Monday, January 31, 2011

Federal Judge: Obama Health Care Plan Unconstitutional

This just in from Reuters
(Reuters) - A federal judge in Florida on Monday struck down the landmark healthcare law backed by President Barack Obama, finding that the Congress exceeded its authority to require individuals to buy insurance.
In a challenge by 26 states, Judge Roger Vinson ruled that "because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void." End article

How could this be a surprise to anyone. There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that allows the federal government to compel a person to buy a service or good. Car insurance is different of course because you can choose not to drive. The Obama Health Care plan did not give you that choice, if you are a living U.S. citizen and the government decided you could afford health care you had to buy it.
Hopefully this will open the doors for a suit against the Massachusetts  universal health care plan which has been ineffective, and disastrous for the commonwealth's budget.
Now don't get me wrong, I am not a tea party follower but I simply believe we should follow the law and common sense. Common sense would dictate that mandated healthcare without single payer is simply a subsidy for the Health Insurance companies, whose share prices not coincidentally sky rocketed when the bill was initially passed. These insurers now had a large pool of people that not only would be forced to buy health insurance from them, but forced to buy comprehensive plans from them. Rather than allow young healthy people to buy cheap emergency plans the federal mandate would force them to buy unnecessarily expensive plans.
As for the legality of the issue, there are ways around this, that could have encouraged health care purchases, while at the same time holding individuals responsible for costs if they didn't have insurance. Rather than due this Congress created an illegal and illogical subsidy plan for Health Insurance companies that never addressed the real problems in the system; rising costs and waste.

Tales From the Street Trades

Once again my apologies for not writing some original content, just incredibly busy once again. Here is something from one of my favorite journalists Fred Reed he is the working man's Hunter S. Thompson in my opinion. Hunter was better, but Fred is damn close, and well he is alive which means new work.
This is a sample of his work. It is on the darker end. Most of his stuff is pretty funny and more political but this is very poignant. It will give those on the outside a better understanding if not appreciation for what police, fire and ems actually do. I put just the first few paragraphs if you want the rest go to this man's sight, read some more of his work and buy his books. He is simply brilliant.

Things You Probably Don't Want to Know

You probably don’t like cops. Nobody does. Ride with them. See what they see. You’ll get a little perspective. You won’t ike it, but you’ll get it.
It was August, near National Airport, and the guy lost his girlfriend and blew his brains out in the bushes. We found him by the smell. Flesh sliding off his face, sternum white through his chest, and my god the maggots. “Think CPR might help?” I asked, ever the wise guy. You get a tough-guy attitude, not because you want to be a tough guy but because otherwise you would go into a bar and never come out.
When children are burned alive in fires, which happens in shitty tenements with corrupt inspectors, they turn exactly the dark pink of a Christmas ham, except their bellies explode and things come out. There isn’t enough bourbon, not anywhere. You like children’s stories? If you hold the hands of a girl of three in a pan of boiling water, you get what are called “immersion cuffs.” She screams a lot because she doesn’t understand why Mommy is hurting her. Usually the mother does it, next the dirtbag new boyfriend, almost never the father.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Egypt, Popular Uprising or Foreign Intervention?

Update: More than 100 dead...
So I am going to work on putting up some original material tonight, but in the meantime I have been very busy so here is some more info on the situation in Egypt/North Africa.

Let me just say that I am still quite a bit cynical about whether or not this is a legit populist revolution going on right now. There are a lot of countries that would love to see Egypt in turmoil, Israel being at the top of the list followed by the U.S. in a distant second. I certainly am not infering anything but just like I can't say these revolts are the works of mousad or the CIA I also can't say they are legitimate grassroots campaigns either.

With that being said there is no doubt a lot of anger about corruption, food prices, and political rights in Egypt, Jordan, and Tunisia. Hosni Mubarak has been a dictator with a stranglehold on Egypt for nearly 30 years, squelching protests and torturing political dissidents.The state of Egypt currently holds as many as 30,000 political prisoners and attempts have been made on Mubarak's life multiple times.

