Return To Civilization. Such As It Is.

August 3, 2011

I am the first to re-emerge from the woods.

It was an eventful few days, full of surprises, undercooked food and questionably cooked alcohol. The blindness, mercifully, turned out to be only temporary. The holes in the mind, I fear, may be longer to diagnose and repair.

Arriving at the homestead/hunting cabin/inherited family real estate/squatting place, Cityslikr and I were surprised by the presence of our long lost colleague Acaphlegmic who, judging by the lived in look and smell of the place, had been camped out there for some time. As regular readers of this site know, Acaphlegmic self embedded into Ford Nation just after election night last October to try and understand the heart of the beast we had just installed as our next mayor. To what end was never quite clear as his irregular posts (here and here) bordered on the, if not delusional, let’s call it fantastical. Instructional would not be an adjective I’d attach to his correspondence.

But there he was, in all his feral splendor, awaiting our appearance. How long he’d been there, he wouldn’t say. Why he was there, also left unanswered. He was sphinx-like with any information, saying that what he saw, what he learned, all the knowledge he’d gleaned from his time in Ford Nation was not going to be handed over to some nowhere blog without adequate recompense. There was a book to be written and he was just the person to write it. Any evidence suggesting that’s what he’d been doing out in the wilderness was scant.

What was evident was Acaphlegmic had been rolling around contentedly in his own approbation along with, as our noses hinted at, many fish carcasses that had washed ashore. The reason for such sentiment was pasted to the inside of the cabin. Copy after copy of his mayoral endorsement last year covered every inch of the walls. Standing in the centre of the room, it wasn’t as spooky as, say, Shelley Duvall discovering pages and pages of her husband typing out All Work And No Play Makes Jack A Dull Boy. Still, it was somewhat unsettling. We were miles away from anything resembling civilization and it was an awfully deep lake we had just crossed. It would take months to discover our bodies.

Fortunately, Acaphlegmic wasn’t in a killing kind of mood. Mostly. It was all about the crowing, the chest beating, the I-Told-You-Sos. “I was right, wasn’t I, chaps. Bulls-eye. Correctamundo. Fucking dead on.” Agreeing with him, even heartily, didn’t seem to lessen his demands that we agree with him.

Admittedly, given the last few months, it’s difficult not to concede he’d been accurate in his assessment of how a Mayor Ford scenario would play out. Who amongst us didn’t see that train wreck coming? Who amongst us, that is, who didn’t vote for the man. It’s all been as grisly, divisive and dispiriting as we feared it would be if such a thing came to pass. The difference is, very few of us were reveling in the situation to any degree. Certainly not to the degree Acaphlegmic appeared to be.

“It is as how I prophesized!” Acaphlegmic bellowed at us intermittently throughout the weekend. Not meaning to draw any comparisons between either Cityslikr or myself to Jesus but it did feel a little like we were in the presence of crazy John the Baptist. “Our time is soon at hand.” Yes, he did actually say that. On more than one occasion.

I will distill Acaphlegmic because I don’t think, at this point, you could handle pure Acaphlegmic.

What we are witnessing now in Toronto is the radical right wing, neoconservative, small government, anti-tax, deranged Ayn Randian libertarianism end game of the radical right wing, neoconservative, small government, anti-tax, deranged Ayn Randian libertarians. From Margaret Thatcher to Ronald Reagan to Mike Harris to George W. Bush to the Tea Party to Stephen Harper to Tim Hudak to Rob Ford with some willing and conciliatory liberals (both small and big ‘L’) thrown in for good measure. The slashing and burning, vilifying and demonizing has all trickled down to where the rubber meets the road, municipalities. This is where we all discover exactly what they mean by ‘small government’, ‘finding efficiencies’ and ‘respect for the taxpayer’.

It all sounds so reasonable and mainstream when it’s stated hypothetically. Who doesn’t want to find efficiencies? I’m a taxpayer. Hells yeah, I want respect. A leaner, meaner, smaller government? You betcha. Go right ahead. Cut our libraries. Reduce public transit. Gut environment—

No, wait. What?

At the municipal level, we’re getting all close up and personal with what these people mean when they talk about small government. It’s really all about less government. Reduce. Eliminate. Obliterate. Fewer helping hands. Less shared sacrifice. Watching the men of KPMG present their Core Services Review over the last couple weeks, the realization sunk in that it’s only about throwing citizens to the wolves of privatization and free marketeers. No guarantees we’d be paying less or services improved. And absolutely no word on any negative social impacts of guts and cuts. Not in our purview.

