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

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Cruickshank Redemption

The CBC is about to learn the fundamental lesson of political scandals---it ain't the crime that kills ya, it's the cover-up.

CBC Publisher John Cruickshank confessed the crime a week ago. One of the corporation's Parliamentary reporters, Krista Erickson, collaborated with the Liberal Party on questions for former P.M. Brian Mulroney at a meeting of the Commons Ethics Committee.

Cruickshank fiercely rejected any allegations of partisanship by the CBC. HOW DARE YOU, he snarled at anyone suggesting such a thing. The poor girl was just trying to get a scoop and went about it the wrong way. She needs more training, and the CBC, gosh darn it, will give it to her. In Toronto.

For almost a week Cruickshank tried to cram the genie back into the bottle, but then lawyers for Mulroney popped the cork with a letter
http://www.tmcnet.com/usubmit/2008/01/25/3231743.htm to the chairman of the ethics committee, Liberal MP Paul Szabo, containing this sentiment:

"...given the way the proceedings have unfolded thus far, any reasonable observer must conclude that very serious breaches of fairness have occurred and that a lack of appearance of impartiality and instances of actual bias already jeopardize the reliability and objectivity of the Committee's ultimate report."

The letter pulled no punches. (emphasis ours)

"Indeed, a number of glaring violations of the most basic rules of fairness and natural justice have already occurred in the Committee's treatment of Mr. Mulroney."

"Thus, during Mr. Mulroney's appearance on December 13, 2007, certain questions were asked of him by a member of the Committee (which questions we later learned had been provided to him by a member of the media) that clearly fell outside the scope of the mandate of the Committee as you yourself set it out at the outset of the hearing..."

... "Permitting those questions to be posed amounted to the clearest breach of natural justice conceivable."


And suddenly, the CBC was pulled right back into the middle of a debate over bias and partisanship on Parliament Hill.

Or, more accurately, CBC Publisher John Cruickshank has joined Krista Erickson in the soup. **************

Exactly one week ago Cruickshank issued a terse open letter responding to a complaint about the collusion between Erickson and the Liberals, the gist of which read:

"Following an investigation by senior management of CBC News, we have determined that our reporter Krista Erickson did, in fact, provide questions to a Member of Parliament in the lead up to the Ethics Committee meeting in December."

The Black Rod immediately pointed out (
http://blackrod.blogspot.com/2008/01/cbcs-coaching-plan-for-errant-krista.html) that Cruickshank failed to answer credibly, if at all, even the most rudimentary questions about the collusion---who, what, where, when and why. After a couple of days to mull it over, Cruickshank published a lengthy apologia on his blog http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/editorsblog/ where, in a much less belligerent tone, he gave out a few more details as he tried to protect the battered reputation of the CBC.

"When, as in the present instance, it is revealed that a reporter has been collaborating, even if only obliquely, with one party or another, an appearance of partisanship emerges that cannot be dispelled by claims that this is how political reporters interact with their sources.

In this case, our reporter provided questions to two Liberal MPs using her BlackBerry in the hope that these would be put to the former prime minister during the committee hearings.

I accept the reporter's explanation that she did not do this to advantage the Liberals or hurt the Conservatives - that she just wanted answers for her story.

She believed it was permissible to create a temporary alliance of convenience with the Liberals if it would help determine whether Brian Mulroney had lobbied a Tory minister on a recent matter.

But in this kind of information sharing, reporters can become part of the story they are covering, which is not our role. Any time a reporter plants a question and covers the results, they are deceiving their audience about their detachment and fairness.

For our reporters, this makes cultivating sources problematic. We can't make deals that leave us beholden either to members of the government or any opposition party.
We have to stand apart. Our mandate demands it and our audience, the people of Canada, deserve it."

"Two Liberal MPs" ?

Tut, tut, Mr. Cruickshank. The first rule of cover-up is keep the story straight as long as you can.

Then there's the obvious question-- who else at the CBC knew that Cruickshank was going to issue a misleading public letter last Monday? Misleading, hell. It was false and deceptive.

Cruickshank said senior management investigated the collusion allegations. Did senior management know that Cruickshank was going to hide the existence of a second Liberal MP in his public response? It's time we learned the names of the senior managers who were part of the investigation and who may have approved Cruickshank's "modified limited hangout", to scalp a phrase from another political scandal.

Everbody had been assuming Krista's dance partner was Pablo Rodriguez, the francophone Liberal MP who appeared at the ethics committee out of the blue (he's not a member) and asked Krista's questions---in English.

Who would the second Liberal MP be? Just as the Blogosphere outed Krista Erickson weeks before the CBC, a name is floating up.

http://www.smalldeadanimals.com/archives/007897.html#comments

... I had the same question...who was the second MP?
If it was Paul Szabo, the committee chair, then he must be removed as the chair of this committee immediately for allowing the committee's business to be hijacked for purely partisan purposes.
Posted by: john g at January 24, 2008 4:52 PM
http://www.smalldeadanimals.com/archives/007897.html#comments

John Cruickshank knows. But he's not telling. Despite all his protestations that the CBC must act transparently, he's chosen to protect the corporation's collaborators.

"Our very mandate is to provide Canadians with a view of their political life unobstructed by bias. To do that, we must be detached from partisan interest, and professional and dispassionate in all aspects of our reporting. We must be seen to be all these things as well." he wrote on his blog.

What the public sees is a cover-up.

Cruickshank MUST identify the two Liberal MPs who conspired with CBC reporter Krista Erickson. If one of them is Paul Szabo, then Szabo MUST resign as chairman of the ethics committee before hearings resume.

If Erickson was in touch with Paul Szabo, it means this wasn't just a "third-rate burglary"---oops, wrong scandal---just a minor flirtation with the Liberal party by a CBC employee. It means it was a carefully planned ambush.


Rodriguez would ask the questions,
Szabo would overrule any objections, and
Erickson would do a story for the CBC news.
As easy as one-two-three.

But we can't stop there.

***************

As we said, it's been assumed that Krista Erickson sent her questions to Pablo Rodriguez, but Cruickshank has never confirmed that. What if Rodriguez is not one of her collaborators? Is there another likely suspect?

There is.


Exploring the possibility, we returned to Krista Erickson's Nov. 29, 2007, original story on The National into allegations that Brian Mulroney lobbied illegally on behalf of Quebecor.

We almost fell out of our chairs at what we saw.

The story by Krista Erickson runs 4:03--- and is a classic CBC hatchet job. This girl doesn't need more training. She's got the routine pat.

The story starts with CBC News God Peter Mansbridge reading the intro, which begins "... another story tonight, one that has nothing to do with Karlheinz Schrieber."

Erickson starts her story with a clip of Prime Minister Stephen Harper announcing he was suspending all dealings with Brian Mulroney until the Murloney-Schrieber issue is resolved.

"That raised this question--what dealings did Harper's government have with Brian Mulroney." she asks accusingly.

"And that was what the Liberals wanted to know more about in the House of Commons today. They asked specifically about yesterday's decision by the government. to open up the wirelss industry to more competiton." continues Erickson.

She inserts a clip of a Liberal MP in Question Period:

"Were there any meetings, conversations, communications, or contacts of any kind with any ministers or federal officials arranged or facilitated directly or indirectly by Brian Mulroney or any of Brian Mulroney's associates?"

Then the hammer drops.

"But CBC News has learned Mulroney did play an active role in bringing together a cabinet minister previously in charge of the file and the CEO of one of the companies that could benefit from yesterday's decision."

It turns out "sources say" Murloney, who sits on the Quebecor board, was chatting with Industry Minister Maxime Bernier when he reminded him Quebecor Media believes the government should allow new players into the telecom sector, something "sources say" Bernier opposed.

Erickson reports Murloney didn't argue the point and just asked Bernier to meet with Quebecor. "Sources say" a meeting happened; in fact, Bernier met with reps of all the telecom companies--- before he was given another portfolio and another minister made the telecom decision.

From this gossamer thin account, based on unnamed sources, of an alleged chat, an alleged statement, and open consultations with all the telecoms, the CBC concocted a law-breaking secret meeting that, coincidentally we're sure, links Brian Mulroney with the Harper government.

To bolster her argument, Erickson declared lobbying rules state that any member of a board of directors who arranges a meeting with a government minister must be registered and---drum roll---"Mulroney is not a registered lobbyist."

The final swipe comes from Doug Conacher "of the public ethics advisory group Democracy Watch" who warns Krista that "Secret lobbying is a recipe for corruption, waste and abuse of the public interest. The registrar should be investigating in terms of violation of the lobbyists code of conduct."

A serious Krista Erickson looks into the camera and declares:

"Tonight the office of the registrar of lobbyists says it will review the matter to determine if an investigation should take place. Meanwhile, more light has been shed in the relationship between Brian Mulroney and the Harper government. It's long been known that the former prime minister had a relationship with the Conservatives as an informal political advisor. Now, it seems that relationship may have included business matters as well."

It's obvious now who those secret "sources" for Krista Erickson's story were.

Gimme an ELL.

Gimme an EYE.

Gimme an BEE.

Gimme an EEE.

You can spell out the rest.

We can see today why John Cruickshank is refusing to name the Liberals that Krista called.

If those two (or more) Liberal MPs turn out to be the sources of her Nov. 29 story, it means the CBC was colluding with the Opposition on a partisan story for weeks before the ethics committee meeting.


It means there has been a longstanding "understanding" between the CBC and the Liberals that transcends "a temporary alliance of convenience."

