The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Thursday, October 31, 2013


Things are going from bad to worse for the president and his Democratic supporters. His signature health care legislation is, as many of us predicted, a monstrosity built on lies that has already resulted in millions of cancelled policies, exorbitant costs that are only beginning to be understood, major impacts on business and jobs (none of them good), and worse of all, a hidden tax on the middle class that will even further dampen economic activity.

As the Democrats hunker down to try and defend the indefensible, a common talking point is this: "Why won't the GOP be reasonable and help fix the law." The implication is that with the GOP's help, Obamacare can still become healthcare nirvana. And this from a Democratic party that has done everything to demonize its opponent.

Rich Lowry comments on this narrative:
It’s a little late to get or expect any Republican buy-in, though. That would have required serious compromise back in 2009, when Democrats, at the high tide of their power in the Obama era, saw no reason to make any. They ignored the polls, they ignored Scott Brown’s shocking win in Massachusetts, and they ignored normal parliamentary practices to pass the single most partisan piece of major social legislation in a century.

They insisted on this particular law, at this particular time. They own it. They own every canceled policy, every rate increase, every unintended consequence and every unpopular intended consequence. It is theirs, lock, stock and two smoking barrels.

But they can’t stop whining.
Back at the Obama White House, the administration is in a defensive crouch. Valery Jarret tweeted that it's a fact that :
“nothing in #Obamacare forces people out of their health plans.”
This assertion is, of course, demonstrably untrue, but a White House that insisted that a bad movie review lead to violence in Benghazi has no reservation whatsoever about doubling down on the lies. And that is what they're doing.

The real question isn't whether the administration gets the website fixed or whether people sign up. It's not even whether Obamacare goes into an insurance death spiral—the old and sick and poor get coverage and the young and healthy stay away. If that happens, premiums will rise precipitously, causing more young and healthy folks to bail. The death spiral begins.

The question is this: Will Obamacare cause major, potentially irreparable damage to our healthcare system? It might, and that would be a tragedy.

Update (11/1/13):

Another meme that continues to be used by the president's supporters is that the GOP had done everything possible to derail Obamacare. That may be true. As an opposition party that was completely excluded form any meaningful input to the legislation in 2009, that's not the least bit surprising. James Taranto comments: reports approvingly that at yesterday's hearing, Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois said "what many Democrats have long been thinking": "After a 3½-year campaign to repeal, to discredit, to even shut down the government over ObamaCare, I want to say, get over it!"

She was addressing Republicans, and her implication here is that they are losers who refuse to accept defeat. That's an odd thing for a member of the minority party to say to her colleagues.

But in any case, "Get over it!" constitutes an attempt to change the subject. Yes, ObamaCare opponents lost the legislative and legal contests and enough electoral contests to make the law's implementation impossible to forestall. But it's the supporters who ought to get over it, for they are the ones accountable for the disaster now unfolding.

Update - II (11/1/13)

It's reasonable to ask why Obama lied about our ability to keep our of existing health plans. Did he honestly believe the lie would not be uncovered, that no one would notice? Or, as many good progressives believe, did he truly feel that his version of a "good" health insurance policy would win out—even if it was implemented coercively, cost more, and provided redundant, unnecessary coverage.

Daniel Greenberg (h/t: Richard Fernandez) discusses the post modern world of progressive leaders who form an opinion, develop a concept, give it a name, and then claim it will lead to great things and of course, social justice. The one thing they all forget is implementation—the hard work of making it real, effective, and beneficial. He writes:
Competence is built on the unhappy understanding that things won’t work because you want them to, they won’t work if you go through the motions, they will only work if you understand how a thing works and then make it work by building it, by testing it and by expecting failure every step of the way and wrestling with the problem until you get it right.

That’s modernity. It isn’t glamorous. You can see it in black and white photos of men working on old planes. You can see it in the eyes of the astronauts who first went to the moon. You can read it in the workings of the men who built the longest suspension bridges, laid undersea cables and watched their world change. They were moderns and their time is done. …

Our own cargo culters invoke FDR and JFK, they talk about the New Deal and the Great Society, they make grand promises and roll out big programs, and then they wait for it all to work. They don’t understand themselves how or why it would work. But government is magic and the appearance of a thing is just as good as a real deal. … All you need to do is remember the great dreams of the past, listen to a few inspirational JFK speeches and then carve a computer out of wood and wait for free health care to arrive.
Those of us who build real things understand this. But the Washington elite? They're far more comfortable with their fantasies, until reality intrudes. And what does reality tell us? There is no magic. Just hard work.

Update - III (11/2/13)

Barack Obama still has plenty of trained hamsters in the media—among them Gloria Borger and Wolfe Blitzer at CNN. This particular brand of hamster insists that Barack Obama is a victim of the incompetence of the US Government, that he is completely blameless in the many scandals, screw-ups, mistakes, and very bad decisions that have populated the last five years. Mark Steyn comments:
CNN has been pondering what they call “a particularly tough few days at the White House.” “Four out of five Americans have little or no trust in their government to do anything right,” says chief political analyst Gloria Borger. “And now Obama probably feels the same way.” Our hearts go out to him, poor wee disillusioned thing. We are assured by the headline writers that the president was “unaware” of Obamacare’s website defects, and the NSA spying, and the IRS targeting of his political enemies, and the Justice Department bugging the Associated Press, and pretty much anything else you ask him about. But, as he put it, “nobody’s madder than me” at this shadowy rogue entity called the “Government of the United States” that’s running around pulling all this stuff. And, once he finds out who’s running this Government of the United States rogue entity, he’s gonna come down as hard on him as he did on that videomaker in California; he’s gonna send round the National Park Service SWAT team to teach that punk a lesson he won’t forget.


