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, April 27, 2006

Manitoba Conservatives seek a Wizard in the Land of Oz

Manitoba Conservatives are green with envy.

They can only stare slackjawed at the federal Liberal leadership race. With each passing day another contender announces. Some days two.

Men. Women. Professional intellectuals. Francophones. Former NDP Premiers. Turncoat Tories. Ex-NHLers.

All running to lead a party that will go down in history as the most crooked in modern memory.'That shoulda been us -- without the crooked part ' they say in Tory households across the province.

The Manitoba party is having its own leadership race, and hardly anyone knows or cares.

The race was supposed to re-energize the party in the run-up to the next provincial election. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.Stuart Murray's idea of leadership was to turn the Conservative Party into NDP-lite. The electorate would come around, given enough time, he said. But with the NDP reeling under the Crocus scandal, Conservative supporters were stunned to see how toothless Murray was.

He had spent so long being 'nice' that when it came time to go for the jugular, he just sort of gummed the government's neck and seemed queasy at the idea of drawing blood. When his right-hand man defected to run as a federal Liberal, right in the middle of the embarassing Gomery Inquiry, Murray had breakfast with him and wished him well.

To the Caucus Dorothies, this was the last straw. The curtain had been ripped aside and the Wizard revealed as a shrivelled Milquestoast. A search for a new Wizard was launched immediately.

Today, months later, the Party quails at the results of that search --- a Cowardly Lion, a Scarecrow, and a Tin Man.

The Cowardly Lion, we all know, is Hugh McFadyen. Despite his self-proclaimed political experience in a million campaigns, he distinguished himself by chickening out in a race against Reg Alcock in the federal riding Winnipeg South.As soon as he thought he couldn't win, he abandoned the candidacy as fast as his patrician legs could carry him, running back to the waiting arms of the provincial Conservative party establishment which agreed to back him in the byelection in Fort Whyte.

The only obstacle was Rod Bruinooge, the man Hugh beat to run against Alcock. With the backroom assist, Hugh won the provincial nomination, and, to Hugh's great disappointment, Bruinooge went on to defeat Alcock, become an MP, and demonstrate what a true winner looks like.Hugh took the "yellow"-dog riding of Fort Whyte and with a few months of Legislature experience under his belt, he announced he was the man to lead the party.

His formal announcement went well, if you overlook the snickers at his phony tan, his super-whitened teeth that rivalled Tony Curtis' choppers in The Great Race, and the photos of him looking "casual" in what passes for casual at an Ivy-League prep-school.

He has stood out in the leadership race by never uttering the words "Crocus Inquiry". The consensus is that he's the worst speaker, putting people to sleep rather than inspiring them with a fire in his belly.

The Scarecrow in the race is Ken Waddell. His campaign theme of Fight the Socialists scares even Tory voters. Waddell had two strikes against him coming into the race. He wasn't from Winnipeg, the home of the major news media. And he was a farmer, which puts him in the esoteric category, along with people like mathematicians who study differential equations, for all Winnipeg reporters know about agriculture.

Waddell has scored big in the personal appearances track of the race. Everyone says he's the best speaker of the three and even the supporters of other camps wish their candidate had Waddell's fire and gift of gab. Especially since it was this very lack of passion that felled Stu Murray.

The Tin Man, is a no-brainer. Ron Schuler. He thought a good way to start his campaign was by attacking the party and the MLA's who sit under the party banner. "Take back the Party" was his theme. Open nominations to challenge any sitting member was plank #2.

Let's see, so you're saying the P.C. members of the Legislature don't have your full support, but you expect the public to vote for them anyway. That's well thought out. No wonder he doesn't have any caucus support.

The campaign started out with the candidates playing 'nice' just like Stu taught 'em. They wouldn't attack one another, they said. Take the high road. Debate policy not personality. Blah blah blah.

Yeah, you know it, that didn't last long.This is the first leadership election where the winner is picked by the members instead of delegates. When it appeared that Schuler sold the most new memberships, the sniping started.Waddell tried to debate issues, but the other camps were too busy throwing snide shots at each other.

McFadyen supporters started raising "questions" about Schuler's healthy support in Christian communities. Not that there's anything wrong with it, you understand.

Schuler's people responded with "questions" about whether McFadyen was a Scientologist (surely an obvious cheap shot -ed.) and whether he had once claimed to be Metis to win Metis votes.

This last point is more intriguing than the MSM has acknowledged. There is a question about 1200 memberships allegedly sold by the Manitoba Metis Federation or to MMF members.

Block voting always raises legitimate questions. Do the members of the block all know they've become members of the Party? Who paid for the memberships, the individuals or the MMF? Who will be filling out the mail-in ballots, the individuals or someone on behalf of the block? This could be embarassing to the Party in the event of a close race.

But equally embarassing is the Party establishment's ruling designed to help the Cowardly Lion. It turns out that about 1200 memberships will lapse by voting day. In other words, they will not be members on the day members will decide who becomes the leader. The Party decided to mail out membership renewals along with mail-in ballots, to allow these people to renew and vote at the same time.

The bulk of the lapsed memberships are in one riding, Turtle Mountain, and suspicion is that they belong to McFadyen supporters. So he becomes the sole beneficiary of the ruling. The funny part is that the renewals are in coded envelopes and there was speculation it was possible to see who these people voted for. If McFadyen wins by a thousand votes, there could be a big stink, just the sort of thing the Party is desperate to avoid.

But desperate enough to fix the election to prevent a win by Schuler or Waddell?

When the Caucus Dorothies pulled back the curtain, they found more than a defanged Wizard.They discovered an enfeebled party with only 5000 or 6000 members (20 percent of whom hadn't renewed by day membership sales closed.)

They discovered a backroom willing to do anything to promote their own candidate, whoever got the official nod.

They discovered a party so demoralized and rudderless that nobody wanted to be leader.

Which may be why even the partisans, the foot soldiers you would think would be the most enthusiastic, are talking about losing the next election, and maybe even the one after that.

And the Dorothies got scared and ran down the Yellow Brick Road back to the Caucus room, leaving The Black Rod to play the role of Toto, and bark, and bark, and bark.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Buzz says cut-and-run; Military says cut and train

We were just about to post the latest edition of The Black Rod when the Liberals sent us back to the keyboard.

Just when you thought the Liberals couldn't possibly get any sleazier, they showed Canada that there was no gutter too deep enough for them to wallow in.

Monday, the Liberals decided it was a good idea to play politics with the deaths of four soldiers in Afghanistan.

They couldn't blame the Conservatives for sending troops to Afghanistan. They did that.

They couldn't blame the Conservatives for improper equipment. They were responsible for that.

No, they decided to go after the Conservatives for refusing to lower the flag on Parliament Hill to half-staff after every death in Afghanistan.

They plan to make a motion in the House of Commons on that, hoping to embarass the government. They think they can score a few political points, with the help of the Parliamentary Press Gallery.

It doesn't matter to the Liberals that this puts them at odds with the military, former servicemen like Gen. Lewis MacKenzie, and veterans represented by the Royal Canadian Legion. These all agree with the Conservatives who have returned to the 80-year-old tradition of lowering the flag on Parliament Hill only on Remembrance Day to honour all military personnel who died in the service of the country.

The Liberals know they've burned their bridges with military voters.

