Showing posts with label Martyn Brown. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Martyn Brown. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Connections between wealth and power flourish in secret

An article I published almost three years ago is timely on this election day. Voters have an opportunity to change direction. If we do not, the plundering of British Columbia will accelerate. Gordon Campbell began with a set of principles and slid into corruption. Christy Clark started without principle.

Earlier in Northern Insights, the article Indeed, Power does corrupt contains words of Paul Graham that are a diagnosis and could be the prescription for reform in British Columbia.
"The problem here is not wealth, but corruption. . . We don't need to prevent people from being rich if we can prevent wealth from translating into power. And there has been progress on that front. . . But what's changed is not variation in wealth. What's changed is the ability to translate wealth into power.

"How do you break the connection between wealth and power? Demand transparency. Watch closely how power is exercised, and demand an account of how decisions are made. Why aren't all police interrogations videotaped? . . . Why don't government officials disclose more about their finances, and why only during their term of office?

"A friend of mine who knows a lot about computer security says the single most important step is to log everything. Back when he was a kid trying to break into computers, what worried him most was the idea of leaving a trail. He was more inconvenienced by the need to avoid that than by any obstacle deliberately put in his path.

"Like all illicit connections, the connection between wealth and power flourishes in secret. Expose all transactions, and you will greatly reduce it. Log everything. That's a strategy that . . . doesn't have the side effect of making your whole country poor."
Now, consider those thoughts and hold them in mind while I introduce the intermediary connecting Gordon Campbell and his puppet masters. Martyn Brown was the only witness in the opening weeks of the BC Rail Political Corruption Trial. Experienced pol and blogger Ian Reid wrote this about him:
"Brown, as you may know is the Rip Van Winkle of BC politics and can’t remember much about what’s happened in BC since 2001.  His default answer to everything Basi/Virk is “I don’t recall.”
Brown's forgetfulness and paucity of personal records is by carefully considered design and the purpose relates to the same fear that bothered Paul Graham's young computer hacker friend:
"What worried him most was the idea of leaving a trail."
Indeed, government of British Columbia is all about secret connections and one hand washing another, in private. Do you suppose for a moment that Martyn Brown functioned as Campbell's consigliere for years with a non-functioning memory? Do you suppose that Justice Anne MacKenzie believed Brown's lack of memory was anything but considered? The truth is that to manage without diaries and files requires an extraordinary memory.

BC Liberals are drawing more and more public business behind closed doors. Private negotiations replace open tenders. Public private partnerships hide information for "competitive reasons" and publicly owned private corporations shield major transactions from review. Trade councils and intermediaries controlled by government have been established to keep business out of the public sector. Crown corporations such as BC Hydro are made to follow government direction but allowed to hide contracts that commit citizens to pay tens of billions of dollars in future payments.

I could go on but the idea is clear. Again, I repeat that Campbell promised open and transparent government but he has given us the opposite. Liberal members of the legislature are frightened to speak out, they merely nod their heads and speak the words written for them by the leader's minions. Media pals, knowledgeable about ethical defects, close their eyes and write about other things. Some of them don't even hold their noses as they churn out pap punditry.
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Thursday, November 24, 2011

A snail's pace is quick by comparison

To emphasize that the Basi/Virk trial was merely meter-spinning theatre from the injustice system, I bring back a Northern Insights piece from almost 18 months ago. I think it captures reality, showing the trial was never about exposing truth.

This week another insider of the Liberal government was caught reaching hands into the cookie jar. People in that party are hooked on cash from the public. Like junkies, they are dependent, they can't stop and we, as citizens, have grown tolerant.

Thievery and hypocrisy are the government's main attributes. Tourism Minister Pat Bell proudly announces he has disciplined a staff member for an embarrassing clause in a brochure Bell issued without bothering to read. That is accountability in the BC Liberal world. No wonder that former Port Moody mayor Joe Trasolini joined the NDP team.

What follows was first published June 30, 2010:

"Ol’ Billy was right, let’s kill all the lawyers, kill’em tonight." — The Eagles

Fans know that Shakespeare wrote words like those in Henry VI but wasn't actually suggesting mass slaughter of black robed citizens. Actually, the Bard was ridiculing a revolting peasant who promised that, after he overthrew the King, common laborers would be newly respected and gentlemen who could read and write would be punished and the lawyers would be eliminated.

However, if Shakespeare spent any time in Vancouver's Courtroom 54, he might decide the words in Henry VI should not be ironic. My oh my. If lawyers ran car repair shops, you would buy a new vehicle instead of replacing a worn out brake pad. If lawyers ran NHL teams, you'd have the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Well, maybe that explains something; Brian Burke is a lawyer.)