Over the past five years, the American Left has, in its own view, been in ascendency. They elected a hard-Left president with neither the background, the experience, the temperament, or the leadership skills to guide a nation composed of different views, politics, and needs. They have given new meaning to the phrase economic irresponsibility, encouraging—no, actually vigorously defending—trillion dollar deficits, unrestrained spending, and uncontrolled entitlements. They discovered the political benefits of class warfare and used it quite effectively. They work tirelessly to grow government even bigger, blind to the failure of government to do things efficiently of effectively. The cannot see waste and don't care if it exists—big government is the goal. They celebrate high taxes and seem blind to the deleterious effects of all of this on economic growth. They claim to want to tax only "the rich" but clandestinely create hidden taxes for us all. And then, of course, they created (with absolutely no bipartisan support) the monstrosity that is Obamacare. And as demographics continue to evolve and the number of people who are fully dependent of big government grows to over 50 percent of the population, it appears that they will cement solid control of the executive in coming years.

Daniel Henninger of The Wall Street Journal observes all of this and writes:
In the 1990s, the American left, burdened with 90 years of unfortunate left-wing metaphors, rebranded itself in the U.S. as the "progressive movement." Teddy Roosevelt invokes cheerier memories than Leon Trotsky. In the 2008 U.S. presidential election, the left rode to power with Barack Obama.

Mr. Obama is, without embarrassment, a man of the left. American progressives saw their win with Mr. Obama as the overthrowing of the postwar Democratic liberalism that culminated with the Clintons, a liberalism willing most of the time to coexist with markets, property and private enterprise. Progressives hated these accommodations. They were purer than that. He was purer than that. Together, they created ObamaCare.

What made ObamaCare an exemplar of progressive politics and policy is precisely what has been on view this week in news stories and the Sebelius hearing. It's not that the health program was to be administered by the state or that it promised benefits to all. Liberalism did that for decades. What made it peculiarly progressive were the mandates. And not just the law's individual and business mandates to purchase their insurance. The essence of modern Democratic progressivism is: "You will participate in what we have created for you, and you will comply with the law's demands."
Indeed. That is the unstated goal of this president and his "progressive" supporters—we alone know what's best, those who disagree with use are stupid or evil and we will belittle them at every opportunity. Failing that, we will use the full force of the government (think: The IRS scandal) to destroy them.

Over the past week the lies that were used to justify Obamacare have come to light. Every prominent Democrat used those lies to build support for seriously flawed legislation. And the lies worked.

Now, Obamacare supporters are trying to spin the lies and blame others—the GOP or the evil insurance companies—for the ACA's early failures. After all, the millions that are losing their insurance have "substandard plans." Of course, the standards have been established by the same people who created Obamacare, so ...

Progressives are absolutely correct when they complain that conservative social views are intrusive. The government has no right and certainly no obligation to become involved in reproductive or sexual politics. But progressives fail to see the irony in their own intrusive thrust toward big government. Henninger writes:
American progressivism is politics by cramdown. Ask Jamie Dimon. Ask the coal miners the EPA is putting out of business. Ask the union workers waiting for jobs on the Keystone XL pipeline. Ask Boeing in South Carolina or the harmless tea party groups from towns no one has ever heard of that were shut down by the IRS, or the 20,000 inner-city parents and students who marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to protest obliteration of their charter schools by New York's progressive mayoral candidate, Bill de Blasio.
We are at a tipping point. With this president at this time, the United States can move to recover or it can decelerate—moving inexorably toward bankruptcy. Henninger says it better that I ever could:
Barack Obama may have spent a lifetime failing up, but eventually it's just failure. He has presided over five years of sickly economic growth, inadequate job creation, a doubling of the food stamp population and now this—ObamaCare.

Progressive government has failed in the U.S. Most fascinating to behold will be whether the Democratic presidential candidate who follows this meltdown will embrace it, fake it or move on.
I suspect the next candidate will embrace it. After all, it's a winning strategy for progressives. Too bad it's a losing strategy for the United States.

Friday, October 25, 2013


Kimberley Strassel summarizes the events of the past week when she writes:
After 16 long days of vowing to Republicans that they would not cave in any way, shape or form on ObamaCare, Democrats spent their first post-shutdown week caving in every way, shape and form. With the GOP's antics now over, the only story now is the unrivaled disaster that is the president's health-care law.

Hundreds of thousands of health-insurance policies canceled. Companies dumping coverage and cutting employees' hours. Premiums skyrocketing. And a website that reprises the experience of a Commodore 64. As recently as May, Democratic consultants were advising members of Congress that their best ObamaCare strategy for 2014 was to "own" the law. Ms. Shaheen has now publicly advised the consultants where they can file that memo.
In 2009, those of us who opposed the ACA warned that any attempt at imposing a hyper-partisan healthcare law would result in a bill that was deeply flawed. After all, Obamacare was designed by left-wing ideologues with little or no understanding or experience in the complexities of healthcare in America, and implemented as a hyper-complex piece of legislation (2000+ pages of legislation and thousands more of regulation) that was nothing more than another hidden redistributive tax on the middle class. It was a magnet for very bad unintended consequences. The consequences that Strassel summarizes are only the beginning.

