Fight! Fight! Fight!

January 4, 2011

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke would like to begin 2010 2001 2011 by issuing an apology.

To all those sounding the alarm loudest and earliest about the prospect of a Mayor Rob Ford administration during last year’s municipal election campaign, we are truly sorry. While in no way could we have been viewed as sanguine about the possibility of Ford ascending to the office, we ultimately concluded that he would do less damage to the city than his right of centre rivals. Our thinking was based on the fact that as a councillor, Mr. Ford had developed no constituency on council and even less credibility. On the hustings, his constant braying about all the corrupt practices his colleagues engaged in behind closed doors couldn’t have made him any friends at 100 Queen Street West. Ford was a lone wolf, far more often than not on the losing end of votes. We reasoned that he’d have less ability to bring together a working majority to enact his radically right agenda than would, say, George Smitherman who’d be assuming the mayoralty with more or less a clean slate.

In short, we misunderestimated the power of the mayor’s office. Or, more precisely, we failed to realize just how flexible, let’s call it, a good chunk of council members would be in the face of the bluster and chest-beating that began emanating from Team Ford soon after their man was sworn in. The new mayor claimed he had a mandate which appears to be all a majority of councillors needed to hear and they handed it over to him, no questions asked. Would you like your shoes shined with that, Mr. Mayor?

We were wrong. We dropped the ball. Wish we could have a do-over. Nous nous excusons.

On the plus side, has there been a local politician who has drawn a line in the sand so deeply so quickly? Who’s so enthusiastically performed a cannonball into the deep end of the partisan pool and declared so explicitly that you’re either with him or ag’in him? Who has surrounded himself so thoroughly with people who think just like he does, who sees the world exactly as he does?

If the mayor is unprepared to offer any sort of olive branch of compromise to those not sharing his stunted view of the role of government, why should the onus be on his opponents to do so? Yes, the mayor holds a mitt full of high cards in his hand. He sets the agenda and his wish list takes priority. But the power of the office ends there. There is no special fiat declaring mechanism that is the sole privilege of the mayor. Despite what you may read in our newspapers, Mayor Ford cannot simply make a regal pronouncement, clap his hands and proclaim, “Make It So!”

We on the left side of the political spectrum have a terrible habit of trembling and bowing down before the bellowing triumphalism that inevitably follows a right winger’s win at the polls, no matter how close a race or dubious a victory. I’m thinking George W. in 2000 and again in 2004. Stephen Harper and his 2 straight minority governments, bestriding the narrow world like a Colossus. And we petty men walk under his huge legs and peep about to find ourselves dishonourable graves (h/t W.S.) So far, too many of our city councillors have willingly rolled over onto their backs, ever hopeful for an affection rub of their tummies from the mayor. It’s a prone, vulnerable position that is usually taken as a sign of weakness and dealt with accordingly.

Granted, as Eye Weekly’s Edward Keenan noted a couple weeks back, the mayor’s had his way with the council on no-brainer issues (rightly or wrongly) like office expenses, the VRT and making the TTC an essential service (a decision that ultimately is up to Queen’s Park to make). “… low-hanging fruit,” Mr. Keenan wrote, “the bread and butter of Ford’s election campaign and, to any honest observer, the extent of his mandate.” But it’s given the mayor an air of indomitably and allowed him to dig in at the plate and sit on the next fat pitch he can try and go yard with.

So already this early in the game, it’s time to brush the mayor back a little. Throw some high, stinky cheese under his chin. Maybe even fire one behind him, get under his skin and rattle him. If he isn’t prepared to play ball, why should his opposition? He’s clearly chosen the path of divisiveness and conflict with no eye for compromise and accommodation. It’s a winner-take-all mentality, and the quicker Mayor Ford’s disabused of the notion that he’s always going to come out on top in that struggle, the sooner we can get on with the proper give and take of municipal governance.

— new yearly submitted by Cityslikr


I’m Not Rob Ford

September 30, 2010

“I think Smitherman’s run a brilliant campaign.”

Coming from our office’s regular drug taker, I’dve normally let the statement pass without comment. Something that just pops up and out with no prodding from anyone or anything in particular save the chemical reactions bubbling and brewing inside his own head. But it struck me that the heated conversation it precipitated offered up a window into what passes as discourse around here. So consider what follows not a verbatim recreation of an All Fired Up in the Big Smoke editorial meeting so much as a spirit of the thing recounting.

“You says what now?” asks Cityslikr.

“What?”

“Did you just say that George Smitherman’s run a brilliant campaign?”

“…Yeah,” Acaphlegmic responds with no trace of defensiveness. It’s more thankful that someone in the room remembered what he’d just said.

“By what gauge do you use to measure brilliance, old timer?” Cityslikr asks in that slightly highfalutin way he has to make it seem he’s much more intelligent (and younger) than he actually is. Couldn’t he have just posed the question like, “Tell me how you think Smitherman’s campaign has been brilliant, Acaphlegmic”?