Trickle down neoliberalism, offloading and downloading costs and responsibilities from the feds to the provinces to the municipalities. Now with a mayor and his administration in place as willing waterboys, poised to do the dirty work, Toronto is realizing the implications and consequences of such radical ideology where everything is on the table. Everything, that is, that makes a city livable, desirable and place which encourages its citizens to reach their fullest potential. There’s no more hiding from that fact.

Acaphlegmic called it back in October. We wrote it off as the rantings of a crank and alarmist. It’s hard not to admit he may’ve been barking up the right tree.

contritely submitted by Urban Sophisticat


On The Road To Metropolis

June 14, 2011

Mission Accomplished.

In less than two generations, conservative “thinkers” and politicians have succeeded in their undertaking of denigrating and vilifying the notion of government as a force for good. It can’t help, only hinder. The best form of governance is less governance. As St. Ronnie intoned (and everybody say it along with me), government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem.

So it is that we have arrived at a spot in history where the eminence grise of Canadian conservative thought, Preston Manning (which should say a lot about the sad sack state of conservative thought), is able to boast that Canadians are not looking to governments for grand visions or designs for society. “Managerial Conservatism” is now the buzzword we should all rally around. Competence replacing edifying or lofty in the expectations we now look for in our elected representatives.It’s all about lowering the bar which makes it more palatable when the likes of George W. Bush, Stephen Harper and Rob Ford assume the mantle of office. Governments can’t do anything positive for us, so why elect anyone who claims they can? It’s a virus that has fully infected non-conservative parties and politicians as well. Dumb down their rhetoric. Eliminate any thoughts of grand visions or designs they might have. We don’t want leaders. We want managers. Bad managers are even preferred to those wanting to impose their dreamy dreams upon us.

With the advent of managers business think invariably displaces political discourse. It’s all about finding efficiencies, value for dollars, bangs for you bucks. We become taxpayers rather than citizens. Customers, clients and stakeholders. In fact, it’s much worse. We’re little more than widgets to the minds of manager/politicians. (Oh, where has our veneration for warrior-poets gone?)

Witness the insidious creep of some icky, sci-fi/Scientology sounding Lean Six Sigma into our public sphere. Down in the States, it’s claiming the brains of various GOP presidential candidates. Lean Six Sigma is already in practice even closer to home in Erie County, New York where County Executive Chris Collins has credited the system with aiding him in slashing jobs. Our very own budget chief, Michael Del Grande, also seems to be brushing up on his knowledge base as he expensed two books on the subject earlier this year.

While I don’t expect our modern political leaders to be well versed in their Plato, Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Tocqueville, it distresses me that they might be filling their hearts and minds with such soulless ideas as these:

  • Six Sigma seeks to improve the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing the causes of defects (errors) and minimizing variability in manufacturing and business processes.
  • Each Six Sigma project carried out within an organization follows a defined sequence of steps and has quantified financial targets (cost reduction or profit increase).
  • The term Six Sigma originated from terminology associated with manufacturing, specifically terms associated with statistical modeling of manufacturing processes.
  • In Six Sigma, a defect is defined as any process output that does not meet customer specifications, or that could lead to creating an output that does not meet customer specifications.
  • Like its predecessors, Six Sigma doctrine asserts that:
  • Continuous efforts to achieve stable and predictable process results (i.e., reduce process variation) are of vital importance to business success.

It’s all about things and processes not people. Perfectly acceptable if you’re talking about manufacturing products but how does it align with governing society? It feels like we’re on the road to Metropolis. All of us replaceable parts, judged and viewed not by our merits or character but by our lack of defects. If our elected leaders are endeavouring to be nothing more than our managers, doesn’t that make us simply staff or the hired help?

If a country or a city no longer aspires to grand visions or designs, what’s there left to do? The answer that immediately springs to my mind is: lead lives of quiet desperation. That may be what managers want from their employees but it hardly seems like something leaders should have us aspire to. And that certainly shouldn’t be the quality we’re looking for in our leaders.

desperately submitted by Urban Sophisticat


The Incurious Case of Mayor Rob Ford

June 8, 2011

We have developed a complicated relationship with our elected leaders. On one hand, we want them to be firm, resolute, strong in their convictions. On the other hand, we don’t like when they get all uppity and know-it-allish. Mr. Smarty Pants thinks he’s smarter and better than the rest of us. Imagine being forced to sit down and have a beer with him. Bo-r-r-r-r-r-r-ing!

