Running On Empty

October 16, 2010

Sitting alone (again, naturally) on a Saturday morning in the office, my 2nd cup of tea still refusing to warm me up. I will not turn on the electric baseboard heating and give our landlord the satisfaction or the cash. I will not!

I am pondering the rightward tilt the race for mayor seems bound and determined to follow and for the life of me, I cannot figure out why. OK, so people are angry. I get it. The recession lingers on like the first autumn cold that will not quit regardless of what you throw at it. (My suggestion? Plenty of booze and cigarettes. Take it out for an all-night bender. Show it just how unwelcome a host you really can be.) We’re told that we’ve weathered the blow but that the turnaround is going to be painfully slow and drawn out. There’s still some bloodletting to be done in order to get us back to fighting weight.

We’re looking for somebody to blame for this mess and who better than government? There is an orderly process in place for us to make our displeasure known: voting. The alternative is dicier and slightly more involved as it would mean gathering together in groups and tearing some shit up. But, judging by the reaction to things in June during the G8 meeting here, such recourse is frowned upon in official circles.

For us in Ontario, the first crack we’re getting at expressing ourselves at the ballot box is at the municipal level, by-elections aside and who really counts those? The thing that’s baffling me about how it’s all playing out, at least in Toronto, is why are people reacting so, well, reactionarily? We’ve been down this road before, people. Remember?

That hapless and spendthrift Bob Rae government at Queen’s Park in the mid-90s? We ushered in the fiscally austere and oh-so competent Mike Harris Conservatives to clean up the mess. They didn’t. Or how about the corrupt and profligate Jean Chretien/Paul Martin team up there in Ottawa, blowing through all our hard earned dollars on pet projects like… what was it called again? Shawinigate? Time to bring in the restrained and prudent sensibilities of the conservative Harperites to restore order. Except, ooops, they didn’t.

Modern day conservatives never solve problems. They only exacerbate them, deepen them and create ones where none existed. It is a bankrupt ideological movement that successfully achieves two objectives, and two objectives only. One, to roll back any and all social and economic gains made over the last 80 years or so. Two, to dismantle the mechanisms of government in order to render it inoperable for society as a whole so they can turn around and parrot the empty words of their patron saint, Ronald Reagan. “Government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem.”

After that? They’ve got nothing but a dog whistle to call forth the furies of outrage and resentment lurking just below the surface.

Rather than spend time and space today running down the shortcomings, lies and delusions of the anti brigade vying to retake City Hall for us here come October 25th, let’s take a glance south of the border to our American neighbours who are taking neoconservative/libertarian thinking to its illogical extreme.

Watching the last couple episodes of Real Time with Bill Maher, we encountered 3 cases in point. There was P.J. O’Rourke, the satirical lion of Reagan era libertarianism now simply looking old and tired, stating emphatically that ‘governments don’t create jobs’. When questioned by co-panelist Andrew Ross Sorkin, author of Too Big To Fail, an account of the economic meltdown of 2008, that if by choosing to build, say, a bridge, wasn’t government creating jobs? O’Rourke’s response? Don’t get him started on bridge safety. He was all for bridge safety. Aren’t we all, P.J.? Now, would you please answer Mr. Sorkin’s question.

Next up on the same show was one S.E. Cupp, a shiny-faced conservative pundit star on the internet. In the midst of a discussion about America’s need to start investing more fully in developing alternative sources of energy, she declared that alternative energy solutions were a rich country’s concerns. Again, somewhat flummoxed, Sorkin pointed out that China had surpassed America in pursuing alternative energy solutions which only seemed to prove Cupp’s point. For her, China is now a rich country because it owns a big chunk of U.S. debt and it was the U.S. that was broke. So no alternative energy for America. By reducing a complex economic system to one single factor, this conservative mind believed China was rich and the United States poor. O’Rourke then piped in with the view that we couldn’t do anything about climate change anyway because everyone in China ‘wanted a Buick’. Seriously, kids. He used to be funny.

Last night’s episode featured another conservative internet star, radio show host and proud member of the Tea Party party, Dana Loesch, “… the sweet Midwestern goth version of Laura Ingraham.” Railing against the bailouts and stimulus spending as un-American, she was unimpressed by the notion that the move probably helped staunch the bleeding and ward off another Great Depression. “Why does the government get to decide who succeeds and who doesn’t?” she responded. Uhhh… well, I guess since the private sector was collapsing in on itself, somebody had to step up and try to avoid long breadlines and overcrowded soup kitchens. When Dan Neil, a Wall Street Journal writer, corrected her earlier assertion that more money was spent on the bailout and stimulus then on the war in Iraq, she countered that ‘there are a lot of figures out there that dispute that’.

