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February, 2007:


A message from a colleague

For the past week I have been asked a lot of questions about Smiths Falls and the future of Hershey’s in our town. Unfortunately things are not looking very promising at the moment because of corporate “transformation”, as they seem to be calling it. Taking out Hershey’s will not only devastate my town but also hurt the local economy and will be felt all over Canada, as many of the ingredients, packaging and transportation are produced/supplied by Canadian businesses. Hershey’s does not seem to be listening to the anticipated devastation this move will cause so we need to show them how important their business is to us. Below is the website address for the online petition our town has set up so that we can reach more people and cover more area than the paper copies at local business’ provide. I have been watching it daily and so far there are signatures from places such Vancouver, St. John’s and even as far south as Florida. The signatures currently total over 4200 (almost half the population of Smiths Falls!) and grow at a rate of around 2-3 a minute! What I am asking is please take 2 minutes and sign your name because (following Rideau Regional which is also slated to close in 2008) Hershey’s is the second largest employer in Smiths Falls, creating paychecks for over 500 people. Sadly enough there are 54 couples currently employed and this is their only source of income.


The neo-cons have finally jumped the shark

And they are officially part of new and different space-time continuum.

They now have their own encyclopedia!

Shakespeare’s sister points this gem out:

Though it seems that controlling the spin is a bit of challenge for “those who know better than we heathens”… someone has edited the entry for Dubya.


If Thomas D’Aquino is supporting this,

Then we should run in the opposite direction!

From “The SPP’s business arm, called the North America Competitiveness Council, rejected the criticism as misguided, saying that there was nothing secretive about their work or that of the partnership. Tom D’Aquino of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives said there hasn’t been public input because most people aren’t clued in to the issues.”

Oh – FORGIVE us! We are SO clueless! And thanks for letting us in on that!

Seriously. Canada. We gotta start watchin‘ these guys. I’m starting to get hives!

And Peter M.? Peter, Peter, Peter. You know better.


Stephen Harper brings US style media control to Canada

A good piece by George Stromb-ombo-ombopo… ah hell, let’s just call him George.


Harper et al goes lower than ever before – way to go.

Typical win-at-all-costs, damn the decency, attitude of our wannabe PM. Simply inexcusable behaviour that is a direct and obvious reflection of the Conservative Reform Party’s reliance on Republican Party advice.

What a disgrace. Harper will say anything and do anything to get a majority.

But we Canadians, unlike our American neighbours, can see through this toxic and reprehensible approach to public “discourse”.

Remember – it was the Steveroni who said this:

“You’ve got to remember that west of Winnipeg the ridings the Liberals hold are dominated by people who are either recent Asian immigrants or recent migrants from eastern Canada: people who live in ghettoes and who are not integrated into western Canadian society.”


We’re all gonna die!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now that the Harperites are merrily rolling out their anti-Iggy attack ads, I’m waiting for them and their media minions (National Tie-to-the-Post) to put the blame squarely on the Grits for this.


New Strategic Counsel poll

From the G&M : “Were an election to be held today, 34 per cent of voters would opt for the Conservatives, up three points from last month. The Liberals are at 29 per cent, down six points from the same period, while the New Democratic Party is down one point to 14 per cent. The main beneficiary appears to be the Green Party, which has the support of 12 per cent of voters, up from eight per cent.”

Never was there a more appropriate use of the expression – “and it’s 2 miles long and one inch thick”… meaning that this support is very soft and subject to change quickly.

Suppose the Péquistes gain power in QC?

Suppose that, tragically, more Canadian soldiers are killed in Afghanistan?

Suppose that Canadians begin to be aware of the proposed North American Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) talks between the US, Mexico and Canada… no not the nutbar version, but the factual one – it is a plan to harmonize the countries’ economic and security practices and may get increasing press in the coming months.

Suppose M. Dion finds charisma? Hey! It could happen!


24 – and why I have issues

So, I’m not the only one, eh?

