CBS confuses famed FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover with President Herbert Hoover.
Obamacare is costing more Americans their health insurance than have gained it. Many more:
More Americans In 3 States Have Had Their Insurance Canceled Under ObamaCare Than Have Filed An Exchange Account In All 50
This week the reality of the ObamaCare roll-out appeared in a set of news stories that serve as an ironic juxtaposition. Over 500,000 individuals have seen their insurance policies cancelled in just 3 states. In all 50 states, only 476,000 applications have been “filed” in an exchange. (Even though we are still learning the true definition of “filed.”)
This parenthetical remark refers to the fact that the federal government (as well as some states including California and New York) are reporting applications as filed when in fact the application has merely been started (i.e., the applicant has logged in and begun shopping).
This is an unmitigated disaster.
This was President Obama, way-back-when (two-and-a-half weeks ago), categorically refusing to delay Obamacare’s individual mandate:
“Steve, let’s be clear, we’re not going to delay the Affordable Care Act,” Obama said. “There are millions of Americans, right now, who don’t have health insurance and they are, finally, after decades going to be in a position where they can get get affordable health care just like everybody else and that means that their families, their kids, themselves, they’ve got the basic security that you and I enjoy. And the notion that we would even delay them getting that kind of peace of mind, potentially going to a doctor to get treated for illnesses that they currently have simply because the Republicans have decided, ideologically, that they’re opposed to the Affordable Care Act is not something that we’re going to be discussing.”
And he meant it. He was willing to shut down (sorta) the government to prevent any delay to his signature achievement. Republicans wanted a full year’s delay, but Obama would not even negotiate something shorter.
Of course, there is a big difference between what the Republicans offered and what the White House is announcing, much bigger than length of the delay. The law imposes the individual mandate on February 15, no ifs, ands, or buts. Republicans offered the president a legal delay, through properly-enacted legislation. He refused it, and is now unilaterally imposing an illegal delay. He didn’t have to flout the rule of law; he prefers to flout it.
POSTSCRIPT: Meanwhile, we should remember that delaying the individual mandate is not actually good policy, unless community rating (i.e., price controls) and guaranteed issue are also delayed. The individual mandate is what makes community rating and guaranteed issue possible without skyrocketing premiums. (Yes, premiums are as much as tripling, but without the mandate it would be even worse.) The administration has no good solution to this mess they’ve made.
POST-POSTSCRIPT: By the way, when you read Obama’s prattle above, keep in mind that what he was refusing to delay was the individual mandate, the part of Obamacare that forces people to buy “peace of mind” whether they want to or not.
A superbly prophetic of prediction of disaster in the Obamacare exchanges.
UPDATE: This quote from Nancy Pelosi:
At a Thursday afternoon press conference, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi was asked by THE WEEKLY STANDARD if Obamacare should be delayed in whole or in part if healthcare.gov still isn’t working in November or December.
“No, no,” Pelosi replied. “It has nothing to do with the programmatic part. It’s about technology.”
is a perfect illustration of Webster’s naive supervisor that sees software development as “a simple matter of programming.”
I noted on Monday that two major contributing factors to Healthcare.gov’s failure came not from typical government incompetence, but from the Obama administration’s own political malfeasance: (1) They kept systems integration in-house so Republicans couldn’t find out how things were going, and (2) they didn’t want users to find out the actual price of health insurance. In light of that, these stories seem interesting:
The Obama administration has decided to brief Congress on Obamacare’s implementation woes, but only Democrats are invited:
On Wednesday, the administration also sent Mike Hash, who runs the health reform office at Health and Human Services, to Capitol Hill to brief lawmakers on the law’s implementation.
Only Democrats were invited to that session, prompting protest from House Speaker John Boehner, whose spokesman called it a “snub” and said the administration should brief House Republicans, too.
Then there’s this:
The problems haven’t yet been resolved, but people familiar with the situation said officials are debating whether to replace parts of the registration system this weekend. By Thursday morning, a new tool that allows users to preview plans without registering appeared on the site with little fanfare.
This would allow people to see health insurance prices without giving personal information (thereby loading the system), and consequently would allow people to see the actual prices without a subsidy applied. This would seem to go against the administration’s goals for the system. But in fact:
CBS News has uncovered a serious pricing problem with HealthCare.gov. It stems from the Obama administration’s efforts to improve its health care website. A new online feature can dramatically underestimate the cost of insurance.
The administration announced it would provide a new “shop and browse” feature Sunday, but it’s not giving consumers the real picture. In some cases, people could end up paying double of what they see on the website. . .
Every single page of the new feature warns people that they might be able to get a subsidy, with a big blue box that is often larger than everything else on the page. But even with that, it seems they still don’t want people to know the actual cost.
The primary contractor for the failed Healthcare.gov web site — the Canadian firm CGI — was hired with a no-bid contract.
Cronyism generally doesn’t surprise me, especially from these guys, but in this case I thought they really did want the system to work!
UPDATE: The senior vice-president at CGI is a college classmate of Michelle Obama.
