Deluded

May 1, 2014

staringatacomputer

I was sitting in the office, staring at the computer monitor, the live stream muted. It seemed to be stuck in some kind of loop. The same news reports delivered over and over.

And who should that be walking through the door, without a knock, I might add. Our old friend and one time All Fired Up in the Big Smoke contributor, Urban Sophisticat. I seemed to have caught him by surprise, like he wasn’t expecting to find me there.

“What? Did you come to steal the electronics?

“No. No, I just thought… it’d be more of a party atmosphere in here.”

If you’re reading this now, I don’t really have to explain what he was referring to, do I? Dagos, the gays, fucking jamming, fucking knocking teeth out. More crack in his sister’s basement. Drunken, coked up confrontation with Justin Bieber. Yes, you read that correctly.

As Urban Sophisticat sat down in front of me, I slid the bottle across the desk to him. He picked it up, checked out the label. I believe he turned up his nose just a little. It might not even been consciously.

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“You got anything lighter,” he asked. “Not so good with the sulphites these days.”

Sending a glass his way, I did my best to summon up a look of disdain before turning back to see if anything changed on the news need. It hadn’t. Evidently Urban Sophisticat was going to risk a sulphite encounter as he poured himself a glass.

“I’m fucking sick of politics, dude.”

Urban Sophisticat raised his glass in agreement to my sentiment. What he thought was my sentiment.

“Welcome to the club,” he said. “Chin, chin.” He took a sip, and a little bit of time deciding if he approved of my choice of wines. “I was struck down by that very same illness October 27th, 2010. A day that will go down in infamy.”

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My friend hadn’t lost his grasp of hyperbole, I saw.

“I wasn’t talking about me, dude,” I informed him. “That’s what the mayor said in his drunken stupor on Monday night. ‘I’m fucking sick of politics.’”

“He’s sick of politics? P-lease! He’s sickened politics, that’s what he’s done. Sickened politics.”

Urban Sophisticat seemed quite delighted with his little witty self and had another slug of wine he obviously still hadn’t come to terms with. He wasn’t wrong but that wasn’t the point I had tried to make.

“No. He’s sick of politics and then goes on to say, ‘Look at my record.’ Look at his record. The fucking guy actually believes everything he says. $1.1 billion saved? He believes it. Doesn’t matter what anybody tells him, what numbers or facts and figures they throw around, he’s saved taxpayers $1.1 billion. He’s cut our taxes. Reduced spending. He’s looking out for the little guy. That’s not a catchphrase for him. The mayor really and truly believes he is. That’s why he’s fucking sick of politics. He’s trying and trying and trying, respecting the taxpayers, and for what? Nobody gives him credit for looking out for the little guy.”
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Urban Sophisticat seemed surprised by my surprise. He shrugged. Tell him something he doesn’t already know. And pop the cork on another bottle of wine while I’m at it. Maybe a Merlot. Or a Pinot Noir if I had it.

But I wasn’t done playing amateur psychologist just yet.

“Look at his attack on Karen Stintz. Violent, predatory. I’d like to fucking jam her. Nothing sexual about that. Why? Because she represents everything he hates. Ivy League, north Toronto, la-di-da, white, white teeth. The establishment. Yeah. Fucking jam that, right?”

“On the other hand,” I continued, taking the bottle from Urban Sophisticat and pouring out some more dark, peppery, sulphite-ridden wine, “if the mayor was going to lose this election who did he want to lose it to? This self-proclaimed conservative, left wing hating, loather of government. Who’d he want to succeed him as mayor? Olivia Chow. What’s up with that, right?”

I paused to let all this sink in. The two of us drank our wine. One of us enjoying it more than the other.

“It could be as simple as him thinking that she’ll cock it all up like David Miller did,” Urban Sophisticat suggested. “The city will rise up in righteous anger in 4 years hence and call, no plead, for the return of Rob Ford once more to rid the city of the leftist, unionist pestilence.”

