Saturday, December 14, 2013

Economics in One Lesson (and why Plan Bay Area sucks for Marin)

The lessons learned from this video can be applied to Plan Bay Area and most especially Marinwood/Lucas Valley. The "generosity" of politicians will be paid on the backs of the middle class communities everywhere in Marin. The non-profit developments pay virtually no taxes to fund schools, police and fire. The neighboring tax payers must pay this burden. Rich developers and banks make millions. Very low income people get cramped apartments next to the freeway. The community gets exploited.

Dirty Job's Mike Rowe on the high cost of College

Ice Cube, Kevin Hart and Conan Obrien Share a Lyftt Car

Lord Monckton speaks on global warming and Rio +20

Friday, December 13, 2013

Friday Night Music


Police are spying on cellphone data

Gene Hackman in the movie "The Conversation"

Blocked by a Supreme Court decision from using GPS tracking devices without a warrant, federal investigators and other law enforcement agencies are turning to a new, more powerful and more threatening technology in their bid to spy more freely on those they suspect of drug crimes. That’s leading civil libertarians, electronic privacy advocates, and even some federal judges to raise the alarm about a new surveillance technology whose use has yet to be taken up definitively by the federal courts.
StingRay cell phone spying device (US Patent  photo)
The new surveillance technology is the StingRay (also marketed as Triggerfish, IMSI Catcher, Cell-site Simulator or Digital Analyzer), a sophisticated, portable spy device able to track cell phone signals inside vehicles, homes and insulated buildings. StingRay trackers act as fake cell towers, allowing police investigators to pinpoint location of a targeted wireless mobile by sucking up phone data such as text messages, emails and cell-site information.
When a suspect makes a phone call, the StingRay tricks the cell into sending its signal back to the police, thus preventing the signal from traveling back to the suspect’s wireless carrier. But not only does StingRay track the targeted cell phone, it also extracts data off potentially thousands of other cell phone users in the area.
Although manufactured by a Germany and Britain-based firm, the StingRay devices are sold in the US by the Harris Corporation, an international telecommunications equipment company. It gets between $60,000 and $175,000 for each Stingray it sells to US law enforcement agencies.
[While the US courts are only beginning to grapple with StingRay, the high tech cat-and-mouse game between cops and criminals continues afoot. Foreign hackers reportedly sell an underground IMSI tracker to counter the Stingray to anyone who asks for $1000. And in December 2011, noted German security expert Karsten Nohl released "Catcher Catcher,"powerful software that monitors a network's traffic to seek out the StingRay in use.]
Originally intended for terrorism investigations, the feds and local law enforcement agencies are now using the James Bond-type surveillance to track cell phones in drug war cases across the nation without a warrant. Federal officials say that is fine — responding to aFreedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) and the First Amendment Coalition, the Justice Department argued that no warrant was needed to use StingRay technology.
“If a device is not capturing the contents of a particular dialogue call, the device does not require a warrant, but only a court order under the Pen Register Statute showing the material obtained is relevant to an ongoing investigation,” the department wrote.
The FBI claims that it is adhering to lawful standards in using StingRay. “The bureau advises field officers to work closely with the US Attorney’s Office in their districts to comply with legal requirements,” FBI spokesman Chris Allen told the Washington Post last week, but the agency has refused to fully disclose whether or not its agents obtain probable cause warrants to track phones using the controversial device.
And the federal government’s response to the EFF’s FOIA about Stingray wasn’t exactly responsive. While the FOIA request generated over 20,000 records related to StingRay, the Justice Department released only a pair of court orders and a handful of heavily redacted documents that didn’t explain when and how the technology was used.
The LA Weekly reported in January that the StingRay “intended to fight terrorism was used in far more routine Los Angeles Police criminal investigations,” apparently without the courts’ knowledge that it probes the lives of non-suspects living in the same neighborhood with a suspect.
Critics say the technology wrongfully invades technology and that its uncontrolled use by law enforcement raised constitutional questions. “It is the biggest threat to cell phone privacy you don’t know about,” EFF said in a statement.
ACLU privacy researcher Christopher Soghoian told a Yale Law School Location Tracking and Biometrics Conference panel last month that “the government uses the device either when a target is routinely and quickly changing phones to thwart a wiretap or when police don’t have sufficient cause for a warrant.”
“The government is hiding information about new surveillance technology not only from the public, but even from the courts,” ACLU staff attorney Linda Lye wrote in a legal brief in the first pending federal StingRay case (see below). “By keeping courts in the dark about new technologies, the government is essentially seeking to write its own search warrants, and that’s not how the Constitution works.”
Lye further expressed concern over the StingRay’s ability to interfere with cell phone signals in violation of Federal Communication Act. “We haven’t seen documents suggesting the LAPD or any other agency have sought or obtained FCC authorization,” she wrote.

