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:

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sorry state of Manitoba's opposition; Manitoba Hydro con job; Manitoba films big hit; Orlikow inspired Kelvin High student


What's wrong with all you people? Don't you know that this warm weather is a harbinger of doom?

Haven't we been told over and over again for the past 10 years that global warming will bring the end of mankind? That Mother Earth herself is at risk? And here you are, celebrating the early spring, raking your lawns with gusto, taking your dear children for walks when you should be praying for another six weeks of harsh winter to preserve the world for those very offspring.

Fie, we say. Fie.

Oh well. There's nothing we can do but clear our desks of the clutter that's piled up this gorgeous month and write our annual March Madness issue.

Spring Romance

The Green Party knows the end is nigh. But its too busy plotting merger with the Liberal Party of Manitoba, or so we were told earlier this month. Talk about madness. Who in the world cares about what the Green Party and the Liberal Party are doing?

Zero meet zero. The combined strength of the fringe won't add up to a single extra seat.

So what's behind the billing and cooing? Its too obvious for the MSM pundits to see.

At the last federal Liberal convention, they decided to snuggle up to "associates"--- non-members who shared the same goals on certain issues. The intent was to gradually win these voters over to cast their ballots for Liberal candidates with whom they've worked on side campaigns.

Hence, the Manitoba Liberal Party, which has no reason to exist other than to be the local arm of the federal party, is sucking up to the Greens to eventually recruit them as footsoldiers in the next federal election. You read it here first.

Waiting for the Messiah

All the well-meaning MSM pundits agree on one thing the Manitoba Tories need to revive their fortunes---a charismatic leader.

Well, Easter is just around the corner. But we don't see resurrection in the Tory future. Five months after lead lemming Hugh McFadyen resigned after marching his team off the cliff, not a single person has announced his or her candidacy for party leader.

That comes as no surprise. We spelled out in November why the Conservative Party is dead with no chance of rising from the grave.

Nonetheless, the diehards continue to search the sky for their saviour. So we'll provide some clues to help identify The One (using male gender pronouns simply to keep this an easier read, no chauvinism intended -ed.)

He will declare that everyone responsible for the debacle of the 2011 election resign immediately or be dismissed. Stress the word 'declare' as this is a non-negotiable demand.

It will have two immediate impacts. It will incense the party establishment and it will arouse the interest of the news media. Controversy is the lifeblood of the news.

The candidate will not compromise. But he must have the support of the caucus. That will mean he cannot be threatened by the party brass. Regardless of what they say or do, he will control the party in the Legislature and thereby render the establishment irrelevant.

Once installed as leader, he will announce he is reorganizing Question Period. Instead of rising to deliver speeches, the Opposition will, gasp, ask questions. Who, what, where, when and why. As many questions as each day allows. And he won't humiliate himself by sitting in the public gallery. He will be in his office, and the press will come to him.

Thus he will create interest in the Party again, starting by taking control from the legion of losers whose (choke) leadership resulted was fatal in 2011. Yes, fatal, because there is no such Tory messiah. It will never happen.

The caucus is impotent. Most of them will never have a job that pays so well; do you think they're going to risk their livelihood by challenging the party establishment? Hardly. So they'll play along, going through the motions no matter how humiliating it looks to them personally.

For the record, we're still offering the Conservative Party a lifeline which we first broached way back in November when we wrote:

Bleak as the picture is, the PC Party in Manitoba has one, and only one, chance to resuscitate its fortunes.

It's daring. It's bold (and not the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce way). And it's foolproof.

The Party has to ...
Oh, did you think we would give the solution away for free?

Since then, we read that the Manitoba Tories spent more than $1.42 million on their last election campaign. It bought them squat.

So we've doubled the price of Plan X to the Conservatives. They obviously have the money, they're desperate, and the had their chance to buy a future for a bargain price. The other political parties in Manitoba can buy it at the original price if they want to snatch the last chance the Tories have away from them.

As an aside, we were told lately that a member of the Party executive is going around telling people he knows who The Black Rod is. His bombshell: former radio talk show host Marty Gold. We're honoured since he had more influence in the city than us, and we'll add his name to the growing list of Black Rods. But if that's the extent of the Tory brain trust's intelligence, it's no wonder they got creamed in the last election.

Power Whopper

Manitoba Hydro is using the mild winter to try to squeeze more money out of the Public Utilities Board which denied Hydro the full monthly rate hike it wanted. Hydro wanted a 2.9 percent increase and only got 1.9.

Hydro went public with a claim that its going to be hurt financially because there wasn't enough snow this winter. The Winnipeg Sun quoted a Hydro spokesman saying that not getting the 1 percent hike in rates will cost Hydro $65 million this year.

Here's where you're supposed to nod and say, yeah, I guess there wasn't a lot of snow.

But Hydro is conning you.

The real reason Hydro needs the money is because its putting the Wuskwatim power plant on line this spring. The first of three units was to start running in February. Its going to cost us an added $153 million per year just to pay for the station. And that's the upside.

The problem they don't want you to know, is that it costs 10 cents a kilowatt hour to produce the power, which is then being sold to the United States at prices ranging from 3 cents kwh at the top to half that at the bottom.

Yes, folks. We are now paying top dollar to provide subsidized power to the States. In fact, the best price we'll get from them is give-or-take half of what we pay for power from Manitoba Hydro ourselves.

