canadian content

a forum of thoughts and rants on what canada is (or isn't)
from the inside and out

may 98

Am I Vulnerable to Technology?

by William Patterson

I'll begin from the beginning...

I was eating lunch and reading e-mail, so I decided to move the keyboard aside in order to place my plate onto the table, in front of the monitor. While I ate it occurred to me how odd this was. I had never experienced sitting in front of the monitor without anything between us (sort of like watching TV, but you sit farther back with TV). While I wondered why I felt odd, I suddenly realized that it was feeling of vulnerability I was experiencing.

To what?? This is the point at which I set lunch aside and began to jot this down:

How am I vulnerable to technology?
The sentence sits there while I stare.

I guess in a very literal way I (through the information stored on my computer) am vulnerable to hackers and other on-line nasties. Each time we log on we could be downloading viral material, have fraud experts perusing through our personal information, or a host of other terrifying things.

The internet is full of people trying to sell you stuff that sometimes I feel as though it has unfortunately turned into a computer-age market in which we haggle for goods and services.
But in a way technology attacks my culture, or provides a means for others to attack my culture. The internet is full of people trying to sell you stuff that sometimes I feel as though it has unfortunately turned into a computer-age market in which we haggle for goods and services. As a source for reliable information it is questionable, and good free things are becoming increasingly rare (or swamped by the exponentially greater number of marketers and businesses panning their product). And I'm sure that people from around the world have noticed that so much of the information out there is American.

Not that American information is inherently evil or anything, but that (like with television) being inundated with a primarily American angle on things skews ones own perceptions. Its approach is different (although this decreases as Canadian television strives to mimic an Americanized format), and this difference in approach encroaches upon our "Canadian" expression of self. The CBC has long been touted as a last bastion for Canadian culture, but is that even sacred for much longer with decreasing budgets and an increasing number of channels vying for attention?

The CBC has long been touted as a last bastion for Canadian culture, but is that even sacred for much longer with decreasing budgets and an increasing number of channels vying for attention?
This phenomenon is not isolated to television. On the contrary, the internet is a budding market being swamped with new material daily. It is not the quantity of material alone which is dangerous, but the content. Of course now we have digital nannies to ensure our children do not inadvertently stumble upon nude celebrity photos, learn how to make fertilizer bombs, or any of the other "dangers" which expose themselves to children on the net. In terms of danger, television lags far behind, largely due to the autocratic control existing over the airwaves, and strict broadcasting standards. The net defies these things. Yet the resources we can utilize in place of the CRTC (regulating body of Canadian media), such as the net nannies, are not so effective. For instance, I recently was reading documentation which said "no XXX on this site." nanny read the nefarious letters XXX and assumed I was one of my kids getting into hardcore porn. So it booted me off that site.

But porn and other material is not a danger which jumps out at you, forcing itself onto your monitor. It's the advertising which does that. Banners which scream "press here!" while displaying an imitation control panel. I must admit I was once tricked into one because it fit so perfectly with the site I was accessing that I assumed it was part of that site. It is this sort of manipulative marketing which is disturbing. The increasing trend to use the internet as a means for conducting business means that there is far more crap to wade through. At least with television you know when you are being hit with commercials, and they are subservient to the programs they support, not the other way around. and other material is not a danger which jumps out at you, forcing itself onto your monitor. It's the advertising which does that. Banners which scream "press here!" while displaying an imitation control panel.
Pro-television critics say that if you don't like the content, change the channel or turn the TV off. With the net it's not so simple. When you want to find usefull information you often have to careen through squalid advertising ploys to reach it. In this way the internet is malevolent. It is spreading its cultural-destroying propoganda everywhere. It is indiscriminate in that it doesn't care about your culture, sex, race, religion- it only wants your money. But it is this indiscriminate attitude which is heartlessly attacking us all, trying to make us a faceless society of plastic-card holders who only exist to fork over our cash to the machine.

