The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have since 2005, adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Judy strikes out with council, MSM strikes out with coverage

Quick. Call 311 to get the 411 for 911. Somebody has drugged all the political pundits in town. Why else would they have missed this story?

The Left's champion in the coming mayoral race shows up at City Hall to go nose-to-nose, eyeball-to-eyeball with Mayor Sam Katz on a burning issue that can turn the election, and it warrants hardly a brief in the news?

It all happened last Wednesday.

As reported in The Black Rod, Katz had handed challenger Judy Wasylycia-Leis the single issue she can use to defeat him. He wants to abandon bus rapid transit midstream, to adopt a wildly expensive electric streetcar system instead, based on

a) an embarassingly pathetic excuse for a "study" which he claims proves its viability and

b) his ego-driven need for a legacy, cost be damned.

JustJudy, as she now calls herself, marched down to City Hall to appear before council in person to speak against Katz's plan.

It was her 'coming out'. For the first time she would confront the incumbent mayor in his den and demonstrate her leadership skills to sway the councillors to reject his kookoo idea.

Well, it was Jerry Lewis vs. Jack Dempsey. If you were scoring the confrontation on a 10-point Must system, it was a 10-8 round for Katz. JustJudy never laid a glove on him.

JustJudy's major argument was 'finish what you started.' The BRT system to the University of Manitoba is only half done, she said. Why scrap all that time and money now only to begin building a light rail system that was initially rejected, has no funding, and no price attached? Her strongest point, that LRT would cost at least $565 million more than BRT, was lost in her trademark verbal diarrhea.

This first test of her leadership on a civic issue was a resounding raspberry. At the final vote, her only support came from the Dead-end Club (permanent members: Madame No-to-Everything Jenny Gerbasi, Harvey "Unwanted by the NDP" Smith, and Lillian "I quit" Thomas, with one rotating seat filled by Dan "No Mas, Sam" Vandal.) Even left-leaning River Heights councillor John Orlikow voted with Katz.

JustJudy didn't change one mind or win one vote, which has to bode ill for when the campaign heats up in the Fall. Her public performance only raised the question: can you see her at the negotiating table on city business? Us, neither.

And the sleeping journalists who cover city hall missed either a spectacular flip-flop by challenger Wasylycia-Leis or a stinging indictment of the mainstream media.

Two days before her city hall showdown with Sam Katz, Wasylycia-Leis called a news conference in a park in Fort Rouge to steal some of Katz's thunder. The Winnipeg Free Press reported on it the next day, starting this way:

Wasylycia-Leis touts 'buy local'
Stance part of transit policy statement
By: Bartley Kives
20/07/2010 10:08 AM |
In a move reminiscent of the U.S.A.'s controversial "Buy American" policy, mayoral candidate Judy Wasylycia-Leis wants to change the way the City of Winnipeg tenders contracts to give local businesses a competitive advantage.

At her first formal announcement since her May 4 campaign launch, the former NDP MP for Winnipeg North gathered reporters to a Fort Rouge park on Monday to hear her reiterate her desire to see the Southwest Rapid Transit Corridor completed as a bus-way, as opposed to the pricier light-rail corridor incumbent mayor Sam Katz prefers.

But she wound up unveiling a future campaign plank: enshrining a preference for local companies when the city hands out contracts.

At her appearance at City Hall, though, JustJudy seemed to reverse herself entirely, or else to slam the FP coverage of her Monday newser.

"And I want you to know today that I believe absolutely in building on Winnipeg's strengths and standing up for what Winnipeg is known for around North America. And that is the most innovative producer of next generation rapid transit vehicles anywhere on the continent. And I want to tell you, despite what you are led to believe, that-- in fact-- I, along with anyone else who is fighting on this issue, believes in value for money and an open tender process."

Misquoted on her first day on the hustings?

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Monday, July 26, 2010

A nasty split in the NDP tests Greg Selinger's leadership skills

There's a split in Manitoba's ruling NDP and it's growing wider and nastier by the day.

The first crack in party solidarity developed when Thompson MLA Steve Ashton took on Finance Minister Greg Selinger for the leadership following Gary Doer's departure. There was no love lost between the men.

It was papered over at the leadership convention when Selinger topped the vote with 1317 to Ashton's miserly 685. But the split has obviously festered ever since and was positively oozing last Wednesday when Ashton's campaign manager Russ Wyatt tore several strips off unelected Premier Selinger at the last city council meeting of the summer.

Speaking on the debate over adopting Light Rail Transit as the priority for the city over Bus Rapid Transit, Wyatt attacked Selinger for failing to respect council's choices for its infrastructure priorities. Instead, the provincial NDP is trying to force the city of Winnipeg to spend all the money in the infrastructure pot on completing phase two of BRT to the University of Manitoba, he said.

Wyatt launched a blistering attack on Selinger and his bullying attitude towards Winnipeg:

"There is a disagreement taking place between this council and, specifically the mayor, and the premier of Manitoba. The premier is of the view that the Building Canada Funds that are available for Winnipeg, approximately 63 million from the federal government and 63 million from the provincial government and we have to come to the table, 63 million of our money, so 189 million is the total amount we're talking here... the premier believes they should go towards finishing off the BRT line..."
"... it's this council that sets the priorities. The premier was elected premier back in Oct but he was not elected mayor. I don't remember anybody cheering 'we just elected the premier and the mayor. It was the premier of Manitoba and that's what he was elected to be. He has a right to express his opinion but in the end of the day he has to listen to the elected officials coming from this chamber."