So yes there is certainly cause to believe this could be a legit popular uprising. However we should also remember the U.S. gives Egypt around 1.5 billion each year in aid (second only to Israel), Egypt and Israel have an "interesting" relationship to say the least, and the rest of the world has huge strategic interests in Egypt because of the suez canal. Because of this we cannot rule foreign intervention in these protests.

Anger In Egypt Al Jazzerah's in depth coverage of the situation in Egypt.
Are We Witnessing the Start of a Global Revolution?
Egyptian Army Joins Police Bloomberg
38 People Have died After Clashes With MIlitary and Police CNN

Friday, January 28, 2011

Government Shutsdown Internet in Egypt

This from Al-Jazeerah...more to follow


About a half-hour past midnight on Friday in Egypt, the internet went dead.
Almost simultaneously, the handful of companies that pipe the internet into and out of Egypt went dark as protesters were gearing up for a fresh round of demonstrations calling for the end of president Hosni Mubarak's nearly 30-year rule, experts said.
Egypt has apparently done what many technologists thought was unthinkable for any country with a major internet economy: It unplugged itself entirely from the internet to try and silence dissent.

Experts say it is unlikely that what has happened in Egypt could happen in the United States because the US has numerous internet providers and ways of connecting to the internet. Co-ordinating a simultaneous shutdown would be a massive undertaking.
"It can't happen here"
"It can't happen here," said Jim Cowie, the chief technology officer and a co-founder of Renesys, a network security firm in Manchester, New Hampshire, that studies internet disruptions.

"How many people would you have to call to shut down the US internet? Hundreds, thousands maybe? We have enough internet here that we can have our own internet. If you cut it off, that leads to a philosophical question: Who got cut off from the internet, us or the rest of the world?"
In fact, there are few countries anywhere with all their central internet connections in one place or so few places that they can be severed at the same time. But the idea of a single "kill switch" to turn the internet on and off has seduced some American lawmakers, who have pushed for the power to shutter the internet in a national emergency.
The internet blackout in Egypt shows that a country with strong control over its internet providers apparently can force all of them to pull their plugs at once, something that Cowie called "almost entirely unprecedented in internet history."
The outage sets the stage for blowback from the international community and investors. It also sets a precedent for other countries grappling with paralysing political protests, though censoring the Internet and tampering with traffic to quash protests is nothing new.
Disrupted services

China has long restricted what its people can see online and received renewed scrutiny for the practice when internet search leader Google Inc. proclaimed a year ago that it would stop censoring its search results in China.
In 2009, Iran disrupted I=internet service to try to curb protests over disputed elections. And two years before that, Burma's internet was crippled when military leaders apparently took the drastic step of physically disconnecting primary communications links in major cities, a tactic that was foiled by activists armed with cell phones and satellite links.
Computer experts say what sets Egypt's action apart is that the entire country was disconnected in an apparently co-ordinated effort, and that all manner of devices are affected, from mobile phones to laptops. It seems, though, that satellite phones would not be affected.
"Iran never took down any significant portion of their Internet connection, they knew their economy and the markets are dependent on Internet activity," Cowie said.
When countries are merely blocking certain sites, like Twitter or Facebook, where protesters are co-ordinating demonstrations, as apparently happened at first in Egypt, protesters can use "proxy" computers to circumvent the government censors. The proxies "anonymise" traffic and bounce it to computers in other countries that send it along to the restricted sites.
But when there is no internet at all, proxies can't work and online communication grinds to a halt.
Renesys' network sensors showed that Egypt's four primary internet providers, Link Egypt, Vodafone/Raya, Telecom Egypt, Etisalat Misr, and all went dark at 12:34am. Those companies shuttle all internet traffic into and out of Egypt, though many people get their service through additional local providers with different names.
Italy-based Seabone said no internet traffic was going into or out of Egypt after 12:30am local time.
Country disappeared
"There's no way around this with a proxy," Cowie said. "There is literally no route. It's as if the entire country disappeared. You can tell I'm still kind of stunned."
The technical act of turning off the internet can be fairly straightforward. It likely requires only a simple change to the instructions for the companies' networking equipment.
Craig Labovitz, chief scientist for Arbor Networks, a Chelmsford, Massachusetts, security company, said that in countries such as Egypt, with a centralised government and a relatively small number of fibre-optic cables and other ways for the internet to get piped in the companies that own the technologies are typically under strict licenses from the government.
"It's probably a phone call that goes out to half a dozen folks who enter a line on a router configuration file and hit return," Labovitz said. "It's like programming your TiVo, you have things that are set up and you delete one. It's not high-level programming."
Twitter confirmed on Tuesday that its service was being blocked in Egypt, and Facebook reported problems.
"Iran went through the same pattern,"Labovitz said. "Initially there was some level of filtering, and as things deteriorated, the plug was pulled. It looks like Egypt might be following a similar pattern."
The ease with which Egypt cut itself also means the country can control where the outages are targeted, experts said. So its military facilities, for example, can stay online while the Internet vanishes for everybody else.
Experts said it was too early to tell which, if any, facilities still have connections in Egypt.
Cowie said his firm is investigating clues that a small number of small networks might still be available.
Meanwhile, a programme Renesys uses that displays the percentage of each country that is connected to the internet was showing a figure that he was still struggling to believe. Zero.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

