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:

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Minuk reveals Court of Appeal undermined Taman case prosecution

The Winnipeg news media has been clamouring for an answer from the Taman Inquiry for why drunk driving charges were dropped against Derek Harvey-Zenk, the off-duty police officer who rear-ended and killed a young woman in East St. Paul.

Tuesday, they got their answer.

And they didn't want to hear it. Which is why the reporters missed the big story revealed at the inquiry.

Special counsel Marty Minuk testified the evidence wasn't strong enough for alcohol-related charges against Harvey-Zenk to stand up in court. He accepted a plea bargain on the strongest case he had, dangerous driving causing death.

And he stood behind the joint recommendation for house arrest, even though the Manitoba government's official policy is to oppose conditional sentences for serious crimes. That policy reads:

"Generally Crown Attorneys should not recommend the granting of a conditional sentence, either as part of a plea arrangement or as a submission on sentencing or appeal in cases involving death or serious bodily harm."

Then Minuk revealed the true reason why Harvey-Zenk got no jail time---the Manitoba Court of Appeal.

The Taman Inquiry Transcript, July 29, 2008

"Q You would agree with me that the purport of this policy is to discourage what the government, the Department of Justice considers to be a form of sentencing that they judge not to reflect the denunciatory and deterrent impact of sentencing in those cases where someone has died or suffered serious bodily harm. There is an attempt here to try and get prosecutors on the same page to take a stand against this kind of sentencing?"

"A Now, that may well be the purpose of the policy, however, in practice, the discussions amongst defence lawyers and Crown attorneys, and vice versa, is about the appellate decisions, as opposed to the policy."

In other words, the government's policy is great when it comes to mollifying the public and showing that the government is tough on violent crime.

But in the real world, lawyers are bound by legal precedent, and in Manitoba, the Court of Appeal has tied the hands of prosecutors.

Not a single reporter in the city picked up on this vital testimony.

"It struck me that this is a policy here where I understand it, but at the same time, in my view as outside counsel, needs to be balanced with the state of the law in Manitoba. And just because the policy says that they generally should not recommend it, when all of the research that I had available to me from Manitoba cases is telling me this is what is the appropriate sentence, there is a conflict."

"And I chose to be guided by the appellate decisions directing the Provincial Courts, Court of Queen's Bench, on what was the appropriate sentence for these kinds of cases," said Minuk.

"…let me say that I think that the policy is difficult to reconcile with the day-to-day prosecutions in this particular area, and the fact that the -- wherever it may have been recommended by someone, in the cases that I've read, that there not be a conditional sentence for these types of offences, the Court of Appeal has reversed it," he added.

"And to the extent that my assessment was made based on the case law, and that I was not going to be arguing a case which was contrary to the decisions of the Manitoba Court of Appeal…"

You wanted the truth. But can you handle the truth?

The news media and the Inquiry prefer their own version of "truth"--- The off-duty policeman was drunk and he was spared a jail sentence because the special prosecutor, Minuk, was incompetent and because the Winnipeg and East St. Paul police conspired to hide the evidence of intoxication.

It's all a conspiracy.


Minuk outlined the holes in the evidence that precluded any prosecution for impaired driving.

* None of the police at the scene of the accident smelled liquor on Harvey-Zenk.

* The evidence of the paramedics who said they detected alcohol from Harvey-Zenk didn't mean he was over the legal limit.

* While it would have been enough to warrant a test from a roadside breath machine, there wasn't one at the scene.

* The officer who formally asked Harvey-Zenk for a breath sample at the East St. Paul police station wrote in his report that he asked for a blood sample. It's not illegal to refuse a blood sample. While the police at the station would testify in court that the request was for a breath sample, a judge might, based on the written report, give Harvey-Zenk the benefit of the doubt and throw out the charge.

* There were no witnesses who would say they saw Harvey-Zenk drinking before the accident. They could place him at a bar where other people were drinking, but nobody would testify they saw how much he drank, or even if he drank. And they could place him at a party after the bar closed, but, again, nobody would testify they saw him drinking. The group left the bar 4 l/2 hours before the accident which would leave him time to get under the legal alcohol limit for a driver.

* A waitress who thought she served a man that could be Harvey-Zenk eight or nine beers couldn't pick him out of a photo lineup.

* The accident analyst who attended would testify that Harvey-Zenk had 12-14 seconds to react before crashing into Crystal Taman's car, and he couldn't rule out that the accident was a result of fatigue or the driver falling asleep.

The Taman Inquiry has a pre-conceived answer to these facts---there was a cover-up by the police.

It's no wonder none of the police smelled alcohol from Harvey-Zenk, they're lying.

It's no wonder the group of police officers at Branigan's say they don't know how much he drank. They're lying.

And Minuk…he let them get away with it because his friend was representing Harvey-Zenk and he represented some of the policemen too.

Of course, Minuk did call in the RCMP to investigate whether Harry Bakema, the then-Chief of the East St. Paul police, should be charged with obstruction of justice. He said he was floored when informed that a police officer who attended the accident was saying, a year later and just before the preliminary hearing, that he was told by Bakema at the scene that Harvey-Zenk was "pissed."


The RCMP report is one of the exhibits at the Taman Inquiry.

The RCMP essentially re-interviewed everyone who had been at the accident scene. No charges were ever recommended, although the report doesn't explain why. But the interviews of the witnesses do.

Jason Woychuk, the East St. Paul constable whose alleged statements scuttled the prelim, told the RCMP a vastly different story than Minuk was told. He said, just as he testified at the Inquiry, that Bakema told him Harvey-Zenk "might be" impaired. This would corroborate what Bakema said all along. Bakema testified he told Woychuk to see if he could smell anything from Harvey-Zenk after he sat in a warm car for a while.

And the RCMP report includes the observations of two Selkirk paramedics who examined Harvey-Zenk in the back of Woychuk's cruiser car. One said he detected a "stale beer smell." The other said he could detect the smell of liquor which he described as "noticeable, but not really strong."

Neither statement--- from the only people to spend any time with Harvey-Zenk ---would exactly support a claim that he was "pissed" at the scene.

Of course, we haven't yet heard from Inquiry counsel David Paciocco as to whether the RCMP officers conducting the obstruction of justice investigation were also in on the cover-up.

Minuk was attacked by both Paciocco and the press for going soft on the investigation of Harvey-Zenk.

Paciocco, in a preview of the Inquiry's final report, said that Minuk failed to personally interview witnesses.

(He said he would have before the second preliminary hearing, but it was stopped once Harvey-Zenk agreed to plead guilty.)

And he said Minuk failed to pressure East St. Paul police to get a search warrant for the credit card records from Branigan's to see if Harvey-Zenk paid for his drinks with his Visa card.

(Minuk said he asked for the warrant four times. East St. Paul's new chief of police Norm Carter testified that to get a warrant he would have to tell a magistrate he had clear and probable grounds that the information he wanted was likely in those records. But he had no such grounds since nobody could say if Harvey-Zenk had anything to drink at Branigan's or if he paid with a credit card. He said he refused to apply for what was simply a fishing expedition. And therefore illegal.)