"if the premier of the province is hearing what we're saying, the roads and the bridges are crumbling. We want that to be the priority. We have ... said back in April that this was a priority and this premier refuses to respond to this council and address these concerns and the situation continues to get worse and worse."
"Mr. Speaker the debate is $189 million. $189 million that (we) as a council requested and the premier says he is broke. Well in 2008 he found $141 million... to build -- remember the dispute at the floodway with the government? $141 million of our infrastructure money, Mr. Speaker, that went to his legacy project...

After that announcement, the next announcement was ... 212 million to go into centre port. Not our priority. Of which 70 or $80 million was provincial funds that would have been earmarked to roads and bridges in this city..."
Two days later, Wyatt picked up the cudgel again as he stood by a railway crossing at Plessis Road with Mayor Sam Katz to say upgrades to Plessis were one of 11 infrastructure priorities endorsed by city council in April to be paid for with money from the Building Canada Fund. This time he declared he had the support of Manitoba Infrastructure Minister Steve Ashton.
Them's fighting words.
Selinger has to respond or lose face. He can't have a cabinet minister contradict him in public. He has either to demote Ashton or force Ashton to disavow his former campaign manager Russ Wyatt. And picking a fight with a take-no-prisoners maverick like Wyatt on the eve of a provincial election is fraught with danger.
Meanwhile, you can ask why the MSM political reporters are ignoring this story.

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

The MSM's fight for democracy, one lie at a time

The blogosphere is humming with the revelation of emails showing left-wing journalists on a private web forum (Journolist) discussing ways to coordinate their coverage of the Obama presidential campaign to divert attention from his 20-year-association with Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his incendiary pastor.

Pick one of Obama's critics, anyone will do, and accuse him of being a racist, was one suggestion.

The editors, reporters, and columnists on the site swapped ideas on the best line of attack to undermine Sarah Palin as the Republican running mate, and, for good measure, they tried topping one another in showing their hatred of prominent conservative voices like Rush Limbaugh.

Nine years ago CBS reporter and producer Bernard Goldberg wrote a book simply titled Bias. Calling on his 30 years of experience in the news business, Goldberg described how the mainstream media slants its reporting to promote the left-wing viewpoint without even thinking about it. There's no great conspiracy, he said, just a matter of like minds thinking alike.

With the emails from the Journolist website, we see Goldberg was far too generous in giving the MSM journalists a pass on collaboration.

We don't have anything like the same sort of smoking gun to point to when discussing the bias and slanted reporting at the Winnipeg Free Press.

We just rely on the facts.

A week ago the FP engaged in two obvious political smears, one disguised as a news story and the other as a commentary.

Columnist Lindor Reynolds pretended that a cheap swipe at Mayor Sam Katz's dating history was an examination of his character and thereby a legitimate public service. She assumed nobody could see through the email she allegedly received from a "citizen" for the politically-slanted attack-job it was.
Reynolds, finding the heat in the kitchen too hard to handle, recanted with a grovelling apology to Katz and her readers.

But she made it clear the remorse for the column was her own and not shared by FP editors Paul Samyn and Margo Goodhand, who apparently felt the smear against Katz was still a good job well done.

Neither did they show discomfort at the second smear published in the newspaper by political reporters Mia Rabson and Dan Lett.

Rabson covers Parliament for the FP. She took over from the Paul Samyn whose own stint in Ottawa was marked by the heavy taint of collaboration with the Liberal Party. Prior to a major funding or policy announcement, the Liberals would deliver the details to Samyn on a Thursday so that the FP could have an "exclusive" in Friday's paper before the official announcement was made to the rest of the media in town. Nobody asked what the FP had to promise the Liberals in turn to ensure the "exclusives" kept coming, but its not hard to guess the options.

Rabson keeps the tradition alive by slanting her coverage against the Conservatives in Ottawa while promoting her "sources", Liberal Anita Neville and NDPer Pat Martin.

Last week, she, with the help of her colleague Dan Lett, took another run at Manitoba MP Vic Toews. Under the guise of "ethics", they accused Toews of failing to report he was collecting a pension for his years in the Manitoba Legislature. Sure enough, Pat Martin was quoted attacking Toews.


Instead of a retraction, they closed comments on their website.

"Toews’ office insists he made the disclosure although it has never appeared on the summaries made available to the public over the past four years," wrote Mia Rabson.

The Ethics Commissioner's office informed the FP:

“In the spring of 2006, Minister Toews disclosed to our Office his pension rights under the Government of Manitoba Civil Service Superannuation plan...the Office did have the information on file that pension income had been anticipated. Not including it in the Disclosure Summary for his signature was an oversight on the part of the Office."

Toews had notified the Ethics Commissioner even before he started collecting the pension that he would soon receive it. That was on record.

The FP was informed by Toews that their story was wrong. And they still went ahead an published A FALSE STORY.

The next day they acknowledged in a backhand fashion that their story was wrong, but not that it was false.
It was wrong they said and it was Toews' fault---he failed to correct their false information.

Note to Mia Rabson and Dan Lett: We don't know what rinky-dink journalism school you went to, but there's one hard and fast rule in the business --- it's ALWAYS the reporter's fault when the story is wrong. There's no passing the buck; when in doubt, cut it out.

The Free Press at best was reckless in its reporting. The evidence indicates otherwise --- they published what they wanted the truth to be even knowing the opposite was true.