The solution? Perhaps a cultural net nanny. One which will warn me with flashing lights and blaring trumpets that I am about to encounter vicious advertising campaigns of terror. Campaigns which are designed to transcend cultures and attack wallets.

Maybe this is why I feel vulnerable with nothing between me and the monitor. It brings me closer to knowledge and entertainment, but also tries to bring me one step closer to uniformity and cultural extinction


Merger Mania: A Profile

by Chris Blank

Oligarchy-1)a government in which power is in the hands of a few
          2)a state having an oligarchy
          also: the group holding power in such a state
(source: mirriam-webster dictionary)

The Players:

John Cleghorn- Royal Bank chairman
Matthew Barrett- Bank of Montreal chairman
Charles Baillie- Toronto Dominion Bank chairman
Al Flood- Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce chairman

Some Quotes:

The Council of Canadians said of the proposed mergers that, "Bigger banks will make a bad situation worse. Jobs will be lost, services will be cut, and Canadians will be held hostage by an even more monopolized industry."

Prime Minister Chrétien says, "It's very, very important that Canadian consumers have the choice of different financial institutions. If not, they are going to find themselves prisoner of one, or two, or three institutions."

NDP Leader Alexa McDonough said the bank merger would mean branch closings, lost jobs, and increased service fees.

Progressive Conservative critic David Price said that in the long term jobs may be created.

Regarding the Royal Bank/Bank of Montreal merger, Manulife Financial's President and Chief Executive Dominic D'Alessandro was quoted in the March 27, 1998 Toronto Star as saying that:
"I also wonder about the effect the merger would have on domestic competition and consumer choice...After all, the merged bank would have almost 40 per cent of the total assets held by the banking system in Canada and comparable levels of residential mortgages and retail deposits."

Toronto Star Editorial, April 13, 1998:
"..if costs keep falling with size, wouldn't it make more sense for all Canadian banks, insurance and trust companies to merge into one giant institution to go head to head with the new Citigroup?

"With so much financial synergy, just imagine how many thousands of Canadian employees could be laid off!

"Interesting how the logic of bigness would seem to suggest an outcome that no Canadian consumer would want."

"In part, that's because the bigness argument may be overstated, if not, in fact, a crock."

Peter Godsoe, chairman of the Bank of Nova Scotia, doesn't rule out the long term possiblities of his bank merging. However, for the moment they are staying clear of the merger excitement. As Godsoe warns against the lack of competition, "Five goes to three. It's totally anti-competitive." Godsoe also predicts public resentment to possible layoffs and branch closings.
Toronto Star, April 18, 1998

Al Flood states that the "(merger)'s about providing customers with more product choice at better value and lower prices. It's about forming an inovative new company that will create more jobs, higher skill jobs, better paying jobs and new jobs in high growth occupations."
Toronto Star, April 18, 1998

(And here is Al Floods merging partner):
"Less than three months ago Charles Baillie...dismissed the inevitability argument categorically, telling his shareholders at his annual meeting, 'I find it difficult to understand how a bigger bank will be more productive and offer better services to its clients'"

The Facts:

Last year all five of Canada's major banks made record profits.

The Bank of Montreal holds 6.7 of the 31 million credit cards Canadians hold. (This is part of the rationale the B.O.M. is using, by saying that 'oh look, Citibank has 50 millions cards- we need to compete!' Problem being that they would never have a chance, even with a merger.)

"Scotiabank has become an important global player not because it's one big Canadian bank but because it operates as a local bank in more than 50 other countries- more than the Royal Bank or the Bank of Montreal combined. And in 1997 a full half of Scotiabank's total earnings came from outside Canada" (and look, ma, no merger!)
Source- Toronto Star, April 6, 1998 Editorial

In April 1998 Citibank announced it was going to merge with Traveller's Group in a 70 billion dollar deal, which makes it the largest conglomerate in the world (another good excuse for Canadian banks to merge, or so they say.)

There are(were) only a few major financial institutions in Canada (six major banks, 419 credit unions in Ontario, not sure about the rest of Canada), as opposed to 10,000 banks and savings and loans companies(which mostly handle mortgages). The U.S. is 10 times the size of Canada but has 1,500 hundred times as many banks.