Whether its years of neglect, underfunding and disrespect for Canada's armed forces or the attack ads that suggested soldiers would patrol city streets if the Conservatives won the election, there's no love lost for the Grits in military homes.

So the Liberals are willing to sacrifice the military for votes elsewhere by pretending they care about the dead soldiers and the feelings of their families.

On Countdown, Mike Duffy's show on politics, Liberal National Defence Critic Ujjal Dosanjh dismissed the Conservatives' return to tradition by saying the government should accept the new tradition on flags created by the Liberals. He mocked the Conservative guest by raising Stephen Harper's decision to scrap a tradition of letting reporters wait for government ministers outside the cabinet meeting room.

So in one fell swoop he equated four soldiers killed in Afghanistan and reporters with their noses out of joint.
It's hopeless to point out that Dosanjh did it without a trace of shame. We all know the Liberals have no shame.

The NDP's representative, Peter Stoffer, thought he would do the Liberals one better. He said the flag on Parliament Hill should be lowered following the deaths of RCMP officers, who are, after all, federal police.

But why stop there?

Why not Coast Guardsmen, park rangers, and prison guards? As long as your're willing to play politics with the deaths of servicemen, why not go all the way. These people are voters too. And they're unionized, which means they support the NDP with their union dues already.

But it didn't take long for the cut-and-run choir to start singing, did it?

The bodies of the four soldiers weren't cold yet before Buzz Hargrove, president of the big, brave auto workers, wrote to Prime Minister Stephen Harper calling for a free vote in Parliament on withdrawing Canadian troops.

So far he's been singing solo. His usual partner, NDP leader Jack Layton, blew his voice in the non-debate on Canada's role in Afghanistan held two weeks ago.

Layton, who had been screaming for a debate, wound up trying to outdo the other Party leaders in praising Canada's soldiers but distinguished himself by demanding kid-glove treatment for the Taliban fighters working to kill Canadian soldiers.

The Opposition parties are hoping to make hay in February when the current Afghanistan mission runs out. They're planning on opposing any extensions. But it may turn out to be a moot point.

By then, Canada may be forced to scale back its commitment to Afghanistan if the government intends on expanding the armed forces by 13,000 full-time troops and 10,000 reservists as the Conservatives promised in the last election.

The current commitment of 2,000 troops in Afghanistan is actually tying up almost 10,000 soldiers when training and recuperation is factored in, according to Alain Pellerin, of the Ottawa lobby group Conference of Defence Associations.

Many of these soldiers will be needed to train the expanded forces and will not be available to support an overseas mission. Pellerin anticipates Canada will keep about 1,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, freeing up enough troops to start the rebuilding of the army.

By February, the British will have 3,300 soldiers in their bases in the Canadian zone of Afghanistan and they'll have to take up the slack from the departing Canadian forces.

If other accounts are accurate, expect the fighting in Afghanistan to get fiercer throughout the summer.

Syed Saleem Shahzad, bureau chief of the Pakistan Asia Times Online, wrote recently that the Taliban has successfully tapped into a new pocket of recruits. The United States has been successful in getting Pakistan to restrict Muslim jihadists in India-adminstered Kashmir. Thousands of these fighters who fought U.S. troops in 2001 have re-joined forces with the Taliban for the spring offensive already underway.

Shahzad says as many as 27,000 fighters have grouped in the Pakistani province of North Waziristan, bordering on Afghanistan. The plan is to recreate Taliban rule there, and expand the base into neighboring provinces of Afghanistan.

These fighters will handle the attacks on NATO troops in the mountains, leaving the terror suicide bombings to Jihadists from other countries. The Toronto Star's Rosie Dimanno quotes an interior ministry official telling her that of all the suicide bombers in the past six months, only one was a native Afghan.

Which isn't to say there haven't been successes on the allied front in recent days. Many of them have flown under the media radar.

It's too soon to say how significant they will prove to be, but don't be surprised if they lead to some spectacular announcements in the near future.

* On April 12, a Pakistan air strike involving cobra gunships killed a top Al Qaeda terrorist wanted for the bombings of American embassies in Africa. He had a bounty of $5 million on his head.

* The next day, American-led forces launched Operation Mountain Lion in Afghanistan's Kunar province, where Osama Bin Laden has been rumoured to be hiding. The offensive involves about 2500 American, British and Afghan troops sent in to disrupt the activities and supply lines of Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters.

A B-52 air strike supporting Operation Mountain Lion killed one of Bin Laden's bodyguards. He was the Palestinian son-in-law of al-Qaeda number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri. His family was notified a few days later and accepted condolence visits in his home village near Jenin in the West Bank.

* The former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan was arrested with two colleagues the same week. A raid on an al-Qaeda safehouse in Peshwar netted four al-Qaeda fighters, two of whom were disguising themselves as women.

And a day or two after that, Pakistani soldiers shot and killed the head of al-Qaeda operations in Waziristan after he fled when they stopped a minibus for a spot check. He had recently fled Kunar province one step ahead of Operation Mountain Lion forces.

Pakistani forces managed to seize laptop computers in several of these incidents, which may provide valuable information on other targets.

* One of them is obviously Osama Bin Laden. It may be coincidence, by another alleged Bin Laden tape surfaced this weekend. In it, Bin Laden, if it is his voice on the tape, called on jihadists to go to Sudan to fight any United Nations peacekeeping force.

That will certainly come as a blow to Jack Layton who has been touting a peacekeeping mission to Sudan as an alternative to fighting alongside Americans in Afghanistan.

What was especially significant about the latest Bin Laden tape was what was not mentioned.

Meanwhile, to see how the anti-war far left has reacted to the Afghanistan casualties, you have to check out this thread on the union-supported

The acting moderator shut down the thread to check the policy on celebrating the deaths of Canadian soldiers and encouraging more.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Winnipeg Sun leaves out the best parts

The most important story of the week appeared deep within the Winnipeg Sun last Wednesday.

The editors apparently either didn't recognize how big the story was, or, more likely, were too busy filling the white space between the ads to care.

They buried it under an irrelevant headline, then, as The Black Rod discovered, cut out the best parts.

Right tools for the job?
by Stephanie Rubec
Senior Political Reporter
OTTAWA -- The military is set to scrap major equipment purchases announced by the Liberals that are considered by brass to be lemons or irrelevant.
The Canadian Forces, with the blessing of the Conservative government, is also reviewing its hardware shopping list in an effort to find extra funds to pay for expensive Tory priorities.

A top officer involved in the large-scale review of equipment said Prime Minister Stephen Harper's military spending priorities, especially icebreakers for Canada's North, are proving to be significantly more costly than the Conservatives expected.
During the election campaign, Harper promised Canadian shipyards would build military icebrakers.

The officer said brass see the change in government as the perfect oportunity to put an end to questionable Liberal-championed projects in favour of hardware the military needs.
"There's a lot of positive energy from the Conservatives," the officer said.
"The Conservatives are making a whole bunch of right decisions."

Meanwhile, Canada's top general is denying media reports that the new Conservative government asked to approve his speeches.
And Prime Minister Stephen Harper also says there's no move to censor Gen. Rick Hillier, chief of the defence staff.

