Saturday, 7 April 2012

The Black-Hearted Rod

The Black Rod, IMHO, is this city's most grossly overrated blog. Despite the virtues it may have in breaking stories, it displays seldom matched vile and cowardice in every post I've had the stomach to read. Take, for instance, The Black Rod's take on Gordon Sinclair's take on the values of the 2012 Federal budget:

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.
This is nauseatingly painful to read. I'm not some namby-pamby politico who thinks politics should occur by joining hands and singing "the more we get together" or that polarized polemics are some great evil. This blog itself is fashioned in the polemical style of blogging, as I'm sure a brief glance at the blog description will tell. I've criticized the Free Press before and have sketched some ideas as to why Bob Cox distrusts statistics, but "The Black Rod" goes too damn far here. "Daddy issues"? Are you seriously going to bring up somebody's personal life when attacking their view on public policy so blatantly and irrelevantly? 

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?
Yeah, I sure as hell bet that taking personal responsibility is everywhere and in all circumstances absolutely paramount. I guess "The Black Rod" will now advocate that we slash all police services and tell Winnipeggers to "take personal responsibility" for treating fractured bones after car crashes. Or, for that matter, demand the abolition of the CDIC - after all, us depositors should just take personal responsibility by making sure we pick a bank/credit union that'll never, under any circumstances, go bankrupt.

 Or maybe this wingnut is all for societal responsibility and cooperation so long as it's not for programs that mainly help the poorest, the neediest, Winnipeggers. What this wingnut needs to know is that personal responsibility is all good and swell, so long as one has a good measure of effective equality of opportunity - and that requires many of the social supports Harper is keen on slashing to spend billions on stealth fighter jets instead.

Incidentally, the concentrated bile that is "The Black Rod" left out the full context of Sinclair's statement about responsibility. In proper context, it read "...we will be expected to take more personal responsibility, and expect less of almost everything else". 

Gordon Sinclair's original article - "Caring Canada a distant memory after this budget" - told the anecdote of a woman who'd sent a letter to the Winnipeg Free Press on something that bothered her. It was an incident where she uncovered two homeless men resting in a bus shelter during a cold March morning. It would turn out that the two were father and son. The woman - who only had $20 on her - watched as a transit worker shoed them out of the bus shelter because not everyone tolerates the homeless. The woman gave the younger homeless man a coffee she had on her. Later, she gave him $20 - it turned out that the other man was his father.

Shoeing out those without shelter back onto the cold streets sounds like something reasonably compassionate people would get upset about. There are some homeless shelters, but social housing is still very underdeveloped, underfunded, and undervalued in this city. Katz, Selinger, and Harper really need to get a move on addressing social housing issues -and yes, that means addressing them before trying to perfect the people who need them.

"The Black Rod", however, is not written by compassionate people. It embodies the worst in "F-You, I Got Mine" conservatism. Furthermore, its ultraconservative ideology results in heart failure that leads to brain failure as well.
 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.)
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.

Aside from throwing a temper tantrum over the fact that Sinclair uses "compose" in two different senses in the same sentence, The Black Rod also paints the woman and the homeless in a nasty light. Apparently, if you're a working person it's ghastly and reprehensible to give your money away to "bums".

"The Black Rod" characterizes "bleeding-heart liberals" (as opposed to brain-dead heartless conservatives) as anti-work. I'm not sure about "bleeding-heart liberals", but this earthen social democrat views joblessness as a tragedy. Most of the left does. The fact that unemployment may be necessary to keep inflation low1 is a very sad truth for almost all left-wingers. Conservatives in various English speaking nations advocated slashing government spending - job-killing austerity - almost immediately after the global financial crisis because cyclical deficits were hiking debt-to-GDP ratios, while the left fought (against the current of "respectable" deficit hawk media shills) for job-creating stimulus. The hard right's willingness to sacrifice work for thousands in order to save some interest on debt-servicing payments is very anti-work.

