Sunday, November 27, 2016

El Commandante es Muerto

Fidel Castro is dead. The maker of one of the few successful revolutions of this century has stepped into History. Whether he 'changed the world' is debatable, but the world certainly knew he was here.  He brought the 'Cold war' home and laid it at America's doorstep. By allowing the Russians to do in Cuba what the Americans had done in Turkey a couple of years before, brought the world to the brink of war.

The World knows who the leader of the modest island in the Caribbean was. He made a name for Cubans in a hundred or more places, from Miami to Luanda, from Bolivia to Grenada and he 'scared the shit out of America'.  Castro Cubans were the 'bogey men' of a number of Hollywood 'existential threat' pics.

And so these days the world reacts to his passing, as it has done to his presence.  There are the normal 'tributes' to the dead - laying out his achievements, balanced for press consumption, in some cases, by his obvious failures. In other accounts he remains the ogre, the tyrant,  the dictator some parts of the world held him up to be.  The Cubans of Cuba announced an 8-day period of mourning and reports had the city of Havana described as 'sombre'. 170 air miles away the air was somewhat different as the Miami Cubans pulled out the stops on a 'national fiesta' that, on a number of occasions before,  had gone off half-cocked.  This time it was real and the joyful faces - which very much reminded me of those in the old photos taken at a lynching - were not stifled, this time, by news that 'El Barbo' lived on.

But all we really know of Fidel Castro is public persona and the details of his 'injustice' offered by those who suffered it.

In public Castro was larger, and longer, than life.  If people, as we are told, were 'forced' to attend his frequent public orations, not being able to walk away must have been an ordeal. But I have never read any report of the 'leavings' of those 'massive' crowds turned-out to listen - water bottles discarded underwear, 'droppings' or 'floods' that surely would have eventuated after a four hour 'rock concert' anywhere else.  I recall reading of the aftermath of a Papal Mass in Toronto upsetting the sewage system for a number of days, and I've seen pictures of the debris field left by the faithful on that occasion that gives rise to a question about the 'gatherings' after miracle of the loaves and fishes. One would think that, with the frequency of Fidel's oratorical 'olympics' in his heyday, that his critics would have made much of the evidence of the harm he inflicted on his audience. They didn't.

He was a lawyer by training, but had that been his forte, he probably might have risen no higher than a local judge in Cuba. While he had some of the looks, and the lip, he didn't seem to have the smarts to win the big cases.  He was a 'Commandante' but aside from actually 'being there' he was smart enough to lave the actual fighting to those who were better at it. Even the Bay of Pigs - a victory ascribed to him - he left to the pros to execute.  He was reputed to have been vindictive and cruel.  While there is little evidence that he involved himself personally in revenge and retribution, his signal failure is in not curbing those who actually did that. The anti-Castro rebels who temporarily seized Trinidad on the south coast as part of the Bay of Pigs invasion, was punished harshly as it was an insurrection - including many 'old comrades' of the original revolution - rather than an invasion. The rebels who took to the hills  north of town were never permitted to walk out of them. Castro's forces hunted them down and killed them to a man.

He was certainly secretive and security-conscious in his personal life. He protected his privacy, moving, like so many other 'enemies of democracy', from place to place, unannounced. This probably prevented him from living in the style to which 'presidents-for-life' (and he in fact wasn't one of those, seeking regular re-election as he did) are accustomed. From what we know of it,  his personal life was unostentatious. He never did have a proper 'generalissimos' outfit, probably even for his funeral.

