December 1, 2005

A Tad Less Dangerous, and More of a Threat to National Security

Filed under: Economy,Privacy/ID Theft — Tom @ 4:46 pm

Criminals are going where the money is:

Expert: Cyber-Crime More Profitable Than Drug Trafficking
Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Global cybercrime generated a higher turnover than drug trafficking in 2004 and is set to grow even further with the wider use of technology in developing countries, a top expert said on Monday.

No country is immune from cybercrime, which includes corporate espionage, child pornography, stock manipulation, extortion and piracy, said Valerie McNiven, who advises the U.S. Treasury on cybercrime.

“Last year was the first year that proceeds from cybercrime were greater than proceeds from the sale of illegal drugs, and that was, I believe, over $105 billion,” McNiven told Reuters. “Cybercrime is moving at such a high speed that law enforcement cannot catch up with it.”

It’s nice to see that the dangers haven’t cooled the growth of online shopping. How long that’s sustainable if law enforcement doesn’t figure out a way to catch up is questionable.

It’s not just “traditional” criminals and mobsters either. The problem also has the attention of Homeland Security:

General John Gordon, assistant to the President for Homeland Security and the head of the Homeland Security Council at the White House, told attendees at the RSA Conference here that striking at the heart of the Al Qaeda terrorist network may fragment it into smaller groups that may be more difficult to find. To date, these groups have not launched a terrorist attack through cyberspace, but the potential is there, he said.

“There are a range of actors, but only some of them may be traditional terrorists,” he said. But whether or not a power grid is turned off by a bomb or some form of malicious code, the end result is the same, he added.

However, the financial cost from worms and other incidents of cybercrime reached a record high last year.

Richard Clarke, call your office.

Kelo/Property Rights Update: Pre-Kelo New Jersey Case Settlement Upheld

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:25 pm

Here’s the only item I could find in Google News about a troubling case (text is 6 paragraphs from the end) I first learned of in Opinion Journal’s Political Diary:

Court upholds ruling on Mt. Laurel tract

TRENTON — The owners of a Mount Laurel property targeted for redevelopment should be compensated for the value of the ground on the date the condemnation complaint was filed, not the date of a court judgment that designated the ground as a redevelopment site, the state Supreme Court ruled Monday.

A court judgment in December 1997 classified a home and adjoining farmland owned by Richard and Lucia Stanley as the future site of low- to moderate-income housing.

The township, however, did not file its condemnation complaint until 2002.

The Supreme Court upheld an appellate court ruling, noting the Stanleys should be compensated for the increased value of their home over that five-year span because the increase was due solely to inflation.

The Political Diary (not available on the web) fills in the holes:

With the infamous Kelo v. New London ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a city could grab private property under just about any pretext that involves “community development.” New Jersey has a special engine for property snatching known as the “Mount Laurel decisions.”

In one of the country’s most audacious expressions of judicial activism, the highly politicized New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in 1975 that each New Jersey community must provide its “fair share” of low- and moderate-income housing. Not much happened, so the court issued a stronger ruling in 1983, going so far as to suggest that a “fair share” would be around 20% of the local housing stock. In 1985, the New Jersey legislature made an honest woman of the court by enacting into law what the court had already legislated. A “Fair Housing Act” attempted to codify what the confused municipalities were required to do.

Perhaps signaling a reaction against the appalling Kelo decision, the southern New Jersey town of Mount Laurel is back in the news again, this time with a new ruling that offers a sliver of comfort to defenders of property rights. Last month, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that at least the town couldn’t gyp a property owner out of the true value of his holding, which had been seized to meet the town’s low-income housing quota. In Mount Laurel Township v. Stanley, the court held that the township must pay the value of the Stanley family’s 10-acre site at the time it was actually condemned, not the value five years earlier when it was designated for a “fair-share” development site. That way, at least, officials can’t avail themselves of a cheap option on someone’s property by announcing an intention to condemn it at some point in the future.

The Stanley family will still lose their property, but they will get the $833,000 it was worth in May 2002, rather than its $650,000 value in December 1997, before a five-year rise in real estate values. It’s a small victory but any victory against the assault on property rights is worth noting.

I’m less than impressed, in that the Stanleys should never have been forced to give up their property in the first place, and even if they will be paid interest for the 3-1/2 years that have since passed, that’s probably nowhere near what the property’s increase in value would have been during that time.

