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:

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Charged with his wife's murder, Mark Stobbe went to jail so you don't have to

Who thinks about what jail is like? People likely to go to jail, of course.

But if you're a career-oriented, hard-working family man like Mark Stobbe, you never imagine yourself in jail. 

That's something you see on television.  It's make-believe and as far removed from your reality as the actors in prop jumpsuits and tin handcuffs. That's what Stobbe thought, right until the day the police arrested him and charged him with killing his wife. 

Instantly, the pretend had become the real. He found himself in jail.

It would take years, literally, before he was brought to trial. And it turned out the Crown didn't have the slightest, smallest shred of evidence against him.  Their whole case was a bluff.  A flight of fancy. Pure imagination.  A case so beyond flimsy it would shame real lawyers and real judges if they were capable of shame.

If there was one good thing about the whole experience (as if there can be anything good about being accused of the murder), it's that Stobbe got bail in relatively short time (six weeks). He didn't have to spend those years in jail waiting for trial.

But he was in the remand centres in Saskatchewan (where he got arrested) and Winnipeg (where the trial was held) long enough to get a view of life in jail, a view that most people will never have and never want to have.

And it's fascinating.

You wouldn't think so. What's so fascinating about watching time pass day after day?

Stobbe was a civil servant with the Manitoba government when his wife, Beverley Rowbotham, was murdered.   But he was a university grad in sociology.  He didn't let his time locked up go to waste. He spent his observing.  Not watching, observing.

He's written a book about what he saw. Its like a Discovery Channel safari into a human jungle. Stobbe tells you:

* Why new inmates annoy everyone on their first day.  They don't know enough not to let the metal door slam behind them.  A slamming door, over and over as newbies are admitted, drives everybody nuts.

* Why you don't throw the food you don't eat into the trash. Somebody may want it. Uneaten food is shared, not junked.

* Why there are no thieves in remand.  Nobody likes a thief, especially if he's likely to steal from you when you're not watching. That's why almost everybody says they're in for breaches of their bail conditions. Breaches everyone understands. It's a rebel thing. Thieves nobody trusts.

* Why you don't throw your plastic cutlery in the garbage.  It's not Mcdonald's. You're not doing somebody a favour. Trustees are responsible for all the knives and forks, even if they are plastic.  Throw them out and the trustees have to dig through garbage to find them. Pile them up neatly, and save them work.

Stobbe discovered that corrections officials, aka the "screws" as they're called in old movies, strive for order above all.  Strangers confined against their will will sort themselves out as long as everyone knows what to expect.  Introduce instability and you're asking for trouble.

Even when an inmate had to be subdued by the "incident response team", the prisoners knew the routine and nobody got excited. They grumbled about the tear gas but even the inmate knew what was going to happen, in what order, and how it would end providing he didn't fight back too strenuously. He wanted to make a statement, he did, everyone understood, and life went on. That's jail.

Stobbe was surprised to discover that jail guards and police are not necessarily working in tandem.  When the police planted someone in the jail to elicit incriminating information from Stobbe, he was taken from his cell and warned by a corrections officer to watch out for plants.  A police snitch disrupts the order of a jail.  That is not  good.

That's also why longtimers in remand hate gang members. Believe it or not. Guards have to keep gangs apart, so when one gang is let out for recreation, the others are locked up, and these repeated lockdowns aggravate the inmates who are not in either gang.  Gang members aren't respected in jail, they're despised the same as on the outside.

Some of the best insights into the jail mentality comes in Stobbe's interactions with other inmates. He was charged with murder, which automatically put him at the top of the hierarchy and meant he got the jail's one and only newspaper first. The sex offender never got it no matter how much he pleaded.

Stobbe describes the psychology of the coke dealer who explained his operation the way a Fortune 500 executive would;  the brawler facing several years in jail for assault who was still proud of punching out the guy who called him a "wagon burner";  Lumpy, who had standards in his business---no selling cocaine within 200 yards of a school.

