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Monday, November 26, 2012

Conflict of interest, Mayor Stupid, and the Globe's stunning incoherence

There was a short-lived meme on Twitter recently, riffing on the Teutonic gift for coining words that have no exact English equivalent, but nevertheless capture meanings beautifully. "Schadenfreude" is one of the best examples. (I'm trying not to indulge at the moment.)

So I'm left wondering whether there's a German expression for times when reprehensible people appear to do the right thing, albeit for questionable reasons and in contexts which make the rightness of their actions suspect.

As we all know by now, Judge Charles Hackland, ruling in the conflict of interest proceedings brought against Rob Ford, has ruled that Mayor Stupid must be removed from office. No surprise at the finding, although there was a fair bit of energy backing the prediction that the court would somehow find a way not to apply the maximum penalty.

However, it's the reaction of our supposed Newspaper of RecordTM that begs further examination. As the pinstriped pamphleteers of Front Street argue:

Mr. Ford didn’t want to play by the rules. Not the ones he didn’t like, anyway, such as those governing conflict of interest.

Well, no argument there, although it's not as if the observation first came to life in the Front Street drawing room over brandy and cigars. Pious and paternalistic, but essentially correct. But it's what comes after that triggers the WTF:

The country’s biggest city gave him a strong mandate to reduce costs and attack what Mr. Ford described as a culture of entitlement at City Hall. He has even had some success.

Um ... what?

[Slim Pickens voice]
Did you say "Attack a Culture of Entitlement?"
[/Slim Pickens voice]

Is there anyone who embodies that more than Mayor Stupid and Brother Dumbfuck? A pair of guys who think they can flout the rules and blow off the consequences whenever they feel like it because … because ... shut the fuck up, OK? Taxpayers taxpayers taxpayers, subways subways subways, mandate, drool, release the trolls.

Let's review: here's a guy who thinks he's entitled to

  • Phone Andy Byford and demand to know where his bus is
  • Abuse and demean public servants
  • Ignore the rules whenever they don't conform to his own sense of what's right
  • Demand that city staff fix the road in front of his family business
  • Blow off his official responsibilities to go coach football, and use public resources to do it

And that's just off the top of my head.

But let's move on, and compare that to the Globe's support for their charming ideological brethren in Ottawa, and ...

  • electoral fraud
  • robocalls
  • naked attacks on dissent
  • instructions for disrupting parliamentary committees
  • secret "free-trade" deals
  • Mordor
  • embarrassment and damage to Canada's international reputation.

These are the people, mind, whom the Globe endorses as a way of "finding new ways to protect Parliament."

Are you fucking kidding me?

(But never mind all that just now -- is there a trend we might not be catching? Like, omigaaaawd ... )

In the continuing train wreck otherwise known as the Wente Clusterfuck, it's easy to lose sight of our National Fishwrap's many other acts of civic and linguistic vandalism. While this little corner isn't fit to polish Carol Wainio's flatware, perhaps this one little bit of paint on the cave wall might merit a footnote.

Related posts:

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Wente, the Gelber, and the Globe: more quality control from Carol Wainio

Another persuasive argument from Carol Wainio, who, beyond providing a stellar illustration of the value of independent academia, is making a convincing case for herself as a national treasure.

In her latest post, Prof. Wainio takes issue with the participation of disgraced Globe columnist Margaret Wente on the jury for the Gelber Prize — a supposedly prestigious award presented by the Gelber Foundation and the University of Toronto's Munk School for Global Affairs. With all this academic and financial star power, one would think academic integrity would be a prerequisite for all involved. As Prof. Wainio argues:

Don’t universities take strong public standards against plagiarism?  What would the University of Toronto or The Munk School (partners in the award) do with students who engaged in these practices? 

Having documented repeated instances of, at the very least, sloppy attribution or "originality problems" from Wente, it's entirely in order for Prof. Wainio to be raising such a question. She goes on, however, to compare another column from Wente to recent work from Walter Russell Mead and fellow Globe columnist Gary Mason, and to note Wente's evident "efficiency" in using the same material for two columns two weeks apart.

Well, we can't fault Wente for her embrace of the 3 Rs. But, as Prof. Wainio points out:

Are these as serious as past instances?  No.  But they do reflect a kind of practice, a habit, and dare one say, a kind of entitlement.  Given all that, and what was pretty universally described as the dreadful way Ms. Wente and her editors dealt with the more serious instances, one has to wonder why the Gelber Prize, the University of Toronto and the Munk School chose to rely so heavily on jurors associated with that particular newspaper ...

I've already pointed out the invaluable work Prof. Wainio does in providing the quality control that the senior editors of the Globe apparently refuse to do. It's particularly salient in this case, given both Wente and Mead's professed disdain for the kind of free and independent inquiry supposedly ensured by the institution of academic tenure, but it's even more valuable for the context it provides. Since it's clear that we're not going to get any critical analysis of Wente's, er, "work" from the Globe, Prof. Wainio's observations are essential as a reality check. They give readers the information they need in order to understand what they're getting from Wente.

And moreover, they put a rather jarring spotlight on the ideological and managerial decisions being taken in the executive suites on Front Street. It's not as if the warnings aren't there; while I'm not rushing to embrace the National Putz, Chris Selley raised several questions about the Globe's handling of the Wente scandal and its implications for the Gelber Prize in another essay late last week:

The Globe didn’t seem bothered about being seen to do anything, and I think it wound up leaving a widespread impression that it did nothing ... Maybe some principles are worth bending if sticking to them upsets the official Canadian chattering class hierarchy in which Margaret Wente plays house contrarian.

Nothing new about the smug, oblivious attitude the Globe appears to be taking toward this, or its condescending dismissal of mere "bloggers." It goes hand-in-hand with Wente's cringe-inducing poor-me non-apology in September.

What's left, however, are lingering questions about the Globe's credibility — questions which only grow more insistent the longer the Front Street brain trust tries to pretend they're not there.

(For even better takes on this, please read thwap and Sixth Estate.)

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Hey, Lone Pine Resources Inc. — sue this

NAFTA challenge launched over Quebec fracking ban - The Globe and Mail: "Energy firm Lone Pine Resources Inc. is taking on Quebec’s fracking moratorium, saying it violates the firm’s rights under the North American free-trade agreement and demanding more than $250-million in compensation."

'via Blog this'

Y'see, that's the great thing about "free trade." We get sued for "lost profits" when we try to protect our drinking water.

And the Chinese deal Harper's pushing? Shhh. It's a secret. Everything about it is a secret. Even Diane Francis is shitting on it, for Chrissakes.

Guy's not only letting foreign corporations fuck us over, he's handing out souvenir bags at the door.

Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, doesn't it.

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