By Emma Teitel - Saturday, May 18, 2013 - 0 Comments
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is not known to be a fan of the gays. Yet beneath a flapping rainbow flag — raised to mark the International Day Against Homophobia Biphobia and Transphobia at Toronto City Hall –he looked at peace on Friday. He was safe, at least for a while, from the media and the question of the day: “Mayor Ford, do you smoke crack?”
I was twice in the Ford scrums on Friday. At one point, he emerged from an elevator, red faced and mumbling something to the effect of “it’s ridiculous.” He appeared again after the gay-rights flag ceremony where I’m not sure he said anything at all.
The only indication we have so far that Rob Ford is a crack user, is this and this. There’s also this photo of the mayor standing visibly blitzed (in my opinion) between two men, one of whom appears to be the late Anthony Smith, a 21-year-old Torontonian who was killed in a gangland shooting.
If the video surfaces on the Internet, which I suspect it will, and the allegations are confirmed —remember the golden-eagle-snatching-a-baby video? — he may not only lose his job, he’ll have lost his last redeeming quality. Irrespective of his boorishness, Ford has survived on his image as a folksy inner-city high school football coach full of tough love and high hopes for the downtrodden.
The narrative was the only thing his detractors could stand — it’s what made him most loveable to his boosters.
If the allegations are confirmed, a man who claimed to be a hero in a drug-ridden neighbourhood will turn out to be the villain. He’ll go from being a flawed human being— bad mayor, but an okay guy — to much darker and despicable.
Until it plays out, Ford will persevere — indifferent to everyone and everything, especially his past. Remember his short-lived Cut the Waist, weight-loss challenge? That famous scale is still on display, unused and in full view — a public relic of his personal failure.
On Friday at city hall, an anti-homophobia flag-raising seemed like the highlight of Rob Ford’s day — that alone speaks volumes.
By Alexandra Posadzki, The Canadian Press - Wednesday, May 8, 2013 at 1:02 PM - 0 Comments
TORONTO, Cananda – Torstar Corp. (TSX:TS.B) hopes its digital paywall, expected to launch in…
TORONTO, Cananda – Torstar Corp. (TSX:TS.B) hopes its digital paywall, expected to launch in the third quarter, will provide a new revenue stream as the newspaper and book publisher struggles with declines in print advertising.
John Cruickshank, publisher of the Toronto Star, said the launch is taking longer than expected because of technical challenges in trying to link the existing circulation system to the metering and content systems.
“It’s actually fairly complex,” said Cruickshank. “There are three different pieces that need to be linked together. It’s never been done before in the way that we want to do it and that’s why it’s taken rather more time than we might have hoped.”
The company, which operates a number of digital properties along with publishing the Toronto Star and other newspapers in Ontario as well as Harlequin books, reported a decline in both revenue and net income in the first quarter.
Net income attributable to equity shareholders tumbled $13.3 million to $4.2 million, or five cents per share. That’s compared with $17.5 million, or 22 cents per share, in the same 2012 period. Continue…
By Ivor Tossell - Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 8:54 PM - 0 Comments
On the allegations of drunkenness, the voters will decide
Rob Ford, of course, denies everything. Up he got on Tuesday, for his 39 seconds of rebuttal.
“Number one, it’s an outright lie,” he stammered to a City Hall press gallery, in response to a Toronto Star report that claimed he’d been asked to leave a function and, what’s more, had a drinking problem. “It’s the Toronto Star going after me again, and again, and again,” he said. “They’re relentless, that’s fine. I’ll go head to head with the Toronto Star any time. Let’s just wait, just let’s wait, let’s just wait ’til the election is, and then we’ll see what happens. It’s just lies after lies and lies. And I’ve called you pathological liars, and you are, so why don’t you take me to court? Let the courts decide. You guys are liars!”
At this point, his press secretary got him off the podium. Rob Ford subsequently went to ground, and hasn’t been heard from since.
Where do we go from here? It was the kind of performance that could have ended the career of a lesser man, but not Rob Ford. By now, citizens of Toronto have evolved a natural immunity to their mayor saying or doing something completely humiliating, followed immediately by the mayor insisting that it was everybody’s fault except his own. A visitor without such immunity might be shocked into some kind of uncomfortable awareness, but we’ve been desensitized into safety. It’s a good thing. It keeps the invaders out.
Ford is faced by some pretty damning evidence. One of his most reliable allies, Councillor Paul Ainslie—a genial scout leader from Scarborough with a true-blue voting record—felt compelled to ask that the mayor leave a military ball Ainslie had co-organized after at least eight people complained about his behaviour. This is not an anonymous source making an allegation; this is something that an elected and allied member of council says he did, before documenting it by e-mail.
The broader allegations of a drinking problem are harder to prove. The Star here relies on anonymous members of the mayor’s staff, present and past, which are credible given the newspaper’s track record of accurate (if hostile) coverage, but less saleable in the court of public opinion. Still, Ford’s erratic behaviour is on the record, and calls out for explanation.
In the last week alone he was reported to have shown up “disheveled” at a Shabbat gathering of Orthodox Jews, and pounded out a pro-casino speech that, by the Toronto Sun’s account, left other politicians cringing in embarrassment. Then he risked causing a mistrial in a first-degree murder case by spontaneously calling a legal affairs talk-show and—in a clarion call for personal responsibility for the accused—insisting that “you can’t defend that.” The lawyers on the show were left scrambling to explain the law to him.