He is lauded for his achievements in regard to life in Cuba - the education and health systems being the major cases in point. But I would say that one of his own seminal changes was the rapprochement with the Catholic Church.  As a good communist ideologue, and as a Cuban revolutionary, he saw 'the Church', in Cuba, as a part of that old 'system' that held the people in thrall to a government partially through a thralldom to God.  Castro was educated in the best of that 'old system', by the Jesuits. When he was in  school the Jesuits were just beginning to think about that 'revolution' in the Church that would start a decade after the Cuban one.  But Castro, the revolutionary, saw something in common with the revolutionary ('anti-communist') Pope from Poland and Cuba  - forty years into its revolution -  cleared its 'Museos' and restored the properties of the Church. Popes (a couple of them) visited the island and the Catholic church in Cuba is having a renaissance.  Despite that, one of America's claims is that there needs be more freedom of religious expression - for a number of American 'religious visitors' - Jewish,  Baptist Evangelicals and Jehovah's Witnesses have been arrested for espionage activities.   We'll see if Fidel has a funeral Mass.

If there is anything surprising it is that considering the minor role he played on the World stage, he's getting a lot more media ink than many of the Great Ones.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Security: Colour it Green

The Government of Canada is currently engaged in a  process of seeking input in what it calls its "Green Paper' on a revised security apparatus in Canada.  This is, possibly, the new Liberal government's, 'promise' to reevaluate the legislation set in place to 'protect Canada from terrorist attacks' after 9/11.  That has done a remarkable job,  as there haven't been any notable terrorist attacks in Canada since 9/11.  But that's no reason for not 'plugging the holes', that haven't been noticed yet, in the legislation.

                                                                        As if, eh?
 But is that real evidence of the effectiveness of the current legislation, or the ability of our security services to stay on top of a burgeoning threat?

 Well, if you listen to the head honchos, "No!"

The straight poop on a National 'Necessity'

Let's face it, right now we're defenceless, eh?  

CSIS has been remarkable in saying - when it does make public utterance - that the 'threat' is growing and developing and becoming ever so much more robust. So robust that CSIS is about to 'pop'?

And coming out of the blocks on that public consultation-green paper 'thingy' is Canada's premier police service, and its 'Big Stick of Solictiude'. To-day our RCMP 'commish' - took to the airways and media hubs, in class 5 dress-down office (casual) uniform, to decry the fact that the Force is to-day faced with new investigative hurdles due to cell phones and the 'innernet', that requires them to seek to acquire all basic data, everywhere, in Canada,  and require your internet service provider to store all your business for the future reference of police.

                                               'We just can't guarantee your protection' -

                                                                      Nor can we.
He showed up, as is his wont, with a Powerpoint presentation that shows just how far Canadian police are behind other civilized nations in tracking the business of the ordinary joe - New Zealand is waaaaay ahead  (having almost all its 'security' list spots 'checked' while the poor Canucks have none!)  If there had been a study of how much more effective New Zealand police were, as a result, I'm sure he would have presented it, No?

But isn't New Zealand famous for the case against "Kim DotCom" - the multimillionaire internet data thief?  After a court case lasting more than a half decade now, he's out 'on bail' and, of late, now able to travel internationally.  Obviously he has a good lawyer, a kazillion ill-gotten Kiwi dollars and  his case must have started in the 'old days' when police actually had to work to find evidence and prove something.  Back in the 'bad old days' when they had to warn you that you could give them evidence to convict yourself.  Or, 'horrors', when they had to show a judge that they had 'a case' to get a judicial warrant to  allow  them to search you,  or your house, or  to  play 'sneaky pete' and 'spy' on you to get evidence. But I divulge.

Commissioner Paulsen went on to enumerate a number of 'real' police case files that were hamstrung because either somebody had their rights protected, or refused to turn over their passwords or encrypted their communications.  He outlined a case of a child abuser who was thought to have files of his own children being abused on his 'locked cell phone'.  Now wherever would they get that impression, if they weren't finding images of his children somewhere else? And wouldn't they serve for a conviction?  Paulsen must have more knowledge of criminal behaviour than the rest of us, but even watching the movies would indicate that any crook who deliberately kept any kind of records of his sculduggery was a stiff sentence just waiting to happen. The real sharpies do everything viva voce and on the QT.  Having it all down in unencoded communications just seems like a big 'break' for the stupid.

He outlined some very expensive electronic wizardries gone wrong because of 'electronic tricks' the police never thought about and he decries electronic solutions tried,  that forced the police to go back to using 'less expensive' undercover agents (any of those I've heard about weren't cheap either) because the 'gizmos' were just too dang expensive.