The failure of Healthcare.gov comes as no surprise to its hapless developers:
As questions mount over the website’s failure, insider interviews and a review of technical specifications by The Associated Press found a mind-numbingly complex system put together by harried programmers who pushed out a final product that congressional investigators said was tested by the government and not private developers with more expertise.
Project developers who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity — because they feared they would otherwise be fired — said they raised doubts among themselves whether the website could be ready in time. They complained openly to each other about what they considered tight and unrealistic deadlines. One was nearly brought to tears over the stress of finishing on time, one developer said. Website builders saw red flags for months.
Also, they first tested the system just five days before the system launched!
BONUS: It also seems as though some of the somewhat that did work was stolen.
Obamacare’s apologists have tried to blame Healthcare.gov’s failure on heavy load. We’ve known nearly since the beginning that this wasn’t true. But some new reporting reveals it isn’t even remotely close to true:
Days before the launch of President Obama’s online health insurance marketplace, government officials and contractors tested a key part of the Web site to see whether it could handle tens of thousands of consumers at the same time. It crashed after a simulation in which just a few hundred people tried to log on simultaneously.
Despite the failed test, federal health officials plowed ahead.
When the Web site went live Oct. 1, it locked up shortly after midnight as about 2,000 users attempted to complete the first step, according to two people familiar with the project.
The system can’t even handle a few hundred simultaneous users. A few hundred!
Moreover, although the load was somewhat high (but not all that high) during the first couple of days when people were trying the system out of curiosity (indeed, I tried it myself), it’s much lower now:
The number of visitors to the federal government’s HealthCare.gov Web site plummeted 88 percent between Oct. 1 and Oct. 13, according to a new analysis of America’s online use, while less than half of 1 percent of the site’s visitors successfully enrolled for health insurance the first week.
Yuval Levin’s heavily reported piece on the state of the Obamacare exchanges must be read in its entirety. They are, he reports, an utter disaster. Government officials are in “a kind of restrained panic”, while among insurance industry people “there was much less restraint”. No one believes that the system can be fixed in time, and the need for some sort of delay is taken as granted.
One serious problem that has not been widely circulated is the fact that it is not impossible to use the system, just extremely difficult. This makes for a severe problem with adverse selection. It means that those who do use the system will be those who are most motivated; that is, the most expensive people. On the contrary, the purpose of the exchanges was to get a lot of cheap people into the system, so that they would subsidize the sick and infirm. If only the sick and infirm are getting it, it could bring health insurers down.
Another problem is that the back-end of the system — which reports data to health insurers — doesn’t work either. (More on that here.) This has been largely masked by the fact that hardly anyone has been able to use the system anyway, but if they manage to fix the front-end, this will be a severe problem. Levin reports that it doesn’t seem easy to fix:
CMS officials and the large insurers thought at first that the garbled data being automatically sent to insurers must be a function of some very simple problems of format incompatibility between the government and insurer systems, but that now seems not to be the case, and the problem appears to be deeper and harder to resolve. It is a very high priority problem, because the system will not be able to function if the insurers cannot have some confidence about the data they receive. At this point, insurers are trying to work through the data manually, because the volume of enrollments is very, very low.
Levin also reports that while some of the state exchanges work on the front-end, they all have problems on the back-end.
POSTSCRIPT: Megan McArdle adds a few more ways in which Healthcare.gov is worse than you think. One of them is this: The White House says you can always register by phone if the web site isn’t working, and there’s a prominent “apply by phone” button on the web page now, but you can’t really. The people at the call center use the same computer system as the web site. And that’s if you actually get to talk to a human; most people get referred back to the web site.
POST-POSTSCRIPT: The actual Obamacare phone number is 1-800-F1UCK-YO. Well, at least they made it easy to remember.
At President Obama’s everything-is-fine-with-Healthcare.gov-really-I-mean-it Rose Garden speech, he brought a dozen supposed success stories, but when you actually look at them, hardly any of them actually are:
For example, a Pennsylvania man named Malik Hassan was in the group, and this is the White House description of his situation, in full: “Malik Hassan works at a restaurant in Philadelphia. Hassan, who does not receive coverage through his employer, is looking forward to enrolling for health coverage this fall. He recently used Healthcare.gov. to process his application and is waiting for the options for potential plans in Philadelphia.” . . .
Then there is Nathaniel Hojnacki, who recently finished his schooling. Here is the White House description of his situation, again in full: “Nathaniel Hojnacki recently received his Master’s degree at Johns Hopkins University SAIS and is in an employment situation without benefits. Hojnacki recognizes the importance of coverage and is planning to enroll after he explores his coverage options on the DC exchange.”
These are what pass for success stories: people who are planning to use the system eventually. In fact, not one of Obama’s “success stories” had actually managed to use the federal exchange. Two of them (reportedly) used state exchanges, and a few others exploited other provisions of the law; the rest are pretty much of the same character as the examples above.
UPDATE: I found the video for Obama’s speech:
Remember when President Obama promised you could keep your health insurance?
