The Black Rod

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

Name:
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: black_rod_usher@yahoo.com

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Free Press publisher has some 'splaining to do

Not so fast, Andy.

As the publisher of the Winnipeg Free Press, you, Andrew Ritchie, are responsible for what goes into the newspaper. Which makes you responsible for the exceptionally rare apology that ran on Friday.

It was actually the third time the Free Press has tried to beg forgiveness for the same story. Once in the daily Editor's Bulletin e-mailed to subscribers, once in the online edition of the paper, and now in the print edition of the FP.

Each apology was slightly different, but it's the latest one that's especially telling.


All this over two sentences in a story by your Ottawa reporter Paul Samyn. As we reported Thursday Samyn interviewed Lloyd Axworthy, the former Liberal Party foreign affairs minister, on the Israel-Hezbollah-Lebanon crisis.

At the very end of his story he wrote:
Axworthy also took a shot at Winnipeg's Asper family, saying they are using their media empire to advocate staunchly right-wing positions when it comes to defending Israel.
"The Aspers are increasingly playing a far more important role in shaping Canadian foreign policy."

Your apologies say that Samyn got it wrong. Axworthy never mentioned the Aspers, you say. Instead, you claim, he used the word diasporas (die-asper-uz), which Samyn misunderstood to mean...what?

The Aspers, according to your explanation.

But he must have heard die Aspers.

What does that mean? Did he think Axworthy had suddenly switched to speaking bad German and was talking about die Aspers und die lederhosen?(You can hear the word pronounced here. http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/diaspora )

No, Andy, it's clear there's a lot more to this story that you're not telling.

Starting with how you define diaspora in your Friday apology.

"In fact, Axworthy was referring to groups of diaspora--- various ethnic communities in today's multicultural society---influencing Canadian foreign policy."

Well, not quite.

Any dictionary you chose will tell you that diaspora has one clear meaning. Or you can do a Google search and here's what you get:

Definitions of Diaspora on the Web:
· The dispersion of the Jews.http://tinyurl.com/le3w7
· Jews dwelling of outside of the land of Israel who felt themselves to be in exile. (Heb. "galut"). http://tinyurl.com/mwsj8

· "Dispersion" in Greek - people living in exile from their country of origin. In Israeli usage the word refers to Jews outside Israel. In Palestinian usage, it refers to Palestinians living in areas other than the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel.
http://tinyurl.com/j7sbc

· (Greek "scattering"). Often used to refer to the Jewish communities living among the gentiles outside of the Land of Israel. In recent years, Palestinians began using the term to refer to Palestinians living outside Palestine. The largest Jewish diaspora communities are in the United States, Russia, and France.
http://tinyurl.com/kxcsh

· the area outside the land of Israel settled by Jews, or the Jews who settled there.
http://tinyurl.com/qjd9a

· Scattering (Greek). The term originally referred to the Jewish community scattered after the Babylonian Exile (587 BCE) and later to the Christians dispersed across the Greco-Roman world in the first century CE. For eighteenth-century Moravians it designated a ministry of revivalism and spiritual renewal carried out among members of the European State churches.
http://tinyurl.com/zs32q

· (1) The settling of Jews outside of Israel or modern Palestine (2) the scattering of any people
http://tinyurl.com/g7qry

· (Greek, dispersion) Originally Jewish communities living outside the land of Israel since the forced exile of the 6th century BC. Now a more general term to describe dispersed communities. http://tinyurl.com/heupn

· people of a country or area who have spread to other countries.
http://tinyurl.com/rdsoh

· The term diaspora (Greek d?asp???, a scattering or sowing of seeds) is used (without capitalization) to refer to any people or ethnic population forced or induced to leave their traditional ethnic homelands, being dispersed throughout other parts of the world, and the ensuing developments in their dispersal and culture.
http://tinyurl.com/l25yg

**********************
Diaspora, first and foremost, means the scattering of Jews throughout the world from Israel. All other meanings flow from this, and are secondary. So your choice of definition is curious.


Doubly curious since the context of the interview with Lloyd Axworthy would support the traditional meaning of the word Diaspora. He was speaking about Israel.

Samyn took him to be talking about the Aspers, who, it might surprise you, are Jewish.


So what was Axworthy saying? That the Jews have too much influence in Canada's foreign policy?

That would be a newsworthy quote. The issue of Jewish control of the media and foreign policy is a hot topic in left wing circles.
See: The New Israel Lobby in Action
Canadian Dimension
November/December 2005 Issue

http://canadiandimension.com/articles/2005/11/01/209/

If that's what Axworthy meant, it would lead to follow-up questions. When did he recognize this undue influence? When he was foreign minister? Did he tilt Canada's foreign policy when he was minister to counteract this influence?

Paul Samyn says he wants to ask tough questions of those in power (and that's why he's not asking any questions at Stephen Harper news conferences, but that's another story....ed.) Why not explore Axworthy's stance on the power of Jews in Canadian society further, if that was indeed what he said?

Of course, that then raises the question of how Samyn not only mistook diaspora for 'the Aspers', but claimed Axworthy said "they are using their media empire to advocate staunchly right-wing positions when it comes to defending Israel."

Funny how a comment about ethnic groups around the world became a tirade against the owners of the National Post.


Are you saying Samyn inserted his own opinion of the Aspers after mis-hearing what Axworthy said? While it would be interesting to know how Samyn views the Aspers, it would also seem to call for some kind of disciplinary action. And yet, none is mentioned in your apology.

So, did he or did he not quote Lloyd Axworthy correctly about the Asper media empire and its "right-wing" defence of Israel?


You can't expect your readers to believe Axworthy spoke only a single sentence about the disaporas influencing Canada's foreign policy. We suspect there was much more discussion on the topic.

We now learn, courtesy of Gordon Sinclair, that Samyn taped the interview. You can prepare a complete transcript of exactly what Axworthy said. We did that for an interview on the Charles Adler radio show. You can do the same.

And instead of playing dress-up blogger games, you can do the real thing and put the transcript on the internet for all to read.

Sinclair thinks this is a joke. His most recent column is a compilation of all the funny misunderstandings by friends of his that made it into the papers.

But, then, Sinclair is one who, by his own admission, is neutral on the Hezbollah crisis. He can't make a distinction between the country of Israel and the terrorist group that wants to kill all the Jews and destroy the country of Israel. Eh. Six of one, half a dozen of the other. Sinclair says he spoke with Axworthy and Axworthy said that's what he gets for mumbling.

Yuk Yuk. Kidders, both of 'em.

Lloyd Axworthy is an important person in Winnipeg. He's president of the U of W. He's becoming more active in the revitalization of downtown. He was a co-chairman of the mayor's City Summit. He deserves to be quoted correctly.

The Winnipeg Free Press has a tape recording it its possession which will tell us whether Canada's former foreign minister thinks Jews have too much say in the country's foreign policy. Or conversely, whether the Free Press's Ottawa reporter inserted his personal opinions of the Aspers into a story under the guise of a quote from Lloyd Axworthy.

We know your expertise is not in journalism, Andy. But trust us. This is big.

We know you want this to be forgotten as quickly as possible. But from the feedback you've already gotten from the Jewish community -- as evidenced in your letters page -- you know this story's got long legs.

