Daily Archive: 02/07/2012

Feb 07 2012

Extortion?

Norton Anti-Virus is itself a virus that makes it impossible to maintain your computer without paying a yearly rent to Symantec and has only middling effectiveness at its purported purpose.

Don’t pay?  Your computer crashes and you have to wipe it and re-install the operating system.

pcAnywhere is malware that allows remote users to hijack your machine.

It was Symantec and their police handlers who introduced money into the equation.

I encourage you to download a torrent today and leave it to seed.  Free Download Manager is not only free, but superior.  It also offers a BitTorrent client that you can selectively turn off and on and resumable downloads and error correction.

Anonymous: Symantec Offered $50K for Stolen Code, Plus a Lie

By Mark Hachman, PC World

February 6, 2012 08:36pm EST

Members of the Anonymous network released an email thread on Monday that claims that Symantec offered $50,000 in return for the guaranteed destruction of code tied to its pcAnywhere and Norton Antivirus tools.



The group said later that the code would be released. Separately, Anonymous released emails from the legal team who represented Frank Wuterich, the staff sergeant who led an assault on the Iraqi city of Haditha that left 24 unarmed civilians dead.

According to the email chain, Sam Thomas, an employee of Symantec, began negotiations with “Yamatough,” a member of the Lords of Dharmaraja group using a Venezuelan email address, on or about Jan. 18. According to the emails, Symantec asked Yamatough and the group to lie about having accomplished an earlier 2006 hack, which obtained the code.

Hackers sought $50,000 from Symantec for anti-virus blueprint

By Frank Jack Daniel, Reuters

Tue Feb 7, 2012 3:46am EST

An email exchange released by the hacker, who is known as YamaTough and claims to be based in Mumbai, India, shows drawn-out negotiations with a purported Symantec employee starting on January 18.



“In exchange, you will make a public statement on behalf of your group that you lied about the hack.”

The hacker said he never intended to take the money and warned he would soon release the blueprints for Symantec’s pcAnywhere and Norton antivirus products.

“We tricked them into offering us a bribe so we could humiliate them,” YamaTough told Reuters.

Feb 07 2012

9th Circuit Court Rules CA Prop 8 Unconstitutional

This morning the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that California’s Prop 8 is unconstitutional striking down the ban on gay marriage under both the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment. The ruling is limited and specific to California only.

“Proposition 8 served no purpose, and had no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California,” the court said.

The ruling upheld a decision by retired Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker, who struck down the ballot measure in 2010 after holding an unprecedented trial on the nature of sexual orientation and the history of marriage.

The ruling makes same sex marriage legal again in California but it is expected that the court will not permit marriages to take place while the appeals are in progress. The backers of Prop 8 have stated that they will appeal this ruling but have not said if they would request a the full 9th Court to hear the appeal or take it directly to the US Supreme Court.

Ninth Circuit Prop. 8 decision

Feb 07 2012

Breakdown

Well, I think you deserve some explanation and it’s also instructive.

Not that I’m complaining because many people have much worse problems.  After Sunday’s Superbowl live blog I noticed some changes in the performance of my computer.  The significant indicators were that all the websites I visited had invalid security certificates (even yahoo mail) and no Java enabled features would work.

So I spent a whole day (because that’s how long it takes) running virus scans (caught a few) and uninstalling and re-installing browsers and Java.

Since re-installing your prime OS is a pain in the ass, even if you have a backup, and can take even longer.

Monday night I spent a lot of time preparing for a format when I should have been sleeping, backing up all those piddly things like bookmarks and wallpaper and your last 2 weeks of writing that you ought but never get around to and then I dug out my amber preserved base and took a nap because it’s best to start these things fresh.

When I approached my machine I noticed the date was out of wack.  That’s odd said I.  So I changed it.

Problem solved (apparently).

It’s times like these I think myself a poor technician and blogger.  Thank goodness I have TheMomCat who is always supportive even when I am stupid and lazy.

I apologize to my readers also.  You put up with a lot of abuse and hardly ever call me on it.

