The Asylum Racket

OFO, Foot Crossing at San Ysidro, credit CBP Photography

The Asylum Racket

by Ilana Mercer

The Wall is crucial, but it’s not everything. Caravans of human cargo are filing into the United States because … they can. U.S. law allows it, even invites it.

Here’s how: provided you’re not a white, South African farmer—in other words, a real refugee—you may plonk yourself at an American “port of entry,” say San Ysidro in San Diego, and simply assert your right to petition the U.S. for asylum.

Then and there you claim asylum on the grounds that your race, religion, nationality or politics expose you to persecution in the country you want to leave.

Compared to a multicultural mecca like America, where faction fighting is rising, Latin American arrivals seem homogeneous. Dare I say that they’re largely Hispanic Catholics? Dare one ask who precisely is persecuting them in their homelands? Continue reading

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Cell Phones

Credit, College of Community Innovation and Education, Megan Small Story

Cell Phones

by Bill Hartley

The governor of a women’s prison once confided that she preferred middle aged men for her senior management team and that she was prepared to fly in the face of Equal Opportunities to get them. In her view, most women are in jail because they mix with the wrong men. She even provided a mini bus to take discharged prisoners to the local railway station. But not from altruism. Rather, she had become tired of watching forlorn women waiting for the promised lift home from men who didn’t show up. She realised that what most women prisoners lack in their lives is a positive male role model and she set about providing them. ‘After all’, as one of her team told me, ‘handle them wrongly and some are quite capable of barricading in a cell and feeding bits of themselves under the door’. Self-harm is one of the principal ways by which distraught women express their distress.

All of this came to mind, on reading that the Prison Service is planning to provide in-cell phones for prisoners. A predictable storm of outrage ensued in the press, together with comments about making jail ‘soft’. Equally predictably, the Prison Service responded that the scheme would be carefully controlled; only approved numbers could be dialled and the idea was to reduce the sense of isolation and incidents of self-harm. This hostile response was inevitable. The Prison Service and the Ministry of Justice have never sought to get the public onside when it comes to rehabilitation. The Service lacks a coherent, overarching approach. Instead, we see add-on proposals which are badly received when they go public. Continue reading

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Kát’a Kabanová

Leoš Janáček

Kát’a Kabanová

Opera in three acts; music by Leoš Janáček, libretto by Leoš Janáček based on a Czech translation of Alexander Nikolayevich Ostrovsky’s play The Thunderstorm, orchestra conducted by Edward Gardner, direction by Richard Jones, Royal Opera, Monday 4th February 2019, reviewed by Leslie Jones

All of the characters in Kát’a Kabanová, with the exception of the carefree, courting couple Varvara and Kudrjáš, are, in Dylan words, “bent out of shape by society’s pliers”. They are either inauthentic and hypocritical, like Dikoj and Kabanicha, or conflicted and tormented, like Kát’a and Boris. And most of the men are weak and compliant, especially Tichon Kabanov, who is dominated by his mother, and Boris, who is financially dependent on his uncle Dikoj and who tamely accepts the latter’s instructions to depart for Siberia.

Kát’a herself is a complex, child-like individual, who has visionary experiences and hears voices. In Act one, she confides to Varvara that her mother treated her like a doll, yet that she was then “free as a bird”. But married life has made her wither. With her dreams of flying, her ineffectual struggle to deny her sexuality and her tendency to project inner urges onto external agencies such as fate, Kát’a is a case study. As Christopher Wintle observes, “The tragedy of Kát’a is that she instinctively shares the oppressive moral values of the community to which she is bound…” (What Opera Means). She claims to love her verbally abusive and controlling mother-in-law, “You are like a mother to me”, she submissively informs her. There is no escape, then, from the super ego, the repressive representative of society in your head. Continue reading

