Category Archives: politics

The Disruptive Career of Michael Flynn, Trump’s National Security Advisor

An unflattering look at the incoming National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn.

In 2012, Flynn became director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, in charge of all military attachés and defense-intelligence collection around the world. He ran into serious trouble almost immediately. I’ve spoken with some two dozen former colleagues who were close to Flynn then, members of the D.I.A. and the military, and some who worked with him in civilian roles. They all like Flynn personally. But they described how he lurched from one priority to another and had trouble building a loyal team. “He made a lot of changes,” one close observer of Flynn’s time at the D.I.A. told me. “Not in a strategic way—A to Z—but back and forth.”

Flynn also began to seek the Washington spotlight. But, without loyal junior officers at his side to vet his facts, he found even more trouble. His subordinates started a list of what they called “Flynn facts,” things he would say that weren’t true, like when he asserted that three-quarters of all new cell phones were bought by Africans or, later, that Iran had killed more Americans than Al Qaeda. In private, his staff tried to dissuade him from repeating these lines.

Flynn’s temper also flared. He berated people in front of colleagues. Soon, according to former associates, a parallel power structure developed within the D.I.A. to fence him in, and to keep the nearly seventeen-thousand-person agency working. “He created massive antibodies in the building,” the former colleague said.

Flynn had been on the job just eighteen months when James Clapper told him he had to go. Clapper said that he could stay for another nine months, until his successor was vetted and confirmed, according to two people familiar with their conversation. Flynn was livid.

After he left government, Flynn followed the path of many other retired generals and got on the television and speaking circuit. He wrote a book with Michael Ledeen, a controversial neoconservative foreign-policy analyst, about defeating terrorism. Islam is not a religion, Flynn and Ledeen wrote, but a political ideology bent on destroying Judeo-Christian civilization. Flynn began saying that he had been fired because President Obama disagreed with his views on terrorism and wanted to hide the growth of isis. I haven’t found anyone yet who heard him say this while he was still in the military. In the past, I’ve asked Flynn directly about this claim; he has told me that he doesn’t have any proof—it’s just something he feels was true. (Flynn did not respond to requests for comment for this article.)

As Flynn’s public comments became more and more shrill, McChrystal, Mullen, and others called Flynn to urge him to “tone it down,” a person familiar with each attempt told me. But Flynn had found a new boss, Trump, who enlisted him in the fight against the Republican and Democratic Party establishments. Flynn was ready. At the Republican National Convention, Flynn boiled over in front of an audience of millions. He led the crowd in chants of “Lock her up! Lock her up!” His former colleagues say they were shocked by what they saw.

What Flynn saw was corruption: Clinton, the media, the Justice Department, the intelligence community—they are all corrupt. I spoke to Flynn three months ago, while working on a profile of him for the Washington Post. “Is this some kind of hatchet job!” he roared into the phone when I asked why, exactly, he thought Clinton should be in jail.

The lifelong intelligence officer, who once valued tips gleaned from tribal reporters, has become a ready tweeter of hackneyed conspiracy theories. He reposts the vitriol of anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim commentators. “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL,” he tweeted in February, linking to a false claim that Islam wants eighty per cent of humanity enslaved or exterminated. “U decide,” he posted one week before the election, along with the headline from a linked story that appeared on a Web site called True Pundit: “NYPD Blows Whistle on New Hillary Emails: Money Laundering, Sex Crimes w/Children, etc. . . . MUST READ!”

Last week, Trump announced that Flynn would be his national-security adviser, a job that requires strategic vision and consensus-seeking among competing big-dog agencies. Mullen, this week, suggested to me that Flynn would need to change in order to succeed in his new role. “Mike Flynn was a terrific intel officer when he worked for me as a two-star and was both dynamic and often contrarian,” Mullen said. “Those qualities need to be tempered as national-security adviser in order to serve the next President as a thoughtful and strategic adviser.” Whether Flynn now learns to bottle his rage, whether he reëmbraces fact over fiction, whether he’s capable of playing the role of a contemplative counsellor, will determine the outcome of his most difficult and important mission yet.

Conspiracy theories, false facts, making decisions with no evidence.  All of the characteristics you want in a National Security Advisor.