"Crash JP Morgan Buy Silver" Stamp

Hey just wanted to put this up real quick while I had a moment. My "Crash JP Morgan Buy Silver" stamp arrived and I have been stamping away. If your in the Boston area look out for the lucky bill!
I will get some better pics up once I charge my camera.
Oh btw thats a one once silver coin  holding down that Federal Reserve Note.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fox News Bankers Before Workers

Since the late 90's Fox News and the Republican party have portrayed themselves as the party of the "real" working class americans. The beer drinking freedom loving hard working middle class people was who they represented or at least that is what they would have you believe.

Unfortunately for Fox News their true message betrays them. They are the corporatist news station for the corporatist party, their actual stances are barely distinguishable from the blue blood Republicans of the 80's and 90's, maybe the only difference is these Republicans are much more war like. 

So lets flash back about a year ago when all the controversy about banker bonuses was really heating up. The same executives who lost billions for their banks and trillions for the economy were collecting huge bonus checks. Any sensible person would say this is insane. Regardless of whether they were contractually owed these bonuses, things had changed; Goldman Sachs was now a bank holding company and each of the large banks had taken huge bailouts from the U.S. taxpayer.

Americans were largely against banker bonuses the vast majority believed they should at least be limited. While ordinary people were suffering, those with jobs struggling to support the banks and those without jobs struggling just to survive Fox News was pushing banker bonuses as a good thing. Supporting banker bonuses was pro American, furthermore objecting to the bonuses was anti-american or worse communist. Members of the Fox Business show "Bulls and Bears" even said that the banker bonuses would protect consumers from higher atm and other fees(sounds like extortion to me). 

So seeing that Fox News was so concerned about the contractual obligations pertaining to banker bonuses despite the extenuating circumstances, and they portrayed themselves as the station of the working man you would think they would support the workers the next story.

Apparently Chicago Water department workers had it in their contract that they would receive severance payments upon leaving, or retiring from work not just when terminated. Now this seems a bit silly but it was in their contract, they were owed it and they came to work knowing it was in place. The City Council has now decided to cancel that policy. The problem is they are trying to do it retro actively andeny workers their contractually obligated severance pay. The workers have decided to sue.

In the fox news segment above, "Kelly's Court", the presumably unbiased Judge Kelly starts the segment by inferring the workers are greedy selfish and looking to take advantage of the tax payer. Fox loves to use that tactic make it seem like they are looking to protect the hard working tax payer from the lazy public sector worker. In reality they are actually pushing the causes of their corporate sponsors. 

Just because so many middle class people working in the private sector have been screwed by their employees andenied their contractually obligated pensions and bonuses does not mean that public sector workers should roll over as well. Fox News' bias on this issue is telling. Any working class person who still supports them and the Republican Party should ask themselves, as Bill O'Reilly would "who is looking out for you?".

