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

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Best of Intentions

By the end of this weekend, it's likely that the Obamacare website will have been cobbled together with a series of kludges. For those who don't work in the software engineering space, kludges are suboptimal patches that enable software to work until significant modifications are required. Then the software fails -- sometimes catastrophically. In fact, even if the website is limping along, a mendacious president and his supporters will claim that "it's working well," and their trained media hamsters will support that contention with little critical analysis. No matter. Their real problems have only begun.

In a detailed analysis of the A.C.A legislation, The Wall Street Journal examines the A,C.A as nothing more that a hidden tax on the Middle Class. WSJ editors write:
Mr. Obama and his liberal allies call the old plans "substandard," but he doesn't mean from the perspective of the consumers who bought them. He means people were free to choose insurance that wasn't designed to serve his social equity and income redistribution goals. In his view, many people must pay first-class fares for coach seats so others can pay less and receive extra benefits.

Liberals justify these coercive cross-subsidies as necessary to finance coverage for the uninsured and those with pre-existing conditions. But government usually helps the less fortunate honestly by raising taxes to fund programs. In summer 2009, Senate Democrats put out such a bill, and the $1.6 trillion sticker shock led them to hide the transfers by forcing people to buy overpriced products.
But if you look at it from an income redistribution perspective, it's pure genius. You create unnecessary coverages and use the money saved when people don't use those coverages (e.g., maternity coverage for a middle-aged male) to subsidize free coverage for others. It's a hidden tax on those who can least afford it. It's also enormously dishonest. If this president wants to redistribute income, he should make the argument for that philosophy, establish appropriate taxes, and allow the voters to decide. But the argument cannot be supported with outright lies (as it was before the 2012 elections).

Freedom of choice is inherent in the lives of most American's. It allow us to buy what we want when we want it and to forgo a purchase if we feel that we cannot afford it. Obamacare removes choice, and in its place, adds coercion. In addition, it hides the $1.6 trillion cost inside the price of unnecessary insurance coverages. The WSJ comments further:
This political mugging is especially unfair to the people whose plans on the current individual market are being taken away. The majority of these consumers are self-employed or small-business owners. They're middle class, rarely affluent. They took responsibility for their care without government aid, and unlike people in the job-based system, they paid with after-tax dollars.

Now they're being punished for the crime of not subsidizing ObamaCare, even though the individual market was never as dysfunctional or high cost as liberals claim. In 2012, average U.S. individual premiums were $190, ranging from a low of $123 in North Dakota to a high of $385 in Massachusetts. Average premiums for family plans fell that year by 0.5% to $412.

Those numbers come from the 13,000 different policies from 180 insurers sold on, the online shopping brokerage that works. (Technological wonders never cease.) Individuals can make the trade-offs between costs and benefits for themselves. This wide variety is proof that humans don't all want or need the same thing. If they did, there would be no need for a market and government could satisfy everybody.

That is precisely what the Obama health planners believe they can do. Regulators mandated a very rich level of "essential" health benefits that all plans in the individual market must cover, regardless of cost. This year eHealth EHTH +0.29% reported that its data show individual premiums must be 47% higher than the old average to fund the new categories in the individual market.

Meanwhile, ObamaCare's plans are limited to essentially four. Yes, four.
Under this president, 13,000 choices nationwide have been reduced to 4 Obama-sanctioned plans. All with the very best of intentions, of course.

And remember, Obama has postponed the small employer mandate until after the November, 2014 elections—thereby postponing the pain of another 20 - 40 million cancelled policies. This cynical political maneuver is just another example of dishonest politics. But it's business as usual for this president and his administration—all done with the best of intentions, of course.

Friday, November 29, 2013


The Washington Post, has been, until quite recently, a leading media hamster for the president. But that appears to be changing—at least a little. Maybe it's the simple reality that Barack Obama knowingly and repeatedly lied about Obamacare, both before and after it was enacted—all for political leverage. Or maybe it's the cumulative effect of major scandals—Fast and Furious, the IRS scandal, or Benghazi in which the Obama administration blatantly stonewalled in a manner that would have made Richard Nixon blush. Regardless, the WaPo is taking a harder look at this administration's claims and finds many of them dishonest or wanting.

In today's WaPo, The Editorial Board examines claims by Barack Obama and John Kerry on the Iran Deal:
THE FACT sheet distributed by the Obama administration about the nuclear agreement with Iran is notable for its omissions....

What the White House didn’t report is that the text of the accord makes several major concessions to Tehran on the terms of a planned second-stage agreement. Though White House officials and Secretary of State John F. Kerry repeatedly said that Iran’s assertion of a “right to enrich” uranium would not be recognized in an interim deal, the text says the “comprehensive solution” will “involve a mutually defined enrichment program with mutually agreed parameters.” In other words, the United States and its partners have already agreed that Iranian enrichment activity will continue indefinitely. In contrast, a long-standing U.S. demand that an underground enrichment facility be closed is not mentioned.

Mr. Obama and other U.S. officials have spoken about a six-month time frame for completing negotiations, but the agreement says the six-month arrangement can be renewed “by mutual consent” and that “the parties aim to conclude negotiating and commence implementing [in] no more than one year.” It also states that “there would be additional steps in between the initial measures and the final step,” including “addressing the U.N. Security Council resolutions.” Those resolutions order Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, but the agreement does not say whether those demands will be enforced.

