Saturday, October 27, 2007

Just Another Corrupt Border Guard?

November 8, 2007
Seized during the Kandola bust were 208 kilos of cocaine, an HK 9 mm pistol and HK .45-cal. pistol, a Sturm Ruger .44 magnum revolver, forty rounds of ammo, and about $200,000 in cash.

Yet another Canadian border guard is facing drug smuggling and corruption charges. Unfortunately we the public are refused any substantive personal details about the accused. Armed with facts we might connect the dots and come to our own conclusions about the illegal drug industry in the province. That ugly knowledge might deny our criminals their full libation from the great steaming cauldron of Canadian Human Rights protection. We might learn to pick a gang banger out of the crowd, and thus deny him his basic human dignity. Can't have that!
Law enforcement agencies, the CBSA in particular, have closed ranks - claiming that a corrupt border guard is a one-off phenomenon, and are releasing no arrest photographs or personal history of the disgraced agent or his two Sikh cohorts. Worse, the Vancouver media, is not even pursuing the case. Not one media company sent a reporter to the arraignment hearing at Surrey Provincial Court last week.

Baljinder Kondola is facing six charges including importing cocaine and guns, breach of trust and bribery. And get this... Kim Scoville, Pacific Highway District Director for the Canada Border Services Agency, told reporters that he had "mixed feelings" about the probe into Kandola's activities. "It was a successful investigation. Unfortunately, one of our officers was a key figure." He added that "this is an incident involving a single officer and does not diminish the pride and confidence that we have in the men and women of the Canada Border Services Agency." Really?

At a news conference in Surrey an RCMP Inspector named Malo also gave up very little. The long investigation is alleged to have resulted from a "tip" in early 2006 that a Canadian border guard was allowing drug mules to cross with impunity. (This specific corruption investigation was dubbed Project EPELL.) Scoville would only say that Kandola was a full-time employee who, after completing recruit training and passing a "reliability check" in June 2001, has worked at the truck side [Pacific Crossing] of the port ever since.

It is not revealed if Kandola is related to the infamous Robbie Kandola, the cocaine mobster who was ambushed two years ago in swanky Coal Harbor and executed on the sidewalk. A few private photos of Kandola had once been posted on the Net, but a loyal family member deleted them on the morning he was taken into custody. As well his clan was planning an expensive Caribbean retreat for November. So sad he had to cancel his travel plans. You will probably never see his face. Arrest photos are never made available unless our drug lords happen to get captured on the American side of the border, and even then the Vancouver media do not try to secure copies.

In December of 2005 border guard Atlaf Merali, was sentenced to one and a half years in prison for smuggling $1 million in drugs. Merali tried to brazen a crossing with his Canada Customs uniform on display in his van - "a random search of his vehicle uncovered about 90 kilograms of marijuana in four hockey bags in the back seat – covered by his uniform jacket." Merali is already back on the street, but no longer working for law enforcement.

Mindi Nedermeiser was another CBSA border guard "let go". Incidents stretching back to 1996, including her firing for breaches of security at Vancouver airport, did not preclude her being reinstated and then being offered trusted work at the Canada-U.S. border... not until someone ratted her out for associating with the Hell's Angels.

The police of course are exasperated by the exposed connections between drug gangs and uniformed members of law enforcement. Almost all of the weapons used by the gangs are smuggled into Canada along with the cocaine and heroin, and the outlaws are fully prepared to murder people with those guns. Execution-style murders of drug gang hustlers and soldiers are accelerating in Vancouver. There have been four in the last two weeks - a Vietnamese, a Punjabi, an Iranian and a Cantonese. Not a red head in the bunch, but at least someone zapped a Big Circle Boy. That's progress. These extra-legal executions have reached such hilarious proportions that the official spokesman for the V.P.D., Constable Fanning, was reduced to firing this squib on Monday -"If anybody is in that lifestyle and has information that they want to pass on - because they could be next. It is obviously a very dangerous, dangerous way to live when you are involved in criminal activity because the end result is ... death." Now the V.P.D. is begging career criminals to turn informer, in attempt to save their own necks.

