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The Dark Clown: Spectacle, charade and the Dark Politics of Rob Ford November 21, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Toronto.
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Roger’s note: As a former member of the Toronto Council, I have been following the Ford fiasco with interest, but mostly disgust.  As the article below will demonstrate, it is not Ford’s drug and mafia connections or his vulgar behavior that is of primary concern; rather his mean-spirited regime, his intimate connection to the ultra right Harper federal government, and what this all means for ordinary working people and those in need of essential social services in Toronto.

 

| November 19, 2013, http://www.rabble.ca 

 

Illustration by Arlene Bishop

 

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is not an accident. He’s not a car that suddenly lost control of the steering and veered off the road.

Is Rob Ford cunning or pathetic? Or both? Is he a ridiculous political clown who got elected by fooling everyone? Ford doesn’t only show us the flaws in Toronto’s system of municipal governance. He shows us what the radical right has brought into politics.

Something that I will call Dark Politics. Political ideology that accompanies economic neoliberalism. Politics that seeks to obfuscate, misinform, change the rules of conduct and flourishes most when no light of truth is shone upon it.

It continually seeks to convince a weary public that government is the problem and that funnelling tax dollars upward and lowering taxes on wealthy corporations, while driving down wages, is the best way out of any economic slump — despite all evidence to the contrary. That rich people are “job creators” that should not be burdened with tax woes because of all the good they are doing for the economy.

 

Tax burdens shifted from prosperous businesses, corporations and the wealthy onto the backs of the average tax payer creating an ever alarming divide between the 1% and the rest of us. This created a self fulfilling prophecy about the trust worthiness of governments. Governments elected to carry out this agenda were backed by powerful financial interests that paved the way for governments to become almost indistinguishable from administrative arms of corporations.

It is pathological politics that lives by its own circular logic. Attempts to engage it with facts and logic are quickly countered with an Escher-like road around any sense of sound reason. Logical premises fly out the window and a bizarro world of normalizing the absurd ensues.

 

Just as the Christian right demands that creationism be taught alongside evolution, as though the two things deserve equal billing, Dark Politics routinely demands that equivalencies be made where no equivalency exists.

Dark Politics demands that corporate psychopathy be treated, and often with even less criticism, as organizations that desire to better society for all of us and our planet. It expects that under the guise of “balance” a far right radical should be viewed through the very same lens as a slightly left leaning moderate.

 

Only it is the moderate who ends up being labeled as some anti-business spend-happy job killing socialist. It demands that the likes of Sun TV be regarded as equally deserving of the public trust as the CBC. In this altered state, America’s Fox News portrays itself as a “real” and balanced voice in a liberal media conspiracy.

With the rise of economic neoliberalism and the Dark Politics that came with it, certain ideas took hold that became increasingly pervasive and practically invisible.

 

Ideas such as the notion that the role of government should be increasingly inched towards the ultimate goal of doing little more than reducing taxes while begrudgingly still paying for things like the military and a few other “essential” services. That government should largely divorce itself from civic engagement or from acting as an equalizing mechanism. From fulfilling the collective will of the people.

 

Governments that continued the role they had for generations, even if they had balanced books, were labelled “tax-and-spend liberals.” Meanwhile governments that cut services and turned surpluses into debt laid claim to being the fiscally responsible choice.

 

It was within this ideology that Rob Ford achieved his support. He would be the cost cutter — cutting taxes, cutting government, taking care of your money. Don’t look over there at the broader picture of multi-billion dollar multinationals getting billions in subsidies and tax breaks, look instead at how much money those lazy union protected city workers are getting! Don’t peel back the curtain on what goes on with developments in Toronto, look at the “gravy” of municipal programs for the poor.

 

 

In spite of what can only be described as “off-the-rails” behaviour of Tea Party style politicians: the crazy antics, hypocrisy and spectacle that so many Tea Party style politicians display — Ford included — the ideas behind Dark Politics nevertheless persist.

 

As though the very side-tracking with all the political entertainment allowed these ideas to sneak past the radar. To sit undetected in people’s brains, while we looked away at the three ring circus. Move the goalposts so far to the right so that less fringe ideas seem normal and rational in comparison.

 

It is politics that strays ever further from fact, evidence, reason, science and especially from empathy and compassion. It is contemptuous of these things even.