But what the detractors really mean is that Minuk failed to crack the cover-up centred on the alleged police drinking party, first at Branigan's and later at the home of one of the Winnipeg policemen.

If only the Winnipeg Police standards unit had squeezed the partying police officers harder, the cover-up would have been cracked. If only the RCMP had been called in to grill the stinking liars, the truth would out. If only Minuk hadn't rolled over…Well, you get the picture.

The Inquiry lawyer challenged Minuk for failing to be skeptical about the evidence of the police at Branigan's.

The police certainly couldn't be called as prosecution witnesses since they had nothing to add to the prosecution's case, he said. So they would have been called as defence witnesses, if the case went to trial, and Minuk would be in the position of having to challenge the testimony of 23 Winnipeg police officers. Wasn't that why he dropped the impaired driving charges?

There's only one Perry Mason.
Raymond Burr is dead, and you, David Paciocco, are no Raymond Burr.
So save the theatrics for the Commissioner's hotel room.


How exactly would anyone cross-examine 23 Winnipeg police officers? With the evidence of Chelsea O'Halloran, of course.

O"Halloran the server at Branigan's the night the police came in, is the key witness at the Inquiry. She's the only one who says Derek Harvey-Zenk was drunk the night before he killed Crystal Taman, or at least, a guy just like the guy who came to a Super Bowl party and ate a ton of chicken wings and had a pregnant wife. She says she served this guy who is just like Super Bowl guy eight or nine beers.

Harvey-Zenk loved chicken wings. And his wife had been pregnant at Super Bowl.

It's just that Chelsea couldn't say he was Super Bowl guy even though police gave her two chances to pick him out of a photo lineup.

Who knows, there could be another guy in Winnipeg who knocked up his wife and who likes wings.

Oh, Chelsea conceded that her estimate of eight beers for man-who-might-be-Harvey-Zenk was a guess. Commission counsel rushed to her aid.

Q Now, there are wild guesses and there are educated guesses. Are you able to help the Commissioner out in terms of whether, or where this figure might fit on that continuum in your estimation?
A It would be an educated guess.

That's what Marty Minuk had to work with.

But Chelsea now admits she lied to investigators; she said then that none of the cops was drunk and she says now that lots of the cops were drunk, just what the Inquiry wants to hear. This has given her sainted status in Paciocco's eyes.

You know the equation: As the only liar, she's the only one telling the truth. Hey, it makes sense in the world of show trials.

And Chelsea had lots to say about the party at Branigan's and the press ate it up.

Animal House in blue.

* The police were drunk, rowdy, and obnoxious, testified the newly minted Chelsea.

* They joked at her behind.

* A police woman stood on her chair and yelled.

* They scarfed up the specially-priced wings and sucked up the beer special, $2.75 a pint.

At the end of the night the bill was over $l000. What wildmen.

But Minuk would have known putting Chelsea on the stand would be like throwing raw meat to hungry lions.

The reality of the night at Branigans is a lot less than the reporters want to believe. The $1000 ring-out was actually Chelsea's sales for her entire eight-hour shift.

Half was for food.

The police started drifting into the bar at 11 p.m. Chelsea originally estimated there were 25-35 cops. But three interviews later, her memory was "refreshed" and she told the Inquiry she now remembered there were 20-25.

Pacicco has the names of 26 police officers who went to Branigan's that night. Who told him? Why, the police who were there and who didn't try to hide who else was there, freely naming everyone they could remember.

Somehow three have dropped off the list of conspirators and Pacicco only refers to 23partiers.

And some party.

The police told investigators they weren't celebrating anything. Somebody just said they should get together one night, and this was the night. They came to sit around, kibbutz, and eat wings. They came in dribs and drabs. Some came early and left early. Some stayed an hour, some for 3 ½ hours until closing time.

And rowdy? Hey, you know it.

They had arm wrestling contests.

Whew. Talk wildmen.

Chelsea never mentioned seeing any arm wrestling, although that's a little hard to hide. And it might explain why someone was cheering, no?

The police drank 68 pints of beer over the course of 3 ½ hours. If 20 of them had 3 beers each, the rest could have shared the other eight.

Wow, what was this? A commercial for responsible drinking?

Pacicco had to introduce the possibility of invisible free pitchers of beer circulating at the gathering. They never show up in the bill, so they must be free.

And none of the police said they were drinking pitchers, so they must be invisible, although Chelsea said she remembered (or had her memory refreshed) carrying pitchers of beer.

One officer said his plan was to buy a pitcher of beer and top up everyone's drink. But the bartender told him it was cheaper to buy individual pints. So he had a pint and went home.

Darcy Gerardy, Branigan's night manager, was a witness at the Taman Inquiry. When the regular bartender went home at 12:30 a.m. the morning of the fatal accident Gerardy took over bartending duties. He agreed with a suggestion from associate commission counsel Vincent Clifford that he "probably" handed out free pitchers of beer that night.

But it took lawyer Keith Labossiere, representing the Winnipeg Police Association, to point out that while the sales records showed 19 comp'ed shots of liquor given away throughout the day, the number of comp'ed pitchers of beer was shown as --- ZERO.

Was Mr. Clifford trying to mislead the public?

Was he---gulp---part of a conspiracy?

See how easy it is.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Who doesn't like a good show trial? Ummm, us.

Put down your pitchforks.

Curl up the nooses. Extinguish the torches. Stop stirring the tar. Put the feathers back into the pillows.

Winnipeg is experiencing its greatest explosion of mob fury in living memory. Listening to the daily howl for blood is frightening. Anyone who wants to know what it was like during the worst days of the French Revolution need only read the daily papers. Tom Brodbeck has become Madame LaFarge, cackling as the tumbrels roll by with new victims for the guillotine and calling for still more heads. Dan Lett has announced there's no need to dawdle any longer, the police are guilty, scrap the trial and let's get on with the executions.

Reporters compete with each other as to who can express the greatest outrage, the utmost skepticism, the shrillest cry for a mass round-up of the accused. Radio talk show hosts sneer at and mock the same people they clasped to their bosom only weeks ago. All reason has been abandoned.

There will come a day when the reporters will be embarassed by their conduct and ashamed of being part of the mob. Just saying sorry won't be enough.

The cause of this mania is the so-called Taman Inquiry. It's another of those Manitoba show trials that would have made Joseph Stalin's heart swell with pride. Readers are advised to search The Black Rod archives for the Sophonow Inquiry and the Driskell Inquiry for chapter and verse on how these kangaroo courts are run.

The conclusion has been reached in advance.
The "guilty" have been branded before a word was spoken in open court. The final report is likely in the galleys even today, waiting only minor tweaks.

The witnesses before the Taman Inquiry were interviewed three, and sometimes four times, before being called into public where they have to play their designated roles of hero or villain. To date the inquisitors have identified at least 40 conspirators in an assortment of conspiracies. And the inquiry has weeks to go still.

In a perfect world, the press would denounce these quasi-judicial farces in starkest terms. Instead, today, the reporters act as a Greek chorus.

Count us out.

Crystal Taman was killed Feb. 25, 2005, at Highway 59 and the north Perimeter Highway. A truck driven by an off-duty Winnipeg policeman crashed into the back of her small car as she was stopped at a red light.

