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:

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Rock and Roll Miracle at the Met??

Okay, just remember----miracles do happen.

Who thought for a minute that Danny Schur would succeed in putting on a big-budget homegrown musical? Or that, given the worst spring weather in recent memory, he would end the run better off financially than Rainbow Stage did?

We, for example, had written off the Metropolitan Theatre as just another decrepit building that the City couldn't bring itself to tear down.

But then the Winnipeg Free Press had a story last week that two of Winnipeg's biggest movers and shakers were prepared to put money into the Met to turn it into an "entertainment venue/rock and roll museum." It wasn't much of a story. Based on "sources". Buttressed by hints. Supported by one detail, or was it two? But the gossamer thin story was enough to hang a headline on, and that was enough to catch our eye. And we whispered: It's a miracle.

Oh, the Free Press story alone wouldn't have elicited that reaction. What turned our skeptics' hearts was that we had been waiting for it for quite some time. Weeks earlier, a mole at City Hall had said to watch for a major announcement regarding the Metropolitan and the redevelopment of downtown Winnipeg by very prominent businessmen. Now here it was.

But there was so little to the Freep story, that we turned to Mr. Mole for more information. The newspaper story, he said, was wrong. The project wasn't waiting for approval; it was a done deal.

It was going to be the Canadian version of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland. Hartley Richardson had already acquired the naming rights. The project would include a bar, and a restaurant, and, of course, a store to sell rock memorabilia. And the Met would be expanded south onto the parking lot that's there right now to fit it all in, Mr. Mole said.

Well, that seemed to be that. The Metropolitan Theatre had risen from the dead. The MTS Centre had worked magic. It was a miracle.

We knew that the 10-year-old Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was planning satellite branches in Phoenix and Memphis to "expose audiences outside of Cleveland to the Museum through special permanent and rotating exhibits and collections."

So why not Winnipeg? Okay, if we hear the words Guess Who one more time, we'll puke, soooo...we figured we'd take this one step further. We'd ask the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for a comment.

And we got one:
If this is true, it is news to us here in Cleveland. It is my guess that it is hot air. sorry....

Uh, oh.

All together: Paging Danny Schur.

It might be that the only rock and roll celebrity to appear at the Metropolitian Theatre will be Gina Gershon. She's been there all week - when she wasn't prowling local art galleries - filming a made-for-tv disaster movie, but last year she strapped on a guitar and toured the U.S. with a backing band (Girls Against Boys) to promote her latest movie PREY FOR ROCK AND ROLL.

Rock on, Gina.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Loewen jump to Liberals sinks Tory leader?

Manitoba Tory Leader Stu Murray went through a trial by fire on Friday.

And he melted like a marshmellow on a stick.

A disgusted demoralized caucus watched as Murray did his best Caspar Milquetoast performance, once again demonstrating why he will never be elected Premier of this province.

Murray failed every category of the test.

He failed the test of leadership.
He failed the test as a communicator.
He failed the test of vision.
He even failed to act like a human being.

At 9 o'clock in the morning he sat in a restaurant with his colleague John Loewen, who proceeded to tell Murray he was abandoning the provincial Conservatives to run federally for the Liberal Party. He was abandoning his ally on the front benches. He was abandoning the 33,000 Crocus Fund investors who had put their trust in him to get the truth out of the NDP. He was betraying the men and women who worked to get him elected to the Manitoba Legislature. He was turning his back on everyone who supported him and defended him and had faith in him for years.

An hour later, Loewen sat grinning under posters of a grinning Paul Martin as a grinning Reg Alcock welcomed him to the Librano's for the news cameras.

Stuart Murray, meanwhile, spoke with his advisors, his brain trust, and maybe even his fellow MLAs. Just before noon, he spoke to CJOB.

He was still friends with John Loewen, he said. They had a conversation that morning, he said. And he was sure some good candidates would run for Loewen's abandoned seat in the Legislature.

That was it.

No outrage. No anger. None of the emotions you would expect from a normal feeling human being. Stu Murray displayed the lack of passion that has become the trademark of his time as "leader" of the Conservative Party in Manitoba. His epitaph will read "So what?"

Now you would think that after his federal counterpart Stephen Harper had been blind-sided by Belinda Stronach's leap across to the Librano cabinet table, someone would have whispered in Stu's ear:

Don't be like Harper. Control the issue. Make the issue about their weakness and their desperation. Get the message out to the media. Make the voters care.

Had Murray been a leader, he would have understood what had happened and acted accordingly. This wasn't a simple case of an MLA quitting. It was the opening shot of the next federal election campaign.

The Liberals had outlined their line of attack and were moving their troops into battle. Murray was given the chance to show his mettle. And he was asleep at the switch.

A true leader would have rebounded from the setback to seize the initiative. He would have used the opportunity to ask what it was about the Liberals' stealing of hundreds of millions of dollars to use as kickbacks to their supporters appealed to John Loewen.

He would have asked how wasting a billion dollars on a gun registry and another billion on the HRDC boondoggle attracted a self-proclaimed fiscal conservative like Loewen.

He would have noted Loewen's new dedication to the Liberal's health care agenda, and asked if Loewen bothered to read the newspapers where the story this week was that health care professionals across the country were wondering why the billions announced by the Liberals on healthcare spending hasn't made a whit of difference.

He would have asked what was in Loewen's character to join the kleptocrats.

Most of all, he would have given the media a chance to report on strong leadership and principle. Imagine if instead of clips of Loewen grinning and mumbling about how great the Liberals really are after all, CKY had video showing Stu Murray boot Loewen out of the caucus instead of allowing him to resign at the end of the month as a Tory MLA, video showing the leader piling every box from Loewen's office out in the hallway of the Legislature under an exit sign, and video showing Stuart Murray set the theme of the next election: integrity.

Without integrity there is no debate over health care. No debate over foreign policy, rebuilding the military, taxes. If you can't trust the ruling party not to steal you blind, not to engage in a cover-up, not to buy off the police force that's supposed to investigate them, not to buy off opposition politicians and deny the tape recording that proves it...then why bother?

Is it any wonder that people don't vote? Why bother when the Prime Minister cries crocodile tears about the "democratic deficit" then blatantly appoints Liberal losers like Glen Murray to patronage positions and pretends not to know that his advisors are buying off opposition politicos with promises of cabinet posts and senate seats.

But that's asking too much of Stu Murray. He missed the opportunity to prove he isn't a plastic controlled frontman; this was his opportunity to show what betrayal of him, his party, of the voters, meant to him. He failed.

Instead he's happy to stand aside as a party of thieves paints the Conservatives as "negative."
Do you think this is a hint of the coming election campaign, Stu? Huh? Oh, wait, that takes vision and, well, "so what."

Murray had the chance to get his message on the news, but he didn't have a message. Instead he got to watch as the Liberals manipulated the news to their advantage.

First, break the story on CJOB, the most-listened to station on Friday morning.

CKY's noon newscast carried the story, except that it looked exactly like a Liberal election ad.

CKY had pictures of Reg Alcock, John Loewen and even defeated Liberal Glen Murray, but apparently couldn't find a single picture of Steven Fletcher who beat Glen Murray and holds the seat that Loewen wants to contest. And when Stu Murray got on the evening television news, he still had nothing to say.