It means the cover-up goes much, much deeper than imagined.

Before going to air with a story based on "sources", the reporter would have to reveal their identities to someone in a management position. Note, also, that Krista used the plural, so there was more than one source.

That means a producer knew Nov. 29, 2007, who Krista was collaborating with on a story clearly designed to link the governing Conservative Party to a scandal involving Brian Mulroney. Who was this producer?

And we have to assume that Peter Mansbridge knew who the sources were as well, given how he was putting his credibility on the line by introducing the story.

The moment a CBC reporter's collusion with Liberals at the ethics committee hearing was revealed, many people at the corporation knew who it was. Again we insist that Cruickshank explain how Krista Erickson was identified. Did she confess immediately?

Or did she try to ride it out until someone finked. Were Peter Mansbridge and the unknown producer prepared to hide the name of the most likely suspect as long as possible?

Cruickshank knows. Until he releases the names of Krista's Liberal Party contacts, the cloud over the CBC will only get darker.

"When, as in the present instance, it is revealed that a reporter has been collaborating, even if only obliquely, with one party or another, an appearance of partisanship emerges that cannot be dispelled by claims that this is how political reporters interact with their sources." he blogged.

If a CBC reporter uses MPs as unnamed sources in a story, isn't that as serious a breach of company policy as secretly providing questions to MPs? Is the only difference here that Krista Erickson got caught doing the latter, and the CBC was a willing participant in the former?

If it turns out that the CBC collaborated with the same Liberal MPs twice, why shouldn't we believe that the CBC was acting as the propaganda arm of the Liberal Party in November and the Liberals returned the favour by acting as the political arm of the CBC two weeks later?

And let's not lose sight of just who the link between Erickson's original story and her ethics committee escapade might be.

In her story, she carried a clip from a Liberal MP in Question Period.

None other than Scott Brison. Brison has a long and comfortable behind-the-scenes relationship with the CBC.

Highlighted by his hiring veteran CBC Radio Parliamentary reporter Susan Murray as his press secretary a few years ago.

Did one longstanding CBC contact grease the wheels for a new alliance with a fresh Parliamentary reporter?

Is CBC Publisher Cruickshank covering-up Krista Erickson's contact with Scott Brison?

Unless he's stricken with conscience and coughs up the names of her Blackberry friends, we may never know. And the CBC will never be cleared of the taint of bias and partisanship.

We've seen how heavy hitters in the mainstream media like Maclean's columnist Paul Wells and CTV's Mike Duffy tried to run defence for the CBC by claiming that its common practice for reporters to pass along questions for politicians to use against other politicians.

Cruickshank refuses to play along. He stated on his blog:

"Some people have suggested that this kind of interplay between reporter and politician is normal practice in parliamentary reporting, the kind of give-and-take that goes on in the cultivation of sources and pursuit of information. Others condemn it as unethical and unprofessional."

"From the beginning, members of the CBC radio and television news operation on Parliament Hill took the position that what happened in this case was neither normal nor in keeping with the practices to which they are committed."

Still, its apparent that the mainstream media are not treating this as a legitimate news story, not even on par with the death of Heath Ledger.

For years they've intruded into private lives claiming it was in the public interest.

Now, despite their vast advantage in access to politicians and working reporters, they have devoted no resources to uncovering the facts of this political scandal, leaving that to bloggers.

It was the Blogosphere that first identified Krista Erickson as the reporter working with the Liberals (the CBC was prepared to hide her identity behind the excuse "it's a personnel matter.")

And it's only on the Blogosphere that anyone will learn that the CBC explanation of the incident has materially changed (one MP, two MPs, what's the difference, eh?)

Winnipeg Free Press columnist Dan Lett this week became the only mainstream journalist in the country to admit the obvious. In a newspaper-sponsored blog, he wrote:

"
In the mainstream media, there is an unwritten rule that demands that we not waste space writing about other media outlets. It's not universally respected, of course, but in general there is an "honor among thieves" philosophy that says, "I got my say, and you get your say." It's generally frowned upon if columnists begin to take each other on by name in their columns, or if one newspaper devotes a front-page story denouncing another media outlet.

The blogosphere, on the other hand, is often dominated by commentary about how mainstream news organizations missed stories, or did bad stories, or spelled stuff wrong, or made mistakes in fact. Fair enough - there is no purpose in denying that all that happens.

But IMHO, it doesn't make for compelling content, whether it's on a blog or not."


It's an astonishing admission.

Lett confesses that where the Blogosphere cares whether news organizations get their facts wrong, he, and presumably the Winnipeg Free Press, doesn't. It just "doesn't make for compelling content."

We'll leave the final word to Ouimet, allegedly a CBC manager who blogs on a site she calls The Tea Makers.

On Friday she linked to John Cruickshank's latest update into the Krista Erickson affair. We suspect she voices what CBC insiders, who can see where this is leading, think to themselves.

http://teamakers.blogspot.com/
Friday, January 25, 2008
The Sidecar: TV feeds my family
Cruickshank: "A temporary alliance of convenience with the Liberals" involving 2 MPs, the second one still unnamed, at least for now http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/editorsblog/2008/01/we_have_to_stand_apart.html

I kind of wish he'd just be quiet.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

War in Afghanistan 2008 Week 4

While Canada's news agencies this week fixated on the Manley Report on Canada's mission to Afghanistan, they completely missed the big news---the Taliban insurgency is splintering into pieces right under our noses.

Asia Times Online reported Thursday that highly placed contacts in the Taliban told them that "Mullah Omar has sacked his own appointed leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, the main architect of the fight against Pakistani security forces, and urged all Taliban commanders to turn their venom against North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces."

Then Omar's choice to replace Mehsud, Pakistan Taliban leader Moulvi Faqir Mohammed, turned him down.

Last month Mullah Omar fired Mansoor Dadullah as the chief commander of insurgents in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, the birthplace of the Taliban. And that announcement came a week or two after a key Taliban commander in the Helmand town of Musa Qala, which had been held by the Taliban for 10 months, defected, leading to the recapture of Musa Qala by British-led forces.

There's big trouble in Taliban-land.

It's like seeing the removal of the Taliban's defence minister and foreign minister after a mutiny in the army.

The so-called resurgent Taliban is not a monolithic force. While Mullah Omar is ostensibly the head of the Taliban, his power has been waning. In the southern provinces, Omar gives the orders to Taliban commanders, but he's made alliances with drug smugglers who pay Taliban fighters to protect their poppy fields in Helmand and Kandahar and whose priorities may not always be the same as Omar's.

In the north, the insurgency is predominently commanded by former warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who can't decide whether to be an Islamic jihadist or a politician. Sensing which way the military wind was blowing, Hekmatyar pulled out of the Feared Taliban Spring Offensive of 2007, preferring to tease the Kabul government with hints of changing sides instead of ducking American Hellfire missiles. Hekmatyar has strong ties to Iran.

Insurgents in the east of Afghanistan are run by Jalalludin Haqqani, the last of the prominent Mujahideen commanders who fought the Soviets. Haqqani was closely tied to Mullah Dadullah, the Taliban's overall commander-in-chief who was supposed to spearhead the capture of Kandahar, the Taliban's spiritual home. Until the British killed him last year, that is.

Increasingly, though, it looks like Haqqani's son Sirajuddin has become the driving force of the insurgency in the east, if not the whole of Afghanistan. Sirajuddin and other Young Turks like Baitullah Mehsud have embraced Al Qaeda and its nihilist jihadi philosophy. They are elbowing aside the old men like Mullah Omar and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar who, in their eyes, have failed to do much.

Waliullah Rahmani, a correspondent for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and an analyst who covers terrorism and related issues for the Jamestown Foundation, has written that Mullah Omar didn't want to appoint Mansoor Dadullah as the successor to his brother, Mullah Dadullah. "But Al Qaeda supported the Mullah Mansoor leadership style. They wanted a brutal commander to lead their Neo-Taliban. Al Qaida wanted to replace Mullah Dadullah with someone who would act like Zarqawi had in Iraq. This shows that there is a wide rift between the Taliban and Al Qaida." wrote Rahmani.

Similarly, Mullah Omar appeared onside a month ago when 40 Taliban leaders from tribal areas in Pakistan met and appointed Baitullah Mehsud as their Central Amir, as reported in the Pakistani paper Dawn.

"The sole objective of the Shura meeting was to unite the Taliban against Nato forces in Afghanistan and to wage a 'defensive jihad' against Pakistani forces here," Baitullah's spokesman Maulvi Omar said at the time.

But Mullah Omar may have sensed what would happen. Mehsud, inspired by Al Qaeda, declared war on Pakistan, declaring he would impose shariah law and launching suicide attacks that have killed 600 people this year already. Mehsud promised to kill Benazir Bhutto, and did.

His first attack on her homecoming procession in October demonstrated his evil. The bomb that exploded killing Bhutto's supporters was planted in the clothes of a baby being held up for the former prime minister to embrace. Bhutto told the Washington Times she had gestured for the man holding the baby to come closer. "It was about 1 or 2 years old, and I think it was a girl," she said.

But if Mullah Omar excused that depravity, he couldn't overlook Mehsud's latest misstep. On Jan. 6, Uzbek gunmen sent by Mehsud killed eight tribal leaders at a government-sponsored peace meeting. The attack has sparked a tribal war in the Taliban-friendly tribal region of Pakistan.

Hundreds of armed tribesmen met at Wana, the main town in South Waziristan, to form a militia and hunt down those involved in the killing.

