Tuesday, March 13, 2012

492 Criminals use untraceable, encrypted BlackBerrys from Mexico. New surveillance database for UK

Criminals use untraceable, encrypted BlackBerrys from Mexico. New
surveillance database for UK

Some of these articles are a year old. Bacically, that means I've been
too busy to process them; however, I'm slowly working through the backlog.

Re item 3: it's likely that "back doors" are already built into all
operating systems for computers and phones; this being a requirement of
the NSA.

But whilst intelligence agencies can legally use such back doors, police
cannot - thus the push for laws permitting them to do so. Without such
laws, the evidence they gain from surveillance cannot be used in court,
and thus criminals go free. Where to draw the line between
crime-fighting and privacy?

(1) Criminals use untraceable, encrypted BlackBerrys from Mexico
(2) Countries raise national security concerns over encrypted BlackBerry
(3) Internet, email evade Wiretaps. Solution: build in "back doors" for
law enforcement surveillance
(4) Miniature drone that could one day do Reconnaissance by landing on a
window ledge
(5) Facebook, Twitter, phone & email records to be stored in new spy plan
(6) Your cell phone is a government issued tracking device
(7) Fight to repeal hate speech law brings together unlikely allies
(8) Happy Meal lawsuit claims McDonalds unfairly uses toys to lure children
(9) Criminal code has grown so large it ensnares everyday citizens
(10) Two Californias -  Victor Davis Hanson

(1) Criminals use untraceable, encrypted BlackBerrys from Mexico


Bikies' BlackBerrys beat law

Natalie O'Brien

Sun-Herald, Sydney, February 6, 2011

Bikie gangs and organised crime groups are believed to have foiled
police attempts to tap their phones by importing untraceable, encrypted
BlackBerrys from Mexico.

The telecommunications black hole exploited by the Comanchero gang and
drug cartels has come to light after countries around the world -
worried about terrorism and national security - threatened to ban
BlackBerrys unless they were given the codes to break the encryption on
emails and messages.

This website understands that the Comanchero have linked up with a
Mexican drug cartel importing cocaine into Australia and are sharing

''There is nothing strange in organised crime having better access to
technology than the authorities,'' said Michael Kennedy, a former NSW
detective and an academic at the University of Western Sydney. ''The
bikies are becoming more entrepreneurial and, after all, organised crime
is a business enterprise. Crime groups will share technology if it helps

The Comanchero are thought to use the Mexican phones with global roam
activated. It costs a great deal of money to constantly use the roaming
facility but for criminals, communications that cannot be monitored are

What makes the BlackBerrys so hard to tap is that Mexico has no reliable
register of handsets, mobile numbers or users. Vendors are unregistered
and sell the phones and SIM cards for cash, no questions asked. The UN
Office on Drugs and Crime reports Mexico has 83 million mobile phones
and government attempts to set up an official registry are failing.

As well, the encrypted BlackBerry messaging service is routed through a
server Australian authorities haven't been able to access.

It is not known how many of the phones are in Australia and in the hands
of organised crime groups. But experts agree the criminals will keep the
technology among themselves as long as they can.

''The Australian Crime Commission is aware that organised crime networks
will continually take opportunities, some real and some imagined, to use
new technologies to try to escape the law,'' said its chief executive
John Lawler.

The Australian Federal Police would not say whether they had seized
Mexican phones. But a spokesman said they were working with national and
international authorities and industry groups to ensure it was up to
speed ''on the challenges posed by criminal networks''.

Last year, this website revealed that the feared Mexican Sinaloa drug
cartel was regularly importing cocaine into Australia. It was also
revealed that several men with ties to Mexico, the US and Guatemala had
set up a drug distribution network in NSW, which is now understood to
have included links to the Comanchero.

Former NSW Police assistant commissioner Clive Small said the Mexicans
were trying to expand their drug markets in Australia, so would be
seeking out new contacts like the bikie gangs to buy their shipments.

Just over a year ago, Clayton Roueche, head of a Canadian drug smuggling
ring with Australian connections, was jailed for 30 years. The boss of
the drug gang known as the ''United Nations'' had been running his
empire using a coded BlackBerry telephone. He was eventually caught -
not by telephone surveillance but by border security officials in Mexico.

(2) Countries raise national security concerns over encrypted BlackBerry


Countries cite terrorist fears over encrypted devices

Natalie O'Brien

Sun-Herald, Sydney

February 6, 2011

ALMOST a dozen countries have raised national security concerns about
encrypted BlackBerry phones in recent years.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, India and Indonesia last year
threatened to ban the phones unless they were able to monitor emails and
other messages sent over the internet. Officials have raised concerns
about the potential for terrorists to plan attacks using encrypted
messages that can't be monitored. It is not known if Australia has
requested access to encrypted data, but the office of the federal
Attorney-General said there were no restrictions to Blackberry services
in Australia.