And when the Loewen story makes the Saturday papers, the most read of the week, that's how the public will see Murray, and by extension the Conservative Party---nothing. Not even asking why it is that Loewen was only contacted 10 days ago, coincidentally just as Peter C. Newman's brutal expose of former Tory PM Brian Mulroney hit every front page in the country (while we initially dismissed ideas that the Newman book was part of a Liberal campaign, now we have to re-examine the possibility).

Even Premier Gary Doer got into the act, stating that if Loewen said he couldn't work federally with Stephen Harper, well, "a Tory is a Tory" and voters could see why Loewen couldn't work with Stu Murray either. The NDP leader got more airtime today than the leader of the party that got shanked.

Loewen's departure is no big loss for the provincial party. He was probably the most wooden and most inarticulate MLA in Opposition. In the last sitting of the Legislature, even though he had the golden issue of Crocus, he was still overshadowed by fresh voices of Health Critic Heather Stefanson (who becomes the front-runner to take over as leader) and Justice Critic Kelvin Goertzen who hounds the NDP at every turn for their inability to handle the street-gang problem.

No, the loss is to the credibility of the opposition Conservatives who have been shown to have no credible leader, no fire in their bellys, and, above all, no clue.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Mystery solved: Friend joins Picket Line Peter

The spectacular emergency landing of a Jet Blue aircraft at Los Angeles made for great television. Investigators will now have to determine what caused the mechanical failure and their inquiries may lead them straight to Winnipeg.

The airplane landed with the nose wheels turned 90 degrees to the direction of travel. The flight crew was unable to retract the landing gear after takeoff. The A-320 made a textbook landing until the wheels caught fire creating a plume of flame under the aircraft all the way down the runway. The cause of the malfunctioning nose gear is under investigation by LAX authorities, the NTSB, the FAA, and other investigative agencies.

A similar incident occured in 2004 on the fourth flight following a maintenance "C" check where the dynamic seals inside the nose landing gear (NLG) shock absorber of an A- 320 had been replaced. The maintenance was performed by a contract facility. Inspection and teardown of the nose gear revealed the shock absorber had been assembled and installed in the airplane incorrectly during the C-check. This resulted in the anti-rotation lugs on the shock absorber, not being properly seated in the back plate slots.

Air Canada's aircraft maintenance section provides repair and 'third party' overhaul services on Boeing 737 and Airbus A-319 and 320 aircraft. According to Destination Winnipeg, Jet Blue is a major customer at Air Canada's shop. Winnipeg's economic development agency says "the Winnipeg base is recognized as the premier Airbus A-320 maintenance shop in North America."

But, in January The Wall Street Journal reported:

"Jet-Blue and America West are flying some of their airplanes to El Salvador for regulary-scheduled overhauls and heavy maintenance. This essential safety work is performed by unlicensed mechanics who make between $300 and $1000 per month. Only the supervisors are licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration, (FAA)."

So if it turns out the LAX aircraft had been one of those sent to El Salvador, the Saskatchewan Avenue repair service may see an upswing in business.

And speaking of great television...(not)...

Memo to CityTV: What the hell are you doing?

You took over a television newscast that was lively and entertaining and turned it into drek almost overnight. A-Channel News was light fare, news release driven, with reporters covering every event in the city. Sure, nobody tuned in to see reporters breaking important stories, that wasn't the style of the show but, may we remind you, Channel 8 was within a sneeze of overtaking CBC in the ratings, even before the lockout. It had a unique enthusiasm and youthful energy that was a breath of fresh air for channel surfers.

The transititon to CityTV went well. Lisa Saunders blossomed as the sole host. The show was different, but with enough of the old to make it palatable, for viewers to give it a chance.

So what happened? With the addition of Glen Kirby as host and lead reporter Mark Jardine, you've sucked all the oxygen out of the room. CityTV News is unwatchable, slower than molasses, and headed for oblivion.

Kirby, whose end-of-the-world approach to all stories was honed at the CBC, may be a veteran television man but he's an energy vampire whose presence, if not brillo-pad hairdo, is killing Lisa Saunders. When she stands beside him, she loses her personality, her charm, her humour in his sombre shadow. Are you blind?

And newbie Jardine! Yikes. He may be a nice guy, but his presentation is deadly. Get him drunk. Make him watch Three Stooges videos before doing a stand-up. Or, better yet, don't let him do the lead story every night. He's death in a minute-and-a-half.

Were our ears burning, last week. It seems The Black Rod was the topic of heated conversation at the weekly CBC employees meeting.

Sometimes-host Marisa Dragani climbed a high horse and demanded that media guild local president John Webb respond to our ponderings about the whereabouts of the face of CBC News in Manitoba, Krista Erickson, who had been noticeably missing from the daily picket line outside CBC. John, wisely, demurred.

But then, miracles do happen. Whether The Black Rod was responsible or not, we'll never know, but amazingly, the very next day, who shows up on the picket line?

Yes, the face of CBC News-in Canada---Peter Mansbridge himself.
And who is at his side? You guessed it. Krista Erickson in the flesh.

Or, as one wag put it, as his right buttcheek. How cheeky. But accurate if the single picture posted by locked-out CBCers is to be believed.

But therein lies another mystery.

Where once the Mighty Mansbridge would be worth rousing hosannahs from the lowly CBC grunts, his arrival in the Peg hasn't warranted a single line of copy from John Webb or lockout blogger Alison-in-Winnipeg. Only the one picture of Peter and K. records the event. There's a story there...

(Technical difficulties won't allow for the picture to appear here but we will email it to all who doubt it exists.)

Now that Krista has surfaced, we got to wondering about her predecessors.

We found Diana Swain doing a lockout radio show on a student radio station with Andy Barrie, who, in pre-lockout days, hosted CBC Radio's flagship Toronto morning show, Metro Morning. Barrie is an American draft-dodger who found a home at CBC where he's so comfortable he recently told a Canadian blogger to get out of the country when he objected to paying for CBC's leftwing spin.

Unfortunately, Diana's mini-radio gig is over. They decided to scrub it at the end of the week. They say it was always intended to be a short-term project (we guess no one expected the lockout to last this long), although there are rumours in T.O. that CBC producers weren't getting along with their student "colleagues".

We went looking for Sandra Lewis, who sat in the host chair before Diana, and discovered she has moved on from the Mother Corps. And you won't believe where to.

Sandra got herself a masters degree and now works as a psychotherapist in Toronto.

"In addition to a Masters Degree, I am a graduate of the Transformational Arts College in Toronto. I have training in all modes of psychotherapy but my emphasis is on EFT and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.

I work with clients suffering from depression, anxiety and panic attacks; smoking, eating, sex and other addictions; relationship problems (including those in the gay/lesbian community); loneliness; phobias and fears; insecurity and uncertainty; as well as physical ailments such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.

I look at my clients holistically, that is, taking into consideration all aspects of their lives including their physical health. There are many studies which show spiritual and nutritional factors directly bear on our mental health. I often include life coaching with the therapy, to help people not only feel better about themselves but then to move forward and actually realize their goals, whether that's a new relationship, a better relationship or job success."

Wow.You go girl.

Those, in fact, are almost the exact words used by Canwest Global honcho David Asper when he confronted some Blue Bombers coaches after a disastrous loss last week. Pundits are blaming that incident for Asper's resignation from the football team's board of directors, but we're not (much). Asper has a lot of exciting things on his plate, not the least of which is overseeing a new broadcast and media centre at Portage and Main.

