A Collective Madness

November 3, 2013

There was a fleeting moment during the Shit Show Spectacle that was this week in Toronto politics.

dougfordA shot of the mayor’s brother, Councillor Doug Ford, as he watched the police chief’s press conference that confirmed the existence of the video as described in the media purporting to show the mayor smoking what seemed to be crack, uttering racist and homophobic slurs. The proverbial smoking gun, now up against this administration’s head.

Despite my views of Councillor Ford as a detestable politician and, by extension, probably a disagreeable person, I assumed there must be some human feelings contained within. This couldn’t be easy. From a political angle, everything he’d been working for, any future he might be contemplating, now in jeopardy, under dark, dark clouds. Personally? Confirmation that his little brother was battling serious demons.

Fuck it. It made me just want to hug the guy. awkwardhugSorry man. This must really, really suck.

But the sympathetic feeling passed at about the time Mayor Ford emerged from his office, brother Doug at his left shoulder, to announce that there was no reason he knew of why he should resign. Everything’s fine. Anything else?

Then Friday morning brother Doug took to the airwaves to challenge the police chief to produce the video and back their lawyer’s earlier assertion that the police chief ought to be the one to resign since he was the one that stepped over the line, talking about the video and, I guess, having put the mayor under surveillance and revealing him to be spending a lot of time with an accused drug dealer and extortionist.

“Like we all have, Johnny over the years,” the councillor told talk radio show host John Oakley, “we use bad judgement sometimes and yes, Rob’s probably used bad judgement sometimes. attitudeproblemI’m just concerned politics are playing a big part in this.”

Rob’s “probably used bad judgement sometimes”? You think? The mayor’s apparently smoking crack and cavorting with known criminals but his brother’s real concern is about the politics ‘playing a big part in this’?

Sure, my brother is prone to bad judgement that leads to bad decisions but, dammit, stop playing politics with it! This isn’t about Rob. It’s about you.

A shocking refusal to accept any sort of responsibility. It’s always somebody else’s fault. notmyproblem1This is probably why the mayor is so obviously sloppy in his public displays of questionable behaviour. He never gets called onto the carpet for it, never faces a reprimand or consequences for his actions.

Especially galling considering the Fords’ usual pro-law and order, never hug a thug stance toward anyone else but themselves or their close associates. For them it’s all about the police stepping over the line, playing politics, acting like judge and jury. Of all the things to be concerned about that came to light over the past few days, the thing Councillor Ford was most concerned about were the police chief’s comments.

This isn’t just about a white hot glowing hypocrisy or double standard. No, no. We’re talking about a complete and utter lack of conscience. There is no ability or requirement to distinguish between right and wrong. Caught with your hand in the cookie jar? Hey. webofliesYou don’t want your cookies stolen, don’t leave them within reaching distance.

“I know one thing, Rob is an honest man,” Councillor Ford told Oakley, “I think that anyone who knows him, knows he is an honest man.” Rob, meaning the mayor, the councillor’s brother, the guy who flatly denied in May there was any video showing him smoking crack, this same video that the councillor was now demanding be released to the public, is an honest man. One of the most honest politicians in the country, Councillor Ford claimed a few days before the truth of the video surfaced.

There’s an untetheredness to reality in these people who lack any conscience. Theirs is an untruthful truth. If they claim someone is honest, it means they’re honest, all the blatant lying aside.

Alice Through the Looking-Glass bordering on the delusional. A shared madness perpetuated by fellow believers that assist in stitching together a collective alternative reality. Witness the Toronto Sun columnist Joe Warmington’s Mad Hatter act (ironically without his trademark fedora) in defense of the mayor.

“Listen, you’re not going to fool me,” the tough as nails, seen it all journo states. madhatter1“This is a political script to take down the mayor. That’s all this is. There are people who are friends with the chief of police that are using him as a political tool to get their people in.”

Sure, Joe. Whatever. If it’s easier to believe that a police chief is being used as a puppet by some nefarious entities to subvert democracy than it is to imagine a guy with significant substance abuse problems veering out of control (with ample proof to back that view up), have at it. No one can tell you otherwise.

It’s not just crank Toronto Sun columnists. Listen to Ford Nation resident Joy Green stand by her man, believing what she wants to believe and ignoring anything that might undermine that belief. “My support is based on service to this city,” she tells the CBC’s Rick MacInnes-Rae. “I’m sad that this video does exist,” Ms. Green says, “I don’t necessarily believe that anyone can prove that he was foolish enough to partake in something like crack but…”

I accept there is a video of Mayor Ford doing something I don’t believe he’s foolish enough to be doing.