In the G&M today, John Doyle postulates a different slant to 24 – that of an almost comic-book, caricature evoking, larger-than-life show that cannot be taken seriously ’cause it is just way too over the top!

But, as HM points out,

Here’s the problem: U.S. TV audiences have trouble distinguishing between fact and fiction. They are gullible and easily led. They are literal. They are insular and do not try to view their country through the eyes of others.

My point exactly. And that is why the show is dangerous.

TV drama 24: torture teacher
Fictional violence serves as lesson to criminals, combatants and countries
February 19, 2007
“If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.”
George Orwell said that about totalitarianism, but he could just as easily be summarizing the first three DVD series of the American TV torture drama 24, which I was foolish enough to buy — and watch — end-to-end. I do not advise you to do this.

Even though the DVDs don’t have ads, you are still playing fast and loose with your sanity by watching Kiefer Sutherland punch, hack, smother, drug, stab, electrocute, inject and mentally shatter an endless river of dodgy men and women. If it weren’t for bathroom breaks and my concerned, appalled husband luring me away from the television with Valpolicella and osso bucco (“You can have all the marrows, here’s your fork, I’ll put it in your trembling hand shall I?”), I would still be sitting there bleeding from the eyeballs.

Eventually I quit 24 cold turkey. It wasn’t hard; I just couldn’t take the same plot device 48 times. It’s the “ticking time bomb” scenario where all of California will be deleted by a nuclear bomb unless Sutherland’s Jack Bauer, the smartest agent in American counterterrorism, can torture the password out of an unnervingly calm, prescient Muslim madman about to destroy the American landmass with a team of three.

The problem, as Jane Mayer pointed out in the New Yorker this week, is that ticking time bombs almost never happen in real life. How embarrassing then that it occurs once a week every season of 24, which means 24 weeks of presenting the case that torture is necessary and indeed good.

There used to be about four depictions a year of torture on U.S. television, always by bad guys, Mayer writes. Thanks to 24, there have been 67 such scenes in the show’s first five seasons. Worse, the hero is doing the torturing.

Joel Surnow, the creator of the show, is a right-wing, torture-approving “patriot” who thrills to parties with Rush Limbaugh, Lynne Cheney, Karl Rove, Tony Snow et al. He’s a strange, cold man who attended Beverly Hills High, a notoriously cruel collection of stars’ and billionaires’ children. Surnow’s dad was a travelling carpet salesman. The family lived in a crappy apartment and Surnow slept on a cot. His schoolmates knew that.

Back to Orwell, who also once wrote “probably the greatest cruelty one can inflict on a child is to send it to school among children richer than itself.” Orwell came out of school with a hatred of others’ suffering, while taking a bleak enjoyment in his own. Surnow came out of school with a black heart.

And then came Brig.-Gen. Patrick Finnegan, the dean at West Point, to visit the set of 24 and beg the show’s maker to stop showing torture. It was crushing America’s image internationally, he said, and worse, cadets could no longer be taught that torture breaks every law and military code there is. They see Jack Bauer do it on TV and he’s the hero! When Finnegan tells cadets that it has been proven that torture doesn’t work, they tell him that it works on 24. Even U.S. soldiers in Iraq watch it.

Here’s the problem: U.S. TV audiences have trouble distinguishing between fact and fiction. They are gullible and easily led. They are literal. They are insular and do not try to view their country through the eyes of others.

This often gives them a Cheney-ite view of the world. It is black and white. And then you put this gullible audience in the driver’s seat of a Tomcat fighter?

Surnow himself regards the U.S. “as sort of the parent to the world, so we have to be stern but fair to people who are rebellious to us. We don’t spoil them.… You have to know who the adult in the room is.”

I am not making this up. Clearly, the productive academic field studying American infantilism has passed Surnow by.
And Surnow may not know the origins of the torture techniques he thinks he is inventing for the drama and the ironies therein. In fact, the Nazis hung people on hooks. The Japanese did hypothermia experiments on GIs in World War II. Sleep deprivation was used by former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. Former Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot favoured waterboarding. Americans prefer sexual torture (see Abu Ghraib) although oddly, this is the one torture Bauer doesn’t use.