Canwest plans to consolidate all its operations including Global TV, the Canwest News Service copy desk, and COOL FM in one building. A source with deep, deep inside connections says Canwest plans a 12-storey office building with a wall of video screens to emulate Times Square. It will go up beside the TD Centre.

This is exciting news for Winnipeg, since such a consolidation will create a critical mass of journalism in the heart of downtown. It will mean that three television stations - Global, CKY (headed downtown next spring) and CBC (we include CBC French here) will be located within blocks of each other. Guests will no longer have to traipse across the city from station to station for interviews.

Will this mean that the Winnipeg Free Press will finally move its reporters downtown as has been rumoured on and off for years now? It might once Canwest acquires its hometown daily.
Which won't happen until the question of will they or won't they - as in the employees going on strike - gets answered.

With former editor Nicky Hirst and ex-publisher Murdoch Davis shown the door since the last picket line marched on Mountain Avenue, it's hard to guage if morale has risen among the troops enough to allow owner Bob Silver to patch together a new deal.

The unpleasant prospect of a Christmas season with the presses stilled and advertisers moving their copy and chequebooks a few blocks over to the Sun looms for Silver; with labour peace would come negotiations which could lead to the next move in Canwest's master media plan.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Happy Anniversary Buckhead- Rathergate one year later

We know we're a few days late, but....HAPPY ANNIVERSARY.

Friday was the one year anniversary of Rathergate. As you will recall, that was the attempt by Dan Rather and CBC, a senior member of the mainstream media, to defeat George Bush by using forged documents to smear him just before a presidential election. An internet poster calling himself Buckhead caught CBS red-handed.

It ended with Rather humiliated and his career in ruins and a string of firings at the CBS show Sixty Minutes II, followed by the cancellation of the show itself. And it was the moment when the Blogosphere became a major player in news gathering and news dissemination in North America. It was also the inspiration for The Black Rod.

Since then, we've seen a dozen instances where bloggers have caught established news agencies--whether radio or television stations or major newspapers-- lying and forced them to issue humiliating corrections.

Not that that has stopped the MSM from publishing slanted "news". Indeed, it has made them more determined than ever to topple George Bush and, by amazing coincidence, they're making another attempt on the very anniversary of Rathergate. This time the entire mainstream media has united in a campaign to blame Bush for the destruction of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina.

We've let that debate between bloggers and the MSM pass without comment---until now.

On Friday's, the Winnipeg Free Press turns its editorial pages over to its left-wing columnists Frances Russell and Bill Neville. Together they put out the latest talking points from their perspective. The headline on Russell's column was Ideological Madness' Exposed. The irony was just too precious to pass up.

Frances Russell and Bill Neville are the biggest ideologues in the newspaper. Most of their columns can be summarized as George Bush is evil and he can never under any circumstances do anything good because he is evil.

Russell's column on Friday was right on message. George Bush is evil. George Bush was warned the a hurricane could destroy New Orleans. George Bush didn't care, because George Bush is evil. George Bush cut spending on flood control in New Orleans so he could give his rich friends a tax break. Hence the headline's reference to ideology, only she meant tax-cut ideology. We suggest there's another ideological madness at work in the column.

She quotes from a handful of newspapers to support her arguments. Among them are the British papers "The Independent", "The Guardian" and "The New York Times".

* The Independent, after Bush's election victory, carried the front-page headline "Four more years" on a black page illustrated by pictures of a hooded prisoner at Abu Grahib and a detainee in orange jumpsuit at Guantanamo Bay.
* The Guardian encouraged readers to send letters to U.S. voters urging them to vote for Bush's challenger Sen. John Kerry.
* And the New York Times was one of only a handful of newspapers that tried to repeat Dan Rather's fictions as true stories.
Ideology, anyone?

But even the arguments of ideologues must be considered providing they support them with facts. On the other hand, do columnists driven by their own ideology have to be balanced in their arguments?
Consider these facts:

* The so-called warnings in the Houston Chronicle ( KEEPING ITS HEAD ABOVE WATER / New Orleans faces doomsday scenario, Houston Chronicle 12/01/01 ) and Scientific American (Drowning New Orleans October 2001 issue) were printed in December and October of 2001 respectively. Didn't George Bush and the rest of the world have something else to ponder those fateful months?

* George Bush spent more on hurricane control than his predecessor....over the five years of President Bush's administration, Louisiana has received far more money for Corps civil works projects than any other state... overall, the Bush administration's funding requests for the key New Orleans flood-control projects for the past five years were slightly higher than the Clinton administration's for its past five years.

Money Flowed to Questionable Projects/State Leads in Army Corps Spending, but Millions Had Nothing to Do With Floods Washington Post September 8, 2005

* More spending would have made no difference.

Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, the chief of the Corps, has said that in any event, more money would not have prevented the drowning of the city, since its levees were designed to protect against a Category 3 storm, and the levees that failed were already completed projects. Strock has also said that the marsh-restoration project would not have done much to diminish Katrina's storm surge, which passed east of the coastal wetlands.
Washington Post September 8, 2005

* Russell mocks George Bush for saying "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees." Yet, he's not alone.
Army Corps personnel, in charge of maintaining the levees in New Orleans, started to secure the locks, floodgates and other equipment, said Greg Breerwood, deputy district engineer for project management at the Army Corps of Engineers. "We knew if it was going to be a Category 5, some levees and some flood walls would be overtopped," he said. "We never did think they would actually be breached." The uncertainty of the storm's course affected Pentagon planning.

Government Saw Flood Risk but Not Levee Failure By SCOTT SHANE and ERIC LIPTON New York Times Sept. 1, 2005
"I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees. George Bush, President
"We never did think they would actually be breached." Greg Breerwood, Army Corps of Engineers
Close enough?

* It was environmentalists who prevented the most effective defences. September 8, 2005
Environmentalist activists were responsible for spiking a plan that may have saved New Orleans. Decades ago, the Green Left - pursuing its agenda of valuing wetlands and topographical diversity over human life - sued to prevent the Army Corps of Engineers from building floodgates that would have prevented significant flooding that resulted from Hurricane Katrina. Why was this project aborted? As the Times-Picayune wrote, "Those plans were abandoned after environmental advocates successfully sued to stop the projects as too damaging to the wetlands and the lake's eco-system."

* Russell quotes a source saying the White House slashed spending on hurricane and flood protection while approving spending on a $231 million bridge in Alaska. Of course, no amount of approved spending on a bridge not yet built would make the slightest difference to New Orleans this month. It was just a cheap shot thrown in for good measure.

When the New York Times' former public editor (ombudsman), Daniel Okrent, left his job earlier this summer, he took a shot at one of the paper's most ideological columnists Paul Krugman, but concluded: "I also believe that columnists are entitled by their mandate to engage in the unfair use of statistics, the misleading representation of opposing positions, and the conscious withholding of contrary data. But because they're entitled doesn't mean I or you have to like it, or think it's good for the newspaper."

The editors at the Winnipeg Free Press know about the contradictory evidence to Russell's column because they made passing reference to them in their editorial on Sunday, but they appear to have adopted the same stance toward columnists rights to mislead the public that the Times has.

But its another newspaper policy that intrigues us---the proper use and identification of sources.

Like true bloggers, we examined Frances Russell's sources. There appear to be three main sources.