Later on in the interview MacInnes-Rae suggests that we now know why Mayor Ford doesn’t provide a daily schedule to the public. “Because somedays he’s not at the office,” he points out. “He’s out driving around, or has been, with Sandro Lisi. Seems to me, some might argue, that might affect the way you do your job.” seenoevil1“I’m sure some might argue that. You’re correct,” Ms. Green responds. “And you?” MacInnes-Rae asks. “No,” Ms. Green states. “Because?” “Because I don’t know that’s a fact.”

What the mayor and Sandro Lisi were doing during all that time they spent together, in the SUV, at soccer games, convenience stores, in empty parking lots, on the telephone, is, at this point, purely conjecture. You can make a pretty educated conjecture but it would only be that. Conjecture.

What you can’t dispute is that Mayor Ford and Sandro Lisi spent a lot of time together, driving around, hanging out, talking on the telephone. There are pictures and surveillance data to prove it.

Belief, like beauty I guess, is now in the eye of the beholder.

Lying, reality denying politicians like the Fords have salted the earth around them, killing any possibility of a serious, honest debate about all aspects of governance in this city. burntbridgeThose pitching their tents on that ground, political allies and supporters alike, who remain defiant in the face of even the most incontrovertible truth from the most reliable of sources – their eyes and ears – are nothing less than disablers of democracy. This is now about right and wrong not you said, I said. Forget poor judgement or bad decisions, we’re talking a complete lack of ethics and morals.

To refuse to accept or see that makes you not only someone of questionable character but a bad citizen with a destructive bent to inflict irreparable damage on the city you call home.

sick and tiredly submitted by Cityslikr

The Fishin’ Politician? Seriously?!

February 8, 2013

Look. I don’t begrudge Mayor Ford the perks of the job. Despite my demand for perfection from those holding the office, it is, ultimately, a thankless position. You can never make everybody happy. uneasyliestheheadThere is unceasing scrutiny and criticism from assholes like me. (I’m thinking that should be an ‘I’. Assholes like I am?) The pay level is far below what someone with this kind responsibility and oversight would get in the much vaunted private sector. Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown, and all that.

Nor do I take exception to journalists covering the local political scene the fun outing that occasionally crops up in their line of duty. Have at it, folks. Embrace the breaks from the usual grind of the job.

But along with the fringe benefits come the odd bouts of doing the more mundane aspects of the job. Like, I don’t know, forging a consensus across political lines. Leading the discussion on the city’s more pressing problems like transit. Attending events you don’t necessarily share an affinity with.

Because our mayor seems to have an allergy to that particular aspect of his job description, I then resent the times he enthusiastically goes about doing the things he so clearly enjoys. And the journalists and their news outlets who so willingly play along and give Mayor Ford an unfettered platform to deliver the Everyman schtick he loves to play. Hey, everybody! ribboncuttingIt is all fun and games.

I watched Jamie Strashin’s coverage of the mayor’s Sportsmen’s Show outing yesterday with dumb amazement. Lookit. Mayor Ford fishes! Mayor Ford’s apprehensive around skunks! Owls love Mayor Ford! Mayor Ford shoots a target with an air rifle! Mayor Ford loves the Sportsmen’s Show. It’s Mayor Ford’s favourite show after the Super Bowl halftime show!

Again, I get that part of the mayor’s role is as an ambassador for the city, a promoter of all things Toronto. I’m sure in that capacity David Miller did likewise. Touting Toronto FC. Hanging out at the Wine and Cheese Show. Proclaiming a David Suzuki Day.

But why does the normally prickly with the press Mayor Ford get a free pass when he finally deigns to make a public relations appearance? Oh come on. Leave the guy alone. He’s having a little fun. Hey, Mayor Ford? What do you think of the city worker caught surfing porn while on the job? Keep it in your pants, boys, until you get home.

“And with that, the mayor was gone. Out of the wilderness and back to City Hall.”

Am I being a killjoy here? Clearly I don’t understand the relationship etiquette between the mayor and the media. Coverage on the mayor’s terms. He’s available when he’s available, take it or leave it. And if you don’t mind lobbing up a couple softball questions for him, it’d be much appreciated.

I probably could’ve let it all pass unremarked on had I not read fedora sporting Joe Warmington’s Sun scribblings. Why did I do such a thing on this beautiful wintery day? I cannot tell you. Maybe I was up too early this morning. Hadn’t had my cuppa before turning on the interwebs. My bad. Serves me right.