The police make no headway in these killings because they are facing many of the same socio-political realties which prevented the Canadian State from convicting the Sikhs who blew up the Air India 747. Police can corner and arrest, but the hapless prosecuters fail to convict. Why? Because Canadians have created an "anything can be tolerated" society, and they are doomed to live with the monster they mothered. In B.C., we were just told, only 39 per cent of recent gang-related killings were cleared by police (compared to 68 per cent of non-gang homicides). But these statistics are just as meaningless as those which also claim that overall, murders are down. (Really? How many old dames are falling down stairs or choking on their spinach now that their houses and city lots are worth $700 - 800 K.? Anyone keeping stats?) This week the police and the politicians are making all the obligatory noises about setting up special investigative units (they've existed for years) and toughening the laws. Stand down fellahs... we all know the killings will only abate when the gangs are exhausted, and forced to call a temporary truce. The Lower Mainland is only getting a small taste of what the future holds in store. A money-culture is the natural setting for organized crime.

Even mouthy NDP careerists are now demanding that our streets be cleaned up. It's all too funny. Back in the 1990s when the Reform Party of Canada still existed, it was the only political movement which advocated building new prisons and sending gang bangers away for life. Local NDP and Liberal politicians filled their scrapbooks with generous press coverage in which they were allowed to condemn "scary" Reform MPs as "dinosaurs" and "right wing extremists". Fine. And the cities have now gone further to hell. Enjoy. That history of organized neglect is also the reason no one today believes the childish prattle of those same politicians. Wally Oppal is going to get tough on crime? Give me a break! The poor sod is just trying to live long enough to spend the three fat pensions in his portfolio.

Let's just hope the drug outlaws, who this week are driving around our city with loaded their guns in their cars, trying to get the drop on each other, will manage to shoot only themselves in the face. For that blessing we law abiding citizens will be truly grateful.

Update November 10th - I note the publication in the Vancouver SUN of rare honest commentary on politicians, gang violence and murder: "POLITICIANS PLAY THE HOT AIR GAME ON CRIME" Peter MacKnight wrote,"But we don't need to rely on anecdotes, since the research confirms that the problem is not a lack of punishment for gangsters who get caught -- it's that many gangsters are never apprehended. Indeed, the only "justice" many gangsters face is at the hands of their fellow gang members." (read his piece)

And further comment in a hard hitting editorial published in The Asian Pacific Post, October 26, 2007: " Police information says there are 129 gangs active in B.C. with many other small gangs seeking to establish themselves. Today’s gang violence is the result of yesterday’s complacency when politicians and police insisted on playing down gang activity in BC. Our benign view of smoking pot is another major contributor to the violence that has taken so many innocent lives and injured others." Absolutely!

And lest anyone dare think or remark that I am trying to denigrate law enforcement.... I can only respond that you don't "read" me at all. To the contrary, I am 100% behind law enforcement efforts at drug interdiction and serious prosecution. Creeps like the criminals I describe in this Blog were NEVER law enforcement professionals. They were INFILTRATORS who always intended to illegally profit and to subvert justice while employed in privileged duties.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Apt. 1505 - that butchery on the 15th Floor

Who says people don't read newspapers any more? Here in Vancouver several social "types" actively read and clip stories from THE SUN and THE PROVINCE - but today it's the criminals who are in the spotlight. Do you recall that last Wednesday (October 17th) STATISTICS CANADA released its corrected analysis of figures for homicides recorded in Canada during 2005? You can find the report, with charts and graphs here. The stats in the report support a claim that "murder" in Canada is down. Maybe. I guess it's fortunate for many that the emergency responders are so proficient at their jobs. Plugging holes and pumping in fluids seems to save plenty of targeted victims. But why the urgency in trying to assure us that unlawful killing is in decline? Remember that in Canada three cardinal institutions lie, and they are accomplices... politicians, lawyers and statistics.

You probably read the story on Thursday (October 18th). According to the Stats Canada handout there were 108 murders in B.C. in 2006, and an average of 104 murders in B.C. for each of the preceding ten years. So officially there were about 1050 "murders" in B.C. in the past ten years. So I won't carp and suggest that a lot of violent deaths here are mislabled and do not lead to charges. That would imply that I am unhappy with the administration of justice. What I am happy about is that the gangsters do to themselves... ie. administer justice, which the legal system has not been able to accomplish since the 1960s.

Now getting back to my point. A few local gangsters seem to have read their newspaper on Thursday and said "Oh Ho, things are too quiet man!" The next day the sassy readers visited Apt. 1505 , (Balmoral Tower) at 9830 East Whalley Ring Road, Surrey, and executed six men with gunshots to the head. Four of the men were participants in the drug trade but two innocents were caught up in the attack and that is sparking outrage. Likely they fell victim to blood lust (a jacked up gunmen with a full magazine of cartridges, whose mission is to wipe out an entire crew) because there is no particular need to kill witnesses hereabouts. A senior RCMP drug investigator recently told me in private conversation that these shooters are not in the least intimidated by Mounties on their trail or by the possibility of prosecution.

