We Can Get Angry Too

This is composed as a dare.

After yesterday’s post there was an exchange of heated words tossed around the office here. While my colleague, Cityslikr, was quite content with his evisceration of the Rob Ford/reactionary phenomena now running amok on the campaign trail, I suggested it wasn’t nearly as belligerent or uncompromising as he might think. In fact, I may’ve called it a ‘cop out’ if memory serves. A mere reactive piece cast in the terms of the debate that they’ve established.

“I’m the angry one here,” I was informed, haughtily. “All Fired Up’s John Lennon.” Refusing to bestow the McCartney label upon me, Cityslikr reluctantly granted me George Harrison status, saying it was impossible that I could match him, taunt for taunt, mockery for mockery, in putting together a cogent argument against the rising tide of Fordism. So here I am doing just that.

Since the very beginning of this campaign, an inchoate anger has driven the political discourse. While sometimes veering of onto bike lanes and the nebulous ‘War on Car’, its focus has been largely on numbers. Big, absolute numbers devoid of much context and certainly no explanation. $9.2 billion. $3 billion. Wow! That’s a lot of money. Clearly something’s wrong at City Hall.

With Rob Ford’s cannonball entry into the race, words were put to numbers but with no additional clarity. We don’t have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem. The gravy train ends now. Nice, easy-to-remember T-shirt slogans, full of emotive power with negligible substance. The campaign became awash in indignant, empty rhetoric.

Of which, much of the mainstream press has lapped up. Witness last Wednesday’s piece from the Globe’s Christie Blatchford who is clearly vying to become Election 2010’s Queen of the Dumb-Down. Nothing more than a litany of councillor salaries and expenses, it reads like a Team Rob Ford press release. Did you know that a Toronto city councillor makes more than 3 times the median income of Joe Average Torontonian, and has a hefty expense account to boot? (Where’s the wage comparison between a councillor and, say, a columnist for the Globe and Mail, we wonder. Know the newspaper industry has taken a hit lately but surely someone like Christie Blatchford still has an expense account.) The insinuation in all this is that those working at City Hall are not worth the money we spend on them.

No, no, no, you’re saying. That’s not the point at all. Comparing the public and private sectors is apples and oranges. What happens in the private sector is none of our business and beyond our control. The public sector spends our money.

Alright, let’s disabuse you of that notion. It is not our money. It’s tax money. The agreed upon amount that each of us contributes to various levels of government in order that our society functions properly. I know this quote’s been bandied about almost to the point of irrelevancy through repetition but I think it worth another go-round so that it might begin to penetrate the thick skulls of the Christie Blatchfords of the world.

“I like to pay taxes. With them I buy civilization.” So said Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Now we can argue about if our tax money is being spent wisely and what to do if it’s not. Or, we can debate about how much tax money is too much or too little. That’s a matter of ideology and can be hashed out over reasoned, rational discussion.

The thing is, there’s none of that happening. When confronted with opposing views that call into question some of their claims, the Anger-stons have taken to turtling, and wrapping themselves in a cloak of Just Ol’ Down Home Plain Folks. (Witness Blatchford’s recent offerings.) Well, I may not be much of what you city types call a ‘Big Thinker’ with all yer university edu-macations and $19 coffees and uncooked fish but I do claim to knows what I knows and I knows we taxpayers are bein’ fleeced.

No. You know what? Fuck you.

Grow up and stop trying to mask your obstinate ignorance as some kind of homespun wisdom. It isn’t. It’s just obstinate ignorance.

We’re tired of having to talk down to your level. Being uninformed cannot be proudly called ‘populist’. It isn’t. It’s just being uninformed.

Does that make me an elitist? Only if it means that I feel a sense of entitlement to a thoughtful, cogent and logical debate about the future of this city and not some boiling brew of unharnessed and misplaced ire that spouts speculative, spurious nonsense with the demand of being taken seriously. Blind rage is not a reputable campaign platform. Thinking it is, is just your own sense of misplaced entitlement.

So all your Rob Ford types out there (and the Smithermans and Rossis trying hard to tap into that bitterness and bile base), you’re not the only ones capable of being angry. There is a growing contingent of us out here who feel that you are misrepresenting the wider swath of Toronto voters and are threatening much that has been accomplished in this city over the last 7 years. The difference is that ours is a positive outrage at your increasingly outlandish claims and childish behaviour. Ours is the anger that builds not destroys things.

And calling that patronizing and condescending doesn’t make it any less true.

— angrily (even lividly) submitted by Urban Sophisticat

The Blatch Keys On Rob Ford’s Success

Dear Miss Christie Blatchford,

I am writing to you with a rather forward, possibly unseemly, request.

