Collingwood’s Reichstag fire

Reichstag fireThe Reichstag was the home of the German parliament until 1933, when it burned down just one month after Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor. The Nazis immediately blamed the fire on the Communists – their main political rivals – and used the event to suppress their opponents, repress opposition and dissent, consolidate power, while deflecting public scrutiny from their more hideous acts.

Many historians believe that the Communists weren’t involved, but rather the Nazis set the fire themselves to help promote their own agenda and enable their vendettas. They used propaganda tactics to enrage the public, and consolidate their position.

The Reichstag fire became a worldwide symbol of those in power: using a “false flag” attack which Wikipedia describes as, “…a covert operation designed to deceive; the deception creates the appearance of a particular party, group, or nation being responsible for some activity, disguising the actual source of responsibility.”

Sound familiar? Sound like something that recently happened here in Collingwood with a CBC exposé about alleged wrongdoing? A story with no wrongdoing but a lot of sly allegations and innuendo? A distraction from the real, important stories?

That’s Collingwood’s own Reichstag fire. Or its false flag, if you feel more comfortable with that name.

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The Hate Brigade returns

The dyspeptic Hate Brigade was back in front of town hall last night, stirred into another mindless frenzy by misleading media stories, innuendo, and conspiracy theory. (Okay: they don’t have an official name, but it was that or Brian’s Bullies…)

Last term Brian Saunderson and Steve Berman were the Hate Brigade’s leaders; now Saunderson is deputy mayor, so the public aspect of the dirty work falls to the slovenly mooch, Berman. 

BFFsSaunderson made his cunningly timed appearance, entering the building to the anemic cheering of supporters; none of them apparently aware of how they’ve been duped over and over this term. Remember his promise of no sole-sourcing? Or public engagement in all major decisions? Now just shards among his many broken promises. Ah, the emperor was wearing his new clothes – at least to those of us with unblinkered eyes.

As expected, the abydocomist CBC released another story. That will be used to further the campaign efforts of those council candidates the CBC swears aren’t “friends” of anyone in the corporation. But CBC stories are looking more and more like the yellow journalism of Fox than actual journalism these days. Sad.*

The purpose of the Hate Brigade is not simply to protest any perceived wrongs: it’s to bully, intimidate, shame, insult and harass. These are tactics well-honed by both Saunderson and Berman last term. Followers are encouraged to wave poorly-written signs (who can forget Deb Doherty’s partner’s “inpeach council” sign last term?) and to send nasty or threatening emails to elected representatives and town officials.

For example, this one was recently sent to the mayor and copied to all of council and the CAO, from a fundraiser for Theatre Collingwood, who is also on the board of Collingwood Minor Hockey Association:

Given all the information that is now public – the Integrity Commissioners’ findings of your multiple conflicts of interest, the article below exposing corruption and the significant OPP investigation, you should resign as Mayor.
You have failed your councillors as a leader, you have been grossly negligent regarding your responsibilities and you have disgraced this community. You exploited your Mayoral position, denying an honest, democratic and transparent process to every resident of Collingwood. You should be ashamed.
Please do the right thing and hand in your resignation.
Jennifer Knight
Resident of Collingwood

 

Uli Rath – a well-known Saunderson supporter – was pictured waving a sign that was sort of readable (in a crayonish way). Saunderson’s bulldog, Mike Lewin, was there too. John Brown – the former interim CAO and arguably the most disliked person who has ever sat in the CAO’s office here – was in the crowd. Little wonder: Brown was the Palpatine Emperor to Saunderson’s Darth Vader. Saunderson voted to extended Browns’ contract twice – at more than $200,000 a year cost to taxpayers. Coming out to support the mob seems a small payback for Saunderson’s slavish support all those years. Jamie Berman – the longtime breadwinner in that household – was there chatting amiably to Brown.

All this over a four-year-old police file that doesn’t say the mayor did ANYTHING wrong. She’s hardly even mentioned. But it’s full of the sort of juicy allegation – all of it unproven, some of it demonstrably wrong – that the Hate Brigade feeds off. They’ve been told to hate the mayor’s brother, that he must be guilty of something even if none of them can identify just what. Doesn’t matter that the OPP didn’t charge anyone in five years, and are not going to. Haters gotta hate.

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Innuendo, not guilt, in CBC story

False allegationsBy now I expect you’ve read the scurrilous CBC story written by Dave Seglins or at least one of its local spin-offs. For me, the best line in the CBC piece is the description of Seglins by David O’Connor, a “veteran criminal defence lawyer,” who called Seglins a “… f—— sleazeball.”

Eloquently said, and certainly an opinion shared by others in town. I would have added a few other expletives, but I already stand guilty of egregious verbosity, so I’ll let the description stand on its own merit.

It’s a story full of allegation and innuendo, but not guilt. The story cunningly tells you some of the details from the 219-page OPP report, just enough to make readers think someone was guilty without actually saying so. And what it does say is couched in language that seems designed to further the interests of a group of council candidates, the unemployed Steve Berman in particular. (Berman has long been the easily-duped catspaw for others who also have interests in the upcoming municipal election).

In their book, The Elements of Journalism, third edition (2015) authors Bill Kovach and Tom Rosensteil say the purpose of journalism is “to provide people with the information they need to be free and self governing.” Well, this story doesn’t even get close to that lofty goal. They add (p. 9) that the first of ten items journalists need to fulfill this task is, “Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth.” Not selective truth, not opinion, not sly innuendo or unfounded allegation: truth. Another miss, it seems.

Start at the top with the headline. It’s misleading and incorrect, but it sets the oleaginous tone for the rest of the piece: “Ex-MP received ‘secret’ cut of $12.4M deal in resort town run by his sister, OPP probe alleges.”

