day, 1993, to find everything shut—is a more important holiday for Americans than Christmas. And the day after…well. My daily average is up to 99, but I’m not going to threaten three figures today. Too busy at the big box sales to give me a click, are you? Apparently.

Obiter dicta: Last night I had reached 99 visits by 11.25 p.m. Would I reach 100? Would I check my stats again and again and again to find out? (Pitiful, quavering voice): Yes…I would. Visitor No. 100 came in with three minutes and 46 seconds to spare. Thank you, gov.uk!

Statistical analysis reveals that many of my visitors come to me from government networks. I understand this is true for most websites. Every so often Pierre Bourque publishes a list of his tip-top visitors, and I was always impressed that so many of the addresses had “gc” in them. How very influential he must be, I had thought.

My wholly typical reaction to this disproportionate interest from bureaucrats was paranoid. It didn’t help when, reporting a story about biometric ID cards this cycle, I had cause to call the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to request an interview with the Privacy Commissioner himself. Not 10 minutes later, a computer from that office had signed on to The Ambler. The next day, the commissioner’s flack called me back to impart the sad news that Mr. George Radwanski would be unavailable to speak to me. Coincidence, I’m sure, but I bet this wouldn’t have happened if my cousin, Mr. John Grace, still had Radwanski’s job.

Statistical analysis also reveals that about half of my visitors are from outside Canada. Most are from America, but others are from everywhere and anywhere. I have fans in Japan, New Zealand and Russian East Asia. I find this terribly exciting and romantic. This morning I even had a visitor from KLM, Royal Dutch Airlines.

Ah, Holland! Here is my segue—or “bridge,” as we hacks call it—to Air Miles. This is a Dutch company whose card is good only in Canada, the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Spain and the United Arab Emirates. Now there’s a singular group of countries for you. Every time you buy something from a merchant that subscribes to the Air Miles system, you get points. Typically, 1 point for every $15 or $20 spent. It’s called Air Miles because cardholders normally exchange their points for free flights, although you can exchange them for various other things.

(The primary purpose of Air Miles and other reward cards is to encourage spending at particular stores. Its secondary purpose is to build a consumer profile of cardholders. I understand that some are angered by the loss of privacy entailed thereby. But it is a voluntary loss, and I don’t really care that some corporate database knows I like Grissol crackers, Knorr soups, Benson & Hedges cigarettes and Coca-Cola. I’m not that paranoid.)

I’d been an Air Miles member since 9/96, but I’d got nothing out of it. Trouble was, the only Air Miles sponsor I patronized regularly was Safeway. (I also have an Air Miles credit card.) So after almost six years of use, I’d managed to collect a paltry 2,200 points. Then I felt a sudden hankering for air travel. It became imperative to collect as many Air Miles as fast as possible. I made as many purchases on my credit card as was feasible, and did almost all my grocery shopping at Safeway, but it still wasn’t doing me much good. If $1,000 spent equals 50 Air Miles (100 if bought by credit card at Safeway), and I spend less than $2,000 a month on non-rent purchases…well, you can do the math.

Then I cracked the code. It’s all in the promotions. Rather like the Safeway Club card. Safeway groceries are rather dear if you buy just anything. So you buy as many items as possible offered at the Club-card discounted price. In any given week, Safeway offers a couple dozen products that yield bonus Air Miles. Ridgways isn’t your usual cup of tea? Well, if they offer 5 bonus miles a box, you switch. If you get 100 bonus miles for buying eight boxes of Post breakfast cereal and 100 miles for eight 10-pouch boxes of Tang “fruit flavoured drink” and 100 miles for eight boxes of Stoned Wheat Thins and 100 miles for eight packages of Chips Ahoy! cookies…well, you stock up. If you get 10 times the miles for shopping on a certain Tuesday, that’s what you do. And if you get emailed a coupon for 200 bonus miles if you spend $250, you make sure you spend that much.

In this manner, I managed to amass a prodigious amount of Air Miles in a few short months. Then, as I was tantalizingly close to my goal, I found I had nowhere to fly to. How sad, how sad.

What shall I do with my bounty of Air Miles? I feel a sudden hankering for a diamond necklace.

Bling! Bling! As the hiphoppers like to say.

6.05 p.m., November 29, 2002

Everything I Do, I Do For UU

Except now I’m thinking, maybe it’s really attbi. But that would mean Pacific Time. My mind is reeling. Pay no mind; my mind was reeling before. Sleep deprivation will have that effect. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, wherever you ended up.

So the production cycle is over, as you might have guessed. “Production cycle” sounds like a process that involves extrusion. Not a million miles from the truth.