Thus, we have creatures lurching up at us from the reactionary lagoon like George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, Rob Ford — faux-populists – capturing a wave of support with their simplistic world views and down home mutterings that convince us that they’re just one of us. They’re looking out for us. They have our best interests at heart.

We want our leaders to have answers. They just don’t have to be the right answers. Hell, they don’t even need to make a lick of sense. Just blurt them out forcefully with no sign of wavering or hesitation.

Having all the answers means never posing questions or contemplating issues. Why bother? It’s just a big waste of time. I know what I know and everything else is pretty much m’eh. Eggheads need not apply. Stay up in your ivory towers where you can’t inflict your voodoo rational discourse and logic based reason on the hard working taxpayers of this city, province, nation.

So it should hardly come as a surprise that our mayor, His Honour Rob Ford, couldn’t be arsed to attend last weeks Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference in Halifax. What is anyone there going to tell him that he doesn’t already know? Did he really need to spend 4 days or so in some tiny city without an NFL franchise to find out that the answer is nothing more than Stop The Gravy Train? Send QB Mammoliti instead. He’s better at pretending to listen to other peoples’ opinions.

While it might be unrealistic to think that the official mayor would learn anything of value from a long weekend conference as he notoriously has trouble sitting through a day long meeting without developing a severe case of ants in his pants, why not send the actual mayor, Brother Doug, the so-called smart one, to take his spot? I mean, they kind of look a like. He could’ve said he was Mayor Ford and many of the non-Torontonians in attendance would be none the wiser.

A rookie on the municipal politics scene, it might’ve offered an opportunity for Councillor Ford to familiarize himself with the terrain, get the lay of the land, reach out and touch other urban leaders. Even as a token gesture to show that Toronto, the country’s biggest city, is taking municipal issues seriously. You know, lie. Keeping up appearances and all that.

But maybe Councillor Ford was too busy, fielding all those calls from outraged taxpayers, indignant that some charity thingie had blocked their god-given right to drive on the Gardiner and DVP for a few hours on the weekend. Maintaining a constant vigil to ensure motorists’ freedoms aren’t being trampled on is a full time job. Leaves little time to go off hob-knobbing with all those per-fesser, conference attending types who’ve never held a real job in their lives.

“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow” – William Pollard.

Arrogance is debilitating especially when mixed with an unhealthy dose of incuriosity. Leaving your own assumptions unchallenged gives you the answers you’re looking for but invariably limits your options. In individuals, it’s tiresome. In our elected representatives, it’s deliberate sabotage of the public discourse.Those sort of politicians aren’t looking out for our best interests. How could they be? They’d have to know what our best interests might be in the first place and to do that they’d have to start asking questions they don’t already know the answers to.

posingly posted by Urban Sophisticat


The Day Conservatism Died

April 19, 2011

Does anyone know the exact date when conservatism ceased operations as a productive, positive contributor to society? At what point of time in its supposed illustrious history did it stop offering up ideas and solutions that consisted of more complex notions than could fit perfectly on a placard, bumper sticker or that a two year-old could remember and recite? Was it a sudden jolt like a meteor strike that made the post-Enlightenment air toxic to the more progressives in their movement or did they just gradually rid themselves of reason, rational thought and a belief in the common good?

Was the last true conservative of the Burkian mold in the plane with Buddy Holly that fateful night in February 1959?

We know traditional political conservatism has been under attack in the U.S. since the crushing defeat of Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election. It was put on the endangered list under Richard Nixon and the last species spotted during the Reagan Revolution. Our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents’ conservatism went extinct when George W. Bush move into the Oval Office in January 2001.

But here in Canada, conservatism survived a little longer, dying a slower death. Perhaps it was fatally infected with the 1988 Free Trade Deal and our closer integration with the United States. The ‘neo’ in neo-conservatism began to rub off on us. With the rise of western alienation, the Reform Party and Alberta with its U.S. style conservatism as an oil producing, economic force. The progressive in the Progressive Conservative leaked away, lapped up by the Jean Chretien-Paul Martin Liberals, eager to bolster their right flank.