One of the six bodies brought down from 15th floor suite in the Balmoral Tower block in Surrey, B.C.

The last execution of a murderer in Canada took place in 1962. To remove the possibility that public outcry might restore the hangman, in 1976 Capital Punishment was torn out of our Criminal Code. By my rough calculation, there are now about 36,000 released or paroled murderers living in Canada. Every major city now has a resident population of a few thousand released murderes, but our experts tell us that there is very little likelihood that those men and women will kill again. What we might fear, they admit, is the rise of the new gunfighters - reckless street thugs who have demonstrated an appetite for killing their opponents - often in drive-by's or attacks in nightclubs or restaurants. What the experts will never admit is that the new breed of urban outlaws are emboldened by the lack of a death sentence. The only thing they have to fear is retaliation from a rival gang. I for one hope that a couple of outlaws are loading their "nines" and they get to the Balmoral Towers killers before the Red Horsemen do. That my friends IS justice.

Update: October 24 - the names of the four criminals murdered last week are Edward Sousakhone (Eddie) Narong, age 22, Corey Jason Michael Lal, age 21, Michael Justin Lal, age 26, and Ryan Bartolomeo, age 19. All were part of the same street crew and all had prior arrests for weapons and drugs offences. All were caught repeatedly by law enforcement technicians but then released back into the criminal stream. (Am I the only person sick of the cutesy-bootsy phrase "They were known to police." ?) Why weren't their names on the Internet so that owners and tenants at Balmoral Tower might detect their presence and take precautionary measures? (Police have revealed that the LAL Crew were all tenants of Apartment 1505, and the registered owner of the condo is not cooperating with the investigation.)

Here's the amusing news, from THE SUN today. Saturation media coverage of the execution-murders has forced B.C.'s Solicitor-General John Les to make a statement. He (natch!) called for tougher penalties for Balmoral-type mass killings. "There are not adequate provisions in the Criminal Code to deal with multiple murders." The B.C. Liberal government is not going to do a thing to stop these killings, but they will spend more money and talk it up. Likewise the Federal Tory government is going to talk it up, but I notice in Montreal's The Gazette today that Amnesty International is crowing success at the U.N., predicting that Canada will climb onboard a European proposal for a worldwide ban on Capital Punishment. ... The message to our local gang bangers? "Have at 'em boys, but for Gawd sakes no collateral damage. It doesn't play well with the voters."

Update Jan. 22/08: According to reports in the SUN, four of the six slain were members of the "Independent Soldiers," drug gang. Two of the dead were innocent bystanders shot to prevent them from becoming witnesses.
Recorded as "the largest gang slaying in B.C. history," police believe it was "in retaliation for the murder nine days earlier of drug dealer Dylan Becker, who subcontracted his meth-cooking skills to a biker gang.
Becker was shot in the parking lot of a Scott Road McDonald's, only to die as his friend raced him to Surrey Memorial Hospital

Update June 6, 2008 Kim Bolan researched and wrote a fascinating backgrounder to the Apt. 1505 murders. "Shocking story behind six murders in a Surrey tower". It was published in the Vancouver Sun on May 30th. It drew a massive response from readers, some of whom supported the victims who had extensive criminal backgrounds. Others attacked the messenger, calling Ms. Bolan names and ridiculing her credentials. (If the link becomes broken search Google cache.)

Bolan researched the ownership of the condo, No. 1505, Balmoral Tower:
"Suite 1505 is owned by real estate agent Ceasar Tiojanco and his wife, Myrna. They bought the apartment in 2003 for $82,000. Land title records show the couple own six other properties across Metro Vancouver with an assessed 2008 value of almost $2.8 million. easar Tiojanco,
There had been no complaints made about suspicious activity in 1505, according to Janice Abbott, head of the Atira Property Management, which has run the building since December 2006

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Tibetan Leader Honored in U.S.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama, spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan Nation waves to the crowd in New York.

An official White House photo from the 2003 meeting of His Holiness and President George Bush. The two leaders met again in the same room on Tuesday, (their fourth meeting) undeterred by sabre rattling of the Chinese Communist Party.

Today the United States Congress did a good thing. In a powerful symbolic act, emblematic of the universal spirit of freedom, Congress welcomed the 14th Dalai Lama, born Tenzin Gyatso, into its chamber and awarded him its highest civilian honour - the Congressional Medal. For weeks Communist Chinese officials have been blustering over the planned U.S. recognition of the great Tibetan leader, threatening dire consequences if the Americans honoured their hated adversary. It's too bad the PRC directs so much hostility at a holy man, but we can be sure he bears nothing in his heart but peace and brotherhood for the Chinese people.