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 was lying, and not just a little bit:
Insurance companies are also already sending out notices to millions of consumers cancelling individual policies because they are non-compliant with ObamaCare’s new mandates. Kaiser Health News, usually a cheerleader for the law, reports that “Florida Blue, for example, is terminating about 300,000 policies, about 80 percent of its individual policies in the state.” Kaiser Permanente in California has sent notices to 160,000 people, Highmark in Pittsburgh is dropping about 20% of its individual market customers, and Independence Blue Cross of Philadelphia is dropping about 45%.
UPDATE: More people losing their health insurance:
The Affordable Care Act was signed by President Obama in 2010 and since then he has repeated one reassuring phrase: “If you like your insurance plan you will keep it. No one will be able to take that away from you. It hasn’t happened yet. It won’t happen in the future.”
But it is happening. The president’s health care law raises the standards for insurance policies, which many consider to be a good thing. But hundreds of thousands of Americans whose policies don’t meet the new standards are being told that their health plans are being cancelled. . .
[Natalie Willes’s] insurer, Kaiser Permanente, is terminating policies for 160,000 people in California and presenting them with new plans that comply with the healthcare law.
“Before I had a plan that I had a $1,500 deductible,” she said. “I paid $199 dollars a month. The most similar plan that I would have available to me would be $278 a month. My deductible would be $6,500 dollars, and all of my care after that point would only be covered 70 percent.”
Wiles may be paying more to get a worse deductible and coinsurance, but now she’ll get to say that her plan is Obamacare compliant. Priorities.
The Obama administration is illegally using DOD communication systems for political communications.
I have been enjoying the catastrophe that is the Obamacare rollout, of course. But beyond pure schadenfreude, it’s really interesting how the catastrophe came to be. The Obamacare web site goes beyond garden-variety government incompetence. It was the Obama administration’s own political malfeasance that brought about the disaster:
First, out of purely political considerations, the administration delayed issuing key rules:
To avoid giving ammunition to Republicans opposed to the project, the administration put off issuing several major rules until after last November’s elections. . .
The biggest contractor, CGI Federal, was awarded its $94 million contract in December 2011. But the government was so slow in issuing specifications that the firm did not start writing software code until this spring, according to people familiar with the process.
Second, the Obama administration’s deliberate lack of transparency was a key factor in the site not working. Consider this astonishing report:
As late as the last week of September, officials were still changing features of the Web site, HealthCare.gov, and debating whether consumers should be required to register and create password-protected accounts before they could shop for health plans.
They were still changing the fundamental design just a couple of weeks before the site launched! As it turns out the design point they were changing is key to why the system failed. The site won’t tell you anything at all without you providing personal information, which means that it cannot passively serve any pages other than the front page itself. In order to use the site at all, you need to put a heavy load on the system.
Why would they use such a manifestly foolish design? Political considerations:
“Healthcare.gov was initially going to include an option to browse before registering,” report Christopher Weaver and Louise Radnofsky in the Wall Street Journal. “But that tool was delayed, people familiar with the situation said.” Why was it delayed? “An HHS spokeswoman said the agency wanted to ensure that users were aware of their eligibility for subsidies that could help pay for coverage, before they started seeing the prices of policies.”
The Obama administration does not want people to see the true cost of health insurance on the exchanges, they only want them to see the prices after subsidy. And as a direct consequence of their concealment of Obamacare’s true cost, the system doesn’t work. It’s poetic justice. (Except that the public are the ones who are ultimately punished.)
(UPDATE: More on this issue here.)
But wait, there’s more!
Third, the contractors who were hired to implement the system were selected not on the basis of IT experience, but out of political considerations. Most of the contractors were Beltway bandits, notable mainly for their lobbying prowess. The firm that did the site’s visual design was founded by the design manager of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. But of greatest significance is the system integrator. They didn’t have one:
One highly unusual decision, reached early in the project, proved critical: the Medicare and Medicaid agency assumed the role of project quarterback, responsible for making sure each separately designed database and piece of software worked with the others, instead of assigning that task to a lead contractor.
Some people intimately involved in the project seriously doubted that the agency had the in-house capability to handle such a mammoth technical task of software engineering while simultaneously supervising 55 contractors. An internal government progress report in September 2011 identified a lack of employees “to manage the multiple activities and contractors happening concurrently” as a “major risk” to the whole project.
While some branches of the military have large software engineering departments capable of acting as the so-called system integrator, often on medium-size weapons projects, the rest of the federal government typically does not . . .
Why did they make such an unusual and ultimately disastrous decision? They were concerned that if they hired an outside contractor, Republicans might be able to subpoena information on the process:
Officials feared that if they called on outsiders to help with the technical details of how to run a commerce website, those companies could be subpoenaed by Hill Republicans, the former aide said. So the task fell to trusted campaign tech experts.
Note that voluntarily sharing information with Congress was out of the question; they were concerned with fighting subpoenas. And that lack of transparency directly contributed to the project’s failure.
Fourth, the administration wants to blame a lack of funds for the disaster:
Dr. Donald M. Berwick, the administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in 2010 and 2011, said the time and budgetary pressures were a constant worry. “The staff was heroic and dedicated, but we did not have enough money, and we all knew that,” he said in an interview on Friday.