The suspect, Derek Harvey-Zenk, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death and got a sentence of two years house arrest. The backlash was instant: the fix was in; the police would never let one of their own be convicted of drunk driving; they engaged in a conspiracy to scuttle the prosecution. Everyone "knew" it.

The government even sicced the RCMP on the East St. Paul and Winnipeg police to try and get someone charged for obstruction of justice. The RCMP said there was no reasonable chance of prosecuting anyone. The NDP then set up this "inquiry" which is not bound by simple things like facts, truth or the basic principles of law like intent and the presumption of innocence.

The guiding presumption of these show trials is the presumption of guilt. The "facts" will be adjusted to fit the verdict.

Harry Bakema

Cast in the role of the devil incarnate is Harry Bakema, the then-Chief of Police of the East St. Paul Police Force.

The press dutifully regurgitated the official inquiry view of Bakema's sins. A small sampling:

* The notes he took at the scene are scanty and make no mention that Harvey-Zenk was "pissed" as Bakema allegedly told someone later in the day.
* He failed to do the simplest investigation of Zenk's sobriety so that he wouldn't have to testify that Zenk was impaired.
* He kept any mention of booze on Harvey-Zenk's breath out of the official report
*He kept the suspect at the scene long enough to provide the suspect with a technicality that would let him scuttle any breathalyzer charge
* He even manipulated the police computer system to lose Harvey-Zenk's mug shot and who knows what else.

A recap of the timeline of events is necessary to understand the evidence at the inquiry.

7:10 The accident is reported to East St. Paul police.
7:16 Bakema and another officer arrive at the scene.
7:22 Constable Jason Woychuk arrives. He's the last of four East St. Paul police to get there.
7:23-4 East St. Paul paramedics arrive and talk to Bakema.
7:38 Sargent Norm Carter gets a call at home to go to the accident.
7:40 Bakema talks to Harvey-Zenk beside Harvey-Zenk's truck.
7:42 Bakema brings Harvey-Zenk to Woychuk's police car and leaves him with the rookie cop.
7:49 The traffic analyst is called.
8:00 Carter arrives at the police station where he expects to pick up a cruiser and go to the accident scene. He's told to stay in the office and take charge.
8:08 Woychuk leaves the scene for the office.
8:12 Woychuk arrives at the East St. Paul police station with Harvey-Zenk.
8:16 Harvey-Zenk is charged with impaired driving.

That's right. The conspiracy not to charge Derek Harvey-Zenk must be the shortest conspiracy on record because he was charged four minutes after being brought to the station. But, as we said, facts are flexible at these public inquiries.

The East St. Paul police officers had their work cut out for them. Bakema said hundreds of cars passed that intersection at morning rush hour. Woychuk said he personally witnessed "quite a few vehicles almost involved in other collisions, so I was definitely trying to prevent any other further collisions."

Traffic control was the first priority after checking on the condition of the drivers of the cars involved in the accident. The highway was blocked off with cruisers and traffic cones were set up as officers manually directed the cars around the scene which had to be preserved for the accident analysts.

Crystal Taman's daughters turned up, fearing, correctly, their mother was in the accident. One officer had to handle the sensitive issue of keeping them occupied and away from their mother's body which hadn't yet been picked up by ambulance. The police had to call East St. Paul paramedics, call Dr. Hook towing, call to get an accident investigator to attend, call Winnipeg police to notify them of the traffic jam, call the station to get Sgt. Carter out asap. The temperature was -20 C., adding to the stress. The four police at the scene were under-manned. Is it any wonder that Harry Bakema wasn't making detailed notes?

Before being so quick to condemn him, reporters should spend a couple of hours directing traffic at confusion corner in sub-zero temperatures while making phone calls and answering questions from pedestrians, just to see how easy it is to write down everyone they spoke with and everything they were told and what they said and when.

Bakema said he spoke to Harvey- Zenk very briefly, then led him to Woychuk's cruiser. You don't have to be a police officer to suspect a driver rear-ending another vehicle is drunk. It happens too often. Bakema said he couldn't smell liquor from Harvey-Zenk, which wasn't indicative of anything since winter cold stifles odour. He said he advised Woychuk, a rookie officer, to see if he could smell anything once Harvey-Zenk had warmed up in the car.

If Bakema told a Winnipeg police officer--- later that afternoon---that Harvey-Zenk had been "pissed", it was with the knowledge that Harvey-Zenk refused a breathalyzer request, generally a sure sign of someone who is impaired but who doesn't want to reveal how much.

Bakema had no time to start asking Harvey-Zenk to count backwards and walk a straight line to test his sobriety. And once he realized he knew Harvey-Zenk, who he worked with on the Winnipeg force, he tried to separate himself from the investigation as far as possible to avoid any allegations of conflict of interest.

Imagine the howls if he testified he gave Harvey-Zenk a sobriety test and found no evidence of impairment.

Jason Woychuk

Constable Woychuk was the Barney Fife of the East Kildonan Police Department. He testified he is a man of action who felt frustrated at being sidelined by having to play babysitter to Harvey-Zenk when he could have been doing real police stuff at the accident scene.

(At least he added some insight into the variations of Derek Z's name. He was known as Derek Zenk in high school in Brandon. His driver's licence carries the name Derek Harveymordenzenk. And the Inquiry, for reasons unknown, refers to him as Derek Harvey-Zenk.)

Woychuk, who admits he was told Harvey-Zenk might be impaired, waited 16 minutes with Harvey-Zenk in his car, during which time he wrote down the particulars from Harvey-Zenk's driver's licence and watched a paramedic talk to the man before getting him to sign a waiver that he refused medical treatment. Woychuk said the paramedic told him he smelled alcohol from Harvey-Zenk (or mimed a drinking motion to indicate the same thing).

But the police officer couldn't smell anything himself in the front seat and to get into the back seat alone with the suspect would be a breach of regulations for anyone in a one-man car.

Once word came that Carter was in the office, Woychuk left to take Harvey-Zenk to the police station. On the drive there, Woychuk said, he noticed an odour of alcohol from the back seat. Upon arrival, he told Carter what he smelled and Carter made the formal arrest.

Woychuk arrived at the police station with a problem.

Like Barney Fife, Woychuk is a walking, talking rule book. He convinced himself that the delay in bringing Harvey-Zenk to the station was a breach of his Charter rights. So the rookie went around bad mouthing the Chief for screwing up. Much later, with the preliminary hearing about to get underway, rumours were flying that Woychuk would have to take the heat if the case was thrown out on the Charter issue.

He wasn't going to be the fall guy, so he dropped a bombshell that derailed the prelim--- Bakema told him to leave the paramedic's observations out of the official report, he said. And, Bakema told him to say falsely that the reason he was taking Harvey-Zenk to the station in the first place was to have him fill out a traffic accident report.

The Inquiry is portraying this as the smoking gun of a cover-up.
You can do that if you avoid the facts.

The Inquiry was told that East St. Paul practice was for a police officer's report to contain only what he saw and what he did, and not the observations and comments of other public officials. They will be writing their own reports. Logical.

