Friday Bits and Pieces

John Tory: Pretty accurate and fair takes on John’s decision here and here. Did a fair bit of media on this yesterday. After six months of work, I’m obviously disappointed. But John made the right decision for him and his family. Personally, I’m going to be focusing on getting that McGuinty guy [full disclosure: whose caucus I’ve given comms advice] re-elected Premier – and that Iggy guy elected Prime Minister.
Don Newman: I have to say, I’m really enjoying Don’s reincarnation as a columnist on the CBC website – he goes against the conventional wisdom, and his analysis is pretty good. His brooooadcast didn’t really permit him to do either of those things, so it makes for fun reading.
Democracy Denied: I spoke yesterday to a smart Hill Times reporter about the Reform-Conservative’s padlocking of Parliament. My take: “These guys aren’t merely not up to the job. Now they’re not even showing up to do the job.”
Jobs jobs jobs: Where are they? Padlocking Parliament and the Afghan detainee torture scandal aren’t the only reasons the Reform-Cons’ numbers are dropping – it’s these numbers, too. Until there is sustained job growth, the Harpies’ lusted-after majority will remain beyond reach.
Check it out! My pal Stefan Baranski has put together a boffo aggregator at OntarioNewsWatch. Bookmark it, baby!
He laughed out loud: Another pal, Bob Richardson, burst out laughing – a trademark Richardson phrase – to see the headline on Bourque’s site this morning: TORY’S EXIT: SHED A TEAR FOR BOB RICHARDSON. I have to admit: that’s actually pretty funny. Can’t believe I just wrote that.
Bouncing Souls: My daughter and I were rockin’ to them this morning in the car. Cheered me up. I need cheering up, these days. Here’s one of the best punk acts around, with ‘I Think the World.’

Sad Day

Statement by John Tory:

TORONTO, January 7, 2010 – I am announcing today that I will not be a candidate for the office of Mayor of Toronto in the 2010 municipal elections.

I am extremely gratified by the degree of support offered to me on the streets, in public opinion polls and in the committed support of a significant number of City Councillors, however I have decided that I will pursue a different course with my life and my career.

Just prior to the sad passing of David Pecaut, he wrote to me and urged me to seriously consider taking the helm of the Toronto City Summit Alliance, which he did so much to build into a huge force for city building. The Board of the TCSA has subsequently confirmed their desire to have me occupy this volunteer post and I intend to accept that appointment. It will give me a great opportunity not only to carry on the vital work of the TCSA and build on David Pecaut’s considerable legacy, but also to remain a very active contributor to the city I love and call home.

I will also be continuing with other activities I am very much enjoying including the hosting of my daily talk show on Newstalk 1010, increased responsibilities with Rogers following the passing of my friend and mentor Ted Rogers, other corporate Boards and business assignments and a myriad of charitable responsibilities with organizations ranging from the United Way and St. Michael’s Hospital to Unity for Autism and Easter Seals. This decision will also leave more time for family, including Barbara, our four children and two grandchildren.

I want to thank all of the people who encouraged me to contest the Mayoralty, especially those who helped me establish the foundation for a strong organization, and all of the citizens who communicated with me in person or otherwise to express their confidence in me.

I look forward to the opportunity to be a commentator and analyst in the campaign to come. That will be a new experience! I also look forward to continuing to be an activist citizen and using my energy and experience to help build a better Toronto.

For further information: Jim MacLean, (416) 919-4319.

Response to the Liar

Column called `dishonest polemic’

January 7, 2010 04:01:00

Re:Accusations of war crimes risky for Liberals, Opinion Jan. 4

In this op-ed column, the Star permitted former Reform Party operative Ezra Levant to propagate a falsehood – about me, and the Liberal Party of Canada.

In the column – which was preceded by no calls for verification by anyone at the Star – Levant insinuated that Liberal defence critic Ujjal Dosanjh had linked Canadian troops to the torture of Afghan detainees. This, as Mr. Dosanjh pointed out in a subsequent letter to the Star, was outrageously false.

Unlike many inside the Harper regime, Liberals are concerned about the effect the spreading detainee torture scandal can have on the morale of our troops. The Conservative government, we feel, has been recklessly indifferent to this.