And he analyzes faults in the system, which he saw even from his brief exposure to the inside. Bail, for example, he says, is a trap. Inmates spend so much time fantasizing about what they will do when they get out, that bail conditions that require them to abstain from those very activities are guaranteed to see them rearrested in a short time.

In one bull session, his fellow prisoners wove tantalizing tales of the sex, drugs and alcohol they would get once out of jail. Stobbe disgusted everyone when he confessed his biggest desire was for Spitz sunflower seeds.

His book, A Cry for Justice, won't disappoint or disgust you. It's a primer to life in jail which, God willing, you'll never have to experience. Who doesn't like a good safari from the comfort of your own home?

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Monday, March 18, 2013

Red River Rip. The New Aristocrats socialize and you pay.

In  August, 2011, six people sat down to a home-cooked meal at the residence of Red River College President Stephanie Forsyth.

You paid for the food.  But you weren't invited.

That's because you're a troll and Forsyth and her guests are the New Aristocrats.  

You are expected to cover the cost of their socializing.  And like it.  And STFU.

Forsyth, during her Golf Shoe phone blitz on Friday, declared that people should be grateful to her for hosting a dinner party at home.  After all, she sniffed, she could have gone to a restaurant.  See, she actually saved you money.

This is the mind-set of the New Aristocracy.  The idea that the public shouldn't cover the cost of a restaurant get-together either didn't even rate a thought.  To people of her ilk the fact that her evenings out are paid for by the hoi polloi is a given and not up for debate.

We repeat ourselves: Stephanie Forsyth has an office. Her guest at dinner was NDP cabinet minister Kerri Irwin-Ross. She has an office. Business is conducted during business hours and could, and should, be conducted in either business office. Everything else is socializing. It's something you do on your own time and at your own expense.

A bus driver hosting a barbeque at which he discusses bus routes with a city councillor can't go running to Winnipeg Transit and get his steaks and weenies paid for.  

A librarian having a pizza night with friends who work for the Winnipeg Foundation can't go to the City of Winnipeg to get repaid the price of a few slices because she talked about the latest trends in libraries and pitched a donation.

But when the New Aristocrats want to have dinner at home they call it 'business' and get the students of Red River and the taxpayer to subsidize their chowdown.

Forsyth is defended by people like Margo Goodhand, the former editor of the Winnipeg Free Press.  

She wrote a column last week decrying the trolls---her word---who fail to aggrandize the self-proclaimed visionaries in this town.  Sure,these people spend multi-millions of your money on their pet projects, but they do it for you.  You're just too limited to see the big picture, too concentrated on pinching pennies when you should be celebrating the glory of the New Aristocrats.

Of course Goodhand is a closet friend of Stephanie Forsyth's.  When Goodhand wanted a talk show killed on the radio station hosted by Red River College, she  made a clandestine phone call to Forsyth and it was done. (Unfortunately, so was the entire radio station once the CRTC discovered it was being run illegally by Forsyth in violation of broadcasting regulations.)

In fact, we wonder if Goodhand was the beneficiary of any of Forsyth's socializing under the guise of business. We can't find out because the Red River College President is refusing to release the details of the $78,000 in expenses she piled up in her first 16 months on the job.

Too much paperwork, and people don't want that, she said Friday.

The Board of Governors promised a whitewash review of her expenses.  "Whitewash" because Board chairman Richard Lennon outright said Friday that her expenses were within college guidelines even without looking at them item by item.

Of course, we can't trust the Board.  

Lennon said he personally approved the expense of $50 for Forsyth's 2011 driver's licence, which even she admitted was improperly claimed.  And he approved reimbursing her for $205 golf shoes which Education Minister Erin Selby called "an inappropriate expense."

And he approved repaying Stephanie Forsyth $2 for parking.  Yes, that's right. She gets paid more than a quarter of a million dollars a year, charges almost $5000 a month for expenses, and expected to be paid back for spending $2 on parking.