A spokesman said the government regularly worked with international and
domestic telecommunication companies but ''is not in a position to
publicly discuss the arrangements''.

BlackBerry's reputation has been built on the strength of its data
protection and the phones are used for that reason by many governments
including the Australian and US.

BlackBerry manufacturer Research in Motion uses powerful codes to
encrypt emails and messages on corporate networks as they travel between
a BlackBerry handset and a computer known as a BlackBerry Enterprise Server.

Encrypted messages can only be unlocked with software ''keys'' located
on the phone or at a customer's enterprise server. This makes it hard to
spy on the phone, especially if the server is in another country, such
as Mexico, which is in the grip of powerful drug cartels that bribe

BlackBerrys can be tapped and the encrypted messages read if a spyware
device is put in an individual handset or by putting an eavesdropping
box on the server.

Tim Renowden, an analyst with research company Ovum, said the ''high
level of security has always been a key selling point'' for business and
government customers. ''[But] there are points in the communication
chain that are unencrypted and telecom providers and governments can
potentially intercept these unencrypted communications.''

(3) Internet, email evade Wiretaps. Solution: build in "back doors" for
law enforcement surveillance


As Online Communications Stymie Wiretaps, Lawmakers Debate Solutions


Published: February 17, 2011

WASHINGTON — Leading Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee on
Thursday reacted skeptically to the idea of overhauling surveillance
laws to make it easier to wiretap people who communicate online rather
than by telephone, a major priority for the Federal Bureau of

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

The lawmakers expressed their concerns at a House hearing devoted to a
problem that law enforcement officials call "going dark" —
investigators' inability to carry out court-approved wiretap orders when
the people who are the targets communicate using services that lack a
surveillance capability.

The F.B.I. has been quietly laying the groundwork for years for a push
to require Internet-based communications services — like Gmail,
Facebook, Twitter, BlackBerry and Skype — to design their systems with a
built-in way to comply with wiretap orders. On Thursday, the bureau made
its first full airing of the "going dark" problem.

"Due to the revolutionary expansion of communications technology in
recent years, the government finds that it is rapidly losing ground in
its ability to execute court orders with respect to Internet-based
communications," said the F.B.I.'s general counsel, Valerie Caproni.

A 1994 law requires phone companies to build their networks with the
capability of immediately starting to intercept a user's communications
when the company is presented with a wiretap order. But that law does
not cover Internet-based communication providers.

As a result, while they, too, are subject to court wiretap orders, they
are often unable to comply, for technical reasons, when presented with one.

Ms. Caproni stopped short of making any specific legislative proposal,
saying that the Obama administration was still debating the issue
internally. Last fall, The New York Times reported that law enforcement
officials were developing a bill that would impose new regulations on
Internet communications companies and phone and broadband carriers,
making them easier to wiretap.

"We don't have a specific request yet," Ms. Caproni said. "The
administration does not yet have a proposal. It is something that is
actively being discussed within the administration, and I am optimistic
that we will have a proposal in the near future."

Still, Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, the ranking Democrat
on the Judiciary Committee, was one of several lawmakers who said he was
likely to greet such a proposal with skepticism. Forcing Internet
communications services to build in "back doors" for law enforcement
surveillance, he said, would hamper innovation and create
vulnerabilities for hackers and foreign governments to exploit.

"Requiring back doors in all communications systems by law runs counter
to how the Internet works and may make it impossible for some companies
to offer their services," Mr. Conyers said.

Several lawmakers of both parties raised concerns about how such a
mandate would affect the competitiveness of Internet companies that
operate in the United States. Still, several Republicans suggested
sympathy with law enforcement officials' fear that changing technology
could hamper their ability to investigate criminals and terrorists.

Ms. Caproni emphasized that the F.B.I. was not seeking new surveillance
powers, but rather a way to keep its existing powers from eroding. She
also said the F.B.I. was not seeking a decryption key that would allow
the government to directly intercept and unscramble secure communications.

Rather, she said, the bureau hoped to require communication service
providers to deploy, within their own systems, a wiretapping capability.
The provider would have to be able to isolate, intercept and deliver to
the government a particular user's communications in response to a
wiretap order. ...

(4) Miniature drone that could one day do Reconnaissance by landing on a
window ledge


It's a bird! It's a spy! It's both

Backed by the Pentagon's research arm, Monrovia firm AeroVironment has
developed the Nano Hummingbird, an experimental miniature drone that
could one day do reconnaissance by landing on a window ledge.