StingRay pricing chart (
“If the government shows up in your neighborhood, essentially every phone is going to check in with the government,” said the ACLU’s Soghoian. “The government is sending signals through people’s walls and clothes and capturing information about innocent people. That’s not much different than using invasive technology to search every house on a block,” Soghoian said during interviews with reporters covering the StingRay story.
Advocates also raised alarms over another troubling issue: Using the StingRay allows investigators to bypass the routine process of obtaining fee-based location data from cell service providers like Sprint, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Comcast. Unlike buying location data fro service providers, using StingRay leaves no paper trail for defense attorneys.
Crack defense attorney Stephen Leckar who scored a victory in a landmark Supreme Court decision over the feds’ warrantless use of a GPS tracker in US v. Jones, a cocaine trafficking case where the government tracked Jones’ vehicle for weeks without a warrant, also has concerns.
“Anytime the government refuses to disclose the ambit of its investigatory device, one has to wonder, what’s really happening,” he told the Chronicle. ”If without a warrant the feds use this sophisticated device for entry into people’s homes, accessing private information, they may run afoul of a concurring opinion by Justice Alito, who ruled in US v Jones whether people would view unwarranted monitoring of their home or property as Constitutionally repugnant.”
Leckar cited Supreme Court precedent in Katz v. US (privacy) and US v. Kyllo (thermal imaging), where the Supreme Court prohibited searches conducted by police from outside the home to obtain information behind closed doors. Similar legal thinking marked February’s Supreme Court decision in a case where it prohibited the warrantless use of drug dogs to sniff a residence, Florida v. Jardines.
The EFF FOIA lawsuit shed light on how the US government sold StingRay devices to state and local law enforcement agencies for use specifically in drug cases. The Los Angeles and Fort Worth police departments have publicly acknowledged buying the devices, and records show that they are using them for drug investigations.
“Out of 155 cell phone investigations conducted by LAPD between June and September 2012, none of these cases involved terrorism, but primarily involved drugs and other felonies,” said Peter Scheer, director of the First Amendment Center.
The StingRay technology is so new and so powerful that it not only raises Fourth Amendment concerns, it also raises questions about whether police and federal agents are withholding information about it from judges to win approval to monitor suspects without meeting the probable cause standard required by the Fourth. At least one federal judge thinks they are. Magistrate Judge Brian Owsley of the Southern District of Texas in Corpus Christi told the Yale conference federal prosecutors are using clever techniques to fool judges into allowing use of StingRay. They will draft surveillance requests to appear as Pen Register applications, which don’t need to meet the probable cause standards.
“After receiving a second StingRay request,” Owsley told the panel, “I emailed every magistrate judge in the country telling them about the device. And hardly anyone understood them.”
In a earlier decision related to a Cell-site Simulator, Judge Owsley denied a DEA request to obtain data information to identify where the cell phone belonging to a drug trafficker was located. DEA wanted to use the suspect’s E911 emergency tracking system that is operated by the wireless carrier. E911 trackers reads signals sent to satellites from a cell phone’s GPS chip or by triangulation of radio transmitted signal. Owsley told the panel that federal agents and US attorneys often apply for a court order to show that any information obtained with a StingRay falls under the Stored Communication Act and the Pen Register statute.
DEA later petitioned Judge Owsley to issue an order allowing the agent to track a known drug dealer with the StingRay. DEA emphasized to Owsley how urgently they needed approval because the dealer had repeatedly changed cell phones while they spied on him. Owsley flatly denied the request, indicating the StingRay was not covered under federal statute and that DEA and prosecutors had failed to disclose what they expected to obtain through the use of the stored data inside the drug dealer’s phone, protected by the Fourth Amendment.
“There was no affidavit attached to demonstrate probable cause as required by law under rule 41 of federal criminal procedures,” Owsley pointed out. The swiping of data off wireless phones is “cell tower dumps on steroids,” Owsley concluded.
But judges in other districts have ruled favorably for the government. A federal magistrate judge in Houston approved DEA request for cell tower data without probable cause. More recently, New York Southern District Federal Magistrate Judge Gabriel Gorenstein approved warrantless cell-site data.
“The government did not install the tracking device — and the cell user chose to carry the phone that permitted transmission of its information to a carrier,” Gorenstein held in thatopinion. “Therefore no warrant is needed.”
In a related case, US District Court Judge Liam O’Grady of the Northern District of Virginia ruled that the government could obtain data from Twitter accounts of three Wikileakers without a warrant. Because they had turned over their IP addresses when they opened their Twitter accounts, they had no expectation of privacy, he ruled.
“Petitioners knew or should have known that their IP information was subject to examination by Twitter, so they had a lessened expectation of privacy in that information, particularly in light of their apparent consent to the Twitter terms of service and privacy policy,” Judge O’Grady wrote.
A federal judge in Arizona is now set to render a decision in the nation’s first StingRay case. After a hearing last week, the court in US v. Rigmaiden is expected to issue a ruling that could set privacy limits on how law enforcement uses the new technology. Just as the issue of GPS tracking technology eventually ended up before the Supreme Court, this latest iteration of the ongoing balancing act between enabling law enforcement to do its job and protecting the privacy and Fourth Amendment rights of citizens could well be headed there, too.

