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:

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Do you want to understand Donald Trump, past, present, and future? Read this.

Ten years ago New York real estate developer Donald Trump wrote a book called 'Trump. Think Big and Kick Ass'.

Today he's President of the United States of America Donald Trump.

And the line of people with sore asses includes Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, the entire Democratic Party, the Republican Party establishment, and pretty much most of the news media.  They should have read his book.

We did.

To help you understand Donald Trump past, present and future, we've culled  thirty-three Trump tips to attain the top:

* I love to crush the other side and take the benefits. Why? Because there is nothing greater. For me it is even better than sex, and I love sex.

* In a great deal you win---not the other side. You crush your opponent and come away with something better for yourself. In negotiations I go for the complete win.

* I have learned that it is important to focus on the solution, not the problem. If you put all your energy into the problem, how much passion do you have left for finding a solution?

* ...learning from someone else's mistakes is faster and easier than making them yourself.

* ...if you want to be successful in business and in life, never, ever give up. Never quit. You can never be successful if you give up.

* Handle pressure by learning not to dwell on negative thoughts and opinions of others.

* You will have your biggest successes when you go against the tide.

* Andy Grove, the former CEO of Intel, once said,"Dive deep into the data, then trust your gut." I think this best describes my approach to decision making.

* ...go with your gut, but do not bet the ranch on it...Get all the facts, because there is a reason why everyone else is going the other way.

* Acting uncertain often makes my opponents push their arguments for the deal more strongly, playing right into my hands. It also gives me time to sit back and come up with creative options that help me close a better deal than I could if I just plunged right in. I could negotiate peace in the Middle East---very few other people could.

* When luck is on your side it is not the time to be modest or timid. It is the time to go for the biggest success you can possible achieve. This is the true meaning of thinking big.

* Every time a negative thought comes to you, zap it. Replace it with a positive thought...the result will be stamina, positive stamina, a necessary ingredient for success.

* Positive thinking is not merely wishful thinking. It is all about incorporating a sense of optimism into everything you do while also acknowledging the negative...Learn how to be optimistic even in the face of large and intimidating challenges and it will revolutionize your life.

* Do not give in to anger...Sure, you have to be tough, but out-of-control anger is not toughness, it is weakness.

* You cannot expect to be successful 100 percent of the time...There are always circumstances beyond your control. The only way to guard against having your confidence shattered is to come to grips with the stark reality that negative things can and do happen...Do not let it shake your self-confidence one iota.

* When somebody takes a cheap shot at you do not be afraid to fire back...Go for the jugular. Attack them back in spades.

*  Always get even. When somebody screws you, screw them back in spades... This is not your typical advice...but this is real-life advice. If you don't get even, you are just a schmuck! I really mean it, too.

* When you are wronged, go after those people because it is a good feeling and because other people wil see you doing it...When other people see that you don't take crap and see you are really going after somebody for wronging you, they will respect you.

* You should never sell out your friends.

* ...nobody is more dishonest than the press.

* I could give you the names of ten to twenty of the greatest deal-makers in the world who live in this country. These great negotiators could go up against China or Iran and work out a fabulous deal for the United States.

* I try to hire people who are honest and loyal...I value loyalty above everything else---more than brains, more than drive, and more than energy.

* Always keep fighting! You never know when there is another chance or another great opportunity waiting right around the corner...My motto is: "never give up!"

* have to maintain your focus and keep building your momentum at all times. Your problems can be temporary if you keep you momentum moving forward.

* Do not be afraid of mistakes and setbacks, because they are your best teachers.

* I pride mystelf on being obstinate, stubborn and tough. I think those are important qualities found in successful people.

* Worry destroys focus... He or she who focuses the longest wins.

* Do not look for approval from others. This is a sure sign of weakness.

* Doubt saps your will to succeed and signals to everyone involved that you are going to fail.

* A failure or setback is not a defeat... You are defeated only when you accept defeat and assume the hopeless mind-set of a defeated person...Never let a setback defeat you emotionally to the point that you draw negative self-deprecating conclusions like, "I'll never make it. I'm a loser. I might as well give up. All my critics were right."

* Do not spend too much time planning or trying to anticipate and solve problems before they happen...Until you start, you won't know where the problems will occur. You won't have the experience to solve them. Instead, get into action, and solve the problems as they arise.

