The Power of Wishful Thinking

(ed.’s note – the following post was in the pipe before Edward Keenan sorta scooped us with his article a couple days ago, Rob Ford: the illusionist. All similarities in theme, tone, intent, right down to word usage frankly is purely coincidental and, we’d like to think, a product of that old adage ‘great minds think alike’. We fully expect a Marcus Gee knock-off to soon follow.)

I like to drink. Alcohol, that is. The other stuff’s fine, life-sustaining and all that but booze is my true liquid consort.

I like that moment a couple, few drinks in when your internal stars align and everything seems just right. All the shit of the day, those niggling, unsettling concerns and qualms about your life, the world around you, all together subside. Passing bliss, let’s call it, because it is very, very brief, fleetingly so. It comes only once a drinking session (if you’re lucky) and the rest of the time you spend chasing its vapours.

I like to think that my drinking of alcohol is a healthy pursuit. Studies (mostly French) have shown that regular consumption of red wine is, indeed, good for you. Lowers blood pressure, helps digestion. It also gets the creative juices flowing on those occasions when I’m feeling a little blocked. Weakens my editorial inhibitions and loosens the reins on my muse. Our literary canon is stuffed to blasting — See? I’m drunk right now! Can’t Touch This!! — with works from writers who were drunkards through-and-through.

My doctor, however, tends to disagree. Dr. Moderation, I call him when I’m feeling agreeable. Dr. Downer when I’m not. “The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom,” I tell him. But it falls upon his deaf, Philistine ears as he probably spent an excess of his time in school learning anatomy and biology instead of the wisdom of William Blake. (Yeah. I am really hammered here.) It is just wishful thinking on my part, I am told, to believe that drinking alcohol in anything but a moderate manner isn’t deleterious to both my body and mind.

Doctors. What do they know?

Advice is free unless it comes with a prescription, and we are equally as free to ignore it if it suits our fancy and doesn’t jibe with our beloved preconceived notions. Expert opinions are all well and good if you can understand them but they’re not nearly as comforting as our own biases and gut instincts. Wishful thinking beats the hell out of critical thinking any day of the week.

Wishful thinking is also a powerful tool in the hands of a politician. You want the stars, ladies and gentlemen? I’ll get you the stars, and the moon too. Would you like the moon too, ladies and gentlemen? Just click your heels and say there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home. Clap your hands really hard, boys and girls, and Tinkerbell won’t die!

You say you like subways, all ye taxpayers? Can’t stand those streetcars? According to the highest principles of customer service, the customer is always right. So let’s ditch those LRT ‘streetcars’ and dig us up some subways!

Saying you like subways instead of streetcars is not a transit plan. It isn’t even a Transportation City Plan. It’s a statement of personal preference, an opinion. Like saying, chocolate ice cream is better than French vanilla. There are no facts backing such a claim up.

Who wouldn’t love a NYC/Paris/Barcelona/Beijing (pick a city) style subway running under the streets of Toronto? All things being equal. Bu they’re not. No expert on public transit matters that I’ve come across has said that, given the current economic environment, population density, specific needs of certain under-serviced areas of the city, subways are the way to go here. Correct me if I’m wrong, subway lovers.

Transit City was not simply some whim of a downtown, lefty, car-hating mayor. It was a tortuously long negotiation between 3 levels of government and a multitude transportation industry analysts and professionals. Perfect? No. But far less flawed than the mirage now being floated by the mayor.

But as we have been saying since the start of Rob Ford’s candidacy he operates purely in the chimerical. A mythical, magical place where one’s beliefs are never contested and exist undented by logic, reason or reality. Of course you can cut taxes without cutting services. It’s just simple math. If you’re not gay or sticking needles in arm, you can’t get AIDS. Basic common sense. How do you deal with decreasing crime stats? Hire more police officers. D’uh! Roads are made for cars, trucks and buses. Otherwise, they’d be called ‘bike lanes’ or ‘tracks’.