Chuck Turner Gets 3 Years and the Metro Goes Conspiracy Theorist

Just got off a long night of work and  ended up putting together another blog for today on the train ride back, but before I write that up I figured I would mention two quick things on my mind.

First off Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner's bribery conviction. While I am glad a corrupt politician is going to jail, the sentence is quite ridiculous. Three years? For what? Taking a $1000 bribe for a liquor license?

Please tell me everyone doesn't due this. It only gives credit to his claim that it was a conspiracy against African American politicians. Heck we have a bunch of white bankers who stole trillions and they were given more money. Any of you who think this isn't over kill are living in a fantasy land. On what planet has anyone else gotten such a harsh sentence for a relatively minor crime with no prior record?

Moving on. On the train ride back I noticed the "metro", a free newspaper that runs in a few different cities including Boston. I usually don't read it since its mostly filled with fluff and ads but it was open to the op ed so I decided to take a look. I was surprised to see such an alternative take on the bombing in Russia. Here is the op ed from Andre E. Williams:

               Once again we get the superficial coverage of a tragedy. Unfortunately most of the terrorism in the    Balkan states and countries like Russia and probably in most of the world is the end result of a covert war carried out by Western private contractors and Western intelligence agencies. It is well known that the CIA et al train Islamic rebels to commit acts of terror in the Balkan states to destabilize the former Soviet Eastern Bloc states. Eastern Europe is a hot bed waiting to explode. Oil and Natural Gas are the motivators, and I wouldn't be surprised if a major war is started in the next five years while the news media continue to feed the U.S. public more fluff and a skewed world view.

Thanks Andre for bringing the truth and thanks as well to the Metro. I think Andre could be right here the fact that they are already blaming Muslims from the caucus region is very telling although it could just be a coincidence we will soon see.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bear Stearns Sold "Sack of Shit" Bonds to Pensioners

Terri Buhl writes in the Atlantic...
E-mails Suggest Bear Stearns Cheated Clients Out of Billions
Can we change this headline to Bear Sterns makes old pensioners slave for sacks of shit?
To say they sold them to instituional investors is a little misleading. These instituitional investors were buying for pension funds. They either knew or should have known these bonds were "shit breathers" but they were likely given big perks to turn the other way.

These pension funds are the product of years of blood sweat and tears by working class people who thought they would have some sort of nest egg for retirement. Instead they have the "sacks of shit" sold to them by Bear Sterns and bought for them by investment funds at Ambac and others.

It has been known since well before 2008 that pension funds were where Bear Sterns and others were dumping these crap bonds and mortgage backed securities. They would wine and dine heads of pension funds at places like Ambac and tell them about this great financial product they had to sell. Of course if the people at Ambac did any research at all they would realize these investments were junk, but hey it wasnt their pension and they collected some nice perks for playing ball.

BTW in Ambac's defense these emails came out due to a lawsuit by Ambac which was just recently unsealed. Although the cynical part of me thinks this was a defensive move on Ambac's part to protect against lawsuits against them from pensioners. Now they can say they did their "due dilligence" even if they didn't do it 3 years ago.

Russian Language Newspapers on Airport Bombing

I thought it would be interesting to hear what Russian language newspapers are saying about the appearent terrorist attack at a Russia's domodedovo airport.

My note: You should take this "translation" with a huge grain of salt. I simply used google translate in a number of different Russian newspapers. I then took the text and fixed some of the obvious errors to make it a little easy to read. I am not providing full translations for each and I took a few liberties in putting this together. Also I tried to show the idelogical slant of the paper when at all possible, this is only what I could get online. I do not read these papers generally so I do not know if the labels are true. Also my sympathies go out to the families of the victims.

Lets start with a U.S. news agency so we can compare and contrast.
CNN: U.S. cable news agency
Slant: Left leaning leaning middle of the road establishment media type.
Spin: CNN's early take on this event is that it was caused by homegrown Russian terrorists not necessarily chechnan, Russian woman are dangerous, and oil and gas prices might go up.

Authroities believe the bombing was the result of a suicide bomber possibly of Arab descent in his early 30's. The police already have three suspects they believe were involved and they think they may have been motivated by the Manege Square Riots.