Jansen to receive security protection because of death threats

This is sickening news

Calgary MLA Sandra Jansen is now being protected by security after receiving death threats after crossing the floor from the Tories to the NDP government last week.

The government confirmed Wednesday that its Executive Protection Unit is providing security for Jansen on a temporary basis.

In an interview, Jansen said there have been death threats and threats of violence made towards her on social media since she joined the NDP government last week.

“There was a concern from the NDP, our government, that they wanted to make sure that I was protected in the event that someone decided to make good on the threats,” said the Calgary-North West MLA.

What is wrong with people that they feel the need to call for vile threats of violence (often rape) and death towards female politicians every time they do something they disagree with?  What happened to the decency that everyone deserves?  More importantly how do we get it back?

This isn’t looking good

From the Wall Street Journal

During their private White House meeting on Thursday, Mr. Obama walked his successor through the duties of running the country, and Mr. Trump seemed surprised by the scope, said people familiar with the meeting. Trump aides were described by those people as unaware that the entire presidential staff working in the West Wing had to be replaced at the end of Mr. Obama’s term.

After meeting with Mr. Trump, the only person to be elected president without having held a government or military position, Mr. Obama realized the Republican needs more guidance. He plans to spend more time with his successor than presidents typically do, people familiar with the matter said.

Some quick post-election thoughts

  1. Some Charlie Clark supporters need to chill out more.  I made the joke on Tuesday about another election happening so soon after the civic election and that it felt like Charlie Clark had accomplished nothing since being elected.   It was a joke.  Learn to laugh.  Either that or you need to stop following me.
  2. In the run up to the Ford election in Toronto, every time a scandal would hit Ford (and they were serious), people would say that Ford was finished.  He actually became more popular.  I tend to think the same thing happened to Trump.  People saw themselves in him.  That isn’t a good thing as we found out with Ford and America will find out with Trump.  The good news is that Toronto went the opposite way the next election with John Tory.  So if they can survive four years, there is hope.
  3. Trump did not win, Clinton lost.  Trump’s vote total didn’t increase and in fact many Republicans did not vote for him.  The reality with Clinton is that more Democrats chose not to vote for her.  We sometimes look back at the Clinton years with rose tinted glasses but a lot Americans hated Bill Clinton when he was in office and that hatred and distrust never left.  Would I vote for Trump?  Never but there is a lot of animosity towards Clinton as evidenced by the fact she lost Arkansas.
  4. Winning the presidency didn’t make Donald Trump less dangerous and unacceptable. It made him more so
  5. Trump’s victory will impact Saskatoon.  Murray Mandryk hits on the economics in his excellent column today but I am talking in other ways.  Wendy works with the public.  Many of you see her there and are wonderful to her.  Wendy is also an immigrant and came to Canada in 1975.  Being from Guyana, she is of mixed ancestry because of their history of indentured slavery.   Nothing bothers her at work until this last month when she would deal with a flood of racist comments almost all day long about immigrants, her co-workers who are also immigrants, and people of color in general.  It was vile and disgusting.  Luckily her company has good policies on dealing with this stuff but the line out there about Trump’s victory normalizing racism and hatred against minorities having an impact on more than just
  6. For all of the positive talk about Keystone XL, I don’t know if it is the slam dunk that everyone is saying it is.  Here is why?  Canadian crude flowing down to the U.S. hurts their fracking industry which needs a boost in prices to be feasible.  That and Trump is protectionist and  I could see that the pipeline being stalled.  Again.
  7. There is the alt right.  I also think there is something called the alt stupid.  I have been told of how Hillary Clinton had a son that was an abuser and she covered it up (not the son but the abuse).  Umm, she has a daughter named Chelsea.   There was also the story about how her and Bill raised millions for Haiti but used it to build luxury hotels. 
  8. Kellie Leitch has no soul.  She knows that Donald Trump stands for.  She knows what Donald Trump did.  Yet all she cares about is cheap electoral gain at the expense of Canadians.  I have never had as little respect for a MP as I do Leitch and I live in the same city as Brad Trost.
  9. I tend to think that Trump will spend most of his first term in office enriching himself.  This will bring Democratic scorn which will mean retribution from him and the thugs he surrounds himself with like Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani. 
  10. I’ll just toss this in there but it is in-excusable that Saskatchewan Party MLAs blocked an investigation into what went wrong with the Global Transportation Hub.  As Murray Mandryk pointed out, In legislative public accounts committee on Tuesday morning, Sask. Party backbenchers Glen Hart, Larry Doke, Warren Michelson, Jennifer Campeau, Herb Cox and Randy Weekes did their utmost to ensure anyone who had anything to do with the GTH decisions (including Boyd himself) will now never be held to account by a formal legislative body.  By doing this, they have failed at the primary responsibilities as MLAs which is to hold the government (the cabinet) to account.  Those MLAs are representing you, they are representing the office of the Premier.
  11. This chart shows you the divide in America.  It’s an urban/rural divide as much as it is a Republican/Democratic one.The GOP/Democratic Divide county by county
  12. Despite Trumps win and the dark times ahead, I remain committed more than ever to trying to build a great city and community.  It’s not a time to give up, it’s a time to dig in, help out, and serve others.  If we don’t, all of the progress that has been made will be lost.

