Damaged Goods

November 24, 2013

Cast your minds back to earlier this year, this spring to be specific. runamokJust after the crack allegations first broke and after former chief of staff Mark Towhey took leave of his employ to Mayor Rob Ford.

Trace that line forward to today, through all the stunning events over the past 6 months especially the last, I don’t know, three weeks or so. Package that sequence up, the crack smoking admission, the “2nd” video, the pussy eating comment, all the unacknowledged business coming out of the police surveillance ITO, the whole shit show clusterfuck that’s been comedy gold for late night TV.

And plunk it down into the 2010 campaign for mayor. Imagine it happening then, while knucklehead Rob Ford was still only a dissenting councillor from Etobicoke trying to muscle his way into the mayor’s office. setthehouseonfireThat’s the guy George Smitherman and Joe Pantalone ran against.

You honestly think that we’d still be talking about all the problems we’re having with our Mayor Rob Ford?

I ask because this is pretty much the scenario we’re facing as we head into the 2014 municipal election. Rob Ford left to his own devices, watched over only by his brother Doug who’s proven to be equally as maladroit at managing his impulse control and outbursts than his little brother, the mayor. There’s no telling what either of them might do at any particular public appearance.

In 2010, Rob Ford was kept on a very tight leash by a team of professionals including Nick Kouvalis (his first chief of staff), Adrienne Batra (his former press something something) and Towhey. onashortleashEven then, his behaviour — both past and current – regularly burst forth and threatened to sink his candidacy. But overall, his campaign team managed to keep him on message, disciplined and under control long enough to elect him mayor.

All three remained on board throughout the early part of his administration, when his council successes piled up. But then, one by one, they jumped ship. First Kouvalis. Then Batra. Towhey hung on but was shown the door when the crack scandal erupted.

What we’re seeing now is pretty much what we should expect going forward. The brains of the operation have left the building. It’s now just Rob and his demons egged on by Doug and their weird family dynamics. It’s not going to be a campaign as much as some demolition derby. Just one car wreck after another.

It’s hard to imagine a scenario where anyone with actual campaign skills and knowledge of how to manage an almost unmanageable candidate would be willing to sign on with the Ford re-election team. hazmatsuitThe mayor’s become toxic. Even the most mercenary of political operatives would have to weigh the money against the yuck factor that would surely attach itself to them for trying to secure another go at public office by such a disgraced politician.

I guess there might be the thrill of the challenge of getting such damaged goods re-elected. If I can win this one, there’s no candidate I can’t get elected! I’ll be a legend!!

But that’s assuming the mayor has flamed out as much as he can, as any human can, flame out. It wouldn’t be an assumption I’d be willing to make at this point. Witness the latest news that dribbled out about Mayor Ford’s antics on Friday. You think that’s the last head shaker we’re going to hear about? (It wasn’t even the last one we heard on Friday). The risks just seem to outweigh any benefits to attaching yourself to the rightfully dubbed Ford crazy train.

Besides, Rob Ford and his brother probably don’t think they need anybody else now. They must look at the favourable numbers that haven’t seemed to have budged through all this mess and ridicule and figure, hey, we can ride it out. If admitting to smoking crack doesn’t put a dent in his support, what will? Full steam ahead!

If that happens, I’m predicting the Rob Ford Unhinged Tour in 2014. No one to keep him tied to political realities. No one to keep him on message. On message? No one to keep him on time. Huh? Oh, the debate started at  7?! caveatemptor1My watch must be running late…

This isn’t to get all smug and self-assured about Rob Ford going down to defeat next year. As we witnessed to our horror four years ago anything can happen during an election campaign. But it’s hard to see how he just doesn’t simply implode without the assured, if diabolical, hand of the likes of Nick Kouvalis, Adrienne Batra and Mark Towhey. (Why diabolical? There’s no way they didn’t know they were pawning off a defective product on the Toronto electorate, an electorate equally as diabolical, I guess, since there’s no way they didn’t know they were buying into a defective product)

And many will continue to look past those defects, embracing the positives they see as being more important. toxicsinkholeIt’s not easy giving up on a brand you bought into. No one likes to admit to buyer’s remorse.

It just seems possible that a Rob Ford running amok during a campaign with no one around to reel him will make it very easy for those who voted for him the first time around to convince themselves that wasn’t the guy they voted for. He’s not the brand they bought into. They’re not changing their minds. Rob Ford’s just not who he claimed to be.