I'm not suggesting that today's edition of the BC Rail Corruption trial was typical. After all, the jury listened to more than an hour of testimony as defence lawyer Michael Bolton questioned the Premier's main man Martyn Brown. However, the testimony proceeded at something less than a snail's pace because Bolton was reading from emails written in 2003 and Brown acknowledged remembering pretty much nothing, except that his then colleague, Assistant Deputy Finance Minister Paul Taylor - later the Naikun wind farm electricity promoter - if he had spilled any beans about Cabinet policy to friendly lobbyists, would only have done so with good reason. Brown also remembered that it would have been entirely appropriate assistance if the ADM seemed to be helping the lobbyists land a client and gain large fees and sufficient expense allowances for the entirely appropriate hospitality required (fishing trips?) so that lobbyists could entertain government insiders. I wonder how Glen Ringdahl and his automobile dealer clients will react to knowing the the lobbyee was helping the lobbyist set up the contract for the lobbyor.

Brown has been able to remember surprisingly little for a man with a memory so prodigious that he studiously avoids keeping file and meeting notes or copies of correspondence. However, Brown confidently remembered that Paul Taylor always acted with the greatest integrity, that he was ever trustworthy and trusted. The Premier's deputy also remembered that he never had policy conflicts with Ken Dobell, another insider with indubitable probity, in Brown's opinion.

Today, with an11:30 am start, the session ran longer than the day before but was complete by 2:30 pm, with a leisurely lunch break preceding the almost 30 minute afternoon session. In three weeks, hours the jury has listened to testimony could be counted on one hand. Now the whole gang breaks for the long weekend, planning three days for the trial next week before starting a summer adjournment and returning in September. At the current rate of progress, the trial should last for about four more years. It's a tough pace but a BMW X6 M is now over 100 grand. Work's gotta happen. Life's not all fun.

I have a theory about why courtrooms largely sit empty throughout the day. First, there is all the preparation needed for the material that couldn't be prepared in the years waiting for the trial to begin. And, the day can't start too early because judges just aren't morning people. Extended lunches are a necessity because that is prime meeting time for lawyers to spend with prospective clients and breaking early in the day allows for a full 18 holes before sundown.

If I can be more serious, it is amazing that we have a provincial government that wages war on hospital workers, paramedics, school teachers and others but raises not a peep about the privileged few who manage the vital justice system with virtually no accountability to anyone.  It is not a coincidence that more politicians are lawyers than any other profession.

If the AG is interested, I could recommend a retired sawmill foreman who was an expert ass kicker, able to drive the laziest green chain puller to complete a good day's effort.
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Monday, November 15, 2010

Geohegan's allegation of interference demands review - updated

Dave Basi had his fingers slapped today by Supreme Court Justice Anne MacKenzie. She yanked his chain lightly, adding to his previously inconsequential sentence conditions, making them now slightly inconvenient. The purported reason: Basi made himself available for a TV news interview at the home of colleague Bob Virk.

For taking a bribe to facilitate land developments worth hundreds of millions, for separately corrupting the sale of government railway assets and for causing the public to spend more than $20 million dollars to investigate, prosecute and defend criminal acts, Basi was given little more than a verbal reprimand from the court.

However, soon after taking the generous plea bargain offered by government and approved by Justice MacKenzie, Basi spoke publicly without showing even slight contrition. That raised the court's ire. It didn't take seven years to resolve this issue. It took days. The lesson is clear:
Hundreds of millions in commercial fraud may be no big deal but don't get the judge pissed off. Play the game, leave the stage quietly and let this matter die.
Bill Tieleman and Mark Hume are both reporting on statements by Victoria lobbyist and Basi ally Michael Geohegan.  He claims that authorities are trying to pressure Basi to cooperate in destruction of evidence from his trial so that a public inquiry, as promised by the NDP, could not access the sensitive documents.

Clearly, this allegation, if true, suggests systemic corruption at the highest ranks involving government, police and court officials.

Update, 7:30 pm:

Alex Tsakumis is reporting that crown prosecutors are demanding defense lawyers return documents provided to them before trial. This important material would be vital to an independent examination of affairs related to the Liberal Government's sale of BC Rail. It may also include evidence of political tampering with the Agricultural Land Commission.  Tsakumis states that demand for return of documents by prosecutors is unusual.

Premier Campbell's former Chief of Staff Premier Martyn Brown demonstrated why the information must be kept outside of government for future review. Brown, despite close involvement over many years with intimate political business, claims he has no files or written records and cannot remember details of projects that consumed his time in government.  As the head political operative of Gordon Campbell's reign, if Brown knows nothing and cannot maintain files, his underlings are not likely to know or do more. Therefore, the documentary evidence held by defense lawyers must be kept safe in non-political hands.
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