Talk about taking direct aim at a political foe.

Even it was just an air-powered pellet gun, it was a very clear message sent:

Hunters and sportsmen and women are very welcome in the city of Toronto.

And take that, former mayor David Miller. Councillor Adam Vaughan, too.

What a contrast from three years ago when the legal gun owners and law-abiding hunters were discriminated against.

So yesterday’s outing wasn’t simply an exercise in mayoral city building and promotion. chucknorrisIt served as a dog whistle to his supporters that he was out erasing all traces of the previous administration while sticking it to his political rival, Councillor Adam Vaughan. Bet Vaughanie’s never petted a possum.

It seems rather than combat ‘murderous gangster gun crime’ in the city like Mayor Ford was by shooting an air rifle at targets, the Millerites banned the gun loving Sportmen’s Show from city property at the CNE. They exiled it all the way north of the lake and a few blocks east to the Convention Centre. Fucking downtown elite despots. Enough was enough.

“I told [Sportsmen Show chair] Walter Oster if I am mayor it will be back here,” said Ford with a Cheshire Cat grin. “I am a man of my word and it’s back here at the CNE where it never should have left in the first place.”

“Bang, bang.”

Yep. Political correctness by damned. Sportsmen shouldn’t have to be subject to no stinkin’ trip to a convention centre when they want to battle a fish on a television set. courtierThey should be allowed to roam free in the cavernous halls of the Direct Energy Centre. As God intended.

If the mayor’s going to load even the most innocuous of outings with politics, the press can’t just stand idly by, playing along and dutifully noting his exploits. That’s what I would call, if you’ll excuse my Joe Warmington attempts at punning, court reporting. (Think about it for a sec.) Just because Mayor Ford refuses to buckle down and do his job, doesn’t mean the media should too.

poor sportingly submitted by Cityslikr

Days Of Sue-Ann Supreme

November 23, 2012

In future days, will this be the face of the Toronto Sun?


One might argue it already is but I’m referring specifically to the paper’s former editorial page editor, Rob Granatstein’s thoughts on the most recent cuts to Sun Media’s newspaper chain.

The cuts have crushed the local newsrooms. When the latest victims of downsizing are gone, Toronto will be down to three general assignment news reporters, according to people in that newsroom, unless staff is reassigned. That’s flat out ridiculous. The Sun will rely even more on its columnists to generate the news going forward. [Bolding ours.]

The Sun. Columnists. Generating news.

Information flowing forth, free of context, full of personal opinion. News from top down not bottom up.

This isn’t just about it being the Toronto Sun. Any newspaper working with a skeleton crew of reporters and teetering precariously with op-ed writers isn’t a newspaper. It’s, well, an organ of opinion, both informed and otherwise.

It would be just like… All Fired Up in the Big Smoke. Only with inkier fingers.

Frankly, I wouldn’t be able to do whatever it is I do without piggy backing on the work of Daniel Dale, David Rider, Robyn Doolittle, Kelly Grant, Elizabeth Church, Don Peat and a handful of other reporters who tirelessly dig up the dirt and parse information on Toronto politics on a seeming 24 hour, 7 day schedule. I’d hazard a guess neither could the bigger names a couple paragraphs up. The less reporting that gets done, the more, what would you call it?, PRing happens?

Picture Toronto, with the discourse only consisting of the views from the likes of Sue-Ann Levy, Joe Warmington, Royson James, Christopher Hume, Rosie DiManno, Chris Selley, Matt Gurney, Christie Blatchford, Marcus Gee, Margaret Wente?

“Columnists have found themselves out of jobs because they were too agreeable to those in power,” says Granatstein in this week’s Grid profile of Ms. Levy, “and it makes for weak reading. Wearing the Ford colours has hurt Sue-Ann…That means she struggles to get the other side of the story sometimes. People don’t feel she gives them a fair shake.”

While at the moment this may be a bigger bind for Sue-Ann because she’s in so deep with Team Ford, this can be a ditch all opinion writers must fight not to steer into. I’m sure the Star’s Christopher Hume has problems gaining access to the mayor and his staff. His colleague, Royson James, could hardly be considered an honest broker back in the day with the Miller administration. Remember his one-man, moralistic crusade to de-rail Adam Giambrone’s mayoral bid?

But that’s not really why we read columnists, is it? For impartiality or objectivity? We’re looking for opinions. Hopefully ones based on at least a semblance of reason and reality but we certainly don’t view their words as gospel or final on any given topic. Their purpose really is to either make our blood boil or confirm our biases.