Wow, we said. The Canadian military says the Liberals were foisting equipment "considered lemons or irrelevant" on them. They want to scrap "questionable" Liberal projects and replace them with equipment the military "needs." Why wasn't this on Page One?

Or was it?

Maybe it had been covered properly in other cities, we thought. We went looking. And we discovered, instead, a textbook case of story spinning.

It seems, as far as we could find, that this story was printed in four newspapers--The Winnipeg Sun, the Ottawa Sun, the Toronto Sun and the Edmonton Sun. And it was rewritten depending on where it appeared.

To begin with, the headlines were better in Edmonton and Ottawa.

Tories and military are in tune (Edmonton Sun)
Liberal promises put on ice (Ottawa Sun)
Forces may ice ships (Toronto Sun)

The leads varied from paper to paper:

OTTAWA -- The military is set to scrap major equipment purchases announced by the former Liberal government. (Ottawa Sun)
OTTAWA -- The Canadian Forces is reviewing its shopping list to find extra funds to pay for expensive Tory priorities. (Toronto Sun)
OTTAWA -- The military is set to scrap major equipment purchases announced by the Liberals that are considered by brass to be lemons or irrelevant. (Edmonton Sun, Winnipeg Sun)

Ottawa doesn't find it interesting that the Liberal equipment purchases were considered lemons by the military.
Toronto wants to blame the Conservatives for forcing the military to scrap Liberal purchases to pay for expensive Conservative projects.

The rest of the story is the same until this paragraph:

During the election campaign, Harper promised Canadian shipyards would build military icebreakers.

The Ottawa and Toronto Suns included this explanation:

But the senior officer said Canadian shipyards lack the experience to build them, while the ice's thickness requires mammoth ships with a hefty price tag. (Toronto Sun)

But the senior officer said not only do Canadian shipyards not have the experience needed to build them, but also the ice's thickness will require mammoth ships with a hefty price tag. (Ottawa Sun)

More editing:

The officer said brass see the change in government as a chance to sink questionable Liberal-championed projects. (Ottawa Sun)
The officer said brass see the change in government as the perfect opportunity to put an end to questionable Liberal-championed projects in favour of hardware the military needs. (Edmonton Sun, Winnipeg Sun)

Only the Edmonton Sun carried the second half of the story, which was chopped from the Winnipeg version, and which provides important information needed to fully understand the story.

The first Liberal-fuelled promise on the chopping block for some senior officers is the $1-billion purchase of announced in 2003, the officer said, pointing out that the Americans have found instability and durability problems.

Another piece of hardware in question is the multi-mission effects vehicle, a piece of equipment to be attached to Canada's light armoured vehicles that can blow up a tank from about seven kilometres away.

A Defence Department official said the military's wish-list mirrors most Conservative priorities, with the replacement of Canada's oldest Hercules transport aircraft at the front.
The senior official said the military is studying buying six mammoth Boeing C-17 planes, with an eye to using the youngest Canadian Hercs for another five years before replacing them.

That would scrap the Liberal promise to spend $5 billion on the newest generation of Hercules planes. The military wants to cut some pet Liberal projects.

What projects?

Only the Edmonton Sun gives the answer.

* 66 U.S.-made eight-wheel mobile gun systems
* the multi-mission effects vehicle
* Hercules C-130J aircraft

The "mobile gun systems" would be the combat vehicle called the Stryker by the U.S. military. The Liberals planned to spend $500 million on 66 of them with first delivery this year. It's no coincidence that the Stryker armoured vehicles are built in London, Ontario at the General Dynamics Canada factory.

The eight-wheeled armoured vehicles are to replace the army's fleet of Leopard tanks. When announced, Lt. Gen. Rick Hillier spoke highly of the switch.

"... mounted with a "mobile direct fire system" (they) will prove to be "overwhelmingly successful," he said.
"Can it reach out and kill something when it needs to? " Hillier said at a news conference in Ottawa. "It can do that."

But military watchdogs have dogged the Stryker from Day One, saying it is "plagued with problems and fraught with dangers for crewmen." Strykers have been used extensively in Iraq, although they were outfitted with an extra layer of armor and a steel cage intended to offer more protection against insurgents armed with RPG's, which added another 5,000 pounds to their overall weight, making them less nimble.

Nevertheless, they've won over some critics for their surprising durability.

One Stryker was hit by a 500-pound roadside bomb in 2004. The Stryker flipped over one and a half times and skidded 30 feet, but none of the four soldiers inside was hurt. When flipped rightside up, it was able to move under its own power.

The multi-mission effects vehicle:
This was a new "fire support" vehicle designed to complement the Mobile Gun System (above). The MMEV is a missile launcher placed on a wheeled chassis instead of a track and which combines anti-tank and air-defence capabilities on one platform.

Not coincidentally, Oerlikon Contraves Canada of Montreal was to get the contract.

Perhaps military historian David Bercuson was channelling military planners when he wrote in the Legion Magazine (November/December 2004):

"The army is currently planning to spend some $600 million on converting its now virtually useless tracked Air Defence Anti-Tank System into a wheeled Multi-Mission Effects Vehicle (MMEV) to supplement the Mobile Gun System it is soon to acquire to support infantry on the battlefield.

Maybe it shouldn't.

There is a disturbing trend in Canadian defence spending: life extension programs and conversion projects have recently wasted billions of vital defence dollars... This hybrid might turn out to be a useful piece of kit, but the recent history of CF conversion projects warrants an outside, objective look, perhaps by the Auditor General, before the project proceeds any further."

And finally, the replacement of Canada's fleet of Hercules transport aircraft.

Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor has said it is his first priority. The Canadian Forces fleet of 31 Hercules C-130 aircraft has reached the end of the line. Within three years they will be so old as to be inoperable. The C-130 aircraft are used for everything from tactical transport to aerial refueling to search and rescue.

Replacing the fleet will cost $4-$5 billion. The Liberal government was planning on buying 15 smaller transport airplanes, most likely from Lockheed Martin which is marketing the C-130J version of the Hercules.

But Lockheed now says they won't have the planes available until 2010 and O'Connor won't wait. He's planning on buying at least three Boeing C-17 Globemaster aircraft immediately. The planes go for $200 million U.S. apiece.

The U.S. already has an order in for seven C-17s and is willing to give Canada "cuts" in line so we can have some of their aircraft and they'll wait until later for delivery of the rest.

And we're not finished yet.

Don't forget that Stephanie Rubec's story (in the Winnipeg Sun, at least) took a strange twist at the end.

She quoted Gen. Rick Hillier--- not about the military's equipment purchases, which was the subject of her story--- but about his relationship with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

There was a reason.

You see, the "media reports" that the Conservative government (read Stephen Harper) was censoring Hillier's speeches were very familiar to Rubec.

She wrote them.

Maybe she was too modest to identify herself as the author , but let us give credit where credit is due.

PM Slaps Muzzle on brass
by Stephanie Rubec
April 15th

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has forbidden Canada's top military brass from speaking publicly for fear of detracting attention from his government's top priorities.

A top military officer said the Prime Minister's Office recently told Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier his speaking engagements had to be approved and his speeches would be vetted by Harper's staff.

Hillier was told to advise his top generals, admirals and commodores that the order applies to them.

A source close to Hillier said the general hauled in military brass to a closed-door meeting and verbally relayed the instructions.