There is further trouble on the horizon for the Tibetan people because the Dalai Lama is exhausted and seeks retirement from public life. While the Chinese Communists respect neither his authority, his culture or his religion, they are determined that they, the Communist authority, will choose his successor. We will witness Orwellian political aggression from Beijing in future, when they impose a spiritual leader on the occupied Tibetan people, and the exile community chooses a new leader based on age old cultural practice.

There is a good wiki page on His Holiness which can be found here.

There is a genesis to every political viewpoint we hold, and looking into my own past I do believe that my interest in the Tibetan genocide began in when I read a book by Michel Peissel in the early 1970s. The French bestseller was entitled (the U.S. edition) The Cavaliers of Kham, and it was expose of C.I.A. assistance to the Tibetan freedom fighters in the 1950s. Peissel is a true Runagate, and the book landed him in a deep vat of hot water. I was a junior high school student in Saint John, N.B. and the astonishing account of wholesale executions of Tibetans by murderous regular units of the Chinese army, appalled me.

A few years later I was a student at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton when St. Thomas university invited the Dalai Lama to visit and to receive an honorary doctorate. It was his first visit to Canada, Oct.-Nov. 1980, starting in Vancouver and ending in Fredericton. (St. Thomas shared our campus on the hill.) As I recall, my mentor Prof. Larry Shyu pulled some strings and arranged for his Asian Studies students to meet with His Holiness for a chat on Tibetan issues. I recall being sly in crafting two questions designed to get him to express outrage at the continuing Chinese occupation of his country. A diplomat as well as a kind heart he deflected each of my clumsy attempts with a smile a hope for peace. His answers, which reflected the quiet strength and resilience of the Tibetan people whom he represented, squashed my plan to write an arresting article for the UNB paper - but he also made a friend. I will always live in the hope of his exiled people being restored to their homeland.

Update: October 29 6:45 pm - Prime Minister Harper receives the Dalai Lama today. Finally a little support for Tibetan Indepence from the Canadian Government. At last! Pleeeeaaase Beijing. Ban our national team from your Olympic Games. That would be sublime.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

1966 Bill Clinton Artifact Reveals the Good 'Ole Boy

An autograph auction house in the U.S. is offering an interesting artifact this weekend. It's a postcard Bill sent to his grandmother Edith Cassidy, his "Mammaw". At the time he was attending an elite school in D.C. At 7 p.m. Pacific time bidding had already reached $1,044. The curious thing is that he would mail such an insensitive image from Washington during the height of the Civil Rights movement.

The Catalog Description says:

Early ALS signed “Bill,” on the correspondence side of a 6.75 x 3.5 picture postcard, no date [postmarked February 2, 1966]. Clinton, then a college student at Georgetown, writes to his grandmother,Edith Cassidy, whom he addresses as “Mammaw.” In full: “Thought I would send you one of your cards just to prove I am using them! My tests are over and I’m just starting the second term. Hope you are well and happy, Say hello to Buddy & Ollie—See you at Easter.” Clinton has addressed the postcard, “Mrs. Edith Cassidy, Hope Nursing Home, Main Street, Hope, Arkansas,” adding his return address, “Wm. J. Clinton, Box 289, GUDG, 20007.” The postcard bears a ballpoint notation under the address, “Feb. 3, 1966,” possibly in Cassidy’s hand. Apart from the early date, the most notable feature of the postcard is clearly the image: a grossly stereotypical caricature of a young African-American boy wearing an idiotic grin as he “shines” a watermelon. A throwback to the outrageously broad portrayals of African-Americans of a century earlier, Clinton’s choice of postcard is startling on a number of levels: not only was he writing in the midst of the most active civil-rights movement in American history, but he himself would go on to earn a reputation as one of the greatest champions of racial minorities among modern American presidents. The postcard is housed in a handsome custom clamshell box together with a copy of Clinton’s correspondence and two portraits. In fine condition, with a small brush to first letter of signature, a bit of mild toning, and a light vertical crease through address panel. A most remarkable and revealing item from a president whose legacy only continues to evolve!

Of course Bill has had forty years to shine his apple. This 1998 image is the one he always intended for himself.

UPDATE - At 2:50pm PST Oct. 18 - bidding was at $5,724.

