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 Fault, Dear Brutus

June 8, 2012

Let’s get this straight right off the bat.

Toronto’s city council is not out of control. It has merely stepped into the leadership vacuum created by Mayor Rob Ford’s misguided, hell bent pursuit of his self-proclaimed ‘mandate’. A mandate now in tatters due to ill-advised blunders like the Port Lands land grab, declaring Transit City dead with no viable plan to replace it and an overarching war on revenue that has put an unnecessary strain on already stressed city coffers.

While the mayor loves to play victim in this, beset on all sides by deranged left wingers (new members of the club now include councillors Michelle Berardinetti and David Shiner… Michelle Berardinetti and David Shiner, people), his monochromatic, black-and-white, us-versus-them worldview has been the actual impetus for his startling loss of control at council. There is no obvious official mechanism in place to strip power from a mayor. A mayor squanders the office’s powers purely through a failure of leadership.

“With limited executive authority,” the Globe and Mail editorialized yesterday, “a Toronto mayor’s power is mostly derived from his or her ability to unite councillors in common cause, or at least broker compromise.” The paper goes on to suggest that, “Rather than embracing his current role as an opposition politician, Mr. Ford needs to find a way to lead again.”

The problem is, the mayor has never led in the sense the Globe would like to see. Uniting or brokering compromise is not exactly his strong suit. What Mayor Ford is truly skilled at is dovetailing his angry sense of privileged entitlement with the anger of those who have truly been left on the outside. Tea Party like demagoguery exploiting grassroots populism in order to divide and conquer.

So every significant loss at council such as the most recent surreal tale of Toronto’s move to ban the use of plastic bags isn’t seen for what it most certainly is. The unintended consequence that results from not having any plan in place past point A. No. Instead it’s portrayed as a petulant fuck you to Mayor Ford by those who remain vigilantly bitter about his successful 2010 campaign. And dissing the mayor is dissing all of Ford Nation.

Was city council’s vote to ban plastic bags unexpected and impetuous? Yes. But it followed its own logic. Everyone agreed that the 5¢ cent fee council imposed – more like, suggested, since it was a bylaw never enforced – had done what it was intended to do. Reduce the use of plastic bags and their presence in our landfills. If that was the goal, why not pursue it to the obvious conclusion? So first Councillor Anthony Perruzza and then Councillor David Shiner pushed for an outright ban.

Toronto will hardly be on the vanguard on this issue if it is in fact enacted in the new year. There has been an international move in this direction for some time now. Countries in Europe have banned them. Peruse this list to see the extent of it in the United States. Hell, deep in the heart of Alberta oil country, the city of Fort McMurray has had a plastic bag ban since 2010.

(Daniel Dale of the Toronto Star gives a thorough breakdown of the implications of the city’s proposed ban here.)

City council merely stepped into the void created by Mayor Ford whose agenda now consists of nothing more than building a re-election platform for a campaign that doesn’t begin for another 18 months or so. The only chaos or anarchy currently swirling around at City Hall is in the mayor’s office. Mayor Ford has left the actual role of governing up to his 44 councillor colleagues. They should be commended not condemned for accepting that responsibility.

seriously submitted by Cityslikr


Joe Stalin Indeed

January 25, 2012

“These people are all two steps left of Joe Stalin”.

Seriously? That’s how the mayor of a major metropolitan city referred to councillors who didn’t vote for him? He said it out loud, on the radio?

Now, I get that Mayor Ford was simply blowing a dog whistle to his supporters who may’ve been hearing stories that their dear leader was losing his ironclad grip on city council. Bully boy politicians can never appear weak and be diminished in the eyes of their baying, rabid following. Whenever the mayor is in need of bolstering his image among the faithful, he inevitably turns to John Oakley and talk radio for a good fluffing.

But consider the circumstances that led to yesterday’s interview.

Yes, the mayor lost some key votes last week that mayors just shouldn’t be losing on such a crucial matter as the budget. A handful of councillors that usually could be counted on to back Mayor Ford when the chips were down didn’t. The optics looked bad. Perhaps for the first time in his tenure as mayor, Ford lost control of the agenda by losing control of the narrative.

A blow certainly but hardly a fatal one. The budget that passed was a Mayor Rob Ford budget through and through, chock full of cuts, reductions and spending decreases. He got what was ultimately the talking point he wanted. For the first time in the history of mankind, the city of Toronto is spending less this year than it did the previous year.

To use a football analogy, because the mayor loves his football, I was going to say that Team Ford had to settle for a field goal but in reality, they scored a touchdown and missed the extra point. Not because of a blocked or flubbed kick but because they decided to run it in for two points and were stopped at the goal line.

Now, a reasonable and responsible politician would’ve looked at that, polished it up a bit and began trumpeting it as a triumph. Hey, folks. We got most of what we wanted. We’re changing the culture down at City Hall. That’s how democracy works.

Instead, Mayor Ford went back on the offensive, trying to vilify all those who dared defy him. No consensus builder, he. You’re either with the mayor or you’re against him. My way or the highway.

In fact, his blather leading up to the Stalin reference was even more revealing. “You either vote one way or the other down there [City Hall]. You’re either on the right side with Conservatives and Liberals or on the left side with the NDP”.

