Monday, October 14, 2013

Cruising the Web

The New York Times reveals that problems are much worse at the Obamacare website than being revealed. And it is clear that the Department of Health and Human Services has known for a while that the technology wasn't ready.
“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.' ”

....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.

But Mr. Chao’s superiors at the Department of Health and Human Services told him, in effect, that failure was not an option, according to people who have spoken with him. Nor was rolling out the system in stages or on a smaller scale, as companies like Google typically do so that problems can more easily and quietly be fixed. Former government officials say the White House, which was calling the shots, feared that any backtracking would further embolden Republican critics who were trying to repeal the health care law.
So just who is letting politics trump policy?

John Fund explains why Senator David Vitter is more unpopular among Congressmen than Ted Cruz.

How come democrats don't want to negotiate with Susan Collins? I thought that they were just yearning for a return of the "moderate" Republicans. The real reason is that they don't want a deal. They want to get rid of sequestration spending levels even though their supposed goal of a "clean CR" would lock in those spending levels. Hey, isn't the sequestration settled law? I thought it was almost treasonous to want to change "settled law"?

Jonathan Tobin looks at our "gerrymandered media."

Mark Steyn takes on the new paramilitary forces of the National Park Service.
At the same time as the National Park Service was holding legal foreign visitors under house arrest, it was also allowing illegal immigrants to hold a rally on the supposedly closed National Mall. At this bipartisan amnesty bash, the Democrat House minority leader Nancy Pelosi said she wanted to “thank the president for enabling us to gather here” and Republican congressman Mario Diaz-Balart also expressed his gratitude to the administration for “allowing us to be here.”

Is this for real? It’s not King Barack’s land; it’s supposed to be the people’s land, and his most groveling and unworthy subjects shouldn’t require a dispensation by His Benign Majesty to set foot on it. It is disturbing how easily large numbers of Americans lapse into a neo-monarchical prostration that few subjects of actual monarchies would be comfortable with these days. But then in actual monarchies the king takes a more generous view of “public lands.” Two years after Magna Carta, in 1217, King Henry III signed the Charter of the Forest, which despite various amendments and replacement statutes remained in force in Britain for some three-quarters of a millennium, until the early Seventies. If Magna Carta is a landmark in its concept of individual rights, the Forest Charter played an equivalent role in advancing the concept of the commons, the public space. Repealing various restrictions by his predecessors, Henry III opened the royal forests to the freemen of England, granted extensive grazing and hunting rights, and eliminated the somewhat severe penalty of death for taking the king’s venison. The NPS have not yet fried anyone for taking King Barack’s deer, but it is somewhat sobering to reflect that an English peasant enjoyed more freedom on the sovereign’s land in the 13th century than a freeborn American does on “the people’s land” in the 21st century.

And we’re talking about a lot more acreage: Forty percent of the state of California is supposedly federal land, and thus officially closed to the people of the state. The geyser stasi of the National Park Service have in effect repealed the Charter of the Forest. President Obama and his enforcers have the same concept of the royal forest that King John did. The government does not own this land; the Park Service are merely the janitorial staff of “we the people” (to revive an obsolescent concept). No harm will befall the rocks and rivers by posting a sign at the entrance saying “No park ranger on duty during government shutdown. Proceed beyond this point at your own risk.” And, at the urban monuments, you don’t even need that: It is disturbing that minor state officials even presume to have the right to prevent the citizenry walking past the Vietnam Wall.

I wonder what those Japanese and Australian tourists prevented from photographing bison or admiring a geyser make of U.S. claims to be “the land of the free.” When a government shutdown falls in the forest, Americans should listen very carefully. The government is telling you something profound and important about how it understands the power relationship between them and you.
George Will examines the convoluted argument that supporters of affirmative action are going to be making in the Supreme Court this week.
The marble friezes above the Supreme Court chamber depict 18 great lawgivers, including Moses, Solomon, King John and William Blackstone. Come Tuesday, as the bemused — or so one hopes — justices listen to oral arguments in a case from Michigan, they might wonder why Lewis Carroll is not included. He would have relished the Alice-in-Wonderland argument the justices will hear, which is as follows.

Although the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment says “No state shall . . . deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,” the following provision of Michigan’s Constitution violates the equal-protection guarantee: No public university, college or school district may “discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.”

Yes, in Tuesday’s Through-the-Looking- Glass moment, the court will be urged to declare that Michigan’s ban on unequal treatment violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal-protection clause. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit — divided 8 to 7, with five dissents — has said just that, citing what is called the political-restructuring doctrine.

The argument is that when, in 2006, Michigan voters put in the state’s Constitution the ban against racial preferences in higher education, this complicated the task of those Michiganders who want to institute racial preferences. Instead of just lobbying the admissions officials of the state’s educational institutions, they must first mount a statewide campaign to amend Michigan’s Constitution. The Supreme Court, however, has hitherto applied the political-restructuring doctrine only against laws that change a political process in ways that diminish protection against unequal treatment, not to prevent laws granting preferential treatment.

Byron York imagines a counterfactual account of what would have happened if the GOP hadn't made it their mission to defund Obamacare and had let the public's attention the past couple of weeks been focused on the failures of the launch of the Obamacare exchanges.
As October wore on, the Republican campaign would have focused on the administration's secretiveness about Obamacare's problems. In a Washington Post story Saturday and a New York Times story Sunday, experts involved in the Obamacare effort were highly critical of its failures, but were afraid to reveal their names, for fear of provoking the wrath of the administration. Shouldn't Republicans in Congress want to hear their stories publicly? Beyond that, there is the issue of the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on the so-far failing effort. Where did it go? How was it spent? And then there is the question of whether top Obama administration officials misled lawmakers about Obamacare preparations. Repeatedly, officials from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius down assured Congress that the run-up was going well and that the system would work. Now we know that top officials knew full well of Obamacare's problems. Was their congressional testimony fully true? As part of the GOP campaign, House Republicans would hold hearings on that and many other questions surrounding the rollout.

The campaign would also focus on the next stage of problems with Obamacare. Once the administration figures out its technical issues, as it presumably will, Obamacare will move into the sticker-shock phase, as millions of Americans discover they will pay higher premiums, or higher deductibles, or both, for the same type of insurance they had before Obamacare. The Republican campaign would go all-out to inform Americans that that is on the way. And at every step, the GOP would play Obama's promise: If you like your health coverage, you can keep it.

Of course, the White House would not be without defenses in the battle. The administration would continue its pro-Obamacare campaign, with money and organizing and Hollywood celebrities. But Republicans would have a lot of facts on their side. And as each new, unhappy story came to light, the White House would be using more and more of its resources to play defense.
Instead, the media could follow its inclination to pound on GOP mistakes and divisions and downplay the problems of Obamacare. Of course, would they have built up those failures more if they hadn't been covering the shutdown? I would never plan a Republican strategy dependent on media coverage.