Monday, October 8, 2007

"Flaneur" - A word to Cherish

One of the joys of working with students is that they often return the favour, and teach me something valuable. It's been years since I finished university and students are now my only link to structured learning. New words and phrases fascinate me and I find that a few hours with a style conscious student or with a trendy newspaper, like say The Village Voice, will yield a bumper harvest. Last year's favorite vocabulary acquisition was a useful term encountered during some work I did for an Architecture student. The word was "Subtopia," and I had a lot of fun with it because it puts a neat label on a cultivated interest of mine and one of long standing. I was startled to discover the wealth of fresh discovery available to me once I acquired the term.

I had a similar experience on Saturday when Michael, a very bright U.B.C. student, shared a fascinating article from one of his fourth-year Film Studies courses. It describes a thought provoking Italian film on unique cityscapes. More interesting was its explanation of the French concept of the flaneur and its importance in our understanding of the modern (post 1848) city. Michael was enthused because we had recently studied City of Glass, in Paul Auster's novel The New York Trilogy. Michael had recognized a character in the novel as a flaneur and believed that the Auster must have studied the theories of Baudelaire, Roland Barthes and others. It was a good catch because a little Googling did verify that many scholars had drawn the same conclusions about the character and Auster's influences.

I was instantly possessive of the term Flaneur because at long last it gave a name to about about forty years of fond experience and habit - and it finds me at the stage in my life when I'm sorting through my past. I am originally from the ancient Canadian city of Saint John, New Brunswick and I retain a mass of vivid memories of boyhood scrambling all over my hometown, restless eyes absorbing every detail. Between the ages of ten and twenty I criss-crossed the city, often alone, hunting for novel experience among Victorian streetscapes, along the river shore, atop rock faces scourged by glacial flow, and in the bush beyond the suburbs. Frequently I took risks, as boys must do, but the point is that for me the city was a living thing, a constantly interesting companion.

By the age of fifteen I was already trying to photograph and research some of the abandoned industrial architecture and old tenements, convinced that only I had an eye for the beauty in cockeyed, unpainted wooden homes, rotting brickwork, overgrown lots and leaking hulks moored on the St. John River. I relished every opportunity to speak with elderly residents who were always amused by my insistence on recording their threadbare anecdotes. I kept walking, afraid to miss any detail before it was snatched away by the wreckers ball and his bulldozers.
"During his city wanderings, he took in visual fragments, turning his stroll into a prolonged, intense visual experience. A true protagonist and witness of modern city living, “a kaleidoscope with a conscience”, the flaneur incarnated a photographic mode of operating, perceiving the whole city as a visual universe, moving like a water diviner to go straight to the images in the midst of urban reality."

I started my urban scrambling in 1968, at the age of ten. There were still whole neighborhoods filled with this type of rude architecture, lightly anchored to the living rock. In some locations geologic history competed with the architecture - deep striations in the rock face evidenced the direction of glacial flow during the last Ice Age.
In Paul Auster's NEW YORK TRILOGY, Quinn, a writer of detective stories, accepts the assignment of tailing Dr. Stillman, a deranged historian whose daily wanderings through the city seem random. Yet when carefully mapped they reveal clues to Stillman's agitated thought processes. Scholars of literature debate whether the character is a true flaneur.

I have not had as much travel as I would like, but the cities I have enjoyed most were those I could explore at my leisure -the flaneur instinct runs deep. I explored Hong Kong with tremendous interest, several times. In the 1980s I walked every street on H.K. island savoring in the sheer taste of the place. Amidst and beyond the towers and concrete flats I found everything from overgrown gun positions to oddities of Chinese - Colonial architecture. I know I found foliage concealed relics which even locals were unaware of. In Taiwan I explored the city of Taipei on foot for almost two years, and learned its corners, its edges and its stinks, almost as well as my Canadian hometown. One of my fondest memories is of climbing over a high wall, which was topped with barbed wire, located very near a naval base. There I photographed the graves of Legion Etrangere officers killed in the 1884 Sino-French War. I was only in Tokyo a few times but I spent most of those visits on my feet and because I did I found small hidden wonders that will stay with me till death.

What, I wonder, did those Taiwanese and Japanese make of me? Would my wandering across, over, around and under their city structures have seemed as illogical as Stillmans pattern in Auster's novel? Did they find it insulting that I loved their homegrown monstrosities and their debris more than than marvelous new architecture financed with profits generated by the "Asian Miracle".

Now that Michael has introduced me to this wonderful concept - I understand that I too am a Flaneur. I believe I am going to have fun exploring the philosophy behind it. More, it is already helping me to understand myself just a bit more and is certain to contribute to some of my future projects.