Mergers in the states leave citizens with 9,000 banks. Canadians are left with three at most.

News of the mergers caused bank stocks to shoot up on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce- $282 billion in assets
Royal Bank- $257 billion in assets
CIBC/TD merged- $460 billion in assets
- $475 billion in assets
(The two Canadian mergers, combined, would have 70% of Canada's banking assets.)
Citigroup (U.S. merger)- $1 trillion in assets

The proposed TD/CIBC merger would create a company that, if measured by it's shares, would be the 10th largest in North America

TD/CIBC would become the second biggest discount broker in the world with 2.1 million accounts (behind U.S. Charles Schwab & Co. at 5 million customer accounts)

Only Bank of Nova Scotia and National Bank of Canada remain unmerged.

Currently no one can own more than 10% of the shares of a major chartered bank, a rule that has effectively prevented foreign takeovers. Will this change?

The Benefits:

(but for who?)

Toronto Dominion Bank gets to hook up with CIBC(the largest bank in Canada, assets wise).

TD/CIBC hope to increase efficiency by 10%. Haven't the nineties seen the words 'efficiency' and 'downsize' become synonymous?

Is there going to be bigger, better services offered after the mergers?

Credit unions are seeing increased public interest due to growing wariness of mega-banks.

The Issues:

Fewer financial institutions means not only less choice, but the fear that we will see price fixing. Could a few banks not easily agree on setting interest rates and service charges at comparably high levels?

Small businesses (and their many employees) rely on loans to get them going and keep them afloat. How will a tougher bank market affect small businesses receiving and paying (higher interest rate?)loans?

Finance Minister Paul Martin doesn't like this, but will the government be able to stop it? Unlikely. It seems more reasonable that they will put restrictions onto the proposed mergers, rather than nullify them.

The Rant:

Personally, I only recall increased service charges. There may be more conveniences in banking than there were a few years ago, but we are paying dearly for it. The only benefit I can see is that I won't be gashed every time I use another banks interac with my bank's card. With fewer banks, almost every store should have my bank's type of interac!.

For people who have always enjoyed the personal contact with 'real' bankers, this may be a bit of a shock. It seems likely that there is only going to be fewer 'in the flesh' employees, and more automated tellers. More plastic. Great.

And so banks continue to make record profits, service charges continue to climb, and virtually no one, it seems, is happy. Except the banks, who are laughing all the way to, well, the bank.

For an interesting look at the history of bank mergers in Canada, see the April 19, 1998 "A Question of Mergers" in the Toronto Star. As well, see the April 24th article "Canadians leery of bank merger: Poll" for a lengthy look at statistics re: the Canadian publics view of mergers.


The Future Ain't What It Seems

by james hörner

i'm sure many of us, as children, envisioned the future as a place where manual tasks were performed with mechanized efficiency- a sort of brave new world where progress reigns.

lately, though, i've been watching a shopping complex under construction across the street from the apartment i live in. it has been interesting for someone who understands as little about the construction process as i do. and it has reminded me how much humans still perform hard labour.

a few workers appeared in the middle of winter, due to the mild weather, and set up a fence around the area. surveyors came in, backhoes dug, and soon the foundation was being laid. shortly after, brick layers were at it and steel beams were hoisted. then i moved and missed the rest.

dreams of egyptian labourers and greek architects fascinate. buildings constructed long ago which we don't even yet understand. and we think we have come so far.

besides being fascinating, the process reminded me how many things simply take time, no matter how much technology is involved. each day i would examine their progress from the window, astounded by how long it takes, for example, to remove boards and tarps from a dried concrete foundation. days. i can't imagine how long actual walls and wiring and plumbing and... well a long time i'm sure.