Ontario dipped its toe into the new conservative waters when it embraced Mike Harris’s Common Sense Revolution in the mid-90s, rejecting and ultimately putting a bullet in the head of the red Toryism that had ruled the land for over 40 years until 1985. After 8 years, the province return to its traditional progressive conservative roots when it elected Liberal Dalton McGuinty. The actual Progressive Conservative now exists in name only.

Unlike their neo-conservative soul mates at the federal level who, with the PC-Canadian Alliance/Reform Party amalgamation, jettisoned any last vestige of progressive thought or policy. Finally, it’s Morning in Canada. Government is not the solution to our problems. Government is the problem. Taxes are bad. Science is bad. Peacekeeping is for pussies. In-depth gathering of data in order to more thoroughly define and guide public policy is an invasion of privacy and must be eliminated. An added bonus if you’re planning to build more prisons and get tougher on crime in the face of evidence pointing to dropping rates of criminal behaviour.

Statistics and facts be damned when we’ve got naked ideology to propel us forward back to the 17-century!

It wasn’t too long ago that kind of political thinking would’ve relegated you to the fringes. Yet now the Conservatives are within serious striking distance of securing a majority victory, able to count on a third of the electorate for steadfast support for what can only be described as an antediluvian outlook. Hell, in the so-called liberal hotbed of Toronto, nearly 50% of the voters rallied behind Rob Ford – the poster child for narrow-minded, anti-government, pithy slogans as policy platforms politicians — as their choice for mayor last fall. We are now in the process of witnessing up close and personal just much how respect we taxpayers should expect from neo-conservative politicians.

Which, judging by the craziness going on to the south of us at the hands of the self-proclaimed Tea Party movement, should be next to nil. The thing is, when conservatives abandoned their core principle as stated by Glen Worthington, “…the essence of conservatism lies not in a body of theory, but in the disposition to maintain those institutions seen as central to the beliefs and practices of society”, the day traditional conservatism died, all bets were off. Neo-conservatives bear no responsibility to anyone aside from themselves. What’s good for them as individuals is good for society. End stop. Edmund Burke and the like deposed by Ayn Rand. Ask not what your country can do for you because it’s going to do fuck all. And certainly don’t ask what you can do for your country as, well, that would just be an imposition, an impingement of my individual freedom and liberty.

And those of us not sharing that particularly libertarian worldview have much blame to shoulder for the current conservative-less situation. By accepting any tenets of the faith, from its creeping anti-governmentalism to the bogus trickle-down economic theory, we lent it credibility and gave it traction. We helped make the lunatic acceptable and now find ourselves having to defend against what is essentially an alternate reality where up is down, black is white and tax cuts generate increased revenue for the public purse.

An alternate reality where the likes of Ezra Levant are considered worthy of having a spot on television to discuss politics. Yes, as a matter of fact, he did compare the CBC to a North Korean state run broadcast. With a straight face!

Watching what I could stomach of yesterday’s launch of Sun TV, two words immediately sprung to mind: cable access. Back when honest to god conservatism was still alive and well, that’s where crackpots like Mr. Levant et al would’ve been relegated if they wanted to air their fetid, malignant views out in public. Or a soapbox in the corner of a park.While it may be difficult to pinpoint exactly how it is traditional conservatism died, I think we can officially call time of death. It was April 18th 2011, 4:30pm EDT.

sympathetically submitted by Cityslikr


The Wrecking Crew

January 11, 2011

My apologies for borrowing the title of this post from Thomas Frank’s book from a couple years ago, but I use it consciously as I think it bears repeating. Why? Because of the pathological danse macabre we insist on performing regularly with our neo-conservative partners and the corresponding amnesia that accompanies it which renders us oblivious to the resulting ugly outcome.

How’s the step go again, you ask forgetfully?

Decrying the state of affairs, politically, economically and/or socially, brought on by overweening and ineffectual (not to mention, elitist) liberal rule, conservatives roll into power on a magic carpet of faux-populism, complete with an easy to remember and entirely meaningless slogan or two. Once there, they proceed to trash the joint, politically, economically and/or socially before the citizens fully comprehend what’s happening and chase them from office. They then “retire” to the private sector (which in all likelihood they’ve helped to enrich) where they lick their wounds, change their outfits and, sooner or later, head back to the political ball for another twirl around the floor.