Newspapers stressing op-eds over real reporting are nothing more than modern versions of olde thyme pamphleteering. And, if I do say so myself, that’s kind of our bailiwick, over here on the interwebs. We need newspapers to remain newspapers. Otherwise, we’ll all just be making shit up to push forward our agendas, unchecked and unsupported.

opinionatedly submitted by Cityslikr

A Section 37 Set-To

October 12, 2012

I hesitatingly wade into the cold and murky waters of Section 37 fees, knowing that almost immediately I will be out of my depth.

But hey! If the Toronto Sun can do it, why not me?

Much has been made recently in the pages of our little tabloid that could about… how did they put it?… ‘the wild west’, ‘shakedowns’, ‘legalized extortion’, ‘bribery’ and ‘… getting away with murder forever’!

Holy cow. It sounds like Tammany fucking Hall down there. Dirty politicians with their greasy, grafty hands, reaching into developers’ pockets to pay for their personal yachts and country estates. Corrupt Ward Bosses.

Or, as many devoted Sunshiners would say: Councillor Adam Vaughan.

Make no mistake, the Toronto Sun’s new found civic activism has less to do with improving the quality of life in this city than it does on zeroing its sights on a potential 2014 rival for their beloved and beleaguered mayor. Councillor Vaughan is knee deep in section 37 funds, his ward 20 in the midst of a development and intensification boom. And of course, Mayor Ford stands vigorously opposed to Section 37 money. “I’ve never liked Section 37 (funds),” the mayor said yesterday. Except when he does. Back in 2010 as a councillor, Ford used $75,000 in Section 37 money to build change rooms at – you pretty much guessed it already – Don Bosco High School.

But look, I’m not here to exchange tits-for-tats or defend Councillor Vaughan. As written, the guidelines on the protocol of Section 37 funds – intended to mitigate the downsides of permitting taller development with higher density than bylaws allow — are both much more thorough than the Sun and critics would have you believe and more open to interpretation than some defenders might care to admit. Although, evidence of nefariousness in the use of the funds or the building of political pet projects is in scant supply in the accusations hurled at Section 37 practitioners.

Still, should the system be examined and other options explored? Sure. “It’s fair to say the process needs to become more clear and it ought to be administered by city staff,” said Toronto’s Chief Planner, Jennifer Keesmaat. “In part, because city staff are not in a conflict of interest when administering it.” (Again, I’d like to see more concrete examples of conflict of interest than simply theoretical possibilities.) Ms. Keesmaat also believes that Section 37 funds could go to city wide infrastructure needs. Not long ago, I was talking to a councillor staffer from a left-leaning, heavy development ward who suggested spreading Section 37 funds more equitably city wide might help in easing downtown-suburban tensions.

Fair enough, I say.

Let’s talk about all that.

While we’re at it, however, I’d like to ask suburbanites and those representing them at City Hall what they’re prepared to give up in return. It seems to me to be all a little one-sided at the moment. Bulk up all you want, downtown wards, Willowdale, Scarborough Centre, Mimico. But share the proceeds with us. A casino would be a great source of jobs and revenue. Put it downtown where we don’t have to deal with any of the negative aspects of it.

It’s almost like, parts of Toronto adapt to being a big 21st-century city, divy up the benefits of doing so with the other parts that just want to remain as is. Give us money from your densification. Accommodate our single rider car travel. Give us subways. Don’t you dare try to impose on our single family, detached homes and cul de sac communities.

“It’s about equity and fairness,” Councillor Mike Del Grande said. (And I’m trying to stifle a derisive snort here.) “This money should improve all of Toronto.”

Absolutely, councillor. But as you might say yourself, shouldn’t improvement start at home? This tilt he’s undertaken smacks a little of the ‘widow and orphan’ syndrome he brushed aside during previous budget cycles. Demanding something for nothing.

I’m all for spreading the wealth. For this city to prosper, it has to prosper for everyone. That can only happen, however, when every part of the city contributes to its evolution from 6 bickering municipalities to a unified whole at the centre of a global metropolitan region. It’s a willingness that has been in short supply from some quarters, who seem more intent on exploiting the inequities for political reasons rather than addressing them for the greater good.

brokeringly submitted by Cityslikr

On Casinos And Safe Injection Sites

April 13, 2012

Everyone say it along with me:

Casinos good. Safe injection sites bad. Casinos good. They help pay for our kids’ education and to tend to our sick. Safe injection sites bad. They’re full of sick people. Sick, sick people who have no sense of self-control and just want to get high all day long on the taxpayers’ dime. Safe injections sites bad. Casinos good.

