Panelists Ron Roxtar and Tanu Oberoi discuss this year’s Just for Laughs Festival and several news items in the News Roundup segment with host Jason C. McLean, plus an interview with NDP leadership candidate Niki Ashton, Community Calendar and Predictions!

News Roundup Topics: Charlottesville, North Korea, Canadian media companies focusing on old models to their detriment, refugees in Montreal


Ron Roxtar: Entertainment journalist

Tanu Oberoi: Web designer, musician

Laurence Tenenbaum: FTB co-founder

Host: Jason C. McLean

Produced by Hannah Besseau

Niki Ashton interview by Jason C. McLean, recorded and edited by Hannah Besseau

Ron’s source which Jason asked for is the CBSA Union quoted in a CBC report. The report says that CBSA has not confirmed their union’s number

Recorded Sunday, August 13, 2017


* Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

In a week that saw US warships sent to North Korea, increased tensions in Syria following a US missile strike and the American military drop, for the first time, the largest non-nuclear bomb in its arsenal on Afghanistan, the most ominous story came to light yesterday. President Donald Trump really wants to ride in the Queen Elizabeth’s gold-plated, horse-drawn carriage when he visits England.

While foreign leaders hitching a ride to Buckingham Palace with Her Majesty is occasionally a thing that happens, American Presidents generally take a different vehicle because of security concerns. A police source told the Times of London:

“The vehicle which carries the president of the United States is a spectacular vehicle. It is designed to withstand a massive attack like a low-level rocket grenade. If he’s in that vehicle he is incredibly well protected and on top of that it can travel at enormous speed. If he is in a golden coach being dragged up the Mall by a couple of horses, the risk factor is dramatically increased.”

I’m not sure of this source’s name or rank, so let’s just use Captain Obvious. Security concerns are heightened when it comes to this President in  particular. There are supposed to be massive protests and even the British Parliament is refusing to let him address them.

Instead of taking the safer route, the Trump team is doing their best to insist on the gold-plated carriage ride. It’s a pretty safe bet that this approach goes right to the top. And that is why this otherwise trivial piece of nonsense is downright scary.

Trump wants to ride in something gold sitting next to royalty. Putin got to do it. That peasant Obama slummed it when he visited the Queen. Slummed it in a super-fast grenade-repellent limousine driven by a chauffeur with more real-world military training than most fictional action heroes.

Maybe if the hyper-secure car was also gold on the outside Trump would ride in it. But then he would be in a competition with the Queen for opulence. Come to think of it, the main reason he probably wants to ride in the carriage is to be on equal footing with the Queen.

Why is that something he cares about? Being on equal footing, or even a dominant footing, when meeting with Xi Jinping, Justin Trudeau, Vladamir Putin or Theresa May makes sense. You don’t want to negotiate from a position of weakness. But what on Earth could President Trump possibly hope to negotiate with the Queen?

She is technically a Head of State, sure, but that is purely symbolic. Symbolism matters to this President. Celebrity, though, matters even more. The Queen is a celebrity, way more than Prime Minister May is, you might say she is THE celebrity.

Riding in the Royal Carriage means, to Trump, that some people may see his celebrity on par with hers and that he is one step ahead of Obama in looking important. It’s all about proving that he is important. The fact that he achieved, perhaps by fluke, something that only forty-four other people have done in a country of millions doesn’t seem to be a factor.

If Obama took a secure limo, Trump wants to ride in the same carriage as the Queen. If other Presidents dropped bombs, Trump wants to drop the Mother of All Bombs. His bomb is bigger.

Some have suggested, and I tend to agree with them, that launching sixty missiles at an airfield in Syria was a PR stunt:

A distraction, most likely from the persistent allegations that he is a Russian puppet. But he didn’t just give us one distraction, no, that’s something a standard politician would do. Trump has the most distractions, the best distractions. Bigly.

Three distractions so far. If this is a case of the tail wagging the dog (as in the 1997 film Wag the Dog which many have referenced in the past few days), well, this dog now has three tails and might grow more.