Huma Abedin off the campaign trail as pressure grows for Clinton to sack her top aide

From the National Post, err Telegraph

Huma Abedin

Huma Abedin, the trusted aide at the centre of the Hillary Clinton email storm, spent the weekend holed up at her New York apartment, far from her troubled boss.

Speculation mounted that Clinton would be forced to sack Abedin or at least distance herself from her long-standing confidante in order to quell the storm surrounding the latest episode of the email scandal.

While Clinton took to the stage in Florida, Abedin – usually never far from the Democratic nominee’s side – was photographed staring glumly out of her Manhattan window.

Abedin told friends she had no idea how her emails ended up on a computer she had shared with her estranged husband Anthony Weiner, the former congressman accused of sending sexually explicit text messages to a 15-year-old girl. She said the computer was primarily used by Weiner.

First of all, there are only one way those emails end up on the computer.  The Clinton Email server a POP3 account and she had access to it.  A lot of people let their top aides have access to their email and it’s not unheard of.  Heck, when I write to a cabinet minister of a politician, I assume it is being read by their aide.   Email downloaded by Abedin on the laptop would stay on the laptop unlike a IMAP setup.

Secondly, I am not sure why Clinton sacrifices her top aide over this.  Weiner is an asshole and a sex addict.  Abedin married him, had a child with him, and stood by him more than anyone else would have.  Now he has crossed the line again and disgraced her again so she finally left him.  She wasn’t responsible for his actions.  She may be guilty of not knowing how email servers work but that seems to be a bigger issue in the Democratic Party than just her.

She’s a distraction now but she’s be a big player in the Clinton White House, as she should be.

This is what an independent council looks like

From the Globe and Mail.  Can you imagine Saskatoon City Councillors ever speaking out this freely.  Neither can I.

“We’ve basically given in to everything the province has ever wanted from us, in order to be able to name a few stations after John Tory’s campaign pledge,” said Councillor Gord Perks.

“If you track the change in language since Mayor John Tory was elected, the things that the province was prepared to pay for is smaller and smaller and the things the city has to pay for get bigger and bigger. And all of this for something that doesn’t look remotely like what the mayor campaigned on.”

TTC Chair and Councillor Josh Colle acknowledged the difficulty of finding these funds but said it was part of the cost of expanding the transit system.

“I think the honest conversation that has to happen is about how do we fund the services that we provide in this city,” Mr. Colle said. “If we want these things, then citizens and councillors have to be willing to take steps to pay for them.”

More from Perks from Inside Toronto

“It’s certainly not what we were promised,” said Parkdale-High Park Councillor Gord Perks. “It’s much less at a much higher cost and there are two or three brand new costs being dumped on the city that have nothing to do with SmartTrack.”

I can’t remember once in the last decade where Saskatoon City Councillors were this blunt with their opposition of a project.

Your private contact information is a political commodity

One thing I hope that Saskatoon City Council cracks down on is the sharing of our personal information with City Councillors for political reasons.

