Apple vs. FBI — What This Case Means for YOU

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

and

Guest Author & Information Security professional Chris Magill

The FBI wants Apple to rewrite code for iPhones in order to break into a phone used by one of the San Bernardino terrorists. Apple said no. They are now embroiled in a lawsuit.

On March 1, the FBI admitted exactly WHY it needs Apple’s help. The FBI was in the phone, with access to everything it needed. Then someone at the FBI changed the phone’s password. They forgot the password. Now, the FBI can’t get back in the phone.

In other words, the FBI is asking that it be allowed to gut the constitutional rights of every American in perpetuity because it made a sophomoric boo-boo.

This begs some questions . . .

1)  Why doesn’t the FBI just ask the NSA for the information?

The cat got out of the Snowden bag a few years ago that the NSA collects and stores every electronic communication that takes place in America, including and especially phone communications. Investigating the San Bernardino jihadis and their play pals is EXACTLY why the NSA collects and stores these communications. If the NSA can’t give the information to the FBI, they need to give US citizens a refund of the untold fortunes they have wasted on this data collection. (See Spooks Without Boundaries by Piper Bayard.)

2)  If the NSA for any reason can’t give the FBI the information it needs, why doesn’t the FBI ask Israel or one of the Five Eyes nations?

Again, thanks to the Snowden cat, it is public knowledge that the White House allows Israel and the Five Eyes nations (Canada, UK, NZ, Australia) access to the raw data that the NSA collects on Americans. If the NSA can’t give the FBI the info, we’re sure that for a few shekels, Israel would be happy to find it for them.

3)  What does this lawsuit mean for the American citizen?

To give you the best information possible, we have invited Information Security professional and privacy advocate Chris Magill to answer that question for us . . .

Internet bugs Canstock

Apple vs. the FBI: What This Case Means for YOU

By Chris Magill

Apple and the FBI are currently locked in a struggle over your right to privacy. The Federal government has asked the courts to require Apple to change its code to allow FBI agents to read protected data on an iPhone believed to belong to one of the San Bernardino attackers. It also wants this capability to be applied to all iPhones, even yours.

So, the question becomes should private citizens be allowed communications capabilities which cannot be read by the government?

By law, there already are communications which are protected from government eyes. For example, attorney-client privilege prevents the government from listening in on private conversations when discussing legal strategies. As Americans, we also have the protections of the right to Freedom of Speech and the right to Freedom of Assembly. Allowing government access to our phones without a warrant destroys these rights.

What is cryptography?

Cryptography is a mathematical operation that replaces plain text with scrambled characters that can only be correctly interpreted by someone who holds the secret “key.”

Cryptography has existed for thousands of years. It was a vital means of protecting communications during the Revolutionary War. Thomas Jefferson greatly improved cryptography after the founding of our country when he developed the Wheel Cipher while serving as George Washington’s Secretary of State. Yes, the United States once had a Secretary of State who understood the importance of cryptography. In the iPhone, the iMessage feature encrypts instant messages between recent iPhone versions, making it very difficult to be read by anyone other than the intended recipient, even with access to the device.

What is a backdoor?

A backdoor is an easy-to-decrypt method for governments to read content on devices that would otherwise be very difficult to access.

Think of it as though the Federal Government sought to require you to leave your patio door unlocked in case a police officer needs to access your living room during an investigation. Obviously this would be ridiculous. Only a tiny fraction of homes would ever need to be entered by police, yet everyone would be at risk from criminals entering the unsecured door. Backdoors are a dangerous idea for two reasons. First, they require a known weakness, which can then be exploited by hackers or online thieves. And second, backdoors enable government to bypass the judicial branch to spy on citizens in violation of our rights.

Aren’t bad guys protected by cryptography?

Yes, in the same way that bad guys are protected by the Constitution.

We have constitutional protections against unlawful search and seizure. These protections should also apply to the communications we share and the contents of our devices we rely on in our daily lives. The iPhone isn’t the strongest available way to pass secret messages. A determined adversary will find communications methods that can only be countered by diligent, labor-intensive traditional law enforcement and counterintelligence methods.

I haven’t broken the law, so I have nothing to hide. How does this affect me?