Do the right thing and release the transcript of the interview.

And don't forget, we've got long memories.

Friday, July 28, 2006

The latest dispatch from the War

At great personal risk, dodging snipers and volleys of brickbats, The Black Rod brings you the latest dispatch from the front lines of the Parliamentary Press Gallery's 'War on Harper.'

On Wednesday, national radio host Charles Adler interviewed Globe and Mail reporter Alex Dobrota, who was wounded by Harper's refusal to answer questions following a news conference the previous day.

Dobrota told a harrowing story of how he refused to surrender to the Prime Minister's insane demand that reporters sign their names to a list---a list, damn it---of those who wanted to ask questions at the press conference called to tell how the government planned to evacuate Canadians from Lebanon.

Lesser men would have cracked under the pressure. Not Alex Dobrota. Medals must be struck for bravery such as his. Children will sing his praises in classrooms of the future.

The Globe and Mail must be so proud that their reporter refuses to do his job. He would not, he told Charles Adler, ask questions of the Prime Minister---even though he wanted to.

But the public must be denied information. It's for their own good. The Press Gallery will not surrender.

Adler tried to achieve what Condoleeza Rice failed to get in Lebanon, a ceasefire. But he, too, had to concede defeat. The Press Gallery believes it is winning the Harper War.

The PM is hurting, said Dobrota, because the Press is forced to report what he says verbatim and he is not able to clarify his statements. Ha ha ha. Take that Harper.

Here, then, is a transcript of that interview on CJOB. Keep the Kleenex handy. It's raw and uncensored, just the way the brave men and women of the Parliamentary Press Gallery would want it.

(We pick it up in progress.)

Adler: Now, some people say that it, it'd be okay if they could pay the money back. I don't know if there's much of a history of, uh, Canada charging refugees, uhh, for evacuations. Uh, but is there any feeling at all, um, as far as you know, as far as the news conferences that you've been going to, the journalism you've been doing, is there any feeling at all on the part of any government officials to charge people for the evacuations, to help defray the cost of it ?

Dobrota: Well, so far, I mean it's hard to answer that question. Um. Obviously the journalists were there yesterday. We would have liked to ask Mr. Harper a follow up question. Uh. But as you know, uhh, many of us refuse to put our name, uh, names on a list and so therefore, you know, he would not, uh, we tried to, to ask him, to put that point to him but, you know, he, you know, we tried to ask him questions after the question period but he wouldn't let us. So obviously that's something that we would like to, to clarify, as well.

Adler: This has to do with the ongoing conflict between the journalists and the government. Uh, do you think. and I guess I'm putting you on the spot here, but, do you think that, uh, I realize there's a conflict between the national press media and, and the government, uh, because the government wants to do things a little differently than the previous government did, and find out who wants to ask questions first and et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I don't want to get into a lot of inside baseball, but...

Dobrota: Right

Adler: ...do you think at a time like this it might be a good time to have a ceasefire between the people in the national press gallery and the Government. I mean you can, you can have your point. It can be as principled as you want it to be. But can't you go back to that after this conflict is over?

Dobrota: Well, you know, I wouldn't venture to, to speak for my colleagues, um, but I think what's interesting to, to know here is that as much as, as his policy can, can hinder, um, our job, or my job, where I couldn't, you know, I would have liked to ask him a follow-up question on his comments, if they, I didn't have a chance to do that. I think that as much as it can, you know, it can hurt me, I think it can hurt, you know, in a way, him as well, because he doesn't have a chance to clarify. And so, you know, he gives us a quote and we run with it and then, you know, we do a story on it. and you know, I just think that, you know, I think it's damaging to him as well.

Adler: I just, I just, I, I, I guess what i'm trying to say is that these events are larger than either of you, and would be in the interest of the public, or, wouldn't you agree that it would be in the interst of the public to drop the Press-Government conflict for now?

Dobrota: Well, as I said, I wouldn't, I wouldn't, you know, I could hardly answer that. I wouldn't want to speak for, for all my colleagues. I think it's a larger issue than myself included.

Adler: No, I understand that. I'm just asking you as, as a journalist if it goes through your mind, I think it might have gone through your mind yesterday, but if you don't want to answer that, that's fine. It's incumbent upon me to ask the question.

Dobrota: Right.

Adler: Next, how much money are we spending in evacuation?

If you can read these stirring words by a brave man fresh from the battlefield without weeping, you must be made of stone.

We (sniff) cannot. Excuse us.....

*******

Dobrota is also a photographer. See his pretty pictures at
http://www.lightstalkers.org/clients/show/9246

Thursday, July 27, 2006

A Grandslam Homerun of Errors

Batter Up!

Baseball scouts have been flocking to the Winnipeg Free Press after word leaked out that reporter Paul "The Babe" Samyn hit a Grandslam Homerun of Errors in Thursday's paper.

With one story, Babe Samyn managed to antagonize his bosses, the owners of the Winnipeg Free Press; the Asper family; University of Winnipeg president Lloyd Axworthy; every Jewish advertiser and the Jewish readership of the newspaper.

In the business, that's called a C.E.M. (translation for non-reporters: career ending move.)


The Free Press has adopted full grovel position. An apology to both the Aspers and the mighty Lloyd will be forthcoming. As many times as necessary.

How did Samyn manage such devastation, you ask?

It begins with a small story on Page Four headlined:
"Axworthy says Canada threw away peace role."

It's the usual Axworthy spiel---Stephen Harper is a George Bush lackey; Canada shouldn't support Israel so much; because of Harper, Canada can't play honest broker in the Middle East.


Samyn ended his story thusly:

'Axworthy also took a shot at Winnipeg's Asper family, saying they are using their media empire to advocate staunchly right-wing positions when it comes to defending Israel.

"The Aspers are increasingly playing a far more important role in shaping Canadian foreign policy." '

Now imagine this scenario....
Gail Asper, morning coffee in hand, settles down to read the Free Press. SHRIEK!
She calls her brother, Leonard, in Toronto and reads him the story. SHRIEK!
He phones FP publisher Andy Richie. SHRIEK!
Who immediately calls Deputy Editor Patrick Flynn. SHRIEK!
Who utters the words feared by every reporter who ever walked the land...

"Uh, Paul, can I talk to you for a minute?"

Mayhem ensues. Words are raised. Fingers are pointed. Noses disjointed. A rhyming dictionary is produced.

And at last, an explanation is rushed to readers via the Free Press Editor's Bulletin that's emailed to subscribers.

It was "diasporas,'' not "The Aspers"

We reported wrongly today that Lloyd Axworthy, a former Liberal foreign affairs minister, criticized Winnipeg's Asper family for using their media empire to defend Israel and shape Canadian foreign policy. He did not say that. In fact, Mr. Axworthy was referrring to groups of diaspora influencing Canadian foreign policy. Where we said "The Aspers'' in Mr. Axworthy's quote, he in fact had said "diasporas.'' We sincerely apologize to both Mr. Axworthy and the Asper family. A correction and apology will appear in tomorrow's Free Press.


Thank you,
Bob Cox
Editor
Winnipeg Free Press

That's their story, and they're sticking to it.

Now, note the quotation marks in Babe Samyn's story.

