Month: February 2010

Tiger Woods Apology Falls Flat

Prepared statement manufactured from PR playbook

Tiger Woods may have a long, professional golf career ahead of him, but as an actor he is still a rank amateur. Woods began a one-way news conference sounding out the words scribed on paper in front of him in a manufactured public relations event. His delivery fell short of authentic, deliberately looking into the camera as he communicated his apology in a poorly rehearsed spectacle reeking of self-indulgence.

It was a typical display of a PR-orchestrated event, complete with his mommy sitting in the front row with arms folded and a stone cold expression on her face. In fact, Mrs. Woods may have been the only actor not following the script as her demeanor looked more like the image of embarrassment, rather than support for her embattled son.

In listening to the media’s reaction to the news conference you would think the apology was the equivalent to an ace on the 18th hole at TPC Sawgrass where the statement took place. CTV, who covered the new conference in between their sub-par Olympic coverage, fawned over Tiger’s apology as if it were Wayne Gretzky crying about betraying Mark Messier. The subsequent conversation featured empty-headed Ben Mulroney insisting that a billion dollar man needs a public relations plan to issue an apology. In other words, manufacturing an apology is fine and dandy as long as it is ultimately delivered.

Our media driven society need to realize what apologies like this achieve. Instead of an honest, unscripted statement, we get a highly produced, controlled script meant to win over the public and valuable sponsors – and for some reason this is acceptable. The bigger question of why we care to begin with is also a stain on what makes us tick and how the media can create intrigue in an otherwise meaningless situation. To be blunt, the only people who watched Tiger deliver his monotone speech and thought it was authentic are those who likely wear a helmet whenever they leave the house.

The other supportive group are those who think like PR people, but this is merely an industry-minded opinion and says nothing for the underlying issue – brutal dishonesty and manufacturing public support is at the heart of what’s wrong with celebrity and corporate culture. One of the most condescending aspects to this particular scandal was watching entertainment shows discuss what Tiger needed to say leading up to this morning’s speech. In a perfect example of systemic patronizing, co-hosts would pontificate on how Tiger really needs to take responsibility in a somber tone so that the public will forgive him. On the surface it sounds lovely, but using terms like “give the public the impression” or “win the public over” speaks volumes to the illusion of honesty. Even more ridiculous, these co-hosts are being watched by the same audience the PR scam is directed towards.

That’s right folks, the media will talk about what Tiger should do to get the public on his side, even if it is orchestrated, all while broadcasting for that same public, who are apparently too stupid to realize they are being ridiculed.

But, let’s not forget Mommy Woods. Through her deeply troubled presence we see a glimmer of hope. It isn’t shared by most sheeple in today’s world, but it is a glimmer nonetheless.

Vancouver Olympics: Security Concerns VS Conspiracy Theories

Safety measures during The Games already in question

by: James Di Fiore

Let’s imagine for a moment a young woman was hired to babysit a couple of kids in England. She had a decent reputation, seemed to know what she was doing and came recommended. Unfortunately, she also had a habit of leaving the children unattended. While babysitting a brother and sister in downtown London, a criminal broke into the house and kidnapped the two kids while the woman was asleep at the switch.

Would you then hire this woman to take care of an entire nursery school in Canada? Probably not.

With the Vancouver Olympics kicking off today, organizers have hired Verint Systems Inc. to handle all security for The Games. On the surface, Verint seems like a solid pick. They are at the forefront of video and communications solutions, providing what they call “optimization and security intelligence.” The parent company, Comverse, had a plummeting stock value over the last few years and was seen as a has-been in the world of top-tier security systems. Why? They were responsible for the faulty surveillance equipment in the London Underground during the terrorist attacks on 7/7. The worst terror attack on British soil since the IRA’s heyday and Verint was essentially responsible for a complete system failure, preventing authorities from accessing crucial images and footage of the alleged bombers. The failure, which authorities have declined to explain ever since the attack, made investors nervous and almost dismantled the company’s security division.

That is, until Canada came calling.