There have been comments like this one at other Kelo-related BizzyBlog posts that takings like this are no longer possible, because no one will have the nerve to bring in the bulldozers any more. New Jersey’s obviously unconstitutional but apparently unchallenged low-income housing set-aside law may be the laboratory where that belief gets put to the test. Assuming the law itself isn’t jettisoned (I’m not aware of any constitution challenge to it–e-mail me if you know otherwise), will people rally to the defense of future victims like the Stanleys, when they are seen as “rich” and standing in the way of “housing for the poor”? I’m not optimistic.
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UPDATE: Amy Ridenour has very good news on an attempted retroactive zoning case in Maryland that was much more outrageous in its (thwarted) ambitions.

UPDATE: Ronald D. Utt at The Heritage Foundation reports that property rights legislation is getting bogged down in all but two states (AL and TX) and at the federal level, and could use a presidential push:

Despite the widespread concern that swept the country following the Kelo decision, state and federal elected officials have done little to strengthen the protection of property rights. With the exceptions of the House bill and new laws in Alabama and Texas, property rights initiatives in other states and in the U.S. Senate have been bogged down in legislative committees, in large part due to opposition from mayors, developers, and economic development officials who stand to see their power diminished. To date, President Bush has been silent on the issue, despite its popular appeal and property rights’ status as a basic principle of individual freedom. With efforts to strengthen the protection of property faltering, now is the time for President Bush to take a strong stand and encourage the Senate and the states to enact laws that better protect an individual’s property.

Claudia Rossett: “Find It, Post It”

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:45 am

This is a fitting, but as you will see, only temporary, end to BizzyBlog’s worries over Internet governance for this year. Ms. Rossett, the Oil For Food Scandal reporter extraordinaire, makes perfectly clear what the UN wants from the Internet–control and money (HT Roger Simon):

Any institution brazen enough to hold a “World Summit on the Information Society” in internet-censoring journalist-jailing Tunisia is obviously ready to try anything to get hold of the net. This initiative has been bubbling along since Tunisia first proposed it in 1998, and by now there have been enough conferences, theme papers, working groups and planning sessions so that this UN campaign has put down roots. The WSIS website is already an empire unto itself, packed with stocktaking questionnaires, press releases, a photo library and the outpourings of the Preparatory Committee, abbreviated UN-style as the Prepcom, which sounds like something out of George Orwell, because it is.

….. The UN’s 1945 founding mandate was to promote peace. Sometime during the past six decades of dictator-packed voting blocks, diplomatic privileges, immunities and institutional secrecy, the UN instead got into the business of promoting mainly itself. At today’s UN, that involves the self-interest of two basic groups, and neither bodes well for the internet.

The first UN group is interested mainly in censorship, though they’re also partial to money where they can get it. That would be the General Assembly, made up of the UN’s 191 member states. Unfortunately, that membership includes dozens of repressive regimes, such as China, Cuba, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe and information-summit-hosting Tunisia; in other words, countries whose despots have a common interest in hating and fearing the kind of freedom the Internet might offer their subject fellow citizens.

….. The second group is the UN Secretariat, which is mainly interested in money, though they’re also partial to censorship when they can get away with it – which, since they operate with diplomatic immunity, is most of the time. According to the UN charter, the Secretariat is simply supposed to function as the administrative arm of the UN, run by a Secretary-General whose job is basically to manage the shop. But for quite some time the Secretariat has been evolving into more or less a state unto itself, led by a Secretary-General whose ambitions– on the evidence of his various campaigns, programs and proposals over the past eight years– tend less toward managing the office than running the world.

….. The danger by now is that the UN has two powerfully motivated interest groups, the censors and the taxers, both gunning for control of the net. And the UN has already sprouted a bureaucracy, complete with Prepcoms, to organize the next summit, and the next. The takeover bid failed in Tunis, but with enough time and persistence, it could very well happen.

….. So, what’s a blogger to do? For people who care about freedom and value the internet for all the right reasons, the best answer I can see is to fight back with the best weapon you’ve got— the truth. ….. Find it, post it, The more daylight, the better the chance that the UN will have to either shut itself down, or clean up its act—and back away from the internet.

Read the whole thing. The Internet will never be truly safe until the UN ends.
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Previous BizzyBlog Posts:

The Non-9/11 Domestic Story of the Decade?