The most troubling part of the document provides for what amounts to a sunset clause in the comprehensive agreement. It says the final deal will “have a specified long-term duration to be agreed upon,” and that once that time period is complete, “the Iranian nuclear program will be treated in the same manner as that of any non-nuclear weapon state party” to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Iran thus could look forward to a time when there would be no sanctions and no special restrictions on its nuclear capacity; it could install an unlimited number of centrifuges and produce plutonium without violating any international accord.
So ... basically, Barack Obama tells us one thing about a document, but the actual written agreement tells us something significantly different—and far worse. Sound familiar?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


As our shrinking pool of Middle East allies contemplates the Obama administration's "deal" with Iran, they must wonder how Barack Obama entered into secret negotiations with Iran more than a year ago and came out the other side last weekend with Iran's central position unchanged. Iran gave us nothing, and Obama -- well, he's a strong proponent of diplomacy, isn't he, yet his secretary of state failed to get even minor concessions from the world's primary sponsor of Islamist terror and absolutely nothing to change their thuggish behavior.

I think Barack Obama fails to realize that negotiation should be win-win. With his domestic opponets, it's been win-lose, with his side winning. With the Iran "deal," it's also been win-lose, but it's the United States and our Middle East allies that have lost. A year ago, Iran insisted that it must keep all 19,000 centrifuges and maintain its right to enrich uranium. This weekend it got all of that and depending on estimates, between 7 and 20 billion dollars to boot. Wow, John Kerry and his president are really, really tough negotiators.

But something else is happening on the other side of the world. The International Business Times reports:
Effective this [past] weekend, China’s government declared an Air Defense Identification Zone that includes a significant part of disputed areas in the East China Sea. As the U.S. and Japanese governments express concern over Chinese posturing in the hotly disputed area, Chinese netizens are applauding the move.

In an official statement regarding the ADIZ, established on Saturday at 10 a.m., China’s Ministry of National Defense announced that flight plans and other identifying information would be required for all aircraft operating in that zone. “If an aircraft doesn’t supply its flight plan, China’s armed forces will adopt emergency defensive measures in response,” the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported. “The announcement states that China’s Ministry of National Defense has full administrative rights over the zone.”

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel released an official statement on the ADIZ, expressing deep concern. “We view this development as a destabilizing attempt to alter the status quo in the region,” he said, adding that the unilateral decision by China “increases the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculations” in the region. Hagel also affirmed that the U.S. remains aligned with its allies in the region, specifically Japan. The territorial dispute involves mainly the cluster of islands referred to by Japan as the Senkaku and by China as the Diaoyu. Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said “one-sided action” will potentially “trigger unpredictable events” and “cannot be allowed.”
China has watched Barack Obama's feckless foreign policy for almost five years and has concluded, correctly, I think, that this president is weak, indecisive, and unable to act in a coherent way. The perception precipitated the ADIZ—a clear thumb in the eye for US allies Japan, South Korea, and Australia.

But back to Iran. Applauded by his trained media hamsters and those on the Left, Obama has is now again being touted as a legitimate candidate for the Nobel Peace Price. Here's the Huffington Post:
Finally, Barack Obama may prove deserving of his Nobel Peace Prize by joining with England, France, China, Russia and Germany in negotiating an eminently sensible rapprochement with Iran on its nuclear program. Following on his pullback from war with Syria and instead, successfully negotiating the destruction of that country's supply of chemical weapons, this is another bold step to fulfill the peacemaking promise that got him elected president in the first place.
Deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize, huh? I wonder what the moderate citizens of Egypt, or Libya, or Syria might say about that. "Peacemaking promise"? Ask the US troops wounded and killed in Afghanistan and now scheduled to support that Islamist regime until 2024. Obama is a peace maker only in the fevered imagination of the Left.

It's funny ... in a speech yesterday, Barack Obama castigated those who criticized his Iran "deal" suggesting that they were warmongers. And yet, when China established the ADIZ, someone with some sense (while Obama was fund-raising in Beverly Hills) decided that the best way to send the hard men in China a message was to fly a squadron of B-52s through the ADIZ. So much for diplomacy.

Diplomacy only works when each side perceives a steely seriousness in the other. It works only when each side backs up its words with deeds, and if necessary, suggestions of serious consequences. If one side perceives weakness, diplomacy is doomed. But no worries, if you read Obama's trained hamsters, Iran (and China) perceive strength. Seriously?

Sunday, November 24, 2013


As I listened to Secretary of State, John Kerry, late last night, I had to smile as as he announced the "historic deal" with Iran. He spoke for maybe 15 minutes in what can only be called a content-free fashion. Sprinkling defensive language that he knows opponents want to hear ("actions not words") with platitudes and empty assurances, he told the assembled press that Iran would would be given "a test" over the next six months and the results would determine further Western actions. In essence, Barack Obama acceded to lessen sanctions against Iran in return for—what exactly? The promise that plutonium enrichment would cease? Sounds good to me, after all, Iran has been oh-so-good at keeping all of its promises over the past 30-plus years. Then again, Barack Obama has been struggling with keeping his promises lately, so maybe he misunderstands what a promise really is.

