The Unsoundness Of The Furey

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke have sat pondering this post for the past couple days now, taking in a World Cup game or two and a handful of NXNE performances as we mulled over its composition. You see, we have rarely disagreed with much that comes across our desk from Jonathan Goldsbie. In fact, he as been anointed patron saint of this blog for his overwhelming support and constant promotion of it, to say nothing of his effusive praise for the work of my colleague, Cityslikr. But we’re writing today to take exception to Mr. Goldsbie’s description of Anthony Furey’s National Post piece from last week on Rob Ford as ‘insightful’.

To us, the only insight on offer is into the mind of Anthony Furey. His column reads like it emanated from the Ford camp itself. It is a pure piece of PR puffery, seeking to assuage the roiled nerves of the Fordians after their candidate hit the first speed bump on the campaign trail since he’d started polling as a serious contender in the mayoral race.

Rob Ford does not have his ear to the ground, as Mr. Furey suggests. What he has is his spleen dipped into the oozing wound of resentment that opens up during times of great economic uncertainty. My derision of the man as a candidate has nothing to do with him being a ‘dim-witted populist’ because Mr. Ford is mostly certainly not that. Rather, he is an exploitive demagogue (in the modern sense) who is attempting to channel the justifiable anger that is in the air and direct it away from where it ought to be aimed and toward more self-serving targets.

Rob Ford wants us to believe that the city is in such dire, apocalyptic straits (a scenario itself greatly exaggerated by all the candidates running on an anti-incumbent platform and the media looking for some juicy oomph to their coverage of local politics) due to the current administration’s out of control taxing and spending, unions and the fact that fellow councillor Kyle Rae spent $12K on a retirement party. All convenient objects of vilification for a politician bent on delivering up easy explanations to complex problems. Why the likes of Anthony Furey want to applaud Ford for that rather than castigate him is indeed, to borrow Mr. Goldsbie’s word, ‘insightful’ if somewhat perplexing.

Because an honest look at many of the problems Toronto faces right now reveals them to be, in large part, due to the result of policies and decisions made by short-sighted and parochial politicians. Funding shortfalls emerging from Mel Lastman’s campaign pledge not to raise residential property taxes during his first term. This, despite having no idea what the full costs of amalgamation would be to the city which turned out to be much larger than we were promised. A failure of nerve at both the provincial and municipal levels dating back to the Eggleton regime to pull the trigger on subway expansion that has left us with an underfunded and inadequate transit system. Traffic status quoists unwilling to imagine our city streets filled with anything other than cars.

These are the Knights who say Nay, rarely lifting a gaze past their ward boundaries. They appeal only to our worst instincts in the hopes of stunting any forward-thinking, inclusive vision. And Rob Ford is their 2010 campaign standard bearer.

Mr. Furey takes tepid exception to the Toronto Star’s comparison of Ford to Sarah Palin. On this we agree with Furey. The politician Ford should actually be compared to is George W. Bush. Both men are the products of inherited money and privilege who, adopting very different public personas, attempt to project a common folk sensibility. They also share a frightening lack of curiosity about the wider world around them. Combined with a rigid and narrow ideology, this makes for potentially destructive politics as we witnessed with W.’s reign. Our only consolation should Ford pull off an upset victory in October is that his power would be limited compared to that of the President of the United States.

Toward the end of his column, Mr. Furey brushes aside Rob Ford’s ‘slights to the gay community’, one of which, I imagine, is at the source of Ford’s current imbroglio. As we wrote in our post on Saturday, in arguing against a proposed $1.5 million funding of AIDS prevention, Ford said: If you are not doing needles and you are not gay, you wouldn’t get AIDS probably, that’s bottom line. Now, if someone got up and said that back in, say, 1982, it might’ve been factually correct if grotesquely lacking in empathy and compassion. Ford bellowed it in 2006, showing himself to be not only callous, uncaring and unsympathetic but misinformed and a stranger to the truth.

He was wrong. Not just morally or from a politically correct standpoint. He got up in front of council and spread a lie about a life-and-death issue. That is not merely a ‘slight’, Mr. Furey. It is irresponsible. It is harmful. It is divisive. All trademarks of a demagogue.

And in our humble opinion, your column simply enables and encourages those reactionary traits that this city hardly needs in its next mayor. So yeah, in that way it was insightful. Into the mind of a member of the media who seems intent on cheering malignancy, obstreperousness and intolerance all the way into the mayor’s chair.

Sorry, Jonathan. We could not allow Anthony Furey’s column to go unremarked upon. Hopefully you won’t hold it against us.

supplicantly submitted by Urban Sophisticat

Rob Ford And Those Baby Blues

Just a couple points I’d like to make about the pickle Rob Ford presently finds himself in before it, in all likelihood, fades into obscurity.

While Mr. Ford touts his accessibility to his constituents as proof that he is all for the “Little Guy”, I think maybe there needs to be a wall of privacy in place between our public officials and those they are elected to serve. No historian am I nor a scholar of early democratic principles but I’m pretty sure no one intended for our representatives to be at our beck and call 24/7. (Did the ancient Greeks who planted the roots of our political system even have a word for ‘24/7’?) 24/7 is great for those who come to our rescue when the furnace breaks in subzero weather or the water heater bursts but should we really expect that from those who hold elected office?

Mr. Ford relentlessly informs anyone who is listening that he’s fielded something like 4.73 billion phone calls during his time in office. Fine, that’s great I guess, although personally I don’t elect my councillor, MPP or MP in order to have someone whose ear I can bend whenever I get the notion. That’s what you people are for. I think there are other ways in which my needs can be met as a citizen without demanding the home phone number of my representatives.

There’s email, texting or simply setting up an old-fashioned face-to-face appointment during working hours. I don’t need a friend at City Hall. I need a diligent and principled public servant. That would go a long way to restoring faith in democracy.

Bringing me to the second and larger point of the issue. Rob Ford would not be in this predicament if he had never uttered the imbecilic and mean-spirited sentiment he did back in 2006. Arguing against the city spending $1.5 million for AIDS prevention, Ford contended that the disease was “very preventable. If you are not doing needles and you are not gay, you wouldn’t get AIDS probably, that’s bottom line.”

Well, it’s not the bottom line. In fact, the United Nations had stated that the majority of those who had contracted the disease were heterosexual non-drug users. So not only was the councillor incorrect in his assertion but it revealed him to be both intolerant and lacking so much as a tiny streak of empathy. The fact that just a month ago one of his campaign workers retweeted a missive that chided rival George Smitherman for “…attacking Ford for telling the truth about AIDS…” reveals the candidate has surrounded himself by those who still dwell in the darkness of ignorance and bigotry.

No racing off to make gestures of public penance and offers of assistance can undo that fact. It’s quagmire that will only lead to further intemperate outbursts, public gaffes and very serious questions about Rob Ford’s fitness to be mayor of this city.

chidingly submitted by UrbanSophisticat