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 since 2005, 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:

Monday, April 02, 2012

Gordon Sinclair's parable backfires. Bartley Kives learns a lesson.

Well, what do you know? The Mayans were right.

It is the end of the world---if you're a bleeding heart liberal.

We've gotten used to the weekly screech from Frances "Red" Russell declaiming the end of civilization at the hands of Stephen Harper, but on Saturday past her squishy colleague Gordon Sinclair Jr. (still suffering daddy issues) joined her for a chorus of Auld Lang Syne.

It appears to be "the beginning of the end of the truly caring Canada," he wept. "Say goodbye", he declared, to the Canada "personified by caring..."

The cause of this gloom? The federal budget. "We will be expected to take more personal responsibility," wailed Sinclair.

Huh? Like that's a bad thing?

It is in Sinclair's world. To prove it, he spun a story, "a parable, of sorts."

His story begins with a woman "who had to compose herself before she sat down to compose her letter to me". (Ha ha. Note the clever play on the meanings of the word "compose" to show he's witty as well as wise.)

Back to the story. It was 8 a.m. and she was on her way to work. In a bus shelter on Main Street she saw two men stretched out on a bench, "bedded down." She tried not to disturb them, but a Winnipeg Transit supervisor arrived and rousted them. She struck up a conversation with the younger man, gave him her coffee, and, after hearing his sad story, she gave him $20---"all she had with her".

By then, the older man had returned "(b)ut so had the transit supervisor", who told the men to get moving.

The woman got on her bus and wondered of the young man walking down Main "will he be cold again tonight?"

Talk about unintended consequences. If Sinclair thought his "parable" would rouse the masses against the government, he's showing his bleeding-heart colours. It does exactly the opposite.

Here's a woman going to work. We apologize to the liberals in the audience for using a four-letter word, but its necessary to the tale.

She's headed to work (sorry, again) just like most people on the go at 8 o'clock in the morning. She comes across two bums sleeping---just like most bums--- at 8 o'clock in the morning.

And she tried not to disturb---them? Oh, gosh, don't wake the sleeping bums. They've had a hard night of doing nothing.

And they've made themselves at home in a transit shelter which was built with money from taxpayers for the express purpose of giving working people a place out of the cold, out of the elements, with somewhere to sit to make their daily commute a little bit better. Instead, the bums are hogging the bench while they take a snooze before starting another hard day of doing nothing.

The woman obviously earns enough to be comfortable. She buys her morning coffee; minimum wage earners make their own and drink it before leaving home. And she's got plenty of cash to dole out to strangers. Most people would hand over a dollar or two. She doles out a twenty.

Sinclair forgets the part where social agencies have annual campaigns to discourage people from giving cash to the homeless because it almost invariably goes on booze or drugs. But enabling alcoholics and druggies is really showing caring, right? So the woman didn't have to worry. Cheap sherry provides a warm buzz.

And note how the villain in the story is the transit supervisor. Let's see. How early do you think he starts work? How early does he have to get out of bed in order to get to work? Do you think he would rather be happy at home sleeping at 8 o'clock instead of risking his safety by confronting bums? And who wouldn't like it if someone came to their home and gave them a free twenty bucks every morning.

In this story, the people who demonstrate personal responsibility are the bad guys. They are the people who have jobs, who work hard for what they've got, who get up early and do the dirty work others don't want to do, who pay their taxes and who provide civic amenities like transit service and shelter for travellers. The users and abusers are the good guys, for whom we're supposed to feel sorry.

And so far, we've overlooked the kicker in the story.

You see, the woman, while chatting with the younger of the homeless men, asked if he had any family.

"Actually, that's my dad I'm with," he replied.

Awwwww. Father and son, homeless and sharing a bus shack. Ain't that touching?

Actually, it's as clear an example of a failure of personal responsibility as you can get.

Two generations of derelict. A father teaching his kid the ropes of how to be homeless. That's just sad. Maybe if the father had any sense of personal responsibility he would take care of himself, and certainly discourage his son from following in his footsteps.

Instead, Sinclair says instilling personal responsibility in the next generation is evil. Apparently, asking people to plan for their future, even out into retirement, is a right-wing plot to make a "caring Canada a distant memory."