By the 1980s, the Justice Department estimated there were approximately 3,000 criminal offenses spanning more than 23,000 pages of Federal law. Even if you are the best attorney in the world, it’s unlikely you could even know for sure whether you’ve never violated any of them.

If the government decides to prosecute you, they have a huge arsenal of regulations to select from which you will have to defend against. Skilled cyber criminals, spies, and terrorist organizations already have access to encryption that is theoretically unbreakable. The bad guys don’t rely on commercial encryption products in consumer devices.

A government backdoor does not make you any safer from terrorism.

It does make it easier for governments to find and target those who disagree with them. This is a concern in modern day America. Ask any conservative group targeted by Lois Lerner’s IRS. With government access to a backdoor to your phone, finding people who have a differing political view becomes as simple as a Google search.

What else can happen if cryptography is compromised?

This has happened in the recent past. In 2011, Comodo was compromised by a nation state-affiliated hacker group.

Comodo is a registration authority that creates cryptographic certificates which tell your web browser the web sites you visit are who they claim to be. Fake certificates were created that enabled the government of Iran to intercept and read the personal emails of citizens using Gmail and Hotmail. We will likely never know how many Iranian dissidents were rounded up and imprisoned (or worse) as a result of this compromise. Weak encryption makes it easier for oppressive governments to spy on their own citizens and crush dissent. Weak cryptography is also a factor in most, if not all, data breaches. If your identity was stolen in any of the countless data breaches, such as Target, Home Depot, Experian, or OPM, you probably have weak or compromised cryptography to thank.

What next?

Governments have an insatiable appetite to know everything about their citizen’s activities, acquaintances, political views, and beliefs. They also have a desire to prevent citizens from having capabilities that are difficult for them to counter.

The Apple vs FBI case is not about terrorism or crime. This case is about control of the transfer of ideas.

You are the government. You select your representatives. They work for you. They derive their authority from you. You have the power to demand that they stop. Tell your representatives to block efforts to weaken freedom of speech by banning civilian access to strong encryption. Tell them to prevent the government from requiring tech companies to enable spying through commercial products.

Allowing the government to secretly spy on all Americans is the digital equivalent of book burning. Ideas that are found distasteful to whichever administration holds power can be sought out and banned, and those citizens with undesirable views targeted for retaliation or punishment. Far from protecting us from terrorists, such actions only serve to weaken our democracy.

Sources:

TechTarget: “A breach at a registration authority caused Comodo to issue nine fraudulent certificates, enabling an attacker to impersonate some major websites and servers.”

http://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/news/1529110/Comodo-warns-of-serious-SSL-certificate-breach

CNet: “Apple’s iMessage encryption trips up feds’ surveillancehttp://www.cnet.com/news/apples-imessage-encryption-trips-up-feds-surveillance/

Chris Magill is an Information Security professional and privacy advocate. When he isn’t helping companies manage their cryptographic systems and hunting down hackers, Chris enjoys spending time on his small ranch with his family in the Pacific Northwest chasing horses around. His LinkedIn profile is https://www.linkedin.com/in/cmagill

Advertisements

Operation Fox Hunt — China Targets Its Expatriates

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

According to news stories in Western sources, China is now conducting a global campaign to capture Chinese fugitives and recover illicit funds. Chinese police and security forces are entering foreign countries, illegally detaining fugitives, and shipping them back to China without any due process.

 

Fox silhouette with concept phase inside on blur background of forest

 

Some of the fugitives may have been guilty of committing acts that would be considered crimes in the US and other Western nations. Unfortunately, in China, the term “fugitive” is also applied to political dissenters that have escaped.

Even in cases involving actual criminals, the Chinese are ignoring US laws in pursuit of their quarry.

Foreign governments wishing to detain criminals that have escaped to the US must first convince the US government of each individual case’s legitimacy. If the US agrees that a case is legitimate, then foreign police officers may be granted legal entry. The foreign police officers would then have to work with US law enforcement agencies to arrest the suspect. The Chinese have no desire to meet these normal requirements of US and other Western governments.

One of the results of China’s new economic success combined with its endemic corruption is that it now has more criminals escaping China with wealth.