"The Aspers are increasingly playing a far more important role in shaping Canadian foreign policy."

Quotation marks designate a direct quote. As in, exactly what the person said.

So, let's do a simple experiment. Let's remove "the Aspers" and insert "diasporas".
And we get...

"Diasporas are increasingly playing a far more important role in shaping Canadian foreign policy."

What the hell does that mean?
It's not even a grammatically correct sentence.
And yet, the Free Press wants us to believe that's what came out of Lloyd Axworthy's mouth.

And even if it did, where did the preceeding indirect quotation come from?
"...saying they are using their media empire to advocate staunchly right-wing positions when it comes to defending Israel."

Did Samyn misquote Axworthy twice?
Did Samyn use the opportunity to editorialize his own opinion of the Aspers?

If you believe the Free Press correction, was Samyn saying the "diasporas" have a right-wing media empire? Too much control of the news by, uh, you know, er, em, Jews?

The newspaper is saying Samyn had no idea what the diaspora is, so he heard "the Aspers" in its place

Remember, Paul Samyn is a professional. He has editors. He does not conduct interviews in his pyjamas.

He's just half deaf, or illiterate, or caught putting his own biased opinions into the mouth of a university president.


And the best part is that Editor's Bulletin came out over Box Cox's name although Cox is not in the office this week. So he doesn't even know what he said. Just like Lloyd Axworthy.

We can hardly wait for Coxie to get back and tell us the real story of this debacle in his Free Press authorized blog where he promised to keep readers abreast of all the behind the scenes decisions of what goes into the paper. We can almost hear it now....


"Uh, Pat. Can I see you a minute?"

While waiting for Cox, repeat after us....

Casper went to Jasper for some Sarsperilla with the Aspers.
The Aspers in Jasper had Sarsperilla with Casper.
Some Jasper Sarsperilla for the Aspers and Casper...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

PPG summer offensive lacks heroes

They've seen comrades shot down in flames. Their best attacks have failed to stop the enemy.

Worse still, they've been unable to win the hearts and minds of the people. They hate to admit it, but the war is going poorly.

Stephen Harper is winning.

It's been five months since the Parliamentary Press Gallery declared the War on Harper, proclaiming themselves the unofficial Opposition.

With the launch of attacks by Israel on Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon, the press saw their best opening yet. It was time to unleash the feared MSM Summer Offensive.

First came the Katrina Flank Attack.

The Harper government was too slow to react to the fighting in Lebanon. They didn't care about Canadians in Lebanon. Too slow. Too little. It's Stephen Harper's fault.

Unfortunately, nobody agreed with the press gallery. Canadians thought the government did a good job given what they had to work with.

No. No. You don't understand. It's not us saying it. We're professionals. We have editors. We don't cover wars in our pyjamas. It's the victims. The evacuees. They're the one's who blame Harper. You can't contradict them.

No dice.

The public still didn't blame Stephen Harper. Not even when the first man off the first rescue ship made a beeline to the television cameras to sing his tale of woe. Blah, blah, blah, no air conditioning.


What???? THERE WAS NO AIR CONDITIONING????

What a fiend Stephen Harper is. How can you run a rescue without AIR CONDITIONING.

Sadly, the MSM were the only ones decrying the complete absence of air conditioning for evacuees. The public began throwing around words like "ingrate" to describe the Lebanese refugees. And NO AIR CONDITIONING never became the rallying cry the Parliamentary Press Gallery hoped it would.

In fact, the Sunday O'Protest rallies against Canada's inaction in Lebanon couldn't excite even the standard rent-a-crowd. In Winnipeg, barely 100 people turned up although stalwarts like Nick Ternette confessed a month ago that virtually any protest could count on 200 "progressives'" to show up. Against globalism? 200. Against the U.S.? 200. Against Israel? Only 100?

(One reporter counted 150, but he included about 50 people who showed up because they thought the protest was part of the Fringe Festival. They were the one's who applauded at the end.)

With every assault on Harper Hill repulsed with heavy casualties, the media switched tactics.

The Globe and Mail delivered a story that Stephen Harper personally interfered with rescue efforts, the control freak.

PMO wanted crisis kept under wraps, sources say.
By Doug Sanders (Cyprus), Mark MacKinnon (Beirut), Gloria Galloway (Ottawa)
July 20, 2006
Globe and Mail, Page One

Their source? Anonymous, of course.

Sadly, nobody was buying. In fact, it looks like the public has finally learned that "anonymous sources" claimed by MSM reporters for exclusive anti-government stories either don't exist or are really anybody willing to support the reporter's personal bias.

Finally, the MSM sent in their remaining reserves. A poll.

PM's stance on war splits Canadians
Almost half say support of Israel is inappropriate, poll finds
Juliet O'Neill, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Monday, July 24, 2006
http://tinyurl.com/pxd78

It showed that Canadians were split on Stephen Harper's response to the Lebanon crisis. 45 percent said his position is "fair and balanced" and 44 percent said it was "too pro-Israel."

That is if you didn't read the poll too closely. But wiseacres did and kept pointing out that the reporter who wrote the story conveniently ignored the 11 percent who thought Harper wasn't being pro-Israel enough.

In other words, 56 percent of Canadians supported Harper's stance, even if some wanted more from him. And only 44 percent were opposed.

Given that the Conservatives have the support of only 37 percent of the public in the latest post-election poll, that means 20 percent of the electorate who weren't planning on voting Conservative support Stephen Harper.

No wonder the elected Opposition can't agree on a position that the unelected Opposition can use in the War on Harper.


The press gallery had to resort to suppressing fire.

Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, leaped into the fray ( http://tinyurl.com/gwfj3 ) warning that international law just might declare that some political leaders were guilty of war crimes if they approved "bombardment of sites with alleged military significance, but resulting invariably in the killing of innocent civilians."

Just who did she have in mind?

Making up a new law that applies only to one government engaged in military action, is one thing, but when that government happens to be a Jewish state. Well, there used to be a name for that kind of thinking.

The Liberal Party of Canada thinks Louise Arbour is just the kind of Canadian they want to see. That's why in March they tried to recruit her to run for leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, something the MSM failed to mention when reporting on her unique opinion of Israel's right of self-defence.

NDP leader Jack Layton, fresh from condemning CUPE Ontario's declared anti-Israel policy platform (What? He's never condemned CUPE Ontario's declared anti-Israel platform?)
said Stephen Harper was trying too hard to be George Bush. Layton declared Canada should abandon the war on terror and get back to peacekeeping. Maybe join a UN peacekeeping mission to Lebanon. http://www.ndp.ca/page/3927

He failed to mention, and the MSM failed to remind its audiences, that there is a UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon. And it has been completely useless. And that there are Canadians on the useless peacekeeping mission in Lebanon. Which makes Layton's position doubly useless.

And now that a Canadian peacekeeper in Lebanon has been killed, will Jack Layton accept the blame?

Thwarted at every turn, the media has called up its reserves, aka the victims of the fighting.

A special medal has to go to CTV's Lisa Laflamme for her emoting, above and beyond the call of duty, over a story Monday of a woman in whose house the eight Canadians were killed in Lebanon.

