In Sunday’s Sun: the scandal that isn’t

Remember that old Sixties line? You know, the one from the hippie subculture that became a movie, and even a lyric in a Monkees tune? To wit: “suppose they had a war, and nobody came?” It was a nice thought, then and now.

Well, with some minor tweaking, it’s a line that can be applied to a “scandal” now raging, er, in one-block radius in downtown Toronto. Here goes:

“Suppose they had a scandal, and it really wasn’t one?”

Now, admittedly, at Queen’s Park, some media and some Opposition politicians are in a spit-flecked fury about the alleged deletion of government emails about the decision to move some gas plants in the 2011 Ontario election. You may have read about it in the papers, even in far-flung places like Whitehorse or Witless Bay. (I doubt it, but you never know.)

So, before we get started, three things. One, we use so-called flying quotes around the word “scandal,” up above, to notify you that the “scandal” really isn’t one. At all. Two, we use the word “alleged” about deletion of emails because, well, emails weren’t actually deleted. At all. Three, full disclosure, I proudly helped out former Premier Dalton McGuinty, and I remain friends with all of his former senior staff. And I hope that disclosure gives McGuinty-haters heart arrhythmia.

Scandals, real or imagined, have a way of taking on a life of their own. Even though the voting public aren’t nearly as preoccupied with scandal as the media and politicians are – Exhibit A, the Clinton/Lewinsky “scandal” – selfsame media and politicians are undeterred. They love scandal-mongering more than, you know, talking about boring stuff like “policy.” (There’s those flying quotes again!)

As no less than the most-famous-ever Canadian, Rob Ford, will tell you: voters hear about scandals too much. They’re skeptical. And, until they see a perp being frog-marched to the Longbar Hotel in an orange pantsuit and handcuffs, they don’t care much, either.

But that’s psychology. The reality of this “deleted email scandal” (Flying quotes! Drink!) is this: none were. Don’t believe me? Take your smartphone, and pop it right now in the toilet, where you already keep your old Blackberry. Now, flush.

There! According to the Ontario Provincial Police, you’ve now deleted emails and, er, committed a serious offence, Your Honour!

Well, not quite. As we all know, if you lose your smartphone – or if your PC or Mac blow up, or if (as in the Queen’s Park case) someone wipes a few hard drives to make way for a new employee – your emails aren’t gone, at all. They all still exist on a server in Cupertino, Calif., or Guelph, or somewhere else. They haven’t been deleted. At all, at all.

That’s why the whole Mother of All Scandals now gripping, um, a few dozen folks at Queen’s Park is so bloody ridiculous. The thing the Keystone Kops (a.k.a., the OPP) are investigating isn’t a crime, or even a violation of a ticketing offence. They’re investigating missing emails which aren’t, you know, missing.

Check your toilet, if you don’t believe me. Your device may be long gone, and so too your Miley Cyrus MP3s and some cherished pix of your kitten. But your emails aren’t.

Now, I know that this stunning revelation – to wit, emails exist on servers, not individual computers – is a shock for the geniuses in the OPP and at Queen’s Park. But for the rest of us living in the new millennium, it’s kind of not-news.

So too this “deleted email scandal.” It isn’t news, either. In fact, it is the biggest pile of crap to plop on the Canadian political stage since “Justice” (Drink!) John Gomery turned the sponsorship inquiry into a taxpayer-funded ego circus. And that’s saying something.

Thus, our new song: Suppose they had a “scandal,” and it really wasn’t one?


The facts about Cobain, 20 years, whatever

I deliberated about jumping into this morning’s Kurt Cobain media orgy. You know, dead 20 years, voice of a lost generation, grunge sociology, I-remember-where-I-was-when-He-died, blah blah blah. There are stories and thumbsucker columns everywhere.

I didn’t ever interview the Nirvana front guy, or even see the band live. My brother did, twice, and he said they weren’t anything to write home about.

When they were together, I thought they were okay, but I didn’t listen to them as much as I listened to the Stooges, or the Pixies, or the Breeders (who were the bands Cobain liked best, by the way, and in that order). Personally, I thought Nirvana was kind of derivative, and insufficiently punk (two of the criticisms Cobain had of Nirvana himself, by the way).

So why even acknowledge today? Well, for a good thing and a bad thing.

The good thing about Cobain was that he did what Johnny Rotten and Joey Ramone did, 18 years earlier: he saved rock’n’roll. In the Seventies, as I wrote in Fury’s Hour, rock had become “self-indulgent, technically-perfect, coma-inducing arena rock that offered up bands with about as much emotional commitment as an annual report.” Rotten and Ramone killed corporate rock’n’roll in 1976 or so. And then, when rock culture started getting evil again, Cobain did the same thing – in 1993 or so.

That’s the good thing, I think. The bad thing about Kurt Cobain is he was just another junkie who killed himself with junk. Like Elliott Smith (who was a greater songwriter, and who I still miss very much), Cobain came to love the sting of the needle more than he loved the writing of a really great song. So he died. That’s it.

I could say something, at this point, about the hypocrisy of the 40-and-50-somethings who condemn Rob Ford for his substance abuse issues – but who previously regarded Kurt Cobain as sort of cool for his – but it’s a waste of time. People are always going to be highly selective about the facts they rely upon to justify the bullshit of daily existence.

The facts about Kurt Cobain, as selected by me, are these: he saved rock’n’roll.

But he didn’t, or couldn’t, save himself.



Since I was a kid – since this day in 1972, in fact, when I started writing a daily journal – I have always taken note of April 4, and said to myself:  “April 4.  Dr. King.”

Today, 46 years ago, Martin Luther King was murdered by a racist in Memphis.  Dr. King was a giant of man, the one who – as I write in Fight The Rightanticipated the message at the core of the Occupy movement, among other things.  While his message continues to resonate across the decades, the violence of racial hatred continues unabated, too.

It’s April 4, and so I give you some of his most remarkable speech.  Surveying the pygmies who now crowd the public stage, I don’t think we will see the likes of him again.

A statement by the lawyer to my friend Laura Miller, who is smart, decent and honest, and doesn’t deserve the crap being thrown at her

Given that we’re paying attention to the OPP’s mistakes, this morning, this is appropriate:

It has recently been reported that Laura Miller, a former Deputy Chief of Staff in the Ontario Government, had refused to cooperate with the Ontario Provincial Police in an ongoing investigation.  The source of that information is the OPP. For the record, Laura agreed to cooperate in the investigation at all times.  Laura spoke to the OPP in September before asking me to facilitate the interview.  The assertion that she refused to cooperate is false

If folks want to know more, they can contact Brian Shiller.

But the OPP’s insinuation that my friend refused to cooperate? It’s bullshit.



Ipsos’ headline

And it’s a really, really good one.

Quebec Liberal Lead Grows (37% Vs. 28% PQ) in Final Stretch
With Nine Point Spread, Liberal Voters Least Likely to Change Their Vote Before Election Day
Couillard Chosen Over Marois, Legault as Best Premier