In communist China, today’s revered business mogul, general, or party official may be tomorrow’s wanted criminal. Financial corruption at all levels of the Chinese government is completely normal. As long as a corrupt individual remains in favor with the oligarchy, he may remain a revered hero. That same “hero” instantly takes on demon status when he falls from favor. When said hero sees the ideographs on the wall and gets out of Dodge – or Shanghai, Beijing, etc. – a fugitive is born. If said fugitive demon manages to transfer wealth out of China while getting the hell out of Dodge, then he becomes a more urgently wanted fugitive.

To be fair, I must point out that chasing targets in other people’s countries is not a completely Chinese invention.

I seem to recall hearing a rumor or two about extreme cases when US agents escorted wanted individuals back to the US without the permission of the foreign nations where those individuals may have been residing. Not that I would ever do anything so impolite, myself. These are just rumors, and I don’t remember where I heard them. I’m old, and I forget stuff. In any event, it happens more frequently in fiction than in reality. Overall, it all really comes down to the relationships between the nations in question.

When nations have anything like a reasonable working relationship, they are unlikely to resort to snatch jobs.

For one thing, they don’t need to. For another, they don’t want to damage workable relationships by pursuing every annoying criminal or NSA whistle blower. Let us consider the case of Edward Snowden as a well-known example. Edward committed an unforgiveable sin. He did something that made him a more sought-after fugitive than if he had been a serial killer – he embarrassed the US government and the governments of several of our allies.

You will note that Edward resides in Russia. It’s not because he likes the food, weather, or women better than what he might have had available in, say, Italy, Spain, France, etc. Or, if he wasn’t hungry, perhaps he might even have relocated to England or Germany. But Edward chose Russia because he knew that Russia would not send him back to the US. He also guessed correctly that he would quickly become a high profile case, and that the US would not attempt to chase him while he was under the protection of Putin and pals.

In the case of China, the Chinese government knows that it has nearly zero diplomatic capital to trade on. In China’s judgment, if it wants someone, it needs to go out and hunt him down. The Chinese have named their program for hunting fugitives and their cash Operation Fox Hunt.

The agents employed by China in Operation Fox Hunt are not employees of the Chinese Ministry of Justice, but rather employees of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security. The methods used by the Chinese agents chasing “fugitives” are often extreme. In some cases, the fugitives’ family members in China are threatened in order to force the fugitives to return.

The Chinese government let its citizens know that Operation Fox Hunt has captured and returned over 900 fugitives to China. That figure indicates a scope of activity that surpasses Hollywood’s wildest imagination. In fact, it even dwarfs the vast Iranian efforts at controlling, murdering, or snatching Iranian expatriates. The message to the people of China is clear. Annoy the Chinese government, and there will be no escape from its wrath.

Having publicized Operation Fox Hunt to its domestic audience, China will now deny it to everyone else.

Our well-dressed friends from Foggy Bottom (the US State Department) reported that they warned Chinese officials about the activities. I assume that the State Department’s warning will be as effective as all the other warnings that the US has issued to China in the last hundred years, as in not at all.

Next month, Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit the US. I have no doubt that one White House aide or another will, with a serious look on his or her face, tell us that during their meetings, our President “expressed our grave concerns.” The result of that meeting will be similar to the results of our last dozen meetings with the Chinese, as in nothing will happen.

One of the implications of China’s Operation Fox Hunt is perhaps less obvious than China’s usual lack of ethical conduct, but it is more important. For more than 900 expatriate Chinese to be captured and returned from the West, the appropriate Western agencies would have to be asleep at the switch.

 

Actual photo of Western agency during Operation Fox Hunt

Actual photo of Western agency during Operation Fox Hunt

 

Given the cost to Western taxpayers of those various agencies, the naps in question are more outlandishly expensive than an Obama family vacation or a Congressional junket. If all this activity has been missed by our beloved and oh-so-clever Department of Homeland Security, Britain’s MI-5, or the French Surete Nationale etc., then what else have they been missing? Let’s not ask them. They would simply respond by asking to have their budgets doubled.

One possibility is that Western Governments have known about Operation Fox Hunt, but they have remained silent until the Chinese decided to expose it to its citizens for the propaganda value.

Let me be clear that I am speaking from the point of view of a casual observer. I have no access to classified information concerning Operation Fox Hunt – not even the usual emails from Hillary.

That being said, Western governments might not like what the Chinese are doing, but lacking a practical and effective response, they have until now ignored Operation Fox Hunt.