So whitewash it will be.

Which brings us back to the dinner party at Stephanie Forsyth's house.

On Aug. 3, somebody spent $107 at Superstore buying food for the homecooked meal for NDP Housing Minister Kerri Irwin-Ross and unknown others.  On Sept. 26, Forsyth submitted an expense claim for reimbursement of the $107.  The receipt for the food, she noted, was lost.

Uh oh.

You see, Richard Lennon stated Friday when defending Forsyth's extravagances, that he was satisfied she had followed college guidelines on her $78,000 in expenses.  

Not so fast.

You guessed it.  We looked up the college policy and reimbursing expenses which they call Best Practices guidelines.  

The policy says that all claims must be accompanied by receipts. And claims have to be filed within five days.

Words have meaning.  "Must" is defined by Webster's as compulsion, obligation or necessity.

In the words of the little people---no receipt, no repayment.  Not to mention she filed 54 days later.  

And yet, Richard Lennon broke the rules for Stephanie Forsyth.  She got paid.

Then there's the requirement that the claimant file reports on what was discussed at the alleged business meeting and the persons present.  

That means there should be no problem for Richard Lennon to release those details about the Forsyth dinner party---unless these reports were not filed.  You don't think....?

We're interested in who got to eat on our dime.  There was Stephanie Forsyth and Kerri Irwin-Ross, whose portfolio doesn't appear to cover Red River College.  We're guessing Forsyth's girlfriend Deborah Scarborough was at the table, after all she lives there.  So now we're paying for the meals of the college president and her 'spouse'.  Kerri Irwin-Ross may have had an escort, who ate at our expense.  And two mystery guests. 

Don't you think we deserve at least the names of who we're feeding?

Oh, and there's still the question of who prepared the meal.  Stephanie Forsyth in an apron? Or ...  Let's say a little birdie has been singing even before spring has sprung.

Question of the Day:  Why did CTV not report on the Forsyth spending scandal?  Not a word on Thursday when the story broke, and on Friday when she hit the phone to deflect the heat. Curious.

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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Unrepentant college Prexy Stef Forsyth's message to taxpayers: I'm alright, Jack

After two days of being incommunicado, Red River College President Stephanie Forsyth surfaced Friday in a blitz of phone interviews with Winnipeg television, radio and newspaper reporters.

She launched a charm offensive to bury the taint of Bev Oda (she of the $16 orange juice) that hangs over her after the Canadian Taxpayers Association revealed that Forsyth had claimed $78,000 in expenses in her first 16 months on the job. That's an average of just under $5000 a month on top of her $261,000 salary.

Forsyth's message? She's entitled to her entitlements and everything she claimed was a proper expense, even the super-special high-end $205 golf shoes. But because you poopy-heads made such a big deal of it, she was going to repay the money for the golf shoes. Satisfied?

Richard Lennon, chairman of the Red River College Board of Governors, joined Forsyth's atonement parade to say the college would launch a whitewash by the end of the month, but he had already determined "her expenses are largely consistent with her contract." Given that all her expenses, including the golf shoes, her 2011 drivers licence, and car washes were rubberstamped by the Board, its highly unlikely they will find themselves to have been negligent.

Nevertheless, he promised a "review".

May we suggest he start with the $107 Forsyth billed the public for groceries. You see, she invited NDP cabinet minister Kerri Irwin-Ross for a home-cooked meal.

Apparently $261,000 a year isn't enough to cover the high cost of food for a quiet dinner at home, so Forsyth tapped the public purse to help her out.

Now, its our understanding that Irwin-Ross has an office provided and paid for by the Manitoba taxpayer. And Stephanie Forsyth has an office. And official meetings are supposed to be held in either of these respective offices. That's the whole idea to give them offices.

So why were they having a tete-a-tete at Forsyth's home in the first place?