The senior military officer who attended the meeting said Hillier told brass they were to clear all media interview requests with the PMO. So far all requests for interviews have been turned down by the PM's staff.

"They don't want anything to detract from their five messages or lead to debate or discussion," said the source, who asked for anonymity to avoid repercussions himself.

Lower-ranking soldiers can still answer questions on their responsibilities and the programs they work in without having to seek PMO approval, the senior official said.

You see, Rubec gets to work both sides of the street. Not only is she the "senior political reporter" for Sun Media, but she's a war correspondent too.

Oh, not the war in Afghanistan. The war on Stephen Harper.

As the Black Rod reported, the Parliamentary Press Gallery has declared war on the Prime Minister to teach him who really runs things on Parliament Hill.

Note how well sourced Rubec's story is.

A senior military officer. Unidentified.
A "source" close to Hillier. Anonymous.

Kind of like Dan Rather and his unimpeachable source for the forged George Bush documents during the last U.S. Presidential campaign, isn't it?

Only now, the Canadian media will be using unnamed "sources" to smear Stephen Harper leading up to the next federal election.

Or more instances of
skewed photo images that are all just a coincidence.

And the retractions will be buried in two paragraphs in an unrelated story that's carried in only four newspapers in the country.

That's how journalism is practiced in Canada today. But don't bother complaining to the Parliamentary Press Gallery.

Stephanie Rubec is the president.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Mayor or Moose?

With its vendetta against Mayor Sam Katz flagging badly, the Winnipeg Free Press rolled out another hired gun on Wednesday.

Only this time the result was to turn the already bad show into farce.

The Free Press knew they had to plug a gaping hole in their stories. They had tried to turn an innocuous comment by Katz into a scandal. He said that he felt like Hugh Hefner when surrounded by Winnipeg's top five female Olympic athletes.

The Free Press tried to stoke outrage, and only managed to turn the paper into the laughing stock of the city. Maybe they hoped that nobody would notice that not one of the Olympians was quoted anywhere in any of the stories the Free Press was pumping out.

Do you think the women shared the joke without taking offence? It appears a lot of readers thought that. The newspaper knew they had a big problem.

So on Wednesday they turned for help to Shannon Sampert, "a former journalist who teaches politics at the University of Winnipeg". (Note that she's the fourth Free Press columnist to try and stoke the scandal fire. It seems the people complaining about Katz the most, are those collecting a pay cheque from the newspaper.)

"Double Standard" cried the headline over her op-ed column. There's a reason the Olympic women haven't gone public with their feelings, she wrote.

They're scared.

They're scared of "being labelled humourless." They're scared of being labelled "feminist." And they're scared of "losing funding" unless they smile and play the role of dumb chick.

See? That's why the Free Press has had to shoulder the load, to carry the battle to the Mayor, to demand an apology on behalf of the frightened women who dare not speak for themselves.

Uh huh. We guess the Free Press thought that identifying Sampert as "a former journalist' would lend credibility to her opinion. It sure beats "humourless knee-jerk feminist".

Sampert revealed her true colours while a student at the University of Calgary. She had been a journalist for 20 years before going back to school. She was taking political studies when she discovered Space Moose.

Sam Katz or Space Moose?
You see, it's all the same to Shannon Sampert.

In her world, both are simply boorish males who insult and frighten poor females trying to make their way in this hard world dominated by insensitive men.

Who's Space Moose, you ask.

The main character in a satirical cartoon strip in the Gateway, the University's student newspaper, that's who. Or...that's what.
Space Moose, in the vein of South Park, irreverently insulted every sacred cow he could find.

He was so popular that in March 1997, Space Moose finished third in the race for student council president, only 11 votes out of second. But in October 1997 when he went after the Take Back the Night march in a strip titled "Clobbering Time", feminists like then-student Shannon Sampert took offense.

They wrote letters, they protested. They had the cartoonist charged with discrimination for "failing to treat women with dignity and respect", an offence against the University's Code of Student Behavior. They forced Space Moose off the university's website.

"It's not a censorship issue," Sampert told reporters. She said the University administration should be doing a better job of ensuring the University is a safe place for women. The cartoon had made them afraid.

Is this sounding familiar?

She got her MA, then began working on a PHd at the University of Alberta. Her thesis supervisor was Linda Trimble, a professor in the political science department where she designed courses like Poli 550.

POLI 5503- Women, Equality and Representation
Course Author: This course will be taught by Dr. Jane Arscott; however, it was written by Linda Trimble. Linda is a Professor in the Political Science Department at the University of Alberta, where she has held a position since 1989.

IntroductionPolitical Science 550: Women, Equality, Representation is designed to introduce you to key concepts in feminist thought and central currents in feminist history and examine representation of women in mass media and electoral politics.

The course begins with a discussion of key concepts in feminist thought and central currents in feminist theory, with the first section introducing the concept of gender and offering feminist explanations for women's historic and on-going inequality.

The second part of the course features feminist theorizing about gender, women's diversity, political equality and representation. This theoretical material serves as the framework for the third part of the course, which examines representation of women in mass media and electoral politics and covers the following themes/topics...

Sampert wrote that her experience in television contributed to her view of a male-dominated society. She says she was denied a spot on a late-night news show because the news director didn't think her attractive enough.

We sure would like to know which station she worked for, since her University of Winnipeg bio says she's an "award winning televison producer, news reporter and communications consultant."

But it was her credentials as a political science professor that got her the prime spot of Katz critic. As usual, we did some snooping and discovered her political leanings which may have coloured her column as much as her feminist opinions.

Last year, Sampert contributed a chapter to a new book edited by Trevor Harrison, The Return of the Trojan Horse, and published by the left-wing Parkland Institute. A news release describes the book this way:

A right-wing populist, in an oil-rich province, Ralph Klein has been a one-man wrecking crew dismantling Alberta's public sector and remaking the province into a freewheeling, capitalist paradise. This book re-examines Klein's Alberta after a decade of deficit-slashing, tax-cutting conservatism.

And could our Shannon Sampert be the same Shannon Sampert quoted extensively by the NDP in Alberta as a "Liberal organizer"?

The things you don't learn from reading the Winnipeg Free Press. Sigh.

(Oh, and just in case anyone asks about what happened to the mean old moose, the cartoonist was fined $200 -- but had the whole thing overturned on appeal after a long legal battle.)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

War is Hell, say Parliament Hill reporters


Don't adjust your monitor. That's just the whine of the Parliamentary Press Gallery.

It seems the reporters in Ottawa are having a group hissy fit over the way Stephen Harper is treating them. Poor babies.

They've been writing non-stop about the horror their lives have become with the defeat of the Liberal Party. They always preface their whine with a comment that "maybe the public doesn't care, but ..."

Memo to the Parliamentary Press Gallery: There is no 'but.'

The public doesn't care.
Full stop.

Shut the (but ...) up and do your jobs.

We all know what hell its been on Parliament Hill since the Conservatives moved in. Stephen Harper won't let you mob his cabinet ministers and screech questions in their faces while hurling microphones at their heads. He won't let you decide in advance who gets to ask questions. He thinks he can just select reporters from the pack, does he?

Oh, the humanity. The humanity.

But you don't understand, whined Winnipeg Free Press reporter Paul Samyn last Sunday

"as a proxy for you, the reader, who doesn't get to ask questions of those in power, I think your interests are also in play in the escalating communications war between the press and the Prime Minister's office."