In many cases, the West may have no desire to keep China from capturing its expatriate party elites. Not all wealthy Chinese escapees are criminals in the traditional sense, and it is likely that a few of them are legitimate prisoners of conscience. How many times various Western agencies may have foiled Chinese Fox Hunts is unknown. Western governments don’t usually publicize such successes unless there is a diplomatic advantage in doing so.

Behind the smoke and mirrors, one can discern a clear message.

As Chinese President Xi Jinping continues to extend his authority to Maoist proportions, he needs to convince the Chinese people that his power grabbing campaign is actually a campaign to save China from “those corrupt traitors.” Operation Fox Hunt is just another facet of Xi’s bigger game. As long as Xi Jinping is able to hold the throne, don’t expect meaningful positive change in China.

Is America Headed Toward Firearms Confiscation?

By Piper Bayard

Currently, a great deal of misinformation is firing throughout the Cyberverse about gun control. Tempers flaring, insults flying, and people “unfriending” those who state even the barest, most uncontested facts from any source on any side of the issue. In an effort to wrest this topic kicking and screaming from the fear mongerers on both sides, I spoke with University of Colorado Constitutional Law Professor Richard B. Collins to get the straight skinny.

Firearms West Midlands Police wikimedia

image by West Midlands Police, wikimedia commons

Bayard:

Many people in the US are comparing the latest New York gun control laws to the laws of the UK, Canada, and Australia, where guns and gun ownership are highly restricted and regulated. They are concerned that the registration requirement will be enacted at a federal level, and that it will lead to confiscation. What, if anything, would prevent registration leading to confiscation from happening in America?

Collins:

America is the only country in the world with the constitutional right to own firearms at the federal level. Forty-four states also have the right to bear arms in their constitutions, and those state constitutions are not to be underestimated. The UK, Canada, and Australia never had the right to bear arms in their countries’ founding documents.

When it comes to confiscation, the confiscation question is, “Confiscate what?” If police find a nuclear device in your basement they can already take it, and we hope they will. The extreme image is that the government will confiscate handguns and rifles. I’m pretty sure that couldn’t be done. Even in Australia they couldn’t get the wherewithal to confiscate [rifles and most handguns 9mm in caliber or less], and, as I said, Australia has no right to bear arms in its Constitution. I am reasonably sure that if any US legislature had the political guts to try to confiscate guns, the Second Amendment and political climate would prevent that from happening.

A point of American law that gets ignored is that we already have legal limits on what guns we can possess. All kinds of legal limits. One example is the National Firearms Act of 1934, which banned the private use of machine guns.

Every country has a definition of a weapon so powerful that only the government can possess it. We have a line in America. In most other countries, the line is much lower than it is here; however, even the most stringent of countries do allow hunting rifles and [some] handguns.

Bayard:

In your opinion, do you believe the newly enacted New York gun laws will pass muster with the Supreme Court?

Collins:

More likely than not, they will. But I’m not at all sure. The seminal case is District of Columbia v. Heller. It is a case from D.C. with an opinion by Justice Scalia that is very pro-regulation. It does not stop people from having a gun at home to protect their houses, but once they walk out their doors, they can be regulated. New York law is very complex. In general, comparing the new gun laws in New York to the Heller case, I would say they will probably survive 2-1.

One possible issue, however, is if a federal employee falls under the requirement to report information about a patient who owns guns. According to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), no wellness or health promotion activity under that Act is allowed to require the disclosure or collection of any information relating to the ownership or possession of firearms or ammunition. However, nothing in Obamacare prevents a state or private health care worker from doing so.

Bayard’s Note:

The State of New York does not have the right to bear arms in its state constitution. This makes gun control a different ball game for them than for most of the other states. California, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, and New Jersey also lack any right to bear arms in their state constitutions. All other state constitutions have some provision for the right to bear arms. Also, in all other states, excepting Hawaii, Kansas, Massachusetts, and Virginia, the right to self-defense with a firearm is either explicitly protected as an individual right in the state constitution or it has been upheld as an individual right in case law.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Richad B. Collins is a Professor of Law at the University of Colorado and the Director of the Byron R. White Center for the Study of American Constitutional Law. The short version of his resume contains six pages of accomplishments, each more impressive than the last. Notably, he worked with the Native American Rights Fund, argued numerous Supreme Court cases, published countless articles in law journals and reviews, organized several symposiums, was awarded a Fulbright grant and the the Smith Kline Beckman Award in Legal Education, and was a Visiting Professor at Wuhan University and Beijing University in China.