Obamacare's website (more on that in a moment) will be cobbled together and will eventually "work." Half a billion dollars in taxpayer money will have been thrown away, but in the eyes of this administration, that's small potatoes. The "greater good" must be served. The irony is that once the website works, Obama and his supporters cannot rest easy. Their problems (and sadly, ours) will have just begun.

The media, of course, is focused on the Obamacare website—a study in the incompetence of big government. The entire project is an exemplar of what NOT to do when a large IT project is initiated—overly complex requirements, a poorly specified system, poor project management, incompetent technology, a continuing stream of irrational changes driven not by the requirements but by venal political considerations imposed by an administration that believes its own fantasy ideology, and laughably incomplete testing. The work violates every software engineering principle the industry has adopted over the past four decades.

But a website focus is not where the media should be. It's the law itself that is problematic—no ... that's too soft a characterization. The law is a monstrosity. It's overly complex, overly statist, overly intrusive, and worst of all—it will destroy healthcare as we know it in this country. It will lead to shortages, delays in treatment, poor coverage, no coverage, breathtaking waste, and worse, less effective medical care.

Once the website works, middle class families who make a decent living will begin to understand that their premiums will rise—in some cases substantially. Their deductibles will skyrocket, and their choice of doctors will narrow. They might even loose their corporate health plans or be shifted to part-time work. It's already beginning to happen.

If the media hampsters were doing their job (they are not), they'd report that the increase in health insurance premiums is a hidden tax, designed to pay for the "subsidies" that Obama and his supporters just love to tout. Those subsidies will reduce the cost of healthcare for low wage earners, but at a significant cost to most of the middle class—you remember, the folks that Barack Obama professes to care sooo much about. Once the middle class begins to get uneasy, the Democrats will do what they always do—mollify their base by using a something-for-nothing philosophy. They'll reduce the premiums and deductibles for "working people." But how? You should know the answer. They'll accomplish this by borrowing, thereby increasing our already frightening debt to nightmarish levels.

The Obamacare website is a harbinger of things to come. It exemplifies incompetence and thoughtlessness, partisanship and a lack of clear economic thinking. But it's only the beginning of very bad things that will follow—unless Obamacare is replaced by a sensible, simple, market-driven approach that eliminates big government's thumb on our medical system.

Update I (10/28/13):

The Los Angeles Times is one of the Obama Administration's trained media hamsters. Its "news" stories consistently spin positive on this president and his policies with a blind partisan vigor that should be embarrassing for any legitimate journalist. And yet here's what the LAT says about Obamacare:
Thousands of Californians are discovering what Obamacare will cost them — and many don't like what they see.

These middle-class consumers are staring at hefty increases on their insurance bills as the overhaul remakes the healthcare market. Their rates are rising in large part to help offset the higher costs of covering sicker, poorer people who have been shut out of the system for years.

Although recent criticism of the healthcare law has focused on website glitches and early enrollment snags, experts say sharp price increases for individual policies have the greatest potential to erode public support for President Obama's signature legislation.

"This is when the actual sticker shock comes into play for people," said Gerald Kominski, director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. "There are winners and losers under the Affordable Care Act."
The losers? That's easy—hardworking, moderately successful middle-class people. So much for Obama's defense of the middle class. The winners? Anyone who benefits from Barack Obama's continuing efforts to redistribute income in the United States.

Update -II (10/28/13)

CBS News, still another of the Obama administration's trained media hamsters, has been mugged by reality. They report:
For many, their introduction to the Affordable Care Act has been negative: a broken website, and now cancellation notices from insurance companies followed by sticker shock over higher prices for the new plans. It's directly at odds with repeated assurances from the president, who has said "if you like your insurance plan, you will keep it. No one will be able to take that away from you."

But people across the country are finding out they're losing their existing insurance plans under Obamacare because requirements in the law, such as prenatal and prescription drug coverage, mean their old plans aren't comprehensive enough.

In California, Kaiser Permanente terminated policies for 160,000 people. In Florida, at least 300,000 people are losing coverage.

That includes 56-year-old Dianne Barrette. Last month, she received a letter from Blue Cross Blue Shield informing her as of January 2014, she would lose her current plan. Barrette pays $54 a month. The new plan she's being offered would run $591 a month -- 10 times more than what she currently pays.

Barrette said, "What I have right now is what I am happy with and I just want to know why I can't keep what I have. Why do I have to be forced into something else?"
That's a really good question, particularly because Barack Obama "promised" that wouldn't be the case.

Update III (10/29/13)

After five long years of silence, it looks as if Obama's media hamsters are beginning to try to get off their rotating wheels. NBC News, among the president's most ardent protectors, posts the following:
Buried in Obamacare regulations from July 2010 is an estimate that because of normal turnover in the individual insurance market, “40 to 67 percent” of customers will not be able to keep their policy. And because many policies will have been changed since the key date, “the percentage of individual market policies losing grandfather status in a given year exceeds the 40 to 67 percent range.”

That means the administration knew that more than 40 to 67 percent of those in the individual market would not be able to keep their plans, even if they liked them.