Feb 07 2012

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Joe Nocera; Poisoned Politics of Keystone XL

On Monday, Stephen Harper, the prime minister of Canada, traveled to China for a week of high-level meetings.  He brought with him a handful of his cabinet ministers, including Joe Oliver, his tough-talking minister of natural resources who, until recently, had been withering in his scorn for the opponents of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which President Obama rejected a few weeks ago.  The pipeline, of course, was intended to transport vast oil reserves in Alberta to the American refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.

Oliver no longer talks so freely about the environmental critics of the Keystone pipeline; all of Harper’s ministers have been instructed to stop making comments that might be construed as interfering in the American presidential election.  But there are other, more diplomatic, ways to send messages.  Like going to China with your cabinet members and cutting energy deals with a country that has, as The Globe and Mail in Toronto put it recently, a “thirst for Canadian oil.”  Oil, I might add, that may be a little dirtier than the crude that pours forth from the Saudi Arabian desert – that is one of the main reasons environmentalists say they oppose Keystone – but is hardly the environmental disaster many suppose.

New York Times Editorial: The Payroll Tax Fight

Republicans in Congress seem to have forgotten the embarrassment they suffered late last year for trying to block a payroll tax cut for millions of wage-earners. The two-month extension they reluctantly approved will run out in three weeks, yet, again, they are stalling a full-year’s tax cut with extraneous issues and political ploys. [..]

Republicans, on the other hand, are only interested in extending the tax benefits for working Americans if they can punish other groups. They want to extend the freeze on wages for federal workers to a third consecutive year, and appeal to their base by barring the use of welfare debit cards at casinos and strip clubs. This is hardly a national problem; a few states have allowed that, but most have cracked down on it.

Republicans seem no more serious about cutting the tax and stimulating the economy than they were in December. They may be furious that President Obama is campaigning against a do-nothing Congress, but they don’t seem as if they’re planning to actually do something.

Ivo Mijnssen: Why Russia Just Can’t Quit Syria’s Dictator

The violence in Syria shows no signs of abating and the country is quickly sliding into civil war. This week, the battles between government troops and the armed opposition reached the suburbs of Damascus. To date, more than 5,000 people have died in Syria, most of them civilians. The observers’ mission of the Arab League has failed to stop the violence, and its members are split over what to do next. In the U.N. Security Council, Russia and China have blocked any Western attempts to internationalize the conflict or even to condemn the Syrian leadership for its violence against protesters.

Russia has been a particularly steadfast supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government. Its opposition to stronger actions against the Syrian regime is founded in a fundamental aversion to revolutionary change and strong economic and geopolitical interests in the country.

Dave Zirin: How a Tragic Soccer Riot May Have Revived the Egyptian Revolution

There are no words for the horror that took place in Port Said, Egypt last week. A soccer match became a killing field, with at least seventy-four spectators dead, and as many as 1,000 injured. The visiting Al-Ahly team lost to Al-Masri, and what followed will stain the sport forever. Al-Masri fans rushed the field, attacking the Al-Ahly cheering section after Al-Masri’s 3-1 upset victory. People were stabbed and beaten, but the majority of deaths took place because of asphyxiation, as Al-Ahly fans were crushed against locked stadium doors. It was so unspeakably traumatic that beloved Al-Ahly star Mohamed Aboutreika, who famously revealed a “Sympathize with Gaza” shirt during the 2008 Israel bombardment, immediately announced his retirement after the match. A distraught Aboutreika said, “This is not football. This is a war and people are dying in front of us. There is no movement and no security and no ambulances. I call for the league to be canceled. This is a horrible situation, and today can never be forgotten.”

This carnage, however, has produced profoundly unexpected results. The shock of Port Said hasn’t produced a political coma but instead acted as a defibrillator, bringing a revolutionary impatience back to life. Instead of starting a wave of concern that “lawlessness” was spreading in post-revolutionary Egypt, the anger and sadness seem to be reviving the revolution. The Western media immediately used the shock of the tragedy to call for a crackdown on the hyper-intense fan clubs, the “ultras”. As the New York Times wrote, “The deadliest soccer riot anywhere in more than 15 years, it also illuminated the potential for savagery among the organized groups of die-hard fans known here as ultras who have added a volatile element to the street protests since Mr. Mubarak’s exit.”