Verint was given the contract to handle airport security during the Games, a curious decision given the systemic failures in London. The Internet is now loaded with posts from a litany of conspiracy theorists who are claiming this decision means Vancouver is now a target of what’s called a false flag operation – a government staged terror attack meant to mislead citizens into believing their country is under attack, likely by Muslim extremists. One must be careful however, as these same X-Files junkies will cling to just about anything to believe their liberties are under attack. One quick example is the often cited no-bid contract awarded to Verint for Montreal’s Metro system. Conspiracy theorists claim this is the handiwork of Mossad and the CIA to continue state terror attacks like the 7/7 bombings. A quick search, however, reveals that this contract was given way back in 2004, a full year before 7/7.

An easier angle to take is this: why on Earth would officials award the most important security project in recent Canadian history to a company that has proven itself unreliable during an actual security crisis? Forget conspiracy theories, this just doesn’t make practical sense.

Adding to the flavour is the recent discovery of 2 tons of missing ammonium nitrate from a shipyard in Surrey, British Columbia – the same explosive used to bomb federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995. Authorities believe the material went missing last fall and have stated they have no leads in the case.

While conspiracy theorists do their best to connect dots that may or may not exist, reasonable people still have legitimate reasons to be concerned about security in Vancouver. Estimates for costs of overall security during the Olympics ranges from $250 million to over $4 billion, depending on who and when you ask.

Whatever the costs, there is already good reason to worry about the safety of the people and reliability those in charge of protecting them.

Time will tell if the babysitter hired to take care of the kiddies has learned from her past mistakes.

TTC Watch: Bob Kinnear Disrespects Torontonians…again

Inarticulate union leader blames Toronto public for TTC woes

by: James Di Fiore

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

Bob Kinnear, the head of the Almagamated Transit Union local 113, lambasted the public at a press conference, blaming them for systemic problems at Toronto’s mass transit service.

Sound familiar? Well, it should.

Kinnear is making a habit out of scapegoating the Toronto public when his own competence is legitimately questioned. In the 2008 TTC strike he abruptly stranded thousands of transit customers without warning, erroneously stating the decision made was to protect his workers from “angry and irrational members of the public.” During negotiations with the TTC, Kinnear had promised to give 48 hours notice before walking off the job but in the end decided 90 minutes was enough.

And people wonder why unions have a bad name is some circles.

His latest farce took place at a press conference on February 9th. It was classic Kinnear, complete with a faux tough-guy voice meant to show his members he had their backs. Not so surprisingly, the statement came off forced, lacking any trace of real professionalism.

“Listen people, stop harassing people who are doing their jobs,” Kinnear told a news conference Tuesday. “Stop insulting them. Stop waving camera phones in their face. Stop spitting on them. Stop calling them lazy and overpaid.”

Kinnear continued. “We will be prepared to listen to constructive criticism and take it to heart,” he said. “We will listen to customer complaints if they are presented in a reasonable way and if we are given the courtesy of giving a courteous reply.”

It is always entertaining to hear a person demand reason and courtesy while behaving unreasonable and arrogant.

In the world of public relations, Kinnear is a nightmare. His crass, unpolished communications skills are evenly matched with his complete lack of respect for the millions of people who ultimately pay his members’ salaries. His tactic – pandering to his base while using the public as pawns and patsies – symbolize an ineptness of diplomacy when attempting to garner public support. In short, Kinnear is a colossal failure.

This latest public rant comes on the heels of TTC Chair Adam Giambrone’s failed mayoral bid after the candidate’s very public sex scandal involving a 20-year-old university student. While Giambrone has not yet announced plans to abandon his transit post, it showcases the rooted failure of the TTC to have effective leadership on both sides of the Commission.

If the public is deciding to hold Giambrone accountable for the TTC’s diminishing reputation, Kinnear deserves the same fate. After a two-year decline in quality service, an ill-advised surprise strike and another fare increase, the public has the right to feel used by Kinnear and the workers he represents.