We blame the Mayans.

The glory of giving was also the topic of a column Sunday by Gordon Sinclair's colleague Bartley Kives, only in his case it was on a bigger scale, as in millionaires giving to the little people. His piece was a grovelling apologia to the rich and powerful for a column he wrote last week.

Kives, it seems, got a painful lesson from on high in making even the slightest criticism of Gail Asper and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in the pages of the Winnipeg Free Press, the propaganda arm of the museum.

A week ago Kives wrote a column about how the public will react (in his view) to the pet projects of the rich and powerful in the city compared with what the movers and shakers expected.

Included was this about the Aspers:

THE PLAYER: The Asper Foundation

PUBLIC-RELATIONS INITIATIVE: On Friday, David and Gail Asper announced their family's charitable foundation has pledged $2 million toward the Assiniboine Park Conservancy, with half the cash going toward the construction of a new plant conservatory and the other half adding to a pool of funds devoted to other aspects of the park's $200-million makeover. The new conservatory will include a Babs Asper Memorial Garden to commemorate the family matriarch, who died in 2011.

REALITY CHECK: An Asper-family gift to the conservancy was in the works well before Babs Asper passed away. Cynics who criticize the philanthropic family due to David's role in the Winnipeg Football Club's messy stadium saga and Gail's efforts to raise funds for the contentious Canadian Museum for Human Rights will have a tough time deriding this gift.

NET PR EFFECT: Positive but not lastingly so, as Asper-haters have ignored the family's charitable works before. The family name has been dragged down by the national museum's remarkable inability to explain its mission and abject failure to be transparent about its financial woes.

Dum de dum dum. Talk about a career-limiting mistake.

One DOES NOT link the Aspers to failure in the Winnipeg Free Press. A week later, Kives had obviously received the memo---in triplicate.

The Aspers are philanthropists. Philanthropists are gods who walk among men. They can do no wrong. Philantropists "deserve our collective admiration for their efforts," he wrote.

"My intention was to show an Asper family gift of $2 million to the Assiniboine Park Conservancy was not a PR move at all. But I clearly didn't make my point very well."

Kives claimed he was driven to explain his true love for the rich because of "hateful rants against the Asper family" which "sometimes bordered on anti-Semitism".

Note to readers: that's Free Press code for any comments that the Aspers object to.

"So although no one has asked for an apology, I owe one to David, Gail and Leonard Asper."

We haven't seen that much craven grovelling since Lindor Reynolds wrote a column lamenting the closing after 58 years of a family-run fabric store, then reported the wrong name of the store throughout the column.

So we suspect there's more to Kives' epiphany about the sainthood of the rich. We're betting someone took him to the woodshed and spelled it out for him in big letters. FP co-owner Bob Silver likes moving in the same circles as the rich. He doesn't want to be embarrassed by some punkass reporter. The newspaper business is in dire straights and the FP needs the rich onside. Screw the poor and downtrodden. That's so yesterday.

That scenario makes sense at least.

But the public isn't rallying to Kives' I-heart-the-Asper campaign. The comments were priceless and we're reprinting a smattering of the best because, well, we can't say it any better ourselves. (misspellings in the original)

Joe Schlabudnick
The reason you may have had a full inbox is likely a result of David's own definition of philanthropy.
If he defines philanthropy as building a stadium (ahemm, digging a hole) and getting all your investment back after realizing you can't finish the thing, you've done nothing philanthropical. What he dad was start a project with NO public request for proposals and dictated to the rest of us what we'll be paying for, including his portion of the costs.
Don't even get me started on Gails elephant. THose are the reasons people are willing to run the Asper's out of town, not some deep rooted anti semitism.

You don't need to stand up for the Aspers. They are doing quite well spending the taxpayer's money on their pet projects and monuments

good article, but needs some straightening out. As a taxpayer I didn't vote to spend millions of dollars on either Gail or David's projects. A lot of the negativity towards these to projects and by proxy towards the Aspers is around the political power they wielded to get these done on my back. Let's recall no family used leverage (finacial and political) more than they did to build CanWest and it was ultimately their undoing.

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