That’s pretty silly, since the cost overruns were astronomical; they ended up spending over half a billion dollars building the system. But let’s suppose we take it seriously. This is intended as an indictment of Republicans, who obviously weren’t going to appropriate any additional funds for Obamacare. On the contrary, to the extent to which it’s true at all, it’s an indictment of the administration.
They want you to forget that when Democrats rammed this turkey down our throats, they included a billion-dollar slush fund for Obamacare’s implementation. They had plenty of money, but they blew it on who-knows-what? (Literally. $67 million of it is simply missing.) After spending half a billion on the site, and blowing the billion-dollar slush fund, they now have the chutzpah to claim they didn’t have enough money.
In summary, Obamacare is failing not just because of government incompetence. It is failing because the Obama administration, for all of its determination to keep Obamacare in place, has priorities other than actually making it work.
The EPA is extending its authority over streams and wetlands:
Two Republican lawmakers on the House Science Committee are accusing the Environmental Protection Agency of pushing through a rule that could potentially expand the agency’s regulatory authority over streams, wetlands and other bodies under the Clean Water Act.
Reps. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and Chris Stewart, R-Utah, on Friday sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy expressing concern over the proposed draft rule, which they say would give the agency “unprecedented control over private property across the nation.”
Unfortunately, the article doesn’t give enough detail really to understand what the EPA is doing, but based on the EPA’s recent record, it’s safe to assume it’s outrageous.
But what horrifies me, yet again, is not the detail of the EPA’s action, but the whole notion of it. The EPA is unilaterally extending its own authority, and the only check on its ability to do so is an impotent public comment period. A government agency is granting itself new powers, and the legislative branch has nothing to do with it. No, worse than that, the legislative branch is powerless to stop it
The rule of law in America has truly gone off the rails.
The 17% federal government shutdown is over now, so the Park Service — now shown to be as partisan and corrupt as any other part of the federal government — is now back at work. Or what passes for work as a federal employee. But there’s still one instance of the Obama Park Service’s screw-you-all policy that is worth noting:
When a man took it upon himself to mow the lawn at the Lincoln Memorial, the Park Service shut him down. Once again, the Obama shutdown does not mean that the government stops doing things; it means the government makes affirmative efforts to ensure things are worse.
Anyway, now that the shutdown is over, the furloughed workers get back pay. Thus, the shutdown was actually a paid vacation, which is pretty sweet. (ASIDE: Which is one reason why the unions had to hire fake government workers to protest the shutdown.) In fact, those workers who were willing to engage in a little public larceny get paid double:
Some federal workers who were furloughed in Oregon could be getting paid twice, with a state official confirming to Fox News that those workers who received state unemployment benefits during the partial government shutdown will not have to re-pay the money.
Other states haven’t yet determined if claimants will have to repay the money. Of particular importance, of course, is DC and Maryland:
Washington D.C. and Maryland also both paid millions in unemployment benefits to about 24,000 furloughed workers during the budget crisis.
Paul Krugman weighs in on the Obamacare rollout catastrophe:
So, very early reports are that Obamacare exchanges are, as expected, having some technical glitches on the first day — maybe even a bit worse than expected, because it appears that volume has been much bigger than predicted.
Here’s what you need to know: this is good, not bad, news for the program.
Ha! It’s a good thing it doesn’t work!
But anyway here’s the instructive thing about Paul Krugman: he says that the Obamacare glitches happened because volume was much bigger than predicted, but he is making it all up.
The Obamacare web site got 8.7 million visits during the first week. That is not so many. During the past week, the Huffington Post got 67 million visits, and the Huffington Post didn’t cost half a billion dollars to build. Further, all technical observers agree that the Obamacare site problem is not load, but serious design flaws.
So Paul Krugman is making up the facts that would need to be true in order to support his position, and not for the first time. Keep that in mind whenever you read anything by Krugman.
POSTSCRIPT: The “disaster is a good thing” meme still reminds me of these:
We’ve covered this in the past, but it’s useful to find the case gathered in one place:
- Deception #1: universal coverage
- Deception #2: no new taxes on the middle class
- Deception #3: annual premium savings of $2,500
- Deception #4: no increase in the deficit
- Deception #5: you can keep your plan if you like it
I’ve focused particularly on #5 here.
(Via Power Line.)
How Dianne Feinstein got a bunch of illegal weapons for her anti-gun press conference. Yes, there was a cover-up.
Ilya Somin has a very interesting article “voting with your feet”, arguing that foot-voting behavior is much more rational than ballot-voting behavior, and that foot voting strengthens the case for limited and decentralized government.
The Obama administration would like to claim that its unprecedented, spiteful, “shutdown” activities — spending money they don’t have in order to make sure the shutdown hurts — are somehow legally required. But they have never released any legal opinions to explain why a lack of spending authority even permits — much less requires — them to pay people to “make life as difficult as possible”, particularly when such has never been done before.
Moreover, by ending some of their most egregious shutdown theater, the Obama administration is conceding that those activities are not in fact required.
