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dkf's Journal
dkf's Journal
October 2, 2013

Well Hawaii's healthcare site sure knows how to keep the curious out of the exchange website.

Why isn't a cost estimator the first thing I see?

Maybe if the Feds had organized it we would have had consistently decent web design. As it was I looped around and around trying to find out where I was going.

No I didn't want to give all my info and be contacted personally...I just wanted to punch in some numbers to see how it all works.


On edit: The plans aren't ready yet and that's why there is no cost estimator. Thanks to chowder66 below for the info.

October 2, 2013

NSA director: Collecting data on Americans' cellphone locations "may be a future requirement"

@washingtonpost: NSA director: Collecting data on Americans' cellphone locations "may be a future requirement for the country” http://t.co/hTvkhdjbJI

The National Security Agency launched a test project to collect data about ordinary Americans’ cellphone locations in 2010 but later discontinued it, the agency’s director said Wednesday.

In response to questioning at a Senate hearing, Gen. Keith Alexander said the secret effort ended in 2011 and that the data collected were never available for intelligence analysis purposes.

“This may be something that may be a future requirement for the country,” Alexander said, “but it is not right now. .?.?. That’s the reason we stopped in 2011.”

In a brief interview after his testimony, Alexander said the NSA ended the program because it didn’t have “the operational value” it needed.”

The disclosure before the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmed recent speculation that the NSA had collected records showing the location of Americans’ cellphones. Alexander and James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, declined to answer questions on the issue at a hearing last month. At the time, Alexander said only that the intelligence community was not currently collecting so-called metadata on cellphone locations.

October 2, 2013

McClatchy. Obama assertion: FBI can get phone records without oversight

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration's Justice Department has asserted that the FBI can obtain telephone records of international calls made from the U.S. without any formal legal process or court oversight, according to a document obtained by McClatchy.

That assertion was revealed — perhaps inadvertently — by the department in its response to a McClatchy request for a copy of a secret Justice Department memo.

Critics say the legal position is flawed and creates a potential loophole that could lead to a repeat of FBI abuses that were supposed to have been stopped in 2006.

The controversy over the telephone records is a legacy of the Bush administration's war on terror. Critics say the Obama administration appears to be continuing many of the most controversial tactics of that strategy, including the assertion of sweeping executive powers.

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/02/11/108562/obama-assertion-fbi-can-get-phone.html#ixzz1DmEP4etk#storylink=cpy

October 2, 2013

How a Purse Snatching Led to the Legal Justification for NSA Domestic Spying

It began as an ordinary purse snatching. On an early Baltimore morning in 1976, a local street thug crouched alongside his green Monte Carlo, pretending to change a flat, biding his time. Finally, a young woman passed by walking alone to her suburban home. Smith wrenched her handbag from her grasp, jumped into his car and tore off down the street before the young victim could glimpse his license plate.

The perp, Michael Lee Smith, was apprehended weeks later, thanks in part to the police department’s use of a machine known as a “pen register” to track the threatening phone calls the assailant had started making to his victim. The court wrangling that followed, however, would continue for three years, and eventually land on the docket of the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1979 the court upheld Smith’s conviction, and his 10-year prison term.

Almost 35 years later, the court’s decision — in a case involving the recording of a single individual’s phone records — turns out to be the basis for a legal rationale justifying governmental spying on virtually all Americans. Smith v. Maryland, as the case is titled, set the binding precedent for what we now call metadata surveillance. That, in turn, has recently been revealed to be the keystone of the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of U.S. telephone data, in which the government chronicles every phone call originating or terminating in the United States, all in the name of the war on terror.

“When they started quoting Smith in the NSA investigation and inquiry, I was flabbergasted,” says James Gitomer, who was one of Smith’s two lawyers at the Supreme Court. ”I don’t think this case should be used as the foundation to justify the NSA. It doesn’t apply.”


October 1, 2013

Russia seeks to fill vacuum in the Middle East

BEIRUT — Two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union affirmed the United States as the dominant power in the Middle East, a resurgent Russia is seeking ways large and small to fill the vacuum left by the departure of American troops from Iraq and the toppling of U.S. allies in the Arab Spring revolts.