In most places, the playbook for public officials caught in the mess is to come clean, stop the bleeding, issue a carefully worded apology, and then declare the matter closed. Canadians are a forgiving bunch. This is John A. Macdonald’s country, after all. Gordon Campbell had a DUI mugshot taken while he was premier of BC. Ralph Klein, who was the mayor of Calgary before becoming Alberta’s premier, drunkenly yelled at the homeless at a shelter; he thereafter admitted to problem drinking and swore he’d curtail it. Even here in Toronto, councillor Ana Bailao, after a false start, issued a tearful apology for her own DUI, pleading guilty and paying a fine. (At the time, Ford issued a statement. “Councillor Ana Bailao did something wrong and she’s taken full responsibility for her actions.”)
What did Rob Ford do this time? Well, he called everyone a liar. As a solution to his problem, it has a certain elegance. There aren’t a lot of moving parts to it: No fuss, no muddle, no explication and, as a bonus, perfect congruence with all the other times he’s lashed out at accusers.
This week, he gave only two refutations to the evidence presented against him. The first was his “I know you are but what am I?” legal strategy: Instead of suing the well-prepared Star for libel, he called them liars and demanded they sue him instead. But the second refutation was more telling: “Let’s just wait, just let’s wait, let’s just wait ’til the election is, and then we’ll see what happens.”
This is Rob Ford’s truth. The facts will be decided not by reality, but by the people, on election day. The visitor from abroad might think that a pile of damning evidence might sway the vote against Rob Ford, but that is to misunderstand Toronto. In Toronto, Rob Ford’s voters will absolve him of the pile of evidence.
It’s a schoolyard view of the world, in which truth flows from popularity and power. He’s used it to run his administration like a radio phone-in show, talking to just one crowd with a mix of pandering and fabulism. It’s also the outlook that’s landed him in a ditch, with his budget chief quit in disgust, his transit chief rebelled, his inner circle falling away, his influence gone.
And it’s a view of the world that many of us have enabled. Ford was resoundingly elected despite a widely reported history of both intoxication and denial. It had a legitimizing effect: Initially, even his foes in politics and the press deferred to the people’s decision that this was acceptable. For Ford, tragically enough, it was a mandate to keep doing what he was doing.
He seems resolved to keep doing it. The only way forward for Rob Ford is straight to the election. Only the popular vote can right his wrongs, and only the people can prove beyond a doubt that anyone who doubted him was simply telling lies.
By Emily Senger - Wednesday, March 6, 2013 at 9:32 AM - 0 Comments
Anyone reading the paper version of the Toronto Star Wednesday morning may notice something…
Anyone reading the paper version of the Toronto Star Wednesday morning may notice something is missing — the bylines.
Reporters at the paper pulled their names off of all stories to protest coming staffing cuts to the Toronto Star newsroom, which were announced Monday in emails from publisher John Cruickshank and editor Michael Cooke. (Emails that were quickly leaked to The Globe and Mail and posted, in full, on its website.)
The paper, which is unionized, allows reporters to remove their bylines if they wish to do so as part of its collective agreement. Continue…
By The Canadian Press - Wednesday, March 6, 2013 at 8:58 AM - 0 Comments
TORONTO – Torstar Corp. (TSX:TS.B) reports it had $24.1 million of net income in…
TORONTO – Torstar Corp. (TSX:TS.B) reports it had $24.1 million of net income in the fourth quarter, down about 62 per cent from a year earlier as it felt the impact of falling revenue at its media and book businesses.
The owner of the Toronto Star, Harlequin books and other publishing businesses says the fourth-quarter profit amounted to 30 cents per share of net income and 49 cents per share of adjusted earnings.
Revenue for the three-month period that included the important Christmas-New Year’s advertising period fell to $395.7 million — a decline of $29.6 million. Continue…
By Tamsin McMahon - Friday, February 1, 2013 at 1:13 PM - 0 Comments
RIMBlackBerry has launched its new smartphone, the BlackBerry 10, this week to largely positive reviews, the Internet is rife with lists promising consumers “Everything You Need to Know” about the new device.
Rather than add another review to the mix, we’ve put together our own top five list of “Top Five” lists about the new BlackBerry 10:
1. CNN offers its take on the five coolest features about the new BlackBerry 10.
2. Not one to get too caught up in the hype of the phone’s release, the Toronto Star offers five ways in which RIM screwed up in the past.
3. Android OS fan site Androidauthority.com found five things about the new BlackBerry 10 that should leave Android users quaking in their boots
4. Gizmodo offers five videos of stupid things people did to win a free BlackBerry 10 from fan site Crackberry.com (Hint: they involved bikinis, tattoos and paper cranes.)
5. Following on its hugely successful Nov. 27 post entitled “20 Things You Didn’t Know About Baby Carrots,” The Huffington Post honoured the BB10 launch with its top things you didn’t know about blackberries. (The fruit, not the company/phone.)