Lindor Reynolds had enough shame to apologize to her readers.
"I promise not to abuse your trust again," she wrote.

But the editors and political reporters of the Winnipeg Free Press refused to make the same pledge.

We can draw the obvious conclusion.

They will abuse your trust again. And again. And again.

Part of the reason is not just the leftwing slant of the reporters and editors. The Winnipeg Free Press, you must remember, is not neutral when discussing the Conservative government in Ottawa. The FP is one of the news outlets that belongs to the Parliamentary Press Gallery which is in an open adversarial relationship with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Being an adversary is by definition, being biased against your opponent.

Just last month Helene Buzetti, president of the Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery, issued an open letter, co-signed by Winnipeg Free Press reporter and president of the Canadian Association of Journalists Mary Agnes Welch, in which they declared that political reporters are on the side of the angels against that devil Stephen Harper. Nothing less than Democracy itself hangs in the balance if the reporters fail to defeat Harper.

Some snippets:

"Under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the flow of information out of Ottawa has slowed to a trickle. Cabinet ministers and civil servants are muzzled. Access to Information requests are stalled and stymied by political interference. Genuine transparency is replaced by slick propaganda and spin designed to manipulate public opinion."


"This is not about deteriorating working conditions for journalists. It’s about the deterioration of democracy itself."

"Last month, reporters gathered in Montreal at the Canadian Association of Journalists’ conference to discuss these issues. On behalf of our members, we are calling on journalists to stand together and push back ..."


"This is not about ideology or partisanship on the part of journalists. Journalists aren’t looking to judge the policies of the Conservative government. Rather, we want to ensure the public has enough information to judge for themselves."

"Journalists are your proxies. At our best, we ask the questions you might ask..."

Note to the delusional: You are not our proxies. You do not speak for us.

Not about ideology or partisanship? Bwahahahaha. What a laugh.

You do not listen to us or our real concerns.

You waste your time on useless diversions like the Guergis/Jaffer non-affair, the Afghan "secret" documents, and boycotts of the premier of China while ignoring the efforts of the Opposition parties to undermine tough legislation against violent crime and their support for racial discrimination in hiring.

Still think you're our proxies? Then think about this:

Mia Rabson has promoted NDP Pat Martin's crusade to scrap the penny, but she turns a blind eye and a deaf ear when Martin could be quoted on a real news story.
This week the Conservatives in Ottawa ordered a review of government hiring practices that not only give priority to minority groups but sometimes openly declare NO WHITES WANTED.
Pat Martin openly supports discrimination in hiring for the federal civil service. Steve Rennie of The Canadian Press quoted him. Brian Lilley, Sun Media's senior correspondent on Parliament Hill, quoted him.
You would think the Parliamentary reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press, published in the home of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and Pat Martin's constituency, would interview him too. After all, who better to expound on the ethics of racial discrimination than the NDP"s former ethics critic?
To Sun Media he blasted the government review as a sop to “the fundamentalist, neo-conservative, right wing.” “Sometimes the pendulum has to swing too far in the other direction,” he said.

To CP, he said,"I don’t think they can make a case that white, middle-class people are being denied access to public service jobs, or that there’s any preference shown."
Unless you can read.
One government job ad cited on the internet states

Applicants must meet at least the first requirement:
* Open to: Members of the following Employment Equity groups: Aboriginal persons, visible minorities
* Persons residing in Canada and Canadian citizens residing abroad.

It defined the meaning of ‘visible minority’ as:
A person in a visible minority group is someone (other than an Aboriginal person as defined above) who is non-white in colour/race, regardless of place of birth...
Come to think of it, why hasn't anyone asked mayoral candidate Judy Wasylycia-Leis her opinion of racial discrimination in hiring, given her obedience to the NDP party line for the past 13 years.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Winnipeg councillors responsible for 100 Mile House -- of skeeters

Winnipeg's city councillors, staring into the headlights of a civic election, are flopping around trying to seize hold of every populist issue in sight to save their skins from a restless electorate.

At the last council meeting of the summer on Wednesday they voted 10-4 (against the usual dead-end rump) to radically change the rules on mosquito fogging.

They want the city to start fogging sooner, before the number of mosquitoes caught in monitor traps reaches nuisance levels instead of after. They want to reduce by a day the notice given to homeowners that fogging is starting. And they want to shrink the buffer zones that have allowed anti-malathion nutbars to effectively kneecap fogging efforts on their streets.

All the news stories refer to "100 metre" buffer zones. CBC (demonstrating again how the best reporting in town is now on television news) earlier this summer used a reporter walking along a residential street while unrolling a tape measure to illustrate how long 100 metres actually is.

It got us to thinking.

There are, according to the city, 1606 buffer zones. At 100 metres each, that's 160,600 metres or 526,902.9 feet which cannot be sprayed with malathion to kill mosquitoes.

We kept going.

There are 5280 feet in a mile. And that means that 99.7 miles (yes, you read that right, 99.7 MILES) of the city are not sprayed because of the anti-fogging lunatic fringe.

Almost ONE HUNDRED MILES of mosquitoes within the city go untouched every spraying cycle. it even worse that that?

In June, St. Vital councillor Gord Steeves sent a news release to media outlets regarding mosquito control.
He said that a 100-metre buffer zone "can mean a non-application area of as many as 32 to 40 houses." That certainly jibes with the visual demonstration on CBC-TV as far as the number of houses affected goes.

However, there's a problem with the numbers. 100 metres is about 320 feet. Using the very minimum of 32 houses, that's only 10 feet per house. What house has a ten-foot frontage? In St. Vital?

