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

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Spring Cleaning 2008

On every street, in every yard, it's the same thing---spring cleaning.

The Black Rod is no exception. It's time to clear our desks of some of the accumulated stories, tips, ideas and downright juicy rumours that we haven't had time to get around to.

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Best definition of Negativapeg.

Journalists who don't regularly scan the various blogs and internet forums for story ideas are in the wrong business in the wrong century. You may have to pan a lot of sand to find a gold nugget, but it's well worth the effort for every good, aggressive reporter.

Recently we came across this comment on Skyscraperpage.com's Winnipeg City Transit/Rapid Transit thread (Page 40 to be exact) which excellently summarizes the Winnipeg attitude:

"furiousmcd Oppressive optimism Join Date: May 2007 Location: Winnipeg Posts: 41

Hey folks, I haven't commented on this board in a long while but I have definitely been thinking a lot about Winnipeg politics and transit. I have thought a lot about rapid transit...

I have noticed that in Winnipeg, the "I'll believe it when I see it" attitude mixed with cynicism towards high upfront cost prevents a lot of good from happening. However, once the project is completed and with all the naysayers considered wrong, the pride and momentum that results from the project is very significant. I'm sure you can all think of many projects that have followed this arc of drama and emotions.

So keeping to the topic of rapid transit, I have become convinced that we need something that is good enough to get the wheels in motion (intent of this pun yet to be decided ) without a high upfront cost and with efficient, reliable service that could get people out of their cars even in the winter. However, being Winnipeg, we also need the project to seem ambitious enough so it gets an overwhelming endorsement and enough support to go through. On this front, I would say that bus rapid transit fails.

From what I have seen, bus rapid transit has been received as being better than nothing but generally not as the preferred method that most people would choose if costs were not as important as they are. Personally, I see it as an underwhelming project with a lack of foresight and imagination; but that's just me.

Anyways, keeping away from the typical attitude of criticizing without offering anything constructive or helpful, I would suggest instead that we opt to build an on-street trolley in its own dedicated lane that links the University of Winnipeg to the University of Manitoba through Obsorne Village. By doing this it would keep costs significantly down while appeasing the rail transit folks; it would be a humble yet sure beginning to rapid transit in Winnipeg that could easily be improved upon in the future as more funding becomes available."

On a related note, Report on Business columnist Neil Reynolds had some fascinating information on public transit in the Globe and Mail yesterday. He quoted "Randal O'Toole, an Oregon economist with impeccable environmental credentials."

"Since 1991, American cities have invested $100 billion in urban rail transit," Mr. O'Toole says. "Yet no city in the country has managed to increase (public) transit's share of commuters by more than 1 per cent. No city has managed to reduce driving by even 1 per cent. People respond to high fuel prices by buying more efficient cars---and then driving more."

Randal O'Toole is an economist and a director of the Oregon-based Thoreau Institute. He has also been an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute since 1995.

What's the Thoreau Institute? Their website says:

Inspired both by Henry David Thoreau's love of the natural world and his dislike of big government, the Thoreau Institute seeks ways to protect the environment without regulation, bureaucracy, or central control. The Institute was founded in 1975 under the name of Cascade Holistic Economic Consultants to help environmentalists and others understand and influence public land management.

Wikipedia gives this description of the Cato Institute:

The Cato Institute is a libertarian think tank headquartered in Washington, D.C. The Institute's stated mission is "to broaden the parameters of public policy debate to allow consideration of the traditional American principles of limited government, individual liberty, free markets, and peace" by striving "to achieve greater involvement of the intelligent, lay public in questions of (public) policy and the proper role of government."
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The local angle. A lost art.

U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy has inoperable brain cancer. Did you know that a Winnipeg born doctor is doing cutting edge research on exactly this type of cancer? The Globe and Mail's story on Kennedy quoted "Winnipeg native John Sampson, a neurosurgeon at Duke University in North Carolina" who has uses a unique vaccine that's "helped some patients survive for three to six years" with the brain cancer that kills most in six to 12 months.

By coincidence, CTV featured Dr. Sampson in a report May 4 (Canadian-born doctor's vaccine fights brain cancer.) You can find him on Youtube discussing his vaccine.

Dr. Sampson is a neuro-oncologist and brain surgeon. John K. Samson, also from Winnipeg, is a rock musician who fronts the indie band The Weakerthans. He's not a doctor and he spells his name differently.
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Who knew?

Irvine Robbins, who founded the Baskin-Robbins chain of ice cream stores with his brother-in-law, Burton Baskin, was born in Winnipeg. He died recently in Rancho Mirage, California at the age of 90. Born here on Dec. 6, 1917, Robbins was the son of Aaron and Goldie Chmelnitsky Robbins, immigrants from Poland and Russia.
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The ever-popular Krista Report

Quick. Check your milk carton for this familiar face. Krista Erickson is MIA.

Has it been four months already since former CBC Winnipeg host Krista Erickson crashed and burned as CBC National's parliamentary reporter? Krista, as you will recall, got caught red-handed collaborating with the Liberal Party on questions to ask former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney at a House of Commons committee meeting. Her transgression exposed the CBC's long tradition of helping the Liberals when CBC Publisher John Cruikshank threw her under the bus but refused to identify the Liberal M.P.'s she was colluding with, especially whether one or more continued to sit on the committee where they continued to lie to the public and deny any association with Krista.

