Category Archives: politics

Brian Bowman’s political career comes to an end…

You might not be able to build Rome in one day, but you sure can destroy Camelot in a matter of hours.

At the start of this week, Mayor Brian Bowman marked his first 100 days in office by highlighting all his good deeds since he moved into Sam Katz’s old digs.

A mere two days later, Winnipeg’s rookie mayor was effectively called out as a liar by the most popular man in the city, True North Sports & Entertainment chairman Mark Chipman.

The owner of the Winnipeg Jets, who appears to enjoy publicity as much as a Siamese cat revels in an ice bath, stood up in front of reporters on Wednesday afternoon and declared he’s disappointed with Bowman, regretted publicly endorsing the privacy lawyer during the 2014 mayoral race and then delivered a political gut punch to the rookie mayor.

You know that massive True North development proposal for a pair of downtown properties south of Graham Avenue? You know, the one Bowman has been demanding to hear details about since the middle of January? The one that has caused a vicious public airing of accusations and counter-accusations between the mayor and CentreVenture, the city’s downtown development agency?

Well, according to Mark Chipman, Brian Bowman has known about the $400-million proposal to build three towers and a public square since November, when the new mayor attended a Jets game with provincial cabinet minister Kevin Chief.

Not only did Bowman know, but he and Chief were shown a promotional video about the project in the True North chairman’s office, which offers a view of the land in question.

This creates a massive credibility problem for Winnipeg’s new mayor, who told reporters in January he did not meet with Mark Chipman and did not know much about the proposal beyond “rumours and rumblings.”

The proposal in question involves the construction of residential housing, office space, retail stores, a public square, a new hotel and two if not three skywalks on a Manitoba Public Insurance-owned surface-parking lot at 225 Carlton St. – optioned to True North partners since 2012 – and the former Carlton Inn site at 220 Carlton St., owned by CentreVenture. If all goes well for True North, it will also involve a new headquarters for Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries.

For three weeks, Bowman has blasted CentreVenture for signing an option on the Carlton Inn site while another corporation, construction company Stuart Olson, was obligated to build a hotel on that land.

Bowman denounced this option as a secret deal. He excoriated CentreVenture staff and board members. He declared city hall would no longer tolerate backroom conversations about real estate, especially in the wake of the Winnipeg fire-paramedic station construction scandal, police headquarters scandal and other Katz-era real-estate scandals involving lands swaps, unappraised property purchases and suppressed land valuations.

After nearly three weeks of silence, the usually reserved Chipman gathered reporters into the bowels of MTS Centre – the Excalibur-like source of his power and popularity – and called out Bowman for failing to disclose what he knew about the “True North Square” proposal and when.

So no one looks that good in this and I suspect this has just ended Brian Bowman’s political career.  The corpse will serve to the end of the term but few survive these kind of shots he is taking because no one believes him anymore.

Nobody comes out of this sorry mess looking good. Chipman faces a conflict allegation, even if he did recuse himself from the CentreVenture board and quit shortly afterward. Bowman appears to be a disingenuous liar, doing whatever it takes to appear to be righteous in the face of previous city malfeasance. Stuart Olson looks like a bad-faith actor in its commitment to build a hotel for RBC Convention Centre. The convention centre board looks like a bunch of amateurs for failing to sign a construction contract with Stuart Olson.

A friend of mine calls municipal politics the “minor leagues”.  Another one calls it the ECHL of politics.  It feels that way at times.  There is so much bumbling and incompetence whether in Saskatoon or in Winnipeg that you just have to appreciate it for what it is.  A mess.

It’s just nice to read about it somewhere else and not here.

Is Putin winning the confrontation with NATO?

The Guardian thinks he is

It’s different for dictators or authoritarian regimes. Flick a switch, pull a lever, and things happen, often instantly. Which is one reason why the Putin-versus-Europe contest in Ukraine is so one-sided; why one side acts and the other struggles to react; why one side is consistently ahead of the curve, the other behind it – in the short-term, at least.

Six months after the Kremlin stunned Europe with its land grab in Ukraine, a Nato summit in Wales unveiled its ideas for shoring up security in eastern Europe. For more than two decades, the alliance had been beset by self-doubt. Having won the cold war, what was the point any more?

Putin gave the military planners at Mons and the armies of bureaucrats in Brussels a new lease of life. Nato’s core purpose – facing down and containing Russia – was newly legitimised.

The summit decided to put a spearhead force at brigade strength, more than 5,000 men, into Poland and the Baltics at short notice: small units of special forces within hours, bigger reinforcements within days, at the first hint of trouble.

That was six months ago. But since the September summit, the plan has atrophied, bogged down in endless circular discussions of who does what, when and where. Who pays for it? Where is the kit coming from? Will the Americans step up to relieve the Europeans? Who will be in command?

First of all, NATO did not win the cold war, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher did for the exact reasons mentioned.  It won’t win this conflict unless the United States has a stronger foreign policy and from what we have seen from Barack Obama, it will have to come from the next President.

Conservatives are Attacking Palin. What changed?

She personalized the attacks on her and her family

In fairness, Palin was once a reform-minded governor who enjoyed an 88 percent approval rating. But something happened on the way to Des Moines. I suspect the most vicious attacks (especially the “Trig Truther” stuff) radicalized her and embittered her, but I also suspect she also took the easy way out. Instead of going back to Alaska after the 2008 defeat, boning up on the issues, continuing her work as governor, and forging a national political comeback, she cashed in with reality-TV shows and paid speaking gigs.