It’s a well known fact that your City Councillor has mailing lists for emails.  You email them and they take your personal email address and add it to their email database.

Well, that is against the Privacy Act which makes exceptions for political parties (gross) but local councillors are not political parties despite what their delusions of grandeur tell them.

Then what I have heard countless stories of in this campaign was the sharing of those lists in whole or in part with other candidates.  Maybe it is a neighborhood here and there that have changed wards in the new boundaries.  Sometimes it is from a previous campaign or an ally in the provincial government.  Either way is clear violation of the law and it is one that is just laughed at.

If a company did this, they would charged, convicted, and fined.  The fact that our own elected officials do this with a wink, wink, nudge, nudge for political purposes is bizarre at best.

Of course there is one exception to this and that is Charlie Clark who operated an opt in mailing list using his website and published a really good newsletter.  I hope he does the same as mayor.  My point is that if Clark can easily do this and follow the rules, so can the rest of Saskatoon City Council.

Some thoughts on Pat Lorje losing in Ward 2

Pat LorjeSome of you know this but Pat Lorje is a good friend of Wendy‘s and mine.  She was a friend as a councilor and I am proud to call her a friend of mine now that she is not.

I don’t have any thoughts on her loss, the people of Ward 2 did that but I am going to share something about Pat which will probably make her mad.  Why, because Pat has the honor of telling me off for more columns than anyone else.   Not only that but she does it better than anyone else.  More about that later.

Pat won’t remember this but I remember literally running into her in the Legislature.  I was running for the Progressive Conservatives under Bill Boyd in the 1995 election and Pat was a NDP MLA.

Along with Bill Boyd and Dan D’Autremount I was heading to the Legislative cafeteria.  Storming at us was Pat Lorje who informed us that they were serving liver (I think).  That stopped all of us in our tracks and we all took her lead and headed the other way.  I am not sure where Pat had lunch but the Tories went to Outback Steakhouse.

Later I crossed her at The Salvation Army and we met more formally.  She had made some incorrect statements (I’m trolling her) about social agencies and we invited her to talk with us about her concerns.  We dealt with each other on a variety of issues and later became good friends.

Not only did she become my friend but Wendy’s and Mark‘s as well.   Privately during the worst of Wendy’s depression a few years ago, Pat’s ability to project her personality literally helped Wendy get through the tough times.  For Wendy, if Pat could deal with the city, she could get through her depression.

She was over at our house once with several other politicos.  She told a funny story about a politician that Mark should not have heard and one that hated me (still hates me) deeply. The problem was that Mark was sitting very quietly and as still as a statue in the corner because he wanted to hear this story.  Pat noticed him about the same time everyone else did and didn’t miss a beat and introduced herself by the name of the politician she was talking about.

If Pat phones, Mark will still tell me, [insert scandalized politician’s name here] called.

Pat’s friendship always surprises some people because we have very different opinions on a lot of things.  I have taken aim at her in more than one column.  Those columns have always been greeted with a phone call and being told exactly why I am wrong in very clear language.  Generally I explain back why she is completely wrong. I don’t think either one of us have ever backed down.

Of course the only thing I did that made her really mad was several years ago.  Sean Shaw and I disagreed with a policy she had worked on for years and we had both lobbied the rest of council to vote against it.  They did and Pat was livid.  After a week of being told off, we made peace at the Rook and Raven.  We didn’t concede anything but we did pick up her glass of wine.

Like all losses there are a lot of factors.  Hilary Gough ran a winning campaign and there was a feeling of change that moved across the city.  Only Montgomery voted for the status quo and Atchison and no doubt that hurt Lorje.

So why am I writing this?  I don’t know but there seems to be a general lack of class that happens by the chattering masses when someone loses.  There was more than post and tweet that crossed the line.  Yet there is a side to all politicians that we never see.  Pat Lorje wasn’t just the Ward 2 councilor or a politician, she was and is a great friend to my family.  I’ll miss debating with her but I look forward to spending time in the future.