A pocket-size drone dubbed the Nano Hummingbird for the way it flaps its
tiny robotic wings has been developed for the Pentagon by a Monrovia
company as a mini-spy plane capable of maneuvering on the battlefield
and in urban areas.

The battery-powered drone was built by AeroVironment Inc. for the
Pentagon's research arm as part of a series of experiments in
nanotechnology. The little flying machine is built to look like a bird
for potential use in spy missions.

The results of a five-year effort to develop the drone are being
announced Thursday by the company and the Pentagon's Defense Advanced
Research Projects Agency.

Equipped with a camera, the drone can fly at speeds of up to 11 miles
per hour, AeroVironment said. It can hover and fly sideways, backward
and forward, as well as go clockwise and counterclockwise, by remote
control for about eight minutes.

The quick flight meets the goals set forth by the government to build a
flying "hummingbird-like" aircraft. It also demonstrates the promise of
fielding mini-spy planes. Industry insiders see the technology
eventually being capable of flying through open windows or sitting on
power lines, capturing audio and video while enemies would be none the

The Hummingbird would be a major departure from existing drones that
closely resemble traditional aircraft. The next step is likely to be
further refinement of the technology, officials said, before decisions
are made about whether the drones would be mass-produced and deployed.

"The miniaturization of drones is where it really gets interesting,"
said defense expert Peter W. Singer, author of "Wired for War," a book
about robotic warfare. "You can use these things anywhere, put them
anyplace, and the target will never even know they're being watched."

With a wingspan of 6.5 inches, the mini-drone weighs 19 grams, or less
than a AA battery. The Hummingbird's guts are made up of motors,
communications systems and a video camera. It is slightly larger than
the average hummingbird.

The success of the program "paves the way for a new generation of
aircraft with the agility and appearance of small birds," Todd Hylton,
Hummingbird program manager for the Pentagon's research arm, said in a

In all, the Pentagon has awarded about $4 million to AeroVironment since
2006 to develop the technology and the drone itself.

Matt Keennon, the company's manager on the project, said it was a
technical challenge to create the mini-machine from scratch because it
pushes the limitations of aerodynamics.

Less than two years ago, an earlier version of the drone could fly for
20 seconds. Keennon said the current eight minutes of flight are likely
to be extended as experiments continue.

"This is a new form of man-made flight," Keennon said. It is about
"biomimicry," or building a machine that is inspired by nature, he said.

The Pentagon issued seven specific milestones for the Hummingbird,
including the ability to hover in a 5-mph wind gust and the ability to
fly from outdoors to indoors and back outdoors through a normal-size

Critics have noted that privacy issues may emerge depending on how the
drones are used.

For now, the Hummingbird is just a prototype, Keennon said. But 10 years
from now, he sees the technology carrying out detailed reconnaissance

But it's not likely to be a "hummingbird," considering that that's a
rare bird in, say, New York City.

"I'm not a bird expert, but a sparrow seems to be better," Keennon said.


(5) Facebook, Twitter, phone & email records to be stored in new spy plan


Phone and email records to be stored in new spy plan

Details of every phone call and text message, email traffic and websites
visited online are to be stored in a series of vast databases under new
Government anti-terror plans.

By David Barrett, Home Affairs Correspondent

9:00PM GMT 18 Feb 2012

Landline and mobile phone companies and broadband providers will be
ordered to store the data for a year and make it available to the
security services under the scheme.

The databases would not record the contents of calls, texts or emails
but the numbers or email addresses of who they are sent and received by.

For the first time, the security services will have widespread access to
information about who has been communicating with each other on social
networking sites such as Facebook.

Direct messages between subscribers to websites such as Twitter would
also be stored, as well as communications between players in online
video games.

The Home Office is understood to have begun negotiations with internet
companies in the last two months over the plan, which could be
officially announced as early as May.

It is certain to cause controversy over civil liberties - but also raise
concerns over the security of the records.

Access to such information would be highly prized by hackers and could
be exploited to send spam email and texts. Details of which websites
people visit could also be exploited for commercial gain.

The plan has been drawn up on the advice of MI5, the home security
service, MI6, which operates abroad, and GCHQ, the Government's
"listening post" responsible for monitoring communications.

Rather than the Government holding the information centrally, companies
including BT, Sky, Virgin Media, Vodafone and O2 would have to keep the
records themselves.

Under the scheme the security services would be granted "real time"
access to phone and internet records of people they want to put under
surveillance, as well as the ability to reconstruct their movements
through the information stored in the databases.