For example, one of the first instances of shutdown spite to come to light was the Claude Moore Colonial Farm, which has been operated by volunteers at no cost to the government since 1980. Since it costs the government nothing, the Farm was never affected by government shutdowns before. But in the Obama shutdown, the federal government rented barricades to close the Farm. After public outcry, the Obama administration is allowing the Farm to re-open, proving that the administration never needed to close the Farm in the first place.
More Obama administration shutdown theater:
- Barricading wheelchair ramps in Washington DC.
- Removing handles from water fountains on trails.
- Illegally closing Alaskan lands.
The pictures of barricaded wheelchair ramps are really quite astonishing. We used to think that “shutting down the government” meant that the government would not have the money to deliver public services. But now that the Obama administration is spending money they don’t have in order to hurt people, the government is revealed as just an extortion racket: if you don’t keep the protection money flowing, they will screw you up. “Nice wheelchair ramp. It’d be a shame if something happened to it.”
The Telegraph reports:
EU plans to fit all cars with speed limiters
All cars could be fitted with devices that stop them going over 70mph, under new EU road safety measures which aim to cut deaths from road accidents by a third. Under the proposals new cars would be fitted with cameras that could read road speed limit signs and automatically apply the brakes when this is exceeded.
In Daniel Keys Moran’s Continuing Time science-fiction series, an oppressive world government bans manual control of vehicles. Computers drive all the cars, coordinated by a central system, ostensibly for safety, but really so the government can control everyone’s movements. We’re behind schedule on the telepaths and cyborgs, but that prediction seems to be moving along nicely.
The Obama administration admits that the exchange system is broken, and not just suffering under unexpectedly heavy load.
Democrats will surely claim (if they ever even get asked) that the failure is somehow the GOP’s fault. Megan McArdle prebuts that narrative. The real problem is that the Democrats who crafted the law thought that they could bring a working exchange system into being, on an extraordinarily aggressive timetable, simply by decreeing it would happen. In the real world, “you can’t just order, ‘Make it so!’”
Ah, the beauty of socialized medicine. When the government runs health care, health care failures become political problems to be covered up:
Internal emails from the Care Quality Commission show that Labour tried to stop the watchdog from informing the public about failings at Basildon University Hospital, where patients were dying needlessly on filthy wards.
The dossier of emails, released under Freedom of Information, state that Andy Burnham, the then Health Secretary, was “furious” when “graphic details” of the care failings became public. Separate emails suggest that Mike O’Brien, the former Labour minister of state for health, told the NHS watchdog that “anything you do is political” in the run up to the General Election.
Executives at the watchdog decided that “given the political environment” a report into standards of care across the country should be “largely positive”.
So the purpose of the healthcare “watchdog” is to protect the government by hiding its failures. Good to know.
The lion’s share of the blame here belongs to the old Labor government, which actually committed this atrocity, of course. But we should also recognize that the structure of the system makes this malfeasance likely. Government-run health care inevitably is politicized health care.
That’s our future, now. And it won’t take as long here.
(Via Power Line.)
Yet another Bush-era War on Terror policy that Obama pretended to abhor before adopting himself:
Instead of sending suspected terrorists to Guantanamo Bay or secret CIA “black” sites for interrogation, the Obama administration is questioning terrorists for as long as it takes aboard US naval vessels. . . Questioning suspected terrorists aboard US warships in international waters is President Barack Obama’s answer to the Bush administration detention policies that candidate Obama promised to end. . .
By holding people in secret prisons, known as black sites, the CIA was able to question them over long periods, using the harshest interrogation tactics, without giving them access to lawyers. Obama came to office without a ready replacement for those secret prisons. . . With the black sites closed and Obama refusing to send more people to the US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, it wasn’t obvious where the US would hold people for interrogation.
And that’s where the warships came in.
I’m sure the Obama administration would say that questioning terrorists on ships is completely different than doing it on land. They would probably even say it with a straight face. They’re good at that.
The federal goverment is (17%) shut down, and Barack Obama is going to make sure that the people pay. The State of Arizona asked to reopen the Grand Canyon itself, at state expense. The Obama administration refused to allow it.
Meanwhile, the Park Service — which is supposedly doing all this shutdown theater because it has no money to operate — somehow is able to pay armed guards to stand watch outside a hotel to make sure none of the visiting senior citizens slip out and see something:
The bus stopped along a road when a large herd of bison passed nearby, and seniors filed out to take photos. Almost immediately, an armed ranger came by and ordered them to get back in, saying they couldn’t “recreate.” The tour guide, who had paid a $300 fee the day before to bring the group into the park, argued that the seniors weren’t “recreating,” just taking photos.
“She responded and said, ‘Sir, you are recreating,’ and her tone became very aggressive,” Vaillancourt said.
The seniors quickly filed back onboard and the bus went to the Old Faithful Inn, the park’s premier lodge located adjacent to the park’s most famous site, Old Faithful geyser. That was as close as they could get to the famous site — barricades were erected around Old Faithful, and the seniors were locked inside the hotel, where armed rangers stayed at the door.
“They looked like Hulk Hogans, armed. They told us you can’t go outside,” she said. “Some of the Asians who were on the tour said, ‘Oh my God, are we under arrest?’ They felt like they were criminals.”