My profound thanks to Professor Collins for giving us the Second Amendment facts in this time of high passions around the right to keep and bear arms.

In a future article, we will discuss Professor Collins’ perspective on executive orders.

Mike the Photo Law Suit Scammer Caught!

By Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes

Recently, National Best Selling Author Roni Loren published an article about being sued for a blog photo that shook the blogging world right down to its ellipsis. Suddenly, bloggers came out of the woodwork, telling stories of unknown photographers popping up from nowhere, demanding exorbitant amounts for their forgotten, mediocre pictures that were plucked from obscurity and given a life on blogs.

This led Holmes and I to surmise that in actuality, some of these photographers aren’t photographers at all, but professional Courthouse Crawlers who, unable to make a living at photography, throw their photos out like bait, waiting to catch unsuspecting bloggers in their nets of infringement litigation.

Sure enough, with a minimal amount of research, we turned up proof.

Meet Mike of Mike’s Photos R Me.

This is Mike’s best self-portrait, but he calls himself a professional photographer. We went to Mike’s web site, and this is what we found.

Hi, Bloggers. Here are my photos. I never check to see who is using them, even though they are my best work, and this is how I make my living. I will never look to see who takes them at all. Why, if you took my work to use on your page (just double click and ‘Save Image’) I would never know it. Not at all.

This is a small sampling of my famous, award-winning* photography that I never, ever google.

Art Photo: ‘Rock on a Log’

Wildlife Photo: ‘Crouching Dog, Hidden Canine’

I stalked this wild mutt through the back yard for at least ten minutes to catch this perfect shot.

Abstract Photo: ‘Meditation on a Yard Sprinkler’

See how the water creates the illusion of lush lawn along the side, in sharp contrast to the harsh brown grass. Now there’s some thought fodder.

Editorial Photo: Guinea Pig World

Note how the guinea pig is like the so many of the world’s people. The cage is open for him to embrace his freedom, yet instead, he prefers the safety of his confinement while simply gnawing the bars in angst . . . I know. I have to pause a moment, too.

And what portfolio would be complete without some beautiful, artistic nudes to remind us of the glory of the human form? I started shooting this type of art when my mother kicked me out of her basement six months ago.

Nude Photo: Back Directory

When my buddies all 86ed me from their houses, too, I met this guy named Alfonse who pointed out the money to be made in this type of photo . . .

Naughty Photo: Fifty Shades of Plastic

Who wouldn’t want this brilliance gracing their blogs? But no worries. I’m not like some of those photographers out there, just waiting to take you to court. No way. I will never know if you just happen to take one of these beauties for your website.

*Voted Best Photography by all of Mike’s Family and Friends.

Don’t be fooled by Mike! While there are many fine and reputable photographers out there who deserve our respect and our dollars to reproduce their materials, there are also these bottom feeders lurking and preying on unsuspecting bloggers who are simply confused about the law.

If you are approached by a ‘Mike,’ keep in mind that license to use most pictures on the internet only costs between one and twenty dollars. If you should run into a stubborn Mike who wants some exorbitant compensation, consider contacting us about our Bayard & Holmes Alternative Out of Court Settlement Service. Our Out of Court Settlement Team has thus far experienced outstanding results in convincing the world’s Mikes to accept reasonable settlements that are favorable to our clients.

All the best to all of you for a week of avoiding life’s bottom feeders.

50 Shades of Lawsuits

By Piper Bayard

National best selling erotic romance author Roni Loren posted a blog this past week that created quite a stir in the blogosphere, and for good reason. Check out what she has to say.

Roni Loren

Bloggers Beware: You CAN Get Sued For Using Pics on Your Blog – My Story

“For those of you who are super observant, you may have noticed some changes on my blog over the last few months. Tumblr posts went away. Fiction Groupie disappeared. I deleted most of my Pinterest boards. The Boyfriend of the Week has changed format. And all my previous posts from the past three years–all 700 of them–now have new photos on them . . .”