In the fantasy world of Barack Obama and his supporters, Iran's mullahs have an inner "moderate" that just wants to come out. Their massive support of international terrorism, their explicit suggestion—just last week, but not for the first time—that they desire the annihilation of Israel, their continuing chants of "death to America", don't phase progressives one bit. Nah, the Iranians are really, really, just peaceful folks who want to make a deal. The sanctions were beginning to bite (why else did the Mullahs come to the table?), so of course, it was time to lift them. And there's high likelihood that we'll lift more in six months. Worse, now that we've eased up, other countries who want to skirt the sanctions will do so with impunity.

Stated simply, Obama/Kerry have done a deal that is really, really good—for Iran.

John Bolton (who understands the realities of the Middle East), comments:
This interim agreement is badly skewed from America’s perspective. Iran retains its full capacity to enrich uranium, thus abandoning a decade of Western insistence and Security Council resolutions that Iran stop all uranium-enrichment activities. Allowing Iran to continue enriching, and despite modest (indeed, utterly inadequate) measures to prevent it from increasing its enriched-uranium stockpiles and its overall nuclear infrastructure, lays the predicate for Iran fully enjoying its “right” to enrichment in any “final” agreement. Indeed, the interim agreement itself acknowledges that a “comprehensive solution” will “involve a mutually defined enrichment program.” This is not, as the Obama administration leaked before the deal became public, a “compromise” on Iran’s claimed “right” to enrichment. This is abject surrender by the United States.
But why be surprised? Obama needs a foreign policy "success" after the Syrian debacle, and now his trained hamsters in the media will give him one. Too bad it's only fantasy. Too bad platitudes and empty assurances are meaningless. Too bad this "historic deal" will almost undoubtedly lead to nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and outright war. A perfect capstone for Obama's feckless and ill-considered foreign policy.

Update (11/25/13):
I realize that it's a bit tedious to recount the continuing stream of bad policies, bad decisions, outright fantasy and pervasive dishonesty that seem to characterize the Obama administration, but they are a simple fact of life. The Wall Street Journal comments on the latest Iran deal:
President Obama is hailing a weekend accord that he says has "halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program," and we devoutly wish this were true. The reality is that the agreement in Geneva with five Western nations takes Iran a giant step closer to becoming a de facto nuclear power.

Start with the fact that this "interim" accord fails to meet the terms of several United Nations resolutions, which specify no sanctions relief until Iran suspends all uranium enrichment. Under this deal Iran gets sanctions relief, but it does not have to give up its centrifuges that enrich uranium, does not have to stop enriching, does not have to transfer control of its enrichment stockpiles, and does not have to shut down its plutonium reactor at Arak.

Mr. Obama's weekend statement glossed over these canyon-sized holes. He said Iran "cannot install or start up new centrifuges," but it already has about 10,000 operational centrifuges that it can continue to spin for at least another six months. Why does Tehran need so many centrifuges if not to make a bomb at the time it pleases?
Elections have consequences, both domestically and in this case, internationally. What a mess.

Saturday, November 23, 2013


The New York Times is slowly breaking with it self-appointed role as the Obama administration's chief journalistic protector and apologist, and has begun to do some honest reporting on Obamacare. In an article this morning, Eric Lipton and his colleagues write:
The online [Obamacare] exchange was crippled, people involved with building it said in recent interviews, because of a huge gap between the administration’s grand hopes and the practicalities of building a website that could function on opening day.

Vital components were never secured, including sufficient access to a data center to prevent the website from crashing. A backup system that could go live if it did crash was not created, a weakness the administration has never disclosed. And the architecture of the system that interacts with the data center where information is stored is so poorly configured that it must be redesigned, a process that experts said typically takes months. An initial assessment identified more than 600 hardware and software defects — “the longest list anybody had ever seen,” one person involved with the project said.

When the realization of impending disaster finally hit government officials at the Aug. 27 meeting — just 34 days before the site went live — they threw out nearly 30 requirements, including the Spanish-language version of the site and a payment system for insurers to receive government subsidies for the policies they sold.
For almost three decades I ran a software engineering consulting company, so I've seen lots of failed software projects. They all have the same basic characteristics: unrealistic schedules, hazy or non-existent requirements, poor management bullied by executive management, wasted or misdirected technical effort, a continuing stream of requirements changes, and a poorly designed architecture that often is precipitated by all of the preceding flaws. The Obamacare website is a case study in such failed efforts.

Like the president, I've also written a few books, although none of them are about me. Interestingly, one of my books is the world's most widely used software engineering textbook. After reading the NYT article and many other descriptions of the Obamacare website, I feel safe in stating that no one in the administration in any position of authority every read my book.

In the first edition of the book (way back in 1982), I wrote about software "myths"—things that software managers and practitioners believed about software projects that simply weren't true. Over the past 30 years, reviewers of subsequent editions suggested that I remove my discussion of myths because "everybody knows this stuff." Apparently, not everybody.

I disregarded the reviewers' suggestions, and even today, as the eighth edition is being prepared for publication in January, 2014, the myths remain in the book. Here are a few:
If we get behind schedule, we can add more programmers and catch up (sometimes called the “Mongolian horde” concept).

If we decide to outsource the software project to a third party, we can just relax and let that firm build it.

A general statement of objectives is sufficient to begin writing programs—we can fill in the details later.

Software requirements continually change, but change can be easily accommodated because software is flexible.