The system would track "who, when and where" of each message, allowing
extremely close surveillance.

Mobile phone records of calls and texts show within yards where a call
was made or a message was sent, while emails and internet browsing
histories can be matched to a computer's "IP address", which can be used
to locate where it was sent.

The scheme is a revised version of a plan drawn up by the Labour
government which would have created a central database of all the

The idea of a central database was later dropped in favour of a scheme
requiring communications providers to store the details at the
taxpayers' expense.

But the whole idea was cancelled amid severe criticisms of the number of
public bodies which could access the data, which as well as the security
services, included local councils and quangos, totalling 653 public
sector organisations.

Labour shelved the project - known as the Intercept Modernisation
Programme - in November 2009 after a consultation showed it had little
public support.

Only one third of respondents backed the plan and half said they feared
the scheme lacked safeguards and technical rigour to protect highly
sensitive information.

At the same time the Conservatives criticised Labour's "reckless" record
on privacy.

A called Reversing the Rise of the Surveillance State by Dominic Grieve,
then shadow home secretary and now Attorney General, published in 2009,
said a Tory government would collect fewer personal details which would
be held by "specific authorities on a need-to-know basis only".

But the security services have now won a battle to have the scheme
revived because of their concern over the ability of terrorists to avoid
conventional surveillance through modern technology.

They can make use of phone tapping but their ability to monitor email
traffic and text messages is limited.

They are known to have lobbied Theresa May, the Home Secretary, strongly
for the scheme. Their move comes ahead of the London Olympics, which
they fear will be a major target for terror attacks, and amid a climate
of concern about terrorists' use of the internet.

It has been highlighted by a number of attacks carried out after
radicalisation took place through websites, including the stabbing by a
young Muslim woman of an MP at his constituency surgery.

Sources said ministers are planning to allocate legislative time to the
new spy programme, called the Communications Capabilities Development
Programme (CCDP), in the Queen's Speech in May.

But last night privacy campaigners warned the scheme was too open to
abuse and could be used for "fishing trips" by spies.

Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, a civil
liberties campaign organisation, said: "This would be a systematic
effort to spy on all of our digital communications.

"The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats started their government with a
big pledge to roll back the surveillance state.

"No state in history has been able to gather the level of information
proposed - it's a way of collecting everything about who we talk to just
in case something turns up." ...

(6) Your cell phone is a government issued tracking device


Old-Thinker News | Feb 1, 2012

By Daniel Taylor

Mobile phones have become a major part of our modern civilization. These
hand-held computers have reached a level of sophistication that allows
us to instantly communicate through text, voice and video. This same
technology is also being used to amass a situational awareness and
sensory system that will track you and the world around you. You and
your cell phone are nodes in a grid of sensors that paints a virtual
picture of the world.

We are offering a huge amount of "human intelligence" to whoever is
watching. In days gone by, this information was uncovered by finding the
right paperwork and other hard intel. Now that the public has become
acclimated to social media, advancing technology and a lesser
expectation of privacy, we are collectively offering freely and openly
information that is valuable to corporations, marketers, and especially
governments. Cell phones are a nexus point for all of this information.
As the Economist reports,

   "…imagine [your cell phone] being able to aggregate this sort of
information from large numbers of phones. It would be possible to
determine and analyse how people move around cities, how social groups
interact, how quickly traffic is moving and even how diseases might
spread. The world's 4 billion mobile phones could be turned into sensors
on a global data-collection network."

You post facebook updates from your phone, you post tweets, and you send
texts. This information is being used to track social movements, predict
crime, and build psychological profiles on individuals. Some phones are
even being made that act as breathalyzers.

We have all likely heard about the NSA wiretapping of phone calls, but
cell phones and mobile devices offer an entirely new level of real time
information. "Social awareness" and geolocation, i.e. the "tagging" of
your location with the popular Foursquare app is an example. Police are
also scanning cell phones with wireless devices during routine traffic
stops. The device can retrieve all photos and video from a cell phone
and "…works with 3000 different phone models and can even defeat
password protections."

The Air Force is developing a "Social Radar" that will track social
developments and aid counter insurgency operations. An earlier model was
developed by the Pentagon called the "Sentient World Simulation" that
predicts "…how long you can go without food or water, or how you will
respond to televised propaganda." In 2010 Dr. Mark Maybury, an
artificial intelligence specialist, wrote his paper on the proposed
Social Radar for the MITRE Corporation. Wired magazine's Danger room

   "Using sociometrics, it will pinpoint groups. Facebook timelines,
political polls, spy drone feeds, relief workers' reports, and
infectious disease alerts should all pour into the Social Radar, Maybury
writes, helping the system keep tabs on everything from carbon monoxide
levels to literacy rates to consumer prices."