Apparently, blackberries are also known as thimbleberries and lawers. Also, if your blackberry plant turns orange, it’s dying of an incurable fungus and should go in the garbage. (No word on whether the same advice applies to BlackBerry 10.)
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 at 2:15 PM - 0 Comments
It’s really unfair—and that’s why I take exception to the Toronto Star article—how you can be so critical of a nation, in our own country, that is so lauded, and appreciated, and recognized elsewhere in the world…be it NGOs, Canadian government, Canadian funds, are touching the most needy people, in the most destitute situations all over the world. And yet right at home here we’re being [pilloried]. And that’s so, so childish. It’s immature. It’s total lack of appreciation for the goodness of Canadians and what we’re doing around the world.
By Michael Petrou - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 at 11:56 AM - 0 Comments
I get tired of writing about gun control even before I start typing. It is probably the one topic in Canadian public discourse that is most saturated by emotion and bereft of evidence-based arguments. But some contributions to the debate require a response.
This morning we have the Toronto Star weighing in on Monday night’s Danzig Street shooting, in which two people were killed and another 24 were injured when two men opened fire at each other at a neighbourhood barbeque. All the facts are not yet known, but police suspect gang involvement.
The Star’s solution, according to its paper editorial headline, is that it’s “High time to ban guns.” The editorial continues to note that witnesses should come forward. “But society as a whole can do more by banning private ownership of handguns… Indeed it’s hard to imagine how this could have happened at all if the shooters didn’t have access to easily concealed handguns.
“It’s too early to say where the firearms used in the latest bloodshed came from. But there’s no doubt that handguns — legal and otherwise — are all too common and easily obtained. Any reduction in the supply available to criminals would help…
“As of the end of May, there were almost 700,000 legally registered handguns in this country — a sizeable arsenal waiting to be stolen by criminals. While this isn’t the main origin of firepower, private collections represent a significant source that should be shut down.”
Where to begin? Let’s start with a plea for facts. Continue…
By Julia Belluz - Friday, May 18, 2012 at 11:11 AM - 0 Comments
If you scanned yesterday’s headlines while sipping your morning coffee, you
must have felt smug about your choice of beverage. A new prospective study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that there seems to be an “inverse association between coffee drinking and total and cause-specific mortality.” In other words, scientists looked at individuals over time and noticed an association between drinking coffee and a longer life.
Now, because of the nature of this “observational study”—where no intervention is introduced, where subjects aren’t randomized, where researchers just look at the link between an exposure to something and a certain outcome—the authors of the article were careful to acknowledge that, “Whether this was a causal or associational finding cannot be determined from our data.”
Yet, this brief but crucial note seemed to be lost in some of the reporting on the subject or referenced only several paragraphs after hyperbolic headlines and opening sentences.
Inspired by the great review of U.S. coverage by Gary Schwitzer, Science-ish looked at how the big coffee study was packaged—headline and leading paragraphs—in our nation’s newspapers:
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, March 17, 2012 at 1:39 PM - 0 Comments
… the NDP has a choice to make. Is it content to be a movement of beautiful losers, worried that a serious bid for power might sully its principles? Or is it prepared to take a chance on actually challenging the Conservatives for office in 2015 and accepting the trade-offs that may come?
When he met with the Star, Mulcair asked: “Is it possible that after 50 years of hectoring and finger-wagging and telling people what’s wrong with their decisions that we’re terrified at the prospect of being the ones who actually take the decisions?” If the NDP decides that it wants, finally, to try to be the party that actually makes decisions at the national level, it would be best advised to go with Mulcair.
By Michael Petrou - Tuesday, November 1, 2011 at 2:41 PM - 70 Comments
“Tories delist sniper rifles, self-loading weapons,” says the front-page Toronto Star headline, followed by text in the body of the story claiming that such weapons will be “declassified” under the Conservatives’ bill to kill the long-gun registry.
It’s unclear exactly what the Star means here by “delist” and “declassify.” Currently, firearms in Canada are classified three ways: as non-restricted; restricted; or prohibited. Roughly speaking, most rifles and shotguns are non-restricted; restricted firearms include many handguns, and rifles or shotguns that are deemed to be too short; and prohibited firearms include automatic rifles, as well as some handguns. The Tories aren’t reshuffling how various firearms will be classified. A gun that was non-restricted previously will remain so. What’s changing is that gun-owners will no longer have to register non-restricted rifles.
The Star lists several examples of firearms its says will soon be “freed from the binding controls that now see them listed with the RCMP-run database.” It’s a little more complicated than that. Continue…
By Barbara Amiel - Tuesday, November 1, 2011 at 6:00 AM - 2 Comments
A decent society that wastes money on programs of no discernible use shouldn’t balk at giving the disabled the small benefit of free parking
Heaven knows this column ought to be soaking wet in your hands. Between the severe drainage problems around our place, the endless rain and my guilt at leaving the dogs alone to go to the opera to watch Rigoletto humpback himself around the stage, I’ve been in bad weather purgatory. Hours on end spent standing in Wellington boots so the kuvaszok could splash around chasing skunks at two a.m. Then back to the computer, wet hair splashing all over it. I expect everyone in the land knew that while an iPhone can be dropped innumerable times, provided it’s in one of those lurid plastic see-through covers, one hit of rain and the whole bloody thing goes dead. Well I didn’t, and that happy bit of techno news was brightly conveyed to me by a child-assistant at an Apple store who performed an autopsy on my dead phone and showed me perfectly formed raindrops still inside.