The story by AP reporter Ron Fournier in the Winnipeg Free Press Sept. 1 (identified by her colleague Bill Neville), a story in The Independent Sept. 4, and a story in the Globe and Mail Sept. 3 referencing an Op-Ed column in the New York Times the day before.

We were puzzled by the reference to the Houson Chronicle, a story which has circulated on the internet since Aug. 29 but which we couldn't trace to its initial appearance or subsequent discovery. Then we got a clue from Russell's quote from the piece. She includes metric conversions which do not appear in the original.

That led us to a reprint of the original article in Australia's The Age, metric conversions and all, and that led us to, a website which carried most, if not all, of the stories used by Russell in her column. calls itself a site for 'Breaking News and Views for the Progressive Community' or as one acolyte writes"...despite a mainstream media dominated by corporate and right-wing viewpoints...there is no more important website than Common Dreams."

Once we had identified her sources, we compared the stories, looking to see if the context was accurate. Instead, we noticed something strange, a consistent cut-and-paste technique of using sources of information suspiciously similar to what got Free Press sportswriter Scott Taylor turfed a year ago. Examples:

1. 09/04/05 "The Independent"
Warnings ignored as Bush slashed flood defence budget to pay for wars By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor
In early 2001, at the start of Mr Bush's presidency, his Government's Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) warned that a hurricane hitting New Orleans would be the deadliest of the three most likely catastrophes facing America; the others were a massive San Francisco earthquake and, prophetically, a terrorist attack on New York.

Frances Russell Sept. 9/2005
Actually, Mr.President, your own government's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) not only anticipated it, but in early 2001, months before 9/11, warned your administration that a New Orleans hurricane could be the deadliest of the three major catastrophes most likely to befall America.

2. 09/04/05 "The Independent"
Fema's then director, the Bush appointee Joe Allbaugh, said that the warning caused him "great concern". But the President emasculated the agency, subsuming it into the Department of Homeland Security set up after the 11 September 2001 attacks, which concentrated on the terrorist threat.

Frances Russell Sept. 9 2005
FEMA's then director, Joe Allbaugh, your appointee, Mr. President, said the warning caused him "great concern."

3. 09/04/05 "The Independent"
But the President emasculated the agency, subsuming it into the Department of Homeland Security set up after the 11 September 2001 attacks, which concentrated on the terrorist threat.

Frances Russell Sept. 9 2005
FEMA was emasculated and subsumed into the new Department of Homeland Security.

4. Earth to the President: Warnings Ignored at Your Peril by Andrew Sullivan
Published on Sunday, September 4, 2005 by The Australian re Houston Chronicle
Read this prophetic passage and weep: "The New Orleans hurricane scenario may be the deadliest of all. In the face of an approaching storm, scientists say, the city's less-than-adequate evacuation routes would strand 250,000 people or more, and probably kill one of 10 left behind as the city drowned under 20 feet (6m) of water. Thousands of refugees could land in Houston. Economically, the toll would be shattering ... If an Allison-type storm were to strike New Orleans, or a category three storm or greater with at least 111mp/h (178km/h) winds, the results would be cataclysmic, New Orleans planners said." Katrina was category four.

Frances Russell Sept. 9, 2005
"The New Orleans hurricane scenario may be the deadliest of all. In the face of an approaching storm, scientists say, the city's less-than-adequate evacuation routes would strand 250,000 people or more, and probably kill one of 10 left behind as the city drowned under 20 feet (6 metres) of water...(A)category three storm or greater with at 111mp/h (178 kph) winds... would be cataclysmic, New Orleans planners said." Hurricane Katrina was a category five, weakening to a category four.

September 3, 2005 Globe and Mail
"Scientists at Louisiana State University, who have modelled hundreds of possible storm tracks on advanced computers, predict that more than 100,000 people could die."

Frances Russell Sept. 9, 2005
Meanwhile, Louisiana State University scientists, using computer models of hundreds of possible storm tracks, came up with an even more calamitous prediction---over 100,000 dead.

6. 09/04/05 "The Independent"
Funding for flood prevention was slashed by 80 per cent, work on strengthening levees to protect the city was stopped for the first time in 37 years, and planning for housing stranded citizens and evacuating refugees from the Superdome were crippled. Yet the administration had been warned repeatedly of the dangers by its own officials.

Frances Russell Sept. 9, 2005
Funding for flood prevention was slashed by 80 per cent, work on strengthening levees to protect the city was stopped for the first time in 37 years, and planning for housing stranded citizens and evacuating refugees from the Superdome were crippled, according to the British newspaper, The Independent.

September 3, 2005 Globe and Mail
Mr. Fischetti opens boldly: "New Orleans is a disaster waiting to happen," and then conducts a guided tour of the area to demonstrate why. Not only does the city lie "below sea level, in a bowl bordered by levees that fend off Lake Pontchartrain to the north and the Mississippi River to the south and west," he explains, but "because of a damning confluence of factors, the city is sinking further, putting it at increasing flood risk after even minor storms."

Frances Russell Sept. 9, 2005
Below sea level and in a bowl bordered by levees holding back Lake Pontchartrain to the north and the Mississippi River to the south and west, New Orleans is sinking and at risk of flooding even from minor storms.

8. Globe and Mail September 3, 2005
The article records a litany of human blunders, from the over-zealous construction of levees (as well as stopping floods, they prevent the Mississippi from depositing silt that would keep the low-lying areas from sinking) to the disastrous impact of the region's oil industry, which has cut a maze of canals for ships and pipelines that is accelerating the loss of the delta.

Frances Russell Sept. 9, 2005
A large contributor to New Orleans' plight is the oil industry and its maze of canals for ships and pipelines.

9. Globe and Mail September 3, 2005
Even worse, "the low-lying Mississippi Delta, which buffers the city from the gulf, is also rapidly disappearing. A year from now, another 25 to 30 square miles of delta marsh -- an area the size of Manhattan -- will have vanished. An acre disappears every 24 minutes." Each lost acre "gives a storm surge a clearer path to wash over the delta and pour into the bowl, trapping one million people inside and another million in surrounding communities. . . .

Frances Russell Sept. 9, 2005 destroying the Mississippi Delta wetlands at the rate of 25 to 30 square miles (78 square kilometres) a year, an acre (o.4 hectares) every 24 minutes. Each lost acre gives a clearer path to storms...

10. Globe and Mail September 3, 2005
The problem grew so severe that scientists and public officials finally overcame the objections of many competing interests and in 1998 devised Coast 2050 -- a series of 11 major projects designed to restore coastal Louisiana by the mid-21st century. Money soon became the issue; the cost estimate was $14-billion and the various parties couldn't agree who should pay what.

Frances Russell Sept. 9, 2005
In 1998, the federal, state and city governments agreed on Coast 2050 -- 11 major projects to restore coastal Louisiana. Its cost was pegged at $14-billion.

11. Newsview: Politicians Failed Storm VictimsBy RON FOURNIER, AP Political Writer Thu Sep 1,
Just last year, the Army Corps of Engineers sought $105 million for hurricane and flood programs in New Orleans. The White House slashed the request to about $40 million. Congress finally approved $42.2 million, less than half of the agency's request.Yet the lawmakers and Bush agreed to a $286.4 billion pork-laden highway bill that included more than 6,000 pet projects for lawmakers. Congress spent money on dust control for Arkansas roads, a warehouse on the Erie Canal and a $231 million bridge to a small, uninhabited Alaskan island.