In addition, the Star permitted Levant – a long-time political antagonist whom I am currently suing for libel – to suggest that I also blamed our Armed Forces for torture, without any supporting evidence whatsoever.

On a CTV political panel on Nov. 20, which apparently moved Levant to pen his screed, I stated: “[The Harper government is] trying to destroy [diplomat Richard Colvin] personally, a man who is obviously highly regarded. Now they have two problems. They seem to be indifferent to torture, and they seem to be engaged in a comprehensive plan to cover it up.”

At no time did I, or any Liberal, accuse our brave Canadian men and women in uniform of acts of torture. In fact, we have been critical of the fact that the Harper regime “seem to be indifferent to torture” committed against Afghan detainees handed over to Afghan authorities. We have also been critical of the government’s desire to destroy Mr. Colvin, instead getting to the bottom of this sad affair.

Mr. Levant, I suspect, was moved to write his partisan attack because the host of the CTV program mocked him at the end of the segment. But that does not explain why a newspaper like the Star would accept his dishonest polemic for publication in the first place.

Warren Kinsella, Toronto

UPDATE: On reflection, I think “mocking” doesn’t accurately reflect what Tom Clark did. It was more like “poking fun.” Either way, however, The Liar© is still The Liar©.

The Last Refuge of a Scoundrel

…is, when facing heat, to hide behind the skirts of the troops.

Ezra Levant – who Talk Radio 1010 called me about yesterday, and who I described as a liar on this and other issues – is the rodeo clown of Canadian punditry, one loathed by members of the party he purports to support. More about Levant’s dishonesty and lunacy is found here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here, my favourite.

Ujjal and others respond to Levant’s lies, and I plan to do likewise, here. The longer his ilk represents the Reform-Conservatives, the more distant becomes their lusted-after majority.

The Top Ten Albums of 2009

Herewith, and hereupon, the tops of Warren’s pops. The first five have YouTube video links, because I felt like it.

Go buy ’em, now. (And peace, brother Scott.)

1. Gallows – Grey Britain – When you’re younger, Churchill suggested, you are supposed to be a socialist, and then you become a conservative as you get older. Something like that. Musically, for me – at least this year – it’s been the reverse: I have been getting more and more hardcore in my tastes, more and more attracted to dark, bleak, pounding stuff. The quiet, Death-Cab-Coldplay shite favoured by many of my peers sort of makes me physically ill. Gallows, meanwhile, are the progeny of post-post-Churchillian Britain, and they have plenty to say about it. Loudly. Led by brothers Frank and Steph Carter, these kids – I’m old enough to be their father – grow more angry, and more exemplary, with each new record. Grey Britain is their exegesis on England, and it’s apparent that they don’t like what they see – but they can’t tear their eyes away, either. Sort of like getting old.

2. Pearl Jam – Backspacer – It’s probably not cool to be a punk, as I’ve admitted before, and to adore Pearl Jam. But I don’t give a fuck: I adore Pearl Jam. Musically, they follow fairly traditional rawk’n’role rhythms and structures and all that stuff; intellectually, spiritually, they are punks. For instance: they have taken on the music “industry” – from the big labels to the big ticketing conglomerates – in a way that few punk outfits ever could, or would. They have been activists – Hell, their web site has an entire ongoing, vibrant section devoted to political activism – and politically smart. That’s not to say they have won every battle – in fact, they’ve lost plenty, particularly with the music biz. But they keep trying, and therefore are the rock band that many, many punks (Ramones, Buzzcocks) look up to, and associate with. The first four songs on Backspacer kick ass so hard, and sound so fresh and new, you won’t even remember these guys have been doing this for twenty years. All Hail.

