Sunday, February 09, 2014

Manitoba Links Weekly: Hashtag Melnigeddon, Everyone Will Like Me Again If I Sue This Student Newspaper, Russ Wyatt is Sheegl-Shaming, and Here's a Stolen Skeleton Statue to Watch For (ManLinkWeek S02E16)

The Mr. Bones mascot skeleton statue has been kidnapped, and it is currently being held for ransom, and the ransom is a pizza. Winnipeg is a live-action cartoon. [ via ]

Hello and welcome to Manitoba Links Weekly! God, what a week.

This week on Winnipeg Internet Pundits we began the task of chipping away at the wall of newsworthy topics this week; I also played a couple of thematically-appropriate tunes during the hour, and I'm interested to know whether you the listener think they helped or hindered the flow of the show, so let me know by email or in the comments below what you made of it.

As you've probably already noticed, I'd missed my self-imposed deadline for the end of last week; I had an... unstable sort of evening, last night, so my cat curled up onto my chest and purred to sort me out, and that is one's signal to settle in and hope the next day'll go more smoothly. So please accept my apologies for not having this post up yesterday, as I normally hope for; you know how determined I am to have the fifty-two posts in fifty-two weeks, a stubborn li'l personal quest, so I'll just have to get on the ball for this week and even it all out.

I wouldn't've left you without something to read, of course! I liveblogged the Olympic Opening Ceremonies the day before yesterday, if you'd happened to miss that, so check that out if fifteen pages of incredulous reactions to increasingly incomprehensible stimuli might be something you're into.

Onward, to ManLinkWeek!

[ Global Winnipeg: Ousted minister says she was told to take blame ]
[ Winnipeg Free Press: 'I'm very, very disappointed' ]
[ CBC Manitoba: Christine Melnick removed from NDP caucus ]
[ Winnipeg Sun: Christine Melnick booted from NDP caucus ]
[ Metro Winnipeg: Former Manitoba cabinet minister Christine Melnick booted out of caucus ]
[ Winnipeg Free Press: NDP bids goodbye to Melnick ]
[ Winnipeg Cat: FEBRUARY 5th, 2014 ]
[ CTV Winnipeg: Manitoba NDP holds convention amid faltering support, ousted cabinet minister ]
[ Winnipeg Sun: Manitoba Conservatives open up 25-point lead over NDP: poll ]
[ Winnipeg Free Press: Melnick decision 'necessary,' Selinger tells faithful ]
This topic led off the most recent Winnipeg Internet Pundits, because how could it not; few influences are as destabilizing as a long-loyal soldier of a reigning government breaking ranks with the leader, especially as publicly and as dramatically as Melnick did to open the week. She hadn't given the order to mobilize provincial workers at an immigration rally, until it turned out she had; she couldn't recall it when asked, until it turned out she could; the Premier's advisors had no involvement or knowledge, until it turned out they did; the Premier was entirely truthful in claiming ignorance on the matter, until it turned out he wasn't. It was that kind of a week for the NDP, and it was only Monday at the time.

The Premier's response was to gather a phalanx of faithful and put on some political theatre, roundly denouncing the rogue operative and publicly dismissing her from the party ranks just ahead of the NDP's 2014 convention. Melnick announced she'd attend the NDP convention on the Wednesday and then announced she wouldn't attend the NDP convention on the Thursday, which seems like the most perfectly Melnickian epilogue possible, in retrospect.

We'll talk more about the convention and its outproduct in a later post, but for now just note and remember that -- as of the most recent polling -- the NDP are a full 25 points back of the Conservatives. The Tories are at 49% support to the NDP's 24%, and to the Liberals' 13%; even if one is inclined to argue that Liberal support between elections naturally returns to the governing NDP come voting time, that still leaves a minefield of danger signs for the NDP to wade through. With that established, now note and remember that this poll was conducted... before the Melnick defection broke.

(As I've said before at various intervals: I can't wait to see how the PCs blow it this time.)