My dogs can get anything out of me. Just that look when I come in the door from stealing an evening out, I feel like a heel. I can’t imagine the human being who actually stole a dog’s wheelchair off a Toronto porch a short while ago and left Roscoe, a five-year-old pug with paralyzed back legs, to drag himself around. That’s a contemporary version of stealing from the little match girl. Luckily for Roscoe a donated wheelchair had him back on the streets after two weeks, looking very jolly in the video clip.
Less jolly was my evening with the deformed Rigoletto dragging himself around on the stage sans wheelchair in the Canadian Opera Co. production I abandoned my dogs to see. Verdi’s opera plot revolves around the eponymous hunchback court jester Rigoletto, whose innocent daughter Gilda is seduced by the Lothario duke and then kidnapped by courtiers. When father sets out to get his vengeance, a plot twist has his daughter mistakenly murdered and delivered into his hands in a sack. Cheery stuff, though I must say, sans a few shortcomings, I loved the production and the soprano Ekaterina Sadovnikova was as close to a perfect Gilda as I’ve heard.
By Nicholas Köhler - Monday, October 3, 2011 at 9:30 AM - 67 Comments
His enemies roused, his brother a liability, Canada’s toughest mayor comes undone
The Saturday after the worst week in Rob Ford’s political life, the mayor of Toronto and his councillor brother Doug attended the inaugural game of Toronto’s new women’s lingerie football team, the Toronto Triumph, in which players wear bras, hot pants, garters and shoulder pads, and for which Doug’s daughter Krista is captain. “How these puppies are going to stay in place beats me,” Krista, in her early 20s, wrote before the game on Twitter, an apparent reference to her breasts. “All I care about is: not missing a single tackle & leaving it all.”
The Triumph lost badly, 48-14, to the Tampa Bay Breeze. For the Fords, the losses did not end there. Bad news has dogged them for weeks, a situation so intriguing to many Torontonians that it often pushes Ontario’s provincial elections off the city’s front pages. Much of that fascination has to do with the intense culture war under way between the Fords and Toronto’s downtown elite. If Krista’s LFL—the Lingerie Football League—is the most powerful symbol of the conflict, it is by no means the only one. No politician in recent Canadian history has had as polarizing an effect as Mayor Ford and his brother Doug, generating an industry of Tweedledum and Tweedledee caricatures and promoting a level of civic engagement at city hall not seen in years.
Ford, who secured an improbable election win by promising to deliver a stripped-down Toronto—one free of graffiti, a Toronto of roads, perhaps some police, lower taxes and little else—has been stopped in his tracks by the city’s old order. His story is a morality tale that plays more like farce. It would be funny if it were not such a powerful lesson in the staying power of civic vested interests and the Sisyphean challenge of changing a city.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, April 29, 2011 at 10:00 AM - 37 Comments
The National Post endorses a Conservative majority.
The main question in this election is about who can steer Canada forward during uncertain economic times. Given Mr. Harper’s record of intelligent, sober leadership, and the many question marks associated with his opponents, his Conservatives are our clear choice in Monday’s election.
The Toronto Star disagrees.
By Colby Cosh - Tuesday, April 12, 2011 at 8:37 AM - 21 Comments
I’ve been catching up with the various party platforms, and doing my best to use one of the pet heuristics I developed in my columnist days: looking for the most positive thing I could possibly say about those whose overall philosophies I strongly oppose. In this election, that is pretty well everybody. But I started with the Greens and the New Democrats, because that is where the task of being sympathetic is hardest for a gun-crazed oil-drunk Albertan.
The contrast between the parties’ platforms is interesting: the Green ideas induce slightly more sheer nausea of the “literally everything in here is eye-slashingly horrible” kind, but at the same time there is a consoling breath of radicalism pervading Vision Green, a redeeming Small Is Beautiful spirit. At least, one feels, their nonsense is addressed to the individual. A typical laissez-faire economist would probably like the Green platform the least of the four on offer from national parties, but the Greens may be the strongest of all in advocating the core precept that prices are signals. At one point, denouncing market distortions created by corporate welfare, Vision Green approvingly quotes the maxim “Governments are not adept at picking winners, but losers are adept at picking governments.” (The saying is attributed to a 2006 book by Mark Milke of the Fraser Institute, but a gentleman named Paul Martin Jr. had uttered a version of it as early as 2000.)
The New Democratic platform is more adult and serious than the Greens’ overall, which comes as no surprise. But it occurs to me, not for the first time this year, how much some folks love “trickle-down politics” when they are not busy denouncing “trickle-down economics”. How does Jack Layton hope to remedy the plight of the Canadian Indian? By “building a new relationship” with his politicians and band chiefs. How does he propose to improve the lot of artists? By flooding movie and TV producers, and funding agencies, with money and tax credits. He’ll help parents by giving money to day care entrepreneurs; he’ll sweeten the pot for “women’s groups” and “civil society groups”. One detects, perhaps mostly from prejudice, a suffocating sense of system-building, of unskeptical passion for bureaucracy, of disrespect for the sheer power of middlemen to make value disappear.