After reporter Janice Mackey Frayer finished the story, Laflamme pulled out all the stops to show how much she was moved by the woman's story. She looked like she was auditioning for the role of Norma Desmond in a revival of Sunset Boulevard by her sincere oversincerity.


Elsewhere, we face a constant bombardment of victim totals. 200 killed in Lebanon. 300 killed by the Israelis. 350. 400. Sorry, we're just trying to keep up. And most of them civilians.

And everytime we hear that, we ask, how many were not civilians?

Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz wrote an interesting article on civilian casualties for the Los Angeles Times.

THE NEWS IS filled these days with reports of civilian casualties, comparative civilian body counts and criticism of Israel, along with Hezbollah, for causing the deaths, injuries and "collective punishment" of civilians. But just who is a "civilian" in the age of terrorism, when militants don't wear uniforms, don't belong to regular armies and easily blend into civilian populations?

We need a new vocabulary to reflect the realities of modern warfare. A new phrase should be introduced into the reporting and analysis of current events in the Middle East: "the continuum of civilianality." Though cumbersome, this concept aptly captures the reality and nuance of warfare today and provides a more fair way to describe those who are killed, wounded and punished.

There is a vast difference - both moral and legal - between a 2-year-old who is killed by an enemy rocket and a 30-year-old civilian who has allowed his house to be used to store Katyusha rockets. Both are technically civilians, but the former is far more innocent than the latter. There is also a difference between a civilian who merely favors or even votes for a terrorist group and one who provides financial or other material support for terrorism.

Finally, there is a difference between civilians who are held hostage against their will by terrorists who use them as involuntary human shields, and civilians who voluntarily place themselves in harm's way in order to protect terrorists from enemy fire. These differences and others are conflated within the increasingly meaningless word "civilian" - a word that carried great significance when uniformed armies fought other uniformed armies on battlefields far from civilian population centers.

Today this same word equates the truly innocent with guilty accessories to terrorism.


The domestic law of crime, in virtually every nation, reflects this continuum of culpability. For example, in the infamous Fall River rape case (fictionalized in the film "The Accused"), there were several categories of morally and legally complicit individuals: those who actually raped the woman; those who held her down; those who blocked her escape route; those who cheered and encouraged the rapists; and those who could have called the police but did not.

No rational person would suggest that any of these people were entirely free of moral guilt, although reasonable people might disagree about the legal guilt of those in the last two categories. Their accountability for rape is surely a matter of degree, as is the accountability for terrorism of those who work with the terrorists.

Read the whole thing at http://tinyurl.com/oysfh

For a less clinical, more personal side of the civilian casualty debate, read 'Lebanon Israeli Crisis' (http://lebanonlive.blogspot.com/) a passionate blog we came across on our regular search of the blogosphere.

In the meantime, the battle against Harper continues unabated.

The latest bulletin from the front lines came Monday from June Taber, of the Globe and Mail.

Relations are still not ideal between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the media, as witnessed on his recent trip to Europe.

Mr. Harper spent nearly a week with 21 journalists but not much time talking to them as he went from London to the Group of Eight summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, and then on to Paris. He may have given the shortest wrap-up news conference in the history of the G8 when he took five questions from Canadian reporters and then left, leaving Russian journalists miffed.




Reporters who travel on the same plane with the Prime Minister, and who pay their own way, rarely see him because he is at the front in a private room with his officials. There is still no date set for the annual dinner between the Prime Minister, politicians and the media.

They pay their own way and still never see the Prime Minister. They're heroes, we tell you. Heroes.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Tim Sale Story: A Free Press fairy tale

Someone call a doctor. She's got a bad case of amnesia.

How can you write about Tim Sale and not mention Hydra House, the granddaddy of the scandals that's tarring the NDP government.

* Whistleblower Jim Small wrote to then-Family Services Minister Tim Sale warning him about the free-spending of the managers of Hydra House, a non-profit housing corporation.

* Sale, setting the standard for NDP investigations, slandered him in the Legislature by dismissing his complaints as coming from a "disgruntled employee".

* He then ordered a review of a carefully selected slice of Small's allegations, which, as expected, "cleared" Hydra House of all wrongdoing.

* Until two years later, that is, when the auditor general did his own investigation and substantiated all of Jim Small's complaints.

Of course, a couple of million dollars had been misspent by then but Tim Sale didn't care, he had moved on to the Health portfolio, and it was someone else's problem.


And so was Aiyawin, the non-profit native housing corporation, which was also enmeshed in allegations of financial irregularities. Yes, they too had come to the attention of then-Housing Minister Tim Sale, who hemmed and hawed and never quite got around to investigating them.

So, 18 months later when the auditor general delivered a report condemning the problems of Aiyawin, Tim Sale was, you got it, gone.

His tenure at the Health Department, replacing the overwhelmed Dave Chomiak, has been anything but rosy. Not that Mia Rabson has noticed.

Sale has managed to spend hundreds of millions of dollars more each year and the health care system keeps coming apart at the seams. And don't even mention the people dying waiting for treatment in Emergency wards (no problem, she didn't- ed.).

Which brings us to Tim Sale's timely departure.

You see, in early July, a poll was released indicating that for the first time since the NDP was elected in 1999, the Manitoba Progressive Conservatives are leading in popular support. By five points, 43 percent to the NDP's 38 percent.

Winnipeg Free Press columnist Frances Russell, an NDP supporter, proclaimed the reason was obvious. Roads. And highways.

People were fed up with potholes and poor roads and were taking it out on the government, she declared.

like university professors Paul Thomas and Alan Mills immediately concurred. Roads, they said. And highways. It's obvious.

Well, boys...and girl. It's not.

The poll was conducted over the least two weeks of June, which corresponded with the closing days of the Legislature. And the big issue at the Legislature was not roads. Or highways.

It was health care. Namely how the shortage of doctors meant the closing of hospital emergency wards. And Health Minister Tim Sale delivered his usual icy response each day.

It's not such a big problem. We've got it under control. Why are you griping?

The Opposition was griping, because voters are griping.

Everyone in Manitoba has either experienced the health care system, or knows somebody who has. And despite all the millions Tim Sale has spread around, people have lots to gripe about.


If it's not enough doctors to staff emergency wards, it's how long it takes to see a doctor when you need one.

We started to write about the four-hour waits at Misericordia Hospital, where people are told to go if they need a doctor for a non-life-threatening problem. Except that family and friends just laughed at us. Four hours? We wish, they said. Try six hours. Try eight hours.


And it's not just Misericordia. It's throughout the system. And the NDP knows it.

So Tim Sale, the Health Minister, is retiring from politics. Expect him to start by leaving cabinet. His replacement, of course, will not be able to answer questions in the House when the Legislature resumes sitting in late September. House rules doncha know.

So much for the Opposition's plan to take up where they left off. Purely coincidental, of course.

Sale will blaze a trail to the Exit door for others whose presence at election time could be poisonous on the campaign trail.

Say goodbye to Dave Chomiak. He of the promise to "end hallway medicine in six months." The NDP plan consisted of getting the unions to stop compaining about hallway medicine. Problem solved.

When it was pointed out patients were still in the hallways of hospitals, the NDP said that couldn't be. Those hallways had been redesignated waiting areas. Problem solved.