Americans tend to be literal. “I saw it on 24 so it works”. (This is why I never watched The West Wing. It pained me to think Americans actually believed it plausible that a highly intelligent president had been elected. Maybe that’s why the Democrats are so timid. They think George W. Bush resembles his fictional counterpart, Josiah Bartlet.)

Brits, on the other hand, use irony constantly to the point where they almost never mean the thing they just said. They make allusions and approach life at a slant. Perhaps their love of theatre helps them avoid literalism. It is happening on a stage, it is not life. But for the American, it is happening on TV, so it must be real and true.

Canadians are in between. Or in my case, sitting next to. I was at a fundraiser with the wonderful actress Shirley Douglas, whom I know and adore. Her face in profile is flat yet perfectly formed. She is a genuine beauty. Her mouth is the mouth all women should have. She is the daughter of Tommy Douglas, father of Medicare, and the man I thank when I stagger into emergency saying “Oooooh, it hurts.” Good socialists all. She is the mother of Sutherland, who earns $10 million a year playing the torturer Bauer.

Sutherland is a left-wing dual-citizenship Canadian and a truly great actor. But he is the Republican Party’s performing flea. Imagine that.

When Sutherland met the West Point people on the 24 set, he was said to be very upset by their reasoning and their tales of damage. Sutherland is profoundly against torture and says his storylines use a mere “plot device.”

But I kept thinking, Oh god, Shirley must be hurting. I shan’t mention the TV show to her. Or any number. Shan’t ask her about the kids. What would her father have said? I say that actors have horrible lives and should grab the money and run. And yet, and yet …

Anyway, 24 is dead to me. It jumped the shark in the last season and is a figure of fun this year. Such were the joys.


House ready to reject troop build-up

Finally, some sanity makes its presence known in the land to the south! This is the cost of political opportunism gone mad.

Of course, this has to be approved in the Senate as well. So, maybe I should be saying that sanity is peeking through the curtains but not quite ready to come into the room!

Even nicer that the National Whipping Post is publishing this – takes some column space away from Lorne Gunter’s latest rant… this time against the Mother Corp.

In Mr. Gunter’s world, all media in Canada would be modelled after Fox News… and what a sad and mean world that would be.


Harper is confident

Stevie the PM seems to be preening a little more these days as polls are indicating he is leading Stèphane Dion in terms of leadership qualities.

Of course, M. Dion is a very intelligent man but registers on the charisma meter at about the same level as cottage cheese.

Sorry to Liberals whom I am offending – but you know it’s true. Dion cannot win a majority running against SH (who himself has been called “dead eyes” by one of my friends). And the Conservative-Reform Party knows this very well.

Best of all for the CRPers, they now have a reason to call an election.

Last night, the House passed a PMB calling for the government to meet its Kyoto commitments. All three Opposition parties supported it and the CRP voted against it. Now it goes to the Senate.

Now, the boyz in blue KNOW they cannot win an election fought on the environment – but with Dion at the helm, they know they won’t lose it either and could quite possible be returned as another minority government… seemingly accomplishing little in the process except for one big and expensive election.


What if this is their real strategy? What if they want an election and don’t mind coming back in a minority situation because this buys them more time – perhaps a couple more years – to convince Canadians that they should not only trust them with the cash register…. but they should give them the combination to the safe too!

And it might just work. Dion is unelectable outside the bedrock Liberal ridings. Plus, the Greens will bleed away some of the left Liberal vote (don’t ask me what they will do to the Dippers – it won’t be pretty!). The CRPers will lose some seats to the BQ in QC and a couple in Eastern Ontario, but they will pretty much stay as we see them.

But they buy some time.

Then the Liberals pick a new (and electable) leader.

And then, a couple years down the road, we find out who gets the combination to the safe and who gets hired as a clerk.