I should be in bed, but instead, I’m sitting at my keyboard blogging to you. Or as they say in Pacific Time, bloggin’ atcha.

I see Christopher Hitchens is all over Slate these days. Where does he find the time? Yesterday’s lesson: instructing Americans in the meaning of “anti-Americanism.” I don’t understand why you Americans tolerate some bloody foreigner coming to your country and telling you your business. Seems to me America got along tolerably well before little Christopher Robin showed up.

You even let Canadians get away with this. Take that David Frum. Did you know he’s Canadian? Seemed a bit rich when he lectured Pat Buchanan, Tom Fleming, Sam Francis, et al., about what American conservatism was all about. He also lectures us Canadians as well. I know why we take it. We haven’t any self-respect. What’s your excuse? Toxic hospitality? Frum is a Canadian to the Canadians (in the National Post) and an American to the Americans. Nice work if you can get it.

I remember seeing Chris in a documentary about the death of the Princess of Wales. He was sitting on a bench, barracking away as the flood tide of mourners swelled about him, when one of the bereaved told him to put a sock in it and show a little respect. How dare you tell me what I may say in my country was this British bulldog’s response. I thought this rather magnificent at the time. Later I began to have doubts. My country? Which country might that be, Chris? Aren’t you an American now? Perhaps Chris regards Americanism as a universal, spiritual allegiance.

Let’s see

The United States of America is not just a state or a country but a nation—the only such country, in fact—supposedly founded on a set of principles and ideas. The documents and proclamations preceded the nation-state.

Our old friend the “proposition nation.” You could say the same thing about the Soviet Union, you know. The Russian Revolution was more than just a change of regime. I wonder where Chris thinks Americans came from? Did they fall from the sky after July 4, 1776? There are other proposition nations, Chris admits, but his is best “because the United States is based on pluralism as regards faith, political allegiance, or ethnicity.” This is a recent and tendentious version of Americanism, but I’ll let that pass.

Turns out Chris is a pluralist but not excessively so, especially as regards faith and political allegiance. For who is his model anti-American? Step forward Pat Robertson:

who appeared on the television in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 atrocity and declared that the mass murder in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania was a divine punishment for a society that indulged secularism, pornography, and homosexual conduct. Here is a man who quite evidently dislikes his own society and sympathizes, not all that covertly, with those who would use violence and fanaticism to destroy it. He dislikes this society, furthermore, for the very things that it tends to advertise about itself, namely permissiveness and variety. If this is not “anti-American” then the term is truly meaningless.

I suppose it could be anti-Americanism, but it could also be religious faith. It is also possible that God did punish America, as Robertson believes. I am not a mystic, so I have no pretensions to expertise in this matter. It’s probably best to forego such pronouncements, unless your name is Isaiah or St John the Divine. It is also possible that Robertson is genuinely saddened by the results of what he considers God’s wrath. I make no claim to understanding Pat Robertson, so I shall remain silent. But where is your permissiveness, Chris? Is this is indeed America’s calling card, why can’t it—or you, since you claim to be American—tolerate Pat Robertson? He certainly makes a contribution to American variety, if nothing else.

Here’s why:

I would go a step further and say that racism and theological bigotry are “anti-American” as nearly as possible by definition, since these things are condemned or outlawed—after a bit of a struggle, admittedly—in the amendments to the Constitution if not in the document itself.

A giant leap, I’d say. Are these condemnations in some secret codicil to the Constitution, Chris? I had laboured under the misapprehension the Constitution restrained government. But then I’m not an American like you. I’m sure you know best.

I have the sneaking suspicion that Chris believes that anti-theological bigotry means a literal belief in the God of the Bible. Seems to me the Orthodox Jews are pretty “theologically bigoted.” Oh yeah, I forgot. You can tell us not only what Americanism really means but what Judaism really means too. Better late than never, eh? Some guys have all the luck.

9.00 p.m., November 28, 2002

Ridiculous To Sublime

My curiosity whetted by Michael of the 2Blowhards, I read Simon Callow’s review of Garry O’Connor’s biography of Alec Guinness. Michael is correct; Callow is a “really good writer.” He’s also a fine actor, of course.

Perhaps it’s a snobbish suspicion of people called Garry, but I decided not to trust Callow’s judgment and seek other opinions. After reading Helen Osborne’s review in the Sunday Telegraph, I’ve decided I shan’t be reading O’Connor anytime soon. (Prejudice does have its uses.)