"The Black Rod" also has the audacity to talk about unhoused people whose income is more than likely whatever the hell pedestrians give them as "doing nothing". Apparently, the fact that people have basic needs2 to fulfil eludes this set of bloggers - assuming "we our..." in the blog's description indicates multiple authors - with (at least occasional) internet access and (in all likelihood) sufficient food/housing. Building houses out of cardboard boxes, finding somewhere people won't shoe you away from, and rummaging for trash for scraps is supposedly living the good, easy life. That and fighting underlying mental health problems (which many homeless have) is just such an envious, carefree existence - they ain't just surviving, they're thriving, eh?!

Luxury Suite for Panhandlers 

Image Source: Photo taken by "The Analyst".

The assumptions The Black Rod makes about the woman are pretty prejudiced and knee-jerk as well.

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.
Let's see what Sinclair's original article said about said woman, shall we not?

"The fellow sitting on the bench looked cold," Jean continued, "so I offered him my coffee." 
It was black and hot and she thought it might warm him up. 
It did, and he thanked her warmly. 
And when Jean returned to the shelter, the man followed her. 
"It sure was cold last night,' Jean said, as the young man sat sipping the coffee. 
"Yeah, I know. That's why I slept in here," he said. 
Jean asked why he had to sleep in a bus shelter and if he had any family. 
"Actually," he replied, "that's my dad I'm with." 
At that point Jean pulled out $20 -- all she had with her -- and gave it to the young man.

Notice something? There's no mention of her buying the coffee - for all we know, she could've gotten a $4.00 travel mug from the Dollar Store months ago and homemade her coffee that morning. Then - out of the kindness of her heart - given the entire mug with coffee to the homeless man, thinking that he needed it more than she. The fact that she gave more money to the homeless than the average person doesn't indicate that she's a privileged upper middle class liberal - all it indicates is that she gives more than the average Janet or Johnny Canuck. She could be more generous or unfrugal for all "The Black Rod" knows - which is very little.

$4.00 Travel Mug from the Dollar Store

Image Source: Photo taken by "The Analyst"

Moreover, "The Black Rod" either completely misses the point or is intellectually dishonest.

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.
Yeah, the woman and Gordon Sinclair were clearly mad at that one transit worker rather than a whole system where we shoe away homeless people from one spot to another during cold days rather than providing them with shelter. Like most conservatives "The Black Rod" is utterly incapable of understanding systemic blame and thinks everything is personal instead. Some people never learn. Incidentally, I look forward to seeing The Black Rod's belief that Transit Workers are salt of the earth people change to "they're union thugs" if they ever strike for better pay and conditions.

Overall, this "The Black Rod" post presents a disastrous cocktail of stupidity and cruelty. Goading Gordon Sinclair over "daddy issues" is pettier than what teenage bullies do. All this would be bad enough were it not for the fact that "The Black Rod" squad are cowardly enough to bar comments, thus preventing refutation on their site. The cowards can sure dish it out, but they're scared to death of taking it.

Contrary to what someone has claimed, this blog is open to every and all commenters. Bring it on!  

1 Though some, non-neoclassical, economists doubt this. Dean Baker has labelled the Non-Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment (NAIRU) a "dangerous dogma". Modern Monetary Theorists (neo-chartalists) make a job guarantee a key element of their policy prescription framework - but keep in mind that they are very fringe thinkers within the economics profession.
2 This is more or less what economists refer to as "autonomous consumption" or "basic consumption".


  1. Jealous are we.

    Black Rod is the best thing we have going in this province and if he nails gordo from time to time, well, thats entertainment.

    1. Thank you for taking advantage of a privilege "The Black Rod" doesn't afford browsers.

    2. BTW, I guess "nailing" means "goading". The "daddy issues" comment is just despicable and there's really no two ways about it.

    3. M.Gold or what ever madeup name he (Martin Boroditsky) is presently calling himself is a joke. Before he got fired from his radio job I listened one day as he said Shaw Park was built by Katz with his own cash and MTS Ctr was built with all government money then given to Chipman. The opposite of the truth.

  2. Seems to me "he " doesn't need to be stroked, which most bloggers do. Its ok, its a human thing, that blasted ego.

  3. It appears black rod's followers are like the Winnipeg Jets followers, they believe everything they are told by their master with no questions asked.

    1. THe Atlanta Thrashers weren't a particularly top-notch team, but it'll be interesting to see how management develops the Jets over subsequent seasons.