John Nichols: The Post Office Is Not Broke

Republican leaders in Congress are talking about dismembering the US Postal Service by cutting the number of delivery days, shuttering processing centers so that it will take longer for letters to arrive, closing thousands of rural and inner-city post offices and taking additional steps that would dramatically downsize one of the few national programs ordained by the original draft of the US Constitution. At the same time, supposedly “centrist” US Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Scott Brown (R-MA) are trying to build a “bipartisan consensus” for a death by slower cuts.

Their “21st Century Postal Service Act,” a supposed compromise now being weighed by the Senate, would still force the postal service to close hundreds of mail processing centers, shut thousands of post offices, cause massive delays in mail delivery and push consumers toward most expensive private-sector services. It is, says National Association of Letter Carriers President Fredric Rolando, “a classic case of ‘killing the Post-Office in order to save it.'”

Eugene Robinson: The Uninspired GOP Electorate

OK, now it’s settled, right? I mean, it must be settled by now. Mitt Romney is going to be the nominee. Eat your peas, Republicans, and then fall in line, because Romney’s the guy. Right?

Probably.

Even at this point, after Romney trounced Newt Gingrich in the Florida primary and the Nevada caucuses, there are some fairly compelling reasons for Republicans to pause before bowing to the party establishment’s decision that Mitt must be It.  

Charles M. Blow: It’s Halftime in America

Was the Super Bowl ad featuring Clint Eastwood, “It’s Halftime In America,” a Chrysler ad or an Obama re-election ad?

Confusion abounded.

After all, the spot seemed to tout the success of the auto bailouts, which the four remaining Republican presidential candidates were against. Halftime is also an easy metaphor for a president who’s nearing the end of one term but seeking a second.

As soon as the ad ran, my Twitter timeline lit up with people who thought it was a re-election ad. To which I tweeted:

Photobucket

That was a joke of course. But the ad was no laughing matter to Karl Rove, the Bush-era Minister of Machiavellianism. On Monday, Rove told Fox News, “I was, frankly, offended by it.”

Feb 07 2012

Foreclosure Settlement: Banks Want A Free Pass On All Litigations

As the the multistate foreclosure settlement inches to some conclusion, the Big Banks have dropped the other shoe. They won’t sign on to the agreement unless Schneiderman drops his law suit against them and MERS. The proposed settlement would also require the attorneys general from Nevada, Massachusetts and Arizona to drop their litigation should they decide to sign onto the agreement:

Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co. made a last-minute demand that New York drop claims filed against them Feb. 3 as a condition of the settlement, a person familiar with the matter said. [..]

New York sued Bank of America, JPMorgan and Wells Fargo in state court in Brooklyn, saying their use of a mortgage database known as MERS led to improper foreclosures. Schneiderman said the banks’ use of the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems database misled homeowners, undermined foreclosure proceedings and created uncertainty about ownership interests in properties.

The banks have asked that many of the claims in the complaint be thrown out, said the person. The other two banks involved in the nationwide settlement proposal, Ally Financial Inc. and Citigroup Inc., weren’t named in the complaint. [..]

The proposed settlement already requires Massachusetts, Nevada and Arizona, which have sued banks involved in the talks, to settle their claims, a person familiar with them said.

Nevada and Arizona each sued Bank of America over mortgage- servicing practices, accusing it of misleading consumers, while Massachusetts sued all five banks.

It appears that the agreement would give the banks immunity from prosecution and civil suits from mortgage origination fraud. The settlement does not prevent an investigation into mortgage securitization (secondary mortgage fraud), it would give the banks a free pass on all the fraudulent foreclosures and mortgages that are the primary cause of the housing market crash.

So where does this leave the new unit the President Obama created to investigate mortgage fraud? Professor of law and economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Bill Black, spoke with Theresa Riley on Bill Moyers & Compnany:

Riley: If the deal goes through as reported, what could this mean for future criminal investigations and reforms?

Black:  The leaks about the proposed deal occurred in conjunction with President Obama’s State of the Union Address and a series of press releases and conferences by Attorney General Holder about a newly created “working group.” That working group is intended to investigate secondary market fraud. There is no comprehensive investigation of the over $1 trillion in mortgage origination fraud. There are no prosecutions of any of the elite bank officers who led, and became wealthy from, the epidemic of mortgage origination fraud. The State AGs do not have the resources to investigate even two of the largest fraudulent lenders.