The Hydro con job is aimed at you, the Manitoba consumer. The PUB is well aware of the game. Here's a transcript from their last public hearing in 2011:

"From a rate setting perspective, once a generating station (or any unit of a generating station) is placed in service, all of the fixed costs can no longer be capitalized and are added to the rate base to be recovered from domestic customers or from export sales. It is by the same rate setting principles that when Wuskwatim G.S. comes into service, MH’s Operating Statement will record an additional $153 million per year of costs associated with producing about 1,500 GWh of energy per year. The unit cost of energy approximates 10¢/kWh."
"Because Wuskwatim’s output is not immediately needed for Manitoba load, its output is to be sold on the export market. Presently there is no fixed-price export contract for Wuskwatim G.S.’s output, which means that such output will be sold on the ‘spot market’ – a market currently returning prices approximating 3¢/kWh during peak hours and less than half of that amount during off-peak hours."
"Because the $153 million per year of costs are real, and the spot export revenues will only cover less than a third of those costs, it falls to domestic Manitoba customers to cover the financial losses flowing from the operation of Wuskwatim G.S. Those losses will result in reduced Retained Earnings, higher consumer rates, or both."
Top Grade

You've been hearing a lot of bad things about Kelvin High School lately, what with a brawl outside the school sending four students to hospital. And then there's this story we stumbled across accidentally where the president of Princeton University -- yeah, that Princeton -- recalls her inspiration at Kelvin High.
Tilghman calls on graduates to close the educational achievement gap

Posted May 31, 2011; 03:15 p.m.

by Ruth Stevens

Calling education "our most powerful engine for social mobility," Princeton University President Shirley M. Tilghman implored this year's graduates to use their knowledge to improve the country's K-12 education system.
"Today you leave this privileged place as the beneficiaries of a world-class education -- one that I hope has prepared you well for whatever comes next, including the unexpected," she said May 31 in her annual Commencement address. "Without in any way diminishing the importance of your own hard work, you are among the lucky ones."

Speaking to the crowd of 7,500 guests assembled on the front lawn of Nassau Hall, she added, "I find it deeply paradoxical that the United States has without question the finest colleges and universities in the world, but a K-12 education system that is leaving vast numbers of students behind."

Drawing upon personal experiences, data and examples set by Princeton alumni, she outlined the problem and encouraged the 2,021 graduates to help close the educational achievement gap. "Almost certainly each of you encountered along the way one or more teachers who encouraged you to excel, or raised your sights, or inspired in you a passion for learning," Tilghman said. "I am here today because Lionel Orlikow, my history teacher at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, Manitoba, sent a lightning bolt through my mind and opened my eyes to the world beyond my middle-class neighborhood. … He inspired me to aim high and be bold."

But, she said, there are too many students today who will never encounter their own "Mr. Orlikow."
She noted that 25 percent of students in this country drop out or fail to complete high school on time -- resulting in a graduation rate that places the United States 20th among the 34 members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In addition, American students perform at or below average among OECD countries in reading, mathematics and science.
There's more at the link.

Strange Beauty

It ain't Sundance.

But Winnipeg filmmakers have made a splash in Durham, North Carolina at the Strange Beauty Film Festival.

"Intense, short-form documentaries. Bizarre and optically overwhelming animation. Meditative and visionary filmworks that connect back to the earliest cinematic traditions, or to no known traditions at all. We know what to expect of Durham's homegrown Strange Beauty Film Festival, now in its third year."

"Husband-and-wife team Jim Haverkamp and Joyce Ventimiglia founded Strange Beauty, the third iteration of which occupies the Manbites Dog Theater Thursday through Saturday, as an alternative to genre- and theme-oriented festivals. Driving home from those programs, they'd talk about the one or two odd straggler films that had emotionally affected them. Why not make a whole festival out of just those?"

"This niche has quickly widened. Haverkamp and Ventimiglia received about 200 submissions this year, up from 120 just a year ago. Word is out, and not just regionally. Although North Carolina filmmakers make up about a third of the 48-film program, work from Taiwan, Germany and the United Kingdom will also be screened. Oh, and eight films from Winnipeg."

"Um, Winnipeg?"

"It's strange. We just got a lot of films from Winnipeg and a lot of them were great," Ventimiglia chuckles. "I think there's a little film mafia there."

There's more here:

Ventimiglia said that one aspect of this year's festival was entirely unexpected: Of the films showing at the festival, a disproportionate number are from the Canadian city of Winnipeg.

"I don't know how that happened, it's really weird," she said with a laugh. "We got a few submissions from a filmmaker in Winnipeg last year, and I guess he told all his friends. They must have quite a vibrant experimental film scene in Winnipeg."

The filmmakers got the oddest thank-yous from their Durham fans. Check 'em out:
What bias?
The media feeding frenzy over the so-called Robocalls has petered out. But at its height the wannabe Woodwards-and-Bersteins of the Parliamentary Press Gallery were tossing out the most egregious allegations and rumours as "news stories" to stay with the pack.
A personal favorite was a report by Robert Fife on CTV National News on the evening of March 13.
He reported that a senior Conservative (unidentified) had said that someone in the Guelph campaign office had said that Michael Sona, the Conservative staffer who resigned when the Pierre Poutine story broke, had "owned up to the scheme." But, to be as fair, Fife then quoted a source "close to Sona" denying it.
In other words, an anonymous source cites another anonymous source making a claim that's denied by yet another anonymous source who is not the person any of them is talking about.
That's what journalism in the big leagues has become.

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