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


When Governments Shrug

November 15, 2010

Last week’s Canadian Civil Liberties Association/National Union of Public and General Employees hearings into security force conduct at June’s G20 Summit in Toronto revealed few surprises except, perhaps, the degree to which lawlessness prevailed. We all know about the Black Block and the burning of a police car during the brief but damage filled riot that broke out on the Saturday of that weekend. How could we not? It was international news.

But equally, and far more sinister, was the conduct of the police force and the shocking assault not just upon peaceful protesters but the very foundation of our democracy before, during and after the summit. Peace, Order and Good Government? All tucked away nice and neatly. Noble sentiments in theory but, come on. This is the post-9/11 real world we’re talking about here, where the idea of “security” trumps all.

Even if the smallest fraction of what was said during the 2 days of hearings last week were true (and there’s absolutely no reason so far offered why I would assume there wasn’t far larger degree of truth being told), we should already be knee deep in some sort of public inquiry. Pre-summit arrests of various social activists. Police going badgeless (therefore nameless) while conducting highly questionable tactics with dubious claims of legality. Onerous bail conditions set on some detainees afterwards that suggest we’re dealing with the most nefarious of Al-Qaida suspects. Even in the pages of one of our more hawkish right wing dailies, there was a tentative call for a public inquiry.

And yet, to date all 3 levels of government have merely shrugged their shoulders. Whaddayagonnado? A few bad apples. Dock a day’s pay. Let’s move on. Nothing to see here.

In other words, people, go fuck yourself.

It’s almost as if we’re asking for a favour. A special dispensation handed down from on high. An indulgence granted by parliamentary privilege. Like we have no say whatsoever in how our governments and, by extension, those they oversee like police forces operate.

In his National Post piece above, writer Chris Selley asserts “Most people trust the police, and in general they should.” It’s his statement’s ‘in general’ qualifier that stands out. Shouldn’t we trust the police implicitly? Given the powers vested in them to, when deemed necessary, intrude into our private lives and personal freedoms, shouldn’t we demand full and open accountability at all times? Democracy and freedom are easy when neither’s being tested. The real measure happens when they come under duress. That’s exactly what happened at the G20 summit and by all accounts we failed them both miserably. It might be beneficial to try and figure out why.

Unless of course we don’t ultimately care. I mean, how often do we host G20 summits anyway? Police crackdowns are hardly ever necessary in the grand scheme of things.  It’s not like the security cameras remain up or lists are kept to monitor future activities. Right?

Yet for some reason, the ultimate villain in Mr. Selley’s article is Naomi Klein. Naomi Klein? Wait, how did she become—Oh right. Whenever criticizing the police, however mildly, don’t forget to raise the specter of a “radical” bogeyman, just so readers will remember what or whom the police are up against. In this case, outspoken lefty Naomi Klein who had the gall to praise student rioters in the UK for smashing up the 1st floor of Conservative Party headquarters to protest yet another hike in university tuition fees breaking a promise made when the coalition government was formed.

Naomi Klein is pro-riot. Naomi Klein is pro-G20 summit public inquiry. Therefore, G20 summit public inquiry = riot. Anarchy ensues if police aren’t allowed to trample our civil rights. Read between the lines, people.

Why are we more tentative in our criticisms of some displays of lawlessness than we are of others? In fact, shouldn’t we be much more vigilant in guarding against allegations of illegality conducted under the auspices of those entrusted to uphold the law? Doesn’t that present a much bigger threat to our civil society than the violent outbursts of citizens driven to such desperate acts because of oppression, neglect or ongoing and systemic disregard by those we elect to serve our interests?

No matter how sympathetic I may be to a cause that results in violent protest – and I think a democracy takes Tearing Up Some Shit off the table at its peril – I fully expect those who participate in such actions to be ultimately held responsible for their actions. Arrest and prosecution, all in proper legal fashion. Why is it so difficult to expect the exact same process for our police, its leadership and our own? It’s a dangerous double-standard and one we imperil our way of life with if we continue to hold it.

judiciously submitted by Cityslikr