The NSA is developing an artificial intelligence system called Aquaint
(Advanced QUestion Answering for INTelligence). James Bamford, who
helped expose the NSA's illegal wiretapping under the Bush
administration, covered the story in 2009. Bamford quotes one researcher
who worked on the system – and quit after finding out how intrusive the
technology was – as saying, "Think of 2001: A Space Odyssey and the most
memorable character, HAL 9000, having a conversation with David. We are
essentially building this system. We are building HAL." As Bamford
reports, this system will use "…phone calls, credit card receipts,
social networks like Facebook and MySpace, GPS tracks, cell phone
geolocation, Internet searches, Amazon book purchases, even E-Z Pass
toll records…"

Not only can the government monitor your cell phone, it can now seize
control of it through mandatory chips installed in new phones. Most
major cell phone providers have signed on to the government program.
Terror alerts, Amber alerts, public safety and presidential messages can
now be sent to your phone. "Users can opt out of any of the alerts
except the presidential messages," notes the New York Times. An
unannounced test of this system caused panic in New Jersey in December
of 2011 when Verizon customers received an alert warning of a civil

(7) Fight to repeal hate speech law brings together unlikely allies

From: ReporterNotebook <RePorterNoteBook@gmail.com> Date: 17 February
2012 07:57


Rebecca Lindell, Global News : Tuesday, February 14, 2012 6:26 PM

OTTAWA – A bill to repeal part of Canada's most contentious hate speech
provisions, which has brought together unusual allies, is one step
closer to becoming law.

Conservative MP Brian Storseth's private member's bill that would repeal
the Canadian Human Rights Commission's power over hate messages
disseminated online is likely to survive its next test. The bill is
scheduled to be voted on for a second time on Wednesday, and while it is
a private member's bill, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson endorsed the
proposed legislation last November. It will still have to be voted on
once more in the House of Commons and pass through the Senate before it
becomes law, but the progress is encouraging for its diverse supporters.

"This is a dead bill," said Marc Lemire, one of the people to face a
complaint under the Canadian Human Rights Act. "It shouldn't be on the
books and it will be a fine day in Canada when it is finally removed."
Section 13 of the Act makes it discriminatory to spread online messages
that could expose an identifiable person or persons to hatred or contempt.

Lemire said the current legislation allows interest groups a risk-free
way of attacking political opponents by censoring free speech, something
he believes isn't necessary or good for democratic society. "We don't
need the government looking over our shoulder looking at what we say and
whether it is correct or not," he said.

A well-known and outspoken figure in Canada's far right, Lemire had a
Section 13 complaint filed against him in 2006 for posting anti-Semitic
and anti-gay material on websites. The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal
found that Lemire did violate the Act, but found the section

The case is now before the Federal Court of Canada and Lemire has found
an unlikely ally in his fight to see the bill repealed, the Canadian
Civil Liberties Association. It's an organization known for defending
human rights, equality and diversity, The CCLA's general counsel
Nathalie Des Rosiers said it is important liberty and equality are
protected for everyone. "When you lose freedom of expression you lose
the ability of having the outside voice being forcefully heard," said
Des Rosiers.

"The good thing with freedom is you have so many different people who
have an interest in it," said Lemire of the unlikely alliance.

The problem with Section 13, according to Des Rosiers, is the definition
of hate messages is too broad and blurs the line between hate and
vigorous disagreement. "Every group that is a little bit concerned about
censorship looks at this and says the possibility of this being abused
to counter some critical speech is wide," she said. "You can easily get
into full-fledged censorships."

University of Windsor law professor Richard Moon, who was hired by the
commission to study Section 13, argues it is simply not the right
vehicle to defend people from hate messages. "I personally believe that
it is entirely right and appropriate that there be laws that restrict
extreme hate speech," said Moon, who defines such speech as advocating,
justifying or inciting violence. Moon said the Criminal Code and its
hate speech provisions are the best place for complaints to be dealt
with, adding police are better suited to investigating extreme speech
than individual complainants. The other major concern is the commission
investigating a complaint is a violation of free speech in itself, Moon
said. Since 2001 the commission has accepted 74 Section 13 complaints.
Of the 17 that were actually heard by the tribunal, 16 found that the
respondents breached the act. The maximum fine is $10,000.

Des Rosiers said a better move would be to spend money and energy
targeting acts of discrimination, instead of fighting speech, something
she calls a losing battle. "It hasn't stopped the level of vitriolic
comments on the internet," she said. "It has done very little good and
has the potential to do a great deal of harm."

