Tactics Trump Strategy

Based on a very unscientific poll, that is, a guesstimate on my part, 2/3s of voters in Toronto’s municipal election last year cast their ballot largely out of anger toward how their city was being run. Why wouldn’t they? It was in the air. The eventual victorious mayoral candidate was not alone in bellowing out at every whistle stop and campaign debate that City Hall was awash in out-of-control spending with no respect for the taxpayers and he would Stop The Gravy Train if elected. He simply said it more relentlessly and convincingly than most of his opponents and it made for great copy in the newspapers and AM radio.

Consisting of anecdotal evidence exemplifying council extravagance and out of context big numbers (billions of dollars, ladies and gentlemen, billions of dollars!), it coalesced into a wave of discontent that mirrored the anti-government worldview of then councillor and now mayor, Rob Ford. Enough was enough, voters of Toronto told their elected representatives. The city needed to get its fiscal house in order. Finally.

Problem was, it’s a (per)version of reality that’s largely untrue. Yes, there are money clouds on the horizon that could be problematic. But we’re still emerging, snail-like, from economic turmoil we’d not experienced in 80 years. All levels of government had been forced to take on extra debt. Spending also ballooned as the city undertook long overdue transit expansion and infrastructure projects. Projects that had not only been ignored by the megacity but by the pre-amalgamated, lower tax municipalities before they’d found themselves strapped to the yoke of downtown, spendthrifty pinko elites.

So profligate was the outgoing administration that it left behind a massive surplus in its wake. Hundreds and millions of dollars that would force the city to make huge sacrifi—I’m sorry, wait. Would you mind repeating that? A surplus, you say? A surplus?! Doesn’t that mean more money was brought in than went out? How exactly does that jibe with out-of-control spending?

No matter. The new mayor and his team would see to it that such a thing could never, ever happen again. They quickly set out to shut down revenue generating tools (i.e. taxes) and burn through their inheritance to create a one-time rosy fiscal picture. But next year… next year. Well, that was going to be a different story altogether. The dire economic outlook they had said was coming, it would be here in no small part owing to the decisions they just made. Everything would be on the table. Surpluses were something tax-and-spenders not prudent fiscal managers inflicted on the city.

In other words, ignore the man behind the curtain. Toronto’s financial situation had never been nearly as dire as David Miller’s critics made it out to be. Even a passing, non-prejudicial glance would’ve revealed that our property tax rates, both residential and business, were not at all out of line with the surrounding jurisdictions. Our debt level is far from problematic and the numbers to service it are subject to hysterical hyperbole by those wanting to manufacture a crisis. Disagree? Then explain why our credit rating remains solid. Such relative stability, in fact, is allowing the Ford administration to begin its neo-conservative experiment on the city.

The irony of the situation is certainly not lost on the mayor and his team. So much so that they have gone to great lengths to discredit their predecessor’s surplus. Governments shouldn’t run surpluses, they told us. If they do, it should go straight to paying down the debt. Yes, and there’s an official process in place to do such a thing and one the Ford administration was rather cavalier with, opting instead to freeze property taxes. Surpluses are proof that we’re paying too much in taxes. OK. So does the corollary to that suggest deficits are an indication that we’re not paying enough taxes?

But nowhere is the twisted spin logic more in evidence than in the talking points memo Team Ford sent out to all like-minded councillors during last week’s budget debate and that Jonathan Goldsbie wrote about at Open File Toronto. The entire document is worth a read to get a glimpse at just how orchestrated the mayor and his allies are. It also reveals what Councillor Adam Vaughan suggested during the debate that the 2011 budget is much more a series of tactics than it is an economic strategy.

However, the spin takes on true Lewis Carroll-George Orwellian proportions when it deals with the handling of the surplus angle. By applying all accumulated surpluses to the 2011 budget, we unmasked the true financial condition for all to see. The 2012 budget forecast reflects the true gap between the city’s revenues and spending habits. Take a moment. Reread those words. I couldn’t possibly sum it up better than Mr. Goldsbie did in his article. “In other words, by ploughing through our savings, we can see how poor we really are.”

It’s nothing short of fucking incredible. If Team Ford spent even a fraction of the time coming up with a feasible transit plan that they do in concocting steaming piles of bullshit to cover their destructive ulterior political motives, we might have something tangible to talk about. Instead they prevaricate, dissemble and churn out talking points in communication packages to throw people off their scent and offer cover to councillors who may not yet know how to fully talk the talk and walk the walk.