Frances Russell Sept. 9, 2005
Last year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requested $105 million for New Orleans hurricane and flood protection. The White House slashed it to $42.2 million while it and Congress rushed through a $286.4 billion "pork-laden" highway bill chock full of 6,000 pet Republican projects, including Arkansas road dust control and a $231 million bridge to an uninhabited Alaskan island.

Note how she changed the quote to turn "pet projects" into "Republican projects".

The Free Press policy on sources must be different for editorial page columnists than for sports page columnists. Otherwise one would think that if Scott Taylor had to attribute sources and practice good journalism, that no less would be expected from Frances Russell.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Local Newscasts sex up in run at CBC

How apropos. One losing team outside. Another inside.

Locked out CBC employees got a break from routine yesterday, when they moved their picket line to the Stadium to bring their message to 30,000 football fans come to see the (mis)fortunes of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. As the lockout heads for Week Five, we got to wondering what pickets talk about as they trudge in circles before an unnoticing public. So we tuned in.

They're NOT talking about the weather.
They're NOT talking about the Great NABET Strike of 1981.
They're NOT talking about the miserable showing of the Bombers this year and whether Jim Daly should be run out of town on a rail. (Oops, sorry. We digress).

One thing they ARE talking about is:


Where's Krista Erickson, the face of CBC news in Manitoba? There's been no sign of the poster girl for CBC Manitoba, anchorgirl extrordinaire last seen just before the work stoppage, filing fluffy stories from Toronto.

After all those months spent perfecting her make-up and getting the studio lighting just right for her, all those posters with her face on them, all the time spent polishing her signature leather outfit... so why no appearance on the line?

Marisa Dragani, her occasional fill-in, was at the Stadium, a 'Locked-Out' sign draped over her. But Krista remains M.I.A. despite the promise of a cool $240 a week for a mere 20 hours of picketing duty.

We're so concerned we've asked some senior Crown Attorneys to help uncover Krista -- her whereabouts, that is. We'll keep you posted.

But, then, she's not the only one missing. So, it appears, was the 'mass' in the "mass picket" held by the locked out employees last week.

If the "mass picket" comes as news to you, it's probably because none of the news agencies in town thought it was important enough to cover. We wondered if the reason was spite, a refusal to comfort a competitor.

Or at least we wondered until the CBC Media Guild posted pictures of the "mass picket". There was hardly anybody there in the pictures.

Maybe, we reasoned, the camera angle was deceptive. But lock-out blogger "Alison from Winnipeg" set us straight. "Dozens" turned up to show their support, she wrote.

Like in the four or five dozen you can count in the pictures.


The heady days of CBC being the cornerstone of local viewing habits was over long ago. One can only imagine the crowd that would have shown their support if a similar rally had taken place in the Sandra Lewis/Kevin Evans era.


Alas, the final nail in that coffin was hammered home a day or two later when the latest BBM ratings came out, forever putting the glory days to rest. Even with the lovely and talented Krista Erickson as their face, Manitobans are rejecting CBC's version of news, information and journalism en masse.

This past summer, Canada Now had 16,900 viewers. That's a slippage from 22,800 in 2004. And for you mathematacally challenged readers, that's a decrease of just over 25 percent in one year. That's one in four viewers who have tuned the CBC out, Krista or no Krista.

Let's face it. The CBC news in Winnipeg has entered the death spiral.

Believe it or not, there was a time when CBC boasted 100,000 more viewers. The present-day pickets must hear than and think it a Grim (sic) Fairy Tale. The CBC has lost more than 100,000 viewers in the past 20 years. And there's no end in sight.

It's that future that had CBC I-Team host Conway Fraser gulping for air on the blogosphere. He concluded: "Knowlton Nash said the CBC is a SERVICE, not a business. Should profit and viewership be the measuring stick? What do you think? "

Well, here's what we think.

The CBC I-Team is the most egregious waste of money and resources at the network. Winnipeg Sun columnist Tom Brodbeck has broken more important stories this year alone than the I-Team has in the past five years combined. And he does it without taxpayers money. And without pretending he needs weeks to conduct his "research".

To answer your question, Conway, we suggest you start by reading yesterday's issue

If you think that spending almost one billion dollars a year to provide a leftwing spin to news and current affairs to five percent of television viewers is a "service" to the country, then think again. And again. And again.

The locked-out CBC employees have spent a month painting themselves as victims. But that's not how they saw themselves in July --- when they took a strike vote.

Back then, they were talking tough (sort of like the Blue Bombers at the start of the season. But we digress).

Just before the vote, Russ Knutson, president of the media guild branch at CBC North's Yukon network, spoke honestly when he told a local newspaper:

"We're still optimistic that if we can get an 85- or 90-per-cent strike mandate that the CBC will suddenly have to sit up and say, 'They're willing to go, and it will cripple the CBC'. The public doesn't seem very aware of the ongoing negotiations and the possible implications of a strike," said Knutson. He suspects if there is a strike, people would initially be annoyed. But people listen to the CBC for a specific reason, he said. "If there was a strike, it may take some time, but I think those listeners would come back.
There's just a level of information that we provide that no one else does, because that's just not their focus or their mandate."

The guild members voted 87.3 percent in favour of a strike mandate in mid-July when the threat to shut down the CBC by employees was seen as a good thing.

Now, no one wants to talk about why a strike wouldn't harm the CBC, but a lockout does.
Maybe that's because nobody talks about the CBC.

There was a time when television columnists would preview a new season with discussions about changes at local news stations. Well, if they won't, we will. And the trend in T.V. news in Winnipeg is a general "sexing up" of the newscasts.

If there is one idea the private stations have adopted from CBC for their own newscasts, it is this: pretty faces like Krista's are making the male newsguy a thingy of the past. (And like Krista, faces aren't all they got...we're talking new flattering wardrobes here, people.)

New hires around town include CKY-TV's addition of wholesome sportscaster Leah Hextall and sultry news reporter Camilla Di Giuseppe, as KY continues to dominate the suppertime ratings. Not to be overshadowed by the new faces, Rachel Lagace may yet flash her unseen-on-camera tattoo to re-enter the sexiest reporter sweepstakes. Heck, even the crimebeat guy got a new haircut.

Other CTV affiliates have gotten more aggresive in trying to exploit CBC's absence from the airwaves, and we expect CKY will follow suit.

Global TV hasn't had the time to add the new faces to their webpage yet, so viewers may not yet have realized that the pretty new blonde weathergirl, Kate Stutsman, is not the same person as the pretty new blonde reporter/anchor, Stacey Ashley. One constant has been Adrienne Pan, anchor on the weekends where her charming assets are obvious.

Stutsman is filling in for soon-to-be-mother Stephanie Armstrong , while been-a-mother-for-awhile Eva Kovacs is headed back into the 10.30 anchor chair after a maternity break. Terminally uncomfortable Travis Dhanraj has moved on, and we also noticed that management finally ordered the microphones turned up so that the quietest reporter in history, Chris Bobowski, can finally be heard above the din of the background noise on his reports.

Rumours persist that the Global sports department is being pared, in the wake of the new one-hour evening newscast at 10.30 PM displacing the longtime dual anchor, 30 minute sports roundup at 11 PM. The Asper team is in a solid second place and obviously trying to establish Mike Brown as the best TV reporter in town.