Some people still didn't get it and kept griping. So the next year the NDP pointed to official medical records that showed there was no hallway medicine.

Winnipeg Sun columnist Tom Brodbeck discovered that the magic secret involved pairing patients in hallways with rooms at the far reaches of the hospital. One patient and one room cancelled each other out, even if the patient was in a hallway and the room was empty. Problem solved.


Except that people might not see it that way. So, it's time for a new health minister, someone not burdened with a promise unkept and scandals unforgotten.Someone, like maybe, Minister Huff 'n Puff, himself. Aka Justice Minister Gord Macintosh.

Sure he's been a disaster as minister of justice. Street gangs are rampant. Motorcycle gangs unchecked. The crack epidemic uncontrolled. Car theft epidemic.The value of life in Manitoba worth one day in jail.

But as former House leader, he knows the rules of the Legislature. He can stall the Opposition through the winter until an election is called in the spring just before the Securities Commission may get around to holding hearings into the Crocus Fund scandal.


After all, you can't stall an investigation foreever. Eighteen months to two years is about par, even with the new leader of the Conservatives on side. Ask Tim Sale. He's got more experience dodging scandals than anyone else in cabinet.

In fact before he got into cabinet he was the NDP's point man on - you guessed it -
Crocus, and saw nothing wrong with investments in Westsun and Green Gates.

Ok Ok, maybe that was too early for Tim to tell there something amiss.

But when Seven Oaks School Division's Brian O'Leary leaked a provincial math test and was reported by a teacher in 1998, O'Leary's biggest defender was - that's right -
none other than Tim Sale.

So like we said, ask Tim Sale about dodging scandals. But hurry. His time is short. There's an election to win.

And while you're at it, ask him when he's going to rise in the House and apologize to whistleblower Jim Small.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Brodbeck tricked by rigged Sophonow Inquiry

Winnipeg Sun columnist Tom Brodbeck continues to propagate the canard that Tom Sophonow would have been aquitted at his many trials for murder if only the prosecution hadn't hidden crucial evidence from the defence.

His source for this hoax? The bogus inquiry set up by the provincial government under former Supreme Court Judge Peter Cory.

Brodbeck knows better. He's been corrected numerous times by The Black Rod in private e-mail exchanges. But he's decided that the facts don't matter when they contradict his personal crusade.

Inquiries need teeth (Saturday, July 15, 2006)...
The Sophonow inquiry exposed how police and Crown prosecutors withheld crucial evidence from the defense, in some cases "deliberately," that would have exonerated Sophonow at the time.
But they didn't. And to this day the police and prosecutors involved have never been held accountable for their actions.
Sophonow got his settlement from government, taxpayers shelled out $2 million for an inquiry, we learned what happened, but no one was held to account.
No police investigations, no prosecutions -- not even a reprimand.
So what's the point of these inquiries unless they hold the players in the justice system accountable for the decisions they make behind closed doors? ...

A brief background:
Thomas Sophonow, a resident of British Columbia, was arrested and charged with the murder of Barbara Stoppel, 16, in a Winnipeg doughnut shop on Dec. 23 1981.

His first trial ended in a hung jury, with a vote of 10 to 2 for conviction.

He was convicted at a second trial.

He won an appeal and was convicted at a third trial, but only after one juror was excused when the others complained she was refusing to examine the evidence because she believed she had a "psychic ability" which told her he was innocent.

He won another appeal in 1985 and the judges on the appeal panel ordered an end to further prosecutions.

In June, 2000, Police Chief Jack Ewatski announced that the police department was satisfied that Tom Sophonow did not kill Barbara Stoppel. But to this day he has never explained why.

The province ordered an inquiry into why Sophonow was prosecuted and convicted and whether he should get financial compensation for the time he spent in jail. Justice Cory was appointed to head the inquiry.

Now it gets interesting. Here's what Brodbeck ignores in his column.

The order-in-council appointing the Sophonow Inquiry specifically "emphasizes that the Inquiry is not to result in a retrial of Thomas Sophonow." Simply put, all the evidence pointing to Sophonow's guilt couldn't be introduced or argued, and everything that suggested his guilt had to be interpreted as if it couldn't be true.

The dice were loaded. The game was fixed.


Brodbeck is concerned that crucial evidence was withheld. Well, the worst offender seems to be Judge Cory. You can read his report forward and backward and you won't find any mention of Cst. Trevor Black.

Who?
The cell man.
What?

Cst. Trevor Black, of the Vancouver police, was an undercover officer who was put into a cell next to Sophonow after Sophonow was arrested in B.C. He pretended he had been arrested on gun charges and he got to talking with Sophonow. You know...whatcha in for?

"Stabbing a girl in a doughnut shop," answered Sophonow, adding he "had nothing to hide."

According to Black's sworn testimony at trial, Sophonow told him that he had been driving around Winnipeg, then "went into the doughnut shop and locked the door." He had a cup of coffee, tipped the waitress, and left.

Then he made what the Crown later called the "most damning admission (he) made in all his conversations with police."

How, asked Black, could Sophonow lock the door? Did he have a key? Sophonow looked at the undercover officer and with his hand made a twisting motion.

The door to the doughnut shop locked when a bolt was twisted into the door.

But anyone reading the Cory report wouldn't know any of this. In fact, you would be left with a completely different impression of what happened---a completely deceptive account of what evidence was used to convict Tom Sophonow.

Cory notes (in the section titled Police Interviews with Thomas Sophonow in Vancouver/ Interrogation of Thomas Sophonow by Sergeants Wawryk and Paulishyn) that Sophonow told the inquiry that the Winnipeg policemen who interviewed him (Wawryk and Paulishyn) demonstrated to him how the lock worked.

He stated that during the course of the interview the officers made a twisting motion to show how the door of the donut shop was locked. (Inquiry, Vol. 3, page 144).

No mention of Cst. Black. No hint that Black was the first to question Sophonow about the lock.

But that wasn't bad enough. The sham inquiry got even worse when Cory accepted Sophonow's evidence holus bolus and painted Wawryk and Paulishyn as liars engaged in a cover-up.

One of the things that was not recorded by the officers was that a twisting motion was, in fact, demonstrated to Thomas Sophonow. This I find to have been done by the officers. I can come to no other conclusion on this matter. The Inquiry has proceeded on the basis that it was not Thomas Sophonow who committed the murder. It was not Thomas Sophonow who was in the Ideal Donut Shop sometime between 8:00 to 8:45 p.m. It was not Thomas Sophonow who went out of the donut shop, crossed the Norwood Bridge and threw over the railing the box, the twine and the gloves. Thomas Sophonow had no occasion to lock the door of the donut shop. He would not and could not have known how that door was locked.

This was how the inquiry was conducted.

Embarassing evidence was written out of existence. Sophonow's word was taken as gospel. And contradictory evidence had to be twisted or dismissed even if it meant that honest men were smeared.


And it was done without challenge by the news media. Not one reporter brought up Cst. Black's evidence. Not one disputed the railroading of Wawryk and Paulishyn.

Brodbeck wants to prosecute the police and Crown attorneys who sent Sophonow to jail. But he can't see the fallacy of his deluded reasoning.

The Cory Inquiry was held in a carefully constructed cocoon where the conclusion was reached first and the "evidence" to support it was collected afterward.