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Celebrating Poland

From Blinded by the Lights

 Celebrating Poland

Mark Wegierski writes from Toronto 

A flurry of Polish-related events in Toronto was engendered by the 100th anniversary of the regaining of Polish independence (November 11, 1918). After 123 years of harsh foreign occupation by Tsarist Russia, Prussia/Germany, and the Habsburg Empire, Poland was then reborn. As part of the independence commemorations, Terry Tegnazian, a Los Angeles-based Armenian-American and publisher of award-winning books on Poland’s World War II history, spoke at the Consulate-General of the Republic of Poland on October 25th. The 10th  Toronto Polish Film Festival (ekran.ca) showed a variety of films. The Polish Students’ Association at the University of Toronto arranged the showing of three Polish films – The Gates of Europe, located in 1918 in Poland’s Eastern Borderlands; Warsaw 44, about the Warsaw Uprising of 1944; and Ida, set in the post-World War II period under Communism. There was also an exhibition at Robarts Library, at the University of Toronto; and on November 13, the book-launch of Being Poland, a collection of essays on Polish literature and culture since 1918, edited by, among others, Tamara Trojanowska and published by the University of Toronto Press. Continue reading

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Private Colleges to Revive the Humanities

Ave Maria University, Graduation 2016

Private Colleges to Revive the Humanities

by Mark Wegierski

The liberal arts in Canada currently face a multi-pronged assault. Given the clamor for a narrowly conceived “market” and “economic” ethic, they are taught less and less, in favor of business, technology, and reductively defined law. Then there is the totalitarianism of political correctness that stifles genuine enquiry and the mind-numbing jargon and disdain for plain-speaking that pervades the liberal arts. Finally, we have the dumbing-down by the mass media and pop-culture.

Political correctness and its heavy-handed enforcement across Canada’s campuses is exacerbated by the scarcity of private colleges. Among the most prominent of these are Trinity Western University in British Columbia, and Redeemer University College in Ontario. Traditional Catholics in Ontario hope to launch a fully accredited liberal arts college, Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy. Continue reading

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It’s their Skin Color, Stupid

Nick Sandmann meets Nathan Phillips

It’s their Skin Color, Stupid

Ilana Mercer, on the Covington kids

When Catholic Bishop Roger Joseph Foys saw a Catholic boy with a beatific smile, standing athwart an agitated, Amerindian elder and smiling in that pacifist, sweetly Christian way—he and the Diocese of Covington simply had to condemn the kid. Who else? What choice did a man of the cloth have?

The same absurdity typified the reaction of the lickspittle liberal mayor of Covington, Joe Meyer. “Appalling,” he called Covington Catholic High School student, the boy implicated in that “daring” standoff, on the National Mall, in D.C.

Had not philosophical giants like Cardi B (once a stripper, now a rapper, always illiterate) and Alyssa Milano (illiterate starlet) shown us the way? Indeed. “The red MAGA hat is the new white hood” was Milano’s catechism. She went on to implicate “white boys’ lack of empathy [toward] the peoples of the world [in] the destruction of humanity.” Only 12 years to go, predicts Comrade Ocasio-Cortez. Continue reading

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The Violence against Women Industry

The Violence against Women Industry 

by Ilana Mercer

Speaking recently to Fox News’ Arthel Neville, Andrew Napolitano repeated the feminist canards about sexual assault against women being an under-reported, ever-present crime in American society.

The violence-against-women industry in North America—you know, the one-in-four-women-are-assaulted rot—is propped up by the sub-science or pseudoscience of violence-against-women statistics.

In particular, violence-against-women surveys are based on inflated numbers nobody questions; numbers the advocates bandy about and the politicians rely on when drafting policy and plumping for resources. Continue reading

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La Traviata, 2019

Ermonela Jaho as Violetta, photo by Catherine Ashmore

La Traviata, 2019

La Traviata, opera in three acts, music by Giuseppe Verdi, libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, after La dame aux camélias by Alexander Dumas (fils), conducted by Antonello Manacorda, directed by Richard Eyre, Royal Opera, 14th January 2019, reviewed by LESLIE JONES

The gamin (street urchin), all alone in that “teeming desert called Paris”, as depicted on the opening curtain of this production, is presumably la petite Plessis. Courtesan Marie Duplessis was the inspiration for the character Marguerite Gautier, in La dame aux camélias, by Alexander Dumas (fils). As Professor René Weis records, Duplessis eventually married Edouard, Vicomte de Perregaux, the precursor of the character Alfredo Germont. We were reminded of Michael White’s description of Arianna Stassinopoulous, to wit, “the most upwardly mobile Greek since Icarus”.