Certainty is never having to say you’re wrong. It is a specialty of those who share our mayor’s political persuasion. A big tent of closed-minded true believers standing firm in the face of anything that questions their faith. Such a cloistered view treats any and all contrary information as suspect which must be discredited quickly and with extreme prejudice, usually by vilifying the messenger. They see things not as they are, to paraphrase Don Quixote’s Dr. Carrasco, but as they’d truly like them to be. Unlike the book’s errant knight, however, these conservative pedants aren’t looking to make the world a better place for anyone else but themselves.

Life is easy inside that kind of bubble where there are always uncomplicated yes or no answers to whatever question is asked. Answers that, invariably, validate your own bias. Where troubles melt like lemon drops/Away above the chimney tops/That’s where you’ll find me. Such blinkered thinking has no basis in reality but does have very serious adverse consequences in the real world. Here in Toronto, we’re only beginning to get a glimpse at some of those and it’s only just a few days into Rob Ford’s mayoralty.

It’s enough to drive us to drink. Don’t mind if I do. It is Friday, after all.

suddenly soberly submitted by Cityslikr

Politics’ Raging Id

Here’s some news that’s not really news unless you’re simply pimping out your services for the cause of right wing reactionary outrage:

Councillors’ office tab — $500,000 and counting

According to the Toronto Sun, profligate city councillors are madly spending all our hard earned tax dollars before the next council takes its place after the October 25th municipal election. Halfway through the year and they’ve already spent half a million dollars. Wow! That’s a lot of money and displays the powerful but empty gesture of throwing around absolute numbers.

As the Sun article noted, after a vote to reduce their office budgets this year by 5% to $46,241.25, council members have already spent $500,000 between them. That would be about, well, 44 X $46,241.25 = $2,034,615. And, $500,000 ÷ $2,034,615 = 25%. So really, the story should read that, halfway through their last year, members of city council have only spent a quarter of their office budgets. Signs of Restraint, perhaps?

Not at the Toronto Sun and other organs of right wing ideological thought, apparently. When contacted by the paper about the alleged orgy of spending, Rob Ford stated that he was “disgusted”. Well, there’s a surprise. Rob Ford “disgusted” by spending at City Hall. The man is nothing if not consistent in his varying shades of dyspepticism. Team Ford then Tweeted: Proud to have spent the least of your money at City Hall. A sentiment that can be just as easily understood as: Proud to have spent the least amount of time and energy trying to further the interests of the city I serve.

Before readers can examine the article’s numbers too closely the Sun quickly moves the focus onto 3 councillors it loves to disparage. Joey Pants spent nearly 2K “sprucing up his constituency website” but clearly it’s nothing more than in aid of his mayoral aspirations. Then, naturally, there’s the matter of Kyle Rae’s retirement party. The Party. The Gay Communist Party. And Adam Giambrone is particularly targeted for doling out nearly 3 grand for French lessons. French lessons! As a councillor here in Toronto!No matter that Giambrone pointed out that he is “… the city’s representative at AFMO (an association of French municipalities in Ontario)” and is “a member of the French committee” and does “the media in French”. We all, right thinking tax payers know what’s really going on. He’s planning a run at federal politics and official bilingualism is a prerequisite. “He’s using taxpayers’ money to benefit himself,” Ford blustered.

Cue the righteous indignation. No questions asked about when Giambrone took his French lessons. Before his career at City Hall went up in smoke earlier this year? Maybe he thought that a bilingual mayor, even here deep in Anglo Ontario, wasn’t a terrible idea. But does it really matter to the likes of Rob Ford and his tribe? They recognize an opportunity to exploit bad optics when the Toronto Sun hands them one.

