Thursday, October 31, 2013

Well, Ford Nation, how to explain away this one?

The Toronto Star and Gawker were right. The video does exist. The police have it and it will be used as evidence in an extortion trial against Alexander Lisi, a friend of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair said the following today at a press conference:

"The video files depict images that are consistent with what has previously been reported" in the media, which described the mayor of Canada’s largest city obviously impaired in the video, puffing on what appears to be a crack pipe while uttering racist and homophobic slurs.

The Star earlier reported that Lisi, who also faces drug charges, was involved in attempts to recover the video.

Ford has been the target of a police investigation that witnessed and photographed him taking part in meetings with Lisi, according to police documents released Thursday.

Blair told reporters they recovered two videos from a computer hard drive that are relevant to their investigation. At least one will eventually be presented in court. The Star has been told by sources that the 90-second video its reporters saw was an edited version of the original.

"It's safe to say the mayor does appear in the video," Blair told reporters today.

His reaction? "As a citizen of the city, I am disappointed."

Over at the Toronto Star, which has been attacked by Ford Nation fanatics and various Ford apologists for months, there's vindication.

"Of course, we are extremely happy. Journalism has been on trial for the past six months," said Robyn Doolittle today, one of the two Star reporters who saw the video earlier this year and reported on it in May.

This article by Royson James sums up my feelings perfectly.

To all those Ford Nation fanatics who stood by their mayor despite all of the mounting evidence of his complete unsuitability for higher office, you deserve a big fat slap. You really do! At best, you deserve a time out (perhaps that should include staying away from the polls during the next municipal election) in which you can think carefully about your own judgment and what led you to perceive this abomination of a politician as suitable for the mayor's chair.

I suggest all of Ford Nation have a look at these pictures that were released to the public today. Now Magazine has posted all of them on their website for public consumption.

I truly hope the actual video becomes public soon. It will during the upcoming trial of Lisi for sure.

I predicted a train wreck in 2010 after Ford won his election. And indeed, that train wreck has arrived and will be pulling into the station for quite some time.

This Star editorial is bang on.

"Let’s review: Ford stands revealed as someone who has chronically, repeatedly and relentlessly misled the public about his conduct. Troubling surveillance evidence points to possible criminal behaviour. And one of his associates, being investigated for work done on behalf of the mayor, stands charged with extortion. Under these circumstances, having Ford at the helm badly undermines Toronto’s reputation. If Ford possesses even a scintilla of respect and concern for the city he is supposed to lead, he will step down as mayor."

Rob Ford should step down immediately.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Behold: Rob Ford thug David Price's destruction of public property

When you reward a thug psychopath who likes to hang out with criminals by electing him mayor, low and behold said thug recruits his thug friends and their destructive, impulsive, anti-social behaviour gets worse and worse and worse. That would very much sum up the last three unfortunate years in Toronto municipal politics.

Those idiots who voted for Mayor Fraud in Toronto in 2010 because they wanted a tax cut or thought Fraud's pathetic past behaviour made him "entertaining" need a serious reckoning. They'll get it in about a year when Torontonians correct this gross mistake and remove this abomination from the mayor's chair.

Until then, we have to keep watching the thugs do their thing on the public dime. Behold the incident in which Mayor Fraud's high-priced thug David Price - who gets a taxpayer-financed salary of about $130,000 to do stuff that Fraud calls "none of the public's business" - gets annoyed he missed a GO train on August 27, 2013 despite arriving late at the station and decides to destroy public property. Watch from 00:46 to when he smashes the door at 01:13.

We need an ADULT in the Toronto mayor's chair and adults on his/her payroll. We won't get that until Fraud is removed.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Federal party fortunes put to the test in four federal byelections called for November 25th

Federal byelections will be held in four vacant ridings on November 25th, 2013: my own riding of Toronto Centre (my very first byelection as a voter!), as well as Bourassa in east-end Montreal, and two ridings in rural Manitoba: Provencher and Brandon-Souris.

I'll be volunteering on Liberal candidate Chrystia Freeland's campaign in Toronto Centre (spreading the word through social media, this blog and door-to-door knocking) to help showcase what a great candidate she is and what she will bring to federal politics if elected. I'm hopeful that the voters in Toronto Centre will see in Freeland a dynamic, worldly, deeply intelligent yet personable candidate who will work very hard at representing this riding in Ottawa. I endorsed her long before this byelection got called as she's brilliant and has developed a sophisticated understanding of the major economic challenges we face as a country and as a planet going forward. I want someone of Freeland's calibre representing me in Ottawa. Freeland is already playing a major role in assisting the federal Liberals in drafting modern economic policies to push the country and middle class forward by co-chairing an economic committee with Liberal MP Scott Brison. Freeland's long-held views complement Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's own focus on strengthening the middle class.