Sandra Cooper is mayor. She isn’t a mafia boss. She doesn’t “run” the town: council and the town administration do collectively. In fact, Sandra voted against many of the initiatives of Lord Voldemort Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson and his marionette Block minions, including sidelining the hospital redevelopment, privatizing our electrical utility without public consultation, twice extending the contract of the much disliked interim CAO, calling for a judicial inquiry that could cost taxpayers $6 million or more, and the last two budgets. All of which passed because of The Block’s unanimous votes.

Yes, that’s right: they mayor voted AGAINST the town’s budget and pretty much all of Saunderson’s initiatives. But they passed anyway. So how can she be said to “run” the town? You’d think a reporter would ask those questions. But maybe the CBC doesn’t follow that sort of journalism these days.

And, no, the OPP probe doesn’t allege anything about the mayor. The story makes it guilt by association.

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Shaving redux

Sweeny ToddIn mid-May, 2018, I published a post about my change in shaving technologies and techniques. I described why I thought it was a more environmentally friendly method, and somewhat of a homage to family tradition. Now I want to bring you up to date on my progress to date.

Before I took the step back to the double-edged safety razors like my father used, I did (as is my wont) a lot of reading and research on websites and forums. Thankfully, there’s a lot of content about everything online, albeit that quantity doesn’t guarantee quality, or truthfulness.

One of the most common themes I found is about which razors are suitable for “beginners.” Words like “aggressive” are tossed around when describing blades and razor hardware. Some models are pegged as for “experts” or “experienced” shavers only. Like they were some hard-trained marathon team, or maybe like Navy SEALs with expertise honed to sharpness matched only by their blades.

It can be rather intimidating. In fact, I was a bit hesitant and ambivalent about the whole process. It sometimes read like I was about to engage in some dangerous ritual that involved deadly weapons and secret cult gestures only with which I would be able to avoid slicing myself into bloody ribbons. Or like learning to fight blindfolded with real katana.

Maybe I’m just channelling Sweeny Todd, but I imagined Susan would rush into the bathroom, alerted by the sound of shrieks and wails, to find me bleeding out on the bathroom floor. Ambulances would be called. Emergency department nurses rushing my gurney into operating rooms screaming “stat!” and “code blue” or other such TV-hyped phrases. While I, in a haze of fading consciousness, stared at the blinking machines that counted my life ebbing away with ever-slackening metallic beeps and boops.

I’m here to tell you it’s pretty much all tosh. Diaphanous piffle, as Conrad Black would say. There’s really no mystique in it and no secret handshake shared among users.

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Ecclestone’s laughable campaign literature

BumblestoneWhen I saw Cam Ecclestone’s self-aggrandizing flyer, I was strongly reminded of the opening of Chapter 24 of the Tao Te Ching, which in my latest translation reads,

Blowhards have no standing,
The self-promoting are not distinguished,
Show-offs do not shine,
Braggarts have nothing to show,
The self-important are here and gone.
(The Dao De Jing: A Philosophical Translation, trans. Roger Ames & David Hall, Ballantine Books, Jan. 2003)*

As the least active member of council, the vain Ecclestone’s main contribution to the process this term has been to make the motion to adjourn at the end of a meeting. True, we’re thankful that he calls for an end to a painful, and often unethical process, but it’s hardly noteworthy.

In fact, he is so silent and unmoving that some council watchers often wonder if he is even awake during the meetings. And when he does speak – a rare occurrence – it’s usually to stutter and stumble through his unflagging if sometimes incoherent support for something from his leader, Brian Saunderson. 

Pompous gitIt’s amusing to read this brochure for several reasons, not least is his taking credit for things he had nothing to do with – and some that this council didn’t start, simply watched continue. If you didn’t know better, from reading his flyer you’d think he was mayor, or at least someone who actually did something.

Most of the credit for positive things on his list goes to the previous council. In his egotistical way, Ecclestone fails to give any  credit to town staff for actually doing the work while he sat at the table, nose in the air, consuming precious oxygen. 

In retrospect, the entire list of things Ecclestone has raised or initiated this term, has championed or advocated for is coincidentally equal to the number of times he has voted independent of Brian Saunderson this term: none. His contribution to the greater good has been equally lacking in substance.

As a writer and editor (albeit retired), I also wonder who did his brochure’s editing because it’s so full of grade-school errors, bad capitalization and punctuation, and clumsy phrasing that I suspect a grandchild had a hand in it. If Ecclestone himself was responsible for the atrocious writing, then he desperately needs some remedial English lessons.**

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Really? Another sole-sourced lawyer?

William McDowellCollingwood hires lawyer for judicial inquiry. That’s the headline on a story in the Connection.

Do I understand this story correctly? The same sole-sourced lawyer who encouraged Brian Saunderson and his council puppets to launch a judicial inquiry that may cost taxpayers $6 million or more has been appointed to to be “legal counsel for the judicial inquiry”?*

Anyone remember this promise by Brian Saunderson to…

Change the purchasing policy to ensure there can be no sole sourcing of any contract for goods or services over $25,000, no exceptions.

And yet there was no RFP for a position that could be paid hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars? Even though Brian PROMISED residents there would ALWAYS be an RFP for any contract over $25,000, there was no RFP. “No exceptions,” he promised.

Well, he forgot that promise about 15 seconds after he was elected. Every municipal contract seems to be an exception for Brian if it furthers his agenda.  Under Brian’s watchful eye, this council has handed out sole-sourced contracts like party favours, more than all the councils in the past 30 years combined.**

And he wants to be mayor?

And it is a coincidence that another lawyer benefits from a sole-sourced contract on the council that lawyer Brian dominates? Or that the decision came after another closed-door session, one of the too-many-to-count this secretive council has held this term? Those campaign promises of openness and transparency? More bullshit.
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