Hey, Paul ... We're not at war with the PM. Interesting choice of words there... isn't the goal of a war to defeat the enemy? (Bias? What bias? No bias here. Move on. Nothing to see here.)

And, Paul. We withdrew our proxy long ago.

Maybe it was about the time you, as the vox populi, decided it was imperative for the electorate to know the thoughts of Kreskin the Mentalist instead of doing a single story about the income trust scandal that was consuming the Liberals' fortunes.

We had to read the blogs to get details of the income trust scandal because you felt Kreskin was more important. It took months before we found out that Liberal cabinet minister Scott Brison was tipping off his close personal pals in the banking industry with here a wink, there a wink, everywhere a nudge, nudge. You'd think Kreskin would have known.

Or was it the time you did that puff piece interview with Governor General Michaelle Jean and never once asked her about Bruce Vallance, the war vet wounded in a bombing by the FLQ in their terror campaign for independence to which our new head of state drank a toast and cheered.

Samyn wants credit for the Press Gallery for electing the Conservatives by media coverage of the sponsorship scandal.

Uh, Paul, did the name Sheila Fraser slip your mind?

The Parliamentary Press Gallery tiptoed around the sponsorship scandal for a couple of years without writing a single story that had the impact of Captain Ed Morrisey and his blog exclusive on the explosive testimony of Jean Brault.

Isn't it funny how none of the stories by members of the Press Gallery ever mention a reason for Stephen Harper to distrust them?

If their glee at his "awkward" handshake with his son wasn't enough, then maybe it was their glee at the partisan protests that followed the defection of David Emerson.

Isn't it strange that the stories about those protests have died off now that the ethics commissioner agreed with Stephen Harper that he had no business investigating normal political manoevering?

We find it more telling that the reporters never talk about the role of the press in the last election campaign.

- Remember the press consensus that the public didn't want a winter election? And would punish the party that forced one?

- This was followed by the press consensus that an election was unnecessary because the result would be the same as the last election.

- Then came the press consensus that the public didn't think Adscam was such a big deal and the Conservatives weren't making any headway against the Liberals.

- Then the press consensus that the income trust scandal wasn't worth talking about during the election campaign.

- And finally, the press consensus that the income trust scandal was the turning point of the election.

And there's so much more.

Remember the infamous attack ads run by the Liberals?

* Well who do we find as the Liberal's director of advertising? Jack Fleishman, senior producer at Report on Business TV, which is owned by the Globe and Mail.

* CTV president Ivan Fecan was helping organize Liberal fundraisers in the days before corporate donations were made illegal. In 2000, he chaired an annual dinner held by the federal Liberal party where he gave a speech that a writer for the National Post described as "a passionate personal testament about why he is a big Liberal."

* Lower on the news media food chain, was Charlie Bird, a lobbyist for Bell Globemedia, CTV's parent company, who turned up the campaign chairman for the Liberals in Ontario and who fed the Globe more than one front page story.

* Did they forget CBC reporter-turned-Liberal-spokesthingy Susan Murray and her passionate expletive laden defence of the Libs on Mike Duffy TV?The CBC is in the thick of the "war" with Harper.

The day the Conservative unveilled their Accountability Act, CBC reporter Keith Boag led his report with how much his nose was out of joint at Harper's treatment of the press. Old school reporters would have simply reported the details of the Act, but obviously the feelings of the Press Gallery take precedence over mere legislation.

We all know what the CBC thinks of the Conservatives. If you need a refresher, just go to The Black Rod's story about CBC employee blogs during the lockout when they wrote freely about their political leanings.

Then there were the infamous "honest mistakes."

Let's see...

* There was the cropped cartoon of Stephen Harper that made it look as if he was giving a Nazi salute. It was on the CBC home page on the Net and formed the icon that lead to a section of editorial cartoons. The CBC pulled it after getting complaints.

CBC spokeswoman Ruth-Ellen Soles said: "It was a crop that someone didn't like, but there sure was nothing meant by it."

* That was followed by an animated cartoon depicting Stephen Harper as Dr. Frankenstein and Peter McKay as Igor. A viewer described it this way:

Harper takes MacKay to a metal cylinder and a door opens revealing a Harper clone. "I brought you here to show you this," said the cartoon Harper."He is rigid, cold and completely devoid of life. I can't see a different, can you see a difference?" said the cartoon MacKay, looking into the camera.

A real kneeslapper.

* Then came the Harper-Heil graphic. Right after the election, the National carried a graphic with the word HEIL beneath a shot of a Stephen Harper election sign. Oops, said the CBC. Honest mistake. They offered a complicated and fantastic explanation of why it happened without explaining why it never happens to any of the other party leaders.

The Globe and Mail carried a story "'Press unions condemn Harper for limiting access" <.'">>.'

"Canada's two biggest media unions are condemning Prime Minister Stephen Harper for what they call 'undemocratic' and 'frightening' attempts to limit journalists' access to cabinet ministers."

But it was left to former CBC reporter Larry Zolf, writing on the CBC webpage, to say what everyone is thinking.

Harper's treatment of the media is that of an ingrate. The media made Harper. The media also first made Trudeau and Mulroney. Later, the media made both Trudeau and Mulroney and their parties suffer at the polls. A similar fate awaits Harper if he doesn't change his basic suspicion and hatred of reporters and news commentators. That's clear enough.

The Parliamentary Press Gallery has now manufactured a reason to attack Stephen Harper's government. Reporters in Cuba, in China, in Zimbabwe know what "frightening attempts to limit journalists' access" really are.

(Now maybe their definitions are too loose; after all they are only being kidnapped, used for target practice and held for questioning by military dictatorships.)

The reporters in those countries can honestly complain about press accessibility.

The reporters in Canada are looking for an excuse to attack a new government which is proving popular with the public despite everything the reporters have thrown at them.

Perhaps Samyn and his brethren-in-arms can resume, as was suggested, doing their jobs and find, say, a national story with Winnipeg connections. Of course there is one out there, but once again, Bruce Vallance is involved.

A week ago he sent an email to a select few people (including Charles Adler and this blog) about an idea going around the country right now in a chain e-mail.

"By word of mouth, press, TV -- let's make Canada on every Friday a sea of red much like a homecoming football game in the bleachers ... Our idea of showing solidarity and support for our troops with dignity and respect starts this Friday -and continues each and every Friday until the troops all come home ."

April 14th, Good Friday, was also the inaugural Red Friday. Now there's a story the PMO may even comment on -- if someone asks politely.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Free Press reader shoots down Gord Sinclair


That's the sound of a political smear going bust.

... and a newspaper's credibility flushed down the toilet.

The drive-by attack on Mayor Sam Katz was over so quickly you may have missed all the nuances.

So let us recap:The Winnipeg Free Press launched it's smear on Mayor Sam Katz on Wednesday.

Katz made a quip to a reporter for Shaw cable news, a show whose audience measures in the low tens. The Mayor said following a public ceremony to honour five Winnipeg Olympic athletes that standing next to so many beautiful women made him feel like Hugh Hefner (who celebrated his 80th birthday this week surrounded by beautiful women).