The glaring hypocrisy of this is stunning.

Hey! Hey! Just hold on a second there, you left wing pinko nut. Gambling is legal. Illicit drugs like heroin aren’t. Therefore, casinos are perfectly legitimate, helping people take illegal drugs isn’t. So, up yours, screaming about hypocrisy.

A quick history lesson. Until about the late 1960s, gambling was viewed as a vice, punishable by law just like the taking of non-prescription drugs. Over the course of the last 40+ years, there’s been a gradual if grudging acceptance of the activity. A kind of, if you can’t beat it, join it, control it, profit from it change of attitude.

Safe injection sites are a step in that direction, tiny, tiny, tiny steps, mind you. Despite what you hear from Sun media appointed experts in the field like, say, Toronto’s Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, safe injection sites don’t throw open the doors to rampant drug use, extending an invitation to all those people who have thought they might like to dabble in intravenous drugs but needed an official sanction to proceed.

“[Deputy Mayor] Holyday warns like in Field of Dreams, if you build this crazy party centre, you just know they will come.

“And from everywhere,” he said. “We give them free food, shelter and now free drugs? It may be a lifestyle people across the country would take to take us up on.”

Welcome to the Big Syringe!  A ‘crazy party centre’?! Free drugs?? If you write and say things like that about safe injection sites, it’s just a frank admission that you know absolutely nothing about drug use and addiction, and you should just shut up, sit back and listen to what people who’ve studied the matter have to say. You know, the actual experts.

“We are always prepared to listen to good advice, and we make our decisions based on evidence,” Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews said. “[But] experts continue to be divided on the value of the sites.”

Wait, what? No. No they aren’t, Minister. Actual experts in the field aren’t divided on the issue. That’s just you not wanting to take a bold step, make a positive move, and summoning the groundless argument that not everyone agrees and more studies are needed. The very same argument climate change sceptics make. This province’s Minister of Health is a safe injection site sceptic.

Compare her response to that of Ontario’s Finance Minister when it comes to pimping extolling the virtues of building a casino in Toronto. “It [Toronto casino] will likely be unparalleled in the country,” Dwight Duncan said. “These places have some of the finest shopping, restaurants, convention facilities, park spaces, open spaces — imagine an anchor that could create a golden mile on Toronto’s waterfront and that’s quite possible.” You know, like all those other casinos in Ontario that have magically transformed their surroundings into veritable Disneylands of wonder and awe, enchanting destinations that draw in thrill seeking pilgrims the world over.

Evidence based decision making, indeed.

I get the ‘politics’ of it. In these days of austerity where governments are scrambling to find every penny, casinos are an easy sell. Cash pretty much straight into the coffers. Set up a video terminal somewhere. Print off a stack of scratch and sniff ticket. Ka-ching! You’re off to the (horse) races.

All the costs, and there are costs to widespread and easily accessible gambling, are mostly back end, hidden. A bankruptcy here, a nervous breakdown there. A child going to school hungry because dad’s blown a paycheque on the slots. Those numbers can be buried, swept under the rug, left for someone else to clean up.

It’s the exact opposite with safe injection sites. The money’s upfront, establishing a clinic, staffing it. Savings come later with cleaner needles, safer drug use, people weaned from their addiction and, fingers crossed, becoming more productive citizens. Indirect savings that are long term which, these days, is anathema to our politicians.

Besides, there’s the morality of it. We don’t approve of drug use. Safe injection sites condone that kind of behaviour. As if there’s any morality in leaving people to get sick or die of their own devices, to deny prevention of an accidental overdose or transmission of a communicable disease because it offends our sensibilities.

‘We’re not in the business of being drug pushers,’ Dewayne L. from Casinoville, ON writes to his local MPP.

Yeah, we’d love to help here, do the right thing but it won’t go over well with our rural and small town voters. The government shouldn’t be in the business of pushing drugs. A gambling addiction? We’re just fine with that.

To govern is to lead, to make the best decisions possible using the best evidence available. Otherwise, you’re just pandering; playing to inherent and ill-informed preconceptions and illogical bias. That’s the exact opposite of good and responsible governance.

In a perfect world full of imperfect human behaviour, responsible governments would be wary of involvement with the gambling business. There’s no slam dunk evidence showing the pros of it outweigh the cons. Not so, safe injection sites. That one’s a no-brainer.

Unfortunately, our governments seem more concerned with making risk free decisions rather than the right ones.

indignantly submitted by Cityslikr