There was Reagan’s Morning in America where he enticed a weary populace to join him in a foxtrot. Twelve years later, victorious in the Cold War but already mired into increased conflict in the Middle East, the country was eye-deep in debt and much of the FDR New Deal/LBJ Great Society accomplishments, gutted and left for dead, and the political environment toxic. Enter centrist Democrat Bill Clinton who managed to wrestle the burgeoning deficit bomb into a more manageable shape (largely on the back of his most vulnerable base) while, if not fully restoring social programs directed at the most vulnerable of his base, got them back onto life support. A semblance of order restored, give way to George W. Bush, neocon sweetheart, and 8 years later, Iraq, Afghanistan, surpluses ballooned into huge deficits, tax cuts galore and everybody for themselves. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Up here, a very similar pattern. Early-90s, Conservative debts and deficits reign (although to some eyes, strangely, it’s all because of Pierre Trudeau despite 9 years of PC majority rule), the country faces a constitutional crisis. Liberals are elected in a landslide and over the course of the next decade+, they bring the fiscal unruliness to heel (largely on the back of their most vulnerable base) and establish a semblance of political and social order. Hello neocons and… you know where this is going, right? Unnecessary tax cuts, financial crisis hits, here we are again, back in the red and the public sector’s going to have to tighten its belt and prepared to make do with less. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Ditto in Ontario with a slight variation. Left of centre government hit with a nasty recession seeks to spread the pain around (some of it on the back of their base) and is summarily drummed from office, crushed under the pleasingly simply Common Sense Revolution. These fiscally prudent Conservatives (some key members who go on to lay waste to Ottawa) don’t really clean up the economic mess they claimed to have found. They just sort of move it around a little, cut taxes (natch) and eviscerate provincial and municipal infrastructure for good measure. As usual, they’re chased from office two terms later having inflicted maximum public damage. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Now comes Rob Ford to Toronto. A career politician who never saw a tax increase he couldn’t rail about or a government expenditure that didn’t taste like gravy, he bellowed for months on the campaign trail about waste and fiscal mismanagement at City Hall. (Sound familiar?) Citing big numbers with little context and oodles of anecdotal evidence of ‘corruption’, he got himself elected on a vow to Stop the Gravy Train and to usher in an era of Respect for Taxpayers. Meaning? Cutting and/or freezing taxes. ‘Trimming the fat’ and uncovering ‘inefficiencies’ in the system. No more nickel and diming taxpayers to death.

But an altogether predictable thing happened on his way to his first budget proposal. The supposed fiscal ineptitude of his predecessor left Mayor Ford with a shit load of money in which to fill the cavernous gaps left exposed by all the tax freezes and cuts riddling the budget document. So much money, in fact, that any major slashing and burning of services could wait a year. Only a year, mind you. There would be a serious reckoning. You’d be foolhardy to think otherwise.

We know how this story plays out, people. We’ve seen it enough. The ending’s never happy and expecting this time it’ll be different, well, you’ve just defined ‘crazy’. Neoconservative politicians are incapable of leaving a place looking better than when they found it. It’s not in their nature. In fact, they can’t help doing the exact opposite of good stewardship. They are terrible tenants. So let’s stop expecting them to be anything but.

It’s almost as if we’re trapped in some lurid abusive relationship with neo-conservatism. It constantly lies to us, takes our money and spends it on its rich girlfriends. Whenever we speak up and complain, it smacks us around some to keep us in our place and issues threats about how good we have it. You think you got it bad, huh? How’d you like to be living somewhere in Africa instead? Huh?

Even when we break free of its grip for awhile, we’re eventually lured back in with its sweet song of contrition and promises of better behaviour in the future. I’ve learned my lesson, baby. Trust me. I won’t ever hurt you again.

We really have to break free of such a self-defeating and sadistic cycle before the damage inflicted becomes irreparable.

once more with feelingly submitted by Cityslikr


Fight! Fight! Fight!

January 4, 2011

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke would like to begin 2010 2001 2011 by issuing an apology.