Osborne declares:

This is not so much a biography as a 400-page bluster, and often brutal with it. ‘I have absolutely no doubt that for some time in his life, and possibly even all of it, Alec had love affairs with men.’ Apart from our old friend Anonymous the evidence is scant and shoddy.

She dismisses O’Connor as “a measly mastodon grubbing about in the swamp”:

There are flimsy hints of a preference for what O’Connor describes as “the rough trade,” and he pounces like a sniffer dog on anyone Sir Alec regarded as “a very dear friend of mine” or “one of my closest friends.” When Guinness joined [Sir John] Gielgud’s company in 1937 it was awash, apparently, with rent boys. “There is no reason to believe that Alec did not behave like the others.” Equally, there is no reason to believe he did…

Some of his findings are preposterous: “During his schooldays he expressed little or no awakening of sexual feeling or attraction to girls.” As Guinness was 86 when he died in 2000, there can’t be too many school chums around to confirm this…

It is crass and impertinent to imply that Guinness’s conversion to Catholicism—”so high profile,” sneers O’Connor, “that if it had happened today I should not have been surprised to see it featured in Hello!“—was a placebo against his “demons”. The so-called proof for this is a remark made 43 years after the event: “I have one regret…that I didn’t take the decision to become a Catholic in my early twenties. That would have sorted out a lot of my life and sweetened it.”

O’Connor even speculates that Guinness’s wife Merula was a lesbian. The evidence? Only one child was born of their union. What a vile man Garry must be.

We live in an age in which sex is everything and God nothing, in which “sexual orientation”–whatever that might mean–becomes sociology, ideology, even theology. So I am happy to report that another biography of Guinness is to be published, next year by Piers Paul Read. Read is not only a Catholic and a man of discernment; he is in my opinion one of the finest living novelists. (Although he remains best known, on this continent at least, for Alive, his miraculous account of the Andes plane crash survivors.)

Unfortunately, Read came along at a time when the middle-class decided to abandon serious novels, so he has taken up what might be called eschatological thrillers. But then so did Graham Greene—and Dostoyevsky. Try Read’s A Married Man, the truest account of married life I have ever read. Or The Upstart, a savage account of class resentment. Or, more recently, A Patriot in Berlin, a hugely exciting and unsettling account of the unintended consequences of the end of the Cold War.

And until Read’s bio is out, why not read Sir Alec in his own words? You won’t be sorry. Blessings In Disguise, My Name Escapes Me and A Positively Final Appearance are all sublime. What a good man he was.

Kevin Michael Grace, 5.11 p.m., November 26, 2002 [Link]

Pleased To Meet You

Now that my review of three monographs on Canadian immigration has been published on Peter Brimelow’s mighty VDARE, I fully expect to be positively inundated with traffic.

Most of you that got here via the link at the bottom of the VDARE piece will be first-time visitors, so it is fitting I should introduce myself. Or re-introduce myself, as it turns out. You will find a rather baroque introduction here, but this is the short version:

I’m a Canadian journalist seeking a wider audience. I write about Canada here but also about the United States (where I once lived and worked), Britain (I’m half-British by birth and mostly British by inclination) and everything else under the Sun. (Which, as old Ambler hands will recall, is the source of all life on Earth.)

I’ve written a great deal about Canada’s preposterous immigration policy for my primary employer; you can find a representative example here. And you can find my earlier review of Daniel Stoffman’s excellent book here.

Take a look ’round. Put your feet up. Set a spell. Y’all come back now, heah? (But stay away from that Black Box; it’s maudlin in there.)

3.06 p.m., November 26, 2002

Watching The Detectives

Contrary to what some people think–Hi Chris!–I’ve never contributed a scintilla of gossip to Frank. Nor do I post on its forums.

(I don’t post on any forums. Two reasons: 1. An aversion to “cute” handles. 2. A terrible fear that within 10 minutes I’d be reduced to: “My mother? Well, let me tell you about your mother, you pathetic little creep…”)

I do like to lurk there, however. I find them scabrous (consider this due warning) but (occasionally) fascinating. Some of the invective is actually funny, and their posters like detective work. They ferreted out the identity of that most unfortunate man, Rebecca Eckler’s fiancé, for instance.

And with the arrest of Rachel Marsden they went into overdrive. (For my foreign readers, she is the notorious “do-me” feminist whose bogus claim of sexual harassment by a swimming coach hobbled a major Canadian university.) Marsden, who has gone Yank and attempted to reinvent herself as a “Republican babe”—you have a lot to answer for, Ann Coulter– is now charged with the criminal harassment of a 52-year-old former Vancouver “boss jock.”