We recall that Forsyth's other NDP cabinet girlfriend, Higher Ed Minister Erin Selby, said the only place she could meet with and talk business with Stephanie Forsyth was at a Winnipeg Jets hockey game, with free tickets provided by Forsyth. At least, it was until they got caught. (Red River spent $24,000 on Jets seasons tickets.)

But why was Forsyth meeting with Irwin-Ross in her home instead of during regular business hours in either of their offices? Since she filed an expense claim for having supper on official business, there should be a memo to the file to explain what was discussed, how long the supper lasted, what was pitched, what was promised, things like that. 

And, given that we paid for the food, we're entitled to know what was served.

Even though the bill was lost and could not be produced for the CTF, Forsyth must remember what she ate. And who was present at this unusual business meeting that we paid for. Was it only her and Kerri? Or did Stephanie Forsyth's lesbian spouse join them? Are we now paying her freight as well? The last we heard, Kerri Irwin-Ross was divorcing her husband. Did she bring an escort?

Who made the meal? Presumably, Stephanie Forsyth. But wouldn't it be funny if she had a, er, volunteer from the culinary services course at Red River doing the cooking? Maybe the Board of Governors could ask. For the record.

You see, just as Forsyth had a message for the taxpayers, we have a message for her: WE DON'T TRUST YOU.

Let's look at some of Forsyth's other expenses, which the Board Chairman has approved as perfectly acceptable.

Um. Did he include the flowers sent to the new president of the British Columbia college she worked at before coming to Red River? The card, we're told, was from Stephanie and her partner Deb with no mention of Red River College.

Forsyth said people should stop making such a big deal about her BMW for which Red River pays half the cost of maintenance. Its a 2007 model, 328 xi sedan, she bought used. (Autotrader is advertising this $35,000 car for $18,850.) Of course, you can't blame people for being suspicious when they see a couple of bills (June and October, 2011) for replacing and balancing 4 tires, each bill made out to Deb, with Deb crossed out and replaced with Stephanie Forsyth. Deb is Deborah Scarborough, Forsyth's girlfriend, and obviously somebody realized that Deb doesn't get her bills reimbursed by the college but her spouse does.

Her golf shoes? She hurt her widdle foot and needs special shoes. She was warned somewhere that sneakers were not allowed. She doesn't even golf, she said, but she has to make an appearance for the sake of the college. Maybe she was seduced by the advertising:

"Treat your feet to some pampering with the Ecco Ladies Casual Cool Golf Shoes; a truly remarkable construction that works to give you maximum comfort when on the golf course."

What really burns Forsyth is that the CTF was tipped to her extravagance by an inside college source.

Memo to Stephanie Forsyth: it's called a whistleblower.

Forsyth said she suspects the tip was pushback for all the changes she's undertaken at the college. We don't think she's referring to the $11 million deficit she's run up since becoming president and CEO of the college. And we're not talking about the four unisex bathrooms for boys, girls, and transsexuals who can be either or both at once.

Some of the reporters Friday asked about some of those changes, namely the firing of longtime Winnipeg adminstrators and their replacement by British Columbia colleagues of Forsyth.

Oh, that, she said. Coincidence.

One of the B.C. implants is Diane Ready, Red River's new Chief Financial Officer. She just happens to sit on the board of Outwords magazine (formerly Swerve, the magazine with the slogan "we're here and we're queer) with Debbie Scarborough.

Scarborough was hired by Red River as an instructor, although Forsyth says she's not employed in that capacity this year. Her online profile still says she is a college instructor, but she has another job---with the province. Now, there's a surprise.

She's a Flood Recovery Team Coordinator, Psychosocial at Manitoba Health, Interlake Regional Health Authority.