The major development this past week is that New York Attorney General Schneiderman filed suit, alleging that the Mortgage Electronic Registration System (MERS) is aiding foreclosure fraud and ruining America’s public recordation system for real estate, which conservative economists praised as one of the key reasons America became so prosperous. MERS is enormous and it is fundamentally flawed and dangerous, so this could be a tremendously useful action.

Riley: Speaking of Schneiderman, what’s your view of President Obama’s SOTU announcement of a new Financial Crimes Unit (the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities (RMBS) Working Group) co-chaired by him?

Black:  If Schneiderman had been named Attorney General of the United States, we would know that the administration really intended to hold accountable the frauds that drove the crisis. Instead, the top two Justice Department officials that are supposed to be prosecuting the elite frauds have consistently failed to even investigate the frauds, have denied the existence of material fraud, and came from the same law firm that represented many of the big, fraudulent banks and was critical to the creation of the notorious Mortgage Electronic Registration System (MERS) that contributed to the foreclosure fraud.

AG Schneiderman was appointed to the working group because he has broad credibility as a real prosecutor. His refusal to support the earlier drafts of the robo-signing deal (which was so bad that I described it as the formal surrender of the U.S. to crony capitalism) led the State AGs to kick him out of the settlement discussions.

Schneiderman is only one of the co-chairs of the new working group. The others are federal prosecutors or officials who were the strongest proponents of the cynical deal that would have de facto immunized the elite criminals from civil and even criminal sanctions. The working group is set up so that Schneiderman can give the group credibility while being marginalized. He can be outvoted in any matter in which he proposes vigorous prosecutions.

Riley: It sounds like you don’t think this new working group is going to get the job done. Last week, Schneiderman said that he thinks he has the resources (particularly the IRS and the Consumer Protection Unit) and the political will to pursue the investigation in a meaningful way. Why do you disagree?

Black: First, the “investigation” will not investigate what was by far the largest and most destructive fraud – control frauds – the origination of millions of fraudulent loans. Second, the working group’s resources to investigate secondary market fraud are ludicrously inadequate.

Let me provide specifics on scale.

The total staffing of the working group (once completed in several months) is 55. At peak, there were roughly 1000 investigators (and hundreds of prosecutors) assigned to the S&L prosecutions 20 years ago. The current crisis caused losses far exceeding the S&L debacle and involves frauds that are massively greater than the frauds that drove the S&L debacle.

But the issue of resources is not where the discussion needs to begin. The keys are information, expertise, understanding of control fraud, and prioritization of investigations and prosecutions. Absent criminal referrals from the financial regulators and whistleblowers, absent dozens of banking regulators being “detailed” to serve with the FBI as their internal experts, absent training of the investigators and prosecutors on how to detect and prosecute control frauds (the Justice Department uses the mortgage lending industry’s “definition” of mortgage fraud – and, surprise, it defines the lenders and their CEOs who made millions of fraudulent liar’s loans as the good guys/victims of mortgage fraud rather than the perpetrators), and absent the immediate reversal of the current system of making smaller mortgage frauds our top criminal justice priority – absent all of these things there can be episodic prosecutorial successes, but continued systemic failure is certain.

We will know that there is a real commitment to prosecuting the elite frauds when the Justice Department takes these essential, foundational steps – and the Department quadruples the number of FBI agents assigned to investigate mortgage fraud.

Riley: What would you like to see happen?

Black:  We have descended too fully into the cesspool of crony capitalism when our most elite banks can commit what SEC investigations find to be fraud and still claim in filings to the SEC that they have “a strong record of compliance with securities laws” – and the SEC buys such a preposterous claim hook, line, sinker, rod, reel, and the canoe they paddled into the swamp.

Where are the “soft on crime” conservatives when you need them? This is the perfect story for Republicans to use in attacking President Obama’s policies. Why are they so silent?