“Well on one random post, I grabbed one random picture off of google and then a few weeks later I got contacted by the photographer who owned that photo. He sent me a takedown notice, which I responded to immediately because I felt awful that I had unknowingly used a copyrighted pic. The pic was down within minutes. But that wasn’t going to cut it. He wanted compensation for the pic. A significant chunk of money that I couldn’t afford. I’m not going to go into the details but know that it was a lot of stress, lawyers had to get involved, and I had to pay money that I didn’t have for a use of a photo I didn’t need.”

If you ever post anything on the internet with pictures. you need to click on the link above and read Roni’s story and the comments. She gives a great rundown on what you can and cannot do with pictures on the internet.

That’s the lawsuits part. On to the Fifty Shades part . . .

I had never heard of Fifty Shades of Grey until I was in the hardware store. Some professional painters were complaining about all of the extra, degrading work they were having to do to get their money these days. I asked them what could make them so depressed about their jobs, and they told me about the book-gone-viral.

Me: “You mean Fifty Shades isn’t the latest hair care line from L’Oreal?”

Apparently not. Frankly, after learning about the sadomasochistic nature of the book, I’m far more likely to spend my limited time reading Fifty Shades of Gray Matter by Stephen Hawking. Instead of reading either of them, though, I decided to go for the laugh and search YouTube for the parodies. These were some of my favorites.

We’ll start with Fifty Shades of Grey Karaoke from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. It includes actual excerpts of the book so we can understand just what we’re making fun of here.

In case you’re still wondering what the book is about, here is Ellen DeGeneres doing a reading for us.

Now that you have the idea, Selena Gomez shows us why those painters were so unhappy.

So what do you say? Have you read Fifty Shades of Grey? Do you intend to? 

We have some exciting news here at Bayard & Holmes. We are now posting at SocialNDC as well as several other SocialN sites. Our debut post is Chasing the Hill: Real Entertainment from Fake Politics, a review of the new internet TV show, Chasing the Hill.

All the best to all of you for a week of keeping your house painters happy.

 

Trading Babies

By Piper Bayard

I recently learned about a new fad called Maternity Tourism. That’s where wealthy women, primarily from China, travel to America at the end of their pregnancies to have their babies here, ensuring they are born American citizens. They fly here on legitimate travel visas, stay in boutique hotels that are set up with nurseries, have their American babies at American hospitals, and then, after their recovery period, they return home with their little Yanks. Click here for a short CNN video on the topic.

image from Dreamstime.com

Yep. Arrive pregnant. Leave with an American citizen.

So when I first heard about this, I thought, “Wait a minute! That is soooo not cool.”

American citizenship is a first class privilege, not a Plan B. Immigrants who come here to identify with American laws and ideals and to contribute to the well-being of this country with their time, talents, and loyalties are the people who keep our country young and vital in a changing world. But immigrants who come to take advantage of our bounty while maintaining their first identity and loyalty to other countries . . . those immigrants bleed us of our vitality without contributing any value that supersedes the harm they cause. Allowing people to illegally use us while simultaneously spitting on us is just mental. Maternity tourism, at first glance, fell into that latter category to me.

And then I gave it a second thought. . . . Hey, why not? It’s not like Americans don’t fly over there to bring home Chinese babies. Besides, these women are coming here legally. They are paying for the goods, services, and health care they receive, and they are abiding by the terms of their visas and going home with their babies. They are not using their babies as anchors to legitimize their illegal presence in America. We should be thanking them for being good and responsible tourists.

Not only that, but these new little Americans can serve our country in a unique mission. They can help us balance the trade deficit with China. . . . Think about it. The USA currently has a $270 billion trade deficit with China. That means we buy around $270 billion more clothes, machine parts, and unnecessary plastic objects from them than we sell to them.

Now, there are roughly 341 million family households in China, approximately one-fourth of its population. If each of these 341 million families has an American child growing up in China, those kids will eventually translate into 341 million American adults contributing to the functioning of Chinese society. In all fairness, the labor and money collected by American citizens on Chinese soil should apply toward balancing that trade deficit.

Our US government needs to start negotiations now to ensure that our American-Chinese citizens will receive an American standard of fair labor treatment, and at least an American federal minimum wage for their services. Consider that the children of China, for all practical purposes, can begin to work and contribute to society’s functioning as early as 3 years of age. I’m not making this up. Check Google Images with the search “Chinese Child Labor.”