Ah, yes. Those mystical, magical ‘figures out there’ used to dispute whatever needs disputing in order to keep the belief system going. Or what rational people call, clutching at straws. Because that’s all modern conservatism is capable of anymore. Clutching at straws.

And yet, we keep turning back to it attempting to solve our problems. Our delusion seems to be mutual.

consternatedly submitted by Cityslikr


A Summer Lake View

July 1, 2010

Far be it from me to opine on matters urban while rusticating up here in a wee small cabin in the woods on the shore of a lake deep in the heart of cottage country, equipped with not a whole lot more than simple high-speed internet access and satellite television but events have transpired to a degree where I can no longer remain silent. Right after I freshen up my Caesar…

There. Nice. Now where were we?

As one of the many truants to which my colleague derisively ridiculed earlier this week, I hardly feel qualified to offer any views on a situation that I was not part of. So this is from more of an outsider’s stance, an objective take by a non-participant. A Big Picture observation of the political dynamic at work.

Disregarding advice from those on the ground in Toronto, the federal Conservative government arbitrarily decided to hold the G20 gathering smackdab downtown, invading the area Independence Day style. What did they care? They possessed zero political representation anywhere in the vicinity of the proceedings, so any fallout from things going badly could hardly hurt their fortunes here since they had none to begin with. In fact, spun right they could gain some mileage in the rest of Canada by exploiting the latent anti-Toronto that runs deep, pointing out that they poured over a billion dollars into the city and the leftie, hippie, pot-smoking, climate change believing vegans who live there still weren’t happy. Can you believe those people?!

Their obliviousness and/or maliciousness is best encapsulated by a post-summit Tweet from the Minster of Industry, Tony Clement, M.P. for Fucking Miles Away From Toronto (quite possibly where I’m writing from now). After the outbreak of violence, after the suspension of civil liberties, after the world press basically acknowledged that nothing much of substance came from either the G8/G20 meetings, the Honourable Minister thumbed: Wow, what a successful #G8 + #G20! Lots of substance on economic, security & devt issues. I’m proud of Muskoka, Toronto & Canada.

Here, allow me to say the same thing but with many fewer characters, Mr. Minister. (Tweeting in the voice of Tony Clement): Wow, I’m such a douchebag.

The provincial Liberal government, with only slightly more presence in downtown Toronto than the federal Conservatives, quietly dusted off and updated a decades’ old law that at least gave the impression that the police were being granted  extraordinary powers of search and detention. Although after the event, they fervently denied doing any such thing, saying that all they did was allow police more latitude dealing with anyone who got within range of targets inside the fence which, categorically, makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. We’re to believe that the police needed more legal heft to deal with people who managed to scale the fence and get inside the security zone?!

But like the feds, the McGuinty Liberals don’t really have much to lose politically by ignoring the concerns of Toronto voters. Their one M.P.P. closest to the action, former urban demigod now lowly party apparatchik, Glen Murray, is scrambling after the fact to seem concerned, imploring those with negative experiences at the hands of the police to come forward and tell their stories. He’ll look into it.

Aside from that, what have the Liberals to fear? Certainly not the law and order loving, Tim Hudak-led Official Opposition. What kind of hay are they going to make of this, what with the stench of the Ipperwash debacle still on their clothes. The NDP? Dalton’s got two words for you: Bob Rae. No, these guys must feel untouchable on this.  Just duck and cover and let the summer breezes blow it all over.

Leaving our increasingly hapless, lame duck mayor – a politician that the citizens of Toronto actually had an opportunity to vote for as opposed to all the other carpetbaggers mentioned above – stridently defending the police force and its chief who went over the mayor’s head to seek additional powers from the province, tarnishing whatever remains of his once lustrous reputation in the process. The man who once wielded a broom as a symbol of sweeping corruption and cronyism from City Hall has de-mothballed it so as to sweep this whole sad affair under the carpet, to be sifted through once he’s long gone from office. It’s a sad spectacle made that much sadder by the fact that his rigid stance on this has actually enabled two candidates vying for his position, Rocco Rossi and George Smitherman, to seem almost thoughtful and proactive in their calls for an inquiry. Something they had not yet managed to do during the campaign.