Assuming a more representative 30 foot frontage, the 1606 buffer zones could encompass 1.5 million feet or 292 MILES of the city that go unsprayed for mosquitoes.

The geniuses at city hall have allowed this to go on for how many years?

Do any of them deserve to be reelected?

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bias in the Winnipeg Free Press is just par for the MSM course

We had barely started to write about the latest smear campaigns by the Winnipeg Free Press when---look out----we were swamped by a BP gusher of bias in the mainstream media. Obviously, of course, we had to roll 'em all into one post on a theme.

First, there was the NAACP racism video featuring Shirley Sherrod, which was followed almost instantly by the most intense leftwing MSM diversionary assault on truth in reporting since, well, Obama's election campaign. Speaking of which...

The same day as the NAACP firestorm, the public learned from leaked emails how leftwing "journalists" discussed amongst themselves how to save Obama's 2008 campaign from the damaging effect of association with his preacher of 20 years Jeremiah Wright,
perhaps, one suggested, by diverting the debate by accusing one of Obama's critics of racism.
But let's start with the NAACP.

Obama, you see, has been such a disaster as President that his popularity ratings among voters are plunging by the week. The Democrats are scared stiff that voters will take it out on them in the mid-term elections in the fall. The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People couldn't just stand by and watch the first ever black president fall flat on his face, so they did what they usually do --- they played the race card. Their target, the ascending anti-big-government Tea Party movement. It's riddled with racists, declared the NAACP, and organizers should apologize.

Conservative activist Andrew Breitbart backs the Tea Party, and he had a card of his own to play. He posted a video on Youtube of an NAACP meeting featuring black government bureaucrat Shirley Sherrod.

He did NOT take her comments out of context.

He did NOT present a falsely edited excerpt.

That may come as a great surprise to you since the MSM has spent two days telling you the exact opposite.

Breitbart's tape excerpt captured Sherrod telling a story about a day 24 years ago when, at another job, she was asked to help a white man who was about to lose his farm to the bank. The farmer, in her telling, was an uppity white man who tried to demonstrate superiority to her even as he sought her help. Well, she said, as she listened to him she was thinking how she could screw this white man over, doing as little as possible to help him but just enough that, if he complained to the agriculture department that sent him over, she could say she had done all she could.

Her audience breaks out in laughter and cheers. (0:52 of the tape posted on Youtube)

Breitbart told TV reporters over and over again Tuesday that he posted the video to show the easy acceptance of black-on-white racism at this NAACP meeting, how Sherrod's self-confessed discrimination was embraced with laughter, not condemnation, and how the NAACP obviously has its own racist contingent.

The MSM turned a deaf ear.

They didn't want to hear it. It doesn't fit their leftwing storyline, so they just edited that part out.

CNN in particular went into a frenzy, devoting literally hour after hour after hour for the rest of the day to defending Sherrod. But at no time did they play the clip with the laughter and discuss the reaction of the NAACP audience to the tale of discrimination. Instead they allowed the head of the NAACP to dismiss the audience reaction as a normal cultural call-and-response, something you should expect at a meeting of southern blacks. And they played long segments of the Sherrod meeting from an edited tape (it contained dissolves) provided by the NAACP.

The rest of the MSM likewise has chosen to ignore the laughing and to focus on Sherrod's tale of redemption where, she said, she ultimately realized the error of her ways and helped the uppity white farmer after the white lawyer she sent him to ("one of his own", as she called him") proved incompetent.

CBC played the Breitbart tape Wednesday, ending on the laughter. Then they ignored the laughter and accused Breitbart of deceiving people by failing to explain Sherrod's epiphany.

That's how the leftwing MSM works. Pile on with the lie and ignore the truth when it doesn't fit your agenda. Almost universally, the left leaning maintream media repeated the story that Fox News was responsible for airing the Breitbart tape and smearing Sherrod. Why, Sherrod herself blamed Fox on CNN.
Except it wasn't true.

Washington Post writer Howard Kurtz did what CNN, CBC, and their leftwing ilk failed to do---reporting. He discovered:

"But for all the chatter -- some of it from Sherrod herself -- that she was done in by Fox News, the network didn't touch the story until her forced resignation was made public Monday evening, with the exception of brief comments by O'Reilly. After a news meeting Monday afternoon, an e-mail directive was sent to the news staff in which Fox Senior Vice President Michael Clemente said: "Let's take our time and get the facts straight on this story. Can we get confirmation and comments from Sherrod before going on-air. Let's make sure we do this right."

So the MSM rushed to divert attention from the racist laughter you can hear for yourself on the Breitbart tape by claiming Shirley Sherrod was a victim of Fox News. A lie.

Which leads us to the most underreported story of bias in the media. Journolist was an internet forum where liberal journalists came to chat with each other. Tuesday, leaked emails from Journolist exposed how these "professional journalists" discussed how the Jeremiah Wright story was huring Obama and what steps could be taken to take the heat off him.

The emails appeared on The Daily Caller ("a political journalism website based in Washington, D.C.") Wrote Jonathan Strong: "Employees of news organizations including Time, Politico, the Huffington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Guardian, Salon and the New Republic participated in outpourings of anger over how Obama had been treated in the media, and in some cases plotted to fix the damage."
Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent ("a fleet-footed webpaper of politics and policy. We are the ink-stained wretches of the digital era.") offered a dandy idea.