In any true court proceeding, the evidence would not be restricted by a political edict. Sophonow would get an extremely rough ride if he testified under oath at such a hearing, and evidence which might contradict his exoneration by Ewatski would be introduced, and that could prove embarassing to a lot of people.


In fact, we might even learn more about a piece of "crucial evidence" that Judge Cory carefully kept out of his report.

Testifying at the Inquiry Nov. 7, 2000, Sophonow made a startling admission. To our knowledge, it was repeated only by one reporter, David Roberts of the Globe and Mail, although another reporter confirmed the accuracy of his account to us.

Inquiry opens into wrongful conviction (Nov. 8, 2000, Globe and Mail)
"The inquiry also heard yesterday that it was Mr. Sophonow himself who apparently got police interested in him as a suspect when he made a report to RCMP in British Columbia about a missing woman they were seeking."

"He said she resembled a woman he'd planned on seeing in Winnipeg but who wasn't there when he arrived. He'd also called his sister and asked her if police were looking for him in connection with the Winnipeg murder."

WHAT?????

"He'd also called his sister and asked her if police were looking for him in connection with the Winnipeg murder."

Now that's an unusual statement.
We're going to go out on a limb here and say the jurors would have been very interested to hear about this call. In fact, we suspect it wouldn't have helped his case any.

Why would he be asking about police interest in him?

"Mr. Sophonow had been at another doughnut shop on his way out of town and told the Inquiry he was under the impression that was the shop where the murder occurred." wrote David Roberts.

So he thought there had been a murder in a doughnut shop where he had been, but instead there had been a murder in a doughnut shop where he denied being. Uh, okay. Easy mistake. Although it raises a few questions about his knowledge of where doughnut shops in Winnipeg are, something he told police he knew nothing about.

But Brodbeck isn't interested in this kind of "crucial evidence". He has his mind on twine. Green twine, which is ironic since it's a red herring Judge Cory tossed into his report to divert the press. And Tom Brodbeck fell for it hook, line and sinker.

The argument goes like this:
- Barbara Stoppel was strangled to death by green twine.
- The twine was traced to British Columbia.
- Sophonow lived in British Columbia.
- A witness testified she once saw green twine in Sophonow's car.
- Sophonow was convicted, in part, because of the green twine.

But....

- Before the first Sophonow trial, the Crown learned that a company in Portage la Prairie made green twine like that used to kill Barbara Stoppel.

- The Crown didn't tell the defence.
- If the defence had known, they could have shown the twine came from Manitoba and not British Columbia where Sophonow lived.
- The jury would have acquitted Sophonow based on the green twine evidence.

Okay? Except, here's the problem with that scenario:

- The green twine used to kill Barbara Stoppel was never linked to Tom Sophonow.
- There was so much green twine sold in B.C. and the west coast that it was probably harder to find someone who didn't have any of it than someone who did.
- Green twine was used to tie the Chistmas trees sold in the parking lot of the shopping centre where Stoppel was killed.
- The police traced the twine to a plant in B.C. using a yellow marker strand woven into the otherwise green twine expressly for that purpose.
- The Manitoba plant was shown a sample of the twine used to kill Stoppel and said they could only tell if it was theirs by a chemical test.

That means they either made a twine identical to the B.C. twine, right down to the yellow tracer which was supposed to show which plant it came from, or they made a different twine. Funny, how nobody says which of these scenarios is the true one.

When they finally did a chemical test on the twine, it was positive for the Manitoba plant. Which, again, raises the question of whether it was identical to the B.C. twine right down to the yellow tracer which was supposed to show which plant it came from (and which obviously didn't) or whether the Manitoba twine was different.

It doesn't matter.


- The Manitoba plant was in Portage la Prairie.
- Thomas Sophonow testified at trial that the night before he arrived in Winnipeg from Vancouver, he stayed in Portage la Prairie.
- That means that even if the twine came from Manitoba, Sophonow had opportunity to get some.


In fact, a jury might find it more likely that he got some in Portage la Prairie than in Vancouver.

Except that the twine was never linked to Sophonow, so whether it was made in Manitoba or B.C. played no role in convicting him.


Whew.

But Judge Cory made a big deal about the twine. And the press made a big deal about the twine, except that none of the reporters mentioned that Sophonow stayed in Portage la Prairie.

A strange omission of the facts, then, and stranger still to see it omitted in Brodbeck's column, since he knows it from us. You might say he's "deliberately" fudging the evidence.


So? Is Sophonow guilty?

We can't say. He's obviously been exonerated, although we're still asking why. But we'll accept the police know what they're doing. At the same time, we won't accept that the police were to blame for his convictions.

The only person responsible for the conviction of Tom Sophonow was Tom Sophonow.

The evidence against him was circumstantial. The strongest was the identification evidence by people outside the doughnut shop when the killer walked out. And even much of that was suspect.

But the jurors got to see Tom Sophonow on the stand testifying in his own defence. And they determined he was lying.

The province knew that when they asked Judge Cory to head an inquiry. So they rigged the inquiry to eliminate any possibility that anyone could say Sophonow was lying about anything.

Everything he said had to be considered as true -- and any conflicting evidence had to be construed as false. That solved that problem.

Brodbeck regularly rails at government waste. Yet he's quite happy to see the province spend $4 million on a patently phony inquiry and another $2.6 million in compensation to someone responsible for his own conviction.

Strange.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Black Rod: A soldier's letter

The body of Canadian soldier Cpl. Anthony Bonseca was returned to Canada from Afghanistan Wednesday evening and the mainstream media got their first chance to cover a repatriation ceremony live.While commentators spoke in hushed, reverential tones, their cameras scurried for close-ups of crying relatives and friends---- the televison money shot.

And as the television hosts pretended to honour Cpl. Bonseca, they and their reporters on the ground repeated the published slanders against him over and over again, except this time trading the excited delivery they've used for the past few days for faux respect.

A soldier serving in Afghanistan with Cpl. Bonseca has written his opinion of how the news media has treated the fallen soldier.

The letter first appeared on the internet site Army.ca forums
(
http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,47110.msg410542.html#msg410542).
It was reprinted in the blog The Torch
(
http://toyoufromfailinghands.blogspot.com/2006/07/canadian-soldier-in-afghanistan-speaks.html ).

The Torch is a "group weblog focussing on the Canadian military," which takes it's name from a line in the famous poem In Flanders Fields: "To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high."


The blog Small Dead Animals
http://www.smalldeadanimals.com/archives/004275.html# comments
then picked it up and that's where we found it.


We, in turn, reprint the letter and strongly urge readers to go to the other sites mentioned above to read the comments.
************************
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
A Canadian soldier in Afghanistan speaks
This infanteer from the reserves
http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,47110.msg410542.html

I knew Tony. I've kept my comments to myself until I could calm down my outrage over the media coverage of his death. We weren't great friends, but buddies. Other soldiers know what I mean. I spoke to Tony a couple weeks ago out at one of the FOB's. Not much said, just that there was a job to do, some bitching about the heat and the food, reminders that it would soon all be over, discussions of plans upon returning to Canada, the promise to drink some beers together on our way home. Normal soldier stuff. There is nothing in his first and last letters as published in the newspapers to suggest he was any more miserable than any other soldier, in any army, in any theatre in the world. It is our right to ***** and complain. A soldier who is not doing either, is upset or distressed and needs attention. A soldier who is not scared out there is a liar or crazy. As a soldier you do not ignore fear, you manage it. Welcome to war.