Toronto Centre NDP candidate Linda McQuaig has a profile too as a writer and columnist. She'll likely provide Freeland's biggest challenge in this byelection. I'm sure that McQuaig's team will repeatedly attack the Alberta-born Freeland for having worked the last 11 or so years outside of Canada. But such attacks could backfire as the majority of Toronto Centre voters probably don't care much about such things. Residents in Toronto Centre are probably the most transitory in the country, with residents regularly moving in and out of the riding and many only having lived in Toronto, and even in Canada for that matter, for a short while. We are an international riding, deeply concerned about Canada's place in the world. We welcome newcomers and people who want to work hard to make Toronto Centre a better community.

It's likely that Freeland will spend the majority of her campaign talking up her experience, knowledge and what she has to offer the riding in terms of representation going forward. Based on her campaign's communications since being nominated in mid-September, I doubt that Freeland is going to spend much time attacking McQuaig personally, although some good jabs questioning McQuaig's flip-flopping on higher taxes would be welcome. I do hope that Freeland vigorously defends herself against NDP attacks.

In Montreal's Bourassa riding, the battle will be between the Liberals and New Democrats as well. Liberal candidate Emmanuel Dubourg, a former MNA for a portion of the area, will face off against lawyer and musician Stephane Moraille of the NDP in the traditional Liberal stronghold. The Grits will be working hard to increase their margins of victory over the NDP in both Bourassa and Toronto Centre. With their party running high in public opinion polls for months, how that support translates on the ground in these two seats will be illuminating.

How well the Liberals can do in the two rural Manitoba seats will also be informative. The Grits placed distant third or fourth places in those ridings in the 2011 election, with the Conservatives garnering between 64% and 70% of the vote. But a botched Conservative nomination process in Brandon-Souris this time has left many local Conservatives there fuming. It's likely many of them won't bother to turn out to vote in this byelection, while other conservatives may switch their votes to the Grits in protest. The high profile candidacy of Liberal nominee Rolf Dinsdale, the son of the area's former longtime Conservative MP Walter Dinsdale, could see the Liberal vote in that riding jump from a pathetic 5% in 2011 to what could easily challenge the Conservatives, whose vote will undoubtedly drop. Winning outright for the Grits will be a tall order, but not completely impossible, which is amazing to write considering the riding's history.

If the Liberals manage to run strong second places to the Conservatives in the two Manitoba seats, displacing the NDP in both ridings, as well as handily winning their strongholds in Toronto and Montreal, then Justin Trudeau's Liberals will continue to show that they've got the most momentum of the two main opposition parties in Ottawa. It will further reinforce the growing impression that the federal NDP is going nowhere but down and that progressive voters looking for a real, governing alternative to the Conservatives should return to the Liberal fold as soon as possible.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Zac Efron strips for upcoming raunchy comedy "That Awkward Moment"

Okay, let's put aside all seriousness and celebrate the release of a new, rated-R movie trailer for Hollywood heartthrob Zac Efron's upcoming raunchy comedy called 'That Awkward Moment.' The film is set to be released in January, but already the producers are making us salivate over the quick shot of the 25-year-old hunk's nude body while planking on a toilet (apparently after taking Viagra and then needing to urinate.)

Watch the trailer below to get more details.

I've been waiting for young Mr. Efron to show off a little nudity for years. For an actor who has traded so much on his sexy good looks, it seemed strange that Efron hadn't yet done nudity on the big screen (only instead offering shirtless or even underwear-only scenes, which have been enjoyable to watch, but still aren't quite the full monty we hope to see). Apparently, the drought will be finally over in early 2014 with 'That Awkward Moment.' I can't wait.

Until then, we can stare at this photo and dream of seeing this shot scrolled wide across the big screen with hopefully much more to see of Efron, co-star Miles Teller and perhaps even handsome Michael B. Jordan thrown in. Enjoy!

Friday, October 11, 2013

John Greyson, Tarek Loubani return to Canada after imprisonment in Egypt

Today, October 11th, is National Coming Out Day.

That fact made this article today by J. Lester Feder on Buzzfeed all the more poignant. Entitled, "How A Gay Canadian Filmmaker Jailed In Egypt Went Back Into The Closet To Save His Life," it details how gay Toronto filmmaker John Greyson's partner, Stephen Andrews, was forced to go back in the closet in order to help keep Greyson safe. If you haven't heard about Greyson and Doctor Tarek Loubani's incarceration in Egypt (because you haven't read a Canadian newspaper or watched much TV news for two months), you can read about it here in their own words.

Greyson and Loubani returned to Canada tonight after being released from prison last weekend. It's great that this ordeal is over for them and they're back in seemingly good spirits.

I once met Greyson through my friend Cuong Ngo at an Inside Out film festival party a few years ago. Greyson's documentary film 'Fig Trees' won the Best Canadian Feature Film award that night. My own film 'The Golden Pin' won Best Canadian Short that night as well, and my film's director, Cuong Ngo, was a student of Greyson's at York University.

I've always been a fan of Greyson's films, especially the gay classic 'Lilies.' I don't share some of his politics, but I respect his opinions and his obvious bravery. It would take an immense amount of bravery for any openly gay man like Greyson to make his way into Egypt or Gaza in order to document stories we rarely get to see in the West.