Until we get the program "running" we have no way of assessing its quality.

If you read the NYT article, you'll come to understand that the Obama administration believed every one of these myths. A software engineering train wreck ensued.

In the Preface to the eighth edition of the book, I write:
When computer software succeeds—when it meets the needs of the people who use it, when it performs flawlessly over a long period of time, when it is easy to modify and even easier to use—it can and does change things for the better. But when software fails—when its users are dissatisfied, when it is error prone, when it is difficult to change and even harder to use—bad things can and do happen. We all want to build software that makes things better, avoiding the bad things that lurk in the shadow of failed efforts.
In the case of Obamacare website, the thing that "lurk[s] in the shadow of failed efforts" isn't the website itself, it's the legislative monstrosity that we call Obamacare. It will create havoc and cause heartache as we move into 2014.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Power Grab

In 2009, Congressional Democrats, flush with power and celebrating their clear majority in both houses, rammed through Obamacare without a single GOP vote—major legislation affecting nearly every American was forced to passage (recall the Cornhusker kickback) without a single opposition vote—not one. Today, this legislative monstrosity has become a true train wreck, serving no one's needs except those of a hyperpartisam president and his shrinking band of ideological supporters.

The Democrats, apparently learning nothing from their first foray into hyperpartisanism, have decided to ram through Obama's judicial and cabinet nominees by violating over 200 years of Congressional precedent and invoking the "nuclear option." In short, a simple majority of the senate can approve high level nominees of the president. This has never been done before, not for Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Regan, Bush-1, not for Clinton or Bush-2. But this president's nominees are so ideological that it's the only way that extreme nominees can be passed. Progressives think this is a great victory, the flexing of progressive muscle. Heh.

A high-level politician commenting on the nuclear option said,
“The nuclear option abandons America’s sense of fair play . . . tilting the playing field on the side of those who control and own the field. I say to my friends on the [other] side: You may own the field right now, but you won’t own it forever."
The politician was Joe Biden, Vice President of the United States, and the occasion occurred back in 2005 when Republicans foolishly considered the same option and had the very good sense to abandon it. Binden gets plenty wrong, but he was absolutely right in his words on this subject.

It's sad, actually. The Democrats have become so extreme and so ideological that they think that forcing both legislation and extreme nominees on this country will serve them and the country well. After all, progressives believe they hold the moral high ground -- they know what's best and will brook no other opinions -- and when given the chance, they will force their will on anyone who opposes them.

And they've decided to do this after their Obamacare debacle, learning absolutely nothing along the way. Obamacare has tarnished the Democrat brand, and this latest legislative power grab will come back to haunt them as sure as Obamacare now haunts people who have lost the health insurance this president promised they could keep. Period.

Power is fleeting and when it's gone, there will be a price to be paid. The Democrats will pay it, and if they don't, the country surely will.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Blind and Stupid

Last week, in the midst of growing questions about the wisdom of a weak deal with Iran, John Kerry said: "“We aren’t blind, and I don’t think we’re stupid.”

That statement, more than any other comment made by this Secretary of State, sums up the Obama administration's self-absorbed view of itself. Thinking it has all the answers, the administration has conducted a foreign policy that has resulted in failure after failure (see this post for a short summary of Barack Obama's foreign policy). In countries like Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Afghanistan, the administration has demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of the Middle Eastern cultural basis for negotiation—to wit, all deals reached by two parties are open to continuous interpretation, ongoing modification, and ultimate abrogation. Iran has demonstrated this cultural mindset not once or twice, but dozens of times since its Islamist thugs stormed our embassy in Tehran the 1979.

Acceptance of this view might be alright if John Kerry and company were negotiating a trade deal in which both parties wanted to import widgets, but it is completely unacceptable when the world's most active state sponsor or terror is negotiating an end to serious sanctions (first!) in return for a supposed stand down in their effort to develop a nuclear weapon.

Luckily, France—a country not known for it forward-leaning approach to international politics—has put on the brakes, recognizing that Obama's "deal" is anything but good news for the West and our few allies in the Middle East.

But John Kerry (3s and 2s) plods ever-onward. Sadly, "blind and stupid" sort of sums it all up.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Hard Way

Napolean once said, "Command, counter-command -- chaos." Apparently, Barack Obama never read those words or simply doesn't care. Scrambling to undo the catastrophic results of his own legislation, eager to avoid a mutiny of his supporters in the Democratic party, and desperate to stop his plummeting poll numbers, his brain trust (I use the term loosely) has come up with a CYA fix that does little if anything to fix the problem, and nothing to repair his permanently damaged credibility.

Paul Rahe goes back in time to examine Obama the idealist, suggesting that a man with the his kind of ideology honestly believes that thinking something will makes it so, that belief in an idea is all that matters to make the idea become the actual.

Rahe writes:
There is something to be said for this species of Idealism. Our imaginations are exceedingly powerful, and we can easily enough be bamboozled by those with an expertise in the deployment of words. Barack Obama has demonstrated this time and again, and he understands, better than any American politician in my memory, that what he resolutely refuses to mention or mentions only once in passing and never touches on again may simply disappear down the memory hole. What ever happened to Fast and Furious? to the IRS scandals? to the Benghazi blunder? to the Associated Press wiretaps? You and I are aware of what is going on, but the general public has only a vague and hazy memory of these scandals.