In a preview of what's to come, last year, tribesmen,incensed that foreign fighters tried to kill a tribal elder, killed about 300 Uzbeks and other foreigners.

With Pakistani army troops sweeping South Waziristan to kill Mehsud and his followers, and tribal warfare breaking out, Mullah Omar knows his forces have nowhere to go over the winter. Usually they go to safe havens in Pakistan to rest and rearm for the spring offensive. The turmoil in Pakistan makes the next spring offensive a dicey proposition, even if Mullah Omar can marshall the forces to concentrate on fighting in the south.

It was a relatively quiet, albeit deadly week in Afghanistan.

* In what may be a new tack, Taliban forces attacked NATO supply lines and civilian contractors.

In the Gereshk district of Helmand, six trucks carrying construction material were destroyed, four drivers and two security guards were killed. In Pakistan's southwest province of Balochistan, oil tankers headed to Kandahar air field were attacked by Taliban raiders.

Two NATO soldiers died this week, bringing the coalition death toll to 10 in 3 weeks. A British soldier was killed and five soldiers wounded when their vehicle hit a mine almost two miles northeast of Musa Qala. And Canadian Sapper Etienne Gonthier, 21 was killed Wednesday while on a mine-clearing operation.

The National Post said soldiers "had been engaged in a road-clearing exercise about 35 kilometres southwest of Kandahar City in the western reaches of Panjwaii district. The improvised explosive device detonated at 1:40 p.m. while bulldozers and troop carriers were trying to clear a safe route through Panjwaii district."

On Tuesday, five civilians-one woman, one child and three men--- were killed by a roadside bomb in Kandahar when it blew up their car.

* The Canadian military is tiptoeing ahead to tackle the IED campaign that is causing almost all the casualties to Canadian forces in Kanadahar. Canadian Press reports that earlier this week "the Department of Defence put out a contract tender for developing miniature "Remote Neutralization Vehicles."

The contract tender, which closes on Feb. 7, is presumably for mine-clearing robots. The department hopes to deply two. Sometime in the future.


U.S. forces have been using IED-detecting robots in Afghanistan and Iraq for years. The robots have found 10,000 roadside bombs according to CBS News. There are currently 1000 combat robots serving with troops in those two countries.

CP lays out the extent of the problem facing Canadian troops. According to a combat engineer interviewed by CP, the heavy machines added to the anti-IED capability last fall turned up about 17 roadside bombs in the first three months of use.

In the first seven months of 2007 coalition forces encountered 150 explosions. Another 150 bombs were defused.

But here's the most infuriating paragraph of the CP story:
"When roadside bombs are detected by clearing squads, it sometimes falls to soldiers themselves to approach the explosive device and detonate it. Then someone would try to gather information from the debris about the bomb."

WE'RE SENDING SAPPERS LIKE ETIENNE GONTHIER TO RISK THEIR LIVES EXAMINING BOMBS AT CLOSE RANGE?

This isn't CSI Panjwaii where we have the time patientally to track down the mad bomber. Blow the IED's up at long range, then set up an ambush for the next team that comes to plant bombs. That's logic talking.

* Elsewhere on the ground last week, American forces watched Taliban gather for a mass attack on a base in Kunar province. The Yanks opened fire with mortars, artillery and helicopter gunships and in a 21 hour battle killed a couple of dozen insurgents or more.

But in Ghazni province two days later, aggressive action by U.S. forces may have killed nine Afghan police officers by accident. The U.S. initially said they came up against a Taliban squad of fighters. Afghan government authorities said the dead turned out to be police.

Taliban commanders continue to send suicide bombers against coalition forces, with diminishing success.

A would-be suicide bomber fell down a flight of stairs and blew himself up as he was leaving a building in Khost province, apparently to target an opening ceremony for a mosque that was expected to be attended by Afghan and international military officials.

Two civilian women and a man were injured in the explosion.

Two days earlier another suicide bomber killed himself and three companions when the bomb in his waistcoat exploded as he was putting it on in the town of Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province.

* And finally, it was amazing to watch political pundits pontificate about one of the key recommendations of the Manley Report without having the first clue about the subject.

In the report, the independent panel headed by former Liberal cabinet minister John Manley said Canada should demand NATO allies send at least 1000 more troops to Kandahar to support Canadian soldiers.

The pundits all moaned and groaned about the impossibility of that goal.

The facts:

The United States is sending 3200 additional troops to Afghanistan for at least seven months. The bulk of that force, 2200 will be in Helmand province where, we presume, they will be assigned to help the British provide security for the vital Kajaki Dam project which is a year behind schedule. The other 1000 will help train Afghan forces.

Canadian forces already being supported by Nepal's famous Gurkhas. About 500 Gurkhas are based at the Kandahar Airfield, but move around to support troops in other provinces in the south. Another 150 Gurkhas are in Helmand province, supporting British forces.

A big benefit with Gurkha troops is communication with locals. Most Gurkhas speak Hindi, a language very close to Urdu, a Pakistani language spoken by many Afghans.

Between 80-100 elite special forces (GROM) from Poland are already stationed in Kandahar. "GROM" is an acronym for "Grupa Reagowania Operacyjno-Manewrowego"--in English, "Operational Mobile Reaction Group" Grom is also Polish for "thunder."

The Poles have another 1200 soldiers stationed in eastern Afghanistan. Poland recently announced it would add 400 soldiers and eight helicopters.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, other NATO countries are picking up some of the military weight, possibly freeing U.S. troops to move south.

Norway is adding 250 troops. 100 infantry and two or three helicopters will reinforce their base near the northern city of Maymana, while 150 special forces troops will be based in the Kabul region. Defense Minister Anne-Grethe Stroem-Erichsen said the special forces could be used to back up wherever they were needed with the Norwegian government's approval. In addition Norway is providing 50 trainers to work with Afghan police and army.

Even France and Germany are bolstering their contingents. France is sending 150 military experts into the south to train Afghan army units. Germany is to deploy 250 additional soldiers in northern Afghanistan this summer, and Rainer Arnold, of the co- ruling Social Democratic Party (SPD) told the Passauer Neue Presse, the new troops will be used for combat unlike other German soldiers who are stationed in Mazar-i Sharif. The German contingent is to replace a 350-men Norwegian rapid reaction force which is to withdraw by July, according to Arnold.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

CBC's coaching plan for errant Krista Erickson

The CBC is learning the hard way about the law of unintended consequences.

John Cruickshank, CBC Publisher (his grandiose title, not ours), must have thought he had cleverly disposed of that pesky Krista Erickson problem with a one-page public letter released Monday. Until, that is, it came back to bite him on the arse.

Yes, he wrote, Erickson did "collude" with the Liberal Party by providing questions to one of their MPs so they could, before the televised Parliamentary ethics committee, link former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to the current Conservative government.

But she did it with the best of intentions--"in pursuit of a journalistically legitimate story."

However, since she technically breached a section of the CBC's policy handbook, she was being reassigned from Parliament Hill to Toronto, he wrote. But then he crossed the proverbial bridge too far.

"Given the potential risk to the journalistic credibility of our Ottawa Bureau, its reporters, and CBC News generally, we have chosen on an exceptional basis to make the detailed outcome of our disciplinary process available to you (the Conservative Party), our employees and the public at large."

Don't break your wrist patting yourself on the back, John.

Far from restoring the credibility of CBC News, the Corporation's handling of the Erickson affair has managed to shred that credibility to tatters.

For starters, it confirmed the cozy relationship between the CBC and the Liberal Party, something everybody in the news business knew, but which the CBC always denied until now.

But, but. but...wasn't Krista acting on her own without CBC approval?

Well, that's what Cruickshank says---without an iota of evidence provided to Canadians to back up that contention. We're supposed to take his word for it.

Well here's a word --- NO.

"When this initially came out, it was a suggestion it was several people, that this was a sign of CBC bias and everybody in the Ottawa bureau, everybody in CBC News, wants to make it clear this is not a sign of bias or unprofessionalism at all. This was an exceptional incident that we dealt with very quickly." Cruickshank told Canadian Press.

The Black Rod highlighted http://blackrod.blogspot.com/2008/01/cbc-to-canadians-sure-krista-helped.html the many, many questions that are unanswered by Cruickshank's missive, including some he alludes to in his comment to CP. They can be summarized as Who, What, Where, When and Why.

And even more questions have arisen from the stories that flowed from the CBC's reponse to the formal complaint about the collusion with the Liberals.

Almost all of the stories assumed that Krista provided her questions to Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez who asked her questions on TV. But the CBC's Cruickshank refuses to name Krista's Liberal Party contact.

He only says Krista provided questions to "a Member of Parliament" with no party designation, indicative of a continuing sweetheart association between the CBC and the Liberals where the CBC does its best to cushion any criticism of the Grits.

The CBC still refuses to report how the Liberals continue to deceive Canadians by denying they received any questions from any reporter at the CBC.

Maybe Pablo isn't Erickson's boy after all and Cruickshank is laughing up his sleeve as reporters make an incorrect assumption. Or maybe Pablo is the Liberal that Krista Erickson was dating, according to one of our sources. Does pillow talk count as Principles, Section 3's " association or contact which could reasonably give rise to perceptions of partiality"?

To CBC defenders the Cruickshank letter was a bitter pill. For more than a month they had been dismissing the collusion allegations as a non-story with the line "everybody does it." Indeed, even after the CBC said Krista Erickson broke the rules and was being disciplined, the defence refused to rest.