I have been in Kandahar for 6 months, and I'm sure I don't like it here anymore than Tony did. I don't know many, if any who do like it here. The infantry and those supporting them out the wire have it especially tough. Little rest, little in the way of comforts and the most exposure to the dangerous stuff. Generally we like our jobs, and being operational, that's why we do this. We play for keeps in the big game. No one here comes wanting to die, or to do stupid things that will get you killed. Each and every one of us know the random nature of war. Everyone here knows someone who has died or been wounded or knows someone who does. It touches us all in some way. crap happens. I don't think anyone truly enjoys being away from their families or comforts. But this is why we join. To serve Canada and her foreign policy in whatever capacity is determined by the politicians. We have a mission, a mission carried out by soldiers, doing the legally sanctioned business of our elected government. Sometimes we like it, sometimes we don't. Nature of the business. That's the flag waving part of it, but there are other reasons we do this that people who have never served cannot possibly understand. I will not endeavour to explain it to you if you have not...

Tony was trained as a Canadian Infantry Soldier and was doing the job for which he had been trained. The role of the Infantry is to close with and destroy the enemy. Our reason to be is not to kiss babies and hand out candies and blankets. We do that anyway, because we are decent, generally caring Canadian boys and girls, but that's not our primary function. To quote General Hillier "We are not the public service of Canada. We are the Canadian Forces and our job is to be able kill people."

As for Tony being a reservist. So what? We receive excellent training and to suggest otherwise is irresponsible reporting, but that's nothing new. Could training be better for both Reserve and Regular? Sure. Could the Reserve and the Regular force get more money and equipment for training? Sure. The Federal government and NDHQ seem to be doing their best to address our needs as a military. It is now a vast improvement over tours in the past, and over the last dozen or more years. The recent announcements seem to reflect the seriousness of the commitment of our leaders to the military and through us the security of the Canadian people. As a Reservist myself, I take offence to the suggestion that reservists should not be deployed...

I am sure there is a long line up of Reservists and their Regular force counterparts in Afghanistan and elsewhere who would argue openly with anyone who would suggest differently. Mr / Ms reporter ; Please, suggest to my face or that of my military family that we do not possess the mindset or the skills needed to engage in combat. I don't think you have the parts or the qualifications to make such a statement. You do however have the parts and the audacity to drag the family, friends and colleagues of Tony Boneca through the mud so you can sell papers and airtime and generate controversy. You do your country and your military a disservice but also have undoubtedly cause Tony's parents a great deal of unneeded and unwanted stress.

You also do the general public a great disservice because you corrupt the truth and cloud the heroic activities of our soldiers, and you fuel the rhetoric spewed forth by the anti everything wackos out there.

As has so often happened in the media with respect to our military, I have lumped all media into one category. I will however offer the caveat, a courtesy if you will that isn't generally afforded to the military or it's members, as has been demonstrated by the "media machine" these past few days. The caveat is this. You're not all bad, or the way I describe. Some of you even seem to love us, some of those that are embedded and grow to care deeply for and respect the soldiers on whom they are depending for their very lives and safety. There are a few bad apples and armchair warriors that put pen to paper or make ludicrous unsubstantiated statements and cause the mistrust I feel for your profession right now.

The media as a profession should be ashamed of themselves. Why not self police? If the reporters responsible for this latest reporting can look in the mirror in the morning after the disgusting and shameful coverage your have made of Tony's death, then I would go so far as to suggest that they are of questionable integrity and moral fibre...

Allow Tony's family to grieve in private. Not only honour, but for a change respect the wishes and dignity of his grieving parents and honour the memory of a soldier who died the way a soldier should. Not in an unfortunate accident, not in a roadside bomb, but in combat. These are my opinions/observations and mine alone. I don't often say a lot in here, but I am compelled to now.

Well done Tony. I'm glad to have known you. You were a nice kid with a bright future. I am certain you are in that fabled place that all warriors go, where our fallen soldiers by whatever mechanism they perished, watch over us all. I would like to have seen what you may have accomplished later in life as a result of your soldiering experiences. I was looking forward to the beers we talked about during the trip home. To your family other friends, and your Regiment, I offer you my most sincere condolences and I wish you peace and quiet to reflect on the life of your son and friend.

posted by Mark, Ottawa at 3:26 PM

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

CHUM to tell CRTC "Newscasts? We don' need no stinkin' newcasts!"

This story started out to be what's known as a 'quick and dirty.' Now we've had to add 'and bloody', too, thanks to the Wednesday whacking of CityTV, formerly A-Channel, formerly MTN.

With no notice, 28 CityTV staffers were fired and another 18 placed on death row pending the next round of parking lot executions.

Host Glen Kirby is gone. His co-host Lisa Saunders is on vacation with no job to return to. The 6 o'clock news show is history. Ditto the 11 o'clock.

Of the other "personalities" listed on the CityTV webpage, the status of Ed the Sock was uncertain at press time, although there are rumours he will have to share time with his twin Edd the Other Sock.

By now you know the nuts and bolts of the story. Bell Globemedia, which owns CKY locally, has made a bid to buy up CHUM Ltd., which owns CityTV as well as other TV and radio holdings.

To sweeten the deal, CityTV cancelled its evening newscasts in Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver and fired 281 people. (Even the original Craig Broadcasting property, CKX in Brandon, suffered cuts as did other small market A-Channel stations.) The local Big Breakfast morning show will be expanded to three hours. Winnipeg's 6 o'clock newscast will be replaced by a half-hour local "newsmagazine" show called (here and everywhere else) In Your City. The second half-hour will be a national and international newscast produced in Toronto, of course. CityTV in Toronto will keep its newscasts at 6 and 11. Of course.


The deal will close in September, but it will take another nine months to get through the regulatory process, which means satisfying the CRTC.

Following the noon-hour announcement that they no longer had jobs, the shocked staffers steadied their nerves with drinks at Branigans at the Forks.

Glen Kirby learned what it's like to be on the other end of a reporter asking "How do you feel?".

He couldn't say a word to the CTV reporter, smirked, and shaking his head, simply walked away.


The death of CityTV, even though it was No. 4 of 4 in the ratings, takes us back to the Dark Ages when Winnipeg had only three local television stations (CBC, CKY, and CKND). It's 9000 viewers will likely wind up with CTV, relegating CBC to the basement forever.

Especially with the news that CBC's host, Krista Erickson, is not coming back to the show after her five-week vacation. She's got a job in Ottawa, if our information is correct.

Everyone knew she was taking off to get married in Scotland to her beau Crown attorney Bob Morrison (hugs, air kisses, best wishes, have a good time). But when CJOB broke the story last week that Morrison was moving to Ontario, it dropped like a bomb in the CBC newsroom.

Regional managing director John Bertrand tried to play nonchalant when the Winnipeg Sun called, saying he knew she had applied for an Ottawa post. But his well-known tics and twitches told the story of how surprised he really was to hear the news.

