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:

Friday, August 24, 2012

Thank the NDP for the gouging of Winnipeg football fans.

Did you read that?

The revelations by Garth Buchko, CEO of the Winnipeg Blue Gougers, in Thursday's Winnipeg Free Press were stunning, even as they sailed over the heads of news reporters and sports pundits alike.

Equally stunning was the extent to which the newspaper went to avoid naming the people responsible for the food-and-beverage fiasco that's come to define the predatory attitude of the Winnipeg football club towards its fans.

But let's start with the bombs dropped by Buchko:

* the team is crippled by debt, and a hairsbreadth from bankruptcy

* the board of directors has executed a silent coup, seizing total control of the football club and turning it into a quasi-private operation 

* the harsh no-food, no-drink policy that treats all fans like chiselers was forced on the club by the need to pay off the onerous debt imposed the team by the provincial government as its alleged share of the cost of the new stadium

Whew. Is that all?

Buchko had been running like Usain Bolt to get out from under the controversy over the heavy-handed search-and-seizure tactics of Winnipeg Blue Bombers security staff dedicated to keeping every crumb and every drop of food and drink out of the stadium. 

Fans of the, ahem, community-owned team are to be indoctrinated into the fact that everything they eat and drink during games must -- that's MUST-- be purchased at exhorbitant prices from licensed concessionaires. It's their duty to pay.

That includes bottled water, bananas, chocolate bars, Certs, right down to fruit juice carried by a diabetic boy as a precaution against insulin shock.

Damn nine-year-old boys faking being sick to sneak sweet drinks past security. Oldest trick in the book. You've got to get up pretty early in the morning to put that one over on old Garth Buchko who boned up on security at Stalag Luft III just for such an eventuality.

After all, weren't they offering free cups so patrons could drink all the tap water they wanted? The tap water from the taps in the toilets. In the toilets where people piss and shit and puke and then wash their hands under those same taps? It's free, said Garth Buchko, and where's the thanks?

Well, it seems the diabetic boy was the last straw. The fans revolted. And Garth did his usual dance -- the one-eighty.

He was on CJOB Thursday morning explaining that, well, they didn't really mean that absolutely all food was banned from crossing the stadium threshhold. Individual snacks were okay from now on. And while you can't bring bottled water, if you bring a bottle you can fill up with free water at the games from designated water stations, instead of being forced to pony up $3 a bottle (20 cents wholesale). 

But while the attention of the news media was being distracted by carrot sticks and H20, the real news in the Free Press story was going unmentioned.

"If we continue to run the team as a normal community-owned team, there's no way we can be responsible for the debt repayment..." Buchko said.

Community-owned team? That's so yesterday.

"So somewhere, somehow, we need to be responsible to the community and run this like a business," Buchko said.

Translation: Don't worry. The Board is full of businessmen. Leave it to us to, ahem, be responsible to the community --- by making money, not friends. Hey, David Asper is on the board. He knows how to run a business.

According to the deal, the Winnipeg Blue Gougers carry an $85 million mortgage on the $190 million new stadium and have to start paying $4 million a year on the debt next year.

"We're in business to make some money, pay off some debt and be responsible to the community and the taxpayers of the province. Because if we don't make money, then we have a bigger issue," he said.

The club's priority is making money even if fans don't like it . "Taxpayers of the province" is code for the NDP government, which, like the loan shark, has to get paid.

The bigger issue? Defaulting on the mortgage. Aka bankruptcy.

Three words are missing from the Free Press story.

Asper, Selinger and Katz.

The three people responsible for the disastrous financing of the new stadium which is choking the life out of the football team starting with the death of the concept of community-ownership.

It wasn't supposed to be this way. In fact, it was literally to be the exact opposite of the way it turned out.

David Asper, playing the Big Shot, declared he would build a $140 million stadium with minimal public investment required. In exchange he wanted to be given the ownership of the team. The deal would erase the team's debt and put them on a stable financial footing with new sources of revenue from the new stadium.

He failed in one of the biggest business flops in recent memory. He couldn't raise a dime for his pet project, Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz bailed him out with $4 million in taxpayers' money, and Premier Greg Selinger stepped in and promised to fund the stadium on the province's dime even though the cost had risen to $190 million.

Selinger had to hide the fact he needed to borrow the $190 million, and thereby raise the deficit by that amount.
He did it by claiming he wasn't spending any money on a stadium, he was loaning the entire sum to the University of Manitoba and the Winnipeg football team who would pay the province back. The fact that the university and the Blue Bombers don't have a nickel between them to spend on a football stadium didn't matter.

And the fact that instead of taking the team out of debt it was chaining the team to an unsupportable debt for more than a generation to come? Don't be such a naysayer.

Asper, Selinger and Katz are responsible for beggaring the Winnipeg football team, although you wouldn't know it from the Winnipeg Free Press who erased their roles from history.

The team has to gouge fans to, uh, you know, uh, because of uh, security. Yeah, security.

An apple thrown is a lethal weapon. Just look at the numbers of death by apple on police rap sheets. 'Nuff said.