Yet President Obama, who had promised in 2009, “if you like your health plan, you will be able to keep your health plan,” was still saying in 2012, “If [you] already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance.”
Every president and every administration stretches the truth for political purposes. But Barack Obama and his administration have exhibited a level of arrogant mendaciousness that is deeply troubling. He and his closest advisers lie with such ease and such frequency that any pronouncement they make is suspect. Now we learn that the president knew, early on, that Obamacare would cause folks to lose their insurance. I can only wonder what other lies—about the many, many Watergate-level scandals that plague this administration, are hiding just beneath the surface, waiting to be discovered.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


In what has become a tiresome refrain, delivered as it always is in still another meaningless speech delivered in front of a friendly and highly partisan audience, Barack Obama suggested that Fox News was a key catalyst in the public's growing concern about his Affordable Care Act. This president is unique in his hyper-partisanship, but he is ground-breaking (in a really worrisome way) is his tendency to attack a major media outlet that disagrees with his policies and programs. He regularly blames FNS for his policy failures and his program's inadequacies. It's almost laughable, and at the same time, marginally pathetic.

Neil Cavuto, a business anchor at FNS, finally had had enough. His response (read the whole thing) is an absolute classic:
Mr. President, we at Fox News are not the problem. I hate to break it to you, sir. You are. Your words are. Your promises are. We didn't sell this healthcare law. Sir, you did. Remember this?

President Barack Obama: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period.

Mr. President, tell that to tens of thousands of retirees at IBM and Time Warner and dozens of others, who've been dumped from their coverage and told to find their own coverage. Fox News didn't break that news to them, Mr. President. Their companies did.

Fox News didn't push more of those firms to hire part-time workers. Your healthcare law did. Fox News didn't incentivize fast food restaurants to scale back their benefits. Your healthcare law did. Fox News didn't make doctors want to opt out. Your healthcare law did. Fox News didn't make insurance premiums sky rocket. Your healthcare law did. Just like Fox News didn't grant hundreds of exemptions to companies that needed them. You did. And Fox News didn't delay one key provision after another, including online enrollment for those small business exchanges. You did.

Just like it wasn't Fox News that said we had to pass this to see what was in this. You did. Or was that Nancy Pelosi? Sometimes I'm confused. But of this I am not. Fox News didn't re-do basic math. Sir, you did. Fox News didn't say you can cover 30 million more Americans and not see a hit in premiums. You did. Fox News didn't say you could throw in those with pre-existing conditions and not have to pay for it. You did. Fox News didn't all but say you could get something for nothing. You did. Fox News didn't come back years later and say, oh yea, we did raise some taxes. You did.

Here's where you are right about Fox News, however, Mr. President. We can do math. And did. You cannot. And did not. We said it, and proved it. You didn't. And we're all suffering for it. Take it from the numbers guy at Fox. Numbers don't lie. The number of Americans working part-time and nervous. The number of retirees days away from being dumped on exchanges and anxious. The number of company bosses with any news to pass along on those exchanges, but still clueless. The number of doctors who want out. The number of congressmen now opting out. No, Mr. President, none of those numbers lie.
Barack Obama is able to make any mendacious statement with impunity because his trained media hamsters never probe, almost never fact check, and always offer a quick protective comment that serves to protect his factual inaccuracies.

When Barack Obama blames Fox News, the left cheers because FNS is one of their boogie men. The rest of us look sadly at the president and can only respond with one word: "Seriously?"

Update (18 Oct 2013):

Since May, 2013, the Obama administration made a cynical political decision not to post weekly debt figures. The debt stayed constant (in their fantasy world) at about $16.7 trillion for about 6 months. On the day after the debt ceiling increase was signed into law, the debt magically jumped by $328 billion dollars and now stands at $17.075 trillion, according to Treasury Department figures posted online on today.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


It looks as if cooler heads will prevail (although one can never be certain) and the debt limit will be increased. This is, of course, no cause for celebration, but merely the expedient thing to do to avoid financial chaos created by the profligate spending of prior administrations and the truly irresponsible and downright dangerous spending of Barack Obama and his Democrat supporters. With a "negotiated deal", the president and the Washington elites will do what they always do—kick the can down the road just a little further to avoid making substantive decisions about spending and debt.

The current meme among Democrats is that this year's deficit is lower than projected. That's true, but the debt keeps growing. They fail to mention that the reason for a lower deficit is the hated sequester—a minor reduction of the increase in government spending mandated by law and proposed by Barack Obama himself (although you'd never know that listening to his trained media hamsters).

Glen Reynolds comments on our critical fiscal situation:
How bad has it gotten? In the past two years, the debt limit has grown twice as much as the economy. Can that go on forever? I doubt it very much.

As Niall Ferguson notes, while politicians crow that the deficit has dropped -- from super-enormous to merely really, really gigantic -- every year that we're in deficit adds to the debt. And the long-term trends are bad: "A very striking feature of the latest Congressional Budget Office report is how much worse it is than last year's. A year ago, the CBO's extended baseline series for the federal debt in public hands projected a figure of 52% of GDP by 2038. That figure has very nearly doubled to 100%. A year ago the debt was supposed to glide down to zero by the 2070s. This year's long-run projection for 2076 is above 200%. In this devastating reassessment, a crucial role is played here by the more realistic growth assumptions used this year."