Judging by the damage and forensic evidence on scene police believe the bomber was wearing a "suicide vest" most likely packed with items such as nuts, bolts, nails, and other such items.

Police believe the terrorists traveled by car then entered the airport through an arrival hall where no security or metal detectors were present. It is then unclear whether one or two devices were used but they believe one device may have been on the floor when it went off judging by damage to victims.

Pravda Online: The online version of a very popular Russian paper. Below is a video taken from an airport security camera just after the blast. I am not sure if it will show up in the embed if not go to

According to Russia's anti-terrorism committee, security measures were insufficient at the time of the blast and with proper security it could have been prevented. 35 are known dead and 180 wounded with that number likely to rise as more information becomes available.

The main suspect is an Arabic man 30-35 years old who drove in by car and parked in the long term lot. He walked into the airport, went up the stairs to the second floor where there was no security or metal detectors and detonated the device.

Others say they saw a man and a woman. The woman had on a black robe covering all but her eyes. The man was carrying a suitcase, which detonated. The device was a 5-11 pound bomb which included "striking elements" nuts bolts nails etc.

Russia Today: English language Russian News Agency

Thirty-five people have been killed in an explosion at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport according to the airport spokesperson. Up to 168 are said to have been injured in what the Investigative Committee believes to be a terrorist attack.
Ninety-seven people have been taken to nearby hospitals, 46 of them are reported to be in critical condition. Some reports say there are foreign citizens among the victims, including from the UK, Italy, France, Serbia and Slovakia.
Out of the 35 people who were killed in the blast, three lost their lives in the hospital and one died in an ambulance. Hotlines are operating to assist those seeking psychological help. Psychologists are also working among passengers at the airport.
The main type of injuries are shrapnel wounds and broken limbs,” said Aleksandr Nikolaev, the chief medical officer of the 1st Gradskaya Hospital, one of the hospitals treating the victims.
Emergency teams have removed the bodies of the dead from the scene, Interfax reports.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says the management at Domodedovo Airport is to take responsibility for the deadly suicide blast for not having had effective security measures in place.

“What happened at Domodedovo shows that the airport lacks security. It's unbelievable that such a huge amount of explosives was brought into the terminal. Those officials responsible for security in Domodedovo must be punished for their decisions. For this terror attack – grief, tragedy,”
the Russian President said.
“The police are investigating at the scene,” a member of the investigation committee, Vladimir Markin, told RT. “The explosion took place in the international arrival hall. A suicide bomber is suspected of carrying out the attack.”
On Monday night, the head of Russia’s Investigative Committee, Aleksandr Bastrykin, was briefed on preliminary results from the investigation.

“Earlier at the airport, Aleksandr Bastrykin held a meeting with investigators and members of various task forces,” the Investigative Committee announced on its website. More than 60 investigators and forensic specialists are currently working on the scene.
The explosion was definitely a terrorist act committed by a suicide bomber, investigators at the airport say. They believe a man wearing an explosive device was in the crowd of people meeting arriving passengers. There are reports that the bomb was packed with shrapnel.
There are reports that the investigators are trying to determine the role of the airport’s security service in connection with the incident. According to the Investigative Committee, airport documentation regulating safety is being seized by law enforcement officials.
The body parts of the alleged suicide bomber have been found at the scene according to Interfax news agency. Reportedly it is a man of Arab appearance. A source from the blast investigation team told Itar-Tass that the parts may indeed belong to a terrorist, but added that it is too early to say for sure that the explosion was carried out by a suicide bomber. “Before a professional examination is taken, one must be very careful with such terms as ‘suicide bomber,’” the source said. The perpetrators could have used someone who did not know he was going to blow up, or he could have just been carrying an explosive device with him, the source added.
A terrorist act in the major international airport of Domodedovo in Moscow claimed 35 lives and left over 150 people injured. These graphic photos taken by eyewitnesses to this horrible tragedy are very explicit. Please, consider thoroughly before looking at the atrocities that terrorism brings.
The explosion happened at 4:32 p.m. in the international terminal of the airport. The explosion power was equivalent to 2 to 5 kilograms of TNT.