The NDP opposes Storseth's bill, but Wednesday's vote occurs on the same
day as the final vote on legislation to kill the gun registry, ensuring
there will be strong Conservative showing in the House of Commons.
Liberal Justice critic Irwin Cotler supports amending instead of
repealing Section 13 in a bid to prevent vilifying speech while
protecting people from hate speech. Both the Supreme Court of Canada and
the Federal Court of Canada are examining cases involved hate speech.

The court cases coupled with the political momentum leaves Lemire with
one prediction: "It's really only a matter of time before this law is

© Shaw Media Inc., 2012. All rights reserved.

(8) Happy Meal lawsuit claims McDonalds unfairly uses toys to lure children


McDonald's grimaces at Happy Meal lawsuit

Tue Apr 19, 2011 6:57pm GMT

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A lawsuit that seeks to stop McDonald's from
selling Happy Meals must be dismissed because parents can always
prohibit their children from eating them, the hamburger giant said in a
court filing.

The lawsuit claims McDonald's unfairly uses toys to lure children into
its restaurants. The plaintiff, Monet Parham, a Sacramento, Calif.
mother of two, claims the company's advertising violates California
consumer protection laws.

The Happy Meal has been a huge hit for McDonald's -- making the company
one of the world's largest toy distributors -- and spawning me-too
offerings at most other fast-food chains.

But lately it also has come under fire from public health officials,
parents and lawmakers who are frustrated with rising childhood obesity
rates and weak anti-obesity efforts from restaurant operators, which are
largely self-regulated.

Parham, who filed suit last December, is represented by the Centre for
Science in the Public Interest, a nutrition advocacy group.

In the lawsuit, Parham admits she frequently tells her children "no"
when they ask for Happy Meals, McDonald's said in a court filing late on

"She was not misled by any advertising, nor did she rely on any
information from McDonald's," the company said.

Should Parham's lawsuit be allowed, it would spawn a host of other
problematic legal proceedings, McDonald's said.

"In short, advertising to children any product that a child asks for but
the parent does not want to buy would constitute an unfair trade
practice," the company said.

Attorneys for Parham did not immediately respond to a request for
comment late on Monday.

(Reporting by Dan Levine)

(9) Criminal code has grown so large it ensnares everyday citizens
From: IHR News <news@ihr.org> Date: Sat, 24 Dec 2011 15:00:33 -0500 (EST)

Code Is Overgrown, Legal Experts Tell Panel

The Wall Street Journal


The federal criminal code has grown so large it ensnares everyday
citizens who have no idea they are violating the law, a bipartisan group
of legal experts told a House panel Tuesday. There are about 4,500
criminal statutes, said Edwin Meese, attorney general under President
Ronald Reagan and now with the conservative Heritage Foundation. "This
is in addition to over 300,000 other regulations that don't appear in
the federal code but nevertheless carry essentially criminal penalties
including prison," he said ... The Administrative Office of the U.S.
Courts figures some 80,000 defendants are sentenced in federal court
each year.

(10) Two Californias -  Victor Davis Hanson

From: IHR News <news@ihr.org> Date: 09.04.2011 09:35 AM


Two Californias

by Victor Davis Hanson

National Review Online

December 16, 2010

The last three weeks I have traveled about, taking the pulse of the more
forgotten areas of central California. I wanted to witness, even if
superficially, what is happening to a state that has the highest sales
and income taxes, the most lavish entitlements, the near-worst public
schools (based on federal test scores), and the largest number of
illegal aliens in the nation, along with an overregulated private
sector, a stagnant and shrinking manufacturing base, and an elite
environmental ethos that restricts commerce and productivity without
curbing consumption.

During this unscientific experiment, three times a week I rode a bike on
a 20-mile trip over various rural roads in southwestern Fresno County. I
also drove my car over to the coast to work, on various routes through
towns like San Joaquin, Mendota, and Firebaugh. And near my home I have
been driving, shopping, and touring by intent the rather segregated and
impoverished areas of Caruthers, Fowler, Laton, Orange Cove, Parlier,
and Selma. My own farmhouse is now in an area of abject poverty and
almost no ethnic diversity; the closest elementary school (my alma
mater, two miles away) is 94 percent Hispanic and 1 percent white, and
well below federal testing norms in math and English.

Here are some general observations about what I saw (other than that the
rural roads of California are fast turning into rubble, poorly
maintained and reverting to what I remember seeing long ago in the rural
South). First, remember that these areas are the ground zero, so to
speak, of 20 years of illegal immigration. There has been a general
depression in farming — to such an extent that the 20- to-100-acre tree
and vine farmer, the erstwhile backbone of the old rural California, for
all practical purposes has ceased to exist.