I want the elite criminals who ran the control frauds to be prosecuted and imprisoned if found guilty. Under President Bush, the Justice Department’s prosecution of financial frauds was pathetic. Even though financial fraud reached unprecedented levels, the Bush administration prosecuted fewer than one-half as many financial frauds as during the S&L debacle. The bad news is that the Obama administration has proven even more disgraceful failures in holding elite criminals accountable than did the Bush administration. The Obama administration has convicted a few bankers from non-elite banks and it may eventually convict a token elite banker, but it will continue to fail systemically to hold elite bankers accountable for their frauds.

(all emphasis mine)

The special new unit is a charade. There will be no prosecutions of any elite criminals. Obama has made sure of that.

Meanwhile the agreement is inching towards a conclusion with Iowa Attorney General announcing that 40 states have agreed to sign:

“The sign-on deadline for the proposed joint state-federal mortgage servicing settlement passed Monday with more than 40 states signing on,” Miller said “This enables us to move forward into the very final stages of remaining work.Federal and state officials, as well as representatives from the banks, continue to address matters that they must complete before finalizing any settlement.”

Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, who spoke with MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan, indicated he will sign on only if he can continue to pursue MERS and not be precluded from adding the banks from the suit.

Apparently Missouri’s Attorney General didn’t get the word about not filing suits. He not only filed a criminal lawsuit against DocX, one of the largest companies that provided home foreclosure services to lenders across the nation, for forgery in the preparation of documents used to evict financially strained borrowers from their homes but arrested Lorraine O. Brown, the company’s founder and former president.

Chris Koster, the Missouri attorney general, will prosecute the case. “The grand jury indictment alleges that mass-produced fraudulent signatures on notarized real estate documents constitutes forgery,” Mr. Koster said in a statement. “Today’s indictment reflects our firm conviction that when you sign your name to a legal document, it matters.”

Mr. Koster said his office’s investigation was continuing. This suggests he may hope to persuade Ms. Brown to cooperate in his investigation of the parent company. If convicted, Ms. Brown could face up to seven years in prison for each forgery count. DocX could be fined up to $10,000 for each forgery conviction.

Hey, Mr. President, this is what needs to be done on a federal level.

Feb 07 2012

On This Day In History February 7

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

February 7 is the 38th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 327 days remaining until the end of the year (328 in leap years).

On this day in 1795, The 11th Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified. It dealt with each state’s sovereign immunity from being sued in federal court by someone of another state or country.

The Eleventh Amendment (Amendment XI) to the United States Constitution, which was passed by the Congress on March 4, 1794 and was ratified on February 7, 1795, deals with each state’s sovereign immunity from being sued in federal court by someone of another state or country. This amendment was adopted in order to overrule the U.S. Supreme Court‘s decision in Chisholm v. Georgia, 2 U.S. 419 (1793).]

Amendment Eleven:

   The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.

By itself this Amendment is a little impenetrable. It was passed as a clarification of Article 3, Section 2 of the Constitution, specifically Clause One which reads:

Clause 1:

   The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;–to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;–to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;–to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;–to Controversies between two or more States;–between a State and Citizens of another State; between Citizens of different States,–between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects

Basically what this boils down to is the concept of Sovereign Immunity. Basically you can not use the Federal Government unless it agrees to let the case be heard. Yes, you read that right. The Government reserves the right to prevent you from suing it, as a citizen, except under very specific circumstances. The exceptions are detailed in the Federal Tort Claims Act and the Tucker Act. These acts allow a citizen to sue the Government if there is a claim resulting from either the actions of a federal employee or if there is a case involving contracts with the Federal Government.

Now, Amendment 11 extends this same sovereign immunity to the States in terms of the Federal Courts. What that means is that you as a citizen can not use the Federal Courts to sue your State Government, without the consent of the State. The Dog believes the reason for this is to prevent citizens from tying up their government with suits that arise from the normal operation of the government. As a practical matter it forces citizens that don’t like the way things are being run to replace their government officials instead of just suing the government.

Now, this does not apply to crimes committed by members of the government or the government itself. There is what is called a Stripping Doctrine that says when a government employee or official commits a crime, they have lost their immunity. So, in the case of torture or War Crimes there can be no reasonable sovereign immunity defense.

h/t Something the Dog Said