The Winnipeg Free Press ended their story (Former city CBC TV anchor stripped of post, Jan. 22, 2008, attributed to Staff/Canwest) with this paragraph:

"Ottawa insiders say some MPs had sympathy for her. They felt she was being singled out for a practice to some degree long used by political reporters and by all political parties."

This explanation is so persistent that the CBC can't escape its implications.

If so many political reporters routinely and secretly feed questions to politicians, how many work for the CBC?

What steps has the CBC taken to weed out these illegitimate contacts? Will they be asking each of their Parlimentary reporters for a list of who they gave questions to, when and why?

This is more than an academic question. Indeed it is vital for the CBC's credibility. Call it the Susan Murray effect.

Susan Murray covered Parliament Hill for CBC Radio for years before quitting in 2004 to become the communications director for Liberal cabinet minister Scott Brison. Did she have an epiphany the day after she left the CBC that took her into Brison's employ? Or did she slant stories the Liberal way for years before she left?

Oh, yes, she would have been "acting on her own", as Cruickshank wrote in his Krista Erickson apologia.

"The bottom line is, providing questions or suggesting questions to a member of Parliament is simply not a proper role for a journalist...Journalists should report on events. They should not try to influence them," according to Duncan McMonagle, a journalism instructor at Red River College where--surprise, surprise--Krista Erickson studied her craft (CBC reassigns wayward Krista, Winnipeg Sun, Jan. 22.)

And how narrow is the CBC's policy book ban on "associations or contacts which could reasonably give rise to perceptions of partiality." Would that include the Parliamentary Press Gallery which is openly in opposition to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and which has aligned itself with the Opposition parties in an entente cordial (http://blackrod.blogspot.com/2007/02/revealed-parliamentary-press-gallerys.html)

where they all agreed to support the press gallery in its fight against the P.M.?

Taking sides is taking sides, n'est-ce pas?

Krista Erickson, meanwhile, is being given the help the CBC thinks she needs. While there has been much speculation, particularly on the Blogosphere, that she would be going to CBC Sports and rewarded with a trip to the Olympics in China, that's not the plan, according to Cruickshank.

He told Canwest news "the moment we heard and confirmed what had happened, we took the reporter off the story and moved her to a place where she can get more coaching."

Erikson, he told the news agency, is going from the parliamentary bureau in Ottawa to Toronto, where she will continue to be a national reporter.

How's that for credibility?

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Monday, January 21, 2008

CBC to Canadians: Sure Krista helped the Liberals ambush Mulroney. Get over it.

Well, isn't that just too precious.

The CBC has investigated itself and found itself guilty--of trying too hard.

Today CBC Publisher John Cruickshank issued a terse and self-serving reply to the Conservative Party regarding a complaint about "collusion" (Cruickshank uses the quotation marks) between a CBC reporter and the Liberal Party of Canada at the Mulroney/Schreiber hearings in Ottawa.

"Following an investigation by senior management of CBC News, we have determined that our reporter Krista Erickson did, in fact, provide questions to a Member of Parliament in the lead up to the Ethics Committee meeting in December."

She may have breached CBC News policies and procedures (specifically Principles, Sec.3), said Cruickshank, but she did it for the best of reasons--"while in pursuit of a journalistically legitimate story" and from her own "journalistic zeal."

All together now: AHHH.

Releasing this response on the eve of the Manley Report on Canada's mission to Afghanistan, the CBC hopes it will be buried quickly and that the crass insinuations of political bias will be squelched once and for all.

NOT

SO FAST.
Cruickshank concedes that Krista Erickson's actions could cause a reasonable person to reasonably believe there was partisan bias at the CBC. He cites Principles, Sec. 3:

"Credibility is dependent not only on qualities such as accuracy and fairness in reporting and presentation, but also upon avoidance by both the organization and its journalists of associations or contacts which could reasonably give rise to perceptions of partiality. Any situation which could cause reasonable apprehension that a journalist or the organization is biased or under the influence of any pressure group, whether ideological, political, financial, social or cultural, must be avoided."

But, says Cruickshank, the conspiracy between Krista Erickson and the Liberals was entirely innocent

"Our investigation determined there was no bias in related news coverage. However, our reporter, acting on her own, used inappropriate tactics as a result of journalistic zeal, rather than partisan interest."

The last time anyone tried that line was when CBS cleared itself of political bias for using forged documents to smear George Bush during the 2004 presidential election campaign. Dan Rather and his producer were simply honest journalists too competitive for their own good, declared CBS, just prior to firing producer Mary Mapes and assigning Dan Rather to watch his career go down the toilet.

At the CBC, they decided to discipline Krista Erickson by reassigning her to Toronto, where collaboration with the Liberals carries no stigma.

Did we say Liberals? That's interesting, because nowhere in Cruickshank's response does he identify Krista's fellow conspirator as a member of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Is this an example of a full, honest and transparent response to a complaint?

But then the CBC is bending over backwards to protect the Liberals from criticism. A reasonable person might reasonably suspect some partisanship at play.

The CBC, knowing full well that its reporter DID conspire with a Liberal MP, said NOTHING as the Liberals lied to the public and denied any such association. One can only ask why the cover-up?

But, then, Cruickshank's response answers NONE of the questions that need to be answered before the CBC can reclaim its credibility.

Let's go down the checklist that even the greenist journalism student knows.

WHO?
The CBC identifies Krista Erickson as the "overzealous" reporter, even though the Blogosphere identified her weeks ago. But that's just a start.

* Did Erickson confess her involvement immediately? Or was she outed?
* Did her cameraman tell someone? Did her producer? Did a fellow reporter?
* Did she alert someone to watch the hearings carefully because something interesting might happen? And who was told first? Who was told next?
* How did the information go up the ladder? And how fast?
* If the CBC knew Krista Erickson was colluding with the Liberals from the day the story broke on Mike Duffy Live, why didn't they immediately contradict the denials from the Liberals?
* Who made that decision?

There was an investigation by "senior management." Who is "senior management?" How many people does that encompass?

WHAT?
The CBC says Krista "did, in fact, provide questions" to a Liberal M.P. Well, what questions?

In England, the BBC conducted an inquiry (the Hutton Inquiry) into the shoddy reporting of their employee Andrew Gilligan who invented the story that the government "sexed up" intelligence reports to justify invading Iraq. The 2004 inquiry discovered that Gilligan e-mailed questions to a Member of Parliament to ask a crucial witness appearing before the foregin affairs committee. The Hutton Inquiry report published the e-mails so the public could read for themselves the exact questions Gilligan wanted asked. Why doesn't the CBC do the same?

WHEN?
When did Erickson provide her Liberal Party contact with her questions? The reporter who broke the collusion story said he knew what questions would be asked of Brian Mulroney the night before the ethics committee hearing. Did Krista provide her questions to the Liberals that night? Or that afternoon? Or the day before? Or...when?

WHERE?
Where was she when she phoned her Liberal pointman? Did she call from the CBC offices? Was she outside parked in a CBC vehicle? Was she at home using her own phone? Or was the story that she phoned in her questions wrong? Was she there in person with the Liberals helping them hone her questions?

And, of course, there's WHY?

The CBC assures Canadians that Erickson acted out of "journalistic zeal, rather than partisan interest." Says who? Did she make a statement to that effect? What's it say? And why should anyone believe it?

The CBC has made no secret its in an adversarial position with Stephen Harper over the issue of who controls the Prime Minister's press conferences. Once you've taken sides, can you still claim to be non-partisan?

We've seen other examples of "journalistic zeal" from CBC employees. Who can forget Julie Van Dusen's banshee reporting on Parliament Hill or Terry Milewski's insults at a Stephen Harper news conference.


When does "zeal" cross the line?

When your colleagues in the mainstream media forget to turn a blind eye and actually report the antics of CBC reporters?

The Liberal Party of Canada knew who Krista Erickson was working for when she provided them with questions for the ethics committee. They even lied to the public to protect her.


Apparently colluding with CBC employees is just business as usual for the Liberals in Parliament.

So why should anyone believe now that there was no bias in Krista Erickson's actions, or in the CBC's refusal to report on the Liberals' lying denials that anyone at CBC helped them prepare their attack on Brian Mulroney?

There has to be more proof than "because we say so."

Both CBS and the BBC, when confronted with allegations of bias in their reporting of major political significance, convened formal inquiries to examine the facts and try to restore their credibility.

Faced with the same situation, the CBC issues a one-page letter clearing itself based on an investigation by itself.

What's wrong with this picture?

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Sinclair ambush fails to spark feud between Stenning and Katz

The Winnipeg Free Press continued its unexplained vendetta against Mayor Sam Katz this weekend, but in the process revealed just to what depths they're willing to stoop to smear one man.

Nothing, it appears, is too low, including literally manufacturing "news" to suit their purposes.


As usual, columnist Gordon Sinclair was given the lead role in the personal attack.
But, with nothing to work with, he overreached, and wound up exposing the type of yellow journalism that's become the newspaper's stock in trade under its current owner and editors.

Sinclair saw an opportunity with the announcement that Annitta Stenning, the former city chief administrative officer, was starting a new job today as executive director of the Cancercare Foundation.

Pretending he wanted to speak to her about her change in careers, he turned the interview, the first since she left her city job, to what he really wanted her to say--how much she hated working with Sam Katz, how he drove her out of her job, how the public should be outraged.

Only she didn't say a word of it. Stenning refused to be a foil for the Free Press.

She had only nice things to say about the Mayor despite Sinclair's leading questions designed to elicit the opposite reaction. Undeterred, Sinclair then simply spun her answers to give a false impression of what Stenning told him.