Part of Marsden’s bail agreement is that she is not allowed to post pseudoanonymously on the Internet. A clever Frank poster called “Scoopy Doo”–see what I mean?–took note of this and then noticed the disappearance of Marsden’s Frank cheerleader, a poster called “Kingryder.” Then others went into the archives to discover what Kingryder had had to say, and all I can will say is that Marsden had better hope none of this is admissable in court.

Unfortunately, I cannot find a link to Leonard Stern’s outstanding two-part investigative piece on Marsden in the December 5, 1999, Ottawa Citizen. It’s worth going to the library and hunting down–or even paying for. I’ll leave to another time explaining how Canada become the Nuremburg of feminazism, but if you want to know the practical effects of this dubious distinction, read Stern’s article.

(Thanks to Rick Hiebert for the cheesecake links.)

1.43 a.m., November 26, 2002

My Life In (Pop) Song

“Stranger to Myself” by Peter Blegvad:

There are words I’m scared to use in conversation
Favourite books I dare not take down from the shelf
There are songs I cannot hear
Without a sense of desolation
‘Cause you left me a stranger to myself
I try to hide my grief from my relations
They say, come on, Pete, drink up, you don’t look well
I can’t remember how to act
In those familiar situations
‘Cause you left me a stranger to myself

11.42 p.m., November 25, 2002

Wonders Never Cease

Had to go to Canadian Tire this afternoon to buy a 3-way, 150-watt light bulb, and I came across this:















The scales fell from my eyes. Pure, true light! Suddenly, the adulterated, false light I’d been fobbed off with all these years was completely unacceptable. I had to have Reveal™, regardless of cost—which turned out to be $3.99, a snip.

I took the mysterious purple bulb home and installed it. Unfortunately, I had no tulips upon which to observe the clarifying effect of its light, and, in any case, my bedroom was already suffused with the pure, true light of the Sun, that magnificent orb that shines beneficently from 93 million miles away and is, so I am confidently informed, the source of all life on Earth. So an analysis of GE’s claims would have to wait until nightfall.

Meanwhile, I had to learn more. I went to www.GELighting.com, and who did I find but our old friend Paul Harvey. (“And that little boy who nobody liked…grew up to be Roy Cohn. And now you know…the rest of the story.”) Paul was pretty excited too. “The light bulb has been invented again,” he declared in his strange, halting cadence.

Putting on my socks in the predawn dark, I can tell blue from black. Reading by my bedside lamp has never been so easy. And white sheets are white. GE has developed a light bulb it calls the Reveal™. Re-veal. Because it Reveal™s every illuminated thing as it really is…GE has really done it this time!

The GE website provides a virtual Reveal™ experience—for every room in your home. Examine, for instance, the grungy, jaundiced light you once suffered, and then pass your pointer over the picture. Fiat lux! (“Images enhanced to Reveal™ differences in color.”)

I marvelled at the website’s gallery of ads, immersed myself in Reveal™ trivia—and was aghast to learn that the greatest advance in illumination since fire was Reveal™ed to the public (after six years of development) on June 13, 2001.

Why wasn’t I told?

Now it was time for the ultimate test: Paul Harvey’s final, tantalizing claim:

Waitaya see…wait…till…you…see…that beautiful face…that Reveal™ bulbs…Reveal™…in your…mir-roar.

Oh, baby! My, what a handsome devil I am. Call me Narcissus. Thank you, GE. You really do bring good things to life. And to light!

6.33 p.m., November 24, 2002

My Enemy’s Enemy

Tom Fleming is one of the wisest men I know, so it is always a pleasure to speak to him. The last time I spoke to the editor of Chronicles, I asked him to explain something that had long troubled me. Why have otherwise sound men such as Pat Buchanan and Joe Sobran become cheerleaders for the Palestinians? Isn’t this an example of the sentimental liberalism they decry in others?

Tom replied that in his opinion Buchanan and Sobran had come to their position as a result of the gross abuse they had suffered at the hands of the neoconservatives. They had been Zionists, but their Zionism hadn’t been enough for Pope Norman Podhoretz and cat’s-paws like Bill Buckley. As a result, they had become anti-Zionists.

It is always a terrible temptation to turn against Israel because of the excesses—at home and abroad, especially abroad—of its devotees. I can claim some small empathy with Buchanan and Sobran on this point. Two years ago, something I wrote came to the hostile attention of one of Israel’s most influential boosters in Canada. Despite a lifetime of philo-Semitism, despite a lifetime of Zionism, even unto being supportive of the Likud party, I found myself accused of anti-Semitism.