To all those sounding the alarm loudest and earliest about the prospect of a Mayor Rob Ford administration during last year’s municipal election campaign, we are truly sorry. While in no way could we have been viewed as sanguine about the possibility of Ford ascending to the office, we ultimately concluded that he would do less damage to the city than his right of centre rivals. Our thinking was based on the fact that as a councillor, Mr. Ford had developed no constituency on council and even less credibility. On the hustings, his constant braying about all the corrupt practices his colleagues engaged in behind closed doors couldn’t have made him any friends at 100 Queen Street West. Ford was a lone wolf, far more often than not on the losing end of votes. We reasoned that he’d have less ability to bring together a working majority to enact his radically right agenda than would, say, George Smitherman who’d be assuming the mayoralty with more or less a clean slate.

In short, we misunderestimated the power of the mayor’s office. Or, more precisely, we failed to realize just how flexible, let’s call it, a good chunk of council members would be in the face of the bluster and chest-beating that began emanating from Team Ford soon after their man was sworn in. The new mayor claimed he had a mandate which appears to be all a majority of councillors needed to hear and they handed it over to him, no questions asked. Would you like your shoes shined with that, Mr. Mayor?

We were wrong. We dropped the ball. Wish we could have a do-over. Nous nous excusons.

On the plus side, has there been a local politician who has drawn a line in the sand so deeply so quickly? Who’s so enthusiastically performed a cannonball into the deep end of the partisan pool and declared so explicitly that you’re either with him or ag’in him? Who has surrounded himself so thoroughly with people who think just like he does, who sees the world exactly as he does?

If the mayor is unprepared to offer any sort of olive branch of compromise to those not sharing his stunted view of the role of government, why should the onus be on his opponents to do so? Yes, the mayor holds a mitt full of high cards in his hand. He sets the agenda and his wish list takes priority. But the power of the office ends there. There is no special fiat declaring mechanism that is the sole privilege of the mayor. Despite what you may read in our newspapers, Mayor Ford cannot simply make a regal pronouncement, clap his hands and proclaim, “Make It So!”

We on the left side of the political spectrum have a terrible habit of trembling and bowing down before the bellowing triumphalism that inevitably follows a right winger’s win at the polls, no matter how close a race or dubious a victory. I’m thinking George W. in 2000 and again in 2004. Stephen Harper and his 2 straight minority governments, bestriding the narrow world like a Colossus. And we petty men walk under his huge legs and peep about to find ourselves dishonourable graves (h/t W.S.) So far, too many of our city councillors have willingly rolled over onto their backs, ever hopeful for an affection rub of their tummies from the mayor. It’s a prone, vulnerable position that is usually taken as a sign of weakness and dealt with accordingly.

Granted, as Eye Weekly’s Edward Keenan noted a couple weeks back, the mayor’s had his way with the council on no-brainer issues (rightly or wrongly) like office expenses, the VRT and making the TTC an essential service (a decision that ultimately is up to Queen’s Park to make). “… low-hanging fruit,” Mr. Keenan wrote, “the bread and butter of Ford’s election campaign and, to any honest observer, the extent of his mandate.” But it’s given the mayor an air of indomitably and allowed him to dig in at the plate and sit on the next fat pitch he can try and go yard with.

So already this early in the game, it’s time to brush the mayor back a little. Throw some high, stinky cheese under his chin. Maybe even fire one behind him, get under his skin and rattle him. If he isn’t prepared to play ball, why should his opposition? He’s clearly chosen the path of divisiveness and conflict with no eye for compromise and accommodation. It’s a winner-take-all mentality, and the quicker Mayor Ford’s disabused of the notion that he’s always going to come out on top in that struggle, the sooner we can get on with the proper give and take of municipal governance.

— new yearly submitted by Cityslikr


His Honour’s Sour Grapes

December 8, 2010

So the Mayor Rob Ford era has officially begun, and for all those who picked ‘Decorously’ or ‘Graciously’ in the How Will Rob Ford Respond To Having The Chain Of Office Hung Around His Neck office pool, pay up, motherfuckers.

The mayor used the solemn occasion of his investiture to invite one of his heroes, noted Mississaugan urbanist and sartorial flamboyer, Don Cherry, to chain him and kick off the proceedings. Mr. Cherry, in turn, used his invite, as writer Jonathan Goldsbie noted, as “…mostly just an attack on the Globe’s TV critic.” John Doyle, that is, and his article in yesterday’s Globe and Mail. The mayor then followed with an utterly uninspiring speech, full of references to taxpayers and customer service, more befitting (as we have noted numerous times previously) a Walmart manager’s pep talk to his employees just before the grand opening than a new mayor addressing the inaugural council meeting of the country’s largest city. Then some quick business was done like voting in the mayor’s all-male, all-right wing executive committee before the gavel came down to adjourn the proceedings until the real fireworks being tomorrow.