In this, the 16th revival, no less, of Richard Eyre’s production, first seen in 1994, Violetta is played by Albanian born soprano Ermonela Jaho. A svelte and striking figure, Ms Jaho has a commanding stage presence and looks perfect in the part. She confidently follows in the footsteps of previous distinguished performers of this demanding role. Her rendition of the poignant aria Dite alla giovine received warm applause. Jaho and soprano Charles Castronovo, as Alfredo Germont, make a handsome couple. But baritone Igor Golovatenko (Giorgio Germont) in his Royal Opera debut, was underwhelming, especially in the aria Di Provenza, usually a highlight of La Traviata. Continue reading

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ENDNOTES, January 2019


ENDNOTES, January 2019

In this edition: Revive– from Chandos Records; George Antheil’s American SymphonyNostalgia from Wim Henderickx, reviewed by STUART MILLSON

What better way to begin our 2019 musical journey than with a lively and completely refreshing compilation from Chandos of baroque and Elizabethan-era classics – Handel’s Water Music; Byrd, Pavan and Gigue; Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No. 3– arranged for saxophone quartet. The Ferrio Saxophone Quartet – Huw Wiggin, Ellie McMurray, Jose Banuls and Shevaughan Beere, is an ensemble of young players and has already undertaken critically-acclaimed international tours, despite the group only having been formed three years ago. On their new recording, Revive, they bring a glorious lightness of tone and touch to a well-chosen programme from the 17th and 18th-centuries; the works all transcribed for the saxophone by Iain Farrington, who comments in the CD booklet:

“Baroque music lends itself particularly well to small ensembles… the arrangements maintaining the essential material of the music. Transferred to the pure and haunting sound of  saxophones, the music comes to possess an added beauty (perhaps melancholy?)”

Handel’s Sarabande, from his 1733 D minor suite, first published in Amsterdam, is heard with exactly the impression which Mr. Farrington has envisaged, as is the William Byrd arrangement, taken from that extensive and hallowed collection of early English music, The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book. Although, perhaps we should also use the word – breathtaking – as it is remarkable that such a detailed three-movement work as Bach’s Third Brandenburg Concerto– usually heard on violins, violas, and basso continuo – now radiates its beauty and invention through four saxophones. Continue reading

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When the Fun Stops, Stop

Eva-Maria Westbroek as Liza, photo by Catherine Ashmore

When the Fun Stops, Stop

The Queen of Spades, opera in three acts, music by Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky, libretto by Modest and Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky, after Pushkin’s novella Pikovaya Dama, conducted by Antonio Pappano, directed by Stefan Herheim, Royal Opera, Sunday 13th January 2019, reviewed by LESLIE JONES

The Queen of Spades pays homage to Mozart, who as dramaturge Alexander Meier-Dörzenbach reminds us, was Tchaikovsky’s favourite composer (“Yearning Hearts in a Bird Cage”, Official Programme). There are several direct quotations from Mozart’s oeuvre in the opera. Moreover, Tchaikovsky once confided to his patroness Madame von Meck that “…as a child of my century, inwardly confused and morally frail, I am drawn to him [Mozart] for his healthy lust for life and on account of the purity of a nature that is not poisoned by brooding: he comforts and calms me”.

As for brooding, there is more than enough in Modest and Pyotr Il’yich’s libretto, notably from Gherman, played by tenor Alexandrs Antonenko, who tells us that “…all around is happiness, But not in my stricken heart”. And also from Liza, “…weary and worn out with suffering!” Like Tchaikovsky, Liza was evidently not cut out for marriage. Indeed, both characters are arguably projections of the composer himself. For according to Freud, compulsive gambling is a form of self-punishment, a “repetition of the compulsion to masturbate” (Sigmund Freud, “Dostoyevsky and Parricide“, 1928). Continue reading

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