Cue the support crater.

realistically submitted by Cityslikr


Libel? Nah. Just Democratic Hijinks.

November 16, 2012

I am a bit flummoxed at Royson James’ notion of democracy. Early on in the 2010 campaign, the Toronto Star columnist spearheaded the derailment of then councillor Adam Giambrone’s mayoral bid, outraged over some unsavoury “personal issues”, let’s call them, that had surfaced. Here’s what Mr. James wrote in February of 2010:

Mayoral candidate Adam Giambrone can be gay if he wants to, or bisexual. This is Toronto.

Giambrone the playboy can have a 19-year-old girlfriend on the side, a common practice among the political elite of the day.

Giambrone the TTC chair can use the couch in his city hall office to bed Kristen Lucas late at night when he should have been using the office to solve customer-relations problems at the TTC.

And when caught with his pants on the ground, the man with the clean-cut, fresh, youthful image can admit only to having an “inappropriate” text message relationship with the girlfriend, as if it amounted to mere digital sex, a peccadillo.

But the 32-year-old city councillor can’t do all that and expect Torontonians to embrace him as their mayor.

Yet 2 ½ years on with the man the city did ultimately embrace as its mayor, Rob Ford, in court on the stand, defending himself against libel charges for things he said during the 2010 campaign and Mr. James simply shrugs. “We value our democracy,” he wrote yesterday. “Elections are the purest expression of our freedoms. When candidates put themselves up for public office we want to give them the greatest latitude possible to debate issues, to raise questions, to rail at the moon, to be as outrageous or as thoughtful as possible.”

Apparently for Royson James, a strong democracy needs to be able to withstand undermining attacks upon it by unsubstantiated innuendo, questionable claims and, quite possibly, libellous slurs but cannot cope with a politician’s personal transgression and the lies and hypocrisy that invariably follow any public outing. Adam Giambrone was unfit to hold the office of mayor. Rob Ford was just expressing his democratic rights and freedom.

No one is arguing that Rob Ford did not have the right to say the things he said during the Toronto Sun editorial board meeting. At issue now is facing the consequences for the words he spoke. You’d think that would have James more up in arms than he seems to be.

The outrageous railing at the moon the Fords engaged in with the Sun about in camera meetings, backroom sole-source deals, corruption and skulduggery was just par for the course of the complete fiction their whole platform thrived on. Unchecked, such invention became fact. The Ford administration rode into power on a huge polluted wave of misinformation and dubious rhetorical slogans.

But at least we don’t have a philanderer sitting in the mayor’s chair. I mean, one who cheats on his partner not the entire city with his little football coaching on the side.

Amazingly, given all that’s happened during Mayor Ford’s tenure, James remains blithely oh-well-what-are-you-gonna-do about politicians who engage in debatable discourse that confounds reality. “The thinking is that our community can withstand the rhetorical excess of misguided or over-exuberant candidates. In the end, a thoughtful and clear-thinking electorate will sift through the noise and mess and find a reasonable representative to lead them.”

Really, Royson?! Really!? To quote Stephen Colbert: How is the weather up your own ass?

Goaded by ‘the rhetorical excess of misguided or over-exuberant candidates’, enough voters were convinced City Hall was rife with corruption and bloated spending (and whatever other uncorroborated crimes against taxpayers Rob Ford tossed in for good measure) that we now are in the grips of a fantasy league mayor and his collection of delusional followers. In the article, James claims then Ford campaign spokes person, Adrienne Batra practically dared George Foulidis to challenge the accusations in court “and watch all the stuff come out in public.” The matter is now in court and, so far, no ‘stuff’ has come out in public.

Bullshit built on bullshit can only result in more bullshit.

Whether or not Mayor Ford is found libel in what he said about the process of awarding a contract in the Tuggs deal is irrelevant at this point. What should be clear, especially to long time municipal watchers like Royson James, is that the mayor’s iffy relationship to the truth, on almost every civic matter he expounds on, serves neither democracy nor the welfare of this city. In fact, it’s been nothing but a detriment. Shame on Royson James’ nonchalance in the face of that.

unimpressedly submitted by Cityslikr


Straining The Bromance

September 11, 2012

One of the things about politics that flummoxes me most is the need for ‘likeability’ in our politicians. That notion candidates need to be just one of us, a regular guy, a hardworking Joe (note the gender bias there, huh?) Someone we’d all like to sit down and have a beer with. Best buds. BFF.