The only deaths we've seen have been the credibility of Selinger, Katz, Asper and Buchko. 

Hey, look, it spells S-K-A-B.

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Veteran police officer declares downtown Winnipeg is a virtual war zone

Even as month-old information is passed off as "news" by the Winnipeg Free Press, the biggest crime story in Winnipeg languishes untouched by the city's "professional" journalists.

Crime reporters have been trying to put the latest outbreak of shootings and home invasions into context. CTV on Friday blamed it on a clash between two street gangs---MOB and Indian Posse.

Trying to advance the story in Saturday's paper, FP reporter Mike McIntyre breathlessly wrote that

"police and justice sources tell the Free Press the M.O.B. is no longer a united front and has broken into two factions..."

Uh, yeah.

That's what the Winnipeg Sun reported ONE MONTH AGO after the details were revealed in open court.

"A mysterious rift among members of a notorious Winnipeg street gang has led to the birth of a new splinter group inside provincial jails and on city streets, the Winnipeg Sun has learned.

A handful of MOB (Most Organized Brothers) members have split off and recently formed a new gang faction dubbed the “334” — a numerical nod to the tattoos worn by some MOB members, a Manitoba Justice gang prosecutor told court Tuesday."

But the unity or otherwise of a pathetic assemblage of thuggish losers pales beside the bombshells dropped by James Jewell, one of Winnipeg's most experienced police officers, on his blog

Jewell quit the force last year after 25 years of service. And, after senior officers railroaded him out of the homicide division for standing up against outgoing Police Chief Keith McCaskill's dumbest policy ever -- rotating officers through Homicide every three years, diluting the institutional memory and maximizing the number of cold cases.
Free to speak his mind at last, Jewell revealed the state of the city as the police know it. And he threw down the gauntlet to the outgoing Chief of Police, the Mayor, and even the provincial government.

He wrote:

* downtown Winnipeg is a virtual war zone "crawling with rival gangsters all armed with dangerous and offensive weapons"--- guns, knives, and pepper spray

* routine police patrols are a thing of the past and 'taking back the streets' is a romantic idea but simply not possible with current resources.
* Winnipeg is not a safe City "despite the rhetoric that is spewed from our Political leaders and Chief of Police."

"I was shocked when I read a quote from Mayor Katz in which he is reported to have stated; "I have no problem going downtown, I have no problem going to the North End, regardless of the day of the week, regardless of what time it is.”
"This kind of denial is reckless and dangerous."

* "Feeble sentences, grossly applied early parole and release philosophies, countless breaches of recognizance and other orders ... The scales of justice so horribly out of balance."

"The status quo fed to the public and media again, more explanations, minimizations and justifications.....don’t be fooled, its all B.S."

"Our status as the most violent City in the Country is simply shameful & unacceptable."
"Real leaders would not deny these problems, they would see them as opportunities."

"Real Leaders wanted!!! "

Read the whole thing and shudder.

And remember these are the observations of somebody who has worked for 25 years to protect you and your family, who is not running for election, and who is not paid to be a Pollyanna.

Oh, the irony. The unadulterated irony.

Monday night, Winnipeg Free Press reporters Mary Agnes Welch and Dan Lett are giving potential citizen journalists a "crash course" in using Freedom of Information requests to dig up stories. It's something organized by the Community News Commons, the much-hyped project to train citizen journalists in "proper" news gathering.

To be a fly on the wall...

You'll remember that it was an FOI request that uncovered the secret role of former FP editor Margo Goodhand, Welch's and Lett's boss, in killing The Great Canadian Talk Show, a popular and influential radio talk show that regularly shamed the Free Press by pointing out it's bad news reporting, biased news reporting, slanted political reporting, and overall reporter incompetence.

The FOI turned up an email recounting how Goodhand used the despicable tactic of libel chill to encourage her friend Stephanie Forsyth, the president of Red River College, to "do something" about TGCTS which was broadcast on the RRC-affiliated radio station KICK-FM.

But after the show was cancelled abruptly, angry listeners turned into citizen journalists who, without any help from Free Press reporters, uncovered the fact that the radio station was being run illegally by a secret committee that reported directly to Stephanie Forsyth.

They took that information to the CRTC which began asking questions of it's own. 

After KICK-FM confessed that they had no records or minutes of the secret "executive committee" that made the decision to kill TGCTS,
not even of the Board meeting where it was allegedly constituted/empowered, Red River decided it didn't want to run a silly old radio station anyway, and gave up the radio licence.

So Margo Goodhand's interference resulted in the death of the popular radio station that had served Winnipeg music fans, and students of Red River's journalism course, for 10 years.

We can't imagine how News Commons coordinator Noah Erenberg, who arranged the Monday seminar, will address the role of citizen journalists in uncovering the damage Winnipeg Free Press editor Margo Goodhand did to journalism in Winnipeg.

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Friday, August 10, 2012

The Black Rod Online Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Aboriginal Women, Part 2

The news that Winnipeg police are planning to spend a million dollars on a search of the local garbage dump for the body of a missing part-time prostitute reminded us that we weren't finished with our first installment of our Online Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women.