* Give your goals values that are not monetary.

* Take great joy in doing a great job. "

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Don't Believe Zane Tessler. Mark Dicesare Did Not Have to be Killed.

Justifying the killing of an innocent person is messy business.

The man who heads the body that investigates police when someone is killed or injured by them put as much polish as he could Friday on the official report into the Winnipeg police shooting of Mark Dicesare.

Zane Tessler, director of the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba, said the five policemen who shot Dicesare to pieces at point blank range had no other choice.

The evidence was clear, said Tessler, that the distraught 24-year-old had seen his world fall apart; he felt he had nothing to live for; and he intended to kill himself, eventually choosing to get police to do it for him by threatening them with a fake machinegun.

If the story was so cut-and-dried, why did Tessler chose to smother it in spin?

Was it to hide the clusterf*ck that immediately preceeded the fatal shooting?

For the uninitiated, clusterf*ck means  (to quote Wiktionary) "A chaotic situation where everything seems to go wrong. It is often caused by incompetence, communication failure, or a complex environment."

Here's a snapshot of the chaotic moments before Dicesare was killed:

* after his car was stopped at the Kapyong barracks site, he was surrounded by 19 police cars and 29 armed police officers. Many of them didn't know who was in charge.

* the siren of the cop car parked at the driver's door of Dicesare's car kept blaring for 20 minutes, drowning out attempts to talk to him. It was finally shut off less than 3 minutes before the final shooting.

* once the siren was turned off, so many officers began yelling instructions to Dicesare that the ranking supervisor at the scene had to personally make his way over to them to tell them to shut up.

* the officer who shot Dicesare with a shotgun from 10 feet away was not authorized to use the weapon. He said in his heavily lawyered statement that he thought his shots hit the police car behind which he was hiding. The autopsy on Dicesare showed he was struck by one shotgun slug round and sprayed with pellets from another. The officer said his partner told him a slug round "would be better suited to travel through material like a car door as opposed to double ought buck rounds.”

Tessler repeatedly said Dicesare carried a firearm.  No he didn't.

He carried a BB gun. A BB gun doesn't fire bullets. We're guessing that deploying half the police force to trap and kill a man with a BB gun doesn't have the same macho narrative, especially for the Winnipeg Tactical Support Team (the local name for the Swat team) which got to claim their first kill after almost 9 years in operation.

But, but, but...the police didn't know it was a fake gun. They had every reason to act as if it was a real Uzi.  True.  But 20 seconds before the fatal shooting, an observant officer went on radio to inform everyone at the scene that Dicesare's weapon had no attached magazine. That meant that at best he could fire one shot that might already be loaded even if it was a real gun, something Tessler failed to say.

Tessler made much of numbers. A 911 call lasting 32 minutes. 33 demands to drop the gun and give up. He failed to say that Dicesare only spoke to 911 operators for about 10 minutes, during which he said at least three times he did not intend to hurt any police officers, only himself. 
Then after stopping his car he threw his phone out the window where it lay on the ground but the line was kept open. A police siren screaming a few feet away from him distracted him for the next 20 minutes, drowning out most of those demands to "drop the gun".

Tessler's report reads like a prosecutor's brief, not an honest reflection of what actually happened
.  Which isn't surprising given Tessler's background as--wait for it---a crown prosecutor who works daily with police and has to trust them to build his cases.

Other tidbits gleaned from the report:

* Four of the five policemen who killed Dicesare refused to cooperate with IIU investigators. They provided heavily lawyered statements, then clammed up.

* Dicesare led police on a high-speed chase that was straight out of Animal House. A line of 15 police cars was seen racing after him. One cop car dropped out after being damaged making a u-turn. Two cars pinned Dicesare between them but he managed to push his way out. He hit three private cars during the chase and one police cruiser hit him. It rear-ended his car when he stopped abruptly, causing the air bag to open in the driver's face, knocking him out of the pursuit.

 * In his news conference, Tessler kept using the word "carbine" to describe the weapon used by police to shoot Dicesare.  A carbine is a rifle.  Police shot Dicesare six times with their rifles, twice with handguns and once with a shotgun. At a distance of 15 to 30 feet---less than the length of a Winnipeg transit bus.  The officer who hit him twice with his pistol fired 4-5 shots.