But most eyes are on CITY -TV (formerly A-Channel). Barely behind CBC in the ratings and with the momentum of the new season launch, management is banking that fans of the new and improved Big Breakfast morning show with Erin Selby, will also tune in after work to watch the new and improved CITY News at 6 with anchor Lisa Saunders and weathergirl Adrienne Silver, both of whom have ramped up their sex appeal under the new ownership.

Someone even got entertainment reporter Sharney Peters to stop dressing like a Bratz doll and she is much improved on camera.

Now the challenge is for the CITY newsroom to break a few news stories that would allow them to convince former CBC viewers tuning in, that they aren't missing anything even if Krista wears her leather outfit again after the lockout.

If they succeed, then Winnipeg will be home of that unique antique, a CBC newscast that fell from first to last.

Maybe the I-Team will do an expose on "where the viewers went" but of course, by then no one would be watching.

- 30 -

Saturday, September 10, 2005


The CBC lockout has lasted four weeks.

A month.

One down and no end in sight.

The Black Rod has been reading the lockout blogs written by CBC employees from coast to coast to sample the mood of the picket lines.

Some are defiant. Some defeated. And some have stopped talking altogether. And you married people out there know that that's never good.

But if there's one positive outcome of this experience, it's that it has dispelled any doubt about bias in CBC's coverage of national and international events.

The lockout blogs have let us hear how CBC employees talk when they're with other CBC employees. What they really think, and not what the CBC ombudsman or CBC president says they think.

The Globe and Mail had a lockout story Thursday linked to another of those instant polls. That garnered these posts: (highlighting is ours)

Thursday, September 8

Vote "YES" for CBC today
posted at 07:17AM Pacific time
Seems the Globe and Mail is having a poll today asking whether Canada needs the CBC. I'm certainly not suggesting how you should vote (which, incidentally, is "YES") but so far the (conservative party members---these words were crossed out and replaced with) general public are swinging it to No.

You can vote at -- the poll is in the upper-right side of the page.

Stratford, PEI, radio reporter Nancy Russell, who, coincidentally was born and raised in Winnipeg, responded with:

Vote yes for public broadcasting!!!!!!
by nrmac @ 2005-09-08 - 13:59:06
This is from I just voted and it's still neck and neck.
To quote Tod Maffin:

Seems the Globe and Mail is having a poll today asking whether Canada needs the CBC. I'm certainly not suggesting how you should vote (which, incidentally, is "YES") but so far the (conservative party members --crossed out and replaced with) general public are swinging it to No.
**the hilarious crossed out words are Tod's not mine. Though I agree.

Many lockout bloggers are lamenting that CBC isn't in New Orleans to cover the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. But what they really mean is that they're sorry they can't get in on the Bush-bashing.

About Me
Location:Toronto, Canada
Writer and producer living in Parkdale (Toronto)

Saturday, September 03, 2005
Kayne For President
First he stumbled into political activism by taking on the issue of blood diamonds with his song "Diamonds of Sierra Leone". Then, as I reported here a week ago, he came out against hip hop's homophobic history. Now the rapper Kayne West is taking on the President for his slow response to the crisis in New Orleans.

You've probably heard about his by now. If not, check out the footage the link may have been removed by now) of Kayne West and actor Mike Myers during a Red Cross telethon for Hurricane Katrina victims. Pay close attention to Myers as he tries to remain composed during Kayne's political freestyling.

While he struggles to make his point, you have to give Kayne credit for standing up and saying what the media and many politicans have been saying all this week: "George Bush does not care about black people."And you thought the video delay caused by Janet Jackson's boob malfunction was going to be bad.

posted by J.T. at 5:07 PM
The unedited video of West telling the truth that the workers at CBC have been gagged from telling.

CBC radio reporter Jennifer Quesnel from Regina added her two cents:

Jennifer Quesnel at 10:05PM (CST) on September 5, 2005 Permanent Link
I tend to be a bit of a news junkie when it comes to horrific disasters. I knew a lot of s**t was going down in Louisiana. And I wanted to know to what stage the anarchy, looting, rape, and murder had advanced in New Orleans.
All weekend, it made me feel uneasy not to be able to check my e-mail, and not to post my blog thoughts on here. But we were staying with friends, and I sure wasn't going to turn on CNN when so many people around me just wanted to relax and party.

Newspapers became my main source of information. I read the National Post and the Globe and Mail on the way up, horrified by the accounts of life in the Big Easy over the past week. Why was this happening?
And how could the U.S. government let it? I just couldn't get over the fact that no one (official) appeared to be helping these people.
Whether it's CNN, CBS, NPR, or the Times-Picayune, all the reporters in that part of the United States finally appear to have found something we've been missing for awhile: their backbone.

My gold star today goes to Bill Doskoch , for a wonderful round-up and news story excerpts . They detail the way Hurricane Katrina proved the U.S. federal government lies . And, the way reporters have finally found the guts to expose those lies. Read Doskoch's blog and bookmark it. It kicks butt.

Even hip-hop star Kanye West knew something went badly, badly wrong here. His unscripted comments on the lack of political will to save poor, black people were edited out by the time NBC's "A Concert for Hurricane Relief" was broadcast on the west coast. Still, the live version made it to viewers in the East.

Like you, we asked,"Who's Bill Doskoch?"

We went to the site and read the standard left-wing take on George Bush. We noted his "News sites i can't live without" which included the hard-left:
Global Beat
Democracy Now!
Common Dreams

And we knew everything anyone needs to know about Bill Doskoch and why Jennifer loves him so much.

And J.T. from Toronto, who we met earlier, had another thought today.

Sept. 9

It seemed only appropriate to end the week the same way we began it, with a song about Hurricane Katrina. I promise to return to lockout songs Monday but in the meantime you must hear this track by the Legendary K.O. also known as K-Otix.

The song takes a previous lockout song of the day - Kanye West's "Gold Digger" and turns it into a tirade against George Bush for his handling of the Katrina disaster. Thanks to CBC radio's Matt Galloway for sending this gem along. Holler! (Click the image above to download)

By now, we weren't surprised at what we were finding.

Tania in Toronto actually led off her blog with a link to propagandist and icon of the loony fringe of the left in the U.S., Michael Moore.

Vacation is Over... an open letter from Michael Moore to George W. Bush

* * *
Crafters United - raising funds for the Red Cross Hurricane Relief Fund.
I am leaving these links in lieu of any kind of commentary. Because I have not been in the library where I work, and because my main source of news, the CBC, is out, I have been oddly out of touch with the news. Only in the last few days have I become aware of the horrible, scary and now disturbingly sad outcome of this latest hurricane. prayers go out.

Mark, a researcher in Halifax, linked to columnist and cartoonist Ted Rall:

MarkBlack 09.08.05 - 5:52 pm # Halifax, researcher
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
Ted Rall makes a good point in his September 6th column :

the citizens of cities under U.S. occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan have been suffering under similar conditions, exacerbated by an identical lack of planning by the same U.S. officials, for nearly 900 days. New Orleans is Baghdad plus water minus two and a half years.

Still wondering why they hate us?