Ah, yes. Growth. We've been pretty short of that over the last several years, as businesses -- even pro-Obama enterprises such as Google and Apple -- park increasing amounts of money overseas, unwilling to be subject not only to high U.S. taxes but, even worse, to the high levels of regulation of which Obamacare is only the most famous.
Of course, Obama and his supporters would have you believe that "everything is on the table." Yeah, right. In the five years of his presidency, Barack Obama has NOT proposed a single meaningful approach to spending reductions. Sure, he talks the talk, but when it comes to specifics, he's an empty suit. He has avoided entitlement reform as if it was the plague. He has created still another entitlement—Obamacare—that will increase our liabilities by trillions, and worse, if it goes as badly as it appears, that will be a best case scenario. We have a president and a party who believe debt can be managed via quantitative easing (i.e., printing money) and a nominated Fed chairperson, Janet Yellen, who is a proponent of that approach.

We were told that the government shutdown was a "draconian" approach to spending reduction. No ... actually, it's probably the only effective approach we have. In fact, I suspect that Obama and his supporters worry that the general public might just figure out that with the exception of attempts to maximize public discomfort, the shutdown has relatively little effect on the general public. And the government employees who are currently on paid vacation (oops, I mean furlough)? Millions of Americans in the private sector have been laid off over the past five years. Where is it written that real layoffs cannot occur at the federal level? Unfortunate, yes, but we have a serious spending problem, and reductions mean that a non-trivial number of federal jobs should be eliminated.

Reynolds comments further:
The big lesson of the shutdown is that -- in a time when so-called "draconian cuts" usually refer to mere decreases in the rate of growth of spending on programs -- America was able to do without all the "non-essential" government workers just fine. (The same AP poll cited above says that 80% have felt no impact from the shutdown; a majority also oppose increasing the debt limit.) Turns out that most of those nonessential workers really are non-essential. And it's a safe bet that some of those who stayed on the job -- like the National Park Service people who chased veterans away from an open-air memorial -- could be done without, too, in a pinch. Under the shutdown, new regulations also slowed to a trickle, suggesting that we can do just fine without those, too.

With these lessons learned, here's my budget proposal: An across-the-board cut of 5% in every government department's budget line. (You can't convince me -- and you'll certainly have a hard time convincing voters -- that there's not 5% waste to be found in any government program.) Then a five-year freeze at that level. Likewise, a one-year moratorium on new regulations, followed by strict limits on new regulatory action: Perhaps a rule that all new business regulations won't have the force of law until approved by Congress.
There is no company, no organization, no government that cannot absorb a across-the-board 5% reduction in spending—if it is managed effectively and cuts are designed to minimize effects on its customer, not maximize them (as the Obama administration has done). The medicine is bitter, but if we don't take it now, the disease the follows could very well be fatal.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Awful, just Awful

Even The New York Times, one of the Obama administration's most ardent supporters, cannot avoid noting that the Obamacare rollout, and the website that was supposed to give it a wiz-bang high tech feel, is an unmitigated disaster. NYT reporters Robert Pear, Sharon LaFraniere and Ian Austen write:
For the past 12 days, a system costing more than $400 million and billed as a one-stop click-and-go hub for citizens seeking health insurance has thwarted the efforts of millions to simply log in. The growing national outcry has deeply embarrassed the White House, which has refused to say how many people have enrolled through the federal exchange.

Even some supporters of the Affordable Care Act worry that the flaws in the system, if not quickly fixed, could threaten the fiscal health of the insurance initiative, which depends on throngs of customers to spread the risk and keep prices low.

“These are not glitches,” said an insurance executive who has participated in many conference calls on the federal exchange. Like many people interviewed for this article, the executive spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying he did not wish to alienate the federal officials with whom he works. “The extent of the problems is pretty enormous. At the end of our calls, people say, ‘It’s awful, just awful.'”
I have worked in the software engineering space for over four decades, have consulted for many Fortune 500 companies, written best-selling books on the subject, served on the editorial board on major industry publications, been an expert witness and mediator for major IT conflicts between government and its contractors, and seen my share of IT disasters first hand. From a technical perspective, the ACA website is a textbook example of what not to do in a software engineering project. But failed projects are common in the software biz. What is more interesting is what it exemplifies.

At some level, the disastrous ACA web-based system is a reflection of many of the Obama administration's policies and/or programs: poorly planned, poorly executed, inordinately expensive, and ineffective. After three years of preparation and expenditures that are literally mind-boggling, the ACA website is a case study in bad software engineering, bad management, and wishful thinking by a leadership that simply doesn't have a clue. It is a waste of taxpayer dollars, sacrificed in order to meet an ill-conceived partisan political objective. It is a mess ... but it is nothing compared to the much bigger and more profound mess that the ACA will make of healthcare in the United States.

The reporters continue:
By early this year, people inside and outside the federal bureaucracy were raising red flags. “We foresee a train wreck,” an insurance executive working on information technology said in a February interview. “We don’t have the I.T. specifications. The level of angst in health plans is growing by leaps and bounds. The political people in the administration do not understand how far behind they are.”

The Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, warned in June that many challenges had to be overcome before the Oct. 1 rollout.

“So much testing of the new system was so far behind schedule, I was not confident it would work well,” Richard S. Foster, who retired in January as chief actuary of the Medicare program, said in an interview last week.
For those who are unfamiliar with large, failed, "death march" software projects, this is classic.