Personally? I’ve already got plenty of people in my life I’d like to sit down and have a beer with and not nearly enough time to do so. I’m not looking to my elected representatives to grow that particular list.

No, what I’m looking to them for is, well, good governance and all that. I don’t want to elect somebody who’s just like me. My god that would turn out poorly for everyone concerned. I want my politicians to be smarter than I am. To be more thorough. Exercise better judgement. To have a firm grasp on the issues they were elected to grapple with.

Frankly, I think this likeability bar candidates have to clear is nothing more than apathy on the part of the voting public. Don’t bore me with the details, folks. Who’s got the time for all that? Just send in the monkeys to perform and let me decide based entirely on that. You got 10 minutes.

So affability not acumen becomes the key ingredient for a successful run in politics. Forget the best and brightest. We want the cuddliest Tim Hortons types who understand we aren’t really that interested in the process just the outcome. Low taxes. Safe streets… Yeah, that’s about it.

Of course, writing that makes me an out-of-touch elitist, not grounded in the realities of life. This doesn’t have to be complicated, egghead. Running a city/province/country isn’t rocket science. Anybody could do it if they really wanted. So why not elect just anybody?

This attitude is very advantageous for your run-of-the-mill anybody politician. When you’re just one of us, a regular guy, any sort of criticism directed your way is perceived as an attack on one of your friends. It’s not about policy differences or politics even. It’s personal. It not only questions a voter’s political judgement but their judge of character.

Regular guy politicians like Mayor Rob Ford continue to get a pass from his supporters despite mounting evidence that he’s not really up to the task of the job he was elected to do because admitting that’s the case is akin to bailing on a friend when he gets into a tough spot. Hey. Come on. Give the guy a break. Nobody’s perfect. He’s doing the best he can. Just like us.

Just like us, he has trouble understanding conflict of interest rules. I mean, who has time to read the fine print of the guidelines? Just like us, he mumbled and contradicted himself on the stand in court under the heavy artillery attack of Clayton Ruby. You’d be cooler? Just like us, he hosted a BBQ for thousands and thousands of people in his mom’s backyard because that’s what good friends do. It had nothing to do with amassing a substantial voter database to use in 2014. Suggesting that is just cheap politics. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

Just like us, Mayor Ford takes time from his busy schedule at work to help kids avoid a life of crime. Sure, he loves football and hates the nitty gritty that comes with doing the job he’s paid to do but who doesn’t? What? You have something against keeping kids on the straight and narrow?

Politicians like Rob Ford wear their populism as a shield against legitimate, fact based opposition. You don’t agree with him, offer up criticism of his policies, you are questioning the wisdom and intelligence of those who voted for him. You’re railing against democracy itself. Nothing more than a sore loser.

Thus, his promotion of Ford Nation.

“As you saw this week,” the mayor told last Friday’s gathering at Ford Fest in a non-campaign speech for his 2014 campaign, “they’re coming after us every which way.” We’re in this together, folks. You and me against everyone who disagrees with us. Don’t listen to my critics, to the naysayers. They just want to take your vote away from you, your voices. Mi casa, su casa.

It almost dares you to criticize, to oppose. It hardens the resolve, the absolute commitment to the cause. It’s near perfect fucking strategy.

But the thing to remember is, it’s just that. A strategy. Like almost everything about Rob Ford the politician, it’s all artifice. A manufactured image created to mask the rage, inadequacies and disinterest that make up the core of his politics. That’s something easier to pick up and run with than it is to maintain. Eventually the failings will be too great for anyone but the hardest of hardcore supporters to accept as their own.

Successful friendships can’t simply continue down a one-way street.

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


It’s Not Lying If You Believe It

August 28, 2012

What do you call it when you’re not lying exactly? Massaging the truth? Tickling its tummy in order for it to contort into a more agreeable shape? Dissembling?

A few years back, in 2005 to be precise, Princeton University’s philosophy professor emeritus, Harry Frankfurt wrote a quick read book on the subject called On Bullshit. In it, he attempted to draw a distinction between lying and bullshitting. While I won’t attempt a full score breakdown of his argument, it went essentially along the following lines.

To lie is to acknowledge that there is an objective, demonstrable truth to be told. A liar just chooses not to tell it, in order to deceive others, usually for some sort of personal benefit or to avoid accepting responsibility for something or as some sort of means to an end. You can’t handle the truth!