"What is necessary is to raise the cost on the right of going after the left. In other words, find a rightwinger’s [sic] and smash it through a plate-glass window. Take a snapshot of the bleeding mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a state of constant fear. Obviously I mean this rhetorically.

And I think this threads the needle. If the right forces us all to either defend Wright or tear him down, no matter what we choose, we lose the game they’ve put upon us. Instead, take one of them — Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists. Ask: why do they have such a deep-seated problem with a black politician who unites the country? What lurks behind those problems? This makes *them* sputter with rage, which in turn leads to overreaction and self-destruction."
Sound familiar, anyone?
Chris Hayes of the leftwing magazine Nation posted on April 29, 2008. Wrote Strong, "urging his colleagues to ignore Wright. Hayes directed his message to “particularly those in the ostensible mainstream media” who were members of the list.

The Wright controversy, Hayes argued, was not about Wright at all. Instead, “It has everything to do with the attempts of the right to maintain control of the country.”

Hayes castigated his fellow liberals for criticizing Wright. “All this hand wringing about just how awful and odious Rev. Wright remarks are just keeps the hustle going.”

“Our country disappears people. It tortures people. It has the blood of as many as one million Iraqi civilians — men, women, children, the infirmed — on its hands. You’ll forgive me if I just can’t quite dredge up the requisite amount of outrage over Barack Obama’s pastor,” Hayes wrote."

Another member of Journolist, Sarah Spitz, posted how much she would love to see talk-show host Rush Limbaugh have a heart attack in front of her. She would, she wrote, “[l]augh loudly like a maniac and watch his eyes bug out”.

Today, she issued, er, an "apology." Spitz, who works as a producer and publicist for independent radio station KCRW, said:

I made poorly considered remarks about Rush Limbaugh to what I believed was a private email discussion group from my personal email account. As a publicist, I realize more than anyone that is no excuse for irresponsible behavior. I apologize to anyone I may have offended and I regret these comments greatly; they do not reflect the values by which I conduct my life.

Baloney, of course, and yet another mock apology from a "journalist" caught redhanded expressing her true self to her journalist pals.

Sort of like Winnipeg Free Press columnist Lindor Reynolds who issued her own apology this week.

She was oh so sorry, she said, for smearing Mayor Sam Katz in a column Saturday. She now realized, she said, that it was wrong to spread gossip about who the mayor is dating under the guise of discussing what it reveals about his character.

Oh, she added, she wasn't being forced to apologize by editor Margo Goodhand or city editor Paul Samyn. They, obviously were not bothered a bit by smearing Sam Katz. That, after all, is the policy of the FP.

So, apparently, is smearing Manitoba Conservative MP Vic Toews.
The FP, in fact, went after Toews twice last week, going so far on Friday as to publish a story it knew was false, then, instead of a correction, publishing another story Saturday blaming Toews for the false story.

This example of biased reporting by the Winnipeg Free Press is too important to be lost at the bottom of this post. We'll address it separately in the next day or two.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Sam Katz has jumped the shark

In the first week of July, Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz jumped the shark.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it means the precise moment when, in this case, a politician, does something so incredibly stupid his popularity begins to slip irreparably from now on.

Katz, who could have sleepwalked to victory in the coming mayoral election, turned it into a horserace in an instant.

Despite all the media hype, Katz's opponent with the unpronounceable name, Judy Wasylycia-Leis, had everything going against her.

She has never had a real job in her adult life. Not one at the age of 59.

She has never had an independent thought in her working life. As an NDP apparatchik from her university days, she has toed the party line, breathed the party line, parroted the party line and voted the party line.

She has worked against the interests of Winnipeg in her 13 years as an NDP member of Parliament. In particular, while Winnipeg was wracked by a car-theft epidemic unlike any other city, she worked to water down any tough anti-auto-theft legislation proposed by the Conservatives while her party bragged it kept deterrence and denunciation out of the Youth Criminal Justice Act to weaken the powers of judges to sentence young car thieves.

She's essentially lived in Ottawa for the past 13 years that she's been an MP, coming home on weekends and during summer break, which even then she spent at a summer cottage out of town.

Her knowledge of civic issues ranges from pathetic to nonexistent. She has no position on mosquito control, except she's against mosquitoes. Using the floodway to control the Red River in summer? She's against flooding. A police helicopter? She's against crime. Downtown revitalization? Ottawa is a great place.

Her answer to everything is a smorgasbord of cliches and references to (barf alert) how much better things were in "the old days."

So how could Sam Katz blow his lead so badly?

He has many chinks in his political armour, flaws that a legitimate opponent could use to chop him down, some of which Judy Wasylycia-Leis has already poked with little effect.

Remember Katz's War on Mosquitoes announced in his first year in office? No, nobody else does either. That's why he's abandoned his faith in dragon flies and methoprene briquettes and replaced them with a crusade to fog sooner and more extensively.

Remember Katz's War on Crime? He sure talked the talk. He brought legendary New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani to Winnipeg to speak on how he cleaned up the Big Apple, then he failed to follow through on Guiliani's "broken windows" policies which attacked crime proactively. He introduced Crimestat, just like New York, except that Winnipeg's police hierarchy ignores it, according to retired deputy chief Menno Zacharias. He stood shoulder to shoulder with the police chief in 2005 to declare a war on gangs, then watched police spend their days providing 24-hour protection to co-eds at the University of Winnipeg when someone wrote a dirty word in the bathroom -- while the gang-related murders mounted on Magnus Avenue and police said they didn't have the resources to do anything except string up yellow tape. Muggings are up, house break-ins are up, shootings are up. Good job, Sam.