Such a stark, black and white worldview is the mark of the far right wing. There is no middle ground with them. Dissent, disagreement is treachery. Compromise means defeat.

Mayor Ford is incapable of being gracious even in victory. Imagine the monstrous nastiness awaiting us once he’s really and truly defeated and sidelined. A politician that cannot accept the occasional setback and learn from it is not a politician comfortable with democracy. Total victory is not possible, nor desirable, in politics.

At least it isn’t in non-totalitarian political systems.

Joe Stalin, Mayor Ford?

Pot? Let me introduce you to kettle.

Back in the USSRly submitted by Cityslikr


Moving On

November 12, 2010

In the lacuna between election day and official start of the new council, I wallow. Fluctuating wildly between boredom (Come on, come on, come on! Let’s get this party started!!) and still lingering disbelief and outrage at what transpired on October 25th, I’m in creative irons. I lash out. I curl up in a fetal position, sucking my thumb. Making no headway.

The funk has not gone unnoticed among my dwindling readership. Normally chastised by one ‘Jerry’ (if that indeed is his real name) for using curse words, we were taken to task a couple days ago for replacing brains with bile and, essentially, crying over spilt milk. “The dirtys [sic] been done [sic] help us clean it up so maybe next time the right decision can/will be made,” ‘Jerry’ opines.

‘Jerry’’s right, of course. What’s been done has been done. Screw it. Deal with it. Move on. The die has been cast. We have to play the hand that’s been dealt us, if you’ll excuse the mixed game metaphor.

How exactly do we proceed with an incoming mayor representing only half of a sharply divided city? Council is very much an unknown with almost a third of it made up of new faces which is a rare high turnover at the municipal level.  In many ways, this should be a very exciting time for Toronto. Old challenges met by new faces.

And yet, and yet… where we are and how we got here doesn’t really bode well for where we are going. As told by Edward Keenan in his piece for Eye magazine 10 days ago, the deep chasm that fully revealed itself on election day goes beyond income disparity or geography. Much of it seems to be based on the perception of reality itself. Those in ‘Ford Country’, mostly the pre-amalgamated non-Toronto cities making up what’s now been called the inner suburbs, think City Hall under the David Miller administration was severely out of touch, spending all its time and money on their precious downtown core while neglecting everyone else and using inner suburb money to do so, further adding to their alienation and disenfranchisement.

That this sentiment is factually incorrect on almost all counts is beyond question. Keenan points out that early on in his tenure Miller embraced the United Ways’ 2004 report, Poverty By Postal Code and set out to deal with the problems it highlighted. “Miller and his allies on council took that report to heart, and many of the city’s centrepiece policies are aimed at addressing the problems it outlines,” Keenan writes. Thus was born Transit City, the Tower Renewal Program and the designation of 13 ‘high priority’ neighbourhoods, almost all of which were located outside of the downtown core of the old city of Toronto.

Despite this, Keenan suggests that many of those who would benefit from these programs were unaware of them. While filled with righteous indignation about plant watering, retirement parties and the proverbial Gravy Train, they somehow missed the memo about all the activity down at City Hall going on to help bring them and their communities into the fold. How did that happen?

Well, here’s where Keenan’s insightful and exhaustive article falls flat on its face frankly. Apparently, all those who voted for Rob Ford were simply “…not part of the conversation about urban policy. They’re working to pay the bills, take care of their families, get ahead and enjoy their lives…” As if everyone who didn’t cast their ballot for Ford (the downtown elite, let’s call us) were doing nothing more than hanging out between attending council meetings, eating bonbons and sipping lattes, hiding the information from outsider prying eyes. One of the most shocking omissions in Keenan’s piece was any talk about the role of the mainstream media in the dissemination of misinformation. Voters could reel off the litany of Rob Ford bumper sticker chants but remained in the dark about what was really going on at City Hall? That’s somehow “our” fault rather than the likes of Sue-Ann Levy or John Oakley?

But, I put my elitist heart on my sleeve.

In case you’re thinking, oh no, there he goes, railing about past events, what’s over and done with, I think it’s very pertinent to how we go forward from here. If the new mayor and some of the council have been elected on faulty premises or outright distortion of facts, where does that leave us in opposing them and trying to defeat their worst intentions? Do we surrender to their unreality? Since we were viewed as snobs and out-of-touch downtowners during their campaign whenever we expressed contemptuous doubt for their candidates’ misguided and ill-informed ideas, how will that change now that he’s in charge?

“Maybe if a few more downtown elitists spent some time in Ford Country,” Keenan figures (but not the other way around with Ford Country residents shedding their ignorance about us elites), “we could start a conversation about bringing about the ‘united Toronto’ Ford proposed the night he was elected.” OK, Mr. Keenan. We get to know our Ford neighbours, hang out at their place for a backyard bbq. Start up a conversation over our ribs and Coors Lite.  So… we’re going to finally stop that Gravy Train, eh?

Where does the conversation go from there? I don’t ask rhetorically because I really want to know. The answer will determine how the next four years plays out.

exhortingly submitted by Cityslikr