Ford was an ideal candidate for Dark Politics. His populist “everyman” persona — in spite of being a member of the 1% — meant he was successfully able to co-opt the very type of citizen that is most harmed by Dark Politics. Inspire their loyalty even. His personal failings were excused and separated from his politics and his policies. His short comings actually appeared to aid pushing through his agenda. A Dark Politics agenda that always supports increasing inequality.

But Rob Ford’s personal conduct should not be separated from his politics. His personal conduct displays a lack of empathy and a sense of entitlement and so does his politics. And he certainly didn’t rise to the office of Mayor alone. He had many backers right there with him. Enabling him all the way.

 

Ford’s conduct is the politics of entitlement taken to an extreme. His addiction problems simply highlight how far you can go before you cross a line with a core segment of political and public supporters who are believers.

Whatever Ford does, no matter how out there it is, he has thus far managed to elude normal consequences. And as far as Ford Nation sees it, if anyone attempts to hold him accountable then they are the ones victimizing him.

Rob Ford may seem to be an anomaly — an outrageous example of a politician gone off the rails, but he is in fact an example of what Dark Politics allows in. Ford also demonstrates how far afield things have moved.

 

Even though most of his political supporters have now jumped ship, they do not seem to be taking any issue with the politics that brought someone like Ford to power in the first place.

 

Ford was a clear and obvious liar before he was ever elected as Mayor. He clearly had substance abuse issues before he was elected. But the right didn’t care. They supported his views, enabled him and aided his rise to power because ideology always trumps everything else in political extremes, whether it’s right or left. He was on the winning side, so he had eager members to join his gang and overlook or be in denial about his obvious short comings.

 

Now they divorce themselves from his antics and try to claim that his character is no reflection on their ideology. But it is profoundly a reflection of their ideology. For it was this ideology that gave them their willful blindness in the first place. Because there were plenty of others who could see Rob Ford for what he was right out of the gate.

We must not lose sight of the political darkness that Ford represents. Rob Ford should be an indictment of radical right-wing politics in Canada. The Tea Party and what it has wrought, should be an indictment of radical right wing politics in the United States.

How far must things go before the public starts to wake up to the political lies they have been sold?

 

Rob Ford is not a champion of the little guy. The little guy is never what politics for the rich and by the rich is about. The Rob Ford sideshow is merely Dark Politics accidentally showing it’s hand in ushering in a dark age of the decline of reason and social responsibility for government, business and citizens alike.

Heather Morgan is a writer and musician living in Toronto. She tweets @HeatherMoandCo

Illustration by Arlene Bishop

Jack Layton statue unveiled on Toronto waterfront August 23, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Toronto.
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Roger’s note: Jack Layton was a friend and colleague, both before and during the time he was a public figure.  We served together for several years on Toronto’s Metro Council;  together we moved the historic successful motion to close down the polluting Commissioners Street Incinerator, this in the middle of a waste management crisis in Toronto.  Jack was one of the very few people I knew in government who combined a principled approach with incredible personal warmth and humor.  I cannot remember a moment with him when he was not smiling and upbeat.  He was so open and honest and caring and hard working that he connected with people in a way that few politicians have ever achieved.  Along with millions of Canadians, I miss him dearly.

 

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Jack Layton’s daughter, Sarah, granddaughter Beatrice, widow Olivia Chow and city councillor Pam McConnell share a laugh as a statue in memory of Layton was unveiled in Toronto, Ontario Thursday, August 22, 2013.
(Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)

A life-size statue commemorating Jack Layton, the late leader of the federal opposition New Democrats and former city councillor, was unveiled on Toronto’s waterfront.

The day he died after a battle with cancer, Nathan Phillips Square in front of Toronto City Hall was transformed into a makeshift memorial for the NDP leader with hundreds of supporters scrawling messages in chalk on the square’s walls. Now, two years’ to the day later, this more permanent memorial was unveiled: a bronze statue of Mr. Layton on the back of a tandem bicycle. The Toronto ferry island terminal has also been renamed the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal.

The statue, entitled Jack’s got your back. Stronger Together: The Layton Memorial, was donated through approximately $350,000 of fundraising by the Ontario Federation of Labour. Sculptor David Pellettier worked closely with Mr. Layton’s widow, Member of Parliament Olivia Chow, to get the politician’s likeness just right.The statue depicts Mr. Layton grinning on the back of a full-size tandem bicycle similar to one he owned. It was designed to invite people to hop on the front seat.