The next time you hold a gathering for your “downtown friends” would it be out of the question to extend an invitation my way? It doesn’t have to be anything fancy like a black tie dinner party although I can still cut a swath in my tails and top hat. It could simply be cocktails and canapés or a few brewskis over some ribs and slaw as those of you in possession of a mess of “blue-collar, working-class, anti-intellectual” bones might partake in.

We are neighbours after all. I do see you from time-to-time, out walking your dog while I’m window shopping at our local Home Hardware. It seems surprising to me that our paths haven’t crossed more concretely sooner. So let’s stop making strange and break some bread together.

Lest you immediately conclude that this is some appeal for a handout, let me be crystal clear that nothing could be further from the truth. It is for your benefit that I offer to foist myself upon you. Having just read your weekend newspaper column (Rob Ford: The Gadfly That Toronto Needs), it strikes me that you are being done a huge and mighty disservice by your so-called “smart friends”. Not to mention that they seem to be dangerously combustible and must be making a mess of your household interior with all the Cronenbergesque head exploding you claim they are prone to.

Allow me the opportunity, Miss Blatchford, as a long time downtowner with an “intellectual stripe”, to respond to your party trick of claiming “to be the tiniest bit on the fence” about Rob Ford’s candidacy for the mayoralty of Toronto. I can assure you that my head will not explode. My knickers will never bunch into “a complete knot” (and not just for the obvious reason of me rarely sporting any).

No, I will simply take the information, calmly and coolly, and respond by telling you why I think you are wrong on almost every level about Rob Ford and about many of us who oppose him. Dispassionately and as courteously as possible, I will endeavour to point out to you the errors of your thinking and why it is, I feel, that any flirtation with candidate Rob Ford reveals both a cold heart and empty head. After all, that’s what real friends do, isn’t it? Tell you the unvarnished truth in order to set you straight and to stop you from making a damn fool of yourself.

Maybe some of your so-called friends are those “gentle arty” types, “aghast at Mr. Ford at least in part because he seems so low rent”. But I am here to tell you, Miss Blatchford, that not all of us stand opposed to Rob Ford based on his appearance or his boorish, sometimes illegal, behaviour. To borrow your devilishly fine turn of phrase, we “don’t give a flying fig” about his physical stature or loutish public outbursts or his seemingly constant run-ins with the law on both sides of the 49th parallel. (Allow me a sidebar if you will: can we ascribe Mr. Ford’s promise to hire 100 new police officers once he’s elected mayor despite a wall of statistics pointing out a decade’s long decrease in the city’s crime rate as an attempt on his part to help reign in his personal excesses? With more cops on the street, there’s a better chance of Rob Ford getting caught before he can get himself into serious trouble. Very noble of him if true.)

No, Miss Blatchford. There are many of us anti-Ford urbanites who aren’t the elitist prigs you make us out to be. Who very happily sit down over beers with irascible folks, unperturbed when they “say something stupid, or do something stupid” even if it is something like getting behind the wheel of a car, legally impaired, and driving off. Damn the bunk mainstream media try shoving down our throats! Sometimes friends do let friends drive drunk.

Rather, Miss Blatchford, we cannot abide the notion of Rob Ford becoming mayor of this city because during his 10 years on council, he fought against many of the very things that might’ve helped those Average Joes he now claims to be defending. Like, for example, the extension of public transit into traditionally under-serviced areas. In fact he stands before us at the head of the polls still lacking any sort of comprehensive transportation plan whatsoever. A plan needed if we ever hope to finally be in good enough shape to start inviting in those 1 million newcomers Mr. Ford presently wants to keep out. As councillor, Rob Ford voted — almost alone – against the planned redevelopment of the Lawrence Heights housing project, siding with – again, virtually alone – the more affluent next door neighbourhood.

It is this faux populism Mr. Ford has unfurled as his banner (and that you help propagate) which elicits much of the enmity toward him from many of us who don’t dwell in the suburbs, Miss Blatchford. Where you see a “pink and porky” businessman, we see a scion of privilege; an inheritor of wealth whose entire political career has been devoted to nothing more than the furthering of his own interests. Low taxes. Low wages. Deregulation. A big wet kiss to the business community of which he constantly brays about being part of. His only nod to the notion of noblesse oblige or giving back, as you more down to earth people might say, is his devotion to high school football. A commendable impulse, to be sure, but a minor repair of the damage he inflicts on society as whole with the heavy-handed neo-conservative, anti-government stance he takes.

See, Miss Blatchford? I said all that without my head coming so much as close to exploding. Maybe it is you who needs to get out more and stop mingling “primarily with others of the same ilk”. Find yourself some new friends.