Even though he had a heart-rending appeal about being 'stuck' and how somebody on-line had 'screwed-over his favorite niece' (probably those assholes from Nigeria), what Paulsen failed to do is make a convincing case about more data making police more effective, or Canadian citizens more secure.

Police 'mistakes' largely haven't happened because of things police didn't know, as much as from things they did know - and deliberately chose to ignore, or misinterpret. More information isn't going to prevent human nature.  And it's that 'lowest common denominator' part that should be the major concern. For the problems aren't going to be caused by the 'good' police, they're going to arise in the few 'bad apples that inhabit every organization'. If recent stories about policemen downloading official files to their home computers,  or worse still,  civilian employees accessing police databases for unknown personal reasons - as both happened this past week  - aren't a 'heads-up', then things like 'computer hacking' and guys like Snowden should be. For there is no indication that police and security can keep the information they already collect secure.

the green paper - backgrounder one page

To prepare Canadians for possible change - and the 'waffling' ( 'I really hate that sheeyat!  But I think it's really necessary') of Security Minister Ralph Gooddale over a recent CSI court case indicates there will be 'changes' - the Federal government has prepared a substantial website on the topic - with an overview of the proposed areas of legislation and a 'background document' to accompany each of the the feedback formS - multiple.

I took a glance at one page 'backgrounding':  'Information Sharing' - which outlined a bunch of info sharing scenarios. The ones that involved security interested me. A number of individuals interacted with a nefarious "Mr. A" to endanger Canada, possibly, in a number of  different ways. The document concludes with a synopsis of their faults and the actions to be taken.  But it, for me, begged a fundamental question: What about "Mr. A"?

If what he was doing, in each of these cases, wasn't prosecutable under the current law,  then the whole national edifice, and its National Security Act IS in trouble. Rather than develop a sledgehammer to nail every one of the B to L 'perps' in the background 'scenarios', and the very real prospect of  everybody else in Canada, why not just go after the  "Mr. A" who was also part of the endangerment of Canada?  Unless, of course, he's a CSIS 'operative', or a paid informant.  Somebody a pay grade or ten above duty counsel or  legal aid, would have to be protecting the hell out of his Charter Rights and Freedoms.

TorStar opinion piece

Omniscience is not a power I would trust to any security organization, just like omnipotence or any other attributes of what we used to call 'God'.  They're just not that good at much, yet.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Dudley on Steroids - CSIS

The old joke going around was that, when the government of Canada announced it was developing an in-house spy agency, there was a mass-transfer from the Mounties, and that for years afterward members of the RCMP, looking to pad the pension, could 'serve' for a few more years in Canada's super-sleuthing  agency.

Since then, we're led to believe,  CSIS has weaned itself away from the Mountie intelligence mentality and developed its own stable of thoroughbreds - selected and trained  'ab ovo', as civilian agents.  Government-related university profs and 'Law 'n Security' instructors must be collecting millions in finders' fees.

Recent developments, coming as a result of leaked information elsewhere, indicates that the civilians are no more scrupulous than were the RCMP when it came time to seeking that ever-elusive 'actionable intel' and, given what appears to be a hefty dose of organizational paranoia about a defense against terrorism, are almost criminal in their efforts to protect the rest of us.  While the old saw about 'setting a thief to catch a thief' is probably more accurate in theory than in practice - or so we would hope - the notion of setting a spy to catch a terrorist doesn't make any sense at all.  But then if spies aren't 'cutting it',  perhaps some 'patriotic terrorism' might be in order.

One thing that is evident, however, is that a basic requirement to 'do' CSIS well, is to have a tenuous grasp on truth, on honesty or on what is legal. Spies historically, don't consider these things to be qualities.

