November 2014 - Internet (In)Security

by Justice William W. Bedsworth

The intertubes are a dangerous place.

I don’t know much about the intertubes, except that they are, as famously explained by Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, “a series of tubes” through which we force words and pictures of kittens and ice-bucket challenge videos.

And apparently they are backed up by some sort of safety net—a worldwide net—that catches stuff that falls out of them. That stuff is then recycled and used to absorb gases emitted by greenhouses—which are apparently as dangerous as the intertubes.1

All in all, it seems like a fairly harmless and diverting little gizmo with the potential to be a big player in our War against Greenhouses.

But, human nature being what it is,2 the intertubes have been co-opted by nefarious evildoers.

And gullible innocents are being taken in like crazy. They’re buying pills that will enable them to lose ten pounds a week until they disappear. They’re employing little-known legal loopholes that enable the twelve homeowners on their block to secede from the Union and stop paying taxes. They’re signing up with famous Hollywood agents who know casting directors “desperate for ordinary-looking people” to star in their movies.3

Then there was the Las Vegas poker dealer who set up a website4 called “HitmanforHire.com.” He used the nom de guerre Tony Luciano and promised to kill your husband, wife, boyfriend, boss, or whomever for a reasonable price.

All the poor people who hired him, thinking they were dealing with an honest, principled hit man, were scammed into putting up cash, only to find out he wasn’t a murderer at all. He was a con artist!

He got thirty-three months—presumably for impersonating a murderer, a crime that probably carries a much greater penalty in California, where our standards are higher than Nevada’s—and one of the women he dealt with got six years after he failed to kill her new boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend.5

Needless to say, neither she nor any of the other people who gave him money to kill their loved ones6 actually got what they contracted for. It’s distressing to think of the intertubes as a hotbed of contractual breach, but that seems to be the case.

And then there are all those members of my gender who seem to think there is an army of pre-teen girls out there desperately longing for sex with middle-aged men. Judging from the cases coming before me and appearing in the papers, our police departments are having to take hundreds of cops off the streets so they can sit on Facebook and vacuum up all these credulous males.

The various forms of attempted child molestation resulting from these nitwits trying to arrange rendezvous with “Hailey” and “Tiffany” only to find out they’ve been dealing with Officer Blaney, a twenty-five-year motor cop put on this detail so he can stay safe until he moves to Idaho to hunt, fish, and chomp cigars all day, is metastasizing so fast it’s hard for us to keep up with it. See, e.g., People v. Crabtree, 169 Cal. App. 4th 1293 (2009).

Turns out there are bad people all over the intertubes. It’s a terrible thing, and it threatens not only to divert us from the essential eradication of greenhouses, but to clog up the tubes, making it difficult for legitimate users to find available tube space. I can speak to this from sad personal experience.

I was contacted by a Nigerian prince, whose father is the leader of one of the very best tribes in Nigeria (they were like the Scandinavians of Africa: they were non-nuclear, never caused anybody any trouble, and turned out beautiful handicrafts for tourists). His father had been arrested by the leaders of a military junta and spirited away to jail without any semblance of due process or consideration for his busy schedule as tribal leader.7

Fortunately, the junta leaders—who were from a rival tribe who did not have any respect for human rights and not only hated democracy but were opposed to the home mortgage tax deduction—did not know about the 14 million dollars the prince’s father had salted away to build hospitals and schools for his people. The prince chose me to help him move that money out of Nigeria and into safe American banks.8

I was chosen upon the enthusiastic recommendation of my close boyhood friend Daved Smith. Strangely, I don’t remember Daved Smith. In fact, I don’t recall ever knowing anyone who would have spelled David with an “e.” But apparently I pulled a thorn out of his foot when we were boys—precisely what I would have done if a boyhood friend had asked—so I guess it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that he remembered me fondly.9

Given Daved’s high praise for my character, the prince’s father was willing to entrust the entire 14 million dollars in gold to me to deposit for safekeeping until he could escape and build the schools and hospitals. But, having been thrown in a junta hoosegow, he had no access to funds, and the prince was a starving medical student and his own penury kept him from paying the sizeable freight charges FedEx wanted for that much gold.

So, long story short,10 I cashed out a couple of 401(k)s and was almost literally on my way to the Western Union office to send off the money when agents of the junta—cleverly disguised as Interpol and FBI agents—kidnapped the prince and carried him off to the same secret location where his father was being held. I know this because I received another email from the prince’s sister (she is too modest to refer to herself as a princess; she prefers the title Rightful Minister of Good Works for the Legitimate People’s Government of Nigeria in Exile) who asked me to hold onto the money until they can find a safer post office box, i.e., one not known to the junta.

Understandably, she and her brother are contemplating fleeing Nigeria and will be getting back to me for help with emigration costs as soon as the prince can escape and/or they can find a safe post office box. They’ve asked me to hold onto the money order, but they’ve explained that since the gold is for schools and hospitals,11 it may take them a few months to repay me.12

That’s where the clogging of the tubes comes in. When I told this story to Rory Aitken, our Court Systems Administrator, he gave me the bad news that the tubes between Orange County and Nigeria had become so badly clogged that Internet communication between the two was virtually impossible.

He said he’d adjust my filters to make sure any important communications from the prince or princess would be appropriately taken care of.

But what about people who don’t have access to a network administrator? How are they going to fight greenhouse gas missions?13

Clearly, eternal vigilance is the price of intertube access.


  1. Personally, I think we should immediately close down all those greenhouses for the sake of the planet, but my call for a nursery boycott has inexplicably gone unheeded.
  2. Today’s MCLE tip: Never, never, ever eat an apple offered to you by a snake.
  3. Serious shortage of the ordinary in Hollywood.
  4. This is the intertube terminology for the place where you anchor your net. Fight Against Greenhouse Missions! No, San Juan Capistrano is not a greenhouse mission. I checked.
  5. You really need to go to professionals for services like this; it gets awfully complicated.
  6. It’s been pointed out to me that people kill their loved ones all the time, but they rarely kill people they like. So keep your friends and relatives at arm’s length; it’s safer than being loved.
  7. He was supposed to cut the ribbon at a supermarket opening the day they arrested him; the whole thing had to be cancelled, breaking the hearts of the adorable children’s choir that was supposed to sing there. The prince sent me a picture of them. They looked heartbreakingly disappointed, but still pretty adorable.
  8. I told the prince he was very lucky it was 2014 and not 2008, or we might have had to move the money into safe Mexican or Italian banks, American banks having gone completely walkabout for a short time.
  9. And I suppose the prince was right when he pointed out that it spoke well of me that I didn’t even recall this incident of altruism and kindness on my part.
  10. Or at least, shorter. The train’s kinda left the station on “short.”
  11. They sent me another picture of the tribe’s children’s choir.
  12. There will doubtless be time-consuming red tape regarding the prince’s ability to practice medicine in the United States. Did I mention he passed his boards in Nigeria just before he was kidnapped? So sad; there is a chronic shortage of podiatrists in Nigeria and the prince had long dreamed of filling that need.
  13. The Court Systems Administrator assured me San Juan Capistrano is not a greenhouse gas mission. Judging from his expression, he was surprised by the level of sophistication of the question.

William W. Bedsworth is an Associate Justice of the California Court of Appeal. He writes this column to get it out of his system. He can be contacted at william.bedsworth@jud.ca.gov.