Erin Selby and the Red River Board of Governors were warned about Stephanie Forsyth's loosey-goosey attitude towards college policy last year. Forsyth did a favour for her friend Margo Goodhand, then editor of the Winnipeg Free Press, by ordering her minions to kill a talk show on the college-sponsored radio station after Goodhand complained that the show was making her and her reporters upset by its criticism. 

The gesture backfired bigtime when the show's supporters did some digging and discovered that Red River was controlling the station through an illegal and secret committee that reported to Forsyth. Once the CRTC caught wind of the scam, Forsyth scrapped funding for the station, killing it, and saddling Red River college with tens of thousands of dollars in the station's debt.

When listeners complained about violations of the college's ethics policy (a vice-president was lying to them about the talk show cancellation) Forsyth (and her Jets watching friend Selby) ignored them. Ethics, it appears, are not high on Forsyth's list of priorities.

But remember, this summer when you're working hard in your office and Stephanie Forsyth is lacing up her new golf shoes, or shopping for groceries to feed her MLA friends, or choosing which friends to take to see the Winnipeg Jets, or the Blue Bombers, or the ballet, she's doing it for you.

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Thursday, March 07, 2013

Oy vey. Will Sandy Shindleman's lawsuit to save Mayor Sam backfire?

Did unrepentant provocateur Gordon Warren just spring a trap on Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz and his pal Sandy Shindleman?

Damned if he didn't.

And did he bait the trap with unsuspecting reporters and bloggers (yes, like us)? It seems (sob) like he did.

The Mayor and his supporters must have been chortling at the news Wednesday that Shindleman and his brother Robert have launched a lawsuit against Warren for defamation.

But the suit is just a smokescreen to disguise Shindleman's true goal---to crush blogger and pamphleteer Gordon Warren into the dust for the Jewish community of Winnipeg.

Warren first earned their ire six months ago by circulating posters attacking alleged corruption at City Hall manifested by "untendered contracts and shady land deals" which benefited or involved 13 of Mayor Katz's associates, whom he listed.

That had them running in circles like a yapping pack of chihuahuas howling about anti-semitism. But there was one problem --- the only people sewing yellow stars on those mentioned in the poster were members of the Jewish community itself. Warren's poster never identified anyone as Jewish and never made religion an issue in his allegations.

Of course somebody went running to the police to get Warren charged with hate crimes, but, to their astonishment, the police concluded that there was no chance of a conviction.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, Warren, whose website declares he is "gathering and sharing evidence that will bring Sam Katz and his band of thieves to justice before organized crime takes hold in Winnipeg", raised the ante. He circulated a blog titled 'The Katz Doctrine' which consisted of ten points along the lines of:

1) God is never angry about the Jews, just about the Non-Jews.
6) Jews may steal from Non-Jews.
7) Jews always have to try to deceive Non-Jews.
8) Jews may lie to Non-Jews. Jews may use lies (subterfuges) to circumvent a Gentile.
9) Every Jew is allowed to use lies and perjury to bring a Non-Jew to ruin.

Ouch. The reaction was immediate. Even people who supported his provocative poster because they were fed up with cronyism at city hall distanced themselves from what appeared to be outright anti-semitism. We certainly did.

But today it looks like 'The Katz Doctrine' post was a trap.


The mainstream media, especially the Winnipeg Free Press which is owned by a prominent member of the Jewish community, went gaga over the news of the Shindleman lawsuit. But before the night was over, Warren issued his side of the story.

As Nancy Grace puts it---Bombshell.

Warren said that the points in 'The Katz Doctrine' come from a single source, and its not Main Kampf.
It's the Talmud.

The Talmud, says Wikipedia, is considered second only to the Torah in importance in the Jewish religion. One book is the written version of Jewish oral law and and a second consists of commentaries by rabbis on the written law and their differences.

It's not chicken liver.

Warren may have put Shindleman's lawyer, Robert Tapper, in the position of having to acknowledge that the ten points are indeed in the Talmud, but that they are anti-semitic if distributed to non-Jews.