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That certainly could be a possibility, although I’m always loathe to give Rob Ford credit for such long term strategizing. But I could see the idea popping up in a conversation with his brother or drug buddies when his electoral future wasn’t looking particularly bright. Elect another dipper. Go ahead. See what happens. Then they’ll be begging me to come back.

“Or how about this,” I countered, not yet prepared to let go of my line of reasoning. “Rob Ford sees a lot of himself in Olivia Chow?” I immediately caught the look on Urban Sophisticat’s face and nipped it right in the bud. “No. No. Just no.”

“He might detest her politics, her way with going about things—“

“All that tax and spending,” Urban Sophisticat said.

“All that tax and spending, yes. But her politics are about the exact same thing as his. Looking out for the little guy. Just like Jack. We know Rob liked Jack. He felt a kindred spirit with him. disagreed with his methods, sure. But they wanted the same thing in Rob Ford’s mind. Olivia’s like Jack. She’s like Rob Ford.”

unconvinced

Urban Sophisticat was having none of it. Either that or he just couldn’t handle any more of the wine.

“That’s nuts. Crazy. Always go for the easier explanation first.”

“But that’s what we’re talking about, isn’t it? Delusion. The man’s clearly deluded.”

Turns out Urban Sophisticat wasn’t done with the wine. He poured another drink. Sulphites be damned!

“Fine. But it doesn’t matter anymore, does it. The man’s done. Finished. He’s not coming back from this avalanche of shit.”

I wasn’t so sure. With this guy, all bets were off. Normal rules don’t apply. Never forget that.

“Oh, come on!” Urban Sophisticat yelled, sensing my scepticism and doubt. “Just… Just… Come on.” He was not going to dignify my uncertainty with any further discussion.

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The problem now, as I saw it, was for many, they took the mayor’s ardent if deluded belief in the rightness of his cause as factually as the mayor did. He didn’t sell them a lie. He convinced them it was the truth. Absolutely, he saved taxpayers $1.1 billion. Absolutely, the city’s fiscal foundations were crumbling before he took office. Absolutely, he was looking out for the little guy.

Rob Ford came across as authentic because he believed in what he was saying. People believed he believed in what he was saying. People believed in what he was saying.

“Look,” I said to Urban Sophisticat. “I’m not saying there’s enough support out there to re-elect him.”

“I should hope not.”

“I’m not saying there isn’t either. What I am worried about, though, is that his core belief remains strong with a surprising number of voters. The message was right. The messenger, unfortunately, had issues. That’s essentially John Tory and Karen Stintz’s campaigns. I’m pretty sure that weasel Minnan-Wong has said those exact words.”

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Urban Sophisticat seemed less concerned about that then with the idea there could possibly be a comeback in Rob Ford’s future.

“Nothing could be as bad as the past 3 years.”

I wasn’t so sure. The Rob Ford message needed to be confronted. As deplorable as all his personal problems are, his political views are equally so. If they aren’t chased down and clubbed to death, Rob Ford will still be with us, in spirit if not body.

We sat in silence, Urban Sophisticat and I, he thinking the job was nearly done and me thinking it had only started. I looked at my monitor to see if there was any new news. There wasn’t. I had another slug of my wine.

tippily submitted by Cityslikr


A Second Chance To Get It Right

October 4, 2013

Hey Toronto.

What do you say we kill this Scarborough subway nuttery once and for all? steakthroughtheheartWith city council meeting next week to consider the City Manager’s subway report it requested back in July, there seems to be a real opportunity to put a fucking nail in the coffin of this nonsense. A silver bullet through its already malfunctioning heart.

We can chalk the underground madness up to a giddy summer revelry. The heat and mint juleps got to our better judgement. Our collective fever’s now broken and we can come to our senses. A little bit self-conscious about our embarrassing outburst of irrationality but, hey, who hasn’t at least once followed a very bad idea down the rabbit hole?