Sam Katz didn't call to congratulate her on her new job, did he?

"She paused ever so briefly, then added,"But I'm sure he's very supportive."
"I asked why she thought the mayor hadn't called..."

He pressed for the answer he wanted.
"She left on good terms with the mayor?"
"I told her there is a sense that she and Katz weren't suited for each other..."
"...Stenning steered the conversation in a more comfortable direction."
"I steered her back to her four years as CAO of the city..."
"So why did you leave? I asked.
"Pardon?" Stenning said.
She heard me."

Unable to get Stenning to badmouth Sam Katz, Sinclair worked to create the impression that she wanted to.

She...pauses... before answering. She deflects the line of questioning. She feigns not hearing the hard question.

Demonstrating why the Asper family wanted nothing to do with Sinclair's biography of their father Izzy Asper, Sinclair twists the facts to fit the narrative he's determined to present as truth.

But that's not the worst of it.

With next to nothing to show for their latest attempt to smear Sam Katz, the Winnipeg Free Press tried a new tack--literally manufacturing "news."

Reporter Joe Paraskevas was suddenly assigned a new story---interview the mayor about the difficulty in hiring a new city CAO to replace Stenning.

Katz, not expecting he was being set up, spoke openly about the tough job facing the successful applicant.

"We're in a mess," he said. (The city's new CAO will have a tough job -- run a city that the mayor says is falling apart; Winnipeg Free Press, Jan. 12, 2008)

But then the spinning starts, and its hard to tell where Mayor Sam Katz leaves off and where the Winnipeg Free Press starts up.

Katz talks about the infrastructure challenge.

" "We don't want to be a city that's falling apart. And you know what? It's falling apart." Words we've heard him say before.

But then the WFP begins paraphrasing:
"Besides crumbling infrastructure, Katz listed the city's poor job of managing its real estate and "terrible" relations with its eight unions, as examples of issues that have landed Winnipeg in poor shape."

"Terrible" relations? Why not run the exact quote, instead of a single word?

The answer was soon apparent.

On Saturday, Gordon Sinclair used the interview with the mayor as the basis of his attack on Katz. He tried to goad Stenning into attacking the mayor by claiming the Mayor attacked had her.

"We spoke again earlier this week, after Katz's comments about the city being in a mess were published. I told her that the mayor seemed to be pointing the finger at her, since she was the person in charge of the administration."

Stenning, to her credit, still refused to take the bait.

The newspaper couldn't let all that hard work go to waste--so it was left to Sinclair to make up a controversy.

The Black Rod once before, wrote we couldn't believe how low the Winnipeg Free Press could go in its ongoing campaign against Katz.

But it seems new Editor Margo Goodhand had a key to the sub-basement of ethical journalism, and is prepared to show readers there's no limit to the tactics the newspaper will use once it decides to destroy an individual citizen of Winnipeg.

The victim here may turn out to be Joe Paraskevas. Whether he was a simple dupe in the plan or whether he understood his role, the fact is that he's destroyed his credibility covering city hall.

Nobody can sit for an interview with him without thinking they, too, are being set up. Nor can anyone read the newspaper from now on, without wondering whether city hall stories are valid and true, or whether they're being manufactured by the editors for some other purpose.

The mainstream media like the Winnipeg Free Press used to boast they were superior journalists because, as professionals, they did not let their personal biases colour their stories -- and they had editors to ensure the highest journalistic standards.

In one blow the Winnipeg Free Press has demonstrated that its editors use their power to further their personal biases.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

War in Afghanistan 2008 Weeks 2 and 3

Paging Al Gore...

The winter in Afghanistan is the worst in years, having already claimed the lives of more than 200 Afghans.

Worst hit so far are the four provinces in the west of Afghanistan--Herat, Bagdis, Ghowr, and Faryab (English spellings vary widely, so don't hold us to them). But the severe cold extends even into the southern provinces; at least 20 people have died in Uruzgan province.

"Local people are saying the winter conditions have been the most severe in decades." says the BBC. "At the other end of the country, the north-east, people say recent snowfalls have been the heaviest for 20 years."

Most of the dead are herders, although the cold and avalanches have killed women and children as well. 17,000 sheep and other livestock animals have either died or gone missing.

The one benefit of the severe weather is a dampening of insurgent attacks as evidenced by daily summaries of coalition aircraft sorties. For days now U.S. and NATO air power is being used primarily in shows of force to deter enemy action instead of in bombing runs.

Traditionally Taliban forces use the winter months to rest and rebuild in safe areas in Pakistan. But this year those Pakistani tribal regions where tribes sympathetic to the Taliban offer them shelter are in turmoil. With their Pakistani allies fighting for their own lives, the Afghan Taliban are forced to stick close to home---and freeze.

NATO forces continued to consolidate their success in driving the Taliban out of the town of Musa Qala in northern Helmand province. Afghan officials said 200 insurgents were killed in the fighting as British, American, and Estonian troops drove to the town and surrounded it before the final push in.

In a surprise move, the Karzai government appointed a former Taliban commander as the governor of Musa Qala district. Mullah Abdul Salaam defected with 300 fighters only hours before British and Afghan forces moved into Musa Qala. His switch was the biggest success to date of a reconciliation programme promoted by the British in Helmand province aimed at separating moderate Taliban fighters from the hard-core fanatical Islamists.

But if they expected any credit, they weren't getting it from the people of Musa Qala.

In an exclusive interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty/Radio Free Afghanistan, Salaam said residents of Musa Qala blame British forces for allowing the Taliban to seize their town in February 2007.

He blamed a deal brokered by the British in 2006 under which saw British troops withdrawn from Musa Qala with the local elders promising to keep Taliban forces out. But local militia fighters had been disarmed. They couldn't prevent the Taliban from seizing the town when they wanted to.

"For the people to realize that these [NATO] troops have come to rebuild Musa Qala, the people must be convinced that they will not be abandoned, as they were in the past when the foreigners delivered us to the terrorists -- which was not the fault of the people and the elders," Salaam said. "The international community is to be blamed for that. They disarmed the people and the elders. Then the Taliban came and took over."

The "peace deal" that led to the Taliban takeover of Musa Qala was the brainchild of General David Richards, the British commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan in 2006, and, for one brief, shameful moment, it was touted by the United Nations as the model for NATO to follow in its mission in Afghanistan.

In their defence, the British set up an undermanned post in Musa Qala in the first place only at the request of Afghan President Hamid Karzai who wanted NATO troops spread as widely as possible. They also had no strategic mobile reserve force to call on. Such a force was only introduced in 2007 after the Brits abandoned Musa Qala.

U.S. General Dan McNeill, who replaced General Richards in the rotating command in southern Afghanistan, was always opposed to such peace deals.

It's such divisions in strategy that U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates must have been thinking of when he said America's allies were ill-suited for counterinsurgency operations in southern Afghanistan.

Kandahar in the bullseye

Immediately after the recapture of Musa Qala, Asia Times Online interviewed a Taliban commander in Kandahar by telephone. Moulvi Abdul Jalil, as he was identified, sniffed that the Taliban had only put up token resistance in Musa Qala, and that they now would concentrate their efforts on Kandahar province.

And it was Kandahar where many of the headlines came from over the past couple of weeks. The pattern was sadly familiar.

* Eight police were killed when dozens of Taliban fighters stormed a police post in Kandahar's Maywand district.

* Canadian soldier Richard Renaud, of the 12e Regiment blinde du Canada in Valcartier, Que., was killed when his Coyote reconnaissance vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb in Kandahar's Zhari district.

* Four Canadian soldiers were injured when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb in the Panjwaii district of Kandahar province.

* Two more roadside bombs in the Panjwaii district injured seven Canadian soldiers only last Wednesday. Their injuries were minor and all but one returned to action after treatment.

Elsewhere across Afghanistan, the Taliban resumed its suicide bomb campaign.

* A suicide bomber was inadvertently blown to bits by his own bomb at a market in the town of Qalat, the capital of Zabul province, which lies on the main Kabul to Kandahar highway. Provincial spokesman Gulab Shah Alikhail said. "Walking on foot, all of a sudden he exploded and wounded a shopkeeper. He was not near any military convoy or a particular target."

* A suicide bomber blew himself up trying to enter the house of a police commander in Lashkargah, the capital of Helmand province. One policeman was killed. Four police and two children were injured. In Kabul, interior ministry spokesman, Zemarai Bashary, said the Taliban bomber exploded "in the arms of our brave policeman who grabbed him before he could reach his target."

* In capital city Kabul, Taliban gunmen following a suicide bomber stormed the most luxurious hotel in Afghanistan and killed seven people. Four men armed with Kalashnikovs stormed the security gate, killing two Afghan guards. The suicide bomber blew himself up in the courtyard. The gunmen then ran through the hotel firing indiscriminately and throwing grenades. There was a second blast which may have been a second suicide bomber blowing himself up. Guards killed one of the attackers.

Three people in the hotel's health club were killed-- a US national who was a member of the facility, a Filipina employee and an Afghan staffer, a hotel spokesperson said. A 39-year-old Norwegian photographer was believed to have been killed in the lobby. The seventh victim may have been a French woman, according to one of the earliest accounts.

Police have since arrested four people involved in the attack including a man who transported the team to the hotel and a man who was supposed to have been one of the suicide bombers but "for some reason did not", according to Afghan intelligence chief Amrullah Salah.