Some last minute election thoughts

  1. I think Charlie Clark wins the mayoral campaign because they a) have lists and b) the ground game.  That being said with my prior history of election predictions…  I really have no idea.
  2. Despite every suggesting otherwise, I really have no contact with the Clark campaign.  The last time Charlie and I talked was at Sean Shaw’s goodbye party and we talked about how many cameras I owned.  In a weird role reversal, I couldn’t give him an answer.  I was sick pretty much since then and didn’t attend any City Council meetings.  On the other hand, I endorsed him so some of you will call me a Charlie Clark stooge.  It happens.
  3. I don’t really know what happened to the Moore campaign but it seems to be a bunch of stances that over reached and from the emails and comments I got, started to undermine some trust and confidence.  The “hands in the cookie jar” release was brutal.  It never should have happened.  Here is why.  When you make an attack like that, people have to believe something is up.  The things with Charlie Clark and Donald Atchison, people believe that if either one of them found your wallet full of cash on the street, they would call you up and give you back.   There isn’t a hint of scandal around Atchison or Clark.    When you go negative at that time, your attacks backfire.  It also undermines your efforts to be a victim with mean tweets videos right after.  So yeah, it was a bad week.
  4. I also think saying Saskatoon is in a financial crisis was mistake from the Moore campaign.  I have looked and looked and looked at those numbers.  I have asked City Hall staff, other councilors, gone through my vast database and even talked to a contact at a rival rating service.  Saskatoon is not in a financial crisis.  The credit card is kind of maxed out for a few year while we pay some stuff off but it’s not a crisis.  Most of the debt is at a really low rate.  I don’t agree with all of it but things go back to normal in a few years.  Finally for the last two years councilors have been having casual conversations with me about future spending and slowing it down.  They have concerns as well but there does seem to be some plans in place for prioritizing things.
  5. I think campaigns do this often but instead of doing what you were doing to get close to the lead, they decide to do something different to push them over the top.  In the end, it almost never works.  Instead, double down on the strategies that made people like you in the first place. 
  6. Some of the campaign teams have expressed regret for how this campaign got out of control.  To them I say… well I want to say…. okay… I am going to say it, “Fuck you”.  You are the ones that did what you did to make it get out hand for short term gain to win shots against the other side that no one cared about.  You could have said no but you didn’t so don’t express regret to me that relationships are ruined and that people (including people who are just voters) got hurt.  You did it with eyes wide open and you knew the consequences to friends and the city.  So yeah, I don’t care if you are sorry.  Nothing is worth lying about, attacking people personally, and basically being assholes in the name of power.  As someone hilariously tweeted, the good news is that one Wednesday night, three mayoral campaigns will have lost.
  7. Who ever runs the SassyGal account has cost the Moore campaign many votes, including Wendy’s.  Moore’s campaign team has said over and over to me that it isn’t them but then distance your campaign from it by calling it out.  Sadly as anyone who reads it knows that it is an insider writing it and it reflects poorly on the entire campaign.  When Jason Kenney does a better job of distancing himself from troll accounts than local campaigns do, you have a problem.  Amazing how an account with only 65 followers can do so much damage. 
  8. I have no idea what is going to happen in Ward 2, Ward 6, Ward 8, or Ward 9.  Incumbents win in the rest.
  9. I am not cut out for politics.  The practice of a campaign where every four years you try to end someone’s career isn’t something that I enjoy watching.

At the end of the campaign, the mayor is going to have to lead a very divided city.

This is why I am voting for Darren Hill in Ward 1

Wendy and I live in a tough neighborhood in Saskatoon.  Some of our neighbors struggle and Wendy and I hear about those struggles.  For whatever reason they have problems with City Hall and they talk to Wendy about it.  The first answer is to have them talk to Darren HIll.  The story is always the same.  Darren helps them.  There is a phrase that you can’t fight City Hall.  Well sometimes you don’t have to.

Darren Hill campaigning for a tigers votes in 2012

That stuff matters to me.  Knowing that people who have had a rough time struggle can get help.  They can with Darren.  One of Wendy’s co-workers had no luck with her councilor and Wendy mistakenly told her to talk to Darren (thinking about where she worked rather than where she lived).  Darren helped her resolve her issue in minutes.