Ms. Chow, was on hand for the unveiling. She related memories of her late husband and the time they spent on Toronto island, where they were married in 1988.

“The Toronto island is truly a magical place,” she said to applause from the crowd of hundreds who attended the unveiling.

“In many years, after all of us are gone, this bronze sculpture will endure.”

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford also spoke, fondly recalling Mr. Layton and some advice he gave the mayor when they were both Toronto city councillors.

“I had the privilege as a rookie councillor to sit beside Jack for the first few years,” he said.

“He taught me an important lesson about politics. He said, ‘Rob, never take things personally. It’s politics.’ I’m still trying to learn that.”

Also attending were several city councillors, including Mr. Layton’s son, Mike Layton, as well as many of his family and friends. Mr. Layton explained the significance of the tandem bicycle as not only a cherished family item but a symbol of his father’s beliefs.

“A tandem bike is about co-operation: working towards a common goal. More ground can be covered when you’re working together,” he said. “That’s how he lived his life; He worked hard, he co-operated with others in his job and he had fun through it all.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

Cathy Crowe: A Final Blackberry Message to Jack August 29, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Housing/Homelessness.
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Jack Layton worked with us at TDRC for years. In fact he took our 1%
campaign to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities resulting in the Big City
Mayors’ Caucus endorsement that homelessness was a national disaster. This
fuelled a national movement which included a new federal program to tackle
homelessness, but unfortunately not housing.Jack was always giving away his 1% button and would ask me for a new one each time I saw him. This past week
Beric German and I ensured a 1% button was placed among the flowers both at his
constituency office and Nathan Phillips Square.The day after he died, thinking of him, I automatically reached for my blackberry and paused. But I did
send this final email to him. I want to share it with you. Cathy

Hi Jack, just doing what I would normally do in a time like this. Emailing you. You
always replied to me within minutes. You hooked me on a blackberry!

I know you won’t get this but I also know you will get this.

Thanks for always being there for me and for people who are homeless, for all the good
fights, many of which we won thanks to your help: Homelessness declared a
national disaster, many new shelters opened, new shelter standards, the Tent
City win for housing (and they love you to this day), the fight for AIDs
funding, the closing of the Commissioner St. incinerator. I could go on and on. 

You made so clear in 1987,  in your public  inquiry into health and
homelessness, how I should direct my career in this bizarre but necessary
profession called street nursing.

One of the biggest honours in my life was to write the intro to your book on homelessness.

Years later you kept asking me to run for office. I thought you were crazy and then you and
Olivia convinced me.

You should feel confident and strong in your legacy
through myself and I believe millions of others who, inspired, challenged and
encouraged will carry on the fight.  As you so eloquently put it “Love is better
than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us
be loving, hopeful and optimstic. And we’ll change the world.”

Yes we will. Love you,

Your friend, Cathy Crowe

Sent from my BlackBerry
device on the Rogers Wireless Network, August 29, 2011

Important film:

For people
who have not seen the documentary ‘Shelter from the Storm’ directed and produced
by Michael Connolly Jack is in it and it is very powerful. It originally aired
on CBC. It is now viewable on line at Hot Docs:

http://www.hotdocslibrary.ca/en/detail.cfm?filmId=1662

Should
you like to order your personal copy of the DVD email me at
torontodisasterrelief@gmail.com

Honoring Jack Layton August 24, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada.
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My friend and colleague, Jack Layton, lost a battle with cancer at the young age of 61, only months after taking the New Democratic Party (NDP) into official opposition in the Canadian Parliament for the first time in history.  His tragic death has been mourned across the country.  The picture above is the huge patio in front of Toronto’s City Hall, known as Nathan Phillips Square.  What you see is the square entirely filled with messages from those who knew and/or admired him.  Jack was a professor of political science at Ryerson University before becoming a Toronto City and Metro Councillor; from there he went on to become the head of the Canadian Association of Municipalities and leader of the NDP.  As opposed to the leaders of the other political parties, Jack stood out as a man of supreme honor and transparency; and for this he was admired and will be sorely missed.

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