I've also found it repulsive that so many on the conservative right in this country have taken to attacking Greyson and Loubani for their political views and for being in Egypt at all, taking the opportunity to attack the men when they were down (behind bars in an Egyptian prison), something conservatives are often happy to do. The worst may have been this column by bozo writer Margaret Wente, who outed Greyson as gay while he was still in Egypt this week (although at least he was out of prison by the time this went to publication.)

I don't believe criticizing Israeli government policies in the occupied territories is tantamount to being "anti-Israel" as so many commentators continue to falsely allege. I will admit that I've never been a fan of the group 'Queers Against Israeli Apartheid' and I do sometimes detect a disturbingly hateful streak in some of the criticism leveled against Israel by some activists. But I've never observed such extremism in Greyson's opinions, who has been forceful but also intelligent in his comments. I was glad to see the two men take the time tonight to thank both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird after they landed in Toronto.

One final note: As a hot-blooded gay man, I must say that one aspect of this story that wasn't lost on me is Tarek Loubani's immense good looks (in my opinion, of course.) Just look at his smiling face! Combined with an activist mindset and the brains to earn a medical degree, let's just say I was enchanted. I also sensed that Loubani might be gay, an impression that was reinforced by that video Greyson and he released on their website yesterday before returning from Egypt. But I read quite curiously in Feder's article today that Loubani's "heterosexual." But a guy like me can still dream, no? Maybe now it's Loubani's turn to come out on this special day? ;-)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Time to revoke charitable status for "Living Waters" and other Christian groups like it...

I got very angry reading this investigative journalist piece today in the Toronto Star by undercover reporter Graham Slaughter. It's part one of two stories the Star is publishing this weekend into the dubious Christian program called "Living Waters," that claims to heal gay people through an intensive 22-week program that costs $550. The Toronto chapter is run out of a church in the north part of the city.

In the story today, Slaughter writes:

"During my time undercover in Living Waters’ Toronto chapter, I posed as a depressed gay man who hoped to become straight. The Star sent me inside the Toronto program because many respected psychological authorities have denounced gay conversion programs, saying they pose serious psychological risks, including depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

"The movement to “heal” homosexuality is on its last legs in the United States. Exodus International, an American group, shut down in July and publicly apologized to those it had counselled. Yet in Canada, similar programs still exist.

"At Living Waters Toronto, the program is led by a team of volunteers, including a preschool teacher, a personal trainer and a pastor. Leaders give hope that God can heal participants’ “sexual and relational brokenness,” an umbrella term that includes such issues as homosexuality, masturbation and pornography addictions.

"But some of those former participants told the Star stories of personal anguish and spiritual crisis when their attempts to become straight failed. (Their stories appear in Part 2 of the investigation..)

"These stories chip away at Living Waters’ facade as a healing ministry, revealing instead a religious organization that hurts some participants in its attempts to heal sexual dysfunction and relationship problems."

Despite this, this bogus Christian group continues to enjoy the benefits of charitable status in Canada, something it obtained in 1998. Slaughter's article confirms:

"Living Waters must meet certain requirements to keep its charity status, one of which is to provide a “public benefit.” In the CRA’s guidelines for registering a charity, it describes “benefit” as “directed toward achieving a universal good that is not harmful to the public — a socially useful endeavour.”

If the information in the article is to be believed, it's clear that Living Waters did not include its plans to run gay reparative therapy sessions when it applied for charitable status. The program's leaders promote lies about the origins of homosexuality in individuals and follow lines of thought in their "healing" that have proven deeply damaging to those who are unfortunate enough to come into their misguided clutches.

I'm sure tomorrow's story will detail many tragic experiences by people who have gone through Living Waters' program. If those stories are similar to many others I've read from similar Christian programs, Living Waters will be exposed as doing great "public harm" and "destruction," not the "public benefit" needed to continue its dubious charitable status in Canada, where in the past three years donations have accounted for 62 per cent of the group's total revenue.

In fact, the Star reports that Canada Revenue Agency documents show that Living Waters has grown significantly in the past nine years, more than tripling its annual revenue from $227,035 in 2003 to $769,204 in 2012. The idiots who are giving this money to this group do not deserve a tax receipt for it, that's for sure.

It is well past the time that these types of bogus Christian groups be cut off from the public trough.


As expected, the stories shared in Part Two of this Toronto Star piece by reporter Graham Slaughter illuminate further the damage being done by Living Waters and other religious programs like it. Here's how the experiences of one former participant in the program are described:

"After a year and a half in the Living Waters program — the end of a 10-year journey of denying his sexuality — [Darin] Squire left the program feeling ashamed. He said Living Waters indoctrinated him to believe that as a gay man he could be only three things: a prostitute, a pedophile or a recklessly promiscuous swinger.

“I was told there was no such thing as a healthy happy homosexual. They do not exist,” he said.

He accepted this supposed fate and descended into a self-destructive “depraved lifestyle,” he said. “No one walks out of there and says, ‘It just doesn’t work for me.’ We walk out of there broken. People go in there unhealthy and come out unhealthier.”

Clearly, there is no credible "public benefit" to this Living Waters program. I hope they and other groups like them lose their charitable status as soon as possible in Canada!