Finally, to leave on a positive note...this just in (emphasis ours)---

Afghanistan: 20 Taliban killed in joint operation
10 hours ago
ASADABAD, Afghanistan (AFP) - More than 20 Taliban rebels were killed and over a dozen wounded in a joint operation between Afghan and Western forces in eastern Afghanistan, officials said.

The Islamic extremists were killed late Friday in the province of Kunar, a troubled region on the Pakistani border, its governor Fazlullah Wahedi said.

The rebels had recently crossed the border from Pakistan to launch an attack on Afghan and foreign targets, he said.

"The Afghan National Army and our foreign friends identified their locations and launched a successful operation. Over 20 of them were killed and over 10 were wounded," he said.

An army commander, Captain Adam Khan Mateen, citing military intelligence reports, said some of the fighters were foreigners.

"We've intercepted their radio conversations and have intelligence reports that some of those killed and injured were foreign terrorists," he said.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

National Post misses mark in Erickson editorial

The National Post broke ranks with its mainstream media colleagues Thursday and published an editorial on the CBC investigation of collusion between a CBC reporter and the Liberal Party to damage the elected Conservative government.

The CBC has been counting on MSM solidarity to keep the story out of sight--off the pages of newspapers, off the nightly television newscasts, and definitely off the public's radar.

Their PR problem has just increased exponentially, even though, as you'll see, the National Post failed its responsibility to be as honest with its readers as possible.

The story of the collusion between the CBC and the Liberal Party of Canada is a watershed in journalism in the country.

Never before has the great divide between the Old Media and New Media been so stark.

From the very moment TVA reporter (and former Liberal Party cabinet minister) Jean Lapierre revealed on CTV's Mike Duffy Live that a CBC reporter collaborated with the Liberals to the point of writing questions for a member of the Commons ethics committee, the MSM showed its true colours.

Duffy, looking like he just swallowed poison, called the news libellous or slanderous (he couldn't decide which).

Did he ask the obvious question "Which reporter was it"?

We wish.

Instead he changed the subject and literally tried to push Lapierre away so he couldn't reveal more details. (Thank God for YouTube.) Only after a Liberal researcher confirmed the story did Duffy allow a panel to discuss the collusion.

Since then neither Duffy, Lapierre, nor any CTV reporter has done a follow-up story. Which comes as no surprise since no mainstream media reported the story initially, and the only follow was when CP did a story on the Conservative Party's official complaint to the CBC.

Only then did a few outlets like the National Post and The Toronto Star even mention it. After which the curtain of silence came down again.

Not one of the hundreds of reporters who cover Parliament Hill has done original interviews with Jean Lapierre, Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez (the benefactor of the CBC's question-writing), Don Newman, host of CBC Newsworld's daily politics show, or even Peter Mansbridge, the recipient of the reporter-in-question's up close-and-cozy attention in Winnipeg during the CBC lockout.

Maclean's columnist Paul Wells spoke for many CBC defenders when he dismissed the story by saying "reporters have been planting questions with MPs at committee hearings since the dawn of time."

Funny how he couldn't remember ever planting a question with the Opposition when the Liberals were in power, but, he claimed, "I'd have done it in a second" if he there had ever been a story that needed advancing.

Amazingly, there was never a single one.

The Blogosphere, on the other hand, approached the story like...well...like reporters.

They started with the question "Who?"

Pretty soon their sources, including many from within the CBC, coughed up a name, Krista Erickson. Then they worked the official CBC spokesmen, News Publisher John Cruickshank and Ombudsman (English Services) Vince Carlin, for comment, publishing e-mail exchanges that advanced the story. And finally, in the public interest, they stimulated discussion about bias in the media, particularly the publicly funded CBC.

If you want the news, you read the Blogosphere. If you want the cover-up, you get it in the mainstream media.

The National Post may have published an editorial calling on the CBC to come clean about its investigation, but to what purpose?

"We want a name" was the headline on the editorial. Yet the Post knows who the reporter under investigation is. Why the pretence?

Why not treat the matter like a real news story, the way the Blogosphere did, and assign a reporter to interview the relevent people, not the least of whom would be Krista Erickson. Does she deny working with the Liberals on questions for the Commons ethics committee? Or will she say her actions are no different than those of her Parliamentary colleagues, Julie Van Dusen and Terry Milewski, whose previously reported actions to embarass Prime Minister Stephen Harper were condoned, and even applauded as gutsy journalism, by CBC brass?

The CBC won't even contemplate that there's an anti-Conservative culture within the corporation. Instead, they're selling the idea that any criticism of the objectivity of the CBC is a partisan attack.

Any discussion of bias in the media is not in the public interest, sniffs the CBC publisher.

It's time to ask which public the CBC references when it assigns its Parliamentary reporters.

The left-wing Toronto intelligentsia that makes up their social circle?
Or the taxpayers forced to pay for CBC reporters who work hand-in-hand with the Opposition to defeat the elected government?

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

War in Afghanistan 2008 Week 1

By this time last year, the Taliban had already laid out its plan for the takeover of Afghanistan.

2007 was going to be the decisive year when NATO forces would be driven out of the country and the Taliban would capture Kandahar City, pausing briefly to enjoy their triumph before moving on to take the capital, Kabul.

But after a year of being mauled relentlessly, sent running from even their longest held strongholds, and watching their dreams go up in smoke, often with their leaders, the Taliban have entered 2008 without their annual boastfest.

The first week of the new year delivered some of the reasons for the insurgency's new humility.

Afghan authorities say 200 fighters were killed last month in the operation to retake the town of Musa Qala which the Taliban had held for 10 months. And we don't know if that includes the 50 Taliban killed when the fleeing fighters tried to salvage a shred of dignity by attacking the nearby village of Sangin--- only to be driven off by the British soldiers who had booted them out of Sangin in the first place.

Given that the drive to re-capture Musa Qala lasted about seven days, that's what we call a good week's work.

And the secret of the sudden downfall of Taliban commander Mansoor Dadullah has been revealed.

Mansoor is the baby brother of Mullah Dadullah, the Elvis of the Taliban movement, a feared, ruthless commander revered for his fighting spirit, who is also now dead. Mullah Dadullah was supposed to lead the Feared Taliban Spring Offensive last year. Then the British killed him, spoiling those plans. Baby Dadullah was appointed to take his place as leader of the Taliban in Kandahar and Helmand provinces. As December came to a close, it was announced that Mansoor Dadullah had been fired by Taliban supremo Mullah Omar.

We've learned since that this may have been due to a secret, unauthorized mission by two British diplomats who were discovered in Helmand province with $150,000 cash on them. It seems they were holding secret meetings with Mansoor Dadullah in hopes of buying him off.

We don't know if he ever took cash from the pair or if he put it in a secret safety deposit box in the U.S.---oh wait, we've got him confused with former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney,so scrap that.

Nevertheless, Mullah Omar got wind of the money wafting around and Dadullah Jr. got the boot.

He's currently being shunned by his former Taliban pals, meaning he's a lone freelance insurgent. There's not much future in that job, but maybe he'll write a book. If he could write.

And, more good news, the Afghan National Army stood at 57,000 strong by year's end and is expected to reach the goal of 70,000 soldiers by May. We'll see as the year progresses how much of the heavy lifting is taken off the shoulders of coalition forces, particularly the Canadians in Kandahar province and British in Helmand, by the ANA.

But the size of the Afghan army is becoming a moving target.

"We think we need a 200,000 (strong) Afghan National Army which is in the interest of both Afghanistan and the international community," defense ministry spokesman Zahir Azimi said at a news conference.

The year picked up pretty much where the last left off.

On New Year's Day a man wearing a bomb-vest was shot dead trying to enter a police checkpoint in the eastern province of Khost.

"He wanted to target our police but our guys shot him dead before he succeeded in exploding his bombs," police official, Mohammad Yaqoub, told AFP.

And in Ghazni province two insurgents were killed when a bomb they were trying to plant on a road exploded prematurely.

"Some Taliban fighters were busy in planting a mine on a road in Nawa district very early today to target government troops. Suddenly it exploded killing two insurgents on the spot," senior police officer in the province Mohammad Zaman told Xinhua.

Now that's bringing in the new year the way we like it.

The rest of the week was a familiar story--Taliban fighters killed in clashes with Afghan and coalition soldiers on the one hand and police and soldiers killed by suicide bombers and roadside bombs on the other.

A roadside bomb in Khost province killed one American soldier and interpreter. Another killed two security guards outside a U.S. base.

10 Taliban rebels were killed after attacking an Afghan police checkpost in the western province of Badghis on the Iranian border.

A suicide bomber killed six police officers and an Indian construction worker in an attack on a convoy in Nimruz province. Another suicide bomber on a motorcycle attacked a border police patrol killing one police officer in Spin Boldak, Kandahar province.

Afghan national security forces patrolling in the Sangin district of Helmand province discovered an IED placed along a roadway near a mosque. The soldiers secured the site and warned a coalition convoy on the road of the danger saving them from hitting the IED. After disabling the bomb the Afghan soldiers investigated the area and found a wire leading to the mosque, where an insurgent intended to detonate the bomb.

A mosque being used by insurgents. Gee, who woulda thought...

In Helmand province a roadside bomb was discovered by police but went off before it could be defused. Four people--two police officers and two civilians---were killed.
Most troubling is the possibility of a new tactic demonstrated in this incident:

KABUL, Afghanistan,
Jan. 8 (UPI) -- A roadside bomb in eastern Afghanistan killed two soldiers in the U.S.-led coalition as they responded to a police call for help in the eastern province of Nangarhar , the military said Tuesday.
"The troops were responding to a call from the local police who had discovered another explosive device nearby, when the second bomb exploded," a statement from the Bagram military base said.