Warren started a campaign against corruption. People began defending those accused of engaging in cronyism by raising the red herring of anti-semitism. If they want to make this a religious fight, he's giving them one.

Imagine a supoenaed Sam Katz answering questions about whether he believes the Talmud to reflect the word of God. Imagine the headlines the next day. "Winnipeg's Jewish Mayor says its okay for Jews to deceive Goyim. Talmud says so."

A civil defamation trial could go to a jury. Warren could ask that no Jewish judge hear the case and no Jews be eligible to sit on the jury because they could be expected to be biased. How that will fly?

Shindleman and Tapper are banking that Warren can't afford a high-priced lawyer. They should remember that the most dangerous man is the man who has nothing to lose.

 If Warren does manage to get Shindleman and Katz under oath during examination for discovery, maybe we'll get some answers finally about the secretive contracts Shindico got to build four new firehalls. And what Katz knew about them and when. This lawsuit could turn out to be terrific for public accountability.

Tapper is going to court March 26 for an injunction to silence Warren and take away his voice by keeping him from blogging about the lawsuit so that Tapper and Shindleman can control the information through their mouthpieces at the Free Press and the rest of the MSM.

But they should remember, this pisher has chutzpah to spare. And they're already in his trap.

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Monday, March 04, 2013

NDP plans to hit resource companies with a "sharing tax"

Last week was Freedom To Read Week in Canada, and we were, you guessed it, reading---the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy.

Just for a break, someone decided to clear the email. What he discovered was more shocking than Anastasia Steele in bondage and begging for it 'rough'.

It was a government press release on a ban to peat mining in provincial parks. Hardly heart-pounding stuff, you say. The last time we even thought of peat moss was when we bought a Venus Fly Trap for the office.

Ever since the last provincial election, government news releases have read more like NDP promotional material than neutral information on government business. We've taken note of this politicization of the public service and for that reason we pay close attention to these releases, even one on peat moss.

We not only read it, we read it to the very bottom, where we found this paragraph:

"Because our peatlands are a carbon sink, they provide significant climate-change benefits to Manitoba and the rest of the planet," said Mackintosh. "Our peatlands stewardship legislation will set out longer-term policies for the peat industry including a carbon offset and mitigation program as well as no-go zones for peat developments and greater opportunities for Aboriginal benefit sharing."

Alarm bells went off. Opportunities for Aboriginal benefit sharing? This is the government that's spend tens of thousands of dollars telling us "we're all treaty people", which, to their regret, led us to read the treaties of which we're part.

Those treaties clearly state that "aboriginals" have no special rights to "benefit sharing."

Aboriginal benefit sharing is the twenty-first century phrase for welfare.

Here is the government foreshadowing a vital change in the way it treats resource development companies in Manitoba. The NDP plans to extort money from those companies under the guise of "aboriginal benefit sharing". No payoffs to Indian reserves, no sign off by the government on resource projects. It's nothing less than a secret tax.

We remember another phrase from an earlier century---follow the money. The NDP intends to funnel money to a special group. Make no mistake. This is taking money that could be going to the greater good of Manitobans and channeling it to a group which the government wants to benefit at the expense of everyone else.

Because that money will go directly to the group, there will be no record of how its spent. Because it won't be government money, there will be no accountability.

Resource companies will be told to pay the "sharing tax" directly to the Indian bands in a pretense that it is voluntary and not forced by government.

But, of course, any special group that gets special treatment from the NDP owes the NDP a favour, right?
Given that the millions that will be extorted from resource companies will go outside of any government tracking, will some of it be kicked back to the NDP for, ahem, services rendered?

We've already seen the NDP subvert Elections Manitoba with a kickback scheme once
that we know of

With an emasculated Opposition and news media, what's to stop them from subverting democracy again? 
While the political elite wag their tongues about democracy in Libya and Syria, the undermining of democracy at home right under their noses goes unchallenged.

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