The Trump team can’t even do deflection right, because their boss is only focused on looking bigger and badder than anyone else. Meanwhile, the biggest, baddest dog in the yard, the US military (along with its defense contractor allies) has been unleashed, or at the very least, is now connected to a real long bendy leash that no one is pulling on to reign it in.

These distractions could turn into full-blown wars. When it comes to North Korea, it’s now up to Kim Jong Un to be the restrained, responsible one if the world is to avoid the start of World War III.

If Donald Trump was taking the actions of the military he now commands with the gravity the situation warrants, then he wouldn’t be telling reporters about the chocolate cake he was eating when ordering a strike on Iraq, only to be corrected that it was, in fact, Syria he had sent missiles into. He also wouldn’t be ordering military actions from a golf course.

He also wouldn’t care if he got to ride in the carriage with the Queen, or, for that matter, whether or not he got to meet with the Queen at all. This focus on image and who looks more famous, bigger and more important, may be laughable, but it also may be what dooms us all.



I would like to start this post with two simple words: I accuse. “I accuse” as the title of an article is odd, isn’t it? But it’s not mine to take credit for. Émile Zola had used such words to lecture the ghosts of anti-semitism that were creeping out of every pore of French society during the Dreyfus affair. Unfortunately a little more than 100 years and a decade have passed since that sordid affair, and once again France braces itself for another mediatic circus, where all the demons of France’s racist and xenophobic past and present will be unleashed.

It had been merely a matter of minutes since news started arriving that the HQ of the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo was besieged when Marine LePen, in the glaring armour of Jeanne D’Arc she so fondly believes to have inherited, mounted her horse of self-righteous indignation and galloped, sword in hand, to fend off the “Islamic hordes.” Merely minutes after two armed gunmen shot and killed two police officers and several caricaturists and employees of Charlie Hebdo.

Marine Le Pen’s venom was all over the airwaves of mainstream French media: “We must cleanse France of Islamic extremism,” she repeated time after time. “We mustn’t be scared anymore,” she stated, but we must be upfront with our racism and xenophobia is what she meant.

On the other hand, hundreds of French and non-French political representatives reiterated the fact that this attack was an attack against one of the most fundamental pillars of democracy, the quintessential core of sense of liberty: liberty of expression.

I would agree with that statement only if liberty of expression was defended at all times and places, regardless of by whom, or in the name of what it is silenced! Coincidentally and interestingly enough, the horrid massacre of Charlie Hebdo comes on the heels of another – at least according to mainstream media – trampling of the rights of free speech: the Sony versus North Korea, or The Interview release fiasco.

It’s almost tragicomic to think that two weeks ago the whole of the “Free World” was up in arms in defense of the multinational media giant Sony, and now are using exactly the same rhetoric while they mourn the passing of several Charlie Hebdo journalists that fought tooth and nail, all of their lives, against multinational media empires such as Sony. The rhetoric used today, of “defending freedom of expression” is exactly the same that was used two weeks prior during the Sony vs North Korea showdown.

If the The Interview itself wasn’t and isn’t Oscar-worthy, the drama revolving around it surely was! The fact is that multinational corporations such as Sony commit barbaric attacks against alternative media outlets such as Charlie Hebdo on a daily basis, while the world was parading around calling for “freedom of expression” for Sony. Sony was killing in the egg thousands if not millions of creative media/artistic projects that didn’t fit within the framework of their “free-market” worldview.

I accuse here all the shameless and spineless hypocrites, such as Sarkozy and his right-wing minions, that came out today en mass to defend Charlie Hebdo, when during their tenure in government they tried in every way possible to shut it down. I accuse here all the media outlets, all the mainstream media that only use the words “freedom of expression” when it involved some radical lunatic, but are silent when multinational corporations such as Quebecor and other such empires control the majority of media in the world, and thus can censor and filter the news as they wish.

je suis charlie demo montreal

I accuse all the journalists on the 8 o’ clock news tonight in France, who will utter the words “liberty and freedom” while the private interests that pay their wages hand them the censored script they’re supposed to recite. I accuse the extreme right-wing rhetoric that will blame everything on Islam and recall with crocodile tears in their eyes and with Oscar-worthy voices full of despair, how much Charlie Hebdo’s publishing was important for the maintenance of freedom and liberty in French society, but secretly rejoiced in a macabre manner when they first heard that Charlie Hebdo had been attacked. Yes, because if it wasn’t a bunch of Islamic Extremists, it very well might have been a bunch of FN-adoring French skinheads!