It helps, to be sure, that the press is servile—eager to provide cover for the Administration at almost every moment. But that is not the whole story. Barack Obama's "no drama" pose works. It works very, very well.

Sooner or later, however, reality bites. Sooner or later, something happens that touches the material interests of individuals in a way they cannot willfully ignore. Sooner or later, something happens that causes all but the most blind partisans to step back, pay attention, and rethink. It is like that moment in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy sees behind the curtain. You and I have long been aware that the country is being conned. We knew that the President was lying when he told Americans on 24 occasions, in no uncertain terms, that they could keep the health insurance that they had. We knew as well that he was perfectly aware that he was peddling a whopper, and everyone in our larger political class knew so as well. The mainstream media knew, and they helped him sell his lies.
But now the public, like Dorothy, has looked behind the curtain. And what they see is not pretty. A web of lies was used to establish Obamacare ("You can keep your coverage, period." It won't cost the taxpayer a dime."). It was not, as the trained hamsters at The New York Times suggested, that the president "misspoke." He was aware of the pending cancellations (this has been documented in writing) but chose political expediency over the truth.

In my view, Barack Obama has very few strengths, but he is an expert in "the deployment of words." It's what captured the imagination of the naive and the idealistic in 2008 and propelled an unprepared low-level politician to the presidency. It's ironic that Obama's arrogance and hubris caused him to forget (if he ever knew this to begin with) that the deployment of words can bite back, if the words are infused with lies. In the end, words are not enough, belief is not sufficient, and thinking something doesn't make it so. The country is learning that -- the hard way.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Bad numbers (both in terms of enrollment and cancelled policies), bad news (in terms of any reasonable methods for reversing the bad things that have already happened), and bad faith (in terms of poll numbers indicating that the public's trust of the president is at an all-time low) have begun to mount for Obamacare. As a consequence, we seem to be getting increasingly strident talking points from Democrats in a futile attempt to deflect blame for this monstrosity. Ardent Obama supporters (think: Debbie Wasserman-Schultz), suggest that the failure of Obamacare is due to GOP "sabotage."

Peggy Noonan comments:
The new talking point it that ObamaCare was damaged and fell due to Republican “sabotage.” Republicans on Capitol Hill refused to vote for it, refused to like it and support it. They tried repeatedly to repeal it and defund it.

And all this is true. But it is not sabotage. This is opposition. The Republicans thought the ACA a bad piece of work, a bad bill that would make things worse, not better ... .

As I remember it, the Democrats on Capitol Hill got the bill they wanted. They were heady, back in the majority, with a new and popular president, and they didn’t much care about GOP support. They wanted the credit: It was their bill. They wrote it in a way no Republican could support. And they got no Republican support. When Paul Ryan, who had emerged as the Republican point man, attempted to come forward with ideas, he was rebuffed.

The new president—and this was a key historic moment—decided not to act on the accumulated presidential wisdom of the ages, which is: Get the other party in on all big things. Give them a stake in it, use them for cover, show you have bipartisan juice, that you are truly national and not only the leader of one party, show you can wield your mighty power across the aisles. Get them bragging they passed it, with your leadership. Make them co-own it so that when certain parts don’t work, and certain parts won’t, they have deep motives to help you fix it.

Instead, a perfect storm of misjudgment, immaturity and lack of historical perspective, and a perfect storm of shortsighted selfishness (it’s all ours, it’s not even a little bit yours) brought forth a perfect storm of a health-care disaster.
I'm not a Republican, but I stood with the GOP in 2009 when they argued that Obamacare was "a bad piece of work, a bad bill that would make things worse, not better." The events of the past six weeks indicate that they were absolutely correct -- in every detail. And now, the Democrats are scurrying away from the legislation that they created, rammed through congress without a single GOP vote, and then celebrated their "achievement" in the same way a small child celebrates applying finger paint to the wall of his bedroom with no understanding of upcoming consequences.

The "perfect storm" has arrived for the Dems and it truly is the confluence of "misjudgment, immaturity and lack of historical perspective" coupled with arrogance. Obamacare is a hidden transfer tax on the young and on the middle class. It is doomed to fail, and it will.

Update (11/14/13):

Jonah Goldberg brings up an interesting point:
During the government shutdown, Barack Obama held fast, heroically refusing to give an inch to the hostage-taking, barbaric orcs of the Tea Party who insisted on delaying Obamacare. It was a triumph for the master strategist in the White House, who finally maneuvered the Republicans into revealing their extremism. But we didn’t know something back then: Obama desperately needed a delay of In his arrogance, though, he couldn’t bring himself to admit it. The other possibility is that he is such an incompetent manager, who has cultivated such a culture of yes-men, that he was completely in the dark about the problems. That’s the reigning storyline right now from the White House. Obama was betrayed. “If I had known,” he told his staff, “we could have delayed the website.”
It is inconceivable that Barack Obama or his most senior advisors had no inkling that the Obamacare website was in deep trouble long before the shutdown. If Obama is the master political strategist that his supporters claim he is, why on earth did he not acquiesce to GOP demands for an Obamacare delay and the use the delay to blame them for "obstruction" and at the same time, hide the catastrophic flaws in the website and in the ACA itself?

It's really a good question, but the answer is not the either/or that Goldberg proposes. Barack Obama suffers from both hubris and arrogance and he's also an incompetent manager (3s hire 2s). That's a toxic mix.