This isn’t an original or new observation, In fact, back in July 2009, I wrote: “The tragedy of Sarah Palin’s recent press conference announcing her resignation as governor of Alaska flows from the sense that so much potential has been wasted.”

The trouble with taking the easy way out is that it doesn’t last forever. The people who truly last in this business don’t rely on shortcuts or good looks or gimmicks; they survive on work ethic, wit, and intellect. (That’s why, no matter how grandiose he gets, Newt Gingrich will always have a gig. Newt will always be interesting, because he will always have something to say—something to contribute.)

I had dinner a couple of months ago with a politician of a different political philosophy than I.  This was a big part of our talk.  Governments and politicians that can engage with their critics are far more successful in the long term (think Peter Lougheed or a Bill Davis) than those that treat all criticism as a personal attack that must be defeated.

Of course more troubling are the personal attacks, even if they have a hint of accuracy.  What do you do about them?   Some can shrug them off while others are changed by them.  Palin was changed by them.  I was never a fan but I agree that instead of fixing her flaws, she has doubled down on them, something that too many politicians do.

True North?

So Justin Trudeau and the Liberals have a new ad out.  Canadian politicians since the days of John G. Diefenbaker have been loving the north.  John Turner, Jean Chretien, Stephen Harper all love the north.   It’s expected that Justin Trudeau loves the north as well… and wants to make it better!  That’s it.  

As a voter, I want to hear how.  What is the big strategy.  There is some political room for him to maneveur as Harper has really accomplished nothing as part of his northern agenda.  The Department of National Defence can’t even procure rifles for the Rangers (who arguably don’t need replacements for their bolt action rifles that work really well in the winter).  Plans for a deepwater port?  Umm that has gone nowhere.  

Instead of just matching Harper’s unfulfilled and broken promises with real ideas, Trudeau just floated out some cliches and feel good statements.  In other words, not much has changed.

Former CIA officer found guilty of espionage for leaking classified information to NYT reporter

This is sickening.

Jeffrey A. Sterling, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, was convicted of espionage Monday on charges that he told a reporter for The New York Times about a secret operation to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program.

The conviction is a significant victory for the Obama administration, which has conducted an unprecedented crackdown on officials who speak to journalists about security matters without the administration’s approval. Prosecutors prevailed after a yearslong fight in which the reporter, James Risen, refused to identify his sources.

The case revolved around a C.I.A. operation in which a former Russian scientist provided Iran with intentionally flawed nuclear component schematics. Mr. Risen revealed the operation in his 2006 book, “State of War,” describing it as a mismanaged, potentially reckless mission that may have inadvertently aided the Iranian nuclear program.

On the third day of deliberations, the jury in federal court in Alexandria, Va., convicted Mr. Sterling on nine felony counts. Mr. Sterling, who worked for the C.I.A. from 1993 to 2002 and now lives in O’Fallon, Mo., faces a maximum possible sentence of decades in prison, though the actual sentence is likely to be far shorter. Judge Leonie M. Brinkema of Federal District Court, who presided over the weeklong trial, allowed Mr. Sterling to remain free on bond and set sentencing for April 24.

“This is a just and appropriate outcome,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said. “The defendant’s unauthorized disclosures of classified information compromised operations undertaken in defense of America’s national security. The disclosures placed lives at risk. And they constituted an egregious breach of the public trust by someone who had sworn to uphold it. As this verdict proves, it is possible to fully prosecute unauthorized disclosures that inflict harm upon our national security without interfering with journalists’ ability to do their jobs.”

Edward B. MacMahon Jr., Mr. Sterling’s lawyer, said he would seek to get the verdict thrown out and, failing that, file an appeal.

“We’re obviously very saddened by the jury’s verdict,” Mr. MacMahon said in a telephone interview. “We continue to believe in Jeffrey’s innocence, and we’re going to continue to fight for him up to the highest levels.”

Was he even guilty?

Mr. Sterling’s lawyers argued that it was just as likely that Mr. Risen had learned about the operation from Capitol Hill staff members, then pieced together details from other sources at the C.I.A. and from the Russian scientist himself. Mr. Pollack acknowledged that Mr. Sterling had a relationship with Mr. Risen, but said they had talked only about Mr. Sterling’s discrimination lawsuit against the C.I.A. Mr. Risen probably asked about Merlin and the Iranian operation, Mr. Pollack said, but Mr. Sterling did not provide any information.

Mr. Sterling is the latest in a string of former officials and contractors the Obama administration has charged with discussing national security matters with reporters. Under all previous presidents combined, three people had faced such prosecutions. Under President Obama, there have been eight cases, and journalists have complained that the crackdown has discouraged officials from discussing even unclassified security matters.

So there are leaks and then “approved leaks”

Mr. Risen’s lengthy fight to avoid testifying about his sources turned the case into a rallying point for news organizations, who said the Justice Department had made it harder to cover national security beyond what it released in news statements and approved leaks, such as those that told a glowing story about the mission to kill Osama bin Laden. Less favorable stories, such as those revealing warrantless wiretapping or secret prisons, led to criminal investigations.

So the Whitehouse is fine with favourable leaks but those that reflect poorly on the President and the U.S. government are prosecuted.  Tell me again why we had such high hopes in Barack Obama?