This tumler moved heaven and earth to destroy me and almost succeeded. With friends like that, I thought… But this temptation should be resisted. My enemy’s enemy is not necessarily my friend, even if this little incident left me enraged and with fewer friends than I’d enjoyed previously.

“I know your opinion on Israel,” Jason Kenney (not the tumler) said to me in his superior way when I ran into him at the Canadian Alliance convention in Edmonton in April. “No. You don’t,” I was about to reply, but he had already bustled off.

This is my opinion on Israel, as expressed in Eclectica, March 5, 2001:

The phrase “peace process” has become a kind of verbal antidepressant, depriving those who say or hear it of higher brain functions. The logical conclusion of the peace process is the extermination of the State of Israel. Many secretly desire this; some are Arabists or anti-Semites; others are Orthodox Jews who believe a Jewish state is blasphemous. But they should be honest enough to speak openly.

My position is nearly identical to Paul Gottfried’s, so I am in good company. Prof Gottfried is one of America’s most original thinkers, and in a more just world he would be lionized. In a November 18 piece written for the Hudson Institute (thanks to Ilana Mercer for the link), he complains:

It seems to me apparent that at least some of my soulmates have gone over the top in foreign policy. Their views on the Middle East have become over-determined by their opposition to the neoconservatives.

It is one thing to criticize, as I myself have done ad libitum, the dubious statements that keep popping up on National Review Online (NRO): for instance, that Arab leaders are recent reincarnations of interwar European fascists; that international peace requires that the United States overthrow all Middle Eastern governments, except for that of Israel, and set up forced instruction in the occupied countries in global democracy; that anti-Israeli Islamicist violence in Europe is really attributable to Christian anti-Semitism (only about half the neocons seem to believe this); and that all peoples can be turned into democrats, because we succeeded in converting the particularly recalcitrant Germans after World War II. (For those who would like to learn why these assertions make little sense, I shall gladly email essays in which I have dealt with them.)

But it is another matter to deny reasonable assumptions simply because the neocons believe them.

Prof Gottfried admires Ariel Sharon, not least because he “is utterly free of ideological cant.” I can’t help but agree. Sharon is a “nasty piece of work,” as I have written, but Israel is fighting for its very survival, and he is just the man for the job. The Labour Party is the party of Israeli suicide.

Support for Israel shouldn’t mean dancing to Israel’s tune in foreign policy, however. It is not my place to lecture the Israelis about their best interests. And they don’t need my help in that department. I am not a citizen of the United States, so I’ll refrain as well from lecturing the Americans. Yet I retain my love of America, despite what some think, and it hardly seems in America’s interest to invade Iraq. Here I part company with Gottfried:

By now it is apparent that Saddam Hussein is a vicious, sadistic lunatic who has been aggressive toward his neighbours, stockpiles highly destructive weapons, and has threatened repeatedly to unleash missiles on the “Zionist entity.” Although the extent of his involvement with al Qaeda has yet to be fully ascertained, we do know that he has pay rolled Arab terrorists for years. It is consequently in the American interest to work toward a regime change in Iraq—or at the very least either force Saddam to comply fully with United Nations inspections or surgically remove his threatening weapons system. On the basis of what the president has said, this seems to be his intention—which is not the same as the stated view of writers Jonah Goldberg, Michael Ledeen, and others who want to reconstruct the Islamic Middle East. It is therefore unfair to do what some paleos now routinely do, which is to equate Bush’s firm resolve not to let the Iraqi regime go back to business as usual with the revolutionary illusions of some misnamed American conservatives.

I remain convinced that an invasion of Iraq, regardless of its outcome, will lead to a ferocious anti-Israel backlash in America and elsewhere, but I could be wrong.

For better or worse, America is Israel’s military and financial guarantor. Nevertheless, Israel’s interests are not America’s interests—and they are certainly not Canada’s, regardless of neocon howls to the contrary. Israel is not even Canada’s ally, and no amount of posturing from the National Post can change that. On at least two occasions, Mossad agents have pretended to be Canadians. Such behaviour obviously places Canadians in the Middle East at great risk, as Canada recognized in 1997 when it recalled its ambassador. The Israelis swore they wouldn’t do it again, but the Akram Zatmeh affair suggests that old habits die hard. And the Israeli “art students” scandal raises troubling questions, to say the least.

But I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Israel acts consistently on the basis of what is good for Israel; it pays no heed to such fatuous abstractions as “the international community.” This is wholly admirable and exceedingly rare among Western countries—which increasingly regard national suicide as a duty. My only wish is that Canada was as self-centred.

3.56 a.m., November 24, 2002