Two weeks ago, police announced an arrest in the stabbing death of our first subject, Cherie Lynn Richard, and the case dropped off the radar of the mainstream media in town. That's when we accidentally stumbled across the bombshell news that crystallized the lessons of her death.

Deep, deep, deep within the story of the arrest carried in the July 27-29 issue of the free daily Winnipeg Metro was this stunning sentence:

"Police allege Richard was stabbed after a verbal altercation took place over drugs."

If true, it was a citywide scoop, something reporter Shane Gibson was obviously unaware of breaking.

We immediately started asking around to determine if a police source had actually made such a statement or if the reporter had jumped to an unsupported conclusion. To our utter astonishment, not only did we learn that Gibson had confirmation from the police in writing (if you can call email electronic writing) but the Winnipeg Free Press had the same information, and more, and had chosen NOT to publish it.

That's right. The newspaper of record which boasts of its journalistic integrity had made a deliberate decision NOT to publish relevant details of a shocking murder.

The FP, it turns out, chose to bury the drug connection as well as information that Cherie Richard suffered from FASD.

With these two pieces of the puzzle, we could now offer a series of observations about the latest murder of an aboriginal woman in Winnipeg.

And these lessons could be applied to the examination of all the cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women under our online inquiry.

The Victim
Cherie Richard was by all accounts a true innocent. The information that she was an FASD baby explains why, at age 20, she still hadn't finished high school. And why she was easily led into danger by someone she trusted.

The Lesson
FASD is a huge problem in the native community even though it can be eliminated in a (baby's) heartbeat.


See how easy that is? Unfortunately, the native community is filled with women who are too stupid to do the obvious and with enablers who think that stopping stupid women from having brain-damaged children is judgemental and wrong.

The "Chiefs" should be in the forefront of fighting FASD, right up to insisting on the mandatory detention of women who refuse to stop drinking or using drugs when pregnant. Reduce the number of teens and young women with FASD and you reduce the number of potential victims by drastically cutting the number of people who can't make smart decisions to stay out of trouble.

The Fatal Stabbing
Its too easy to shrug your shoulders and say she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. How did she get there?

She was with her younger older sister, both on bicycles, in the middle of the night, outside an apartment house reputed for its connections to drugs and gangs. You can bet she didn't get there by herself; Cherie was accompanying her sister who, thereby, becomes responsible for putting Cherie into a dangerous situation.

The sister acknowledged there was an argument and that Cherie wasn't involved. If the police theory is true that the argument was over drugs, it means the sister, who should have been looking after Cherie, was actually endangering her.

The journey from drugs to violence is a word, a glance, an unintentional snub. Why was Cherie stabbed to death? Because she didn't get out of the escalating situation fast enough. 
She trusted her sister to protect her.

The Lesson
Enter the drug world, even as a bystander, and you maximize your chances of being a victim of violence.

The aboriginal community is the first to make excuses for drug dealers. There's always an excuse.

Poverty. Colonialism. Gangs are family substitutes. It's a family tradition. Blame the white man.

They won't fight drugs in the community, because that would mean assisting the police in sending more aboriginal youths to prison. And the Chiefs would rather have them selling drugs on the street. Until that twisted value system changes, the long list of missing and murdered aboriginal women will only grow longer, watered by the crocodile tears of aboriginal "leaders."

The Twist
Cherie Richard was killed on a public street only minutes before the sun came up. There happened to be a number of residents and passersby who were awake and who responded quickly to the scene. That made all the difference in the world.

The Lesson
Imagine if the killing had occurred in a secluded spot, a park or a back lane or the basement of some crack house. No witnesses, no remorse. Only a dead body that has to be disposed of.

Cherie's sister stayed by her until police arrived on Furby Street.

How would she have reacted if Cherie had been killed in a crack house?

Call the police and admit you were there to buy or sell drugs? Bring the heat down on your "friends"? Or mourn quietly while others discuss how to get rid of the body and the blood?

A trip to a dumpster the night before pickup? A drive to the nearest riverbank? A visit to a reserve with a body in the trunk and the hope it fits the pre-dug shallow grave?

Nobody has a convincing reason to call police in that circumstance. Too many people on probation and parole who shouldn't have been there in the first place. Too many people carrying drugs, guns, knives. Too many people connected to gangs who wouldn't be happy to have police interrupt their livelihood and who would say so to grieving relatives. Too many relatives with their own secrets who don't want police snooping around.

So silence is the best policy. A little public crying. Some flowers and teddy bears at a memorial. A Facebook page. R.I.P. tattoos. But snitches get stitches, or worse. And calling the police won't bring her back, anyway.

Hell, in the thug life it's almost a badge of honour to know someone who has been killed. It's like a bonding experience.
Testifying in court? Not so much.

Until a true leader steps up to challenge the gangs, to denounce the deviant lifestyles that the aboriginal community accepts as normal, to point the finger at the enablers, nothing is going to change.

We need an Indian Harry Lahotsky.

Until then, we'll be spending millions sifting through garbage dumps

(Related post from August 2011: )

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