None of the self-proclaimed journalists at CBC thought the CBC cover-up was a legitimate story, probably because collaboration with the Liberals is so assumed that it might as well be in the job description of CBC Parliamentary Reporter.

Cruikshank exiled Krista to Toronto for "more training." But the Hill Times reports that:

"Four months on, however, Ms. Erickson hasn't turned up at the CBC in Toronto and the public broadcaster is declining comment on her employment status."

The Hill Times says Krista went running to her union which has been going to bat for her ever since.

The Black Rod hears that Krista Erickson is moving to Calgary to become CTV Calgary's national reporter. Conservative MP for Calgary Centre and widower Lee Richardson will certainly welcome her with open arms.
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Ankle Angle

Car thieves are making a mockery of the use of ankle monitors. Only a handfull of thieves are wearing them. One cut his off and went on a rampage of stealing cars and ramming police vehicles. The other sweated out his entire two-weeks of monitoring, then went right back to stealing cars.

None of the reporters apparently thinks it worthwhile to interview P.C. justice critic Kelvin Goertzen who championed ankle monitors for years and then loudly proclaimed justification when the NDP adopted the measure early this year.
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No Shades necessary

The Winnipeg Sun made a big deal two months ago about transforming the newspaper and asking readers what they wanted to see different.

Apparently, the answer was---nothing. (but now it only costs a buck on Sunday ... - ed.)
Same old, same old to our eyes.
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If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck....

500 ducks died in the Alberta oil sands and enviromentalists have gone nuts. Funny there's no mention that wind turbines, like the dozens already installed in Manitoba and the scores in the works, kill at least two birds each per year. In other words, hundreds of birds will die in Manitoba annually with nobody to speak for them.
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How Small Is This City?

Lawyer Hersh Wolch sells a house to Maple Leaf Distrillers owner Costas Ataliotis who stiffs him. Wolch goes to court and wins the right to sell the house for his money. Caught in the middle is the tenant who is renting the house. Correct us if we're wrong but isn't that tenant former Winnipeg Free Publisher Andrew Ritchie? Maybe he can move in with former FP editor Nicholas Hirst who has moved to Toronto but keeps an apartment in Winnipeg.
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Number Nine. Number Nine. Number Nine.

A family of mother and nine children is put up in a duplex after their rented house goes up in flames. Boo hoo hoo. They're victims.

Someone in the family buys a gun and it goes off, almost killing a baby in the next suite. Stanley Julius Beardy, 18, faces nine charges, six for unlawful possession and careless use of the gun and three, count 'em, three of "failure to comply with sentence or disposition." Victimhood is so fleeting.

A quick search on the Web turns up a Julius Beardy on a list of nine family members who have more than a passing interest in the local thug life. In fact, a sister of Julius who posted the family tree concluded with the comment (emphasis ours):

thu bearDysz .. n0w ii liike thaat.
Thu Gangsterest Famiily y0u'll Ever Meet . ..
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Gary and Gail Sitting in a Tree...

K-i-...well, you know the rhyme.

What gives? Apparently Gary Doer.

The Premier of the province pops up travelling with Gail Asper to B.C. to promote the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. He promises her $20 million more money for the museum than he's officially committed to. He drops her brother a cheque for $1.5 million when he wants money for another of his pet projects, saving the Manitoba Club from a developer who wants to build an apartment building near Upper Fort Garry next door.

But Doer is lucky. He can spend public money lavishly supporting the projects of another woman and the press asks no questions. Unlike Conservative MP Vic Toews whose personal life, including allegedly fathering a child last fall with a woman much younger than the wife he's divorcing, has become fodder for columnists since a story in the Winnipeg Free Press that Toews is being considered for a judicial appointment.

Doer dodged a similar bullet last year when the rumour went around that he was tomcatting with a prominent New Democrat and had even fathered her child. That rumour died away as the said Dippers' public profile diminished significantly, leaving in its wake even fresher rumours that Gary has found another friend whose profile has climbed stratospherically. Meow.
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Is it just us?

We remember when season finale meant somebody on your favourite show was getting married. But this year the networks are in a foul mood because almost every season finale seems to be ending in murder, mayhem or some form of mutilation. And that's just the good guys.

Law and Order SVU
Adam Beach's character, Brooklyn Detective Chester Lake, murders a rape suspect in cold blood and is last seen in handcuffs in the back of a cruiser car.

CSI Las Vegas
CSI Warrick Brown is shot twice in his car and left for dead.

NCIS
NCIS Director Jenny Shepard is killed in a shootout with a team of assassins. The new director reassigns everyone out of the unit. Gibbs gets a whole new team.

Bones
Cute, innocent Zack turns out to be a murderer in cahoots with cult serial killer Gormagon. His only saving grace is that he didn't eat anyone like Gormagon's followers usually do. He did deliberately cause an explosion that turned his hands into hamburger, though.

CSI Miami
Horatio gets shot and left in a pool of his own blood.
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Stephane Dion was a hero

Once upon a time Stephane Dion was a hero. That's no joke. As Quebec separatists drooled over what they figured was a sure victory in the 1980 referendum (they fixed the ballot count), Dion stepped into the field of battle and faced them down. They've hated him ever since.

Deny Arcand made a movie in 1981 about the referendum, sympathetic to the PQ. It was financed by the National Film Board, of course.

The movie is called Le confort et l'indifférence/ Comfort and Indifference and will be shown at Cinematheque at 7 p.m. Friday, May 23. Stephane Dion is nowhere in the movie. Masochists will love reliving the old constitutional battle. It's even in French.

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