What kind of “shutdown” is this? They are spending money they supposedly don’t have, just to make sure that public is harmed!
Meanwhile, the Barack Obama holds a press conference, and the lapdog press asks not one question about any of this. Not a single question! It’s absolutely astonishing, even for them.
I’m not expecting them to ask, “Mr. President, why is the Park Service being complete assholes?” (Although if it were a Republican doing this, that — minus the profanity — is exactly what they would ask.) But how about asking about what legal opinions justify the shutdown theater?
POSTSCRIPT: Jonathan Last has a nice summary of what’s happening, although he leaves out several instances.
More from President Obama’s “make life as difficult as possible” strategy:
The National Park Service also closed the Foothills Parkway, a major thoroughfare in the county. The closure came without warning and left the local school district scrambling to get children back to their homes.
The children live in the eastern Tennessee community of Top of the World – serviced by School Bus 49. Normally, the bus travels along the Foothills Parkway. Other roads leading to the isolated mountain community are impassible by bus.
“It’s dangerous,” said Nancy Kemp, the spokesperson for Blount County Schools.”It’s very curvy and straight up the mountain. It’s just not a safe route.” . . .
Until the partial government shutdown ends, school buses will not run. That means parents will have to transport their children to and from school using treacherous “white knuckle routes.”
This has gone beyond a fight over spending and a quixotic effort to defund Obamacare. This is much bigger now. The president has maliciously decided to shut down things that don’t need to be shut down, purely to hurt people. He must not get away with it.
Ace asks a really good question:
- I know the media doesn’t ask Obvious Questions but can the we see the Office of WH Council’s memorandum that this [shutdown theater] is legally required?
- If not, why not? No administration has believed it was legally required to boot people out of their leased homes before.
- May citizens actually view the work-product that we paid for? That lawyers in the government claim this is now necessary?
- I doubt such a memo exists at all. But if it does, I’d like to see how they came to the opposite conclusions of every other president.
- Where is the legal opinion claiming they suddenly are 1) legally required to do this and 2) have the legal power to do this?
The Obama administration shuts down the AMBER Alert website as part of its petty, malicious shutdown theater, but don’t you worry, union representatives will stay on the payroll, thanks to a timely new ruling by the administration:
The Obama administration quietly changed its furlough guidance Friday to allow government employees who are also union representatives to return to work and receive a regular paycheck during the government shutdown.
A planned immigration reform rally will take place on the National Mall on Tuesday even though the site is closed due to the government shutdown. . . The event is hosted by several immigration activist groups, together with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the AFL-CIO.
In short, if you’re inconvenienced by the shutdown, it’s because the Obama administration doesn’t care about you. They’re happy to carve out exceptions for the people they care about.
As part of its malicious shutdown theater, the Obama administration has decided to shutter the AMBER alert website:
The Amber alert website, the national missing-child warning program, has been shut off due to the government shutdown, according to the Department of Justice.
“Due to the lapse in federal funding, this Office of Justice Programs website is unavailable,” it says on amberalert.gov.
The administration claimed that it had no choice but to shut down the AMBER site, but this was clearly a lie because (1) it makes no sense at all:
The Justice Department official explained the website’s page appearing as if Amber Alert is down by saying, “The Office of Justice Programs (OJP) ran out of funds on Friday so all of the sites they maintain about the work they do went offline.”
It was not clear as to why it would cost less to change the website’s appearance than to just keep it the way it was.
and (2) they subsequently decided to bring the site back up again, proving they can keep it up it they want to.
They later argued that it was somehow a security risk to have content on a page that wasn’t being supervised. Aside from making no sense, this fails to explain why the AMBER Alert site was singled out. Nearly every other page on the DOJ’s Juvenile Justice page is still in operation.
POSTSCRIPT: Just to be clear, the AMBER Alert system itself was unaffected. This is the page that gives information about the AMBER Alert system.
UPDATE: Ace has been finding countless .gov sites left up all day.
It didn’t take long. We have already reached the phase of the Syria affair in which we pretend that Syria is keeping up its end of the deal to destroy its chemical weapons:
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry praised Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Monday, saying that news that international disarmament experts had begun dismantling and destroying Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal and the equipment used to produce it represented “a good beginning,” and Assad deserved credit for honoring the terms of a deal reached last month to secure and destroy the regime’s weapons.
This, of course, is utter nonsense:
The ambitious U.S.-Russian deal to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons, hailed as a diplomatic breakthrough just days ago, hit its first delay Wednesday with indications that the Syrian government will not submit an inventory of its toxic stockpiles and facilities to international inspectors by this weekend’s deadline.
This was the deadline’s very first deadline; we can expect all future deadlines to be missed as well, since the administration has now shown it doesn’t care about them. They don’t might looking like buffoons internationally, so long as they can save face domestically. The media, of course, is happy to play along.
The cover of Time magazine from a few weeks ago, when Vladimir Putin was having his way with Obama’s flailing, incoherent foreign policy, was really very revealing of how Time (and, by extension, the legacy media) see their role in the body politic. The European edition had this cover:
The text reads:
America’s weak and waffling, Russia’s rich and resurgent — and its leader doesn’t care what anybody thinks of him.