There is one specific difference between the platforms that leaps out when they are read together: Vision Green has a section on “Ending the war on drugs.”
In 2008, according to the Treasury Board, Canada spent $61.3 million targeting illicit drugs, with a majority of that money going to law enforcement. Most of that was for the “war” against cannabis (marijuana). Marijuana prohibition is also prohibitively costly in other ways, including criminalizing youth and fostering organized crime. Cannabis prohibition, which has gone on for decades, has utterly failed and has not led to reduced drug use in Canada.
Green MPs, we are promised, would remove marijuana from the schedule of illegal drugs outright. It’s the “legalize and tax” approach, presented mostly without the usual cowardly conditions—though, being Greens, they can’t resist stipulating that regulations should confine production to “small, independent growers”. (There is no earthly reason giant industrial concerns shouldn’t be allowed to get in the game if they want to.)
The NDP platform is silent on the drug war and on marijuana. Jack Layton used to be the favourite son of the single-issue stoners, and decriminalization appeared in past platforms. Now we see the mustachioed one repeating “potent pot” fairy stories on the campaign trail and calling for an “adult conversation”, instead of for policies that treat adults as adults. Note that when the Star‘s reporter asked a follow-up question, Layton immediately started cracking wise; someone should explain to him that “adult conversation” about drug policy does not involve dropping smirking hints about the personal predilections of participants.
It would not be quite so extraordinary for Layton to play the smug ass, of course, were he not a cancer survivor currently reaping a hard-earned harvest of sympathy. As he knows—as some kindly professional has perhaps told him—many people in his plight find marijuana a useful part of their therapeutic regimen, particularly in overcoming the effects of chemical and radiation treatments. I don’t suppose he will have any trouble obtaining marijuana if he decides he should want it; maybe he already has. But what about the less privileged? Have they been altogether forgotten by their social-democratic tribune?
By Michael Petrou - Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 8:02 AM - 0 Comments
Colleagues in the Maclean’s Ottawa bureau can attest to the fact that during the almost four years that I have been writing about Cindor Reeves, I have often fumed and ranted about the fact that other Canadian media refused to follow this magazine’s lead on the story. I’m pleased that changed this week. Here’s the Vancouver Sun’s take.
In other developments, Rick Dykstra, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s parliamentary press secretary, tells the Toronto Star’s Tonda MacCharles that Reeves has not given the government permission to speak about his case. This is not true. Reeves may not have given the government permission to speak to the Toronto Star. But Reeves provided the government with written permission to talk to me about the case in 2009. After demanding such permission as a precondition to talking, the government still refused to say anything. Continue…
By Brian D. Johnson - Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 4:43 PM - 17 Comments
Dear Rufus Wainwright, I know you’re reading this. Why? Because I was there last night at the Elgin theatre when you offered this half-joking confession between songs: “I don’t know about you, but I get sick of reading about myself every day on Google—it’s bad, it’s bad, it’s bad.” That was after you had dedicated your song Pretty Things to the Toronto Star. The previous night, your opera, Prima Donna, had its Canadian premiere on that same Elgin stage as part of the same Luminato festival, and the Star promptly slagged it with a one-and-a-half star review, calling it “a dramatic wreck.” For those of us who never found the time to read the Star review, you were good enough to paraphrase the cattiest line— “you can’t get a Louis Vuiton clutch from a Loblaws grocery bag.” You then concluded with a catty swipe of your own, that the Star critic must be “a real label queen.”
You weren’t about to let this go. You went on to tell us that on the afternoon before the concert you just couldn’t resist reading more reviews of the opera, including those from the Globe and Mail, which was fairly complimentary ["paleo-tonal, dripping with Puccini-esque lushness] and The National Post, which was adulatory ["the work of a real composer who understands the proper use of a trained voice and speaks the harmonic dialect of romanticism more fluently than many of the crossover stars who gobble up commissions today"] You didn’t quote those reviews. But you explained your backstage conundrum: “I’m putting on feathers and black eyeliner than I read this National Post review. . . Shit! I have to be happy out there! It doesn’t match my outfit.”
Well, Rufus, if you’re still reading this, you can relax. I’m not a critic. At least not where you’re concerned. I don’t feel qualified to review your opera, which I attended Monday night. I mean, I’ve seen a few operas in my day, including the entire Ring Cycle, and as a film critic I’ve seen a lot of orphaned opera in movies—I know that Ride of the Valkyries is the sound that helicopters make when they set fire to Vietnam—but to be honest, I know my cappuccino better than my Puccini. And although I’ve heard some your music and followed your interviews over the years, I had never seen you perform until last night’s concert. So I have nothing to compare it to. But I can offer one or two modest observations, about both the opera, which you composed, and the concert, which you performed.
Loved the cinematic staging of the opera, with those church-high Parisian windows caging the Sunset Boulevard diva who is struggling to make her comeback and can’t get beyond the media interview that’s been set up to promote it. And I was tickled that the journalist who interviews her—a closet singer with seduction in his heart—shows up with notebook, pencil and . . . the score! That’s like me showing up to interview Meryl Streep and pulling a screenplay out my back pocket. I find it works every time. Makes them melt. Unfortunately, this journalist was in no position to evaluate the singing, because I was given a press seat at the back of the Elgin, and a lot of the lower-register vocals never made it that far.