* An officer wanted to use a Taser on Dicesare but couldn't get close enough for a clear shot. Another said he didn't have time to get other non-lethal tools like a bean-bag gun. A dog handler was on the scene, but didn't want to send the dog on a "suicide mission."

* Unintended humor and irony dot the report.  The officer who shot Dicesare three times with his rifle in the "centre of mass", intending to kill him, then went over to give him CPR.  A second shooter, who hit Dicesare twice with his rifle, said in his prepared statement that he "noted an immediate change in (Dicesare's) behaviour" after the man was blasted by rifle fire, a handgun and a shotgun.

An inquest has been called at which a Crown attorney will say that the police had no other choice but to shoot and kill Mark Dicesare.

But they did.

At least four of the police officers surrounding Dicesare had their rifles at the ready for the better part of 23 minutes.  Their rifles are supplied with iron sights, designed for accurate fire to 100 yards or more. Shooting at a stationary target 30 feet away is a turkey shoot.

Individual police officers are told not to be cowboys thinking they can shot a suspect in the arm or leg like they do on TV.  If they shoot, they shoot to kill, concentrating their shots on the "centre of mass" where a bullet is likely to hit the heart, lungs or major arteries.

But rifles are not handguns. They are designed to hit something from much further away. An incident leader could have ordered any one of the riflemen to take aim from a safe distance and shoot Dicesare in the arm, leg, or even his weapon.

He did not have to be killed.  The police did have another choice.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Katz and Sheegl. Forensic Files: Winnipeg Style.

What a week!  
There were so many stories breaking last week that we could hardly sit down to write about one when another came whizzing up.  We were so exhausted trying to keep up that we had to take the weekend off in Costa Rica to catch our breaths.  We were working 90 percent of the time, honest.
Without further ado, let's try to catch up...starting with Forensic Files: Winnipeg Style.
Can you believe it?  The former Mayor of Winnipeg and his best friend, once the most powerful civil servant in the city, have lawyered up and are waiting to be charged by the RCMP with taking kickbacks.  The pool on the day of the perp walk starts now. We've got March 31.
Details of the building case against ex-mayor Sam Katz and his pal Phil Sheegl are contained in applications for RCMP search warrants, which have been widely reported.  Robert Tapper, Katz's and Sheegl's mouthpiece, has added additional incriminating information, without knowing it.
In a nutshell, the RCMP say that Katz and Sheegl did favours for Caspian Construction in Winnipeg and in return Caspian paid a kickback in Arizona, laundered through companies owned by Caspian boss Armik Babakhanians and Phil Sheegl. Or, as Tapper put it to the CBC, "They're saying they took a bribe."
The RCMP say they followed the money---$200,000 from Caspian to Sheegl and half of that from Sheegl to Katz. Tapper says that Babakhanians was just coincidentally doing business with Sheegl and Katz in Arizona at the same time as he was getting contracts in Winnipeg from Sheegl to redevelop the downtown post office into a headquarters for the police department. The 200 grand was his share of a land deal involving all three (and maybe other members of a golf and country club), according to Tapper.
The money to Katz may have been described as a loan, but who can remember why after all this time, said Tapper. That could interest investigators from the tax department. but that's another story.
There's lots of numbers and dates flying around, but it's only when you put them into context that you experience an  "ah ha" moment.  So, follow us into the rabbit hole...
Winnipeg was faced with a dilemma when it learned that the post office was closing its massive downtown operation and moving to the airport.  The city could do nothing, and run the danger of having the giant building sit empty and deteriorate for years, if not decades, adding to the blight of the downtown. Or it could act.
City officials decided, on the advice of a consultant--- Shindico--- that the Canada Post complex would make a perfect new headquarters for the police department.  (What? You thought there could be a story about Sheegl and Katz with no mention of money flowing to Shindico?)
Throughout much of 2010 the city engaged in a series of false starts and u-turns over how to oversee such a massive project. The RCMP say that on Oct. 1, 2010, Sheegl met with Babakhanians at a restaurant that's so swanky its known by a number not a name. Babakhanians brought his son; Sheegl brought confidential emails about the post office project.
Tapper said that might have been unethical, but it wasn't criminal for him to do that.
By the time for after-supper drinks, Babakhanians had been recruited for the job of construction manager. There was one problem to overcome. His company was too small to qualify for the proper bonding. The solution---change the bonding requirement to a lower amount. The change was authorized by Phil Sheegl, who was the acting Chief Administrative Officer following the former CAO's resignation a month earlier.
A report later submitted to city council declared: ""The city, in consultation with various surety companies and at the urging of the Surety Association of Canada, determined that lowering the bonding requirements on the headquarters project could provide a broader base of potential bidders and potentially provide savings on the project cost."
When questioned by the Winnipeg Free Press years afterward, the president of the Surety Association of Canada, exploded. "Bulls**t. That's absolute hooey. "No one from this organization ever encouraged any such action by the City of Winnipeg at all. It begs the question of who is saying we did."
The City decided that the way to go was to hire a project manager, not a project coordinator (like we know the difference). "The benefit of this delivery approach was that it provided real world construction expertise to the project which could be incorporated into the design to help reduce costs," said a report to city council at a later date.
In order to qualify, Caspian partnered with Akman Construction in a bid under the name of CAJV, Caspian-Akman-Joint-Venture, get it?. The RCMP says that in his communications with city officials, Babakhanians dropped a lot of hints that Sheegl was best friends with Danny Akman, brother of president Robert Akman.
CAJV was one of four companies that bid on the first phase of the post office construction job. It was worth a paltry $50,000 but, said the RCMP,  "the City retained its right to award the Construction Phase Services for the Project at a later date."