But we’ll be charitable and round that up to a generous 10 years, since these are American citizens we’re talking about.

Now, let’s put this all together. If 341 million American-Chinese children begin earning $7.25 per hour, forty hours per week, 50 weeks per year, in just 10 years they will be worth, collectively, $4.945 trillion annually to the nation of China. Look at our trade deficit now! Who knows? Perhaps we will earn China’s Most Favored Nation Status.

Considering the benefit to our country from having 341 million American-Chinese children reversing the trade deficit back in our favor, we should not discourage these clever tourists from purchasing the benefits of our establishment. In fact, we should actively encourage them, and even thank them. Personally, I think these new mothers should receive a complimentary mani/pedi upon arrival in the USA—something every pregnant woman enjoys—and a baby gift in the form of a child’s pet to take home with them at their departure. . . . A pregnant Imperial Dwarf Deer.

Imperial Dwarf Deer (formerly known as a muskrat), image from Alan D. Wilson, www.naturespicsonline.com

What do you think of Maternity Tourism? Do you think it’s ok since these women are following our laws? Or do you think our laws should be changed? How would you change those laws? And what other appropriate baby gifts can you think of to give these folks?

All the best to all of you for finding the silver lining.

The Reverend George Hutchings, and Girl Scout Cookie Interrogations

By Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

For some reason, girl scouts have been getting a lot of flack this year during their cookie sales. First, a troop of little girls was routed from their traditional sales post, the historic house in Savannah where the Girl Scout’s founder lived. And if that wasn’t enough, some little girls in Hazelwood, Missouri, were stopped from selling cookies in their own driveway when an anonymous neighbor complained about the increased traffic in the street.

Needless to say, much posturing, arguing, and confused little girl tears ensued as cookie merchants joined in battle with municipal court. Just as things were escalating into a NATO-endorsed food fight, a true good soul stepped in and made a sacrifice to restore neighborhood peace. That good soul was the Reverend George Hutchings.

Rev. Hutchings, seeing his neighborhood disintegrate into bedlam, cooked up the one solution that could satisfy everyone. He bought all of the cookies. Yes, all thirty-six boxes. Then, after claiming a couple for himself, he had the young ladies distribute the rest of the goodies to the neighbors to sweeten their bitterness in a most tasteful way.

This incident elicited the following statement and suggestion from Holmes:

“The good Mr. Hutching’s response is a great alternative to the Taliban-esque instincts demonstrated by the girl-scout-hating neighbor. I must admit that the reverend responded with a better instinct than I did. I simply wanted to send a couple of pals to find the neighbor and give him a little “cookie-boarding” therapy. (Water-boarding is no longer in fashion).

“Something about seeing people abusing children really brings out the ugly side in me. I was wrong. The reverend was right. Thank you, Reverend George, for making my world a little saner.

“Perhaps there is an opportunity here for America. I suggest that the Department of Homeland Security, a.k.a. The Department of Money is No Object but Sensibility is Beyond Our Budget, contract with girl scouts to buy up all of their surplus cookies. Jihadi terrorism suspects can be forced to eat cookies, washed down with brandy, until they talk.”

Personally, I think Holmes is onto something here with cookie boarding. As the legal department of this partnership, I can’t think of any solid objections to this method of interrogation, assuming the suspects are given their choice of cookie, and a quality brandy is used. Islamic suspects might object to drinking the fermentation of grapes for religious reasons, but let’s be honest, here. If they are the type of people who use Islam as an excuse to kill innocents, how seriously can they take the “religion of peace,” anyway? In fact, as the legal department and a woman, I would add a couple more legal interrogation tools to this list in the form of high heels and hot wax, Brazilian style.

But as far as the Reverend Hutchings is concerned, we salute you, sir, and we thank you for your personal sacrifice in purchasing more cookies than anyone could possibly consume outside of an interrogation setting for the purpose of promoting peace.

As it turns out, this is not the first creative solution Mr. Hutchings has devised for world problems. He is also known as “The Shoeman” for collecting 156,000 pairs of shoes, selling them at $.35 a pound, and using the money to purchase hydraulic drilling rigs to dig water wells in Kenya. Click here to learn more about Shoeman Water Projects, and let’s see if we can’t talk this gentleman into public office.