Yet, the irony is that The New York Times has repeated castigated those who had the temerity to suggest that the entire Obamacare program be delayed -- you know, until it was working properly. Nah, the geniuses at the White House, who believe that fantasy trumps reality, pushed forward, despite warnings, despite concerns, despite professional advice to the contrary. Then fantasy collided with reality, and the result (for them) is not pretty.

Those of us who in 2007 expressed grave concern about Barack Obama's lack of executive background and real-world experience warned that bad things would result as a consequence of his election. One of those bad things was that the newly-elected president appointed advisors just like him—political ideologues with no private sector experience. Tough guys all, they sneered and suggested (according to the NYT) that "failure was not an option." "Failure" had a different opinion.

When the history of this presidency is written, this episode may become emblematic for an administration that was so encumbered by arrogance and hubris that it failed at virtually everything it attempted. Elections have consequences.

Update: (15-October-2013):

There's very little doubt that the ideologues in the GOP who pushed for Obamacare defunding made a significant strategic error. Stupid, in fact! The ACA legislation is so bad that the best thing for the GOP would have been simply to let it roll out.

The consequences of a rollout are already being felt. The Washington Examiner reports:
For some able to get the problem-plagued Obamacare website to work, the so-called “deals” the system is coughing up around the country include $12,600 deductibles, co-pays of up to 40 percent, zero competition, and rate hikes of 260 percent.
Obviously, those who are given "subsidies" will probably be pleased with pricing (or at least that's what Democrats hope), but when average middle class taxpayers realize that they are subsiding the insurance plans of their neighbors, they may not be quite as happy.

Update - II (15-October-2013)

It is conceivable that the problems with the ACA website will be resolved and that people will be able to register (if nothing else) before the deadline. That won't eliminate the fundamental structural problems with Obamacare, but it will allow Democrats to claim that the system is "working." But what if the problems are not fixed? Ben Domenech comments
So what’s the worst case scenario? Honestly, it’s this: if this is as big of a failure as it looks like at the moment, and the problems are not fixed within the next two months, the Obamacare project could end up backfiring in a way that could have dramatic effects on politics and policy going forward. It will contribute to distrust in government’s basic capability. It will fail to live up to its promise, and wreck the insurance markets for no good purpose. It will represent the administration betraying its strongest supporters. And it may ultimately leave President Obama wishing John Roberts had ruled the other way – turning him into a martyr for the cause as opposed to putting the burden of proof on actually implementing his signature policy.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013


Overwhelming media bias in favor of the Obama administration and the big government thrust of the majority of the Democratic party is, quite possibly, the greatest single threat to good government and a positive economic trajectory for the United States. The reason is simple: most low information voters (and that is a very large number of people) get all of their news from the alphabet networks—ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, along with Left-leaning print media. Opinions are shaped from this information, attitudes are solidified, and as a consequence, the electorate can make very, very bad decisions without considering the downside, the context, or the unintended consequences. Sadly, it should be the job of the media to inform, to provide objective context, to challenge power and authority, to project some of the possible consequences of big government decisions. Nah ... won't happen.

Recently I've been referring to the main stream media as "Obama's trained hamsters." I like the image—a small rodent-like creature in a hamster wheel running in circles without every looking to either side, so focused on the bit of cheese (approbation by this administration or the hive mind of other Left-leaning journalists) that they simply don't understand they're getting nowhere and doing nothing.

Obama's trained hamsters were at it again at the president's news conference yesterday. Politico reports:
President Barack Obama sustained an hour-long press conference today without a single question about his signature healthcare law and the glitches that continue to plague the insurance exchanges -- a point that frustrated several conservatives.

"Explain to me how in a dozen questions the second biggest story of the week, the debacle, doesn’t even come up," Brendan Buck, the press secretary for House Speaker John Boehner, asked in an email to POLITICO.

"Questions from WH press corps are pathetic," Brit Hume, the Fox News analyst tweeted. "As of this moment, not a single tough or challenging inquiry."
Why is anyone surprised? Frustrated, maybe. But surprised? It's just the hamsters running in the wheel. Afraid that if they ask a tough, relevant question, it might hurt their guy, and that is absolutely forbidden. Journalism at its best.

Monday, October 07, 2013


Now that the 17 percent government shutdown has been demonstrated to have little real affect on either the citizens of the United States or the country's economy, it's become old news. The government is 17 percent shutdown—ho hum.

But we are rapidly moving toward debt limit deadline and this will have signifcant consequences should we not come to a negotiated settlement. The problem, of course, is that Barack Obama has said that he will not negotiate with the opposition party and has stated incorrectly and mendaciously, that negotiating between a sitting president and the congress never occurs prior to raising the debt limit. It's happened more than 17 times in the last four decades.

But no matter ... it's worth considering these words:
The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. government can't pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies. . . . Increasing America's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that "the buck stops here." Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.
This is a direct quote of Barack Obama in 2006 commenting on the Presidency of George W. Bush.

Let's take a look at those words applied to today's events:

"The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure." Agreed.

"It is a sign that the U.S. government can't pay its own bills." Agreed.

"It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies ..." Agreed.

"Leadership means that 'the buck stops here.' Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren." Agreed.

"America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better." Agreed.

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Maybe the President of the United States should sit back and ponder his own words. Better yet, maybe his media hampsters should make him explain how those words did apply when the debt was 9 trillion dollars in 2006, but do not apply today, when the debt is almost $17 trillion. No ... we couldn't do that, could we?