Downtown development? Housing is the experts' answer. So when a developer jumped through all the city hoops and earned the right to build an apartment building downtown, Katz caved to his rich pals and scuttled the deal to prevent the project from going up next to the Manitoba Club. Guess what? Three years later, we're still waiting for the magical appearance of housing in downtown Winnipeg, thanks to the weak-kneed mayor.

The Disraeli Bridge? Katz was all grins when discussing the public consultations that would choose which of three options the city would build. See, I'm listening, he said. He was less smiley when a year later he announced the city was building a bridge nobody had seen at the public consultations, at a cost above the most expensive bridge that had been soundly rejected by the public. What? We had public consultations, sniffed Katz.

Katz once said he treats city spending as if it was his own money. We didn't understand that he was already infected with the "politician" virus. Silly us. We thought he was saying he was careful about public spending.

He actually meant he thinks city money is his own and he can't wait to spend it.

That's why he can, with a straight face, say Light Rail Transit at an alleged cost of $50 million a kilometre is competitive with Bus Rapid Transit at a cost of $38 million per km.

That's a difference of almost $12 million a mile, assuming there's no cost overruns (hahahahaha).

It's only your money----but it's Sam Katz's legacy.

You see, in early July, Sam Katz decided to become Duff Roblin.

Roblin, the former Premier of Manitoba, died May 30. Immediately the accolades flowed forth, centering on Roblin's "vision" in building the Winnipeg Floodway to save the city from devastating floods.

Hmmm. The floodway was derided as "Duff's ditch" until it saved Winnipeg's bacon time and again. It was enormously expensive to build, $63 million back then, the equivalent of $500 million today.

Katz has his own "big idea," a pet project he's been harbouring almost from the day he was first elected.

Light Rail Transit. Electric streetcars to transform Winnipeg. Sure, they'll bitch and complain about the cost. They complained about the Floodway, and now look.

So on July 7, Katz made his move. He took a back-of-the-envelope "report" allegedly showing how fantastic LRT is compared to boring old BRT and made it the basis of a vote at executive policy committee making LRT the "preferred" expansion of the transit system.

It was all the opening Wasylycia-Leis needed. She could turn the election into a referendum on rapid transit. Put Katz on the defensive. Divert the public's attention from her shortcomings to Katz's ego.

Switching to LRT would cost Winnipeg taxpayers an additional $565 million, she told CJOB.

The hair on our heads stood straight up. Suddenly she had our undivided attention.

And with Bus Rapid Transit we can support Winnipeg bus maker New Flyer instead of the European or American streetcar makers, she said.

Hell Yeah! we said.

Today, she threw down the gauntlet. Voters will have a clear choice this mayoral election---BRT with high-spending Judy Wasylycia-Leis or LRT with no-limit-to-spending Sam Katz.

Katz should be very worried. He won the 2006 election with slightly more than 104,000 votes, compared to a total 60,600 for his two main opponents combined. That's an edge of almost 44,000 votes.

The most recent mayoral poll showed that Katz has lost about 12,000 votes, which would still put him at a comfortable 32,000 votes ahead.

But remember that Katz's best-ever vote total (104,000) is less than Glen Murray's 112,000 support in 2002.

If the NDP can motivate the Murray vote to come out, Katz is in deep trouble.

And in one fell swoop he's eliminated his aura of fiscal responsibility which clearly separated him from raise-taxes-and-spend Judy. Right now, its Wasylycia-Leis who's standing up for the interests of taxpayers.
Turnout in '06 was a shade over 169,000, well below '04 (almost 233,000) and '98 (almost 222,000). If those lost 50 - to - 60,000 voters come back this year, Katz needs to win more than his share to stay in office.

Sam Katz prides himself for doing the impossible by finding money for seemingly lost projects the way magicians find rabbits in hats.

Well, he's done the impossible again---he's evened out a runaway election against a tailor-made opponent.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights tells Wpg taxman "Talk to the Hand"

Tut, tut, tut.... what have we here?

We should have expected this from Winnipeg's biggest panhandler, millionaire moocher Gail Asper. Actually, in fact, we did. Which is why we checked.

Her pet project, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, has stiffed the City of Winnipeg for $360,000 in property taxes.

You paid your taxes. You scrimped here and saved there, and by June 30 you paid your fair share. But the CMHR apparently doesn't believe it has to contribute to the roads, water lines, policing, and recreation services provided by Winnipeg.

The museum had no problem finding the money to send their Chief Operating Officer Patrick O'Reilly to London and Copenhagen, New York City and Philadelphia, Paris and Bilbao, Spain, all over Australia, Toronto, Chicago, and Ottawa for meetings and visits to museums and conferences and more meetings.

Or to pay for his lunches at Rae & Jerry's and Stella's and Hy's Steakhouse and Earls and Falafel Place; and that's just in Winnipeg.

Nor did they need a tag day to finance CEO Stuart Murray's trips to Los Angeles and San Francisco, Philadelphia and Washington, Toronto and Montreal and Ottawa where he met with senior government officials and had dinner with CEO's of other national museums, and a Senator and made a presentation to a Senate committee. Murray engaged in public policy at Hy's and Inferno's Bistro, and in museum business at Chamberlyn's Restaurant and Lounge, Stella Osteria in Ottawa, and Sassafraz in Toronto, all on the museum's bill.

But city taxes? We're a little skint, you know.

