"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Teabaggers gone wild

Anyone surprised by this hasn't been paying attention.
But don't lets accuse the Tea Party or the right-wingers or the Republicans or the conservatives of acting like a bunch of Brownshirts, because that would be impolite. How many "bad apples" do we need to see before we can say the whole bunch is rotten?
And the first person who tells me "both sides do it" wins a free copy of "False Dichotomies for Dummies."


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

the obligatory Rob Ford post

The Mound of Sound had the best headline on the topic I've seen and my fellow inkstained wretch and once and future podcast guest Boris had the most poetic post about it that I've seen so far, but since I live in the neighbourhood now, I suppose I must address the election of Rob Ford.

Seriously Toronto? Rob Ford?

I get that you're all angry. Angry that the city government hasn't been run very well in recent memory and that taxes are kinda high.  And you keep being told you are angry by the Toronto Sun and National Post and the U.S. cable news channels with all that coverage of the Tea Party down south about how voters are angry at politicians and angry about taxes and angry about political correctness and angry at all those snooty elites and angry at those damn kids who won't get off your lawn and angry about all the anger. You are sick and tired of being sick and tired you're as mad as hell and you're not gonna take it any more. Just like you are every four years, when almost half of you bother to pay enough attention to actually vote. Sorry if that sounds a little snarky, but if - as we keep being told - everyone is so pissed off and disgusted at the terrible things their local council is doing, then why is the voter turnout so poor for municipal elections?

So Rob Ford feels he has a mandate, and so does every headline writer in the country. He got about 47% of the votes cast, which means more people voted for other people than for him. Ditto in Hamilton, where I keep hearing about Bob Bratina's decisive win in which he got 37 % of the vote compared to his nearest rivals who got 28% and 27%.
 "But wait Rev.Paperboy," you say. "The voter turnout was near record levels in Toronto! And more people voted in the election in Hamilton this time than voted in the last very serious Hamilton municipal election! This a victory for democracy! The people have spoken! Hurrah!" you say.

"Bah, humbug" says I. The "near record" voter turnout in Toronto was a little over 52% of registered voters. In Hamilton, it was up from 36% to about 39%. So Ford's "mandate" consists of about a quarter of the registered voters in Toronto, and Bratina has the support of fewer than than that. Even if you cut them all the slack the numbers allow and round every number in their favor, fewer than three in ten registered votes back these two new mayors with enough passion to actually go cast a ballot. I'll save my rant for how many people living in big cities aren't even registered to vote and who those people might be for another time, but suffice to say I don't really buy this "mandate" stuff.

But I digress.

Rob Ford won the election for mayor of Toronto.

I guess this is the two steps back, but I don't remember the steps forward that preceded it.

I know George Smitherman isn't everyone's cup of chai, but at least he walks upright and can do simple math. Rob Ford is going to make Mel Lastman look like a humble, digified genius. He claims he can slash the budget and reduce taxes without cutting services or firing anyone.  I remember another guy who claimed he could do that and it didn't turn out so well. And he's going to put the budget in order and curb spending while at the same time building a $3 billion subway system. It just isn't going to happen.

Ford is well known in for taking good care of his constituents and spending a lot of time listening to their concerns, and that is all well and good, but there is a little more to running Canada's largest city than that.

Putting aside for the moment his anti-immigrant comments and the accusations of wife-beating, the conviction for drunk driving and the bizarre drug story, his general record of behavior as a classless yahoo, my real complaint about Ford is that he one of two things: A bald-faced cynical liar or an absolute fool who wears his ignorance like a badge of honor.
He cannot do the things he has promised to do and still get the results he has promised any more than you can subtract two from five and get six . If he has any brains at all, he knows this and has been lying to manipulate Toronto voters. If he doesn't know it after three terms on Toronto council, then he's a fool.


Monday, October 25, 2010

My cover letter is considerably blander

In October 1958, a pre-fame Hunter S. Thompson applied for a job at the Vancouver Sun. The Ottawa Citizen recently published the quintessentially-Hunter cover letter, which also appeared in The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967 (The Fear and Loathing Letters, Vol. 1). Here it is:

October 1, 1958 57 Perry Street New York City
I got a hell of a kick reading the piece Time magazine did this week on The Sun. In addition to wishing you the best of luck, I'd also like to offer my services.
Since I haven't seen a copy of the "new" Sun yet, I'll have to make this a tentative offer. I stepped into a dung-hole the last time I took a job with a paper I didn't know anything about (see enclosed clippings) and I'm not quite ready to go charging up another blind alley.
By the time you get this letter, I'll have gotten hold of some of the recent issues of The Sun. Unless it looks totally worthless, I'll let my offer stand. And don't think that my arrogance is unintentional: it's just that I'd rather offend you now than after I started working for you.
I didn't make myself clear to the last man I worked for until after I took the job. It was as if the Marquis de Sade had suddenly found himself working for Billy Graham. The man despised me, of course, and I had nothing but contempt for him and everything he stood for. If you asked him, he'd tell you that I'm "not very likable, (that I) hate people, (that I) just want to be left alone, and (that I) feel too superior to mingle with the average person." (That's a direct quote from a memo he sent to the publisher.)
Nothing beats having good references.
Of course if you asked some of the other people I've worked for, you'd get a different set of answers. If you're interested enough to answer this letter, I'll be glad to furnish you with a list of references -- including the lad I work for now.
The enclosed clippings should give you a rough idea of who I am. It's a year old, however, and I've changed a bit since it was written. I've taken some writing courses from Columbia in my spare time, learned a hell of a lot about the newspaper business, and developed a healthy contempt for journalism as a profession.
As far as I'm concerned, it's a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums, and hacks, hag-ridden with myopia, apathy, and complacence, and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity. If this is what you're trying to get The Sun away from, then I think I'd like to work for you.
Most of my experience has been in sports writing, but I can write everything from warmongering propaganda to learned book reviews.
I can work 25 hours a day if necessary, live on any reasonable salary, and don't give a black damn for job security, office politics, or adverse public relations.
I would rather be on the dole than work for a paper I was ashamed of.
It's a long way from here to British Columbia, but I think I'd enjoy the trip.
If you think you can use me, drop me a line.
If not, good luck anyway.


Hunter S. Thompson
The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967 (The Fear and Loathing Letters, Vol. 1)