The Free Press seized on the comment and tried to turn it into a full-blown scandal, accusing him of unforgiveable sexism. A reporter finally found one (count 'em, one) critic to say she was upset at the comment.

To beef up the story they went to one of their own business columnists to say it was a sign of "systemic discrimination" against women. The reporter obviously failed to get a comment from any of the five (count 'em, five) Olympians, who, presumably, weren't that upset. That aside, the newspaper trumpeted that Katz was being "ripped" for his foul words.

The "news" was greeted with derision. Not one other news outlet in the city thought it worthy of comment. CJOB's Vic Grant and Richard Cloutier made fun of the Free Press. Women callers made fun of the Free Press.

Boy publisher Dandy Andy Ritchie and his sidekick Bob "Box" Cox (as the Free Press itself calls him) were undeterred. Having manufactured a story by finding someone, anyone, to be suitably outraged, they went to stage two of the smear ---- the follow-up. They did their best, devoting three full pages to the faux scandal.

One page was comments from readers. Many were suitably outraged. Then a full page of letter-to-the-editor. And a column by Lindor Reynolds, who was, you guessed it, outraged. And the cherry on top was a full editorial expressing-- what else--- the newspaper's outrage.

Noticeably missing for the second day in a row was any comment from any of the five Olympic women. Someone in journalism might call that outrageous, but not Ritchie and Coxie who have their own ideas of what a newspaper should be.

As before, the Free Press was ignored by every other news outlet. Not even CBC, which lives and breathes political correctness, would bite. The smear was dead and smelling up the joint.

But it smelled like roses to columnist Gordon Sinclair who on Saturday stepped up with his own anti-Sam spin. He said he called Lloyd Axworthy and encouraged him to run for mayor against Sam Katz.

Katz, declared Sinclair, was underqualified. "We're at a turning point in our city," he begged Axworthy. He said Katz only won because of a business/developer coaliton, something Axworthy's name-recognition could overcome, if he would only say Yes.

Sinclair noted that running for mayor would mean Axworthy would have to give up a salary of $200,000 a year from the University of Winnipeg. (No mention of triple dipping Lloyd's other income sources--a pension from the Manitoba Legislature for his six years as an MLA, a pension from Parliament, the old-age pension, CPP).

Also no mention of that little bit of outstanding nastiness, the attempt to have Axworthy, along with 67 other Western leaders, charged with war crimes before a United Nations tribunal in The Hague. Lawyers from Canada, Greece, Norway and Britain have prepared a dossier of their charges and submitted it to the chief prosecutor for the UN International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. The charges relate to the bombing campaign against Yugoslavia, and include "willful killing," wanton destruction of cities, town or villages," and waging unlawful war.

But Axworthy said No. Sinclair was crushed. His other political love affairs have not fared well. His last endorsement went to Tory turncoat John Loewen who decided the scandal-ridden Liberals were his kind of people. Conservative Stephen Fletcher easily sent John packing in January.

Before that, Sinclair sang the praises of Donald Benham who was running for city council. Benham won a seat, but has turned into a running joke as he harps at everything Sam Katz does from the far left fringe of city hall.

His latest stroke of genius is to oppose mosquito fogging during an election year. The no-fogging technique of mosquito control was tried last year and almost killed ten people in the province who got infected with the most severe form of West Nile virus. Medical authorities have successfully kept secret how many of those ten were in Winnipeg.

Entertainers know that you should always leave 'em laughing. So its fitting that the obituary to the Free Press should be written at week's end by sports columnist Randy Turner.

In Sunday's column he notes the many female athletes have posed in varying degrees of nudity to use their sexuality to draw attention to their sports. Of course, he makes the expected resonant sneering remarks about Sam Katz; he wants to keep his job. But his column is clear. The Free Press has made a big deal about nothing. And the jokes on them.

One reader spent part of Easter Sunday making their feelings crystal clear in an email to Sinclair -- copied to, among others, this blog:

When reading the Winnipeg Free Press, I ordinarily give most of your columns only a cursory review. This gives me enough time to ponder how someone so intelligent and articulate can manage to be so logically inconsistent.

Examples include your lament at urban sprawl as you type away in the comfort of your Linden Woods abode or your campaign to free a drug mule from the clutches from a foreign country when any U.S.-led attempt at same would have led to righteous cries of heavy-handed "Ugly American" intervention in one of your columns.

Your article in this Saturday’s paper has finally led me to write to you. Apparently Sam Katz’s management of the City of Winnipeg has led to your Trostky-esque call to arms in an attempt to usurp Mayor Katz.

Your column alluded to a "business/developer coalition" that placed Mr. Katz in his current position. There can be no doubt that Mayor Katz did indeed receive support from this contingent of which I form a part of. As resident Winnipeggers who have both a pecuniary and personal interest in the success of our city, are we not entitled to support mayoral candidates of our choice?

Many of us "vile" individuals (the tone of your article suggests that would be indicative of the esteem in which you hold us) have signed countless personal guarantees to bank lenders and have chosen to raise our families in this community even when governments have sometimes acted as more of an impediment than a help. Our success or failure is inextricably tied to the success of this city. Unlike you, should our community falter, we would not have the luxury of pulling up stakes and moving to another newspaper.

I wonder what the wealth, employment and opportunity creators of this city have done to be so deserving of your derision and scorn. I marvel at your ability to bemoan those exercising our democratic right to voice our opinions via supporting the candidates of our choosing while you simultaneously attempt to subvert the outcome with one of your columns.

Although I rarely agree with anything you write, I respect that you are entitled to your opinion and I am perpetually grateful that we can have this dialogue in a democratic fashion. Perhaps one day you may find yourself charitable enough to respectfully disagree with the opinions of businesspeople instead of seeking to demonize us as some evil force that must be wrested of all say in any matter.

Mr. Katz’s overwhelming support (which extends beyond the evil business coalition thereby transcending any monetary raison-d’etre) has everything to do with the common-sense approach with which he manages the city. He is steadfastly working his way up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – Mayor Katz has the foresight to see that crumbling infrastructure must be addressed before coming up with vapid strategic directions for Winnipeg.

He must be doing something right – thus far, the only dirt you and many of your brethren have managed to dig up on him is some innocuous Hugh Hefner reference that subsequently proved to be more of a stain on the journalistic integrity of the Winnipeg Free Press.

To Mayor Katz: keep up the good work and we’ll stay behind you no matter what the gratuitous banter from those who can only muster enough intestinal fortitude to chirp from the sidelines. Those of us who literally have gone to the pains of putting everything on the line here in our beloved ‘Peg like what we see so far!


Proud to be a Winnipegger & Unapologetic for Being One

Playboy, by the way, has always been a big booster of the Olympics.

Check out their Playboy Olympic Edition.

"While the 2004 Olympic Summer Games will offer a chance to see some of the most raw, awe-inspiring athletics and fierce competition in the world, Playboy levels the playing field with a unique showcase celebrating the sexy athleticism of the human form -- a stunning, 12-page nude pictorial in the magazine's "Women of the Olympics" September issue (on newsstands Friday, August 13, 2004).

And for you lovers of speedskating, Cindy Klassen's main rival, German champion Anni Friesinger, the former champion and winner of four Olympic medals, posed for a German magazine. The photos are nothing that couldn't run in a daily newspaper.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Bandidos on the web

Well, we said the new direction for the Winnipeg Free Press was a work in progress, and we're starting to detect the end product.