for some reason i had always assumed buildings went up at a breakneck speed (or is that just in vancouver, where, curiously, they are having so many building leaks?). they just seemed to appear mystically. "oh, look dear, a new mall"- as though this task hadn't taken hundreds of hours of back-breaking labour. sure we have machines to drive rivets, compress soil, and elevate workers into the air. we have electric screwdrivers and nailguns, and paintguns and a zillion other devices to make things "quicker."

where are the machines of tomorrow? childhood visions and adult delusions yet to be built. the blue prints are the imagination, resting in the dreams while many workers are already up and out the door for another day of labour.

dreams of egyptian labourers and greek architects fascinate. buildings constructed long ago which we don't even yet understand. and we think we have come so far.

yet today somewhere in the third world children mine for resources that are somewhere down the line used to build dream-homes. humans pack several times their weight. in some places buildings are not glass-domed, award-winning feats of architecture, but merely a roofs over heads.

it all goes to remind me that, in perspective, we ARE advanced, no matter how long things seem to take.


Milk Doesn't Do My Body Good

by Chris Blank

Firstly, I must admit that I am not a doctor. Yes, I know it may come as some surprise to many of you (does my pseudo-scientific approach give it away?), but please do consult a physician before taking my advice. I am ranting here, which means I am avoiding lengthy scientific explanations. For more in depth information and various perspectives try these links

If you suffer bloating, cramps, or diarrhea after eating dairy products you may have a problem. There's also a good chance you are aware of it now that companies like Lactaid have been blasting the airwaves with their product.

we are the only species which consumes another species milk... You don't see monkeys sucking on cows teats, or even us letting chimps breastfeed our babies... yet we DO drink the milk of sheep, llamas, goats, reindeer, camels, water buffalo, and, of course, mommies.

For those not aware, or for you lucky souls who don't suffer these problems, the problem is called lactose intolerance. It results from the digestive system not producing enough of the lactase enzyme to break down the complex lactose sugar in dairy products into simpler sugars. The lactose sugar ferments in the small intestine, and that is what causes all the discomfort described earlier.

It is estimated that between 30 and 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant (I'm not sure what the Canadian figures are). As well, certain ethnic and racial populations are more widely affected than others. Lactose intolerance is prevalent in 75 percent of all African-Americans and Native Americans, and in 90 percent of Asian-Americans. However, persons of northern European descent seem least affected by it.

What does this all tell us? That we should ensure we take pills or ingest lactose-free dairy products? Mmm, no, what it says to me is that maybe we're not really supposed to consume dairy products period.

Think about it- we are the only species which consumes another species milk. Doesn't this seem a little strange? You don't see monkeys sucking on cows teats, or even us letting chimps breastfeed our babies (although we're 90-some% genetically similar to chimps!). And yet we DO drink the milk of sheep, llamas, goats, reindeer, camels, water buffalo, and, of course, mommies.

I remember growing up with those nutritionists coming into the classroom and showing the importance of the four major food groups. But whose interest is it that Canadian dairy products sell. That's right, the government

Granted, calcium is crucial to preventing osteoperosis (the degeneration of the bones, most prevalent in older women), and to ensure health during growth and into adulthood one MUST have calcium. But there are many sources of calcium. Broccoli, beans, and soy products such as tofu all contain calcium, just to name a few. However, the concentration is not as high in these products compared to milk, and this is the BIG POINT of the dairy farmers.

All this leads to Government brainwashing. I remember growing up with those nutritionists coming into the classroom and showing the importance of the four major food groups. But whose interest is it that Canadian dairy products sell. That's right, the government.

This is why the Government hates producers of soy milk (actually usually referred to as a beverage since it is in no way a milk. Soy milk provides a great deal of your daily calcium intake (certain brands being better than others), but lacks vitamin D- a crucial vitamin that is abundant in cow's milk; although I am not certain if it is there naturally or whether it is injected.

