The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Election Madness Pandemic

We tried to warn people, but we were obviously too late.

Stop the insanity, we cried. Little did we know that the election campaign had already descended into full-fledged madness.

We, like you, have been overwhelmed with the barrage of lunacy in the past couple of days. We don't know whether to laugh or cry. Or just cringe at examples like these:

* Winnipeg Free Press reporter Dan Lett got a televised all-candidates meeting confused with an audition for the next Scooby Doo movie. Sporting bizarre chin whiskers Lett appeared to be angling for the role of Shaggy.

We give credit to CBC host Krista Erickson for not bursting out into guffaws everytime she called on him to ask a question.

Someone should have told Lett that television is a visual medium and if you show up looking like a ridiculous cartoon figure, you park your credibility at the door.

Shaggy, you remember, was scared of everything. Maybe Dan Lett was channelling his inner Shaggy to express how scary he finds the Conservatives. In that he would find solace in the Liberal Party attack ads unleashed as a last-ditch effort to shore up support. The Liberals have come up with the pinnacle of insanity with these ads, and none more perverse and deranged than the ad intimating the Conservatives planned to occupy Canada's cities with troops as a prelude to a military takeover. The only thing missing was an overdub of jackboots echoing down Yonge Street.

After a frantic 24 hours of brainstorming, the Grits have concocted an "explanation" of the Harper-is-Hitler ad. They needed one because they've been falling over themselves trying to put out the firestorm ignited by the ad. Yesterday, deputy prime minister Anne McLellan claimed the ad was never approved by Paul Martin. This came as news to Paul Martin - who said he personally approved every one of the attack ads, including the military ad.

Today, they're singing from the same hymnbook because now they're both claiming the ad was really intended to attack the suggestion that Canada's military should be dispersed instead of concentrated in one place. Lame. Very, very lame. And very, very transparent.

* This morning the Liberal Party said Stephen Harper's proposal to include property rights in the constitution could be used to strike down laws child labour laws. We don't know about you, but we've noticed Harper has never explicity come out against using eight year old boys in the coal mines of Nova Scotia. Do think that's just an oversight?

* Sure, call us crazy, but then how crazy do you have to be to piss off Mike Duffy, CTV's main political pundit? The Liberals did it. In a normal world, the story of a Liberal party insider trying to intimidate a journalist into not talking about a political scandal would be big news. As we said, forget normal.

The story is all over the blogosphere, just not in The Winnipeg Free Press or the Winnipeg Sun or the Globe and Mail or the National Post. Kudos to Charles Adler for picking it up and having Mike Duffy as a guest on his national show yesterday.

The story, in a nutshell, begins on Duffy's CTV show Countdown the day after the party leaders French language debate. Duffy talked about the military ad, and was going to let Liberal Party spokesman John Duffy (no relation) respond after a commercial break.

To his surprise, John Duffy confronted him and, wagging a finger in Mike D's face, tried to browbeat him into dropping the subject. When the show resumed, Mike Duffy was never so angry on camera, and he tore a strip off the Liberal hack.

For fuller details see Angry in the Great White North where a transcript from the Adler show has Mike Duffy's account of the incident. We guess this was the first time the Puffster saw Liberal thug tactics firsthand, and didn't like the Liberal values he was seeing.

* We can't let this pass by, though, without noting Adler's own attempt to take his audience into a parallel fantasy world.

Before his national show, Adler loved to brag on CJOB that he was an entertainer first and foremost. "I don't do your grandfather's radio," he repeated ad naseum. Now that he's sucking up to Toronto, he's changed his tune.

Look at how he's revised his interpretation of what he does: "A talk show host like myself are sometimes slagged as just being entertainers, tabloid, looking for a charge, confrontational for the sake of being confrontational."

The grammatical errors are his. As is the revisionism. Charles Adler the entertainer has mutated into---an aggrieved journalist? Madness, we say.

* And the madness goes on.

The Winnipeg Sun made our Peter Kent Challenge earlier in the election campaign by having anti-Conservative opinion columns appear on the election news pages. Yesterday, the newspaper put the columns of Greg Weston, Sheila Copps and born-again journalist Charles Adler where they belong, on the op-ed page.