3. Tom Gabel – Heart Burns – If you follow this web site semi-regularly – and God knows why you ever would – you would know that I have a bit of an affinity for Floridian punks Against Me!, and their frontman, Tom Gabel. To me, and to my kids, Against Me! are without equal. Their passion and their intelligence and energy have always made them one of the best bands on the planet. But when Tom Gabel released a solo album at the very tail end of 2008, I – like not a few Against Me! fanatics – were simultaneously worried and unimpressed. A solo album? Jesus! Is this the end? Is Tom’s ego running rampant, something for which solo albums are a typical symptom? So I refused to even listen to it, for months. Typical. In a moment of weakness this Fall – I had quite a few – I decided to give Heart Burns a spin and, well, you know the rest. (Also typical.) It’s wonderful; it’s full of heart. Tom mainly wields his trusty acoustic throughout the proceedings, but it’s evident that his anger is undiminished by either the aforementioned ego/commercial success. It’s not an Against Me! Record, per se, but I can easily see some of these tunes being played with the rest of the guys. I hope they do, too, when they swing back up this way in March. Here’s ‘Anna Is A Stool Pigeon’ – a true story:

4. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz! – I was an early, early convert to the YYY cause. Guitar, drums, and a gorgeous lead songstress who drank too much? Sign me up! The fact that she was in a relationship with the Liars’ Angus Andrew, who I worship, made it even better. In concert, she was extraordinary. You couldn’t take your eyes off of her, because – as with all the great ones – you simply didn’t know what she would do next. Then she moved to L.A., and became seemingly more interested in fashion than music, and she broke up with Angus (about whom she wrote ‘Maps,’ possibly the greatest love song of the past decade, and maybe ever, and yes, she really does cry almost every time she sang it). Were the Yeah Yeah Yeahs about to be No No No more? It’s Blitz suggests otherwise. Polished but raucous, sophisticated but impish. She still has it.

5. The Cribs – Ignore the Ignorant Me, Bjorn von Flapjack III and Ras Pierre saw the brothers Jarman open for the Sex Pistols in London a couple years back, and they got lustily booed. They were loud, they were earnest, they did all the right things…but something was lacking. I felt badly for them. They seemed to disappear into the ether, getting in fights at parties but not much else. And then, a few months ago, along came the Smiths’ former lead genius, Johnny Marr, and everything Cribbish was utterly transformed. Marr, whilst a tad more senior than the Jarmans, gives their a sound a depth and context it clearly needed. And their ‘We Share the Same Skies’ is my favourite song of the year, too. Take it, Johnny:

6. Major Lazer – Guns Don’t Kill People…Lazers Do – Diplo – who should have come to your attention with last year’s Top Ranking, A Diplo Dub and the godlike-genius collaboration therein with Santigold – is behind this Jamaica-recorded waxing with Britain’s Switch. It is simultaeously hilarious, rude and inspired. A trip-hoppy Pet Sounds for the new age, it’s about a Jamaican commando who lost his arm in a secret zombie war in 1984. Personally, I don’t think records get any better than that.

7. NOFX – Coaster – Fat Mike and Co. are among the best satirists of America around; musically they are the best. I interviewed Mike at the back of his tour bus, a few months ago, and he told me about the new album, which he said would be a great one, and is. He also told me something else, for which I was sworn to secrecy. Let’s just say I have a whole new level of appreciation for Fat Mike’s stamina.

8. Deerhunter – Microcastle – Like Gabel’s waxing, this one didn’t come out until the very end of 2008, so I count it as a 2009 release. If you don’t know about Deerhunter, you should: led by the gigantic, gaunt Bradford Cox, Deerhunter is ambient, melodic, punky, and impossible to categorize. Both physically and figuratively, Cox towers above the proceedings: afflicted by Marfan Syndrome, he writes about sexuality, and illness, and loneliness, but never neglects to craft a poppy lick or two. It’s a caring, thoughtful record, with a bonus LP (Weird Era) thrown in for good measure.

9. Dinosaur Jr. – The Farm – I interviewed Junior’s Lou Barlow last year, before this one came out. I was skeptical, and said so: were the guys – who loathed each other for much of the band’s existence – simply attempting to cash in on the recent mania for alt-rock supergroup reunions? Barlow said no, the record was a good one, and that we’d like it. He was right: it is good, and you’ll like it, too. The highest pinnacle of lo fi, from the guys who practically invented the genre. Nice.

10. Rancid – Let the Dominoes Fall – None of us were sure that the ska-punk legends would ever get together again – they all seemed to be off on solo projects, Lars Frederiksen with The Bastards and his (sadly now defunct)XM Radio show, Tim Armstrong with the ska-and-dub-heavy work that culminated in A Poet’s Life. This new LP shows the California punk legends to be in fine form, and reminding all and sundry that Rancid remains greater than the sum of the Rancid parts.