Other good articles on cellphone surveillance:

See related Huffington Post article HERE

An amazing surveillance technique of data dumping using fake cellphone towers to intercept wireless communications.  See this USA Today Article HERE

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Westchester County HUD deal and its effects-a warning for Marin.

Despite 2009 Deal, Affordable Housing Roils Westchester

Alan Zale for The New York Times

Lower-cost homes under construction in Rye, N.Y., last month. 
Westchester is ahead of schedule in building 750 of the homes.

WHITE PLAINS — When Westchester County agreed to a far-reaching affordable housing agreement in 2009, federal officials heralded a new era for desegregation in communities around the country.

“This is consistent with the president’s desire to see a fully integrated society,” said Ron Sims, then the deputy secretary with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. “Until now, we tended to lay dormant. This is historic, because we are going to hold people’s feet to the fire.”

But rather than signaling a transformative moment, the settlement has led to an often rancorous tug of war, complicated by politics and real estate prices in one of the nation’s wealthiest areas, where the residents include notables like Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. The result is raising questions about Westchester’s commitment to complying with the agreement and just what a “fully integrated society” might mean, cost and look like in a largely developed suburban county.

Westchester is ahead of schedule in building the 750 affordable residences required by the settlement, but there are complaints that rather than representing true economic and racial integration, many of the housing units are far from the heart of affluent white communities. Westchester and HUD remain at a testy impasse over the county’s responsibility to ensure that its towns and villages end exclusionary zoning practices.
Five times Westchester has filed a report, required by the agreement, analyzing the obstacles to affordable housing in the county and presenting strategies for overcoming them. Five times the federal government has rejected it as inadequate.

The Westchester County executive, Rob Astorino, has called for HUD to release $7 million it has withheld from the county because of what it calls a lack of compliance.
Mr. Astorino took aim at the department after a court decision in March. A magistrate judge ruled that Mr. Astorino did not violate the agreement when he vetoed a bill that required landlords to accept government vouchers as rental payments.

“This is a major win not just for the county but for the nation,” Mr. Astorino, a Republican, said at a news conference. “We took a very principled stand against an unwarranted invasion by HUD and the federal government, and the county won.”
His critics, including some in the Democratic-controlled county legislature and at the Anti-Discrimination Center, the nonprofit group whose lawsuit led to the agreement, said Mr. Astorino was mischaracterizing a mixed ruling and continuing to flout the terms of the deal.

For decades, the federal government has steered clear of concerted efforts to integrate communities by race and income. And the fight in Westchester, along with similar efforts in places like Houston and Marin County, Calif., is being watched as a test of how far the government will go in encouraging residential integration.