The recent diplomacy that averted a U.S. strike on Syria underscored the extent to which Moscow’s steadfast support for its last remaining Arab ally has helped reassert Russia’s role. Russian President Vladimir Putin has emerged as the world leader with the single biggest influence over the outcome of a raging war that is threatening the stability of the wider region, winning concessions from both President Bashar al-
Assad and President Obama to secure a U.N. resolution requiring Syria to surrender its chemical weapons arsenal.

Less conspicuously, Russia has been nurturing new alliances and reviving old friendships further afield, reaching out to countries long regarded as being within the American sphere of influence in ways that echo the superpower rivalries of the Cold War era.

Those countries include Egypt and Iraq, traditional Arab heavyweights that have been exploring closer ties with Moscow at a time when the Obama administration has signaled a reluctance to become too deeply embroiled in the region’s turmoil.


October 1, 2013

Beyond this shutdown our government has lost the ability to talk to the other side.

Friendships across the aisle are rare, such that there is complete dysfunction as both sides stay in their corner and talk only to people who believe as they do.

There is no cooperation, no desire to get past gridlock, too many red lines.

What's more the people passionate about politics see compromise as the worst thing ever, versus making government work.

Any middle ground is seen as a betrayal, a caving in, the actions of the spineless and to be reviled.

Congress isn't going to function if that is the general attitude so get used to shutdowns and brinksmanship. That's the only option when you are uncompromising.

We the people should be demanding cooperation. Instead we demand no concessions. Thus we are where we are.

October 1, 2013

ISM rises in September; construction report cancelled due to shutdown

An index of factory activity showed moderate expansion in September.

Economists were expecting the Institute of Supply Management's index of national factory activity to tick lower in September to 55.0 from 55.7 the month before.

The Commerce Department's construction spending report, which had been expected at 10 a.m., will likely be cancelled due to the government's partial shutdown, Dow Jones reported.

A department spokeswoman said Monday the construction report wouldn't be released 10 a.m. Tuesday in the event of a shutdown.


October 1, 2013

Merck to Fire 8,500 in Strategy Overhaul That Shifts R&D

Merck & Co. (MRK), the second-biggest U.S. drugmaker by sales, will fire 8,500 workers and revamp its research and development after seeing new medicines delayed by U.S. regulators.

The positions eliminated are in addition to 7,500 job cuts Merck had already announced, the Whitehouse Station, New Jersey -based company said in a statement today. The firings now equal about 20 percent of the global workforce, and will cut across the entirety of Merck, including R&D, sales and management.

The 8,500 jobs to be eliminated are in addition to the 7,500 positions Merck has already announced, the Whitehouse Station, New Jersey-based company said in a statement today.

The overhaul, to save $1 billion next year, is part of a strategy being set by Chief Executive Officer Ken Frazier and R&D chief Roger Perlmutter, hired in April to replace Peter Kim. Under Kim, experimental drugs in cardiovascular, surgery, and osteoporosis suffered setbacks while rival drugmakers were able to get new products to market.

“While these actions are essential to ensure that Merck can continue to fulfill its mission into the future, they are nevertheless difficult decisions,” Frazier said in the statement.


October 1, 2013

White House joke: Okay, let's start negotiating, I guess we'll call Ted Cruz?

Chuck Todd says that if Boehner controlled his caucus the White House might negotiate, but Ted Cruz controls more House Republican votes than Boehner.

Boehner has tried to educate the house caucus but they won't listen. They have to crash the car for the TP to get it.

October 1, 2013

Congressional Leaders are weak and resent each other.

Jim Vandehei made some interesting points...

1) the rank and file of both parties have never been stronger and leaders weaker.
2) congressional leaders despise their counterparts. They don't speak, don't negotiate and show disdain for each other.
3) freshmen republicans got into office solely due to being against Obamacare and government. Their constituents don't like government health care or government for that matter and have no problem with a government shutdown.
4) special interest groups have figured out how to elect uncompromising candidates and true believers.

His take away...dysfunction is only going to get worse.

In retrospect I wonder if this is a result of getting rid of earmarks which were doled out as favors.

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