Of course, the Inquiry might be bringing forward evidence that Bakema planned for the paramedic to meet with a "suspicious accident" to shut him up, but we'll have to see.

And Woychuk was only showing his own inexperience by accusing Bakema of ordering him to make a false report. Harvey-Zenk was in shock at the scene of the accident. Bakema spoke to him for a brief time and only to check on his condition. While Crystal Taman's daughters said they saw Bakema speak with him for several minutes, other civilian witnesses said he either didn't answer people who spoke to him or answered in monosyllables. In short, he hadn't told the police his version of what happened by the time Woychuk took off for the police station.

And while police might suspect he had been drinking, they had no legal reason to charge or detain him for that reason. What were they to do? Ask him to hitchhike home? Give him a ride to his residence? Or take him to the station where he could be questioned out of the cold and in a quiet room?

To save his own skin, Woychuk cried "Conspiracy".

Norm Carter

If current East St. Paul Police Chief Norm Carter expected a hero's welcome at the Taman Inquiry he was sorely disappointed.

Carter blew the whistle on the "conspiracy" by taking Woychuk's allegations against Bakema to independent counsel Randy Minuk.

At the inquiry he was forced to grovel for giving Harvey-Zenk special favours, namely letting him phone his wife while still in custody.

The reporters who seized on the "special favours", failed to mention that Minuk told Carter at 10:35 a.m. that Harvey-Zenk would face a raft of charges but that he could be released immediately on a promise to appear. In other words, let him go, we'll charge him later.

Almost 40 minutes later, Carter let Harvey-Zenk call his wife. He was not charged with anything at that moment. He was just waiting to sign some papers before going home. The special favour was calling his wife to pick him up.

The inquiry counsel hammered Carter for failing to get a search warrant for the charge accounts at Branigans where a group of Winnipeg police officers, including Harvey-Zenk, met for after-shift drinks the evening before the accident.

Carter patiently explained that since police had no evidence Harvey-Zenk paid for his drinks by credit card, such a warrant would be nothing more than a fishing expedition and that would be ILLEGAL.

Well, simpered the lawyer, you could have just asked politely.

Chelsea O'Halloran

Every drama needs a hero, or in this case, a heroine. Enter former Branigan's waitress Chelsea O'Halloran.

As the only confirmed liar in the matter, she was, of course, feted as the only one telling the truth.

O'Halloran said she lied to police investigators when she told them nobody was obviously drunk when the group of officers left Branigan's the morning of the accident. Now she says that many of the police at the bar were drunk.

When the number of drinks sold couldn't be squared with the estimated number of police (25-35), at least not if you're trying to make them drunk over the course of 3 1/2 hours, the Inquiry introduced the existence of imaginary free pitchers of beer that Chelsea admitted "might" have been given to the policemen.

O'Halloran had her own measure of sobriety. If you came in quiet and left loud, you were drunk. Loud and loutish were her tests. Loud meant drunk and loutish meant drunker.

(Hmmm. Let's see. Men. Beer. Loud. Okay, it's not exactly E equals MC squared, but ask any woman about the science of that equation.)

Chelsea said the drunkest policeman was the one who made mean comments about her body. He told other cops to look at her ass.

(Note to men...While you may appreciate a well-turned behind ---- Hel-lo J-lo --- all women are convinced they have fat asses. Always say "Have you lost weight?")

O'Halloran remembered there were two women in the crowd. One was skinny and the other was heavy-set and enjoying herself. Mee-ow from the server with the big heinie.

Some of the police that fateful evening were regulars. The bar owner encouraged police business by giving them special prices on pints of beer and wings. (In other cities, police are bribed with free food. In Winnipeg we give them the cheapest price on the menu, Tuesday's special on Thursday.)

While the police at Branigans told investigators they couldn't say how much Harvey-Zenk had to drink, Chelsea said she could. We said she was a heroine.

Chelsea remembered this one guy she saw at a police Super Bowl party at the bar. Same guy showed up the night before the accident. He sucked back eight or nine beers.

Bingo. The press went wild. A witness confirmed that Derek Harvey-Zenk had eight or nine beers at the bar. Then he likely had more to drink at a house party that followed. Can you spell c-o-v-e-r-u-p?

But here's what the reporters didn't put in their stories.

Chelsea failed to pick Harvey-Zenk as Super Bowl guy out of a photo lineup even though she was given two kicks at the cat.

And she said he wasn't one of the drunk cops, at least not by her standard.

She was cross-examined on "Super Bowl guy".

Q Yes. But let's confirm that that person was not loud like me, not loud; right?
A No.
Q Not belligerent?
A No.
Q Not rude?
A No.
Q Not staggering?
A No.
Q Not stumbling?
A No.

Let's stop for a brief interlude, something we call Professional Reporters at Work.

Aldo Santin, Winnipeg Free Press, July 25, 2008
That waitress, Chelsea O'Halloran, told the inquiry she was forced to lie about the sobriety of the officers by one of her managers.

Kevin Rollason, Winnipeg Free Press, July 17, 2008
A server says her manager urged her to lie to investigators three years ago about how much police drank during the contentious "shifter" party preceding the crash that killed Crystal Taman, an inquiry into the woman's death heard Wednesday.

The Taman Inquiry, July 16, 2008
Q You also talked about the direction that Mr. Bravo was providing to you?
A Yes.
Q You advised that he said to just play dumb?
A Yes.
Q Don't say more than you needed to in response to the officer's questions, keep it
A Yes.
Q Pretend like you didn't remember very much?
A Yes.
Q I didn't hear anywhere in there where you indicate that Mr. Bravo told you to lie?
A Correct.


The Branigan's waitress said she was following the advice of her boss when she lied to the police. He told her, she said, to keep her answers short, to answer questions with yes and no, to play dumb and not elaborate on her answers.

Sound familiar? Of course. He was TALKING LIKE A LAWYER.

The inquiry doesn't want to nail him for obstructing justice.
They want to get him for practicing law without a licence.

Last week, the inquiry heard from police who left Branigan's and went to a house party the morning Crystal Taman was killed. They said they couldn't say how much Harvey-Zenk had to drink at the party. The press had a field day mocking them for being "trained observers" who failed to observe Harvey-Zenk's drinking.

What it really showed was that reporters are rarely invited to parties. If they were they would know the dynamics of a party and where people gather.

There's the living room people who want to be near the music, the kitchen people who want to talk, the hallway people who are having more intimate conversations and the smokers who gravitate in and out every twenty minutes.

The only one everybody can remember is the class clown, the proverbial guy with the lampshade on his head, who demands attention and will do anything to get it. There's no indiction Derek Harvey-Zenk was that guy.

There was some evidence that Harvey-Zenk was the last to leave the party, somewhere around 6:30 a.m. There's no indication that police ever considered that this was consistent with the action of a responsible drinker, someone who knew he shouldn't drive after consuming alcohol and who stayed as long as needed to get the liquor out of his system before heading home.

Maybe when special prosecutor Marty Minuk testifies he'll elaborate on the alternate possible causes of the accident---fatigue and/or using a cell phone while driving. There's already been testimony that a cell-phone charger was in Harvey-Zenk's truck, but no cell phone was found.