And remember, too, out of all of this, that the whole sordid mess originated with that 2012 immigration rally -- a symbolic gesture of provincial pushback against perceived federal encroachment on the immigration file. The federal Conservatives wouldn't be the types to gloat about it, though, would they?

...never mind. Silly question.

Moving on!

[ The Uniter: Re: The Local Political Blunder ]
[ Winnipeg Free Press: Katz suing over Uniter article ]
[ The University of Winnipeg: Response to reports of legal action against UWinnipeg ]
[ Winnipeg Sun: Mayor Katz suing student newspaper The Uniter for defamation ]
[ Tessa Vanderhart's Photos (Facebook): Here's the unedited version. (please no one sue me) ]
[ Around This Town: Is the mayor a bully? ]
[ Winnipeg Cat: FEBRUARY 4th, 2014 ]
[ Winnipeg Sun: Katz says he’s just defending reputation with Uniter lawsuit ]
[ Winnipeg Free Press: Katz looking for apology from the Uniter ]
[ Metro Winnipeg: No choice but to sue Uniter newspaper: Mayor Sam Katz ]
Somehow I don't think he thought his cunning plan all the way through.

Let's just go ahead and get this out of the way, to start: you couldn't take five minutes out of your day to make sure you're suing the right people first? Shouldn't that pop up on the checklist somewhere before you go ahead and file the papers?

Now, I may not be a big-city lawyer, but this strikes me as being just a little bit counterproductive. Suing a student newspaper and a volunteer writer, for an already-forgotten opinion piece in an issue published the year before, is one thing; suing for defamation when your case is shaky at best is another thing; shoehorning a larger institution into the suit, to draw at least some sort of financial compensation, is yet another thing entirely. So if you are going to do all three of those things, none of which will prove particularly rehabilitative to the ol' reputation, you might want to at least make sure that you don't sue the wrong institution.

The University of Winnipeg has like fifteen or twenty ribbon-cuttings a year, don't make every single one of them super awkward by demanding they pony up some dough for an erroneous lawsuit. That was the University of Winnipeg's wording, too, "erroneous". "The inclusion of the University of Winnipeg is erroneous". God, that's embarrassing, isn't it? I want to crawl under a couch and die just reading it, and I'm not even the one who filed.

As surprising as I know this will sound, the move somehow did not improve Katz's personal popularity any. And the issue, I think, is one of scale.

Far larger publications have allowed far more prominent writers to write far more damaging material about the Mayor, to his legal silence; you could build one heck of a battalion from the major dailies alone, but my go-to example remains Bernie Bellan of the Jewish Post & News.

"[A]s Jews, we should hold ourselves to a higher standard of behaviour – not only because we are so often stereotyped by others, but because so much of what it means to be a Jew is grounded in an ethical norm that has developed over thousands of years. While I don’t pretend to be observant, like most other students who attended Joseph Wolinsky Collegiate, I did study the Talmud - and am fully aware of the pivotal role that ethical behaviour plays in defining what it means to be a good Jew.
(. . .)
[The fire hall scandal] is causing a great deal of embarrassment to us, as Jews."

A Jewish writer, on behalf of the Jewish people, called the Mayor out for bad political and ethical behaviour. Virtually every news outlet in town that you can name has called the Mayor out for bad political and ethical behaviour. A Justice of the Queen's Bench called the Mayor out for bad political and ethical behaviour; in fact, I've used that phrase three times now because those were her exact words. (Imagine if this defamation case did indeed proceed to court, only to land on Brenda Keyser's desk.) Still the Mayor held his fire, through accusation and insult alike, until the smallest and weakest of possible targets presented itself -- a volunteer writer at a student newspaper, writing not dissimilar opinions to those expressed above, calling the Mayor out for bad political and ethical behaviour -- and then the Mayor made a very public show of aiming and firing the biggest cannon in a citizen's legal arsenal.