Sunday, November 10, 2013


It should come as no surprise to readers of this blog that I believe that the breathtaking pro-Obama bias of the vast majority of the mainstream media (Obama's trained hamsters) has done this nation a great disservice. Rather than taking it's typical adversarial role, the media over the past five years has acted as the President's Praetorian guard, protecting him from serious scandals (think: Fast and Furious, Benghazi, and the IRS), incompetent foreign policy blunders (think: Egypt, Libya and Syria), and a myriad of domestic policy missteps—the most egregious—Obamacare. The have allowed this President to deflect blame for his own serious economic errors without critically evaluating the justification of the deflection (think: George W. Bush). They have, not to put too fine a point on it, gone into the tank for Barack Obama.

The irony is that Obama's hamsters have not only done the nation a great disservice, they have also done their anointed president a great disservice. Michael Goodwin comments:
From the broadcast networks to MSNBC and most large papers, Obama got the benefit of every doubt. The double standards were a daily disgrace so routine, they mostly provoked a shrug instead of outrage.

The ObamaCare debacle is the exception that proves the rule. Wall-to-wall complaints are forcing the media to report that the law’s Web site is a lemon and that its rules are causing millions of people to lose insurance plans they liked.

The mainstream media is acting only because the story is too big to ignore. Had it been mildly skeptical sooner, it could have exposed the law’s destructive rules and prevented the disaster.
Mild or even aggressive skepticism is the media's job. They should question the ruling elite, not protect them. They should dig into potential scandals with vigor, not bury them below the fold on page 38. They should conduct aggressive interviews, not puff pieces a la 60 Minutes. When moderating presidential debates, they should remain absolutely neutral, not Candry Crowleyesque, protecting her guy, even though she was wrong and his opponent was right. They should avoid demonizing the opposition (think: Tea Party), recognizing that different ideological viewpoints are healthy in a democracy.

But Obama's trained hamsters have done none of those things. They reflectively act as his protectors, and as a consequence, they have allow Obama to think he's bulletproof. Goodwin continues:
... [the MSM cheerleading] feeds his [Obama's] arrogance and reinforces his belief that he can solve any problem with another speech. The unflattering truth doesn’t stand a chance — ­until it is too late.

Not that the president would admit any of that, of course, but the Obama Protection Racket, led by the [New York] Times, cuts both ways. It is a key reason he has defied political gravity for so long, and also why he is now in deep trouble. As watchdogs became lapdogs, the presidential bubble grew impenetrable, isolating him from ordinary Americans and the trickle-down pain of his policies.

To quote another Obama "acquaintence": "The chickens are finally coming home to roost."

Friday, November 08, 2013

Historic Proportions

Barack Obama's foreign policy has been the subject of many of my blog posts over the past five years. If you look at some of the highlights, the reality of his efforts begins to become all too clear.

In Iran: In 2010, the people or Iran rose up in the "green revolution" an effort to change their government. Millions marched in the streets. Barack Obama was eerily silent during what could have been a sea change moment for a country. He provident absolutely no help to the dissidents and allowed the brutal Islamist government to crush them.

In Egypt: The President advocated the overthrow of the American ally and dictator Hosni Mubarek, encouraged the formation of a government headed by the Muslim Brotherhood, a group of Islamist thugs, was neutral when the Islamist dictator Morsi was overthrown by the military, and then cut aid becuase the Military did what they had to do. In the process, he alienated the Egyptian people. Today, Egypt is on a knife edge, close to chaos.

In Libya: Obama's lead from behind strategy resulted in the fit-and-starts overthrow of Libyan strongman Mohammar Kadaffi. With no follow-up, Kadaffi was replaced by armed gangs and al Qaeda and Libya has now devolved into chaos. As if to punctuate this disaster, a US ambassador was killed in Benghazi, while the administration made mendacious claims about the cause. The scandal still simmers to this day.

In Syria: The President awkwardly established a "red line," then told us that a humanitarian disaster was occurring, that military intervention was a necessity, until it wasn't. Outplayed by Russia's Vladim Putin, Obama quickly caved, suggesting to both allies and foes that his "red lines" are meaningless.

In Mexico: Obama's attorney general authorized a gun smuggling scheme called "fast and furious" that imported weapons into Mexico that were later used to kill many Mexicans and a US federal agent. The resulting scandal was stonewalled successfully with the help of Obama's trained hamsters in the media.

In North Korea: Absolutely no progress and continuing belligerence from the puppet kingdom.

In Russia: Tensions have escalated during Obama's presidency and it's fairly obvious that Russian strongman, Vladimir Putin, has little respect for Barack Obama.

In Israel: The president and his secretary of state, Hilary Clinton, dissed Israeli prime minister Bibi Netanyahu in a number of different ways, leaked information about secret Israeli military operations, and hypocritically condemned Israeli settlements just outside the country's capital in Jerusalem. Then, with good feeling in the air, Obama tried to reignite flawed "peace talks" between the palestinians and Israelis knowing full well that they were doomed to failure. He put a variety of different kinds of pressure on the Israels and patted the heads of Palestinian leaders. Nothing will come of this effort.

Among our other Allies: The NSA scandal has alienated virtually every ally from Germany to France to Brazil.