They're turning the newspaper into a magazine.

They've scrapped two page of news (Page One and Two). Instead they have a front cover (the former Page One) and a table of contents (the former Page Two). And they don't worry about news anymore.

See, for example, what passed for "news" in Wednesday's paper.

"Katz ripped for 'Hefner' comment at tribute" declared the headline in a story so special it was shaded to stand out and command attention. And special, it was.

It was a classic case of the "Gotcha" journalism which has so degraded the profession that readers are abandoning newspapers by the thousands.

We can't blame reporter Gabrielle Giroday because we suspect she was assigned to the story rather than pitching it herself. If we're wrong, then Shame on you, Gabrielle.

Because this was a worst case scenario of a "story" manufactured by the reporter to create--rather than report-- news.

"Katz ripped" turned out to be one lone female professor of women's studies who called him 'pathetic.'

A second woman, one of their own columnists, Barbara Bowes, called it "an unfortunate slip of the tongue" but evidence of "systemic discrimination."

How hard did they have to work the phones before finding even one person, female preferably, to criticize Mayor Sam? It sure looked like there were scores of women in the audience at the tribute ceremony for our Olympic athletes, but Gabrielle couldn't catch up to even one of them for a comment. Wow, even the spectators are fast runners, eh, Gabby?

The newspaper even published a transcript of his remarks on the turn page. (Hey, what turn page? Didn't editor Bob Cox brag that they listened to readers who hate turning the page to find the rest of the story?...ed.) We guess it was to show how outrageous the Mayor was.

Unfortunately, the attempt at Smear Part Two failed as miserably as Smear Part One. CJOB's Vic Grant and talk show host Richard Cloutier had their fun "ripping" Professor Janice Dodd, and Cloutier's callers piled on.

To give credit when and where it's due, we give a nod to the CBC's coverage of the Winnipeg connection to the murder in Ontario of eight bikers, members or associates of the Bandidos motorcycle club.

Tuesday, they had a clip from the owner of the Holland House restaurant in Iona, Ontario, who described how Wayen Kellestine, the prime suspect in the murders brought five men from Winnipeg to eat. There had been rumours all day that the murders were somehow connected to a run the Bandidos were supposed to make to Winnipeg, but which the murdered men allegedly didn't want to make.

Then Wednesday, reporter Marisa Dragani quoted Ron Burling, a member of the probationary Manitoba chapter of the Bandidos currently in jail, about the murders. What's significant is that this is the first and so far only comment by any member of the Bandidos on the record in Canada.

Not some "source", or former Bandido, or "biker expert" who's written a book but a real, live colours-wearing member of the gang who insisted the club is far from finished. Good work, CBC.

The rumours and speculation of what sparked the killings have gotten farcical.

The latest theory is that drugs drove the men insane and into a killing spree. (We're not making this up.)

No doubt this is fuelled by the information that three of the Bandidos who wound up dead were trailed to Kellestine's farmhouse by Durham drug police who suspected a major drug deal was in the works.

When it looked like the men were just settling in for a party, the police left.

After the murders, police (apparently) found that the men had brought 200 kilograms of cocaine with them.

The story in the Toronto Star put the value of the cocaine at $400,000, but if its broken down into ounces, the value becomes $5 million.

The street value, if sold in grams, is closer to $12 million.

That's enough to commit murder for.

And we aren't even touching on the 4 man hit squad that was coming in from Chicago theory. Maybe later.

The dead in the Friday Massacre are

John 'Boxer' Muscedere, 48,
Frank 'Bam Bam' Salerno, 43,
Luis Manny 'Porkchop' Raposo, 41,
George (Gus) 'Crash' Kriarakis, 28,
Paul Sinopoli, 30,
George 'Pony' Jesso, 52,
Jamie Flanz, 37, and
Michael Trotta, 31.

The Black Rod has found web posts by some of the men to the Bandidos Canada and Bandidos International sites. They show the joy the men felt in the camaraderie of the club in happier days. It's something that's missing from the many stories about the crime itself.

These posts bring a little humanity to the horror.

Wishing you all a fat RED & GOLD Christmas and a great New Year
from Bandidos Canada " NO SURRENDER CREW ".
Bandido Concrete Dave 1%er
Vancouver Canada Saturday, 24. December 2005 02:31

Name: Grmg Hafiz
City: Twin Tower, Kuala Lumpur
Sent: 29/12 2005 04:11 AM Fatz
Congratulation to Bandidos MC Canada "No Surrender Crew" on your 5th Years Anniversary. We wish all the brothers & families A Merry X-Mas & A Glorious & Joyful Year 2006. Have a Safe & Happy Holiday Season. With much LOVE, LOYALTY & RESPECT Grmg Hafiz Hang Around Chapter of Bandidos MC Malaysia

Sent: 25/12 2005 10:50 AM


Sent: 27/07 2004 10:03 AM


Sent: 27/07 2004 09:55 AM


Name: bad compagny frenchy
City: the no surrender crew
Sent: 27/07 2004 05:43 AM I MISS YOU ALL MY BROTHERS,

Sent: 27/07 2004 05:26 AM


Sent: 26/07 2004 05:00 PM


City: CANADASent: 26/07 2004 09:41 AM


Sent: 25/07 2004 06:24 PM


Name: Bandido Chief 1%ER
Sent: 21/12 2003 06:23 AM

Just writing to say hello to all my brothers Boxer is still recovering from friday night old man cant keep up with the chiefarone got tired of stareing at the whisky bottle so had to have a drink boxer say i dont know how you do it i say watch i will show you well chow for now

Name: Bandido Chief 1%ER
City: TorontoCANADA
Sent: 20/12 2003 01:46 PM

Just wanted to say i had a great time last night.good to see most of my brothers Crash Beaver Boxer Chopper frenchie circlehead and the one with the red and smelled like diesel fuel you know who you are . Bam Bam i know you were working to bad i know we would have cracked jokes all night L.L.R Cisco fucking site looking great ... i love it.Good to see our friends and hangarounds Had a great time Love.Loyalty and Respect B.F.F.B


As we expected the relay torch was passed to Lindor Reynolds to continue the attack on Mayor Sam under the guise of defending the honour of the Olympians. However another blogger, our friend Raskalnikov at The Times of Winnipeg, has already made the relevant observations:

There are a few other mysteries I would like to solve as well, such as if Brad Pitt was offended when Reynolds penned a column about him last fall while he was in town shooting a film.

Reynolds’s column was a pathetic, schoolgirl-obsession type of juvenilia, peppered with sexually-overt comments about Pitt’s looks. She took the same route with her columns about Richard Gere when he was in town a few years ago. Ditto for the various male Juno performers at last year’s awards. (In these articles, Reynolds proudly included photos of her and her daughter camped out at the airport stalking boys like Kalan Porter to gurgle over)...

... Such banality, however, is to be expected whenever any celebrity (or attractive local bigwig for that matter) comes waltzing through town; for there will be Lindor, half paparazzi, half insatiable-MILF, trying to look cool by describing her flushed cheeks and thigh-sweat.

Read his entire post, Indignation coordinator working OT .

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Bandidos, Rutherford, Ritchie and more

Unbelievable. What do they teach people in journalism schools these days?