On the western side of the Central Valley, the effects of arbitrary
cutoffs in federal irrigation water have idled tens of thousands of
acres of prime agricultural land, leaving thousands unemployed.
Manufacturing plants in the towns in these areas — which used to make
harvesters, hydraulic lifts, trailers, food-processing equipment — have
largely shut down; their production has been shipped off overseas or
south of the border. Agriculture itself — from almonds to raisins — has
increasingly become corporatized and mechanized, cutting by half the
number of farm workers needed. So unemployment runs somewhere between 15
and 20 percent.

Many of the rural trailer-house compounds I saw appear to the naked eye
no different from what I have seen in the Third World. There is a
Caribbean look to the junked cars, electric wires crisscrossing between
various outbuildings, plastic tarps substituting for replacement
shingles, lean-tos cobbled together as auxiliary housing, pit bulls
unleashed, and geese, goats, and chickens roaming around the yards. The
public hears about all sorts of tough California regulations that stymie
business — rigid zoning laws, strict building codes, constant
inspections — but apparently none of that applies out here.

It is almost as if the more California regulates, the more it does not
regulate. Its public employees prefer to go after misdemeanors in the
upscale areas to justify our expensive oversight industry, while
ignoring the felonies in the downtrodden areas, which are becoming feral
and beyond the ability of any inspector to do anything but feel
irrelevant. But in the regulators' defense, where would one get the
money to redo an ad hoc trailer park with a spider web of illegal bare

Many of the rented-out rural shacks and stationary Winnebagos are on
former small farms — the vineyards overgrown with weeds, or torn out
with the ground lying fallow. I pass on the cultural consequences to
communities from the loss of thousands of small farming families. I
don't think I can remember another time when so many acres in the
eastern part of the valley have gone out of production, even though farm
prices have recently rebounded. Apparently it is simply not worth the
gamble of investing $7,000 to $10,000 an acre in a new orchard or
vineyard. What an anomaly — with suddenly soaring farm prices, still we
have thousands of acres in the world's richest agricultural belt, with
available water on the east side of the valley and plentiful labor, gone
idle or in disuse. Is credit frozen? Are there simply no more farmers?
Are the schools so bad as to scare away potential agricultural
entrepreneurs? Or are we all terrified by the national debt and
uncertain future?

California coastal elites may worry about the oxygen content of water
available to a three-inch smelt in the Sacramento–San Joaquin River
Delta, but they seem to have no interest in the epidemic dumping of
trash, furniture, and often toxic substances throughout California's
rural hinterland. Yesterday, for example, I rode my bike by a stopped
van just as the occupants tossed seven plastic bags of raw refuse onto
the side of the road. I rode up near their bumper and said in my broken
Spanish not to throw garbage onto the public road. But there were three
of them, and one of me. So I was lucky to be sworn at only. I note in
passing that I would not drive into Mexico and, as a guest, dare to pull
over and throw seven bags of trash into the environment of my host.

In fact, trash piles are commonplace out here — composed of everything
from half-empty paint cans and children's plastic toys to diapers and
moldy food. I have never seen a rural sheriff cite a litterer, or
witnessed state EPA workers cleaning up these unauthorized wastelands.
So I would suggest to Bay Area scientists that the environment is taking
a much harder beating down here in central California than it is in the
Delta. Perhaps before we cut off more irrigation water to the west side
of the valley, we might invest some green dollars into cleaning up the
unsightly and sometimes dangerous garbage that now litters the outskirts
of our rural communities.

We hear about the tough small-business regulations that have driven
residents out of the state, at the rate of 2,000 to 3,000 a week. But
from my unscientific observations these past weeks, it seems rather easy
to open a small business in California without any oversight at all, or
at least what I might call a "counter business." I counted eleven mobile
hot-kitchen trucks that simply park by the side of the road, spread
about some plastic chairs, pull down a tarp canopy, and, presto, become
mini-restaurants. There are no "facilities" such as toilets or
washrooms. But I do frequently see lard trails on the isolated roads I
bike on, where trucks apparently have simply opened their draining tanks
and sped on, leaving a slick of cooking fats and oils. Crows and ground
squirrels love them; they can be seen from a distance mysteriously
occupied in the middle of the road.

At crossroads, peddlers in a counter-California economy sell almost
anything. Here is what I noticed at an intersection on the west side
last week: shovels, rakes, hoes, gas pumps, lawnmowers, edgers, blowers,
jackets, gloves, and caps. The merchandise was all new. I doubt whether
in high-tax California sales taxes or income taxes were paid on any of
these stop-and-go transactions.

