Monday, November 25, 2013

Monday Morning Secondhand Obamacare Schadenfreude

Not much real news occurs on a Sunday, but lots of editorializing, so most of today's entry's will be secondhand schadenfreude.

Writing from the point of view of the people who have to write the code for the monster and the disconnect between the people who order the site to be built and the builder: and the Gulf Between Planning and Reality
Intoning “Failure is not an option” will be at best useless, and at worst harmful. There is no “Suddenly Go Faster” button, no way you can throw in money or additional developers as a late-stage accelerant; money is not directly tradable for either quality or speed, and adding more programmers to a late project makes it later. You can slip deadlines, reduce features, or, as a last resort, just launch and see what breaks.
A quick way to say it that I learned from a aeronautic engineer was "faster, better, cheaper; pick two."
Denying this tradeoff doesn’t prevent it from happening. If no one with authority over the project understands that, the tradeoff is likely to mean sacrificing quality by default. That just happened to this administration’s signature policy goal. It will happen again, as long politicians can be allowed to imagine that if you just plan hard enough, you can ignore reality. It will happen again, as long as department heads imagine that complex technology can be procured like pencils. It will happen again as long as management regards listening to the people who understand the technology as a distasteful act.
Glen Reynolds, the Instapundit, follows up on this article in his own editorial in USA Today:
All appearances to the contrary, the managers involved in this debacle aren't dumb. But they come from a background -- law and politics -- where arguments often take the place of reality, and plausibility can be as good as, or better than, truth.

What engineers know that lawyers and politicians often don't is that in the world of things, as opposed to people, there's no escaping the sharp teeth of reality. But in law, and especially politics, inconvenient facts are merely inconvenient, something to be rationalized away.

When our country has accomplished great things in the past, there has usually been a great engineer running the program: Hyman Rickover with the nuclear submarine program, or Wernher von Braun with the Apollo space program, for example. Rickover and von Braun were famously stern taskmasters, but they did not substitute wishes for reality.

Which may be why they were able to launch submarines, and rockets that astounded the world. While today, we can't even launch a website.

Ann Althouse takes on the task of decoding New York Times talk on Obamacare:  This is the post where I paraphrase 10 things in the NYT article "Tension and Flaws Before Health Website Crash."
Here's the text, by Eric Lipson, Ian Austen, and Sharon LaFraniere. I'm blocking and indenting their text and boldfacing key words that made me feel compelled to paraphrase so I could see what they were muting or failing to pursue with investigative vigor.

1. Government officials and its contractors were in conflict, and some people — who? — made questionable decisions and demonstrated poor leadership.
[T]ensions between the government and its contractors, questionable decisions and weak leadership within the Medicare agency turned the rollout of the president’s signature program into a major humiliation.
2.The Obama administration, dazzled by its grandiose idea of making a dazzling website, refused even to engage with the reality that was plaguing the computer technicians: It was impossible to meet the deadline with a website that even worked.
The prime contractor, CGI Federal, had long before concluded that the administration was blindly enamored of an unrealistic goal: creating a cutting-edge website that would use the latest technologies to dazzle consumers with its many features. Knowing how long it would take to complete and test the software, the company’s officials and other vendors believed that it was impossible to open a fully functioning exchange on Oct. 1...
 See all ten examples.

More from the NYT via Hot Air:  The administration doesn’t want you to call ObamaCare “redistribution,” but just to be clear… it is.
“Redistribution is a loaded word that conjures up all sorts of unfairness in people’s minds,” said William M. Daley, who was Mr. Obama’s chief of staff at the time. Republicans wield it “as a hammer” against Democrats, he said, adding, “It’s a word that, in the political world, you just don’t use.”

These days the word is particularly toxic at the White House, where it has been hidden away to make the Affordable Care Act more palatable to the public and less a target for Republicans, who have long accused Democrats of seeking “socialized medicine.” But the redistribution of wealth has always been a central feature of the law and lies at the heart of the insurance market disruptions driving political attacks this fall. …
The whole thing is built on a foundation of shifting lies.

John Fund at the National Review on line reminds us that legislation operates in two directions:  Yes, It Can . . . Be Repealed
Washington, D.C. — “These people don’t understand what the government is trying to do for them,” said then-chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Dan Rostenkowski in August 1989, after senior citizens angry over a federal health-care law booed him and chased him down a Chicago street. That law was repealed a few months later by a Democratic Congress and a Republican president who had supported it jus the year before.

Everything old is new again. We are starting to hear in D.C. that today’s unpopular health-care law might be in real trouble, spelled with a capital T, as The Music Man would put it.
Democrats may publicly pooh-pooh the chances of Obamacare’s suffering the same fate as the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act. But privately they are a lot more nervous about it than they let on. And getting more so with each passing cycle of awful news.
Cabanal - "The Expulsion of Adam and Eve"
According to Juan Williams, as again highlighted by Ann Althouse, the administration claims that Republican who oppose Obamacare have committed the "Original Sin" and must be cast out of the garden.  That certainly bodes well for any attempt to fix problems with the law legislatively.
Williams is saying "I," indicating his oneness with the administration, which had him over to receive an injection of talking points. I think he noticed that slip with the pronoun "I," because the next thing he said was:
I think the president and the White House has gotten it, they don't like it. See how he restated who's gotten the message? It's the White House. They don't like it. Williams's "I" is repositioned in front of the verb think, which I find humorous, since he's not thinking for himself. He's delivering talking points.
It's what the White House now calls the original sin. They cannot work or expect Republicans to work with them to fix the plan. Wow. The Republicans are exiled from the Garden of Legislating. They cannot be worked with, for they have committed The Original Sin.
Oh well, I guess we'll just have to work on it through the courts: Here come more Obamacare lawsuits
It's about to get worse. The federal judiciary is currently hearing four cases challenging decisions made by the Internal Revenue Service that could soon deliver more major blows to the Affordable Care Act.

One such decision extended subsidies provided by Obamacare for lower-income individuals and families (those making up to four times the povery level) to people in the 36 states served by the federally-operated exchange,

But the law spells out clearly that such federal subsidies will be granted "through an exchange established by the state" - not that they can be granted by the federal government.
Words, just words.  Maybe they should have read it before they voted on it? What a novel idea! But I'm sure that the Republicans can be counted on to help fix it legislatively if the courts, by some weird happenstance, choose to actually read it.

Some newsy items though...

State confirms health website security breach
Officials overseeing the Vermont Health Connect website confirmed Friday there was a security breach on the system last month in which one user got improper access to another user’s Social Security number and other data.

A report from state to federal officials overseeing the health insurance exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act said a consumer reported the incident with the Vermont Health Connect website on Oct. 17.

The consumer, whom officials would not identify, reported that he received in the mail — from an unnamed sender — a copy of his own application for insurance under the state exchange.“On the back of the envelope was hand-written ‘VERMONT HEALTH CONNECT IS NOT A SECURE WEBSITE!’ This was also (written) on the back of the last page of the printed out application,” said the incident report.
This is not the federal website, but it is just tip of the iceberg. For every known penetration of the websites, there are likely to be 100 unreported.

Lefties were quick to accuse conservatives of hacking the website, or attacking it with DOS (denial of service) attacks, but, honestly, when was the last time you heard of a cybercriminal who wasn't either an anarchoanti-capitalist or some other brand of left winger?  It strains credulity.

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