Or at least, find some friends who aren’t made entirely of straw. You know the sort. Those ingratiatingly spineless types who let you walk all over them in the hopes that you’ll still want to hang out. A one-sided relationship that’s all give and no take, ultimately amounting to little more than a preening illusion of having actually taken part in something of substance.

Surely, Miss Blatchford, you want more from a friendship than that.

So let’s do lunch. Have your people call my people.

Yours in truth,


The S(T)ory That Just Won’t Die

Being away from this computer even for just a few days always seems and feels much, much longer. Your rhythm gets messed up. The flow of information is interrupted. Thought and idea processing becomes sluggish and non-responsive.

It’s political ennui and being caught out of the loop rolled up into one big Egg McMuffin of disorientation. (Which reminds me. I’m hungry. Why is there never anything in the fridge?)

Scrolling back through unread emails and Tweets, following what may be pertinent links to stories that might’ve been of interest last week. The process is more laborious than usual as these are now the official dog days of summer and campaigns have pulled back on the throttle a bit, taking a breather before the final push begins after Labour Day. Not much is happening and deeper digging may not reveal much for the effort.

Let’s see, there’s the ongoing call for a full inquiry into the G20 debacle. (Neal Jennings does a great job here gathering mayoral candidates’ responses or non-responses as the cases may be to how they would deal with the fallout from the G20 if elected to office). Apparently the weather was excellent for Caribana festivities. Will John Tory run for mayor or won’t—OH, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!! ARE YOU PEOPLE STILL ON ABOUT THIS?! I KNOW IT’S SLIM PICKIN’S OUT THERE, NEWS WISE, BUT DO YOU HAVE TO CONTINUALLY BEAT THIS DEAD HORSE WHEN THERE’S NOTHING ELSE TO WRITE AND/OR TALK ABOUT?

This is John Tory here not Mario Cuomo painfully mulling over a run for the U.S. presidency in the 1980s. John Tory. We’ve been through this before, remember? He’s not bringing anything new to the table except the notion of being the least uninspiring of a wholly uninspiring field of front running mayoral candidates. Hardly newsworthy, folks. Yet, there they all were from the Toronto Sun through to the National Post and Globe and Mail, once more, weighing the pros and cons, ups and downs, pluses and minuses of a John Tory candidacy. How many ways and how much ink must be spilled to spell out one word? Indifferent.

The most interesting aspect of this latest Will He Or Won’t He is that it stems from an email exchange between Tory and candidate Sarah Thomson whose campaign team already includes one Mr. John Tory Jr. as a senior adviser and is poised to hire George Tory (brother and son of) as campaign manager. It seems that to Ms. Thomson’s way of thinking Tory Sr.’s waffling has bogged her candidacy down in the mud of uncertainty. Her need for clarity is understandable, Ours? Not so much.

But the dreary saga does reveal just how incestuously inbred our local political scene is. Torys everywhere. Doesn’t anyone find that at all disturbing? No wonder the pond of discourse is so shallow and oxygen deprived.

Now, I’m sure the journalists covering Toronto’s municipal beat are all very nice people except for maybe Sue-Ann Levy over at the Toronto Sun. No one can write that partisanly crazy and be considered nice. If let off their respective leashes they would, in all likelihood, take the time to more fully explore other mayoral options given the apathetic response in the general public to what has been offered up so far. Surely they must be as bored as we are about the John Tory speculation story. Rehashing rehash over and over again. They weren’t the ones to arbitrarily winnow down the race from the get-go to 6 or 7 acceptable candidates, were they?

That dubious distinction must lie at the feet of the higher ups in the journalistic food chain who aren’t responsible for reporting the news so much as they are for creating it. Which brings us back to the real storyline behind all this front runner business and apparent Tory – gulp… I can barely bring myself to say it – mania. Who decided any of these candidates including John Tory should be considered our only viable alternatives? I know it makes me sound naïve just asking that question but it really needs to be asked and explored and talked about.

This is our democracy. Just because those making up the headlines and attempting to generate buzz can’t or won’t see past their office doors or windows and gaze upon the wider list of candidates beyond sitting councillors, former M.P.P.s and backroom dilettantes, doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t. Maybe the collective yawn a solid majority of the electorate has given to the list of “acceptable” candidates handed down from on high is because they are little more than sitting councillors, former M.P.P.s and backroom dilettantes and not very attractive prospects for mayor of this city.

How’s that for a story angle, media? So far, chalk us down as unimpressed. What else do you have for us or are we going to have to start looking elsewhere for the information we need to make the informed decision that are integral to our democratic process?

desperately submitted by Cityslikr