I accuse those who, up until a few hours ago, were the biggest critics of Charlie Hebdo, those who had a visceral hatred for Charlie Hebdo, who are now all adorned in black and are in sorrow! I accuse those who through the mingling of the market, through points of the stock exchange, silence publications such as Charlie Hebdo in cold blood on a daily basis!

Marine Le Pen and all the French extreme right and their extended family have found their political nirvana in the wake of this attack, because the French mainstream media will focus on the superficial aspect that “Islamic radical militants” perpetrated the attack, without mentioning the fact that several financial institutions, several financial predators had already tried unsuccessfully to kill Charlie Hebdo, several multinational media conglomerates had tried to buy it out, to silence it forever.

ou est charlieCharlie Hebdo might have fought the fascistic tendencies of “extremist Islam,” but it fought every extremism equally. It fought xenophobia and racism, mostly embodied in French society by the FN. And most importantly it fought the muzzling of “freedom of speech” by the “free market!”

Freedom of speech isn’t killed most of the time at gunpoint, doesn’t succumb due to “physical” bullets. Unfortunately in this day and age, in the system we live in, the system Charlie Hebdo, Cabu, Charb, Wolinski and Tignous fought until the bitter end against. Massacres like the one that happened to Charlie Hebdo occur metaphorically on a daily basis – not through the cold steel of a bullet but in the hot frenzy of the stock exchange.

To honour their memory, we should remember that this isn’t about a few individuals – as they promoted during their life’s work – This is about a system that kills creativity, that kills freedom of speech. It’s that system today that I accuse of murder!

A luta continua!

As a first time director and producer, I have to say Kim Jong Un has potential. What he lacks in believable plot, Kim more than makes up for with casting and marketing.

The story starts off believable, though a little derivative. Evil dictator doesn’t like a Hollywood film called The Interview which shows him in a bad light. He gets a team of unknown hackers to cause havoc. They break into a studio’s servers and release a bunch of personal information which causes quite the stir in Hollywood.

But then, things really go off the rails. (SPOILERS AHEAD). This small dictator whose weapons are well known to be the stuff of B-movies from the 50s and without any viral pull like an ISIS or even an Al Quaeda threatens a coordinated attack in multiplexes all over the territory of the world’s biggest superpower. His new enemies believe the threats and pull the offending movie, even block a replacement movie, Team America: World Police, that mocks the dictator’s father.

If this was a comedy, it could work as a zany farce. The problem is it’s scripted like a drama. At least Un was smart enough to not personally appear onscreen and let his character communicate through other players.

Those players make up quite an impressive list. He’s got Seth Rogen and James Franco to start with, but throw in a supporting cast of Trey Parker, Matt Stone, President Obama, Aaron Sorkin, Anonymous, Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton and just about any major entertainment journalist and blogger you can think of.  He’s even got Clooney!

The marketing has been incredible, too. Everyone is talking about it. People are afraid that they’re losing their freedom and vowing to see the movie The Interview however they can. They’re even forgetting that people in North Korea don’t have that much freedom to begin with, which is probably a more important story, but with much less star power.

What’s really amazing is he’s doing this on a shoestring budget. North Korea hardly has internet, who knew they had hackers? It almost makes you think that this production has some serious major studio backing.

Come to think of it, maybe it does. North Korea denies being involved with the hack or the threats. While that could be interpreted as modesty on the part of the director or an attempt to position the failed drama as a mystery for a possible sequel, maybe, just maybe, this is actually a Hollywood production after all.