The case began with a 2006 lawsuit. The Anti-Discrimination Center alleged that Westchester had lied when, while applying for federal housing money, it claimed to have complied with fair housing mandates.

After a federal judge ruled that the county had “utterly failed” to meet its obligations, it agreed to the settlement. The deal required the county to spend $51.6 million to build 750 units of affordable housing in 31 overwhelmingly white communities within seven years, and to market those units to nonwhites aggressively. The Westchester settlement includes working families solidly in the middle class, with most rental units available to a family of four earning up to 65 percent of the area’s median income, or $70,135.

The settlement also required the county to “use all available means as appropriate” to promote nondiscriminatory housing, including pushing towns and villages to alter zoning rules that discouraged the construction of apartments. Pound Ridge, for example, covers 23.5 square miles, but no land is zoned for multifamily use.

Mr. Astorino, who defeated Andrew J. Spano, the Democratic executive who agreed to the settlement, said that 206 units had been approved and that 196 of those had financing in place, almost double what was expected by this time.

“If the federal government looks at it some way else, you’ll have to ask them,” Mr. Astorino said in an interview. “But as far as I’m concerned, this is a pretty clear-cut, seven-year contract we have to fulfill in building 750 units in 31 eligible communities. I don’t think anyone can deny we’re having a lot of success.”

Mr. Astorino said that rather than being a bastion of privilege, Westchester was the fourth most diverse county in the state, and that market forces determined who could afford to live in affluent places like Bronxville, Rye and Scarsdale.

But his critics say the overall diversity masks a deeply segregated landscape in which minorities are clustered in a few cities — like Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, Peekskill and Yonkers — while, according to the 2010 census, more than half the towns and villages are less than 5 percent black, and nearly half are less than 10 percent Hispanic. (As a whole, the county’s population is 15 percent black and 22 percent Hispanic.)

James E. Johnson, who was chosen by the government to monitor Westchester’s performance, offered praise and criticism. He noted progress on the number of units being built and a mixed record on overall compliance, but said Mr. Astorino’s public comments were “not evidence of a program of support for the settlement, or fair housing, or integration.”

The monitor and HUD had argued that Mr. Astorino violated the settlement when he vetoed the bill, which would have prohibited landlords from discriminating against tenants who receive housing subsidies. But the magistrate ruled that while the deal required the county executive to promote such legislation, which Mr. Spano had done, it did not say the executive had to sign it.

Kenneth W. Jenkins, the chairman of the Board of Legislators, said Mr. Astorino’s focus on the number of units built distorted the essence of the settlement.
“This is not about 750 units,” he said, emphasizing that the more important goal was to establish a long-term framework for integrated, affordable housing. “There’s no race to build 750 units.”

Craig Gurian, executive director of the group that sued the county, said much of the housing that had been approved or proposed was adjacent to low-income communities in neighboring towns or otherwise isolated from the rest of the wealthier community.
The proposal for Chappaqua, home of the Clintons, calls for what would be the tallest building in the town, dropped into a no-man’s land between railroad tracks, a highway and a bridge. New housing completed in Rye hugs the border of largely minority Port Chester, across two busy highways from the rest of Rye. Forty-six units scheduled for Larchmont sit in a virtually unpopulated block behind a strip mall, squeezed in against railroad tracks and Interstate 95.

Mr. Gurian faulted not only Mr. Astorino, but also HUD and the monitor.

“Unfortunately,” he said, “they’re failing entirely in the face of two and a half years of clear, pervasive, across-the-board resistance, and it’s really a tragic loss of the promise of the consent decree to make change.”

Still, some local officials and residents say many factors complicate compliance, like high land costs, the lack of available land in densely populated southern Westchester, the lack of sewers and the restrictions on building in the New York City watershed in northern Westchester.

Mr. Astorino’s supporters also say that the county already has some of the nation’s highest real estate taxes, and that it is essential to comply with the ruling in a way that is both fair and affordable.

Mayor Douglas French of Rye said his community had no choice but to build where land was affordable. In Scarsdale, Mayor Miriam Levitt Flisser said her village was taking steps to comply. It is one of six municipalities cited by the monitor as having adopted new land-use rules. But she said Westchester was no more discriminatory than, say, Manhattan, with its swaths of wealth and poverty.