Which is strange given that its been widely known for months that Krista was looking to leave.

Here in The Black Rod offices in the Baxter Building we first heard in the winter that she was moving---to Alberta. After her engagement to Morrison was revealed, we understood they were headed east as soon as Morrison exited his job in Manitoba. But apparently the news never made its way around the CBC newsroom. Damn.

Now all those Krista Erickson/Canada Now posters (with her last name spelled two different ways) and those big banners will have to go on ebay.


And what will be Krista's new job?

Before the surprise that she was leaving CBC Winnipeg, Krista had been featured in a newspaper story about 40 Manitobans under 40 to watch. She was quoted as saying she really wanted to be a foreign correspondent. It sounded at the time rather fanciful, yet given her meteoric rise within the CBC from a lowly researcher to host in a few short years, it can't be entirely ruled out. Especially since, believe it or not, three foreign correspondent jobs are opening up at the CBC in months.

Don Murray is coming home from London. Patrick Brown's term in Beijing ends later this year, and Paul Workman will be leaving Paris in August.

But wherever and whenever she leaves, maybe she will leave behind her trademarked leather outfits for her replacement. Will it be Marisa Dragani, the prickly Krista's best ally in the newsroom and currently the fill-in host?

Not if she keeps dressing like she did on Wednesday. What was that schmattah she had on?


Or will we see one of the CityTV faces reappear? Certainly, given the CBC's down-low ratings (a rock steady 23,000 for two years in a row, now) and uncertain future, there's no attraction for anyone from CKY or Global to make the jump.

Someone who had made a jump is Howard Kroger, the brains behind CHUM Radio property Bob-FM, as well as program and operations manager. He will be forever known as the man who invented the sound of BOB way back in 2002, which is now heard across the continent in various incarnations such as Jack, Tom, Dick and Harry. But as of now he's gone to the dark side, entering the murky world of media consulting.

Nobody knows more about consulting companies than the Winnipeg Free Press and we can see their hand in the latest behind-the-scenes changes at Winnipeg's biggest daily.

The personnel shuffles are all the talk in the parking lot and the lunch room and have even reached the ears of The Black Rod.

The FP is overjoyed at how well its integrating its print operations and its internet operations. In fact, they're going to do more integrating.

Translation: the staff will do more work for the same pay.


Except, perhaps, John Sullivan. He's become the Grand Poobah of on-line operations. Which means he's in charge of developing how the Free Press uses the internet to make money. Right now they say that almost half their subscribers are registered online. Now you have to realize that the newspaper claims a readership of 125,000 (regardless of what Dan Lett says) but doesn't reveal how many of that number are subscribers.

Paul Pihichyn, along with his staff blogging duties, will carry the heavy load as Little Poobah, or managing editor, online, as his bosses call him. His job is to put stuff on the web once Sullivan decides what stuff he wants. As well, Pihichyn's job will be to get reporters to post new stories on-line before they write them for the print edition of the paper. That's going to be fun.

Steve Pona must have been overjoyed to learn he's going to be responsible for all the work that Sullivan used to do. This means preparing the annual budget and getting stories for the various supplements. Plus stickhandling news investigations. Plus hiring new reporters. Can you spell nervous exhaustion, Steve (Pona, not Harper).

Boris Hrybinsky takes over from Steve (Pona, not Harper) at the assignment desk, which puts him in The Black Rod bullseye.

Margo Goodhand is upgraded to associate editor. Well, we hate to say it, but it sounds like she gets the girl's job. She gets to attend meetings, to run meetings and to be the duty editor on weekends and holidays when the real duty editor gets a day off. So far she doesn't have to get coffee for anyone.

And deputy editor Patrick Flynn has been assigned to be deputy editor Patrick Flynn. No harm. No foul. No movement. Somebody put a mirror under his nose.

A soldier comes home. Will the Press hold their fire?

The mainstream media has decided to pepper every story about Afghanistan with the factoid that 18 Canadians (17 soldiers and one diplomat) have been killed there since 2002.

This is a partial truth.

A more accurate measure of the cost of Canada's commitment would be to report that three Canadian soldiers have died in combat against the Taliban in Afghanistan, while seven soldiers and one diplomat have been killed by roadside bombs or suicide bombers.

The other fatalities were accidents.

The last IED deaths were three months ago. One soldier was killed in March, one in May, and one this week in July.

The MSM has chosen to use the lump sum of deaths as the defining figure to maximize casualties for what's shaping up to be a press campaign against Canada's role in the NATO operation in Afghanistan, in particular, and against Stephen Harper, in general.

The first victim of the drive-by media has turned out to be Cpl. Anthony Joseph Boneca, 21, a reservist from Thunder Bay, who died Monday in a firefight west of Kandahar City. The media killed his reputation without remorse.

The Toronto Star Jul. 10, 2006
Slain soldier felt 'mislead'
Man considered talking of suicide to get discharged

A Canadian soldier killed yesterday in Afghanistan was so unhappy with his mission, he had asked an army priest if talk of suicide would get him discharged, says his girlfriend's father.


CBC Radio
An uncle of a Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan today says his nephew was ready to quit the military. Bill Babe says the last few times he spoke to 21-year-old Cpl. Anthony Boneca, he got the impression he was disheartened and disillusioned with his service in Afghanistan:

"I don't think he believed totally in what he was doing, because I think he saw things that he didn't expect to see and didn't want to see, and probably did things he didn't want to do. So, no, I would say, no, he didn't, at the end of his tour, or near the end of his tour, because he still had three weeks left, I don't think he really cared about helping people any more, he just wanted to get home."


The Globe and Mail
Mr. DeCorte's 19-year-old daughter Megan, who had been dating Cpl. Boneca since just before his first deployment to Afghanistan, met up with her boyfriend in Italy in May when the soldier took a scheduled leave. "He said he just didn't want to go back. He was scared. He was scared for his life. He was scared of the whole thing. He was scared of the Taliban, scared of everything."

The Winnipeg Free Press
Harsh Words for slain soldier
Defence Minister shows little sympathy after hearing reports Canadian casualty felt "misled" and wanted out.

That's how people will remember Cpl. Boneca, thanks to the press. Scared. Wanting to quit. Willing to lie to get out of combat.

Not even his father's denial of the image of his son painted by the media will restore his son's honour.

The damage has been done. The media will continue to repeat the allegations of near-cowardice because it fits their template: The war is bad. We can support the troops--- if they admit its wrong to be in Afghanistan. Stephen Harper and his ministers are to blame for fighting George Bush's war.

Expect reporters to question whether Cpl. Boneca's father actually said what's in the statement released Tuesday defending his son. He speaks with a thick Portugese accent, they'll say, and couldn't be as articulate as he sounds in the written statement. It's a phony, prepared by Defence staff to take the heat off the military, they'll say. And a second man's honour will be attacked and undermined.

Cpl. Boneca's body will be returned to Canada Wednesday evening. It appears that pool photographers will be allowed to take pictures of the coffin arriving at the airport. But the family has begged the press to respect their privacy while they grieve.

We'll see how the mainstream media behave when they're in the limelight. Will they abide by the family's wishes, or will they proclaim some higher duty to the public to explain why they had to intrude on the family's suffering?