The indiscriminate tools of terrorism--suicide bombers and roadside booby-traps-- are the only weapon the Taliban and its allies have left, as the sea of local support it depends on dries up.

According to the Pajhwak Afghan News Agency, in 2007 there were 137 suicide attacks, fewer than the 141 in 2006. 140 suicide bombers killed themselves in the attacks.

1057 civilians were killed or injured by the suicide attacks, not a good way to build support for your cause.

The bombers killed 300 civilians and wounded 757.

They were much less successful attacking military and government targets. 171 police were killed, 213 wounded. 37 Afghan police were killed, 50 wounded. And only 12 coalition soldiers were killed by suicide attacks and 54 wounded.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

CBC honcho waves rulebook to deflect accusations of partisanship

The head of CBC News says you're undermining the very foundations of Canada's political system if you question CBC's impartiality.

CBC "Publisher" John Cruickshank has written the Conservative Party objecting to a fundraising letter which uses the latest example of political bias at the CBC to ask for donations.

The letter highlights the revelation by TVA reporter Jean Lapierre, a former Liberal Cabinet Minister himself, that a CBC reporter wrote questions for a Liberal member of the Commons Ethics Committee examining former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, off-topic questions designed purely to damage the current Conservative government.

HOW DARE YOU, thunders Cruickshank. HOW DARE YOU say CBC is anything less than non-partisan.

The CBC cannot be biased, he wrote, because they have a journalistic standards and practices book which "covers conflict of interest; it covers issues of journalistic fairness and balance."

Therefore, any examples of partisanship can't be used against the CBC -- because the CBC has a book that says there can't be any partisanship.
"When there are errors of judgment, or misunderstandings or improper interpretation of the journalistic standards and practices, we investigate." wrote Cruickshank.

Note how all transgressions are "errors of judgement" or "misunderstandings" or "improper interpretation." Deliberate partisanship is not even a possibility because, you know, the CBC has a book that says there can't be any partisanship.

"You were well aware when you sat down to write your appeal for cash that CBC News had publicly condemned the behaviour you complain of and had called a disciplinary meeting to look into it." said the CBC publisher.

He wants points for calling a meeting and revealing the fact.

He fails to mention that any internal inquiry will be treated as an in-camera personnel matter with all details hidden from the public.

He doesn't even name the reporter in question, who CBC and other news sources identify as CBC Parliamentary Reporter Krista Erickson, the former host of CBC's Winnipeg supper hour newscast.

"I write this public response to you because I believe that by its inaccuracy, innuendo, exaggeration and expressed malice towards hundreds of Canadian journalists you risk damaging not just your target, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, but also public faith in our political process." declares Cruickshank.

But Cruickshank disingenuously overlooks the fact that the CBC is engaged in open opposition to the government over new rules for the Prime Minister's press conferences. The CBC has publicly and proudly declared itself an adversary of Stephen Harper on the issue.

As a result we've seen the shocking example of CBC reporter Julie Van Dusen banging on a door demanding entry to a private meeting between the Prime Minister and children with cancer. And CBC's Terry Milewski calling Harper a liar ("with respect") at a news conference in Vancouver.

The CBC excuses this rude and insulting behaviour as legitimate and in the public interest. The CBC is not opposing Harper for itself, they say, they're doing it on behalf of the public. Never mind the internal support for Van Dusen and Milewski. Atta Girl, Jules. You told 'em, Terry.

How thin is this line? Did CBC reporter Christina Lawand think it was in the public interest when she cut and pasted questions and answers over the Lebanon crisis last year to make Stephen Harper look bad?

Did the reporter writing questions for the Liberals on the ethics committee see it as just her job--in the public interest?

Cruickshank doesn't say.

In 2004, when Cruickshank was still at the Chicago Sun-Times, CBS's 60 Minutes Wednesday host Dan Rather got caught using forged documents to attack George Bush during the presidential election. At first he disparaged anyone questioning his story as right-wing partisans. But at one point, before his producer and three CBS executives were frog-marched out the door and his desk was moved into the alley beside the dumpster, a less combatative Rather said:

"If the documents are not what we were led to believe, I'd like to break that story. Any time I'm wrong, I want to be right out front and say, 'Folks, this is what went wrong and how it went wrong.'

John Cruikshank should be aware that just before sending out their fundraising letter, the Conservatives issued a news release about the CBC-Liberal collaboration, pointing out that while the CBC had identified the reporter enmeshed in the allegations and was condemning her behavior, the Liberals were denying everything.

If the CBC determines through its disciplinary meeting process, that there was some transgression of The Book then there's no denying that the Liberal Party lied to the public and tried to deceive them.

We'll be waiting to see if the CBC runs that as the lead story on The National.

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

War In Afghanistan 2007: Weeks 50, 51 and 52

One year ago The Black Rod started writing about the war in Afghanistan because of the great divide between what we read on the Internet and the overwhelmingly defeatist reporting in the mainstream media.

We were especially incensed at learning, belatedly, about the tremendous victory of the Canadians in Panjwai who forced theTaliban into a humiliating retreat, something we hadn't heard a word about in the national newspapers or on television newscasts which spent 2006 concentrating on Canadian casualties and predicting the imminent success of a "resurgent" Taliban.

The reporting has gotten marginally better with more stories being published, often from reporters embedded with Canadian troops. But the news outlets are still so indoctrinated in anti-Americanism that they leap to report the slightest bad or negative news from Afghanistan while ignoring oceans of positive news. So we've decided to continue our Afghanistan coverage in 2008 as a much-needed counter to the MSM.

That said, we still need to conclude our War in Afghanistan 2007 coverage. So here it is, our Afghanistan '07 Top Ten wrap.

1. Musa Qala.
Taliban forces held Musa Qala, a town of 15-20,000, in a reign of terror for 10 months after sweeping aside local elders and imposing their own brand of medieval fanatic rule. It served as the crown jewel of the insurgency, the only significant piece of territory captured and held by the Taliban insurgents in 2007 and a base from which they operated against British and Canadian forces in southern Afghanistan.

But in December, a small army of 3000 British soldiers, led by the Special Boat Service, supporting a battalion of the Afghan National Army, bolstered by American, Danish and Estonian troops, and covered by the thickest aircover since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, chased the insurgents out in a picture-perfect text-book assault.

The retaking of Musa Qala sent the Taliban fighters running like scared rabbits and left them with absolutely nothing to show for their 2007 "year of decision" offensive which was supposed to drive NATO out of Afghanistan and return theTaliban to power.

They were defeated at every turn, crushed in every battle and run out of large sections of Kandahar and Helmand provinces which were supposed to be where they had their bedrock support. "Supposed to be", that is, if you believed what you read and heard in the Mainsteam media.

2. Mucho Moola
Reported in the British papers but almost unknown in North America was the enormous haul of opium found in Musa Qala worth. The Times of London said it was 12 tons of processed opium-- brown heroin-- worth 150 million pounds sterling, or almost 300 million dollars U.S. (or Canadian).

That's money right out of the Taliban's pocket. Remember all those stories telling how poorly the Afghan government pays its soldiers and police compared to how richly the Taliban pays their fighters? Well, somebody just got a pay cut. And with the opium factories in Musa Qala shut for good, the prospect of making up that money next year looks bad indeed.

Next to drugs, the big money earner for the Taliban was millions in ransom paid by Italy, Germany and South Korea for kidnapped civilians. They may have to turn to more kidnapping to fund the insurgency.

3. Mullah Dadullah
He's dead. We can't say that often enough. And every time we say it, it brings a smile to our faces.

Dadullah was the Elvis of the Taliban insurgency. He was so ruthless that his own bosses sidelined him a few times because even they found his bloodthirsty attacks on civilians unpalatable.

After the disastrous offensive in 2006, Mullah Dadullah was brought in to lead the Feared Taliban Spring Offensive of 2007. The only problem was... he got killed. And the offensive fizzled.

The Sunday Times has reported that Dadullah was actually killed in May by British forces rather than the American special forces everyone thought.

When five Taliban commanders, including Dadullah's brother, were released in exchange for an Italian journalist, coalition intelligence units tracked them to Pakistan, then to Helmand province where they met with Dadullah. The U.S. Delta Force which would normally be used was unavailable, so the British Special Boat Service C Squadron was sent to do the job.

The helicopter insertion was spotted and a four-hour gunbattle followed. When it was over, Dadullah was dead. He had been shot in the classic special ops double-tap--two in the chest and one in the head.

The Taliban appointed his baby brother Mansoor Dadullah to replace him as commander in Helmand and Kandahar provinces. He was as big a disaster as his big bro, losing the stronghold of Sangin to the British, a broader section of Kandahar to the Canadians, and eventually Musa Qala.

To add insult to injury, the year ended with news that Mullah Omar had fired baby Dadullah

""Mullah Mansoor Dadullah is not [in] obedience to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in his actions and has carried out activities which were against the rules of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan," said Omar in an official statement. "So the Decision Authorities [or Shura Majlis, executive council] of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan have removed Mansoor Dadullah from his post and he will no longer be serving the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in [any way] and no Taliban will obey his orders any more."

4. Help Wanted
"... they (the Taliban) have a recruiting problem." Canadian Brig.-Gen. Marquis Hainse, ISAF's deputy commander at its Regional Command South. told Canwest News in the last days of 2007.