I bet you $3 he does not learn his lesson.

Raps Hang on Despite Fourth Quarter Collapse

Bosh posts his 38th double-double in Reggie Evans debut game

by: James Di Fiore

The first three quarters were the kind of basketball Raptor fans are getting used to. They moved the ball well, had 6 players scoring in double figures, and welcomed back Reggie Evans who played his heart out in the 5 minutes of game time he saw. Then the fourth quarter happened.

Despite the deflated effort in the final frame, the Raps were victorious at home, improving their record to 29-23 after a 104-93 victory at the ACC.

Chris Bosh scored 23 points and pulled down 12 rebounds, netting his 38th double-double of the season. Andrea Bargnani added 16 points, 7 boards and played exceptional defense throughout the game. Reggie Evans, who played just 5 minutes, supplied the Raps with an emotional boost in the second quarter.

Evans, who has missed the first 51 games with a nagging foot injury, came off the bench mid way through the second quarter to a rousing applause by the Toronto faithful. Fans were heard shouting “Reg-gie! Reg-gie!” even before the husky forward made his way to the scorers table. He responded with the kind of hustle Toronto fans were hoping for, albeit for a short stint, but provided the kind of effort that will give the next 30 games a competitive edge for the Raptors squad. In just 5 minutes of play, Evans scored 2 points, snatched 3 boards, collected a steal and drew a charge before leaving the game prior to halftime.

The Raptors may need Evans’ toughness, typified by a lacklustre final period that saw the team blow a fifteen point lead when Philly tied the game on a Thaddeus Young lay up with 2:06 remaining. They were bailed out when Willie Green fouled Jose Calderon in the corner as the Raptor guard launched a 3 pointer. Calderon successfully converted the four point play as the Raps put the game away.

Allen Iverson missed his fifth straight game to be with his ailing daughter. Hedo Turkoglu also missed the contest to be with a sick family member.

The Raptors head into the All-Star break in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, posting a 29-23 record on the season.

Adam Giambrone Quits Mayoral Run

“I broke my own moral code,” embattled Councillor says

by: James Di Fiore

Fighting back tears and unable to finish his prepared statement, a clearly distraught Adam Giambrone called it quits after admitting to multiple affairs at a press conference on Wednesday morning at City Hall.

Giambrone’s executive assistant took over, rereading the entire statement while refusing to answer any questions about the former candidate’s exit from the race.

“The most painful lessons in life comes from the mistakes you make yourself,” Giambrone said over the phone in a statement to the Toronto Star. “I have no excuses for my failure to disclose my relationships with other women.” He went on to say the various affairs were the “worst mistakes of my life.”

One can hardly disagree.

Perhaps the most intriguing facet to this political scandal, as it always is with this particular politician, is Mr. Giambrone’s age. Indeed, when we think of memorable sexual missteps by political personalities, it is the Bill Clintons of the world that spring to mind. Gray-haired, staunch, well-connected, powerful political personas succumbing to the temptations of a typical male trait – a sexual appetite heightened by access to available, adorning women. Add the hormones of a healthy man in his early thirties, and all of a sudden the wonderkid from Davenport looks just as normal as the rest of us.

While the storm clouds are still gathering for Giambrone, ushered through the winds of a heartbroken lover, disappointed advisers and disgruntled supporters, there is a silver lining and a distinct advantage he has in overcoming the stress and reputation that goes along with a sex scandal. Once again, his age. Giambrone is 32 years old, a literal kindergartener in political years, already a savvy politician and well ahead of the curve by most polywonk standards. He has already demonstrated an instinct for strategy, typified by surrounding himself with organizers like John Laschinger and supporters like Howard Moscoe, David Miller and others. In other words, the kid is in good hands – so much so that you could surmise the following: as far as political lifespans go, Giambrone’s youth is finally over.

The former mayoral candidate will settle back into his roles as Councillor for Southern Davenport and TTC Chair, taking away a valuable insight into the world of sensational journalism and that discretion in one’s personal life is paramount. With 8 years of meaningful political experience under his belt, he will use this latest chapter as a method of reminder – never overestimate the self’s desire to fail, and never underestimate the power of a jilted lover.