Bids closed on Jan. 18, 2011. Three days later, Sheegl contacted Babakhanians's son to share some more confidential information---the identities of the other bidders (and presumably, their bids.)
In mid-February, Caspian "amended" their bid for the construction management job. Higher. $2.5 million higher ($70,000 a month over 3 years), but still lower than the next lowest bid.
The next day, it was announced that CAJV was the winner of Phase One---at the higher price.
The RCMP say they discovered an email written by Armik Babakhanians on Feb. 17, 2011, where he looks ahead to the final contract. According to the search warrant documents, that email read, in part:
"Phil said he will get approval for $126m however I think he wanted 2+2 for sam and phil but the rest for us... This will remain confidential for ever."

On May 19, 2011, Phil Sheegl formally assumed the duties of the city's CAO. (Here's where things get interesting.)  He wasn't officially hired until city council met May 25.
On June 4, Akman Construction pulled out of its partnership with Caspian, leaving Caspian alone and in line for the lucrative post office job.
Katz and Sheegl lawyer Robert Tapper dropped a bombshell when answering questions posed to him by reporters for the CBC. 
"Tapper said the property transaction was a handshake deal reached in May or June 2011 that Sheegl and Katz got around to putting on paper in May 2012."  is the way the CBC story eventually recounted it.
And the $200,000? The RCMP say the money didn't start flowing to Sheegl until after July 25, and to Katz on Aug. 2, 2011.   Tapper said the money was only a "down payment" on a deal involving property in a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona.

By the time the cheque was written, Sheegl had been granted the authority by city council to sole source a contract for the post office construction job. That contract eventually went to, wait for it, Caspian, under a much-ballyhooed and totally phony guaranteed maximum price.
More coincidences abound. It was around this very time that Sheegl also authorized a sole source contract to Shindico to build a fire station on Taylor Avenue, on land owned by Shindico.  And Sam Katz was getting tax bills sent to his home in Winnipeg on a house in Scottsdale, Arizona, a house owned by the sister of Shindico's chief financial officer. Katz eventually bought the million-dollar house the following year for $10 and "other considerations."  He's said he paid fair-market value for the house, but refuses to say what he paid.
As for Babakhanians, Katz has strenuously denied any friendship or business relationship with the man, despite what a former Caspian employee told RCMP as cited in an application for a search warrant.
"There is no relationship," said Katz, flatly when he was still talking to reporters one year ago. He did concede he sold Babakhians a portion of his box seats at the MTS Centre for Jets games. That prompted councillor Ross Eadie to say "I don't think that Sam Katz understands the optics and conflict of interest".

Katz's vision has improved one year later.

"The optics are terrible" said Tapper of the $200,000 traced to Sheegl, half of which went to Katz.

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