More and more bodies of Arabs, Chechens, and other foreigners are being found among the insurgents killed in recent battles in Afghanistan's southern provinces.

"Taliban insurgents are depending more on foreign fighters because of increased difficulties recruiting locals, Canadian Brig.-Gen. Marquis Hainse said."

Keep that in mind the next time you read about how the insurgency is growing and spreading.

The foreign fighters are more brutal and more unwavering fundamentalist in imposing shariah law in their areas of influence, a fact that is alienating the populace from the Taliban.

During the Musa Qala operation, Lutfullah Mashal, a spokesman for Afghanistan's National Security Council said elders from the Pashtun Alizi tribe in the area were particularly angry about the presence of foreign fighters and were cooperating with the central government.

This is a phenomenon that's been accelerating throughout the year. More and more we hear stories of families who once donated a son to the Taliban now sending their sons to join the Afghan army.

The yearly losses of 4000 or more Taliban dead aren't much of a recruiting slogan.

5. ANA
As in Afghan National Army.


Throughout 2006 and well into 2007 you read over and over again how poorly trained, poorly motivated, poorly paid the Afghan army was. Afghanistan couldn't raise enough soldiers; they deserted in droves; they failed to complete their training; they ran at the first hint of a fight; they were a ragtag bunch without decent uniforms and armed with hand-me-down rifles.

You haven't heard that for a while.

The ANA has become a well-trained fighting force which can stand up on its own to the Taliban. They are not NATO quality, and they don't have to be. They just need to be good enough to defeat Taliban fighters in the field. And they are.

They need coalition support in logistics and airpower. And they have it. They've begun their own operations under the watchful eyes of American mentors, but with each month they get stronger amd more experienced.

The success of the ANA can be measured by how the Taliban now avoid them as robustly as they avoid American, British and Canadian troops. The Taliban prefer to attack police stations and checkpoints.

6. The Weak Sisters

....better watch out.

The Taliban know they can't dislodge the Canadians from Kandahar (despite the best efforts of Taliban Jack Layton and Stephene Dion.) They can't dislodge the British from Helmand and they can't budge the Americans anywhere they set camp. And now they can't even take on the ANA.

So they will likely look for easier targets---the weak sisters of the coalition, Italy (of course), Germany and France (although the French under Sarkozy may be about to trade their skirts for combat trousers.)

The Germans are an especially juicy goose. They are already so afraid of anything approaching combat they spend their time in Afghanistan coming up with a slew of new restrictions on their troops.

While the British, Canadian and American soldiers are in the thick of fighting, the Germans are so bored in their camps in northern Afghanistan they're running out of ways to amuse themselves.

Their rescue helicopters won't fly at night and their troops can't travel more than two hours drive from hospitals. Here's a story from the Times showing how pampered the Germans are and how its affecting the war effort.

The Sunday Times
November 18, 2007
For us ze war is over by tea time, ja
Jerome Starkey

THEY are on the front line of the war on terror, but German pilots facing the Taliban are insisting they stop at tea time every day to comply with health and safety regulations.


The helicopter pilots, who provide medical back-up to Nato ground troops, set off for their base by mid-afternoon so they can be grounded by sundown.

Their refusal to fly in the dark is hampering Operation Desert Eagle, an allied offensive, which involves 500 Nato-led troops plus 1,000 Afghan troops and police.

Although Germany has sent 3,200 troops to Afghanistan, they operate under restrictive rules of engagement.

They spend much of their time in an enormous base, complete with beer halls and nightclubs, in Mazar-e-Sharif, a 90-minute flight from the fighting. They also have a base at Kunduz.

Germany, which has lost 25 soldiers in Afghanistan to suicide attacks and roadside bombs, commands the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in the north. But its men are not allowed to travel more than two hours from a "role two medical facility" - a hospital equipped for emergency surgery.

The restrictions have fuelled tensions among allied troops. Norwegian soldiers, who were fighting to stem a growing Taliban insurgency in this remote stretch of Afghanistan's northwest frontier, were forced to desert their Afghan comrades midway through a firefight when German medical evacuation helicopters withdrew.

The Germans contribute unmanned surveillance planes, an electronic warfare team and a hospital to the operation.

One Norwegian cavalry officer, who was engaged in a day-long fight with more than 40 Taliban near Jari Siya in Badghis, said: "It's hopeless. We were attacking the bad guys, then [at] three or four o'clock, the helicopters are leaving.

"We had to go back to base. We should have had Norwegian helicopters. At least they can fly at night."

Abandoned by their western allies, the 600 men from the Afghan army's 209 Corps were forced to retreat until a convoy of American Humvees arrived the next day to reinforce them.

The story prompted this comment from a British soldier:

have been working in the AOR (area of operations - ed.) of RC North. The German contingent are the most un-productive Nation in Afghanistan. There are 2,500+ men at the camp and as already stated they just sit around smoking and drinking coffee. These guys and girls get the same NATO medal as the soldiers operating under fire on a daily basis.

Mark, Bristol, uk

7. Suicide Bombers

The Taliban launched more than 140 suicide bomb attacks in 2007, killing mostly civilians. The most effective attacks were in Kabul and against buses of police.

The use of suicide bombers is a two-edged sword. They have virtually no tactical use against coalition troops. They are used primarily to demonstrate the Karzai government cannot provide security to Afghan civilians.

Yet the instinct for security in war-torn Afghanistan cannot be underestimated.

Whenever coalition forces drive Taliban insurgents out of a town, the residents always say they welcomed the security that Taliban rule brought.

Mansoor Dadullah was interviewed in June by a Pakistani journalist on behalf of a Swiss publication Die Weltwoche. A transcript of the interview touches on the security issue:

Q. What do you offer people in return for their support?

A. We have done a great deal for the people. While we were in power the Afghans enjoyed something that the occupying forces from 42 countries have not been able to provide them since: security. You could even leave a sack of gold lying in your car. The people lived in security. Muslim dignity was preserved. The coalition troops call the Taliban terrorists. In reality we lived in peace, and they brought death and destruction to Afghanistan. Even the Taliban's enemies admit that Afghanistan was more secure under our control than it is now.

But the Taliban face blowback from their use of suicide bombers. The Afghan people turn against the insurgents when civilians are killed. This has split the Taliban leadership. The foreigner fighters and new commanders embrace suicide bombing, even if it means civilian deaths. The local Afghan commanders reject using civilians as disposable pawns.

Sometimes though, like yesterday, suicide bombers can make you smile.

January 2, 2008
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) - Five suspected Taliban militants were killed when a suicide car bomb they were building went off prematurely in the southern province of Kandahar, police said Wednesday.


8. IED's

Roadside bombs have been the most dangerous weapon of the insurgency. Almost all the deaths of Canadians in Afghanistan in 2007 were caused by IED's.

The lesson to be learned is you don't win playing defence. Whenever the Canadians go on the offensive, the roadside bomb fatalities fall to zero. When they back off, the casualties rise again.

The good news is that accidents like these are not all that unusual:

KABUL, Jan. 1 (Xinhua) -- Two Taliban insurgents were killed as their mine exploded prematurely in Afghanistan's central Ghazni province in the wee hours of Tuesday, police said. "Some Taliban fighters were busy in planting a mine on a road in Nawa district very early today to target government troops. Suddenly it exploded killing two insurgents on the spot," senior police officer in the province Mohammad Zaman told Xinhua.

However, Taliban purported spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said three fighters were killed in the premature explosion.

9. One war won.

As we declared last January, we've won the Education war.

The number of stories about Taliban attacks on teachers, schools and students has almost dried up. They attacks still happen, as we've reported, but nowhere at the rate of 2006.

Afghans have spoken loud and clear. They want their children to go to school. They value education. And when Taliban insurgents try to close schools, intimidate teachers and murder students, they only lose support.

The next showdown will be the Electricity War.

The Taliban managed to delay the reconstruction of the Kajaki Dam for a year. But their removal from their base in Musa Qala means work has resumed.

It's a huge project and will take at least two years to finish. But when finished it will bring power to 1.7 million Afghans. The Taliban will fight with all they've got to prevent that, prevent bringing Afghans into the 20th century, nevermind the 21st. They know that once the electricity flows, they have lost.

10. The Taliban's media allies are hard at work

They hate it when you point out the obvious, but the Taliban couldn't ask for better allies than the mainstream media. They are united in a common goal, whether the MSM will admit it or not---to get western forces out of Afghanistan. The vast majority of stories are slanted with that goal in mind.

Why are the Taliban so confident despite their clear weakness? Because the western media tell them they are winning.

NATO announcements of victory are ignored or disparaged, but the Taliban's annual announcement of a spring offensive gets reverential treatment, with subsequent stories complete with fawning references to how strong the Taliban have become, how wide the insurgency has grown, how well-armed they are, how fearless, how relentless.

Compare that with the Canadian media's determination not to be cheerleaders for their governments. They therefore conjoin the atrocities of the Taliban with phony complaints of human rights abuses by Canadian soldiers.

The Taliban murders childen.

Canadians let Taliban suspects get slapped.

There's a moral equivalency for you.

And that's IF the media reports on the victims of the Taliban in the first place.

And that's why we'll be continuing our Afghanistan coverage in the new year.

( Our thanks to the many readers from around the world who have expressed their appreciation and support for our series. In particular the kind words from the families of Canadian soldiers who have fallen in battle or who are still fighting overseas, who say the series has been a valuable resource in keeping track of the true progess of the campaign. )

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