In two supermarkets 50 miles apart, I was the only one in line who did
not pay with a social-service plastic card (gone are the days when "food
stamps" were embarrassing bulky coupons). But I did not see any
relationship between the use of the card and poverty as we once knew it:
The electrical appurtenances owned by the user and the car into which
the groceries were loaded were indistinguishable from those of the upper
middle class.

By that I mean that most consumers drove late-model Camrys, Accords, or
Tauruses, had iPhones, Bluetooths, or BlackBerries, and bought
everything in the store with public-assistance credit. This seemed a
world apart from the trailers I had just ridden by the day before. I
don't editorialize here on the logic or morality of any of this, but I
note only that there are vast numbers of people who apparently are not
working, are on public food assistance, and enjoy the technological
veneer of the middle class. California has a consumer market surely, but
often no apparent source of income. Does the $40 million a day
supplement to unemployment benefits from Washington explain some of this?

Do diversity concerns, as in lack of diversity, work both ways? Over a
hundred-mile stretch, when I stopped in San Joaquin for a bottled water,
or drove through Orange Cove, or got gas in Parlier, or went to a corner
market in southwestern Selma, my home town, I was the only non-Hispanic
— there were no Asians, no blacks, no other whites. We may speak of the
richness of "diversity," but those who cherish that ideal simply have no
idea that there are now countless inland communities that have become
near-apartheid societies, where Spanish is the first language, the
schools are not at all diverse, and the federal and state governments
are either the main employers or at least the chief sources of income —
whether through emergency rooms, rural health clinics, public schools,
or social-service offices. An observer from Mars might conclude that our
elites and masses have given up on the ideal of integration and
assimilation, perhaps in the wake of the arrival of 11 to 15 million
illegal aliens.

Again, I do not editorialize, but I note these vast transformations over
the last 20 years that are the paradoxical wages of unchecked illegal
immigration from Mexico, a vast expansion of California's entitlements
and taxes, the flight of the upper middle class out of state, the
deliberate effort not to tap natural resources, the downsizing in
manufacturing and agriculture, and the departure of whites, blacks, and
Asians from many of these small towns to more racially diverse and
upscale areas of California.

Fresno's California State University campus is embroiled in controversy
over the student body president's announcing that he is an illegal
alien, with all the requisite protests in favor of the DREAM Act. I
won't comment on the legislation per se, but again only note the
anomaly. I taught at CSUF for 21 years. I think it fair to say that the
predominant theme of the Chicano and Latin American Studies program's
sizable curriculum was a fuzzy American culpability. By that I mean that
students in those classes heard of the sins of America more often than
its attractions. In my home town, Mexican flag decals on car windows are
far more common than their American counterparts.

I note this because hundreds of students here illegally are now
terrified of being deported to Mexico. I can understand that, given the
chaos in Mexico and their own long residency in the United States. But
here is what still confuses me: If one were to consider the classes that
deal with Mexico at the university, or the visible displays of national
chauvinism, then one might conclude that Mexico is a far more attractive
and moral place than the United States.

So there is a surreal nature to these protests: something like, "Please
do not send me back to the culture I nostalgically praise; please let me
stay in the culture that I ignore or deprecate." I think the DREAM Act
protestors might have been far more successful in winning public opinion
had they stopped blaming the U.S. for suggesting that they might have to
leave at some point, and instead explained why, in fact, they want to
stay. What it is about America that makes a youth of 21 go on a hunger
strike or demonstrate to be allowed to remain in this country rather
than return to the place of his birth?

I think I know the answer to this paradox. Missing entirely in the above
description is the attitude of the host, which by any historical
standard can only be termed "indifferent." California does not care
whether one broke the law to arrive here or continues to break it by
staying. It asks nothing of the illegal immigrant — no proficiency in
English, no acquaintance with American history and values, no proof of
income, no record of education or skills. It does provide all the public
assistance that it can afford (and more that it borrows for), and
apparently waives enforcement of most of California's burdensome
regulations and civic statutes that increasingly have plagued productive
citizens to the point of driving them out. How odd that we overregulate
those who are citizens and have capital to the point of banishing them
from the state, but do not regulate those who are aliens and without
capital to the point of encouraging millions more to follow in their
footsteps. How odd — to paraphrase what Critias once said of ancient
Sparta — that California is at once both the nation's most unfree and
most free state, the most repressed and the wildest.

Hundreds of thousands sense all that and vote accordingly with their
feet, both into and out of California — and the result is a sort of
social, cultural, economic, and political time-bomb, whose ticks are
getting louder.

©2010 Victor Davis Hanson

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