Which is what the right wing does best, thrive on bad optics, horribly disfigured through the prism of their skewed lenses. Optics and the mangling of them is all modern conservative thinkers have to go on anymore. Anything to turn on the venomous spigot of voter anger and misdirect it at the shadowy arch-enemy: government. They’re the bad guys. The cause of all that is wrong in society today. Government, and their taxes and spending and regulating and paving of roads and stitching together of a social safety net that picks the pockets of hard working taxpayers like you and me who don’t need anything from the government but to be left alone, dammit!

There is much to be done to set this city back on a healthy course again. Nickelling and diming councillors isn’t one of them. That’s a minor matter for small minds; those unable to imagine bigger things or brave enough to tilt at bigger windmills. Rob Ford is their Don Quixote (despite having an appearance more in line with Sancho Panza). Except the cause is far from noble. It is trite, petty, vindictive and reveals little more than a destructive streak that serves no purpose outside of satisfying inarticulate rage. Nothing good ever comes of that.

cervantesly submitted by Cityslikr

We Don’t All Hate Rocco Rossi

I need to set the record straight before this goes on any longer.

After nearly a month on board the good ship All Fired Up in the Big Smoke, I fear that it might be listing a little too much toward left wing screed. My very first post here stated up front that I’d been a tepid John Tory supporter back in `03. Nothing that has occurred since then tells me that my instinct was incorrect. Except for, perhaps, Mr. Tory’s subsequent flaccid performance in the political arena.

Still, what the man stood for at the time made me think he’d do right by this city. Fiscal sanity, political probity, a good working relationship with the behind-the-scenes power brokers; hardly characteristics one should sneeze (into your sleeve) at. So maybe Tory didn’t know how to campaign vibrantly. Is this how we should take the measure of a man in office? He’s a good campaigner? Well, that’s what we went for and, behold, look at what’s become of us.

That is not to say that I was immune to the appeal of David Miller. He clearly had something going on or maybe it just seemed that way in the light of his predecessor. Miller possessed solid credentials. As an Ivy Leagued, one time Bay Street lawyer, he was no idiot. The problem as I saw it, which is even more glaringly apparent now with perfect hindsight, is that David Miller thought too big.

He got us to believe that we actually had any say in how things got done around here. Yes, he vowed to kill the bridge to the island airport, and did, but that made the airport somehow more viable. Now 6+ years on, it’s been renamed the Billy Bishop Airport in a brilliant sleight of hand, suggesting a twee little airfield where biplanes and crop dusters go about their quaint business rather than the incessant stream of luxury aircraft that is Porter Airline’s stock in trade. Why just this past Friday, the federally run Toronto Port Authority announced that it was going ahead with plans to dig a pedestrian tunnel to the airport. Wrapping it all up in an environmentally conscious bow, it was simply the latest flipping off of the city by a senior level of government and providing perfect imagery for how things get done.

Like it or not, Canadian cities have no constitutional standing. We are, as they say, ‘creatures of the province’ and the playthings of senior levels of government. As my colleague Acaphlegmic said in his post Saturday, “municipalities are vehicles for decentralized provincial service delivery”. Nothing more, nothing less. To think otherwise is political lunacy. David Miller never accepted this fact. That was his undoing. Perhaps someone like Rocco Rossi sees things more practically.

If the feds and/or the province want to strangle off progressive, grassroots, local movements or nip some social services in the bud, they do so indirectly. By not handing over the money owed and forcing municipalities do it for them. By confiscating land they don’t own and running it as if it exists in a bubble.

So disagree with Rocco Rossi’s politics all you want but the man appears to be a realist who knows which side his bread’s buttered on. No Don Quixote he but like the good Dr. Carrasco, he sees life as it truly is. Dream time’s over, Toronto. We need to wake up and look into the mirror and see what’s become of us. Just like fat Elvis we’re bloated, lazy and dysfunctional with a taste for fried bologna sandwiches. It is not sustainable. Rocco Rossi realizes that. He shouldn’t be mocked for saying so out loud.

realistically submitted by Urban Sophisticat