The bullshitter, on the other hand, does not even accept the possibility that a clear-eyed, verifiable truth exists. Frankfurt writes: The contemporary proliferation of bullshit also has deeper sources, in various forms of skepticism which deny that we can have any reliable access to an objective reality, and which therefore reject the possibility of knowing how things truly are. These “antirealist” doctrines undermine confidence in the value of disinterested efforts to determine what is true and what is false, and even in the intelligibility of the notion of objective inquiry.  Further: It is just this lack of connection to a concern with truth – this indifference to how things really are – that I regard as of the essence of bullshit.

So the next time somebody informs you that the media has a liberal bias, make sure not to call them a liar. They’re just bullshitting. They can’t help themselves.

Former Mayor Ford media handler and now full-fledged Sun-ista, Adrienne Batra was hard at it yesterday, pushing that bullshit rock up the hill. Actually, I lied—I mean, I was bullshitting. What Ms. Batra said was, “There is a media bias against conservative politicians.”

Never mind for the moment that she’s writing such sentiments in a major daily newspaper in the biggest city in Canada. Her more pro-conservative politician views mean, by a feat of monumental dissociative thinking, that she isn’t part of the media. Why? Well, the media has a bias against conservative politicians. Since she isn’t biased against conservative politicians, she can’t be part of the media. Done, and done.

Look at the newspaper landscape in Toronto. Granted, it’s a small sample size and from it I wouldn’t make a broad generalization that newspapers in this town have a conservative bias but it’s difficult to draw the opposite conclusion. The Toronto Star. The Globe and Mail. The National Post. The Toronto Sun. (Batra gives herself an easy out on that mark, saying in her article that this bias is more present in the U.S. than it is in Canada).

Even the recent example she uses of this bias in the States defies logic and much critical examination.

You see, Ms. Batra cites the media frenzy over Missouri Republican Todd Akin’s statement about ‘legitimate rape’. What’s all the fuss about, she wonders? Sure, his views on such matters could be kindly referred to as antediluvian but it’s not like he’s running for the U.S. Senate or anything. I’m sorry, what? He is. OK. But it’s not like the Republican party agrees with what are obviously his fringe views. I’m sorry, what? “[Todd} Akin co-sponsored every abortion bill supported by Ryan in the almost 12 years the two Republicans have served together in Washington.” And by Ryan, you mean the GOP Vice-Presidential nominee and possible one heartbeat away from being President, Rep. Paul Ryan?

Yep. Nothing to see here.

To Ms. Batra’s mind, if the media wasn’t so busy being anti-conservative it would’ve instead been covering a Minnesota Democratic politician who was pinpointed engaging in a little bit of toilet trade with a consenting adult. “Pretty outrageous,” Batra opines, “yet hardly a peep of anger – from anyone.” And by ‘anyone’, she means the anti-conservative media.

Democratic/liberal politicians are always getting away with these kind of sex scandals because the media’s in the bag for them. Bill Clinton. Eliot Spitzer. Anthony Weiner.

Impeached. Resigned from office. Resigned from office.

Imagine if a conservative politician were ever caught in flagrante delicto like that. Some poor family values type whose name pops up in the unofficial registry of a known house of prostitution. They’d be crucified.

Ladies and gentlemen, Senator David Vitter of Louisiana. Still in office, 5 years after the D.C. Madam scandal. Your anti-conservative media at work.

The thing is, it doesn’t matter if you point these kinds of inconsistencies out to the likes of Adrienne Batra. For her, the media – the media that isn’t her — has a liberal bias. That’s an unassailable statement. Evidence and facts aren’t applicable. It should just go without saying.

Unless, of course, it needs to be said which brings me to the question of why she thought to pen this particular article at this particular time.

A little damage control from her perch at the Sun for the Republican cause, certainly. Writing off legitimate criticism and concern about the next possible Vice-President of the United States as nothing more than media bias against conservative politicians. Check. And also, a certain local conservative politician looks like he might be in for a bit of rough weather next week, answering in court allegations of conflict of interest. Legitimate? Nah. It’s nothing more than media bias against another conservative politician. Hardly worth paying any attention to.

It’s not lying if you actually believe it. No. It’s just being up to your eyeballs in bullshit.

bullshit detectorly submitted by Cityslikr


Ford-V-Vaughan

July 9, 2012

Nothing it seems is capable of stirring the somnolent, summer-dazed state of the Ford Administration like a broadside delivered its way by Councillor Adam Vaughan. Like a dopey, grumpy bear kicked in the slats while still in hibernation mode – wait for it, I’m going for a seasonal grand slam here – Team Ford wakes with a roar of indignation whenever it sniffs a slight emanating from the direction of Ward 20. Springing into fight mode and shedding its leaves of inaction (Nailed it!), Ford Nation dons the magical Cloak of Victimhood and goes full on DefCon 2 when alerted to a Vaughanian attack.