“Proof’s in the pudding, boy!” Acaphlegmic exclaims, thereby justifying the previous punctuation mark. “How else do you explain him still being in the thick of things?”

Before Cityslikr can even start to run down his list of possibilities like money, name recognition, media pimping and lack of serious competition, Acaphlegmic is off and running as often happens when he combines mild forms of hallucinogens and alcohol.

“Out of the gate, he’s the front runner, the candidate to beat. It’s his election to lose, right? Problem is, you got to maintain the pole position for an eternity. How do you do that?”

“A slow, steady roll out of innovative ideas and forward-thinking planks of your platform that galvanizes voters behind the concept of you being the best person to be our next mayor?”

There’s nothing funnier than watching one person who is high — really high — look at another person as if they are the ones who are high and talking nonsense. It happens a lot around here. Things kick back into gear after a brief pause.

“… Or… Or you could slowly not become the front runner. Make a big splashy entrance into the race and immediately start humming and hawing, and not saying much of anything until people start to wonder where the hell you are and what the hell you’re doing.”

“The Barbara Hall Strategy,” I chimed in. “From front runner to also-ran. Champ to chump.” Acaphlegmic smiled, sensing I’d plugged into his vibe. I hadn’t.

“But she lost!” Cityslikr yelled, finally. “That’s not a strategy. That’s gross incompetence.”

“Or is it?” Acaphlegmic asked cryptically. When the answer to a question is so glaringly obvious, it’s hard not to think of it as a trick, fully loaded. Just like the person who’d asked it.

“Shakespeare’s Henry the Fourth.” Acaphlegmic pronounces and bounds up onto the desk to tower over Cityslikr as he recites. “Prince Hal: Yet herein will I imitate the sun/Who doth permit the base contagious clouds/To smother up his beauty from the world/That, when he please again to be himself/Being wanted, he may be more wonder’d at/By breaking through the foul and ugly mists/Of vapours that did seem to strangle him.”

Honestly, the only thought going through my mind at that particular moment? What a shameless ham Acaphlegmic was. Cityslikr had already turned back to his computer, assuming the conversation had reached its illogical conclusion. But this was just the first act.

Acaphlegmic jumped down from the desk to the floor like a man half his age, muttering “Fucking illiterates” not very under his breath. He then turned back and let forth another burst of thought. “It’s the political equivalent of Ali’s rope-a-dope strategy. Think about it! Take a pounding. Look helpless, defenseless, out of your league. Give the impression that it’s only a matter of time before your opponent lands a knock out blow.”

“It’s easier than coming up with a substantive platform and credible candidacy,” I offer helpfully.

“Let someone else take the lead for awhile and get worn down, taking hits from all quarters. Flailing away, single-mindedly with one approach. Pound, pound, pound. Hammer, hammer, hammer. Slowly losing steam.”

“Rob Ford as Smitherman’s Falstaff!” I chime in enthusiastically. Stretching the Henry the Fourth analogy a bit thin but Acaphlegmic’s Ali-Foreman comparison was a little dubious as well. It was good enough to break down Cityslikr’s futile resistance.

“Yeah but, didn’t Hal have to eventually do something good to prove his worthiness? Like win a big battle?! St. Crispin’s Day! ‘Once more into the breach, dear friends’!”

“You’re getting ahead of yourself,” Acaphlegmic tells Cityslikr as he turns back toward the couch. “That was Henry the Fifth.” He then deftly pirouettes, performs an Elvis-like Las Vegas rock and roll kick before plopping back down on couch. His peace has been said.

Cityslikr watches him for a bit, not in the least bit convinced. I’m not ready to dismiss it just yet.

“Ford’s teetering now. He’s scorched the earth. His numbers don’t add up.”

“Neither do Smitherman’s!” Cityslikr yells, steadfastly refusing to submit.

“Yeah but, he’s number 2. No one’s focusing on him. Ford’s still the man to beat. All Smitherman has to say at this point is, ‘At Least I’m Not Rob Ford’.”

“I’m Not Rob Ford,” Acaphlegmic chants from the couch. “Nice cadence to it. I’m Not Rob Ford. Keep Hope Alive. Yes We Can. I’m Not Rob Ford. I’m Not Rob Ford.”

“He wins the election and becomes mayor, it still works for him. He cuts and hacks away, privatizes a little of this, outsources a little of that. Everyone gets pissed and all he has to say is, At Least I’m Not Rob Ford.”

“I’m Not Rob Ford. I’m Not Rob Ford. I’m Not Rob Ford,” Acaphlegmic continues.

Cityslikr shakes his head and will not join us in believing anyone, even the soulless George Smitherman, could be that calculating or would be capable of pulling off such a diabolical tactic.

“So crazy, it just might work,” I say to him as he starts typing away at the computer. He won’t respond which means that the discussion’s over but I’m free to do with it as I see fit. Here it is. You’re welcome. And the crazy old man on the couch continues to chant.

“I’m Not Rob Ford. I’m Not Rob Ford. I’m Not Rob Ford.”

insiderly submitted by Urban Sophisticat