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:04 am

Paul at Wizbang hasn’t gone that far, but it seems that he’d be justified:

For reasons that escape me, the mainstream media has completely ignored the fact New Orleans was not flooded by a hurricane but by an act of negligence by the Federal Government.

I’ve known this (and been posting about it) for months. Now evidence is mounting every single day. It is simply amazing that after 1000 people are dead and hundreds of billions of dollars in property destroyed, the only investigative journalism is being done by a small local paper. Is the MSM awake?

The New Orleans Times Picayune, which has probably already cinched a few Pullitzers for hurricane-related coverage, may have the Big Doozy on the Big Easy:

17th Street Canal levee was doomed
Report blames corps: Soil could never hold

The floodwall on the 17th Street Canal levee was destined to fail long before it reached its maximum design load of 14 feet of water because the Army Corps of Engineers underestimated the weak soil layers 10 to 25 feet below the levee, the state’s forensic levee investigation team concluded in a report to be released this week.

That miscalculation was so obvious and fundamental, investigators said, they “could not fathom” how the design team of engineers from the corps, local firm Eustis Engineering and the national firm Modjeski and Masters could have missed what is being termed the costliest engineering mistake in American history.

You think “Story of the Decade” exaggerates? Check out the last paragraph:

“This is the largest civil engineering disaster in the history of the United States. Nothing has come close to the $300 billion in damages and half-million people out of their homes and the lives lost,” he said. “Nothing this big has ever happened before in civil engineering.”

I’ll repeat the links: go to Wizbang and The Times-Picayune for more. Paul also notes that the “T-P” also has a number of other related stories.

Bizzy’s AM Coffee Biz-Econ Links (120105)

Filed under: Consumer Outrage,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:03 am

Oh, How Nice: DOJ Dropping Case Against Andersen

The firm’s conviction was overturned in May. Last week DOJ moved to dismiss:

Federal prosecutors said that it was not in the best “interests of justice,” to retry Andersen on obstruction of justice charges for shredding documents related to the collapse of Enron. The decision was expected in light of the Supreme Court’s decision and the fact of Andersen’s nearly defunct status.

In a separate court filing last week, David Duncan, who oversaw the destruction of Enron-related documents at Andersen, withdrew his guilty plea in connection with his alleged obstruction of the federal investigation of Enron.

Translation: We forced a firm that didn’t deserve it out of business and gave the one guy who appeared to deserve criminal prosecution a chance to skate. Mission accomplished. (/sarcasm)

Brick and Mortar Stores Get Big Cyber Traffic Pickups

The Wall Street Journal (requires subscription) reports that on Cyber Monday “old-school giants Wal-Mart and Target saw much greater increases in Internet visitors than their cyber counterparts, according to recent Nielsen/NetRatings figures”:

CyberSales

Visitors aren’t necessarily buyers, but this could be an early indicator that the Christmas shopping season will be a true blockbuster. If the brick-and-mortar physical store sales increase by more than 4%, AND their cyberstores increase their sales by double digits over last year, AND the online-only outfits do their expected 10%-15% increases, there will be a lot of champagne flowing on New Year’s Eve for reasons other than the changing of the calendar.

Measuring the True Drop in the Cost of Gasoline

Here’s a revealing map (obtained from here; HT ThePeriodical.com):

GasTax

To get the total tax you pay for every gallon of gas, add the 18.4-cent federal rate to your state’s figure. It’s important to realize that the cost of the product you are putting into your tank has in most cases dropped over 40% from its post-Katrina high.

Example: Indiana. The state’s combined federal and state tax per gallon is 48 cents (29.6 + 18.4). If the total price peaked at $3.10 and is $2.00 today (a 35% drop), that means the pretax priced dropped from $2.62 to $1.52–a 42% drop. Remember how much tax goes into your state’s and Uncle Sam’s coffers the next time gas goes into your tank.

Positivity: 64 Child Jockeys Rescued from Slavery (Pakistan-UAE)

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:09 am

A shocking story about an abuse tolerated for too long, but that is apparently over permanently:

(more…)

WMD Has a Detailed “Culture of Corruption” Compilation

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 12:01 am

S.O.B. Alliance member Weapons of Mass Discussion has a detailed list that seems to go on for miles. I’ve flagged it as a future reference if needed.

Look it over, and perhaps reconsider which party has the bigger sleaze factor.