With all this, is it at all surprising we have a growing indifference and disdain towards our politicians and the political system itself? No one steps forward to take responsibility or to truthfully address citizens’ concerns. It is all about damage control and maintaining the status quo no matter how bankrupt or devoid of fairness and justice it may be. It’s almost as if they want us to stop caring. To turn our backs on them and let them get on with the business of governing us as they see fit. To simply walk away and spend our time up at the cottage, sitting lakeside, sipping cocktails.

Another one? Well, I really shouldn’t but… don’t mind if I do.

Oh yeah. And Happy Canada Day everyone!

patriotically submitted by Urban Sophisticat


Shutting The F**k Up

May 10, 2010
I am taking the liberty of speaking up even though I am not an official contributor to this august site. I consider myself a sort of ‘distant cousin’ to Acaphlegmic though there is no genealogical connection. Our fathers served in the Canadian Armed Forces together and the families have been tight friends ever since. Acaphlegmic (I call him Ak) and I hung out together as army brats on various military bases across the country flaunting our long greasy hair, headbands and ripped jeans to celebrate our sense of individualism in the constant sea of blue and green uniforms that surrounded us. Though we lost touch by attending universities on opposite sides of the country and becoming immersed in other people and interests, we now frequently touch base to see how each other is faring. Often fuelled by a few pints (ok, lots of pints) we routinely immerse ourselves in long-winded conversations covering a plethora of subjects long into the night.

So it was last night as well. We were discussing his upcoming responsibilities as chief blogger, caretaker and bottle washer at All Fired Up In The Big Smoke. As I complimented him on the fine work he and the other two contributors were doing and how readership numbers were on the increase because of it, he started twitching and looking quite uneasy. Suddenly, he bolted from the bar. Before exiting The Painted Lady where we had just enjoyed a couple of their tasty pulled pork sandwiches and some cold ones, he threw me the office keys. Yelling that the Toronto G20 summit demonstration organizers were in desperate need of his strategy prowess, he told me to “keep an eye on things” until his two cohorts returned from their travels abroad. I have not seen or heard of since and all cell phone messages and texts remain unanswered. Not that faithful readers of this site will be surprised by this as Ak’s unpredictable behaviour and antics have been noted here before.

Thinking with a heavy sigh that maybe I should have shut the f**k up about how much I enjoy reading this blog, my thoughts led me to recent political incidents where in one way or another shutting the f**k up is a major theme.

The cause of my musings is that of Conservative Senator Nancy Ruth’s advice to several women’s groups to “shut the f**k up” during recent discussions about the federal government’s G8 maternal health initiative. The plan calls for increased attention on nutrition issues and health-care in the developing world. Controversy arose when the plan also proposed to fund family planning measures such as contraception but not abortion under any circumstances. The sage advice was given by Ruth when understandably women’s groups opposed the draconian measure. Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae later advised his fellow members of parliament during Question Period, “If you have a disagreement with the government, just shut the F up”. Hmmm, perhaps Nancy Ruth and the federal Conservative government feel that democratic principles such as freedom of speech and holding our politicians accountable for their policy initiatives are outdated and that we the people should just shut the f**k up and accept whatever measures they wish to dish out, no matter how unacceptable they may be?

It seems however that Toronto mayor and Transit City champion David Miller won’t shut the f**k up despite Ontario Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne’s suggestion he tone down his recent complaints regarding Metrolinx’s latest proposition. Metrolinx, the province’s transit planning agency, wishes to save an estimated $4 billion by serving up a delayed and truncated version of Transit City, namely 22km shorter and with 26 fewer stops than was originally planned. Miller feels that Dalton and his side-kick Wynne reneging on the original announcements made in regards to Transit City is unacceptable. Despite Wynne’s threats of stopping the entire initiative if Miller keeps raising opposition to the revised proposal, I expect our David will not shut the f**k up in his ongoing fight against this city’s Goliath, the provincial government.

When I read about mayoral candidate Rob Ford’s recent chastisement by Toronto’s Integrity Commissioner Janet Leiper, it seemed to me that Ford should follow Nancy Ruth’s advice. This would have stopped him from committing his fourth integrity breach as councillor. Details of the incident and the resultant ruling by Leiper are outlined in Urban Sophisticat’s May 6th posting on this site . However, given his past vocal blunderings both as councillor and during this mayoralty race, I am sure Rob Ford has no intention of shutting the f**k up any time soon.

And as long as our politicians and leaders at all levels turn a deaf ear to our democratic rights as a citizenry to voice our political concerns and demands for better governance, neither do we.

– Vocally and pictorial-adversely submitted by Distant Cousin