Sunday, October 06, 2013


Profligate and irresponsible (if not downright wasteful) spending happens at all levels of government. At the local level, spending is constrained because, well, it's local. Citizens in a town or county can see where spending goes, and there is a direct connection to tax rates and to the politicians that set them. At the state level, significant spending waste occurs, but it is constrained to some extent. After all, every state governor and legislature is required by law to balance its budget. That doesn't mean that state pols are always responsible, but it does mean that they can still be held accountable every two and four years by citizens who are close enough to the spending to understand it.

At the federal level—all bets are off. Spending is profligate, often wasteful and unnecessary, inefficient, and worst of all, made possible with dollars that are borrowed (increasing our debt) and must be repaid by our children and grandchildren. Every Administration and Congress is guilty of irresponsible, unnecessary spending. Every president tells us that he'll "reform" the system, and all of them fail. In the past they've failed because any spending cuts affect a constituency (e.g. unions, corporations, federal workers, the list is endless) that pushes back, often using politicians as hired demagogues who demonize those who advocate cuts. So government grows without bound and in the process becomes more intrusive, less effective, and ever more voracious.

The presidency of Barack Obama has had all of this happen, but unlike other administrations, there appears to be no controls or constraint. It's spending and debt on steroids! Aided by a democratic Senate that appears to operate with a hive mind, Barack Obama and his band of political hacks blithely increase spending and debt to historic levels and then, demonize those who ask for restraint. Some say that the current government shutdown is a failure of leadership from this president, but in reality it was absolutely predictable. Barack Obama is an ideologue who is enamored with the growth of government. He favors unrestricted growth not because it's good for the country, or the economy, or individual citizens (the "middle class" he talks so much about) but because government largess solidifies his and his party's grip on power. After all, the more things you give away (read: the more you spend) the more likely those who benefit from that spending will support you in your efforts. It's a brilliant (if venal) strategy—that is, until the money runs out. And the money will run out.

Today, 17 percent of the government is shut down. With the exception of this administration's laughable attempts at maximizing public discomfort (my favorite is restricting access to scenic overlooks so that tourists can't view the Mt. Rushmore Memorial from state highways), relatively few citizens are affected. Government workers will get paid vacations and the rest of us who go to work every day will get to pay them (via our tax dollars) for not working.

This is all a warm-up for the upcoming debt limit "negotiations." But this President is perfectly willing to maintain his no negotiation stand, and as a consequence, he may just win it all. Sadly, the country will lose it all over the long run.


Peggy Noonan provides an insightful take on the upcoming debt limit "negotiations" when she writes:
... the president has repeated over and over, in different venues and to different audiences, including on the phone with the speaker, that he will not negotiate. At first it looked as if he was saying he wouldn’t negotiate on ObamaCare. But he has allowed it to morph into a blanket statement that he won’t negotiate on the debt limit.

But presidents do negotiate on the debt limit. They have to. They can’t not negotiate it. And if the president keeps not negotiating, he is going to look like the man who caused a U.S. government default—an outcome of a whole other order of magnitude. He’s going to look that way because he allowed himself to look that way. And the reasons for his stand look exactly like this: miscalculation, stubbornness and pride.

People keep saying the Republicans don’t seem to have a clear endgame, and that’s true. But at this point I don’t see a clear, clean endgame for the White House.

It is a funny thing but the Republicans rescued Mr Obama from his troubles the past 10 days by going at him over defunding. Now Mr. Obama is rescuing them from their mistake. And once again there’s every sign No Drama Obama will add to the sense that he is really Endless Drama Obama—bringer of nonstop face-offs, constant brinksmanship, nerve-jangling cliffs.

Saturday, October 05, 2013


When Al Gore popularized global warming in his science fiction movie, An Inconvenient Truth, he argued that ice sheet disintegration would cause ocean levels to rise, plunging coastal areas into crisis. He further argued that temperature increases would create droughts, severe weather (e.g., stronger hurricanes) and other catastrophic events. He argued in later years that the "science was settled" and labeled those (myself included) who questioned his methods and his 'science' as "deniers." Among his strongest supporters were a significant percent of those on the Left, many of whom turned Climate Change" into a quasi-religious belief system. The UN IPCC was a very strong proponent of climate change calamity, until their biased methods and fraudulent data were called into question. It isn't surprising that Barack Obama continues to favor ruinous cap and trade legislation to kill the CO2 boogie man and save the planet.

The climate change models that Gore et al have used are inaccurate and in some cases fraudulent and biased. They have failed to predict past climatic events. Even more damning, they have failed to predict the pause in warming that has happened over the past 16 years. And yet, the IPCC states the obvious when it argues that there is a man-made component to climate change. By the way, no one argues this point. The problem is, the IPCC can't say whether it's 0.001 percent or 10 percent, and their models provide no additional insight.

The IPCC is releasing a report that main stream media hamsters will ignore or misquote. In the report the IPCC, a past supporter of a catastrophic climate change scenario, does an Emily Latella (there's a lot of that going around lately). Marlo Lewis summarizes:
The scariest parts of the “planetary emergency” narrative popularized by Al Gore and other pundits are Atlantic Ocean circulation shutdown (implausibly plunging Europe into a mini-ice age), ice sheet disintegration raising sea levels 20 feet, and runaway warming from melting frozen methane deposits.