The Asian and South Pacific editions had these covers:
So Time gets it. Obama’s foreign policy is a disaster, and Putin is making him look like a fool. Time is going to tell the truth, and make sure everyone knows what is going on.
Everyone except Americans. The American edition had this cover:
In Time’s view, it’s great for America to look weak overseas. But in America, where the future of American foreign policy is determined, the people must be shielded from the truth of how foolish we look. God forbid, we might actually correct the problem.
Once, the mission of the media was to keep people informed. (Or so we’re told.) Now, the mission of the media is to keep people from being informed.
The Washington Post reports that the Obama administration weakened the rules governing the NSA, greatly extending the NSA’s ability to spy on Americans:
The Obama administration secretly won permission from a surveillance court in 2011 to reverse restrictions on the National Security Agency’s use of intercepted phone calls and e-mails, permitting the agency to search deliberately for Americans’ communications in its massive databases, according to interviews with government officials and recently declassified material.
In addition, the court extended the length of time that the NSA is allowed to retain intercepted U.S. communications from five years to six years — and more under special circumstances, according to the documents, which include a recently released 2011 opinion by U.S. District Judge John D. Bates, then chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
What had not been previously acknowledged is that the court in 2008 imposed an explicit ban — at the government’s request — on those kinds of searches, that officials in 2011 got the court to lift the bar and that the search authority has been used.
Together the permission to search and to keep data longer expanded the NSA’s authority in significant ways without public debate or any specific authority from Congress.
There is a persistent mythology that the Democrats are somehow the party of civil liberties. It’s quite bizarre that the party of Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and now Obama could develop such a reputation. As this story shows, it is the Bush administration — undeservedly vilified for its surveillance for foreign terrorists — that carefully balanced national security with privacy.
The Bush administration went to court in 2008 to request that the court limit NSA surveillance of Americans. The Obama administration went to court in 2011 to get those limits removed. Right there is all you need to know about how the NSA scandal happened.
The Obama administration’s “dense pack” of scandals, together with my busy schedule of late, has kept me from keeping up-to-date on the NSA scandal. I’ve been meaning to comment on all of these, but I think it’s time just to dump all the links:
- The NSA keeps everything it collects for some time, whether it is foreign or domestic. Also, they are permitted to listen to your calls to find out whether they are permitted to listen to your calls. (Link)
- Thus, when Obama said “no one is listening to your calls,” that was a lie. (Link)
- The NSA’s program may well be illegal. (Link)
- The NSA broke privacy rules thousands of times per year. (Link)
- The NSA “accidentally” collected telephone call data on the entire 202 area code (Washington, DC), and then decided that it need not report the error to its oversight staff. (Link)
- The chief on the FISA court admits that he does not have the means to police the NSA’s actions, and he has to assume they are telling him the truth. (Link)
- Nevertheless, the FISA court did rule that the NSA broke the law in collecting communications of innocent Americans from 2008 to 2011. The opinion also reprimanded the NSA for a “substantial misrepresentation” of its activities. (Link)
- The White House tried to interfere with the Washington Post’s reporting on the NSA. (Link)
- The NSA doesn’t have any idea how much damage Snowden did, and because it doesn’t audit its employees activities (surveillance is for us, not them!) they have no way to find out. (Link)
- The NSA review panel consists of four insiders. (Link)
- Of the 18 thousand domestic telephone numbers the NSA monitored, just 11% met the necessary legal standard to be monitored. (Link)
- NSA employees use the NSA’s surveillance powers to spy on love interests so often, they have a term for it: LOVEINT. (A play on intelligence terms such as HUMINT and SIGINT.) (Link)
- No one has ever been prosecuted for LOVEINT. (Link)
I’ll save one more for the next post.
Fox News reports:
The ATF agent who blew the whistle on Operation Fast and Furious has been denied permission to write a book on the botched anti-gun trafficking sting “because it would have a negative impact on morale,” according to the very agency responsible for the scandal.
After first trying to stop the operation internally, ATF Agent John Dodson went to Congress and eventually the media following the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010. Two guns found at the murder scene were sold through the ATF operation.
It’s not the fact that they trafficked weapons to Mexican drug cartels and made no effort to track them that hurts morale, it would be the book.
POSTSCRIPT: Dodson is the same agent that the Department of Justice and the US Attorney conspired to smear, according to the DOJ Inspector General.
As part of its vindictive shutdown theater, the Park Service is evicting people from their own homes:
National Park Service officials cited the government shutdown as the reason for ordering an elderly Nevada couple out of their home, which sits on federal land.
“Unfortunately overnight stays are not permitted until a budget is passed and the park can reopen,” an NPS spokesman explained to KTNV.
Ralph and Joyce Spencer, aged 80 and 77, respectively, own their home, but the government owns the land on which it sits.
Just to be clear, they own the home and pay rent on the land. The federal government has no right to evict them, and doing so actually costs the government money. Is it really possible that Obama and the Democrats can get away with this?