“In a country as large as ours, I think it’s very difficult for the federal government to micromanage growth in an exceedingly small municipality with 17,000 residents and 5,000 families,” she said.

Michael Allen, a lawyer in Washington who worked on the original suit, said HUD was showing a vigor not seen in decades on fair housing issues. He said Westchester was viewed as a test case for the government’s resolve.

“This is not big brother imposing its will arbitrarily on innocent Westchester County,” he said. “It’s just law enforcement. And if going down this road conveys to municipalities that there are obligations that come along with getting federal funds, so much the better.”

Jack Begg contributed research.

Readers shared their thoughts on this article.

    • Pam jone
    • Florida
    This happened in Florida.Now our crime rate is up and they have devalued property of homes around these places,in just under 5 years they took a new complex and made it look run down,also we have vacant houses theta were defaulted on because we were to give people with bad credit a chance,they are now HUD rentals which has brought crime and violence to areas thet were reguarded as safe and upper middle class.I feel sorry for all of the people up in that area.It drove down our property values to the point of being upside down on mortgages. we gave up a lot to be in a safe quiet area thet is now just blighted ,with people who know how to play the system,they will move on once they have torn these properties up,they know if they yell loud enough no fair these people have nice places,it's because of our race or whatever ,they don't seem to comprehend it is from hours and years of saving and hard work you got these homes .It seems like something for nothing is a birth right of some have complete school and and stay out of trouble,it is not right to expect people who play by the rules to have to take care of thugs dropouts and just people looking for a free ride,also they think different of education,and we had violence in our schools, some parents removed there kids ,and put them in private schools to protect them from the disruptive behaviors.. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Apartments coming to a neighborhood near you in Marinwood/ Lucas Valley/Terra Linda

Editor's Note: The fight for sensible land use is being fought in Seattle too. Like Marin, zealous planners, politicians and housing advocates are rezoning neighborhoods for affordable housing, micro apartments and the conversion of single family neighborhoods into multifamily apartment blocks. This is the idea behind the Priority Development Area in Marinwood and the rest of the 101 corridor. This is the future of Marinwood if they get their way and pass SB-1. It will allow redevelopment ANYWHERE without a declaration of blight.

The Fight Against Small Apartments

Why Neighborhood Groups Are Uniting to Stop Developers from Building Tiny, Affordable Units


In May of 2009, a rumor was floating around City Hall. Homeowners on Capitol Hill were furious about a construction project. So one sunny afternoon, while workers hammered nails into a few unfinished buildings near 23rd Avenue and East John Street, I went knocking on doors to find out what the problem was.
One neighbor was Alan Gossett. Gossett was trying to sell his blue Craftsman house, which shared an alley with the new development. Standing on the corner of his rear deck, Gossett pointed through the trees to the half-built structure and said, "I think this is going to be a magnet for very sketchy people."
Why sketchy?
According to permitting paperwork, the building was a commonplace cluster of six town houses—the sort that would typically attract well-to-do buyers. But inside each town house, the developer was building up to eight tiny units (about 150 to 250 square feet each, roughly the size of a carport) to be rented out separately. The tenants would each have a private bathroom and kitchenette, with a sink and microwave, but they would share one full kitchen for every eight residents. The rent would be cheap—starting at $500 a month, including all utilities and Wi-Fi—making this essentially affordable housing in the heart of the city. And, remarkably, for affordable housing, it was built without any subsidies from the city's housing levy. But Gossett was bracing for 46 low-income renters in the space where he'd been expecting six new homeowners instead.
Gossett and other neighbors felt hoodwinked, they told me.
There was no public notification and no review process that allowed neighbors to pose objections. This was due to a loophole in the permits: The city and developers classified the building as six units (with up to eight bedrooms each), instead of as an apartment building with dozens of units, which would have required a more public process. Neighbors said they feared that the area wasn't ready for so many new residents and that the influx of newcomers would usurp on-street parking. But Gossett also seemed concerned by who his new neighbors might be.
"Anyone who can scrape up enough money to live month-to-month can live there," he said, worried that low-income interlopers would jeopardize his chances to sell his own house. "I don't think most people want to live next to a boarding house with itinerant people living in it."

Heather Gass exposes the CA "Essential Habitat Connectivity Map"