Monday, March 31, 2014

Health care website stumbles on last day

The Obama administration’s health care website stumbled early Monday , falling out of service for nearly four hours on deadline day for sign-ups. After it was fixed, officials plowed ahead with a nationwide promotional drive, almost like getting out the vote on Election Day.

Early visitors to HealthCare.gov on Monday morning saw messages that the site was down for maintenance. At times the visitors were also directed to a virtual waiting room - a feature designed to ease the strain on the site during periods of heavy use.

Administration spokesman Aaron Albright said the website was brought back up shortly before 9 a.m., Eastern time. But people who missed their window sign up may still be able to take advantage of a grace period and other special extensions announced last week.

Albright said the site undergoes “regular nightly maintenance” during off-peak hours and that period was extended because of a “technical problem.” He did not say what the problem was, but a statement from the Department of Health and Human Services called it “a software bug” unrelated to application volume.

Albright said consumers who left an email address would be “invited back” when the system got up and running again.

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Friday, March 28, 2014

Gun Grabbing CA Senator Nabbed in Gun Running Sting

Democrat State Senator Leland Yee of California has been arrested for facilitating gun running from the Philippines in exchange for campaign contributions.

Leland, a longtime gun control proponent, is also being charged with selling legislative influence. Authorities allege that Yee is one part of a large investigation involving organized crime, gun trafficking, drugs, bribes and contracted murder.

While corruption and hypocrisy from lawmakers is a common occurrence, Yee has taken it to a new level. The activities in the criminal complaint detail organized crime being run out of a prominent CA legislator’s office.

Yee has been instrumental in limiting California residents 2nd Amendment rights. It appears that for the right price, however, Yee would personally hook you up with his Philippine gun running connection.

Is there a double standard? Yee is expected to plead not guilty to six counts of public corruption and charges of arms trafficking. If convicted, Yee may face considerable prison time. Consider, however, if a regular citizen had been charged with running illegal firearms from the Philippines. Depending on the source of the guns, that citizen could be facing terrorism charges, and the media would certainly condemn them as a violent extremist.

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Cities reluctant to reveal whether they’re using fake cell tower devices

For some time now, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has been on a quest to better understand the use and legality of “stingrays.” These devices, which are also known as international mobile subscriber identity (IMSI) catchers, or fake cell towers, can be used to track phones or, in some cases, intercept calls and text messages.

The “Stingray” itself is a trademarked product manufactured by a Florida-based company, the Harris Corporation. (It has since come to be used as a generic term, like Xerox or Kleenex.) Harris is notoriously secretive about the capabilities of its devices and generally won’t talk to the press about their capabilities or deployments.

Earlier in March, the ACLU filed a motion for public access request, requesting documents and information related to stingray use by nearly 30 Florida police and sheriff’s departments.

Among the responses published for the first time on Tuesday was the curious reply from the city of Sunrise, Florida, a town of about 88,000 people, just northwest of Miami.

Through its lawyers, Sunrise officially denied the request, noting that the city would neither confirm nor deny “whether any records responsive to the Request exist and, if any responsive records do exist, cannot and will not public disclose those records.” (In a footnote, the lawyers also cited this Ars story from September 2013 detailing stingrays and other related surveillance devices.) The ACLU published its response to the city’s denial on Tuesday.

As the ACLU points out in a Tuesday blog post, the city of Sunrise has already published an invoice from Harris on its own website dated March 13, 2013, showing that the city paid over $65,000 for a stingray. That document clearly states, in all-caps on each page, that “disclosure of this document and the information it contains are strictly prohibited by Federal Law.”

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

US now spending 26% of available tax revenue just to pay interest

By the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire had become a has-been power whose glory days as the world’s superpower were well behind them.

They had been supplanted the French, the British, and the Russian empires in all matters of economic, military, and diplomatic strength. Much of this was due to the Ottoman Empire’s massive debt burden.

In 1868, the Ottoman government spent 17% of its entire tax revenue just to pay interest on the debt.

And they were well past the point of no return where they had to borrow money just to pay interest on the money they had already borrowed.

The increased debt meant the interest payments also increased. And three years later in 1871, the government was spending 32% of its tax revenue just to pay interest.

By 1877, the Ottoman government was spending 52% of its tax revenue just to pay interest. And at that point they were finished. They defaulted that year.

This is a common story throughout history.

The French government saw a meteoric rise in their debt throughout the late 1700s. By 1788, on the eve of the French Revolution, they spent 62% of their tax revenue to pay interest on the debt.

Charles I of Spain had so much debt that by 1559, interest payments exceeded ordinary revenue of the Habsburg monarchy. Spain defaulted four times on its debt before the end of the century.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that an unsustainable debt burden soundly tolls the death knell of a nation’s economy, and its government.

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Reid: Obamacare Delayed Because “People Are Not Educated About How to Use the Internet”

Another extension has been granted by The White House for its Obamacare enrollment deadline, despite previous reports that the deadline could not be extended beyond March 31st. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) attributed this delay to people not being smart enough to use the internet.

“We have hundreds of thousands of people who tried to sign up who didn’t get through,” he said. “There are some people who are not like my grandchildren who can handle everything so easily on the Internet, and these people need a little extra time. The example they gave us is a 63-year-old woman came into the store and said, ‘I almost got it. Every time I just about got there, it would cut me off.’ We have a lot of people just like this through no fault of the Internet, but because people are not educated on how to use the Internet.”

According to Reid, the fact that this woman was “cut off” has nothing at all to do with Healthcare.gov’s embarrassing track record full of errors and security problems, but everything to do with a lack of internet education. He did not specify the problems with the internet that allegedly baffle so many Americans. Enrollment by telephone is an option, but the long wait times might mean that Americans are also not smart enough to use the telephone.

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