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.

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, November 01, 2007

Lack of success doesn't deter Lloyd, Glen or Brad

You can blame the Law of Unintended Consequences or you can call it an extreme example of bad judgement, but Lloyd Axworthy has a lot to answer for.

Ever since his grandstanding performance in September as the Great Defender of the University of Winnipeg from scrawls on bathroom walls, there's been an unprecedented spike in threats written on bathroom wall at Winnipeg schools.

And it appears the Axworthy Effect has spread to other cities in Canada.

On Sept. 20 Axworthy, President of the U of W, announced with great fanfare that a threat (of an undisclosed nature) had been written on the wall of a toilet in the university which apparently included "a threat of an occurrence on the morning of Weds, Sept. 26."

Police flooded the university, keeping watch for a week, even as police spokesmen claimed that they couldn't find a single extra police officer to patrol high-crime neighbourhoods where shootings and stabbings were a daily occurence. Sham searches of students' bags and backpacks were held for the television cameras to show the heightened security.

Axworthy declared he couldn't be pushed around. He wouldn't bow to scare tactics. That's why more than 25 percent of classes were cancelled on Sept. 26 and he managed to scare away between 30 and 50 percent of students from the university that day.

It might only be graffitti, he said, but you can't be too careful.

He sure set the example.

In the next month approximately 20 copycat threats have been discovered at schools throughout Winnipeg, particularly, say students, on Thursdays so that the scrawlers can get the Friday off. The mania got so bad that schools banned Halloween costumes because toilet scrawls said something bad would happen Oct. 31. And you just know that's not the end of it.

But then this past weekend the National Post carried a story about prank 911 calls that have led to lockdowns at 30 Ottawa schools. They started Sept. 21, the very day after Axworthy's news conference got national coverage. What a coincidence!

But, but, but...

What if the threat was real? Wasn't Lloyd being prudent and taking reasonable precautions? Weren't school principals acting reasonably?

That's a stupid argument.

What if Freddy Kruger really intended to attack the day AFTER the date scrawled on the wall when the police were called off?

What if he was going to attack another school as police resources were tied up at the U of W?

What if, what if, what if... Speculation is endless.

If you're truly concerned about a school shooting, then educators have to learn the lessons of previous shootings.

And the tragic example of Dawson College, Virginia Tech and Columbine teaches us that the surest way to prevent a massacre is for someone with a gun to confront the armed intruder as soon as possible, and to put a bullet or more into him without delay.

If you're serious about stopping a school shooting---arm the teachers and security staff.

Anything less is showboating.


Former Mayor Glen Murray is coming back to town to make a couple of speeches--the first at a conference sponsored by the Plug-In Gallery on visual art and the second at the Laurier Club, which the Hill Times calls the Liberal Party's "elite donor club."

Murray, who quit as Winnipeg's mayor mid-term, leaving behind a raft of unfinished projects, now styles himself as an "urban visionary" who flits from city to city spreading his wisdom into how cities should be run.

Freed of the constraints of voter approval and budgets, Little Glen lets his inner visionary loose on all and sundry.

Speaking at a recent conference in Missassagua, Murray advised the city fathers on public transit.

"Why not sky trains? Why not gondolas?" asked Murray. "My God, this would be fun, and you'd have a spectacular view. It would be a lot sexier than riding the bus and would knock down some of those class barriers of riding the bus."

And as for the age-old problem of streets and traffic...

"I think congestion is a great thing in a downtown," he said. "All great cities have terrible transportation systems in their cores." Force people to get out of their cars and walk or use the bus, he gushed. Or the gondola.

Murray has only contempt for politicians who concentrate on the 3 P's---police, potholes and pipes. You know, the stuff taxpayers want their money spent on.

At the Amazing Possibilities Conference in Guelph last year Murray lamented how his popularity dropped when he had his epiphany and began promoting a doubling of arts funding, "cultural renewal" and "creative economy" to "retain and attract creative people who drive the knowledge economy."

" 'Open for business.' When you hear that in your city plan start crying." he said.

Murray had the gall to cite the new Provencher footbridge as one of his successes. "But this is a bridge you can walk on, drink martinis on, have a meal on. It's the first inhabited bridge built in the world since 1770, the first of the public works as public art.

It appears on every postcard that the politicians who came after me send out. It is the new photo op. No one complains about the cost anymore. Can anyone guess why?

It makes money. It's the only bridge that we don't have to go to the taxpayer to raise taxes to fix, to remove stone, to repair, to do anything on because that restaurant made more money in the first three months - because there was no parking and who's so stupid to put a restaurant in the middle of a bridge? Who's going to walk that far? Everyone loves to walk there and it's been a huge success."

Reality check:
The bridge was six million dollars over budget.
Murray wanted a fancy French restaurant with a chef from Gay Paree to move in.

Instead, the location sat empty for a year -- until Mayor Sam Katz got involved and made a deal with Salisbury House, a deal castigated by every hoity-toity publicly-funded organization in St. Boniface.

Success? It was certainly not Glennie's.As for the postcards...simple.

Murder Capital of Canada is not exactly what you want on your tourist material.

Funny how Murray avoids his real legacy to Winnipeg.


For the record ...

Brad Pitt's movie The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, partly shot in Winnipeg, is a certified BOMB.

The $30 million movie, highly acclaimed by critics, has grossed only $2.8 million in six weeks of release.

Entertainment Weekly said that some days the temperature in Winnipeg (during shooting in October, 2005) "plunged to -13."

"That's like throw-a-cup-of-coffee-in-the-air-and-it-freezes-before-it-hits-the-ground cold," said director Andrew Dominik.

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