So the tax bill went into the dumpster.

Gail Asper, who recently got back to Canada from "a historic pilgrimage to Poland to pay our respects to the the victims of the Nazi Holocaust", along with museum board member Yude Henteleff, isn't worried about taxes. She expects the City of Winnipeg to waive them--- and the 1.25 percent a month in penalties.

After all, she's Gail Asper.

In the words of her New York counterpart, Leona Helmsley:
"We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes..."

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Friday, July 09, 2010


What's going on here?

* The City starts fogging for mosquitoes in mid-June without the usual whining from the moonbats on and off council, and footdragging by hippy dippy city entomologist Taz Stuart. The spraying of malathion is aggressive and weekly.

** Mayor Sam Katz, the erstwhile champion of fighting mosquito infestations with briquettes, dragonflies, minnows, and assorted other Hogwart's magic methods, muses that the conditions to begin fogging are too restrictive and need to be changed.

*** The City announces that wading pools and spray pads will stay open well into the Fall as long as it stays warm and children want to play. Nobody says we can't afford it.

**** The City declares war on property owners who fail to repair derelict buildings that have peppered low-income neighbourhoods forever, acting as magnets for crackheads, arsonists and gangs. The goal is to eliminate 100 vacant and derelict buildings a year. A new law giving the city the teeth to do it is expected to pass unanimously.

What's going on? Election year, of course.

What other reason would there be for the mayor and council to do what citizens want them to do and to spend money on what taxpayers want money spent on instead of their own pet projects? Ain't it grand.

In fact, it's so unusual to see the civic government officials working on behalf of the citizens instead of their own egos that nobody expects it to last past the election in October.

But....what if?


Why not?

Everyone laments the low turnout at civic elections. Then they trot out their lame solutions.
Serve pizza. Lower the voting age to 12. Offer pony rides.

But none of the "experts" wants to address the obvious---why vote when your vote doesn't matter?
Mayor Sam Katz announced "public consultations" to let the public choose from three designs. The public rejected the most expensive bridge and settled on the mid-range option.

The City then held secret meetings with a special-interest group
and announced the official replacement for the Disraeli Bridge would be two bridges, neither of which had been seen at the "public consultations" but which the special-interest group approved.

Then a secret design process began, leaving residents in the neighbourhoods to be affected by the new bridges in the dark.

When they tried to get answers from their elected city councillors they discovered they had no representation from anyone.

Mynarski Coun. Harry Lazarenko, who's somewhere in his 70's, has discovered how to collect a paycheque without doing any work.

He either just ignored all his constituents' phone calls or told them to take their concerns to the Disraeli Bridge consultants.

Point Douglas Councillor Mike Pagtakhan had his eyes set on a run for federal office. He couldn't be bothered returning the calls of his constituents as he worked to become a Liberal Party candidate. (Elmwood's Lillian Thomas was holding Judy Alphabet's place on the left side of the running-for-mayor line - ed.)

Not that it mattered a whit in the end.

Premier Gary Doer decided to interfere in the bridge building process
before he left his job by dangling $50 million before Katz -- provided the city built yet another bridge that nobody had seen or heard of before, and which carried a pricetag that had been explicitly rejected.
Correction---the new pricetag was higher than the bridge the public rejected.
Katz took the money and diverted all criticism with the bogus claim that "we already had public consultations, don't bother me."

The politicians had nothing but contempt for the voters, and the voters have nothing but contempt back. So why is anyone surprised at the turnout?


if we can give the electorate a reason to come out to the polls, democracy wins, even if the politicians lose.

Here's how it could work:

First, we need to add another five city councillors. (Hey, don't go away. It makes sense if you give it a chance.)

This would bring the size of council to 20, plus the Mayor.

The goal then is to design a system to elect five city councillors each year. Each batch of five would serve four years. The mayor, elected from the city as a whole, would serve a four year term before facing the voters again. The transition to this 21st century election system would take three years.

As an example:
In 2010, the mayor and 15 councillors would be elected.

In 2011, five new councillors would be elected for a four year term.

The 15 sitting councillors would be divided into five groups of 3 councillors, roughly grouped around regions of the city. A citywide vote would be held to select one councillor from each of the five groups to stand in the re-calibration election the next year.

In 2012, the five councillors in the first re-calibration selection would be elected to a four-year term.

A citywide vote would be held to selected five more councillors to run in the next re-calibration election. The choice would be between the two councillors left in each of the 5 regional groups.

In 2013, the second batch of five would run in a re-calibration election.

In 2014, the remaining five councillors elected in 2010 would run in a re-calibration election.
A mayoral election would also take place.

From then on, there would be yearly elections for five councillors with a new mayor elected every four years (2019, 2023, etc).

Hey, this is the 21st Century. People expect instant feedback.

There's nothing sacred about an obsolete electoral system that moves at a snail's pace and excludes public opinion.

Put the mayor and city council on a short, short leash.

Every year 25 percent of council would have to face the voters and defend their votes in the previous year.

Bye bye "walking on" the mayor's pet projects for an instant vote that binds the city for decades and millions of dollars in expenses.

If you have a project that's worthy, you'll have to convince people before it's approved.

That's called democracy.

And it gets better. Why waste a good election year?

The City should hold citywide plebiscites each year on important issues.

Four or five questions to gauge public opinion. Bus Rapid Transit or Light Rail? At what cost? If you can't boil the question down to a paragraph, you're hiding something.