And why doesn't soy milk have vitamin D added, then, you ask? Because the Government won't permit it. For some time soy beverage producers have been pushing the Government on this, but it won't budge. What a great way to keep a corner on the "milk" market- by saying that you can only get everything you need from cow's milk. And dairy production is a crown interest. Who woulda thunk? All this from lactose intolerance.



ctv reporter craig oliver, while in havana covering prime minister chrétiens visit with fidel castro, refers to castro as an "old commie." sure, oliver probably has some deep seeded cold war resentment. but isn't a journalist supposed to at least sound objective. the term "commie" ranks with slagging someone as a "holy roller" or a "faggot" (not to belittle these groups by comparison). regardless of their personal political views, shouldn't journalists have at least a little integrity- instead of sounding like moronic relics from the past?

absurdist theory: the government doesn't want to end the doctor's strike because they secretly want to wipe northerners out. just think of all those natural resources with no one around!

here is a snippet from issue #16 of the barbed wire, which is the "rant of BARF (the born again rhino force)".

All shrinks will tell you that psychopaths don't have emotional hangups. They are basically predators who see other people as objects, as things, to be used.

"Look for someone who is glib, manipulative, impulsive, egocentric, deceitful, sensation-seking, selfish, irresponsible, lacking empathy, lacking guilt, lacking remorse," all reputable shrinks will tell you.

Hey! Aren't they talking about your average politician?

Psychopaths are legally and psychiatrically sane. There is no known treatment for the condition. Psychopaths who undergo therapy in prison simply become better psychopaths.

MPs prove their dissembling ways with Parliamentary experience.

There are five basic groups of politician/psychopaths:

1. The classic bully; the bar fighter. Jean Chrétien is an example.

2. The paranoid, which about covers all politicians.

3. The narcissist, like Pierre Trudeau.

4. The bureaucrazy, a lethal combination of wimp, fascist, credit-grabber and buck passer, like Paul Martin Jr.

5. The disaster hunter, who loves life on the edge and tends eventually to fall off, ruining the lives of many innocent people. Brian Mulroney is a good example. So is Grant (God First!)Devine.

The above is a description of the indigenous Kriminal Klass in KanaDada/the people elected to run the country. This noisy and arrogant band of squirming self-promoters, buffoons all, doesn't govern on behalf of the people who elect them. The people they really represent, the Real True Governors, "The Immaculate Boardroom" we call it, are ungovernable. Yet their will, their greed, prevail, because they possess the media to spread the traditional ideologies to hapless voters.

The voters keep electing Liberals and Tories (and in some provinces, the NDP), whom they profess to hate, despise, and especially to not trust.

Why people continue to vote for the old line parties, who have proved over and over again that they are, first and foremost, liars who represent the will of the rich, is a question beyond the capability of our mind to unravel. Perhaps like Nietzsche, all voters have good days and bad days, but the bad days all just happen to converge on election day.

We do think, however, that politicians come from the class of citizens that any shrink would describe as more inadequate than most folk. This does not reflect on their intelligence. Intelligent they must be in order to function well. Any shrink will tell you that in order to be a good (effective or efficacious) crazy, one must be quite intelligent. The inadequacy of people who seek public office lies in their inordinate need for expressions of love from people they don't know and never will know. Once the mantle of power is laid on their shoulders, some chemical is released in their brains that causes them to act in ways that any shrink will call "inadequate."

Politicians, with rare exceptions, are all inadequate, but they are selected by "the people" on one day every four or five years that everybody is more or less equal, that is, on voting day. These politicians not only mirror what the voters want, they are exactly what their true masters, the Immaculate Boardrooms of the trans-national, multilateral, integrated corporations desire. They want ordinary voters to lack trust in politicians, and to take out their anger on them, to blame them for what the Immaculate Boardrooms have done and plan to do. The politicians are the perfect foils, the perfect minions of the Corporate Immaculate Boardrooms. They seek the love of the people, and they wind up with the people's hatred. And they never seem to perceive this paradox.

the barbed wire folks are witty and smart. so you should buy their zine for two dollars or about two bucks postage on a self-addressed manila envelope. you are not so much as buying it as you are paying for it's transport to your doorstep.

the barbed wire
po box 553
regina, sk
s4p 3a3


y press