Learning both before your 33rd birthday is a tough cookie to swallow, but it still keeps him well ahead of the curve.

Toronto Media Biases Exposed Over Giambrone Scandal

City’s News Organizations Show Sex Scandal in Varying Forms

by: James Di Fiore

If you’ve ever thought to yourself “Hey, we don’t have to worry about dogmatic media biases…after all, this is Canada!” then please, think again.

Adam Giambrone, the Toronto councillor ratted out by his university student mistress just as he officially threw his hat in Toronto’s mayoral race, is likely doing a lot of groveling right about now. After all, his texts to Kristen Lucas included referring to Sarah McQuarrie, his long-term mate, as basically a convenient means to a political end. Not exactly the best Valentine’s Day gift a gal could ask for, but nothing we haven’t seen in politics before.

Setting aside the obvious betrayal McQuarrie and supporters are experiencing (after all, he allegedly had sex on a couch in his office at City Hall), the tell-tale sign Toronto’s media has set up distinct political camps is in the language of our city’s major outlets. Observe the following headlines:

“This is THE Giam-boner”…eloquent words by The Toronto Sun. There’s really nothing to add to that, except to say we didn’t know Howard Stern’s pen-name was Rob Granastein.

Meanwhile, the Toronto Star was already busy handling damage control for Giambrone, even as they broke the story on Tuesday. It is fairly unusual, to say the least, to drop a bombshell AND the apology in the same column, but there it was.

The Globe and Mail played the role of ethics police by publishing this on their web site, but if you read another post, it is clear they are fastening themselves to the same fence they normally sit upon.

What’s missing you ask? Well, the only ‘publication’ that had strongly supported the Giambrone campaign was NOW Magazine, Toronto’s Village Voice copycat whose reputation for pandering hopelessly to anything left-wing always shines through. On Tuesday, NOW’s political reporter, Enzo DiMatteo, the ass kissing hack for all things Giambrone, tried his best to sound like a real journalist by leaving the question ‘what’s next?’ open-ended. (this is the same person who thought Giambrone was gay, only to revise the article in question to read ‘gay-positive’…wishful thinking reportedly played a role in that hiccup). Look for Di Matteo to pucker up while trying to give the appearance of showing balance in Thursday’s issue, however. DiMatteo’s relentless admiration for the young councillor seeps through the vegetable-based ink on NOW’s pages, and this scandal will likely result in a sympathy piece, outlining the real media’s supposed hunger for sensationalism.

What does this ultimately mean for Giambrone’s campaign? Too early to tell; but he will surely need positive press from outlets other than Toronto’s least credible source of political news. Stay tuned…

All Eyes on Reggie Evans

Raptors Enforcer Makes Season Debut Against Philadelphia

by: James Di Fiore

Every good story has a main character that anchors the theme of the overall tale. Most of the time it’s a centerpiece – the powerful, daunting, even tragic protagonist that sweeps audiences away from the start. And sometimes, although not often, he is unseen until the Final Act. Welcome to the Raptors 2009-2010 NBA season.

Just as the Raps have started to show fans the kind of consistency they had been lacking for much of the year, our own main character, both obvious and surprising, is making his return against the Philadelphia 76ers. Reggie Evans, the off season pickup with a menacing frame and a penchant for rebounds is finally back, and the timing has given the Raps their watershed moment.

Evans is a throwback to the days when players like Charles Oakley provided toughness, perseverance and defense – intimidating opposing teams with presence rather than skill. His career numbers are not in the same class as the game’s elite defensive players, but there are no stats to measure hustle, grit and positioning. Alas, the last time the Raps had a player like Oakley was when Charles himself called Toronto his home. Fans are hoping Evans is exactly what Oakley once was – that player providing the game’s intangibles¬† while relegating opposing players to limited offensive roles.