The other reason I endorse him is that a lot of people online think I hate Darren and always want me to run against him.  We joke around online and he torments Wendy (It’s a hilarious story and Mark and I are firmly on Darren’s side on this) in person and online but I agree with many of his stands and have no reason to run against him.  There were some votes that made me question what he was thinking but overall he does a good job representing the diverse Ward 1 and his constituents and deserves another term on Saskatoon City Council.

Here is funny story to pass along. I can’t remember the reason but someone called The StarPhoenix wanting to talk to me about something.  In that situation The StarPhoenix doesn’t give out my cell but I get the message and a return number emailed to me.  So I call a women up and somehow it came out of nowhere that she hates Darren so much, she can’t even stand to see his name is writing.  Later that day I was talking to him and he knew who I was talking about without me giving him the persons name.  He can’t resolve all of the issues but I know he has made an effort on so many of them.  For the record, I think that hating an elected official so much you hate to see their name in print in next level. 

About that photo, I grabbed it from Flickr account and at first glance, the photo’s thumbnail looked like he was dropping a baby.  Instead he is campaigning for white tigers votes at the Saskatoon Zoo.  You just know that sometime during this photo op there was some bloodshed as the tiger tried to attack him. 

Ward 3 Roundtable

Lenore Swystun and myself hosted Ward 3 councillor (and candidate for re-election) Ann Iwanchuk on CFCR’s Civicly Speaking.

Councilor Iwanchuk gave her reasons for re-election, talked about development in Ward 3 and explained to us why the budget process was as messy as it was.

You can listen to the MP3 of the show below.

Marley vs. Darren Hill

So some of you have wondered what is up with the Marley vs. Darren Hill thing.  Some of you think too much.  Don’t read too much into it.  I live in Ward 1, Marley lives in Ward 1, Hill is the councilor and incumbent in Ward 1…

There really isn’t much thinking at all about it.  Hilary’s sister’s cat Nano is making a credible run for Mayor and Marley is joining the slate.  In other words it was a late night joke that seemed funny at night but really isn’t right now.

Marley for Ward 1 Councilor

My other point for doing this is to show how easy it is for anyone to do a personal page.  It drove me crazy when I can’t find an elected officials website and when I call them on it, they always go, “well I need to get it redesigned” or some other excuse.

For most politicians, the reason I am on their website is that I need some information from them, like a phone number or a email address to contact them with.  It means an About.me or similar page would do all of that for people really, really easily.  You can even use your own domain name with it.

So if you are a prospective councilor, school board trustee, or any elected official, put one of these together and make it easier for people to find you.  It takes 5 minutes and if you use the about.me url, it’s free.

Ward 2 Roundtable

The Ward 2 Saskatoon City Council Roundtable

Lenore Swystun, Hilary Nelson, and myself hosted three charming candidates on running to be your Ward 2 councilor Saskatoon City Councilor on CFCR’s Civicly Speaking.

In the studio was incumbent Pat Lorje, Mark Zielke, and Hilary Gough who gave overviews of why they are running, what they are running on and how they would meet the challenges of the city in the next term.

You can listen to the MP3 of the show below.

Tonight at 6:30 Lenore and I host Ward 3 Councilor Ann Iwanchuk.  Challenger Mark Mills can’t make it.

How to Win an Election

A leading political strategist explains how candidates use the art of storytelling to help swing elections.

Mr. McKinnon has had a long career working for politicians from both parties. As the lead media strategist for George W. Bush’s 2000 and 2004 campaigns as well as John McCain’s winning 2008 primary campaign, he was instrumental in shaping the way we perceived his candidates and their opponents. Remember the 2004 windsurfing ad that branded John Kerry a flip-flopper? That’s his work.

But Mr. McKinnon burned out on presidential campaigns, and increasingly came to view the oversimplification and negativity at the heart of modern campaigning as a leading contributor to the toxic political climate in which we now live. So when we sat down with him, we asked him to turn over his secret playbook.

In this film, he reveals the storytelling strategies used to elect Mr. Bush with openness and candor, and in doing so lays bare the fundamental narrative strategies that remain at the core of today’s presidential campaigns. But Mr. McKinnon believes that the power of storytelling has a dark side that voters should be more aware of. His new message is a warning to all citizens: You’re being manipulated, and our democracy relies on your ability to see that .