And so when the Director of CSIS spoke to the media recently, telling the Canadian people that he thought his agency's gathering the personal communications and information of virtually every citizen in the country, and then keeping it for well-over a decade, was, in his, straight-faced civilian opinion, "legal", for no one had told him not to that caused some political huffery-puffery from the Justtice Minister - veteran Ralph Gooddale and while he was naturally 'appalled', he couldn't think of anything he needed to do about it.  The media gave more blowback (or at least the 'radical media' ), but that, apparently, is going to have little effect on how CSIS continues to conduct its business. The business of keeping us safe.

But let's take a look at that 'safety' they've been keeping us in.

Has Canada been attacked by terrorists? Well there are the two headcases who killed soldiers - CSIS would point to them.  But then, CSIS didn't know about them until the NSA told them. And that after a search of Canadian police records - for these two were known to Canadian police - and not as terrorists. Apparently while they can and do collect everybody's phone conversations, CSIS can't scan Canadian police databases to identify anyone. Only one of these is 'known' to be a 'pledged' member of ISIS because he said so on a suicide tape left behind in his stolen car. The other one might have been too, but the police were interviwing him on a regular basis - just a day or two before he went mujheddin. The junior jihadi , subject of a separate blog, is another other-than-glowing example of CSIS in action. There was the notorious plot to transport explosives from Canada to attack California, but aside from 'knowing' the pair arrested at the US border lived in Montreal, CSIS wasn't able to add much to that investigation - they're in a US jail. Then there were the 'Toronto 16', the 'Niagara Train bombers', and a couple of cross-border terror plots - all successfully-prosecuted but involving paid informants and a robust police presence to 'flesh out' and  to assist the miscreants bringing their plans to fruition.  The British Columbia 'pressure cooker bombers', whose case was tossed a month or so ago when evidence before the court indicated that they were a couple of simpletons caught up in what looked like a security service 'practice exercise' - is another example of potential criminality in the line of duty.

That's about it for 'protection' - for Mohammed Arar didn't do anything but get paid damages for ISIS assistance in getting him renditioned. and a couple of other similar exercises were quietly dropped. If we've been saved from anything else it must have been so brutally frightening that CSIS is sworn to secrecy and can't reveal the danger we were in.

I'm no expert but,  given the evidence so far,  CSIS like its American cousin is punching well below its weight class for the money being spent. If it's punching at all.

In this aspect of National security, Canada may have labored and brought forth a malicious mouse.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Fat Lady Sang - but the Tuna was Distasteful

It's all over for another 4 years. America's quadrennial exercise in what 'real' democrazy looks like, has gone 'pppffffftttt!!', again. And today, significant parts of the world are examining the nature of the latest wet fart.

Hilary lost.

Despite close to a billion dollars wasted to 'prepare the way' she has found out, as has the incumbent President, that people don't really like him after all. And Hillary is even less charming.  Sure she has half of Hollywood weeping - theatrically? - and dropping Xanax to 'keep it together'. Little (actually she's fairly tall) Mylie  'have yew seen mah titties'  Cyrus - runny nose and all - took to her twittersphere to bleat out her plaints that the 'laydee' had lost.   Maybe if she twerks at the Inauguration Ball  - she could probably wrangle a date - Donald won't be able to resist snatching her cat.

Lesser lights took to the streets like one might have hoped Americans would have when any of the past two administrations announced they had 'some bombs' to assist the 'humanitarians' in any number of places. But this wasn't about other people - this was about the the LGPBT(x) community, the angry blacks, the  multiculturals, the millennials, potentially-deporteds, illegal immigrants, he-males and she-males of every hue - lighting-it-up for  reason and equality in the face of an unreasoning, unequal victory for the Trumpster.

Mike Moore on the election

I was reading to-day that film maker Michael Moore had foretold all this last July. Obviously he wasn't getting any attention from Hilary or her million-dollar team. Apparently he was right, when the real smart guys are, now, admitting "I've never been more wrong in my life!"  That has to be cold comfort for those who've been "hurt".  If there is any good that could come out of this, for people in foreign lands if not in America, it's that Hilary most likely won't be back. She can go ruminate on life and fate with that other doyenne of changed regimes, Madeleine Albright,  and swap stories about the potential of Henry Kissinger's tallywhacker.