Not familiar with Ted Rall? You must have missed his cartoon where Condoleezza Rice proclaims herself Bush's "HOUSE NIGGA." A black man demands that Rice "HAND OVER HER HAIR STRAIGHTENER." The man's t-shirt reads "YOU'RE NOT WHITE, STUPID." The caption reads "SENT TO INNER-CITY RACIAL RE-EDUCATION CAMP." It was a real knee-slapper among the Michael Moore crowd.

After Ronald Reagan's death, Rall wrote that Reagan was in hell ""turning crispy brown right about now." And, of course, he called the war in Afghanistan "genocide" perpetrated to build an imaginary oil pipeline. Music to a true CBC'ers ears.

The lockout blogs give a fascinating insight into what the CBC employees think about a lot of things.

John, a contract producer in Vancouver, had this to say about health care:

It pisses me off no end to hear people who would see us shift over to an American-style system. Pardon me for being blunt, but are they fucking nuts? I can only imagine what it would be like to be one of the millions of Americans without benefits.

If our healthcare system needs fixing, here is the solution: let's all pay a bit more in taxes. I know the usual assholes will whine about what a pain in the ass that is, but when they get sick, they can take comfort in the fact that it was money well spent.

The Fraser Institute only showed up when we copied his posting but we'll bet he doesn't disguise who he thinks the "usual assholes" are when he's at work.

And this Toronto blogger offered a way to reach Canadians with the right message about the lockout with just the right buzzwords.


To do that we need to tell the story in a way that engages Canadians and moves them to action. We could tell them it's about contracts, and job security, and nurturing public broadcasting values. All true but not exactly grabby. But if we tell them it's a story about how a group of fanatical managers hijacked a national institution, and wasted hundreds of millions of dollars trying to impose a bizarre neo-con cult of management on their employees, while treating themselves to all kinds of outrageous perks and privileges. And we give them some choice examples...Well, maybe just maybe this lockout would end sooner rather than later. And some big heads would roll.

Not to overlooked, was CBC superstar Rick Mercer. Although not a blogger, Mercer this week was free with his thoughts about society. In an interview with the National Post about Alberta's centennial, Mercer said,"Look, I have no problem with Alberta's fiscal conservatism. It's the social conservative stuff that worries me and on that score, I don't think Day or Harper are doing Alberta any favours." Oh. Yeah. Right. So that's where the "scary" comes from.

Now, let's see:

Anti-American? Check
Anti-business? Check
Anti-Conservative Party? Check

Remember, these are the folks who covered the last national election. They covered the Gomery Commission. They covered the Conservative Party convention and the House of Commons leading up to the non-confidence votes of the Spring. Would you expect fair and balanced reporting from this bunch? Will you expect it next time?

Because the next election is the slender reed on which the CBC lockout hangs. How can Paul Martin go to the polls without staunch allies such as these working for his re-election?

Blogger Workerbee in Toronto was optimistic about getting back to work early in the game.

If for some bizarre reason the lockout is not ended before October (which, incidentally, would indicate certain as opposed to merely apparent madness on the part of senior management) then a catastrophe will indeed have occurred.Sunday, September 04, 2005

Robin Rowland , a Toronto-based television producer, thought so too.

The Garret Tree
Friday, September 02, 2005
What happens this weekend will be crucial. The third-hand coverage of Katrina by CBC and the high quality of coverage by CTV has caused immense damage. Regional managers who have been in the cocoon of the Toronto Broadcast Centre go home this weekend. They will return to Toronto next week, perhaps with a different perspective.

If the managers go home, and see that they could be separated from their families for months to come, and that the Guild position is not unreasonable, then they may return less than thrilled at a continued (what Ouimet called) secondment at gunpoint .

But the managers went home and the lockout went on. And a week later...

From an employee blog at:

"Rumour has it that The Gang of Six (Rabinovitch, Stursberg, Smith, Chalmers, Burman & Dyer Inc.) who continue to stage the coup inside CBC headquarters, are pushing for a long, long lock-out. We're talking January, here, ladies and gentlemen. January."

January. When Paul Martin gets to step in and be the "saviour" of public broadcasting. After Gomery delivers his report (who needs more news coverage of that?) and just before an election is called (scarrrryyy).

And the CBC bloggers have signalled who they're voting for.

- 30 -

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Richard Cloutier led off his new CJOB morning show Tuesday with a bang - a big exclusive about a story we have been tracking for months, the O'Learygate scandal.

He reported that Robert Goluch, executive director of the Public Schools Finance Board, has been removed from his job.

The government won't say so ("human resources matter"), but it's universally believed Goluch was shuffled off to Intergovernmental Affairs because of the Swinford Park development. The Seven Oaks School Division acted as the developer of a housing subdivision in defiance of restrictions placed on school boards by the Public Schools Act, and now claims innocence because the Finance Board gave it's approval.

Cloutier noted the scheme lost money. That's the first time that's been revealed to OB audiences.

Any reader of The Black Rod has known it since June, when we scooped the city with our analysis of the hidden facts obscured in the government report.

(The readers of the daily newspapers are still in the dark because their reporters can't read a report, can't add numbers and won't admit the obvious -- they missed it.)

Listening to Cloutier, it sounded like Goluch got fired for being responsible for approving the development project.

We beg to differ.

If Cloutier had read the official report into Swinford Park, or at least understood it, he would know Goluch got fired for the biggest crime of all, embarassing the Education Minister Peter Bjornson.

Not by approving Swinford Park, as Cloutier suggests, but by mishandling the cover-up.

Goluch was like John Dean, who was assigned to do a fake internal investigation into Watergate to give Richard Nixon something to "prove" the White House had nothing to do with the scandal.

Goluch was assigned to "investigate" a whistleblower's complaint, but instead failed to even ask about the validity of the complaint. Instead he wrote up the response for the Minister's signature, making it seem that everything was above board and the citizen was a fool.

When the complaint was raised in the Legislature, Bjornson at first said he knew nothing about it. But the paper trail proved that Bjornson had known about the deal for a year. Even worse the blow-off crafted by Goluch had not worked, and the Opposition scored points in the House because the scheme flew in the face of the law written in black and white.

The report hurredly prepared for Bjornson last spring, detailed how illegal the scheme was, how the plan had gone forward without any of the normal rules being followed by the school board under Superintendant Brian O'Leary, and that the revenues had been overstated by a million dollars.

When the cover-up unravelled, somebody had to take the fall, and it wasn't going to be Bjornson, or his NDP pal O'Leary. Exit Goluch.

Cloutier had O'Leary as a guest but didn't understand his central role in the scandal. He let him wiggle off the hook.

O'Leary is like G.Gordon Liddy, where the means justify the ends.

Cloutier, to his credit, tried to show that Swinford Park was going to lose money as we had reported. O'Leary countered by saying it would make half a million dollars because the new school building will be an asset on the new books.

The problem is that, as Cloutier should have known, the last person you can trust to deliver the numbers is Brian O'Leary.

His last try turned a loss of at least $200,000 into a "profit" by misstating almost a million dollars in revenue. The accounting was so bad the Minister ordered a special audit and took the final accounting out of the hands of the school division.

So where is the new profit figure coming from? How did the old, inflated figure get into print in the first place anyways? Is there a new audit which hasn't been made public? Tell us, Brian.

O'Leary told Cloutier the school division will profit by getting an asset ie- a new school. That appears to be the crux of the scandal. It was a school shell game and to O'Leary the ends justify the means.