So why did he refuse a breathalyzer?

We all know the answer.
On the advice of his lawyer.

And that's one thing you can bet you'll never see---a public inquiry into lawyers.

We'll bring the tar.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

War in Afghanistan 2008 Week 30

The Western press can't decide if the Taliban is resilient (bouncing back, recovering strength) or resurgent (rising again). Regardless of the adjective, the message is the same---the West has failed again. The terrorists are back as strong as ever.

As proof, reporters invariably mention that the number of coalition dead in Afghanistan is greater than the casualty total in Iraq for the nth month in a row.

What they carefully fail to explain is---why? The answer is painfully obvious.


That's right. Al Qaeda has been defeated in Iraq. It took several years but the terrorists are on the run in Iraq. They're being driven out by a determined coalition of Iraq soldiers trained to fight a new kind of war, the local populace that got tired of being cannon fodder for the terrorists and American forces that refused to give up. And they're running back home to Afghanistan.

What's more important, is they're making the exact same mistakes in Afghanistan that caused them to lose in Iraq. That game has only one conclusion.

The Globe and Mail, one of the leading journals of defeatism, recently carried a front page story headlined "Canada takes notes from failed Soviet war." The story was how Canada's military has been studying the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan for clues on how not to lose to the Taliban. The underlying message was "we're losing, we can't win."

We could have saved the Canadian government lots of time and money. The answer is simple.


It's ludicrous to think the Soviets were defeated by an army of cavemen armed with kalyshnikovs. They were defeated by US stinger missiles, American special forces coordinating assaults by cavemen armed with American weapons, US intelligence gathered from satellites and listening posts on land, sea and air, and good old American ingenuity, courage and determination to win.

We're about to see those same skills applied in Afghanistan a second time, only hardened with the experience of Iraq.

Coalition forces in Afghanistan stepped up their decapitation campaign during Week 30, 2008. Bit by bit the Taliban's leadership is being winnowed right under the nose of the mainstream press which cannot recognize the significance of what's happening.

This week British forces in Helmand province have been celebrating success after success.

Mid-week they announced that the Special Boat Service had killed top Taliban commander Mullah Bismullah Akhund in a gun battle ten days earlier. Bismullah was responsible for supplying weapons and IED's to Taliban fighters. Killed with him was the brother of Mullah Rahim, the Taliban's shadow governor of Helmand.

Two weeks earlier another prominent Taliban Commander, Sadiqullah, was killed in a precision missile strike by a British Apache helicopter gunship. Sadiqullah was another "facilitator" who supplied IED's and suicide attackers against British troops. Following up on an intelligence tip, the helicopter destroyed a truck carrying Sadiqullah and several of his fighters close to the Kajaki dam.

"Combined with the elimination of Sadiqullah, this is the most significant blow struck against the Taliban logistics and facilitation chain in northern Helmand this year," said Lt Col Robin Matthews, a British spokesman.

Then the news just got better. Mullah Rahim, the top commander for southern Helmand province, was in the hands of Pakistani authorities. He either gave himself up in fear that the SBS had him in their sights next, which is how the British press is reporting it, or he was arrested by Pakistani police on his way home from a mosque in Quetta late Saturday night, which is how Pajhwok Afghan News reported it Sunday. But after having watched the British move up the leadership ladder, including killing his brother, the surrender makes sense for someone wanting to take the heat off for a while.

And it didn't stop there. On Sunday, NATO forces killed another high-level commander, Mullah Sheikh and two of his followers in the vicinity of Musa Qala in the north of Helmand. Mullah Sheikh was killed, along with three others, in a precision missile strike

British military sources called Rahim's surrender as "a massive breakthrough that would plunge militant force in Helmand into disarray."

One of Rahim's fellow Taliban fighters told Pajhwok Afghan News that three other "militants" were also missing in Quetta. Pakistan often conducts sweeps that result in announcements of the arrest of prominent Taliban commanders when political pressure from the U.S. gets too strong.

Next door in Kandahar province, Canadian forces had an announcement of their own regarding the decapitation campaign---an airstrike Wednesday had killed a commander of 250 fighters, and who happened to be the second-in-command in the shadow government the Taliban have created to govern Kandahar in the event they ever regain power.

A statement from Canadian military authorities said they had a tip that several insurgent commanders were going to meet up to regroup their forces and to plan new attacks against the Arghandab district and Kandahar city.

"Afghan forces established observation of the area and called in an airstrike using ISAF aircraft," the statement said. Mullah Mahmoud, the short-lived deputy governor-to-be, and eight of his pals were blown to bits.

"Our troops have the initiative in Kandahar province," Brigadier General Denis Thompson, Commander of Task Force Kandahar, said in an understatement.

The death of Mahmoud comes on the heels of the literal rooting out of almost the rest of the Taliban's shadow government in June when Afghan, Canadian and British troops swept Taliban fighters out of 18 villages. General Gul Agha Naibi, commander of the Afghan National Army's Kandahar corps, told reporters that among the 50-60 Taliban killed were the Taliban's "governor" of Kandahar, their "chief of police", their chief of intelligence, and their "banker."

The Taliban's plans for installing shadow governments in Afghan provinces has been taking a severe beating all summer.

In the northerwestern Faryab province, on the border with Turkmenistan, the Taliban's appointed shadow "governor", Akhundzada, was killed last week. A group of a dozen Taliban fighters showed up and tried to kidnap local aid workers who were building a well. Local villagers caught up with the terrorists the next day, killed the commander and would-be governor, and chased the rest of the band away. Akhundzada had recently returned to Afghanistan from Pakistan. Big mistake.

In May, the Taliban shadow governor for Ghor province, Mullah Jalil, and his appointed chief of police, were killed by Afghan troops. Being a Taliban governor is obviously as thankless job.

The pressure is getting to the insurgents who are becoming increasingly antsy. This story from a Pakistani news service is not at all uncommon any more:

Taliban fighters 'kill their own commander'
Online - International News Network, Pakistan - Jul 6, 2008
KABUL: Taliban rebels have killed one of their own commanders for allegedly spying for foreign troops in the western province of Farah, officials said.

Commander Haji Lala was killed in the Bakwa district the other day, the provincial governor, Mohammad Younis Rasoli, said.

The rebels killed the Taliban commander for passing information to NATO-led and US-led forces about the whereabouts of militant hideouts in the Kash Rod district of neighbouring Nimroz province, the governor said.

The Taliban's biggest success in Week 30 was, again, a propaganda victory. A temporary base set up by American airborne troops near the village of Wanat in eastern Kunar province, on the border with Pakistan's lawless tribal region, was attacked by 100-200 insurgents. Nine U.S. soldiers were killed and 15 wounded out of a garrison of 45 Americans and 25 Afghans.

THE INSURGENTS FAILED to overrun the base and were beaten back with heavy casualties.

Two days earlier, the temporary patrol base was set up in a perimenter about 300 metres long and 100 metres wide. It was basically concertina wire and sandbags surrounding strategically placed vehicles with observation posts.