It was not, as they like to say in the legal profession, "a good look". So let's take a moment to check the public pulse, see how well it seems to have gone over:

[ via ]

Wow. Well. Well, then. Something tells me the Mayor isn't really winning the ol' hearts-and-minds battle here.

But the article has been removed, after all of that, and there's still a chance yet that the original author could apologize after all. That's all that the Mayor wants -- all that he'd wanted all along, he declared the day after the University of Winnipeg excused themselves -- and if those are the benchmarks for victory, then victory is still within his grasp. Never mind what cost; a win's a win!

And on the bright side (there's always a bright side!), at least he isn't blamed for the incompetence of entire city departments. No, that honour's reserved for someone else:

[ CBC Manitoba: Disgraced Winnipeg CAO blamed for Plessis construction delays ]
[ Winnipeg Sun: Wyatt blasts city staff for Plessis Road construction delays ]
It is, one must admit in fairness, perhaps a tad intellectually lazy to lay such sweeping blame unilaterally on a single cause. And it is, one must admit in fairness, perhaps a tad convenient to rail so specifically against an already widely-unpopular scapegoat. (Particularly one who considered his options and decided against sticking around long enough to defend himself.) But y'know what? I will let it slide this time, because I thought it was funny.

Here's to legacies!

[ Global Winnipeg: Skyline for sale: Winnipeg's tallest tower is on the market ]
[ Winnipeg Sun: City's largest office tower for sale? ]
[ Winnipeg Free Press: Want to buy a skyscraper? ]
The Canwest legacy, alas, continues to scatter to the winds. But if you've been thinking to yourself how nice it'd be to own a 32-storey tower one of these days, boy, have I got a good-news story for you!

There are a few places throughout this piece that a more critical reader could aim to poke holes -- the comparisons of rents and property values fails to consider the comparisons of incomes and taxation levels, f'rinstance -- but the article opens by characterizing our fair town as "Canada's little trashy diamond in the rough", and I'm honestly so smitten with that description that I'd gladly float it through on that alone.

In sporting news:

[ Blue Bombers send WR Etienne to Roughriders for QB Willy ]
[ Winnipeg Sun: Bombers Drew it up right ]
[ CTV News: Drew Willy will be starting quarterback for Blue Bombers, coach says ]
Good news, everyone -- the Bombers have a quarterback! The Roughriders' backup QB is very likely an immediate improvement over the ongoing tire-fire of the Bombers' past few seasons; the important work now will be in improving the team's offensive line, which has been commonly fingered as the reason the Bombers have become the quarterback meat-grinder that they are.

Most importantly of all, though: his name is the past participle of "draw penis", and if you can't appreciate that on at least some level, you and I got nothin' to say to each other.

And, finally:

[ Witchpolice Radio episode #60: "Birdie!" ]
Time for a little brand synergy! The good folks at Witchpolice -- who nabbed top-three finishes in both the Blog and Podcast categories this past Uniter 30 -- had me in alongside Aaron "The Invisible Man" Young for an all-UMFM spectacular episode, now available at the link above for your listening pleasure.

Note the liquid being poured in the cover photo; that is a fine homemade wine, and it may prove handy to keep that particular piece of information in mind throughout the show. And what a show it is! An hour and forty-five minutes of excellent music and vigorous discussion across a wide variety of fascinating topics.

There are also Sizzla impressions.

I won't spoil too much else of the experience, but for the sake of pre-listening context -- and so you'll better understand my obvious excitement to discuss it -- here is the televised sporting content mentioned during the show that would later give the episode its title:



Witchpolice Radio episode #60, it's awesome, I'm in it, go listen to it. There, that's the takeaway for that segment.

Thank you once again for reading ManLinkWeek! Man, this was a heck of a week; there're a bunch of things I've found myself setting aside for space constraints -- spoiler alert, more than one topic involves authorities overreacting to people who haven't actually done anything wrong -- so I guess you'll just have to check back at the end of the week and catch up on 'em. The very idea!

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