Once upon a time reporters were told to always look for a local angle to a national story.

Does it get any better than learning that a suspect in the murders of eight motorcycle gang members in Ontario was spotted palling around with five "burly men from Winnipeg" a week before the killings?

Well, nobody at the Winnipeg Sun thought that was important.

Monday, they buried the information -- in paragraph seven of an eight paragraph sidebar on the murders. Nobody thought it would make a great top to the story. Or a headline. Or even an overline.

It just goes to prove that the Sun's editors either don't bother reading the stories they're laying out , or else there's nobody working there who knows what a news story is. And these are the people the mainstream press calls "professional journalists.

* The Guardian published a telling comment from organized crime expert Antonio Nicaso, who said "There is speculation that the decision for this massacre was orchestrated outside of Ontario, probably with the assistance of other Bandidos from other provinces."

* London Free Press reporter Randy Richmond considered several scenerios for the massacre including "Bandido overlords from the United States and possibly using a Winnipeg puppet club called Los Montoneros hired hit men to take down the eight Bandidos."

* Richard Brennan writes in the Toronto Star today "Sources say it was the refusal of five of the victims to follow explicit orders to go on a "national run" to Winnipeg to carry out enforcement and connect with other bikers that led to the slayings."

The best the local Sun can do, is -- one day late -- reprint the London FP story with still no attempt to add any Winnipeg input other than a knee-jerk reaction from the police. It seems they've forgotten what journalism is, if they ever knew.

And speaking of the forgotten ... Did you catch the mention of Ross Rutherford in Saturday's Winnipeg Free Press?

Rutherford, for the uninitiated, was a household name in Winnipeg not so long ago. He was a reporter with CBC's 24 Hours, and eventually with the show's I-Team. He was famous for his ambush - and - attack style interviews. He quit CBC in the late 90s to join Protos, the company formed by his friend David Wolinsky.

Well, both Wolinsky and Protos have fallen on hard times lately. Saturday, the FP reported that an unhappy group of prominent shareholders has gone to court to get repaid $1.4 million they invested over the past six years.

In affidavits filed with the court, the shareholders claim Ross Rutherford was one of a group of people given "preferential treatment" by Wolinsky and his partner Costas Ataliotis.

Rutherford et al were allegedly allowed to cash out their stakes in Protos or get repayment for debts owed to them, although no other shareholders were offered the same sweetheart deals.

We wonder if CBC's Cecil Rosner, Rutherford's I-Team producer partner, will assign a reporter to bang on Ross's door or ambush him outside his house for a comment on camera?

Do ya think?

Nahh, that would be too Old School.

One person who's so New School that he's running a newspaper without any journalism background at all is the new boy at the Winnipeg Free Press, publisher Andy Ritchie.

Ritchie has 19 years experience in the business, but it looks like zero years of that was spent in the reporting or editing trenches. He worked in advertising sales at the Daily Mail in England, he oversaw printing at the New Zeland Herald, and he was vice president of operations at The Globe and Mail in Toronto where he coordinated the paper's printing operations across six commercial plants.

He joined the FP in January, and he has already made his mark. We speak, of course, of the bold decision to take news stories off the front page and replace them with headlines, photos and more headlines.

We're not sure we can attribute other odd directions in the paper to him, like having their gossip columnist cover police stories, moving the neighborhood section out of the paper.

Ritchie love his consultants. Their latest brainwave, met with open-armed acceptance, is to move sports, entertainment and classified ads onto the Free Press website and charge people to read them. Perhaps someone on staff should have informed the new publisher of Winnipeg's hard-won reputation as the "wholesale" city where you never pay for something you can get for free somewhere else.

Or would that be a career-ending conversation?

In any event, Ritchie appears to be enjoying his move to the small city. Maybe it's the Manitoba Advantage at work, but he seems to be living large and letting people know it, fancying himself to be Austin Powers.

The invitation to his meet and greet, using the same artwork as the paper's lame "Licence 2 Win"/British Airways contest, actually used the hook "Come meet an international man of mystery" at the MTS Centre.

The result was a poorly attended soiree where Free Press types outnumbered the actual guests.

Another soiree, a charity Blackjack tournament at McPhillips Street Station, was attended by many genuine media celebs. Yet somehow a picture of Ritchie, grinning like a rube at the Red River Ex, found it's way into the story with quotes from - guess who?

Austin Maxi has now sold his Austin Mini, we're told, and replaced it with a brand new gun-metal grey Range Rover (sticker price--$78,000).

He's so proud of it, he parks where everyone can admire the publisher's success.

Even as they ponder how to achieve his edict to cut 10 percent from all department budgets, in addition to trimming another $2 million from the overall bottom line to pay the consultants to come up with ways to find more room for advertising, even if news get squeezed out (onto the website?).

Now that's bold.

We may soon see just how bold he is, though if, as suspected, the FP is in the sights of the Canwest news empire. It seems that Ritchie was at another kind of society event one December evening in Toronto, and downright pessimistic about Canwest's flagship The National Post.

An account of that night made its way onto Bourque Newswatch, one of the best-read websites in Canada:


Is the National Post not long for this world ? So claims Andy Ritchie, the Globe & Mail's VP of Ops, as he singlehandedly held up one end of the chi-chi Avenue Bar on the ground floor of the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Toronto on an icy-cold Wednesday evening.

This in a conversation with a bearded bald-headed fedora-wearer who once edited the Toronto Star. "The Post is the enemy", claimed the bearded one, "look at the Post, it's all yesterday's news".

Ritchie responded, saying, "I think the Post is going down. It's now a vanity ... I think they're going to close the Post down in January ... They're dead ... The Post is going to shut down".

Who's this print media oracle Richie, you ask ? A tubby white wine enjoying fellow-well-met shorn in red tie and off-the-rack grey suit bearing a non-descript anglo accent, part New Zealand, part Liverpool.

"The executive team of the Globe and Mail just had dinner here tonight", he divulged to his chit-chat pal and those nearby who couldn't help hearing the overflow conversation, "Phil Crawley is the best publisher in the country", he added, "I just sent an email to him, he's a difficult man, you know, he's had 16 VPs in 6 years. I told him Phillip, you're the greatest boss I've ever worked for, just stop listening to the bloody office politics".

Soon, a young female arrived and the conversation moved on to other matters.

We're sure Ritchie meant no offence, though he has had a few brushes with offensive journalism in his brief tenure at the Free Press.

He joined the rest of the New School of journalists who decided that the best way to illustrate a cartoon that Muslims said was offensive, was not to show it but to write about it. Only the blogosphere published the cartoon and let people know what the hell anyone was talking about.

And then came this week's story of a Manitoba highway official who was suspended for making allegedly offensive/sexist comments about a chief of Tadoule Lake.

The Free Press under Andrew Ritchie decided that the comments were so racist, so sexist and so offensive, that they should be recounted in full in the newspaper and a transcript posted on the website.

See? What do we know about New Journalism?

Here's one thing we do know. The Free Press published half of a story Monday.

School enrolment in Winnipeg has dropped by 2,420 students this current year. "In some schools, just a handful of children are attending Grade 1" said the paper.

Here's the other half of the story. Six years ago there were 3,366 abortions in Manitoba.

Someone should be asking the obvious questions.

That's Old School.

Believe it.