The soldiers from Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne) soldiers were on a reconnaissance mission. The attack started in the middle of the night and instantly became a slice of hell as the insurgents threw everything they had into overrunning the U.S. troops.

In a sign of the intensity of the battle, one trooper fired 600 rounds from his M-249 in five minutes--a bullet a second for five long minutes--until his gun seized up from the heat. He wasn't alone in that rate of fire. In many exchanges the battle was fought with grenades at a range of 10 to 15 feet. The insurgents breached the perimeter of the observation post, but got no further.

Some Taliban fighters, possibly out of ammunition themselves, threw rocks at a fighting position to get the soldiers to get out of their protected area. One soldier sat with his gun pointed at a tree, patiently killing would-be snipers one by one as they climbed up and looked for targets.

Apache attack helicopters arrived within about half an hour. Then came fighter jets, A-10's and F-15's. The insurgent force was routed.

Unlike the Canadian military, the American's don't wallow in grief. They celebrate the courage of their soldiers and give the families of the dead the knowledge that their loved ones died an honourable death.

"It was some of the bravest stuff I've ever seen in my life..." said Spc. Tyler Stafford, one of the wounded. "Normal humans wouldn't do that. You're not supposed to do that - getting up and firing back when everything around you is popping and whizzing and trees, branches coming down and sandbags exploding and RPGs coming in over your head … It was a fistfight...and those guys held ' em off."

"When you ask for volunteers to run across an open field to a reinforced o.p. (observation point) that almost everybody is injured at, and everybody volunteers... It kind of motivates you." Staff Sgt. Jesse Queck told Stars and Stripes. "There were a lot of guys that made me proud, putting themselves and their lives on the line so their buddies could have a chance."

"I just hope these guys' wives and their children understand how courageous their husbands and dads were," said Sgt. Jacob Walker. "They fought like warriors."

Col. Charles "Chip" Preysler, commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, was especially critical of media reports that the scale of the attack is indicative of what's to come from the "resurgent" Taliban.

"The sky is not falling, and this is what we've been facing all along in the summer." said Preysler.

" When we first got here last summer and started fighting here in June, we were only seeing the enemy and engaging him first about 5 percent of the time. Now we're between 25 and 40 percent. We see the enemy, and we're engaging him first."

" I mean this [battalion] has had 9,000 patrols in 15 months - we're out there taking the fight to the enemy," We're out there taking the ground that he used to own exclusively, and we have separated him from the people in many locations," Preysler said. "This is one area that is still contested, and we're going to have to go back in there and fight hard to separate the insurgents from the population, and that is exactly what we're going to do.

"These guys have fought for 15 months, and they have fought harder, and I mean this literally, they have fought harder and (had) more engagements, more direct-fire engagements, than any brigade in the United States Army in probably the toughest terrain. These guys are absolutely veterans and they know what they're doing and they have that airborne spirit and they fought a very, very tough battle and held the ground and did everything they were supposed to do."

Preysler was particularly upset at reports the U.S. had abandoned their "outpost."

"There is nothing to abandon. There were no structures, there was no COP or FOB or anything like that to even abandon. So, from the get-go, that is just [expletive], and it's not right." he said.

The Americans did remove their temporary base after the Talilban attack. Two days later, ANA troops killed seven insurgents near Wanat.

For the record: As of July 21, 2008, there have been 18 coalition soldiers killed in combat or by roadside bombs and IED's.

Twelve died during the week of July 13 to July 20.

In July 2007, 28 foreign soldiers met combat-related deaths in Afghanistan.

To date, coalition combat casualties number 95.

In 2007, coalition forces suffered 189 combat deaths.

A familiar pattern

The week saw a familiar pattern in insurgent attacks---they give the Afghan army a wide berth preferring to attack lightly armed police. But a new pattern may be developing. The police are giving as good as they get or better in the exchanges.

* A suicide bomber on a motorcycle blew himself up next to a police patrol in the southern province of Uruzgan killing 24 people, including 19 civilians, a provincial police chief told Associated Press. Five police officers were killed and more than 30 others wounded, he said.. Most of those killed and wounded were shopkeepers and young boys selling cigarettes and other goods in the street.

* Taliban rebels ambushed a police convoy in the eastern province of Khost, killing one policeman. NATO helicopters attacked them and killed 20 insurgents, AFP reported.

* Taliban fighters attacked a police checkpoint in the capital of Helmand province.

"Police returned fire at the insurgents and called for reinforcement," a police spokesman told Chinese news agency Xinhua. "Two hours' fierce fighting claimed 15 rebels and two policemen."

* A roadside bomb killed four policemen in Kandahar province.

The Taliban has learned the hard way not to mess with the ANA.

The Afghan National Army (ANA), Afghan border police and US special forces killed more than 150 fighters in a single operation in south eastern Paktika province this week.

"Last night, more than 350 fighters, most of them Pakistanis, entered Afghanistan from Pakistan, and attacked in the Barmal district of south-eastern Paktika province," Ghamai Khan Mohammed Yari told DPA in a telephone interview Wednesday. Afghan forces, aided by a coalition airstrike, "counter-attacked the militants and after one hour's fighting, more than 150 insurgents were killed, most of them Pakistani nationals."

"A driver with a truck full of explosive materials also was arrested by Afghan forces. The driver was from Pakistan," Yari added.

The 400

The Taliban claimed to have captured a provincial district in Ghazni province. They "captured" the same district in October. They stay long enough to call a newspaper with an announcement of the "capture". Then they run for the hills before government forces arrive to "re-capture" the district.

One district the Taliban no longer talk about is Garmsir in the south of Helmand province. Now we know why. Last week we told you how even pro-Taliban news stories in Pakistan acknowledge the Taliban has lost control of Garmsir in the wake of a concerted campaign by U.S. marines. This week Col. Peter Petronzio, the commander of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, said his men had killed "somewhere beyond 400" insurgents since May.

"The Taliban proved that they wanted to fight for Garmsir, and we took the fight to them," Petronzio said.

This week brought disturbing news of new Taliban tactics to disrupt the roads and supply lines of NATO forces in Afghanistan.

In Kandahar a powerful bomb was used to cut the main highway west of Kandahar City. Canadian forces had to rush their Quick Reaction Force of infantry and combat engineers to rebuild the road.

And on the same highway, a convoy of Afghan civilian fuel tankers was attacked with rocket propelled grenades. Five tankers were set on fire. A woman passerby was killed in the attack.

In Pakistan on Friday, local Taliban broke windows and punctured the tires of 22-wheeler trucks loaded with goods for NATO forces in Afghanistan.

And Sunday gunmen attacked an oil tanker in Laghman province in eastern Afghanistan, killing the driver. The burning tanker set fire to a passing minivan , killing six innocent people in the van.

While such sporadic attacks on fuel tankers are expensive and annoying, apart from the loss of innocent lives, the Taliban has been unable to recreate the progaganda coup of four months ago when they managed to destroy 36 tankers at a border parking lot.

There's so much more, but we'll stop now and pick up again in a few days. Hopefully we can resume a more regular schedule for our Afghanistan reports for the rest of the year.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Forget Crocus. Now its about S-E-X

Is a sex scandal about to engulf Manitoba premier Gary Doer?