To follow and adhere to the mayor’s so-called line of reasoning, to spew out his pre-packaged babble as if it’s anything other than ideological cant is to fully admit that you’ve given up on critical thinking. Rational discourse is no longer part of your vernacular. You’ve become a pod person. An unthinking, brain dead virus, feasting upon the flesh of our body politic, offering up no solutions or substance. In your cold, cadaverous hands, truth is now fully expendable, to be used only when convenient and beneficial to your cause, if at all. You’ve stop talking sense. So it would be better for us all if you stopped talking altogether.

zombie killingly submitted by Cityslikr

Terror Babies, Council Corruption And The Long Form Census

The crazy train is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon, is it.

For anyone who caught a glimpse of this last week, you know what I’m talking about. Pure, unhinged, paranoid in-fucking-sanity. Yes, that is a double dare to all those not yet in the loop. Check it out, starting at the 1’12” mark although the warm up act is worth sitting through too.

In the days before our all pervasive high-speed internet and proliferation of cable channels, the kind of crazy on display from Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert was largely restricted to religious revival meetings, street corners and family BBQs where we all had some slightly touched Uncle Louie who, after a few rye and gingers and a pile of potato salad, started spewing forth about the coloureds, UFOs and braless women wearing short shorts. (Deny it as you might.) I remember back in the mid-80s when Morton Downey Jr.’s vitriolic rantings began wafting across Lake Ontario from some Buffalo affiliate station. It was nothing short of shocking and unsettling. We’re really giving airtime now to our crazy Uncle Louies?

Twenty-five years later, Morton Downy Jr. seems tame in comparison, what with the mainstreaming of TV personalities like Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly and the radio behemoth, Rush Limbaugh. And we’re not just making media superstars of this crowd, we’re electing them to public office. Cranks and kooks from forlorn backwaters, striding to within almost a heartbeat of the self-proclaimed most powerful position in the free world.

After watching Gohmert’s video performance last week, I smugly tweeted something to the effect of wanting to travel down to the Texas district he represents to meet those folks who saw fit to elect him. Almost immediately, I rethought my arrogance. Who am I to cast aspersions on other voters when I live in a city that elected Mel Lastman as its mayor twice? Now, just seven years after that unmitigated disaster, the (possible) front runner for the job is perhaps even more unfit for the office and prone to similarly wacky, outlandish outbursts and behaviour.

Take away Gohmert’s dullard suggesting Texas twang and it could be Rob Ford talking. His entirely unsubstantiated council corruption smears last week were no less devoid of rationality and truth than Gohmert’s screeches about terror babies. No iota of evidence was needed. In its place, pure gossipy innuendo.

While the biggest culprit so far in campaigning purely on style and forgoing even so much as a scintilla of substance in order to plug into the resentment vein of the electorate, Ford is hardly alone. Both George Smitherman and Rocco Rossi are running on platforms built on ideologically unstable ether. Cut taxes. Cut wages. Maintain services. Build subways with money from… well, we’ll get back to you on that. Somehow in a way that no one’s ever thought of before, the private sector will swoop in and sort it all out. Just remember, voters, you’re angry at the direction the city’s heading!

Such illogical, visceral appeals to our dark side are all neo-conservative/liberal proponents have anymore since their cause had its brains bashed out on the sidewalk of reality. Reasoned argument is no longer part of the equation because they’ve been pedaling pure bullshit for decades now. All that remains in their arsenal is divisiveness and emotional sorcery.

Which brings us to the federal government’s War on the Long Form Census. When fact and reliable data become your enemies, undercutting your assertions at every turn, there is only one course left to you. Stop trying to ascertain facts and disable the apparatus for collecting reliable data. If you can’t win an argument through reasoned thoughts and rational discourse, why allow anyone else to? Freeing all of us from having to test and prove our beliefs means we’re all on equal footing. All points of view are valid and it’s only a matter of making a smooth, easy-to-understand case.

So who are you, Anderson Cooper, to demand proof of Louie Gohmert about terror babies? And if Rob Ford says that the council he’s been part of for a decade is corrupt to the bone, then anyone arguing to the contrary is obviously a shady dealer. Don’t tell us that building billions of dollars of prisons in this country and doubling up prisoners in cells flies in the face of a declining crime rate. How can you be sure the data’s reliable?

It’s the age of Orwell’s 1984 with a sadly unfunny touch of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass. We’re right if we say we’re right. You can’t prove otherwise even if, well, you can prove otherwise.

sure-footedly submitted by Cityslikr