That made room on their election page for an opinion column by the paper's court jester Laurie Mustard, who, surprise, surprise, endorsed the Liberal party. How the political opinion of the paper's least qualified pundit warrants coverage as election news is a sign how deep the campaign insanity runs. In his less-exhalted days, Mustard was best known for writing the most useless and irrelevant column in the city--- until Doug Speirs came along to claim the title for the Free Press. Now he advises people on how to vote.

* We can't mention Peter Kent, without talking about another rift in the time-space continueum.

David Asper, Chairman of the National Post, plans to vote for the Conservative Party. In the words of the Liberal attack ads:
we're not making his up . Shuffling off a lifetime of family support for the Liberal Party, and risking being haunted by his late father Israel, Asper came out to support the candidacy of Peter Kent and to reject reelection of the Liberals.

"The need for a man of Peter's integrity became even more clear to me after hearing the Prime Minister say during the last English language debate that 'we've got to have a more intelligent debate. Enough is enough: this idea of drive-by smears doesn't make it true', and then the next day launch a series of Liberal advertisements that are some of the most insulting, base attack ads that I have ever seen. The Prime Minister is correct. Enough is enough. It's time for a change and Peter Kent is someone who represents not only change itself, but change for the better."

* With the earth tipping on its axis this way, it's left our heads spinning.

There was a time we thought the paranoid fantasies of the loony left couldn't be topped for their mindblowing insanity, but then we never imagined in our wildest dreams that the Liberal Party's election campaign would incorporate those very fantasies: the Americans taking over Canada by funding the Conservative Party which would then station the army in cities to suppress dissent.We do however, owe an apology to Free Press columnist Frances Russell.

She was the first one in Winnipeg to print an alarm about the plan to station soldiers in Canada's cities. We thought it was because she was a charter member of the loony left.

Now it turns out she was just a stalking horse, a propagandist entrusted with flying a trial balloon for Reg Alcock et al to guage the effect of the Liberal Party's planned attack ads.How could we know? Frances Russell has demonstrated she has a problem with the truth in her columns. Whether its
a problem with identifying sources , or selectively editing letters she quotes , or, as in her latest, omitting relevant information.Wednesday's column was an attack on the Conservative's child care plan. It turns out, she says, the plan is just another scheme to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. Those evil Tories at work again.

She quotes, as her source, a study by the Caledon Institue of Social Policy, which, she says, is "one of Canada's leading public policy research centres." The report she relies on was written by Ken Battle, Caledon's executive director.Search as hard as you can, and you won't find the most important fact about Ken Battle in Frances Russell's column.

Battle used to be the senior policy adviser to the Minister of Human Resources Development, Doug Young and his successor Pierre Pettigrew. He was instrumental in creating the National Child Benefit for the Liberal Party, a program he cites as "the most important innovation in Canadian social policy since medicare."

"I wrote the basic document making the case for the National Child Benefit," he brags on the Web.

He proudly outlines how he stickhandled the plan into law, including:
- "a one-on-one discussion of my paper with then-Finance Minister Paul Martin",
- a presentation to a Cabinet committee on social development along with Minister Pettigrew, and - "helping HRDC officials make the case for a sufficient down payment on the NCB in the 1997 budget which announced the reform."

"I wrote the first draft of the 1997 budget document proposing the National Child Benefit."
Funny how Frances Russell didn't mention that the attack on the Tory child care plan was by the author of a Liberal child care plan.

But, then, as The Black Rod has pointed out before, accuracy, honesty and facts are not required by the Winnipeg Free Press in its columns.

* There is one conforting thing, in an election gone mad there is always one thing you can count on. When the Liberals are in trouble in the polls they can always count on their friends in the mass media like the Toronto Star to come to their defence.

Right now the Star is conducting push polls that are based on the likelihood of a Tory victory . Instead of simply measuring public opinion the Ekos Research poll seeks to guide voters by asking the question, if you thought the Conservatives are going to win a majority would you change your vote.

Given that even lifetime Liberals are trying to distance themselves from the campaign, it may be a little late for Paul Martin's bunch to rely on the old standby tactics.

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