That's one sentence we never imagined we would be writing.

But there it is. And the teflon premier has only his handpicked Minister for Healthy Living to thank.

It all started a week ago with a puff piece in the Winnipeg Free Press about Kerri Irvin-Ross and her amazing weight loss. She had, she said, lost 75 pounds and she was a new woman. "I walk taller." (Cue Burton Cummings music.)

Readers didn't know whether to be more shocked that the five-foot-eleven Irvin-Ross admitted to being 75 pounds overweight or to the surprise revelation deep in the story that her 17-year marriage had ended. And ended badly, according to official documents.

It turns out that Irvin-Ross was watching her marriage disintegrate even as she campaigned for re-election during the 2007 provincial election. Between knocking on doors, Irvin-Ross filed for a protection order against her husband five days before the election. (It was denied.)

And she told the court her husband called her bad names. Names like slut and whore, which, according to independent observers a.k.a. other women, address behaviour rather than character issues.

But behaviour with whom? Her husband never responded to her allegations in court filings. So it's left to the Legislature grapevine to offer up answers to the question.

One name is already leading the pack.

WFP healthy living columnist Shamona Harnett may have provided a clue with this odd side-note in her story:

"Within a year or so she managed to lose 50 pounds. (Irvin-Ross says rumours that someone in the premier's office asked her to lose weight are unfounded.)"

A rumour that "someone in the premier's office" is concerned about a cabinet minister's weight ? You don't say.

Kerri Irvin-Ross was appointed to be Healthy Living Minister in September, 2006 (not 2005 as the Free Press story said).

She was already losing weight, she told the FP, and she continued to sweat off the pounds in a 2007 Winnipeg Sun contest.

Would one of the NDP's strong women in cabinet be so shallow as to care that much about her public appearance? Damn right if there was a new man involved.

As usual, the question is what does it matter if a public official, or two, are having extramarital affairs? (Is it extra-extramarital if both parties are married?)

Bill Clinton wasn't impeached for his dalliance with Monica Lewinsky; he was impeached for lying under oath about his adultery. It's called perjury.
New York Governor Elliot Spitzer resigned over his involvement with a call-girl, but not because of the sex; because he spent taxpayer's money to facilitate his sex sessions. Bad boy.

Which raises the question in Manitoba, was public money used to bring boy and girl closer together? Did certain people travel together on the public dime? Were all those conferences necessary, or convenient?

Will this be only a dog-days of summer flash in the pan? Or has a fuse been lit which will burn all the way into the next session of the Legislature?

This is Manitoba. Forget about unwashed blue dresses. Follow the receipts.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Manitoba Tories to the poor: Freeze

Manitoba's Conservative Party demonstrated this weekend why they will never win an election in Manitoba.

More to the point, they demonstrated why they should never win an election in Manitoba.

Manitobans who heat their homes with natural gas are facing a 30 percent increase in their bills this coming winter. Heating is a necessity in Manitoba, not a luxury. The poorest Manitobans already have their thermostats turned as low as possible in the winter; a 30 percent hike in their heating costs will be devastating.

NDP leader Gary Doer wants to ease the blow, maybe by using record Hydro profits to subsidize natural gas users.

The Manitoba Conservatives, under leader Hugh McFadyen, say let the poor freeze. The Tories are opposed to helping them cover their heating bills by diverting Hydro money.

"We should not be using a renewable resource to promote a fossil fuel. It's unforgiveable," former NDP premier and universally ignored crank Ed Schreyer blazed to the Winnipeg Free Press.

To which Tory MLA and deputy Hydro critic Bonnie Mitchelson added; "That goes against everything environmental, every part of Kyoto."

In a deluded effort to attract left-wing voters to his dying party, Mcfadyen thinks becoming more fanatic about global warming is the way.

The poor, the weak and the elderly have no place in the P.C. vision of a green Manitoba. If you can't afford to cut your carbon output you deserve what you get. That's the Conservative way.

Manitoba Hydro is a publicly owned utility. The profits belong to the people of Manitoba, not to the government. If the people want to use their profits to pay for a portion of their heating bills, so be it.

But to Manitoba's McFadyenites, the little people are the enemy. An enemy which wants to take money away from the government. And the Tories will tell you the government is the rightful owner of Hydro profits.

Once Manitoba Conservatives would have called this reasoning lunacy. Under Hugh McFadyen, it's become policy.

Forget Stephane Dion, another of McFadyen's role models, the Manitoba Tories now have their own Green Shaft.


The only way politicians are able to dupe voters with fears of global warming is with the willing compliance of the press. Nothing proves this better than the coverage of economic news in the past week.

"Layoffs rock Manitoba's airline industry" screamed the headline on the Winnipeg Free Press business page Friday.

* 145 Air Canada flight attendants laid off.

* 78 maintenace workers laid off.

* 10 baggage handlers laid off.

* Concern is rising for the jobs of 83 Air Canada pilots stationed here.

And why?

"...rising jet fuel costs."

Air Canada is reducing its flights to cope.

Woe. Gloom. Sadness.

"Energy takes record bit out of consumer spending: report" topped the story from Canadian Press another day.

"The pain Canadians feel when they fill up at the gas pump or open their electricity or gas bills will only get worse as energy now consumes a record seven percent of Canadian household spending, says a new report."


"While consumers are trying to find ways to pay for the higher fuel costs, the big loser is Canadian industry, which is being hammered both from higher production costs and from the slowdown in the world and U.S. economies struggling to cope with the high fuel costs."

Looming layoffs. Depression. Fear.

"Job data reveals net loss" was how the Winnipeg Sun headlined its Saturday story on Canada's latest unemployment numbers.

"While the energy-rich western provinces continue to grow strongly, Ontario and Quebec have been battered by troubles in the forestry and auto sectors, which have been squeezed by the high loonie and the slumping U.S. economy. As well, a softening housing market is affecting construction employment."

"Reality may finally be catching up with the Canadian job market," said Douglas Porter, deputy chief economist with BMO Capital Markets.

But reality is exactly what's missing from these stories.

Not one of them includes any accountability from Stephane Dion, or Gary Doer, or any of the "green" priests who insist Canadians be forced to use less carbon fuels.

Not a single reporter thinks it is illuminating to ask these devotees of the "green" movement for their opinion of the unemployment, poverty and depression their policies are creating.

Why cry crocodile tears over Air Canada layoffs in Manitoba when the destruction of the air industry is exactly what you want to achieve.

Why decry unemployment in Ontario when destruction of the auto industry in Ontario is an inevitable outcome of what you preach.

The country's press doesn't ask these questions because they don't want the answers.

Here's a question you'll never see asked or answered in the Winnipeg Free Press or the Winnipeg Sun, or on CBC or CJOB.

Why is the NDP embracing anti-carbon measures that are guaranteed to raise costs, raise prices, raise heating bills, damage the economy, and worsen everyone's lives?

To save the planet, they'll say.

But the impact of everything the NDP intends to do in Manitoba will have exactly zero impact on world temperatures. Zero. Absolutely zero.