As for last night’s concert, you were the diva. At the start of the show once again we were asked to hold our applause. But this time we were told to hold it until you had completely left the stage at the end of the first act, because leaving the stage was part of the show. You made a melodramatic entrance slow-marching across the stage, trailing your cape, and took your seat at the piano in hushed silence. You then performed your new album in its entirety—All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu. You didn’t offer a word or a glance to the audience, which I later learned was utterly out of character. Your voice performed remarkable feats, soaring up and down glissandi, great spiral staircases of vocal ambition, while your piano often bolted off in other directions entirely. Behind you were hypnotic images of a giant eye raccoon-painted with mascara; as the lid opened and closed in slow motion, it looked like some some oozing, oil-slicked sea creature. Between songs, you sipped water while we listened to the white noise of the air conditioning and held our applause. That’s when I realized that the applause is not just for the performer, but for the audience. It fills the awkward silence and gives us something to do. By the time you slow-marched off the stage, finally allowing applause, I’d lost the appetite for it.
At the intermission, I ran into some longtime fans of yours who were mortified by what they’d seen. I reserved judgment, said I found it an interesting and daring experiment. One fan said it was like torture, and admitted he almost applauded before he was supposed to “out of spite.” Then I met a couple of friends who were disappointed because they thought they had tickets to the Rufus opera, not the Rufus concert. The previous night at the opera, no doubt there were some misguided Rufus fans who came to see you and were dismayed that you weren’t onstage. It does gets confusing, all this Luminato exposure coming all at once. Anyway, when you stepped onstage for the second set of last night’s concert—having changed into a comparatively subdued pink-and-orange-flowered suit and shirt—you were (apparently) your old self, joking with the audience and singing some familiar tunes. You were warm and generous and the fans screamed. “Thank you so much for playing along with me in the first act,” you said. “You were very well-behaved, very Canadian.” Later, as if acknowledging that so much Rufus at once might be a bit much, you said, “I really appreciate all the attention that’s been paid to my opera and my show. I will always remember it as a special time in a very dark season.” You were, of course, referring to the death of your mother, Kate McGarrigle, in January. You paid tribute to her in the final song of the night, a number by your mother, which was tender and beautiful. By then, this off-duty critic had been won over. I’d been Ruf-ied.
By Aaron Wherry with Chris Sorensen - Friday, April 16, 2010 at 10:00 AM - 49 Comments
Shooting down a star
As Parliament resumed on Monday, seat No. 46 in the House of Commons—the spot immediately visible to television viewers over Stephen Harper’s right shoulder when the Prime Minister rises to speak—was no longer assigned to Helena Guergis, the photogenic Conservative for Simcoe-Grey. The former minister of state for the status of women had been officially banished to seat No. 153, a spot about as far as one can get from the Prime Minister without leaving the House. In her place sat Denis Lebel, the generally unremarkable minister of state for economic development in Quebec.
“She was one of the breakthrough MPs in 2004,” says Tim Powers, a Conservative strategist. “Remember the history of the Conservative party. The argument was: when the party was united we’d win more seats, we’d win more seats in areas like her riding. She won a seat, she was a loyal performer for the Prime Minister, she was hard-working, at least it appeared in the early days. Certainly, she fit a demographic and gender profile that accelerated her chances of getting into cabinet. So she had some opportunities and she took advantage of them, until she lost sight of who she was.”
Seven months after her husband, former Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer, was charged with drunk driving and drug possession, Guergis is now the subject of allegations serious enough to be referred to the RCMP. Whenever she next appears in the House, she will sit as an unwanted independent MP, unceremoniously ostracized from her party. And whatever else comes of the charges against her, she would seem now to personify the very antithesis of everything Conservatives hope to represent. “I think they truly became, in that old Reform term, ‘Ottawashed,’ ” Powers says of Jaffer and Guergis. “That they were given a lot of opportunities at a young age and they believed they were somewhat invincible.”
By Colby Cosh - Wednesday, March 10, 2010 at 12:29 PM - 105 Comments
Anyone else think the Star‘s buried revelation about Rahim Jaffer’s criminal case only makes things more confusing?
A rookie Ontario Provincial Police officer failed to follow proper procedures during a strip search of Jaffer, 38, causing the Crown to conclude the case would be open to a Charter challenge, the Star has learned. While the OPP opposed Jaffer only being charged with careless driving, the Crown took a steadfast position, sources say.
If they found cocaine in Jaffer’s possession before conducting the strip search, failing to follow proper procedure wouldn’t impeach that evidence (and it is hard to see how it could impinge upon the impaired-driving charge at all). Under Charter guarantees, the lawyers tell me, you can use fruit gathered from the “evidentiary tree” up until the point at which it becomes “poisoned”. But if the cops strip-searched him before they knew he might be carrying cocaine, why the hell did they do it (and do it carelessly)? Cops are only supposed to conduct strip-searches to protect their own safety or to prevent the destruction of evidence related to the reason for the original arrest.
I’m struggling to arrive at an alternative explanation other than “Some ‘rookie’ cop overstepped his authority and used a strip-search as an instrument of intimidation”, but I’m open to suggestions.