There's plenty more, but I hope you get the point -- Barack Obama's foreign is a study in incompetence, lack of focus, and fecklessness.

And now The New York Times tells us:
GENEVA — After years of fruitless negotiations, Western and Iranian diplomats are on the verge of an agreement that would freeze Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for an easing of some economic sanctions.

Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to travel here on Friday at the invitation of Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, in an effort “to help narrow differences,” a senior State Department official said. If that goes well, the pact could be announced later in the day, Iranian officials said.

But even as the two sides tried to finalize the agreement on Thursday, fissures have widened between the United States and some of its principal allies over the potential pact, which has been hailed by the Obama administration as a possible breakthrough in the standoff over Iran’s nuclear aspirations but dismissed by critics as a temporizing measure that would leave the core of Tehran’s atomic program intact.
There's little doubt that Obama's trained hamsters in the media will hail this as a major foreign policy achievement, just as they fawned over Obama's "achievements" in Egypt, Libya, and even Syria (see above if you've already forgotten the reality of those "achievements."). In actuality, an Iran "deal" is much closer to Bibi Netanyahu's characterization -- a mistake of historic proportions.

There is one thing that Barack Obama is reasonably consistent about— he does not learn from his mistakes and bad decisions. As a consequence, he is doomed to repeat them. The only problem with that is that we are all doomed to live with the results.

Update (11/9/13):

It is sadly ironic that so many Jewish-Americans have been ardent Obama supporters, arguing against all rational evidence that he is a friend of staunch US ally Israel. Now we learn that sanctions against Iran are to be dropped for undefined "concessions." Israel's prime minister has indicated that any "nuclear deal" with Iran represents an existential threat to his country. Richard Fernandez comments:
The administration’s strategy towards Iran — secretly suspending sanctions while putting the onus on Israel to make concessions — is, whatever you may think of it, a very high risk proposition. It sets up a brittle situation. If the president cannot come up with a deal the region can ultimately live with; if he simply comes up with the international version of Obamacare, or the regional version of Syria; in other words if he exhibits exactly the same competence in this that he’s exhibited all his life then the system will break.

The system will break because his made-for-television solution will fail ...

The fundamental problem with Obama’s Iranian policy, which was crafted insofar as I can tell, as a direct reaction to his Syrian blunder, is that it bets the farm on a long shot. Iran will not stop in its march to the bomb because it has more to gain by it than it can ever lose to Obama. The problem for everyone, not just Bibi, is what to do when the dice come up Snake Eyes.
But here's the thing. In the foreign policy realm, Barack Obama and his team of ideological incompetents have rolled snake eyes repeatedly—in Iran, in Egypt, in Libya, in Syria, and even in Israel. As Fernandez notes, it appears that Obama is not driven by pragmatic diplomacy, but rather by the cynical political effort to salvage his disastrous foreign policy failures.

The further irony is that the president professes to be in favor of nuclear de-escalation throughout the world. His "deal" with Iran will accomplish the exact opposite. Iran's acquisition of a nuclear weapons (and that is exactly what will happen if a "deal" is struck) will lead to an arms race throughout the Middle East. Already, Saudi Arabia has been reported in talks with Pakistan to acquire nukes to protect itself from Iran.

Snake eyes--over and over again.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Lies about Lies

In June of 2009, before the ACA was passed into law, Barack Obama made the following statement in a speech to the American Medical Association:
“That means that no matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health-care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health-care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.”
He repeated the same few sentences dozens of times before this deeply flawed legislation was passed and then dozens more after the ACA became law. The Wall Street Journal reports that some of his advisors expressed concern that his comments were "misleading," but his political advisors worried that any qualification might ruin his re-election chances in 2012. So he lied, knowing full-well that what he was saying was not true.

But here's the interesting part. Earlier this week, the president, under siege by almost everyone including (incredibly) even some of his trained media hamsters and more than a few Democratic senators who worry about their reelection chances, said the following:
“Now, if you have or had one of these plans before the Affordable Care Act came into law and you really liked that plan, what we said was you can keep it if it hasn’t changed since the law passed.”
The phrase "what we said was you can keep it if it hasn’t changed since the law passed" is absolutely, unequivocally untrue. It seems that Barack Obama is now lying about his earlier lies. Laughably, The New York Times editorial board suggests to its readers that the president "misspoke." Really? He misspoke dozens of times on the same topic? Please.

Richard Fernandez's take on all of this is interesting:
In [George Orwell's book] 1984 the Party’s main defense is not the secret police but education; through the artificial official language of Newspeak dark things are hidden in plain sight and rebellion is made impossible to articulate. There simply isn’t the vocabulary for it. Once Newspeak made has made resistance impossible it will be time to move in for the kill and argue that 2+2=5.

President Obama’s declaration that ‘you can keep your doctor’ and that you ‘can keep your health plan’ is a perfect example of “2+2=5″. The National Journal makes the mistake of thinking that Obama’s lie is unimportant because all it harms is his credibility. “On history’s scale of deception, this one leaves a light footprint. Worse lies have been told by worse presidents, leading to more severe consequences, and you could argue that withholding a caveat is more a sin of omission. But this president is toying with a fragile commodity: his credibility. Once Americans stop believing in Obama, they will stop listening to him. They won’t trust government to manage health care. And they will wonder what happened to the reform-minded leader who promised never to lie to them.”