If it is, and Sony spun a hack by disgruntled ex-workers or some kid in a basement into a story of international censorship that got the leaders of two countries (and Clooney!) talking about a buddy comedy, then this is the greatest publicity stunt in the history of Hollywood. If not, then it remains a very impressive directorial debut for Kim Jong Un.

And since his day job, despotic dictator, brings hardship to almost all the people of his country, I hope he quits it and focuses on what he is good at: playing the Hollywood game.

The New Year always seems to bring about the need for change. People commit to their new year’s resolutions in order quit smoking or drinking, lose weight or better themselves in some particular way. Rarely do you see these types of changes taking a place at a national or international level, after all, you never hear of a government resolving to spend less or be more accountable for their actions.

Upon the unexpected death of North Korea’s Kim Jong Il, the hope for such a change was high, especially in the media. The trouble is a totalitarian regime never works that way, in fact no country works that way. The only way to change a democratic or autocratic government is by having its people demand it, just like in North Africa this past year, just like in Washington in 2008. To believe that change comes about with a man’s “heart attack” is as naïve as thinking it comes with the changing of the year. Change is up to us, not them.

The problem with North Korea is that the ruling party has spent decades building up its leader’s cult of personality and shutting the rest of the world out. With the Kim Dynasty now entering its third generation, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who knows of the freedom that those in the west take for granted. However, I would bet if you were to ask the average North Korean if they felt free, they would agree. They just don’t know any better.

Enter Kim Jong Un, youngest son of the late Kim Jong Il, a man supposedly in his late twenties with only two years of grooming under his father’s wing. Kim the third will now take control of twenty-five million people, the world’s fourth largest military and one of the two last state-run economies on earth.

two thirds of the Kim Dynasty

Kim Jong Un will also have to decide what to do with the ongoing famine in his communist country. While famine is not at the levels they were in the mid-nineties when up to three million North Koreans died of famine related diseases, it is still a problem. According to Jimmy Carter who visited the country last year, the North Korean state had reduced daily food intake from 1,400 calories to 700 calories in 2011 (a healthy European takes in about 2000-2500). Another study concluded that roughly 45% of North Korean children under the age of five are stunted from malnutrition.

Thanks to Songun, a term used to describe Kim Jong Il’s “military first” policy, all aspects of North Korean society is secondary to the KPA (Korean People’s Army). This policy helped Kim Jong Il solidify his power after his father died and helped to strengthen the country after the fall of communism in many allied countries. Songun guides domestic policy and international interactions at the expense of its people who struggle to survive. I would argue that the United States has a similar policy in place.

Kim Jong Un has already consolidated his power in the country and last Friday was appointed supreme commander of the country’s 1.2 million-strong armed forces. The state’s annual New Year’s address urged the country to defend the new leader, Kim Jong-un, to the death. The message also said the “burning issue” of food shortages was one the nation’s leaders must work to solve. Of course in a country like North Korea, if that “burning issue” isn’t solved all one has to do is change the message.

The situation in the “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” is virtually hopeless in regards to its citizens. The Kim dynasty’s Stalin-like military rule has made any chance of revolution impossible. The presence of a massive army supported by nuclear weapons has made any intervention undesirable. Furthermore, their state run media brainwashes its people to believe that everything is great no matter how starving and desperate its people become. Kim Jong Un might very well lead the country for fifty years, but the type of country he leads is solely in his hands.

I didn’t write this first essay of the New Year to depress anyone, I wrote it to encourage. We used to live in the freest society the world has ever known. Those freedoms that we took for granted for so long are now slowly being replaced or repealed by the people in government and the corporations and special interests that control them. In 2012 we all must come together to take back what is rightfully ours. Unlike North Korea, we don’t have to wait an eternity…

“I’m thankful I live in a place where I can say the things I do without being taken out and shot. So I’m on guard against the goons trying to take my rights away. We’ve got to rise above the need for cops and laws.” – Taken from Stars and Stripes of Corruption by Jello Biafra

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