By Andrew Potter - Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 10:49 AM - 83 Comments
With no one to yell at, the party has done some useful policy work
Looking for a Liberal in Ottawa last fall was like a trip into the heart of darkness. You would eventually find a crew of them, hunched over the latest polling data in some dark corner of the Centre Block, where they’d give you the 1,000-yard stare and mutter quietly about the party lacking leadership and direction. The whole miserable session culminated in the legendary Night of the Long Faces, when a group of Liberals repaired to a bar at the Chateau Laurier for a bitch session that the Toronto Star breathlessly reported as a nascent coup being mounted by Bob Rae to topple Michael Ignatieff.
Everything is relative, more so in politics, but in the early months of 2010 it is suddenly a good time to be a Liberal. It’s easy to find Liberals on the Hill these days; with the government off “recalibrating” its agenda, they are striding around like they own the place. And why not? Ever since Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament over the Christmas holidays, the polling gap between the Conservatives and the Liberals has vanished, and for the past three weeks, Ekos tracking polls have had the two parties in a dead heat.
The received wisdom is that the Tory lead (which before Christmas one pollster called “entrenched”) vanished because of public anger over the prorogation, and many pundits have suggested that Harper’s inability to pass up an opportunity to show how clever he is has backfired once again. And there certainly appears to be something to that. Most people are genuinely annoyed that Parliament is not sitting, probably for the simple reason that most people don’t get to simply decide not to go to work for two months, least of all in the dead of winter.
By Colby Cosh - Monday, December 7, 2009 at 4:21 AM - 97 Comments
After some hours trying to decipher Angelo Persichilli’s column about the Château Laurier Conspiracy, I think I’ve found the key. One must disconnect Persichilli’s speculation about What It All Means from his actual reporting. It seems likely he overheard or was given access to audio of some genuine conversation, though the whole account is slathered in enough passive-voice sauce to turn anybody’s stomach. Ignore the carefully placed buttresses to the story’s authority and importance, like “This was not an isolated meeting between a few MPs”, and what you’re left with is… an isolated meeting between a few MPs, who bellyache tipsily while Bob Rae listens politely and encourages frank discussion but strongly insists he is not interested in a coup.
This is exactly what you would expect Bob Rae to do if he were a completely loyal lieutenant with no ambitions of his own whatsoever, intent solely on serving as his leader’s eyes and ears. It is also exactly what you would expect Bob Rae to do if he were planning a lightning coup for the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. Most likely, Bob Rae is just what you think he is: an ambitious fellow forced to play a difficult hand, one who may be happy to profit from a regicide but is fully aware that he who draws the dagger rarely survives to wallow in the glory.
Beyond the facts, the column is full of fairly innocuous propositions disguised as dramatic disclosures. Succession to the leadership is a “dominant theme of discussion” in the Liberal Party? Well, sure, that’s what political parties are: machines for ensuring that aligned political interests stick together if something happens to the leader. I promise you that succession to the Conservative leadership is a pretty frequent subject of table-talk when Conservatives get together. (And, in fact, it’s a strength of the Liberal Party, not a weakness, that it has a lot of semi-credible successors around.)
And Persichilli “wouldn’t be surprised” if Ignatieff retreated to his “beloved academic world” at any moment? So who would be? The Liberals imported that danger/hope as part of the package deal when they dragged Ignatieff back from Harvard. Persichilli, I feel, is merely reminding us of the facts of life in a way that makes his eavesdropping seem fraught with urgency and electricity.
The more I concentrated on what is truly knowable and relevant in Persichilli’s story, the more I felt sorry for Bob Rae. Imagine having to stand there, nodding and smiling and nursing a schnapps, while you pretend to take the strategic judgment of Ruby Dhalla and Carolyn “Body Bags” Bennett oh so seriously. To what Christmas fantasy did his mind drift off while Dhalla, an ISO-certifiable ninny, was waxing obnoxious about the party “not doing enough to nurture the next generation of leaders”? Did he dream of being elected Santa Claus, passing in his crimson finery through the gingerbread doors of the Elf Parliament as the Candy-Cane Peace Tower glimmered in the night sky?
By Colby Cosh - Saturday, November 28, 2009 at 9:06 AM - 357 Comments
Laymen who have understandably decided to accept what much of the media now treats as axiomatic–that humans are causing potentially catastrophic global warming–must now be suffering some anxiety over the leaked e-mails from the Climatic Research Unit. Is an opinion leader like George Monbiot right to view this as a serious matter, or should they believe the reassurances of somebody like, say, Toronto Star environment columnist Peter Gorrie?
I ask solely as a matter of media-consumer interest, because, realistically, what Gorrie writes doesn’t matter to a climate-change skeptic, or to anyone with the time and the quantitative training to follow a scientific debate on his own. It matters to the guy on the subway who avoided Stats 101 as if it had horns and fangs, and that guy is now getting conflicting signals. I presume Gorrie would agree that his job is not just to confirm that reader’s prejudices–though people do like having their prejudices confirmed, and any argument a columnist can make will confirm somebody’s.