From the mayor’s standpoint, it’s entirely understandable. Hoping to re-channel the spirit of 2010, suburban-versus-urban mojo into another winning campaign, nobody better summons the loathing of downtown elitism more than Adam Vaughan except maybe Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam. Whip smart, smart-alecky and familiar with basic concepts of city building, Vaughan is everything Mayor Ford isn’t. And the mayor and his most ardent supporters despise him for that. Since anger serves as fuel for Ford Nation, an object for their ire is what primes the pump.

Thus, the Toronto Sun columnist and former Ford PR flack, Adrienne Batra, had to engage in some pretzelling of logic to refer to Councillor Vaughan’s latest criticism of the mayor as a personal attack. The point of the councillor’s comments as I read them, Ms. Batra, was that because of Mayor Ford’s absence in doing anything, well, mayoral, the space is filled with his off-the-field antics. Or, involvement “…in an inordinate amount of unusual situations”, as you refer to them.

So the story then becomes all about Councillor Vaughan instead of the underperformance of Mayor Ford. The councillor’s angry, still seething about Ford’s victory. He’s a spotlight seeker, constructing a platform for a run at the mayor’s office in 2014. It’s just personal, just politics. There’s nothing of substance to his criticisms. The mayor’s performance is beyond reproach except maybe of the friendliest type from the likes of Adrienne Batra. All else is simply cheap politicking.

The curious thing for me, though, in this on-going saga is the councillor’s motives in all this. As a former journalist, he must be well aware of the optics at work. He’s the bête noire of this administration and with each critical utterance toward it only becomes bête-er noire-er. It has to be an intentional stance he’s taking, this outspoken gadfly who receives as much enmity as accolades every time he takes aim at the mayor.

Any publicity is good publicity as they say. Keeping visible while in opposition. Grooming himself to be the most logical opponent to Mayor Ford in 2014.

It’d be foolish or naïve to rule the possibility out. As Matt Elliott wrote last week, Toronto’s downtown core and East York didn’t play an insignificant role in Rob Ford’s successful mayoral bid. Any major shift against him there could further dampen his re-election chances. So perhaps Councillor Vaughan believes that relentless, merciless slagging of the mayor will so diminish him in the eyes of urban voters that the inner suburbs will have to swing even harder toward the mayor in order for him to have a hope in hell for a second term. A trend which is not yet materializing.

It’s a strategy that comes with considerable risk for the councillor. For every downtown vote he swings away from Mayor Ford, there could be a suburban vote that hardens in the mayor’s favour. The numbers still favour the politician who can swing a majority of suburban votes their way. Besides—

IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT THE FUCKING 2014 ELECTION, FOLKS!

Why can’t we extend the same, I don’t know, courtesy toward Councillor Vaughan as we did then councillor Rob Ford, and assume not everything he says and does is about running for mayor? Maybe he’s just another straight shooting, telling it like is, Johnny that we all viewed Rob Ford to be back in the day. Maybe, like Rob Ford circa 2009, Adam Vaughan is just fucking angry with the current direction the mayor is trying to take the city and has trouble keeping a lid on it. Folks loved Rob Ford’s frankness. But somehow Adam Vaughan’s is smug, self-serving, angry vitriol?

But before I take the Rob-is-Adam, Adam-is-Rob, I Am the Walrus comparison too far, it’s worth pointing out that Rob Ford’s angry tirades have proven to be largely illusory which is the source of the doldrums the mayor currently finds himself in. The out of control, tax-and-spending Gravy Train was little more than the figment of his blinkered small government mindset. It was what we would crudely refer to as pissing into the wind.

So far, nobody’s been able to prove Councillor Vaughan wrong on his anti-Ford administration screeds. There has been an appalling lack of leadership from the mayor’s office. Mayor Ford’s needed no help from Councillor Vaughan in having his antics overshadow his accomplishments in governance.  The mayor has only himself to blame for being sidelined and perhaps the only motivations in Councillor Vaughan’s continued verbal assault on him is to keep it that way. It’s just better for everyone concerned.

wonderingly submitted by Cityslikr