We’re now through the looking-glass here, people. Our new mayor, well-to-do through an inherited family business, speaks for ‘the little guy’. Mr. Cherry, a well-to-do sports commentator, lashes out and ‘artsy, left wing kooks’ and thinks “It’s time for some lunch pail, blue-collar people.” All pronounced while wearing an embroidered pink blazer that would make a geisha blush and his dapper Tom Wolfe high collar. Both men preach the neo-conservative gospel of small government (except for police and military, natch), and both have done alright for themselves, pocketing their fair share of government largesse.

And somehow, pinkos are the bad guys. We left leaning, bike riding, oh-so-privileged, downtown elites, bereft of the common touch and without our finger on the pulse of real Torontonians. We don’t understand the plight of the working people. The mayor does because he employs 350 of them in Toronto, New Jersey and Chicago. Don Cherry talks to millions of them directly through the camera, for a whole 8 minutes every Saturday night. Regular Joes, the two of them. Full fledged members of the lumpen proletariat, they is.

You know what? I say, fuck that. Much discussion has gone on since the new mayor’s been sworn in about how those standing in opposition to him should react. Take the high road. Don’t take the bait. Take a pill and chill-ax. The world’s not coming to an end because the likes of Don Cherry brought his schtick live to City Hall chambers.

All true but we’ve seen this movie before and it never, ever turns out well.

Every time a right wing populist is elected, they claim a ‘mandate’ (sometimes even from as on high as heaven itself) and immediately take the offensive, declaring a state of unilateralism. It’s My Way Or The Highway. You’re Either With Us Or A’gin Us. All Hail And Bow Down Before Me, Minions.

We’ve watched it for the past 4 years or so in Ottawa. A minority (A Minority!) Conservative government has browbeaten the opposition into simpering obsequiousness, giving way on almost every important issue that has emerged. Even the stands they’ve managed to take like on the long gun registry have tied them into paroxysms of soul-wrenching angst, leaving them to look defeated in the face of victory.

It’s a tactical strike adopted from right wingers in the States. George W. pulled it off masterfully throughout his term in office. The Tea Party led Republican congress is following suit. Not even sworn in yet and they have a Democratic President turning on his base. To seek bipartisanship where none is on offer doesn’t make you look evenhanded, open-minded or apolitically above the fray. It makes you look weak, unprincipled and unfit to hold public office.

Now comes Rob Ford who has not made one conciliatory gesture to his opponents since being elect mayor. His executive committee is exclusively right-wing, inner suburban (or from wards that Ford won) and male. He’s been blowing smoke about his power to end Transit City, going as far to say that council never voted about Transit City (it did), so it doesn’t have to be consulted to terminate it. The voters gave him a mandate, you see. Normal democratic principles no longer apply.

Bringing in Don Cherry to introduce him was just another aggressively defiant gesture by Ford. To all those who disdainfully dismiss the outrage that greeted Grapes’ council speech as unimportant, much ado about nothing, an overblown sticks and stones scenario, not worth the media attention, well, you’re diminishing the symbolism of it. “You never know what he’s going to say,” shrugged our mayor about Cherry’s speech. Not the exact words maybe but the intent was going to surprise no one. It was a big ol’ fuck you to anyone and everyone who doesn’t think exactly like the mayor and Don Cherry, pinkos or not.

Imagine if David Miller, re-elected with a larger percentage of the popular vote for his 2nd term, had proclaimed a ‘mandate’ and brought in, say, Naomi Klein to introduce him. She proceeds to say something to the effect of: Eat it, corporate right wing shills. Not political? Unimportant and beside the point? I don’t think so.

Mayor Rob Ford has come out of the gate with no intention of making nice, seeking compromise or trying to find the middle ground with his opponents. Why is the onus on them to reach out? It’s not obstructionist to stand up for your principles and beliefs. It’s called democracy. In a democracy, winning an election is just the 1st step. It doesn’t mean you get to do whatever you want and everyone else has to go along, no matter how much right wingers would like to believe that.

helpfully submitted by Cityslikr