But they are wrong. The important thing about Obama’s “2+2=5″ is not that it is a lie, but that it is a lie uttered in your face ... The New York Times goes to great lengths to argue that the president only “misspoke”; that he never “lied”.

[Editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal said,] “We have a high threshold for whether someone lied.” The phrase that The Times used “means that he said something that wasn’t true.” Saying the president lied would have meant something different, Mr. Rosenthal said — that he knew it was false and intended to express the falsehood. “We don’t know that,” he said.

That is precisely the point which the Times wishes to elide. The president knew it was false and intended to express the falsehood — and we know that. The trick is to pretend that we don’t know that because to admit the fact would be to accept his contempt for us, to see the Boot in our face.
Contempt may be too strong a word, but the chutzpa that enables the president to blatantly lie and then even more blatantly lie about the lies is very concerning. It smacks of an arrogance that is dangerous at many different levels.

Peter Wegner summaries this sordid affair when he writes:
The last six weeks have been brutal ones for the Obama presidency. And I’m guessing that the damage that’s been inflicted will not be transitory. All the failures surrounding the Affordable Care Act–from the disastrous rollout of the federal health-care exchanges, to sticker shock surrounding premiums and deductibles, to the jolting realization that millions of people are now being forced out of health-care plans they like (with millions more to follow)–has likely left an indelible mark of incompetence on Mr. Obama. He looks like nothing so much as a community organizer who is totally overmatched by events.

That would be injurious enough. But now you can add to the mix the shattering of Mr. Obama’s credibility; the belief among a growing number of his fellow citizens that he cannot be trusted, that he will corrupt words in order to advance his ways. Those character defects would be troubling enough in, say, a state senator. They are much more problematic to find in an American president. It’s all very discouraging.
Very discouraging, indeed.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Normal Accidents

In what has to be one of the most insightful and 'deep' analytical examinations of the Obamacare debacle—and by extension, big government programs in general—Richard Fernandez examines why overly complex and tightly coupled systems are inherently prone to failure. Referring to the work of Charles Perrow who wrote a book entitled Normal Accidents, Fernandez writes:
In Perrow’s analysis, the systems most vulnerable to “normal failure” have two salient characteristics. They are “tightly coupled” and “interactively complex”. These are precisely the kinds of centralized structures which bureaucracies love to construct.

A tightly coupled system is like a house of cards. If you move one card all the others must be adjusted to suit. “Strong coupling occurs when a dependent class contains a pointer directly to a concrete class which provides the required behavior. The dependency cannot be substituted, or its ‘signature’ changed, without requiring a change to the dependent class.”

The opposite of “tight coupling” is “loose coupling” which occurs “when the dependent class contains a pointer only to an interface, which can then be implemented by one or many concrete classes.” Loosely coupled components have ways of working things out between themselves, but they are not directly dependent on each other.

One of the changes that Obamacare has made to 1/6th of the American economy is to take a relatively loosely coupled system and tightly couple it.
It should come as no surprise that the president, who has neither the intellect nor the experience to understand systems, and his supporters, who believe in the fantasy that wanting something badly enough will overcome the technical complexities of actually building and implementing it, decided on exactly the wrong strategy for "fixing" healthcare in America.

To illustrate, here's a much simplified schematic of the ACA (Obamacare):

In software engineering jargon, the tightly coupled nature of this monstrosity leads to unintended side affects. A small error in one element of the system can propagate widely, resulting in significant impacts in other parts of the system. Any change made after the fact generates unintended consequences in other system components. Testing is difficult or impossible because of the interplay of components, and worse, the architecture of the system is not itself amenable to change or adaptation or extension. Large “tightly coupled” and “interactively complex” systems are an invitation for severe problems, and good software engineers spend much of their time and skill architecting big systems that avoid those characteristics. Politicians don't, and arrogant politicians who think they know what is best for the rest of us, don't even care. That's why the Obama administration spent 3.5 calendar years and well over 1,300 person-years of effort building something that does not work.

Eventually, of course, the builders of this monstrosity will cobble together enough fixes to make it work. It might happen on November 15th or November 30th or it might not. But here's the thing. In cobbling together the fixes, the geniuses who believe fantasy trumps reality have inadvertently introduced side effects that will come back to bite in the months that follow. That's not conjecture, it's an absolute certainly. And as a consequence, just when Obama's media hamsters begin celebrating "the fix" and the removal of "the glitches" in the Obamacare website, festering just below the surface are hundreds and possibly thousands of defects that will make a bad dream turn into a nightmare.

Sleep tight, Obama supporters, don't let the bedbugs bite. Bad things are coming, and you own every one of them.

Update ( 11/5/13):
As bad things stir in the darkness, just beyond the fringes of the Democrat's worst nightmare, those of us who labelled Obamacare as a disaster way back in 2009 can only shake our heads in dismay. Peggy Noonan summarizes the situation well:
ObamaCare is a practical, policy and political disaster, a parlay of poisonous P’s.

And it is unbelievable – simply unbelievable – that the administration is so proud, so childish, so ideological, so ignorant and so uncaring about the bill’s victims that they refuse to stop, delay, go back, redraw and ease the trauma.
But it really isn't unbelievable. Not if you've carefully observed this president and his inner circle of advisors over the past 5 years. It's both predictable and unavoidable.