Speaking of 'dicks',  I made comment on the National Catholic Register  site,  that this election was as close to public pornography as a nation could get and still keep its pants on.  Sexual innuendo and accusations of sexual misdemeanors and misbehavior were either flying, or barely concealed just below the surface. These people running for the highest office in the land, if not the world,  not only have feet on clay - they have the 'gonadtropism' of a high school fresh-person.  And why not in America?   A place where french vice was made to look tame and smut is still a growth industry?  Don Trump was outed as a  'pussy-grabbing', contestant-molester - I could see him replacing that famous Ukrainian politician Oleh Lyushko helping 'the girls' out of their bras and checking for silicon enhancements as part of his TV expose.  A ccouple of Trump's former contestants accused him of barging-in while they were slipping into something competitive - without using those little hands to knock and using those big eyes to get what he could 'for free'.  His wife  Milupa, was targeted too - nude photos from her modelling days appeared,  as well as the story that she'd been paid illegally for posing in America.

Not to be outdone Yoko Ono went online to state that she and Hilary had explored some sapphic charms. And some quiet references were made about Hilary's current sexual status which doesn't, apparently, include Bill.  One of the 'bonuses' supposedly coming with Hilary, was that ex-President knocking around the house,  who might advise and give her sage advice from his 8 years' experience.  But Bill was tarred with his past 'sexcapades' and during the last week of the campaign his 'relationship' with convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein - and a potentially embarrassing Mossad-generated blackmail video of Willie Jeff pleasuring a 14 year-old was threatened as another (Putinic?) leak.  That probably would have been 'over the top',  so a lesser story about the Clinton Foundation paying $3 million to get Chelsea married was leaked two days before the voting. This and the fact that Chelsea's  husband has the same kind of business record as Trump equalized any damage coming from that financial scandal/failed business thing.

Yes the dirt was dealt and an awful lot of little kids awoke to find that a 'bad man' had beaten an 'awful woman' - requiring the services of some heavy-duty counselling. For this IS America, the land where the good are rewarded, most of the time,  and evil-doers, particularly those not in America, get their just desserts. The Gamins will take a while, or a good lunch at Chucky Cheese, to get over this.

What variety of idiot thinks US politics are suitable viewing or study,  for children?   "Mommy and daddy are engrossed in election issues"  almost seems  inappropriate in comparison to  "Mommy was the cowgirl and daddy was the handsome sheriff. We didn't need a horsie, Maisy."

And they wonder if counseling might be in order?

Jesus wept!  But who believes in that fairy tale any more?

 One of the larger issues, aside from temperament  or the receding  American dream,  is the notion that we might be on a course to try out those nifty nuclear weapons our granddaddies invented.  'The free world'  is facing challenges from a number of bad things,  but one of the worst, apparently, is the Russian leader, Putin, who just doesn't seem to be doing things the way he should.  He's the man who has made President Obama sad and is probably, single-handedly, responsible all that grey hair and face wrinkles he's developed. For you see the bloom is off their 'Bromance' and has been since the Prexy did a 'Mr. Bojangles'  in Libya,  after conning Putin into buying a little 'assistance mission' there.

The acrimony was carried over into the election,  where President Obama announced to the nation that Russian 'hackers' were trying to interfere with the election process. Not to be outdone candidate Clinton upped the ante by declaring that 8 national 'security agencies' had determined that the Kremlin was actively-engaged in getting 'their man', Trump, elected to the Presidency.

 That the out come has really occurred begs the question why?  Why did candidate Clinton, knowing that Putin's goons had electronically stolen 'the voice of the American people' not call 'Foul!', instead of meekly conceding defeat?  Where was Willy Jeff and his member when a 'strong support' was needed. He was lip-sucking and nodding wisely while she folded.  This 'saga' of the election is being ignored by all the pundits wondering, 'What on earth happened?"

 They haven't, apparently, figured out that 'Putin did it'.

Next Time:  The Trump Presidential Internship