“The purpose of this report,” city staff writes, “is to inform Council that the terms and conditions for supporting the McCowan Corridor Subway have been met crazyfromtheheatwith the exception of the $1.8 billion ($2010) commitment from the Province [italics mine].

“With the exception of”, in fact, negates the very claim that statement makes of all the terms and conditions for supporting city council’s preferred subway route in the McCowan corridor. Not all the funding from the two senior levels of government has been secured and, in an ideal world, that would automatically kill the subway plan and revert back to the LRT. There was a lot of chatter about the poison pill motions that were voted in favour of at the July council meeting that would ensure the city wouldn’t go ahead with building a subway without all the other money it asked for in place.

Taken at their word, a majority of council is obligated to vote against a Scarborough subway.

Yeah. My eye just popped a blood vessel writing that last sentence.

Even assuming that ain’t going to happen, the city manager’s table for the necessary property tax increases to pay for the city’s portion for the subway build, .5% in each of the next two years and .6% the year after that, dedicated solely to the Scarborough subway, should give many of the councillors pause.bestcasescenario

Let’s call those numbers a best case scenario. It doesn’t include cost overruns, interest rate increases, credit rating changes, capital maintenances, etc., etc., that the city would have to assume with a subway (that it wouldn’t with the LRT). We’ll refer to the city manager’s numbers as ‘for starters’.

Even if they were spot on, these property tax hikes will pressure not only other demands for revenue tools to build more necessary transit infrastructure throughout the GTA as part of the province’s Big Move but for the basic ongoing operations of the TTC and its capital budget for things like state of good repair. The TTC chair is already demanding more money for the transit system after years of a flat lined budget from the city and fare increases. In an atmosphere where voters are still only very reluctantly willing to consider new taxes and levies to go to enhanced transit infrastructure, saddling the public with property tax increases for a vanity project of dubious need seems counter-productive to the wider goal.

Never mind the kind of pressure this would put on the rest of the city budget. You start with a .5% property tax increase for the Scarborough subway, how much more will council be willing to stomach to help pay for other basic city services and capital outlays? takeastepbackGoing into an election year, it’s difficult to imagine many councillors signing up for the kind of bump needed in order to avoid cutting programs and other infrastructure needs.

And that’s what this is all about, all that it’s ever been about. Next year’s election. A handful of councillors have bought into the notion that being on the bad side of the Scarborough subway issue will imperil their political future. Fearful in the face of an angry Ford Nation, they’ve traded in common sense for a slab of red meat to feed their constituents. They’ve jeopardized the city’s transit planning prospects for nothing more than individual advantage.

But I truly believe they’ve miscalculated.

The biggest proponent for the Scarborough subway has put himself into an awkward position, re-election wise. Mayor Ford has held steadfast in his view folks can only afford a property tax increase of .25% and not one per cent more. Clearly, that’s well short of what’s needed. droppedtheball1So, he’s either going to have to get behind a tax increase he’s made a career of railing against or be a subway supporter in name only, unwilling to cough up the dough to make it happen.

While logic hasn’t always been the strongest suit of those supporting the mayor, I think there’s another factor his council colleagues need to consider going into next week’s transit debate. Just how potent a force is Mayor Ford going to be in 2014? With the news of his occasional driver and full time friend Sandro Lisi’s arrest Tuesday on drug related charges and today’s whammie about the police following the mayor’s movement with air surveillance, it’s increasingly impossible to see him remaining a viable candidate outside of his hardest of hardcore support.

So let’s move beyond the crass political calculations of this transit debate where one of the variables is the mayor and his Scarborough Deserves A Subway legion. In a letter to the city earlier this week, Metrolinx once again points out that the preferred option remains the Scarborough LRT. More stops providing better access to more people. No property tax increases to build it. No money burned in sunk costs. All costs overruns and other financial changes picked up by the province. Ready to go now and not 5 years down the road.