Do you want to improve voter turnout, this one idea alone will do it. No need for balloons or hotdogs or circus barkers. Ask peoples' opinions and mean it and they'll walk across fire to tell you.

We're telling you.

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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The HST Facts vs Dan Lett, HST Defender

Oh for the good old days. You know, when you believed what you read in the newspapers because, well, if it wasn't true, they wouldn't print it, right?

Those were the days when you assumed reporters were "professionals" who researched their stories before writing them. Oh, and they had editors who made double sure everything was accurate and true. Right?

Then -- damn you Al Gore --- came the Internet.

And, suddenly, people could actually check the so-called "facts" in the newspaper for themselves. And, whoops, it appears the "professionals" were making up a whole lot of what they wrote, editors or no editors.

Enter Winnipeg Free Press columnist Dan Lett, who has taken to imagining himself a commentator on national issues.
His latest observations, headlined "Public's HST phobia needless" consisted of insulting people who opposed the blending of their provincial sales tax with the federal GST into one giant universal money-sucking tax.

"The debate over the HST is not intelligent or rational." he wrote. Got that? You anti-HST crusaders are stupid AND irrational.

To demonstrate his own smarts, Lett decided to give the fools a lesson in economics.
"And while there is short-term hit in the price of goods and services, ultimately it is believed prices will go down. A recent study by economists at the University of New Brunswick showed the introduction of the HST in Atlantic Canada in 1997 did result in savings for consumers."


"The HST, a revenue-neutral tax that ultimately has the potential to save consumers money, doesn't really deserve to be on that list. An intelligent debate would have revealed that."

Oh yeah?

Maybe Lett should have actually read the "recent study by economists at the University of New Brunswick" before citing it to bolster his argument. It's not hard to find --- on the Internet. We found it and read it, along with a subsequent report from the C.D. Howe Institute.on the consumer effects of the HST.

Both studies tried to determine if the adoption of the HST in Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in 1997 reduced costs to consumers.

Now, not being university eggheads, we would have answered the question the same way you would --- we would have asked our mothers.

Mom, did prices go up or down after they brought in the HST?
Simple, eh. Obviously too simple.

How would academics do it? For the answer we turn to the study:
The Effect of the Harmonized Sales Tax on Consumer Prices in Atlantic Canada
Department of Economics
University of New Brunswick
Fredericton, New Brunswick
"Turning to our forecast procedure, we use the pre- HST data and Holt-Winters’ double exponential smoothing method with additive seasonal adjustments for generating forecasts for the logarithmic transformation of CPI (i.e., dependent variable = LnCPI) for the HST period. We then follow a counter-factual procedure by comparing the estimated LnCPI (denoted by Ln CPI ), in the absence of the HST, to the actual LnCPI to derive the impact of the HST on consumer prices as measured by (LnCPI – Ln CPI ), for each of the HST-participating provinces."

Okay, have you got that, or do we have to repeat it?

So after the proper smoothing, adjusting, estimating and applying the proper counter-factual procedure, the professors reached a conclusion.

"...overall, consumer prices fell given the new HST regime."
Well, actually, "... the overall price fell somewhat."

And, umm----you're going to laugh---the data doesn't actually prove a direct connection between the HST and the drop in prices, said the experts.

You see, in accepting the HST, the Maritime provinces chopped their provincial sales taxes significantly. Newfoundland dropped theirs from 12 percent to 8. The other two provinces cut theirs from 11 percent to 8.

So, umm, the fall in consumer prices might actually be due to the CUT IN RETAIL SALES TAX and not the benefits of the HST being passed through to consumers.
"Our results, in other words, cannot immediately be extended to consumers in other provinces. The three participating provinces had the highest sales tax rates in the country, and reducing those high tax rates to 8 percent (along with changing the tax bases) ended up benefiting consumers."
So cutting taxes results in lower prices. YOUR MOTHERS COULD HAVE TOLD YOU THAT.
Except that they couldn't detect the falling prices. For that we had to turn to the July, 2007, report from the C.D. Howe Institute:
Lessons in Harmony:
What Experience in the Atlantic
Provinces Shows About the
Benefits of a Harmonized Sales Tax

Author Michael Smart concluded "...overall, CPI prices fell by about 0.3 percent in HST provinces after 1997, compared to the corresponding change in RST provinces."

Got it? Prices in the HST provinces after two years were a gi-montrous three quarters of one percent less than prices in the other provinces with their own sales taxes. Well, whoop dee doo.

"This difference" wrote Michael Smart, " is statistically insignificant..." You don't need a PhD to know that, brother.

So, if the upside of the HST is so tiny to be essentially irrelevant, is there a downside? The experts opinions ranged from 'uh, maybe', to 'Yessiree Bob'.

Professors Murrell and Yu said their analysis didn't examine that possibility, although they concluded:

" could be the case that certain income groups, in particular, low-income families, might do worse given the move to harmonize sales taxes."

Michael Smart, however, did the math.

"Particularly notable, perhaps, are the estimated 1.4 percent price increase for Shelter, reflecting the extension of the tax base to include purchases of new houses, and 1.5 percent price increase for Clothing and Footwear, which also likely reflects the broader base of the HST. Since expenditure shares for these categories tend to be larger for low-income households, this suggests the possibility that the reform was regressive in that it raised average prices for low-income households while lowering prices overall."

"Thus I conclude that the HST reform had a mild regressive effect."
Or, as our mothers would say,"The poor get screwed."

Or is that not intelligent or rational enough for "professional" journalists to understand?

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