Everything that Gary Doer intends to stick Manitobans with, and Stephane Dion wants to hammer Canadians with, will be offset many times over in a single year by China, India, Brazil and every other developing country that wants to see economic progress and isn't bound by any artificial Kyoto limits.

So why hamstring Manitobans and Canadians when the end result is zero?

Because it's not about the climate of the Earth.

That's what reporters don't want to report.

All the "green" policies will be useless in affecting the Earth's climate, and politicians know it. King Canute knew he couldn't control nature a thousand years ago.

Have political leaders changed in a thousand years?

Dumber, maybe.

But their power over the earth, the wind, the sea and the stars is just the same. Zero.

So what's the game? It's age old.

Raise taxes and spend, spend, spend.

The Left has been chafing at the bit for a dozen years. Ever since they were forced to give up running deficits, they've been searching for a way to recover their control of the public purse. They've finally found a way.

Kyoto King Stephane Dion cloaks himself in "green" rhetoric. He wants to impose a carbon tax to force people to use less carbon fuels, he says.
It's necessary to save the planet.

But in the meantime, he'll just use the extra billions he'll raise from a carbon tax on social programs like:

- a universal child benefit (aka re-introducing children's allowances for the rich and middle class families);
- public transit (good high-paying union make-work construction jobs); and
- job programs to help the thousands who will be put out of their jobs in the private automobile, airline, and tourist industries for starters.

What a coincidence.

Who would have thought that saving the planet could fund left-wing social programs? Who, indeed?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

War in Afghanistan 2008 Mid-year Update

The drones are driving Pakistani villagers crazy.

All night they can hear the buzzing of the engines of U.S. unmanned aircraft --- and they don't like it one bit.

The Americans are filling the skies over the Afghan-Pakistan border with their Predator drones in a never-ending search for Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters. And that's got the villagers who shelter the fighters scared.

The Predators can stay in the air for up 24 hours -- with their high-tech cameras providing their handlers with invaluable intelligence. They're flying over the border villages so high by day they can't be seen, but by night they come lower and the sleepless villagers have to listen to their engines as they make their passes.

They carry two anti-tank Hellfire missiles each, with deadly consequences once the signal to shoot is sent. The villagers have big reason to be worried. The chickens are coming home to roost.

The Washington Post is reporting that Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is in Pakistan to “read the riot act” to the new government. In a nutshell, if Pakistan can't or won't do anything about Taliban camps and sanctuaries on the border with Afghanistan, the U.S. will.

Pakistan's governing coalition has proved itself incompetent in imposing any controls on Al Qaeda and Taliban militants in its lawless tribal region. While General Musharraf efforts were half-hearted, the new government isn't even pretending to put pressure on the insurgents. The insurgents are so emboldened they're threatening to take over Peshawar, the largest city nearest the tribal region.

This week a U.S. air strike wounded 11 people west of Wana, the central city of South Waziristan. Two vehicles were destroyed. Nine of the injured were security personnel. A message had been sent.

Last month air strikes, whether from planes or Predators is debated, killed 11 Pakistani soldiers who were assisting Taliban forces that fled from Afghanistan to safety across the border. The joke was on them. The Taliban's safety zone is shrinking.

The pressure on the Pakistan's tribal region is a good sign that the new commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan intends to build on the successes of his predessor. General David McKiernan took over from General Dan MacNeill in June.

MacNeill's tenure as head of ISAF will be hard to top. Arriving on the heels of a hapless British commander who was preparing to surrender large chunks of Afghanistan to the Taliban in so-called peace deals, MacNeill showed how a real general works.

* He decapitated the Taliban leadership through targetted air strikes, stopping a planned spring offensive dead in its tracks.

* He took the training of Afghan soldiers away from the incompetent Germans and built the ANA into a force that could, and did, defeat Taliban fighters foolish enough to challenge them head on.

* He recaptured Musa Qala, a village held under a 10-month reign of terror by the Taliban as a result of one of the British commander's peace deals.

* And in his final months, he moved to cut off infiltration routes through the Garmser district in Helmand province for Taliban reinforcements from Pakistan into Helmand where the British are in the thick of fighting and rebuilding efforts.

Did it work? Let the Taliban propaganda machine answer.

Syed Saleem Shahzad is Pakistan Bureau Chief for Asia Times Online and you can count on him to give the Taliban spin to every story. Here's what he wrote at the end of June:

"Earlier, the Taliban lost their grip in Helmand province in the face of a joint British and American offensive in Garmser, in the south of the province. With logistical difficulties and high casualties, the Taliban's reply was to move into Kandahar and Khost, rather than attempt to retain their positions in Helmand." (Islamabad blinks at Taliban threat, June 28, 2008, Asia Times Online.)

"The Kandahar jailbreak this month, a meticulously planned Taliban operation combining heavily armed fightes and suicide bombers, was the first operation since the switch from Helmand to Kandahar," he continued.

The jailbreak was a great publicity coup, and, as usual, it worked like a charm with the Western press. It had no strategic or tactical impact on the war, but the press built it up as a major defeat for NATO.

The reporters on the scene went so far as to predict the imminent collapse of Kandahar City and Kandahar air base in some imaginary Tet-like offensive. Reports of hundreds of Taliban fighters capturing scores of villages around Kandahar were front-page news. Until Afghan and Canadian forces easily marched into the villages and watched the Taliban fighters run like rabbits.

The most significant discovery of the two-day "crisis" was that half the Taliban army forces stationed in Kandahar ran away or otherwise proved ineffective in a real combat situation. But that's not the important part.

The important part is that the other half of the Afghan National Army forces were every bit the professionals we expected them to be. And they stood up to the Taliban and chased them out. If the insurgents can't stand up to half the Afghan troops in the area, what hope do they have when the other half is retrained or replaced by soldiers up to the calibre of the first half?

June, however, was a terrible month for NATO in Afghanistan. Coalition forces suffered 41 killed in combat or by IED's and roadside bombs. Last year (2007) the worst month for casualties was August with 30.

By the end of June, 110 coalition soldiers had been killed in Afghanistan in 2008. (We're counting combat-related deaths only, not suicides and accidents which are included in press totals.)

The number killed in 2007 by the end of June was 83.

NATO and the separate U.S. command suffered 189 combat deaths in Afghanistan in 2007.

Canada has recorded eight combat-related dead in Afghanistan in the first six months of the year. In 2007, there were 26 combat fatalities for the entire year.

The United Nations said almost 700 civilians are known to have been killed in Afghanistan in the first six months of 2008, a rise of 62 percent from the the 430 deaths recorded in the same time frame in '07. The UN says the Taliban is responsible for at least 60 percent of civilian deaths. The terrorist toll is climbing weekly as the scores killed in recent suicide bombings are not yet counted.

Stories from Afghanistan usually end with the stock paragraph:

At least (fill in the number) people-- mostly militants - have died in insurgency-related violence in 2008. The most recent number is 2100.

But remember that in 2007 at least 8000 people were killed as a result of the fighting. If 2100 reflects half the year, then an annual toll of double that, 4200, would still be a phenomenal decrease in casualties from 2007 and a huge measure of success for coalition forces.