As Bishop Hill and Judith Curry report on their separate blogs, IPCC now believes that in the 21st Century, Atlantic Ocean circulation collapse is “very unlikely,” ice sheet collapse is “exceptionally unlikely,” and catastrophic release of methane hydrates from melting permafrost is “very unlikely.” You can read it for yourself in Chapter 12 Table 12.4 of the IPCC’s forthcoming Fifth Assessment Report.

But these doomsday scenarios have always been way more fiction than science. For some time now, extreme weather has been the only card left in the climate alarm deck. Climate activists repeatedly assert that severe droughts, floods, and storms (Hurricane Sandy is their current poster child) are now the “new normal,” and they blame fossil fuels.

On their respective blogs Anthony Watts and Roger Pielke, Jr. provide excerpts about extreme weather from Chapter 2 of the IPCC report. Among the findings:

“Current datasets indicate no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century … No robust trends in annual numbers of tropical storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes counts have been identified over the past 100 years in the North Atlantic basin.”
“In summary, there continues to be a lack of evidence and thus low confidence regarding the sign of trend in the magnitude and/or frequency of floods on a global scale.”
“In summary, there is low confidence in observed trends in small-scale severe weather phenomena such as hail and thunderstorms because of historical data inhomogeneities and inadequacies in monitoring systems.”
“Based on updated studies, AR4 [the IPCC 2007 report] conclusions regarding global increasing trends in drought since the 1970s were probably overstated.”
“In summary, confidence in large scale changes in the intensity of extreme extra-tropical cyclones since 1900 is low.”
Hmmm. I guess the members of the IPCC have become deniers. Interesting.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Rush to Judgment

Over the past 18 months, I've been fortunate to take an idea for a targeted automotive aftermarket application, put a reasonably significant amount of my own money at risk to create a manufacturing start-up, transition from start-up mode to a real manufacturing/e-commerce business, and progress to become profitable. It's a long journey with many, many decision points, a lot of stress, and more than a few risks, but it's also rewarding and fun. The company is now in the process of prototyping a number of new products. There's substantial pressure to bring them to market rapidly, but it would be irresponsible (for the business and for our customers) to rush them into the market. So we take our time, correct bugs, improve logistics, be certain that our supply chain and manufacturing processes are right, and when all that occurs, we'll release the products when they're ready.

With that common sense approach in mind (you know, something that all good, responsible managers would do as a given), let's consider the recent Obamacare debacle. It's pretty obvious that the program isn't ready for prime time (yeah, I know, it's all the fault of the meany GOP). There are many reasons for this, but primarily, the program was designed without bi-partisan consultation or compromise, was rushed through its design process without regard to quality or the ability to implement it effectively, and was rammed through congress using political strong-arming. Today, the program is so broken that the president himself has delayed (a questionably legal maneuver) parts of the law. Ironically, when members of the House have suggested that other portions of the law be delayed, Barack Obama's supporters have called them "anarchists." In fact, Barack Obama has chosen to shut down the government because the GOP has the temerity to suggest that this entire mess be delayed one year while it's many, many bugs are fixed or reworked. He sees political advantage and he may very well get it. But his cynical push to deliver a shoddy product indicates just how poor a manager he is.

Nick Gillespie summarizes the government shut down precipitated by Obamacare delay this way:
President Obama is indulging in incredible displays of peevishness such as this one yesterday during an interview with NPR's Steve Inskeep. Asked what he might offer to House Republicans, who have called for, most recently, a delay in Obamacare's individual mandate and a bunch of other late-breaking proposals generally unrelated to how much the government will be spending over the next 12 months:
"Steve when you say what can I offer? I shouldn't have to offer anything," Obama said. "They're not doing me a favor by paying for things that they have already approved for the government to do. That's part of their basic function of government; that's not doing me a favor. That's doing what the American people sent them here to do, carrying out their responsibilities.
Yeah, you shouldn't have to offer anything, Mr. President. What is it that you like to say in such situations? I won. Get over it.
But you do have to offer something now because you didn't make sure to get a spending plan in place when there was more time to screw around.
So, the national parks are closed, some non-essential government employees are furloughed and will likely collect full back pay, and accusations fly. Obama's trained media hamsters are already looking for those who will suffer from the shutdown, although they're not looking for anyone who might suffer due to today's implementation of Obamacare. In fact, both the administration and the media hamsters are working hard to protect Barack Obama from any blowback due to a shoddy implementation by setting very low expectations for today's Obamacare launch.

Over at Politico, a few of the hamsters write:
America’s about to take Obamacare for a test drive with an army of hungry reporters in the back seat.

When Obamacare enrollment begins on Tuesday, reporters in the Twitter age will be tempted to declare the health law a success or a failure in the first few days — a judgment that will certainly be stoked by advocates on both sides of the issue.

And any rush judgments could have a big impact on public opinion of the law. Right now, the majority of Americans in recent polls say they oppose the law, but the Obama administration is hoping that will turn around once people see it in action.

The first days of enrollment are a chance for that to happen — but there’s just as big a chance that the public could become convinced it’s a huge disaster, if technical breakdowns in the new health insurance exchanges dominate the news.
Funny that they advise against a "rush to judgement" for a law that was rushed into place without regard for quality. Funny indeed.