Seven Oaks got not one, but two new schools (a brand new Middle Years school to replace the aging and soon to be abandoned West Kildonan Collegiate, and a new high school in, guess what, another new subdivision) when they weren't on the Finance Board's capital project list.

So all the other school divisions got cheated because they played by the rules.

Cloutier had a guest who understood all this because she had read the report, Adrienne Batra of the Taxpayers Federation. But she wasn't brought into the studio to grill O'Leary and ask the right questions, so he got away with his new bafflegab excuse.

She knows the taxpayers got scammed and wants the auditor general to investigate --not Goluch, but Bjornson.

Batra kept focused on the true problem here - that Bjornson got a complaint, ignored it, let it be covered-up by the same people breaking the law, plead ignorance when he was confronted in Question Period, and then claimed it was all OK because the illegal scam had made money, when in reality taxpayers had been put on the hook for this failed end-around the system.

It was all put together by NDP appointees at PSFB and NDP school board officials, right under the nose of the NDP Education Minister.

The Manitoba Tories also called for the Auditor General to be brought in. They deserve credit for forcing the story out into the open and making the Doer government release a report. But they deserve no credit for their spin on the Goluch matter.

The Tory announcement refered to Goluch asking: "Why is a dedicated civil servant being made a scapegoat for these wrongdoings?"

The Tories try to put all the blame on the NDP (not that they don't deserve it); maybe it's because his head didn't roll and the Tories expect they'll have to work with Goluch in another administration. But Goluch is hardly a role model of efficiency in this scandal.

The official report found:

- " (Goluch) did not ask about the validity of the complaint raised "

- " No explanation with respect to SOSD’s land development activities was offered "

- " the concern raised by the citizen complaint was not properly investigated. The letter prepared (by Goluch) for the Minister’s signature was incorrect and inappropriate "

- " is clear that until September 2004, the PSFB did not follow standard practice and procedure regarding the disposal of land in the Swinford Park development."

- " Moreover, the PSFB did not exercise due diligence regarding SOSD’s request for the disposition of land in the Swinford Park area."

The Black Rod would like to know:

- Exactly when did Goluch realize O'Leary's grand plan for Swinford Park, the adjacent Grady Bend and now for the Riverbend (east) side of Main Street, was contrary to the Public Schools Act the PSFB is bound to enforce?
- Did Goluch realize this was illegal BEFORE he did not investigate the complaint, and instead tried to get the Minister to blow off the concerned taxpayer?
- If so, why is Goluch being rewarded with a new job, instead of having to answer for what his part was in O'Learygate?

If we didn't know better we'd think the Tories didn't review the official report before proclaiming Goluch's elevation to civil service sainthood.

If what he did on O'Learygate is the standard for a dedicated civil servant, then we're all in trouble.

And nobody is in more trouble than Tory leader Stu Murray, who should recognize that cover-up is not part of the job description of anyone working in the civil service in Manitoba.
- 30 -

Thursday, September 01, 2005


Eardrums around Winnipeg will soon be able to recover from the hemorrhaging they have suffered the last few years.

After being told over and over again that what morning radio listeners in Winnipeg needed was to be "entertained", Charles Adler has taken the hint and will be exiting his dreadful un-entertaining morning show on CJOB to cater to his ego -er, national audience with an equally dreadful afternoon show on the Corus Radio Network.

No doubt he will continue to recycle the same tired cast of Asperite journalistas, New York cabbies and that guy from London no one cares about.

Chuckles first heard the fat lady singing last summer when something resembling competition took to the airwaves in the moribund Winnipeg market.

An obscure campus radio station launched with a flagship talk show that- egads! - actually took calls and listened to what Winnipeggers had to say. This was in stark contrast to what Chuckie boy had been doing, which to remind you, was to:

A) constantly crow he won an Emmy in Boston, like anybody cared,
B) as an Emmy winner, he knew the secret to great talk radio, which was for HIM to do all the talking and
C) if you called in and got on the air, you were going to be ridiculed and made the butt of a joke for his overproduced self-aggrandizing intros and plugs.

Mind you he was paid handsomely to alienate his audience. Charles' disposable income included his market-leading 'OB paycheck, (which we understand is in the quarter-million dollar range), and that's before he spends a dime of his Free Press stipend (said to be almost $500 a column, if you can call that writing), or a penny from his late-night newscast-killer, Adler on Global, (which has been missing in action all summer and nobody has noticed)

Well the little station with no advertising, no billboards and no budget quietly went on the air and just as quietly, Winnipeggers began to tune in and seemed to enjoy talk radio that wasn't overrun with 15 minute commercial blocks featuring his royal smugness plugging car dealers, condo sales, and hearing aids (how ironic).

One of those listeners was CJOB news director Vic Grant.

Something twigged in the old Tribune hack because suddenly he mumbled something to someone, about all these people phoning in to have an on-air conversation about issues THEY wanted to talk about - on another station.

This bit of competition forced that someone to change his act. Suddenly the bearded wonder was frantically encouraging people to phone in, after years of telling them that was "grandma's radio" and he didn't "do calls" and not to waste his time. Not only that, but there was also a sudden shift in the grand scheme, and the start time was moved from 8.40 to 9 AM - or the exact time the college's station opened their phone lines.

Gone were the mocking references to the dimness of the great unwashed who dared to darken his phone line, cutting into the time to plug his favorite haunts and pet pundits, pretend to be an influential commentator, and foist "60 second reality checks" over the airwaves as the sole means of the public expressing themselves.

We expect nothing will improve with only a national audience to bore and ignore.

Last week we followed up on a letter first sent to Adler--- but which he buried because, as an "entertainer", he didn't recognize its news value. We are referring to the letter from Winnipegger Bruce Vallance, a survivor of an FLQ terror bombing who was offended by the nomination of Michaelle Jean, an FLQ sympathizer, as Governor General.

You'd think a radio host in Winnipeg would pick up on a Winnipeg victim of terror challenging the Prime Minister's judgement. When Adler didn't, we did. And the first story about the Vallance email appeared here in The Black Rod.

Our story was picked up by fellow bloggers across the country and lo and behold, who should raise it in a national column on Tuesday but Adler's former employer, the Sun newspapers, when Calgary editor Licia Corbella did what we suggested and ran Vallance's letter to the Prime Minister in as many papers across the country as possible.

An isolated incident? Consider that today Adler has a column commenting on a story that ran in the Globe and Mail bylined by former Winnipeg mayor Glen Murray. Adler didn't recognize that Murray story as news until it appeared in the Financial Post Tuesday.

For lack of a cliche may we suggest this one for his national show :

Charles Adler, a day late and a dollar short.

Adler vacates the morning chair for longtime relief pitcher Richard Cloutier, whose biggest scoop this year was explaining why he didn't recognize the Crocus scandal as a scandal.

With the ever-vacationing Adler gone and Cloutier glued to his new chair, radiophiles wonder what will become of audience favorite Adrienne Batra, whose guest hosting gigs for the Chuckster were punctuated by coherent commentary, spirited discussions, and a distinct style.

The CJOB senior investigative journalist will now have 3 hours every morning, 9 - noon, to follow Adler's footsteps and keep missing stories . To his credit, Cloutier follows a press release better than anybody and has been practicing in front of his mirror for a chance to anchor the AM since Peter Warren took his beano pills and "retired" to the west coast.