Like other columnists covering the CRU leak, Gorrie zooms in on just one “example” from the e-mails; although the etymology and sound of that word “example” would seem to imply some element of randomness in the selection, many of these columnists are choosing the same e-mail, because it contains an apparent faux pas that is relatively easy to explain away:
In one email, the research unit’s director, Phil Jones, refers to work by another scientist, Michael Mann, published in the journal Nature: “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series … from 1961 … to hide the decline.”
“Trick” doesn’t refer to sleight of hand; it’s jargon for a good, useful solution to a research problem. The problem in question relates to the fact that one method used to estimate temperatures over centuries – measuring tree rings – doesn’t give good recent results. But actual observations, the “real temps,” were available.
It’s much easier to understand “scandal” than even that simplified explanation.
He’s right about the word “trick.” Scientists do use the word to describe simple solutions to sincere research problems. It does not, on its own, imply deception. The real problem with the Jones e-mail is the part about “hiding the decline.” The issue, really, is right there in Gorrie’s paragraph: tree rings appear to have serious problems as a means of inferring global surface temperatures from before human records were kept. As an abstract of the Briffa study Jones was discussing notes:
…tree-ring density records become de-coupled from temperature after 1950, possibly due to some large-scale human influence that caused wood densities to decline. Thus, the reconstructed temperature record after 1960 is considered unreliable.
Jones’ “trick” was to graft observed temperature data from after 1960 onto a line showing temperatures merely inferred from tree rings. If you just reported the tree-ring data straight-up, they would suggest that the earth has cooled since 1960, which conflicts with what we know was happening (assuming there are no biases in the temperature observations, but that’s another battleground several miles away).
In one sense you could argue that this is a “trick” in the innocent meaning of the term, a real answer to a real problem: Jones only meant to “hide” a presumptively nonexistent “decline”. But an ordinary person looking at a graph doesn’t expect the underlying data to be spliced together from two different sources if the point of the graph is to highlight what one source (the tree rings) tells us. Moreover, the divergence between the predictions of the tree-ring model and real post-1960 temperatures is a legitimate problem in paleoclimate reconstruction. (“Some large-scale human influence” on “wood densities”? Oh, hell, what about the fairy hypothesis? Couldn’t woodland sprites have sprinkled magic dust on those trees?)
In “hiding the decline”, Jones was thus proposing to “hide” a weakness in the research itself. IPCC peer reviewers squawked about this “hiding” when it was done in another way, by simply cutting off the data at 1960. As a matter of scientific ethics, Jones’s “trick” sucks. Though it’s still probably not one of the four or five most ethically troubling statements in the leaked CRU e-mails, even considering just the ones made by Jones.
Gorrie could have minimized the offence in dealing with this cherry-picked example of malfeaseance; instead, he handwaved it away completely. But then there’s a lot of handwaving in this column, like the obnoxious complaint that environmental reporters are being asked to “parse e-mails” (which, as described above, he goes on to do in a tendentious, half-hearted way) instead of “focusing on the evidence of human-made climate change”. As if the debate over the CRU e-mails was anything other than an argument about the provenance and quality of the most important body of a posteriori evidence for human-made climate change.
Gorrie also says, sympathetically, that climate scientists “resent having to respond to skeptics.” Well, who the hell doesn’t? That’s like saying that prosecutors resent the threat of having unfairly acquired evidence excluded from the courtroom, or that ballplayers resent the danger of getting picked off first base. They can resent it all they like, but it’s there in the rules of the game, for good reasons. Q: What do you call a scientist who can’t accept criticism from “skeptics”? A: Anything you like, as long as it’s not “scientist”.
By Andrew Coyne - Wednesday, August 19, 2009 at 5:00 PM - 46 Comments
Every accidental death raises the same simple-minded cry
In a typical year, somewhere around 450 Canadians will die by drowning. As it happened, in the ﬁrst week of August this year, eight Canadians drowned—about the number one would expect in any given week, except that, on this particular week, all the victims met their end in Ontario. Or more precisely, within the catchment area of the Toronto Star.
In an instant, an entirely probable series of tragic accidents was transformed into an epidemic, with a single cause and a universal remedy. “Drownings prompt calls to reform boating laws,” the paper’s front page headline blared. “A shocking spate of drownings on Ontario’s lakes and rivers,” the story reported, “has ofﬁcials demanding all boaters be required to wear life jackets.” Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, June 22, 2009 at 11:51 PM - 22 Comments
So the Justice Minister convenes a press conference Monday morning to discuss the government’s crime agenda. And, at least judging from the transcript, he appears to have been suffering from a rather serious bout of displeasure.
“Once again, the opposition parties, the Liberals, NDP and the Bloc are playing politics at the expense of the safety and security of Canadians.”
“So what do these stalling tactics and lack of action mean to Canadians over this summer? It means that they would still find themselves victims of identity thanks to the opposition.”
“I’m here today to call on Michael Ignatieff and his Liberals to ensure that this happens. I’m calling on the Liberals to pass C-15 into law before the Senate rises this summer. For once, we need the Liberals to stand up against these gangs, the people who exploit Canada’s most vulnerable citizens, particularly our youth.”
And so on. Reporters press Mr. Nicholson on various matters and then the pesky Tonda MacCharles, a writer employed by a paper the Prime Minister reads and respects, asks an entirely unreasonable question. Continue…