It all sounds more than ideal for a club that still gives up 30+ point quarters nearly every game. The city has been talking about Evans all year in a manner that has gone from frustrated to hopeful, optimistic to indifferent. Now that he is slated to step onto the court on Wednesday night, the expectations are completely up in the air.

Jay Triano, who was criticized for questionable substitutions early in the year, will now try to place Evans within a roster that is firing on all cylinders. Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani are averaging 36 and 34 minutes respectively, and moving Jarrett Jack into the starting lineup is the defensive edge they were seeking, forcing Jose Calderon to come off the bench and contribute in a more limited role. The move has worked as the team has posted a 14-6 record over the last 20 games, much to the credit of some clutch shooting from Marco Belinelli and defensive help from both Antoine Wright and Amir Johnson. With their core group playing cohesive basketball, Evans’ return will have to exceed expectations, taking away minutes from both Wright and Johnson while giving Bosh and Bargnani some much-needed rest down the stretch. Of course, this is all a utopian idea at the moment, born out of ideal scenario and anchored by an unknown outcome.

What’s interesting is the hardcore fans and the hopes they have rested on a player who hasn’t played one regular season game. Even more intriguing is the level of confidence Evans’ teammates appear to have in the 8 year veteran. The Raptors could end up a possible second round playoff team, or they could find themselves in the same situation if Evans re-injured his foot. Or, and this might be the most likely scenario; they find out that it is too late for Evans to come in and provide a lift for a team that is playing just fine without him.

In any event, the team will begin this last chapter against the 76ers who are without their own main character of the season, Allen Iverson. While Iverson’s drama deserves a full page on its own, Evans’ story has yet to be written.

Philadelphia VS Toronto – 7:00pm @ the ACC.

VOTE Toronto 2010: The Casting Couch of Adam Giambrone

Young Mayoral Candidate Gets Caught With His Texts Down

by: James Di Fiore

He had been touted as one of the most prolific politicians under the age of 40.

One might now want to change that moniker to precocious.

Adam Giambrone, the Toronto councillor and TTC Chair stated through his campaign manager, John Laschinger, that he will not give up his mayoral candidacy after the public learned of a year-long affair with a 20-year-old university student, Kristen Lucas. The relationship, which allegedly included sexual text messages and intercourse in his City Hall office, was apparently kept secret because his public relationship with Sarah McQuarrie was “important for the campaign.” For a 32-year-old, Giambrone has already mastered the political art of smoke and mirrors, and one wonders when he will learn the art of not leaving a trail…to the couch…at his office….in City Hall.

Already, newspapers in Toronto are comparing the fling to political soap operas like the Clinton scandals and the John Edwards affair – but this tawdry escapade has a unique, er, flavour. Giambrone is 32 years old, an overachiever, was rumoured to be gay and is seen as responsible for the TTC being in the worst shape since the early 90s. Beyond that, his reputation was squeaky clean. He speaks several languages, holds degrees in sophisticated subjects like architecture and African studies and was the president of a federal political party while still in his 20s. This kind of thing was not supposed to happen to a politician like Giambrone.

But that’s just it – put a politician on a pedestal and they will eventually chip away until it is just a stump to make speeches from. By confiding to Lucas that his current public relationship with McQuarrie was just for the cameras, Giambrone paints himself as not just an overachiever, but a typical scam artist as well.

Finally, while reading and commenting on Giambrone’s Facebook page I was unceremoniously blocked¬† at 5:06pm after debating with a few staunch supporters and the typical electoral sheeple.¬† Some people showed forgiveness for Giambrone, while others felt he abused his elected office and betrayed the trust of voters and his long time girlfriend.

When it comes to the Toronto vote however, Giambrone may have enough time to recover, provided household name and current frontrunner George Smitherman takes the high road. Smithermann, not known for having a laid back persona, will likely jump on this with some of the political grace he showed after side-stepping the eHealth scandal at the Premier’s office.

Time will tell. Until then, my suggestion is to find the couch, lay low and keep your texts to yourself.