Andy Byford, the TTC CEO, has been very emphatic if diplomatic in pointing out that the next subway Toronto actually needs is a relief line, bereasonableproviding transit users in the north and east of the city (including, yes, Scarborough) a less congested route into the downtown core that by-passes the already at-capacity Yonge line. It could easily be called the Scarborough Relief Line. Here, Scarborough. There’s your subway.

A genuine do-over has presented itself to city council next week. An opportunity for councillors to re-right a previous mistake, made with the worst of intentions but under a lot of self-inflicted duress. That’s a situation that doesn’t happen very often in life. Let’s make the most of it and put this sad, sorry spectacle behind us.

 — hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


The Little Things

October 3, 2013

It’s funny how sometimes even the grandest narratives end not so much with a whimper but the quietest of whispers. bangA slight puff of breath blows over once towering edifices. You expect fireworks. Everything leading up to the inexorable end screams fireworks. Instead, there’s just a shocked, stunned silence.

Huh. I did not see that coming.

The movies give us a gangster’s demise like White Heat’s Cody Jarrett blowing himself up atop a petroleum container. Tony Montana dies in a hail of bullets in the remake of Scarface. Tony Soprano… what the hell happened to Tony Soprano? Can anyone tell me?

In real life, Al Capone gets nailed evading income taxes and dies in jail of a venereal disease.

Sampson was done in by a haircut. Peter Rose kills a certain Hall of Fame career gambling. Eliot Spitzer goes from being the New York Governor and possible presidential candidate to a cable network quasi-nobody because of socks and prostitutes. whiteheatAnthony Weiner tweets out pictures of his junk and greases the skids of his ride to obscurity.

It’s the little things that get you.

Now, far be it from me to pronounce the Mayor Rob Ford era over. His ability to withstand missteps and scandals are legendary, super-human even. It’s perfectly reasonable to now accept the counter-intuitive conventional wisdom that says he gets more popular the more dirt that’s uncovered on him.

But Jesus Christ. Carol Peck.

She seems to be the type of neighbour you keep your curtains drawn for if you’re prone to wandering around the house wearing only your unmentionables. neighbourhoodwatchShe’s also that neighbour you love to have around since you’ll never have your house broken into. She sees everything that goes on around the block.

That senior citizen who essentially goes about her business, walking her dog, largely unobserved if you’re not the neighbourly type. Maybe a passing nod of acquaintance. A quick stop to pat the dog while making some quick small talk.

Now she sits in the middle of yet another drug related shit storm involving the mayor, almost crossly describing what can only be described as dubious interactions between our chief magistrate and his ‘good friend’, occasional driver and now arrested for drug related offences, Alexander Lisi, just a couple houses down from the Peck household.

“I have talked to people walking their dogs,” Mrs. Peck told the Toronto Star, “and I would say, ‘You know what, there’s something going on.’ “

publicbath“But if you and I were good friends and you were coming to call on me, visit me, would you not pull into my driveway, knock on my door?”

“So I said to a neighbour: ‘Is there a problem in this neighbourhood? Because I see Rob here all the time.’ ”

And then there’s the tooth brushing incident she tells about the mayor, sitting in his SUV in front of Lisi’s house, spitting his oral effluent out the window, down the side of his car.

Words can’t really describe the sloppy, trashy picture that paints or the glaring lack of character it suggests.

Forget it being bad behaviour for an elected official to engage in. It’s deplorable on the part of any reasonable, considerate adult.notwhatitlookslike I’m just gonna sit here in my vehicle and brush my teeth (for whatever reason it seemed important to do at that time) and spit out the window onto this street. Who could possibly have a problem with that?

Carol Peck, it seems. The proverbial ‘little guy’ Mayor Ford always claims to be looking out for. Except this particular time when she apparently went unnoticed by him, out walking her dog on her quiet suburban street.

Yep.

It’s always the little things that get you.

head-shakingly submitted by Cityslikr