One possible cause of the problems is that hitting “apply” on HealthCare.gov causes 92 separate files, plug-ins and other mammoth swarms of data to stream between the user’s computer and the servers powering the government website, said Matthew Hancock, an independent expert in website design. . .
“They set up the website in such a way that too many requests to the server arrived at the same time,” Hancock said.
He said because so much traffic was going back and forth between the users’ computers and the server hosting the government website, it was as if the system was attacking itself.
Hancock described the situation as similar to what happens when hackers conduct a distributed denial of service, or DDOS, attack on a website: they get large numbers of computers to simultaneously request information from the server that runs a website, overwhelming it and causing it to crash or otherwise stumble. “The site basically DDOS’d itself,” he said.
If this is true, the problem isn’t going to go away quickly as load lessens. It’s going to need a reimplementation, which will take time.
(Via Hot Air.)
UPDATE: Down for repairs. Take your time, guys.
If you calculate what percentage of federal spending is actually halted by the federal government “shutdown”, it’s just 17%. The vast majority is exempted from the shutdown for one reason or another.
Yet another example of the Obama administration shutting down something the federal government doesn’t even control:
The rangers even closed the parking lot at Mount Vernon, where the plantation home of George Washington is a favorite tourist destination. . . But the government does not own Mount Vernon; it is privately owned by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association.
But the real scoop is this one:
The Park Service appears to be closing streets on mere whim and caprice. . .
“It’s a cheap way to deal with the situation,” an angry Park Service ranger in Washington says of the harassment. “We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can. It’s disgusting.”
The Obama administration clearly is supremely confident that they won’t be blamed for anything that happens, but should they be? Their behavior is so inexcusable, the story is bound to get out, even with the media’s wall of silence.
The awesome pettiness of the Obama administration is truly a sight to behold. Alas, that’s the only sight they’ll let you behold:
Blocking access to trails and programs at South Dakota’s most popular attraction was one thing, but state officials didn’t expect Congress’ budget stalemate to shut down a view of Mount Rushmore.
The National Park Service placed cones along highway viewing areas outside Mount Rushmore this week, barring visitors from pulling over and taking pictures of the famed monument.
They actually closed the places where you could pull off the highway. This isn’t the government shutting down; this is the government going into full screw-the-people mode. Amazing. And horrifying.
It’s not load that’s causing the Obamcare exchanges not to work, it’s bad design:
Load problems could explain servers hanging in California and New York … but the drop-downs? The standard explanation for this is “high load,” but high server loads don’t cause your security dropboxes to empty out.
“The drop-down thing is mystifying,” he told me. If federal exchanges decided to populate the security question fields by calling up a list of possible questions from another server — one that didn’t have a lot of capacity — then that might be causing the sign-up process to stall at that step. For an application that expects a lot of traffic, this is a very bad idea. . .
Why would they use such a seemingly obvious poor design?
“It can be easier to make a call to another server to get something when you need it than to implement a cache that you prepopulate either from static files or from the database on startup. Making a call to another server is also something you’d naturally think to do if you hadn’t had to focus on scalability before. The security question page is probably not the thing you’re most concerned about, so you give it to the new hire to do as their starter project. They don’t know what they’re doing, so they implement it the straightforward way … and since you’re under unbelievable deadline pressure to get something working now nobody reviews it in detail.”
The load they are getting isn’t all that much. Just one order of magnitude more than a prominent blog.
Democrats like to say stuff like this:
If even one child’s life can be saved, then we need to act. Now is the time to do the right thing for our children, our communities, and the country we love.
But that argument only applies when they’re talking about banning guns, which they want to do anyway. It certainly doesn’t apply when their own sacred cows are at stake. Propose exempting the NIH from the government shutdown, and you get this:
CNN: “If you can help one child who has cancer, why wouldn’t you do it?”
Sen. Reid: “Why would we want to do that?”
Democrats like to cry “think of the children!”, but it’s all crocodile tears. They don’t mean a word of it.
Because of the federal government “shutdown”, the federal government is spending extra money to close facilities that cost the government nothing to operate. The instance that is getting a lot of attention is the World War 2 memorial, an unstaffed, open-air monument that is open 24/7, except when the Obama administration barricades it to make a point.
An even better example is the Claude Moore Colonial Farm, in McLean, Virginia. The Farm has been operated by entirely by volunteers for 30 years since its budget was zeroed in 1980:
Visitors unaware of how the farm is run are apt to conclude that the government shutdown, now two days old, is directly responsible for the farm’s closing. But Eberly sent a note Wednesday morning to the park’s email list. In the email, Eberly says, “For the first time in 40 years, the National Park Service (NPS) has finally succeeded in closing the Farm down to the public. In previous budget dramas, the Farm has always been exempted since the NPS provides no staff or resources to operate the Farm.”
The Claude Moore Colonial Farm, Eberly says, has thrived even as the federal government has treated it with “benign neglect” for decades. That benign neglect would serve it better than the barricades now surrounding it. . .
[Eberly adds:] “You do have to wonder about the wisdom of an organization that would use staff they don’t have the money to pay to evict visitors from a park site that operates without costing them any money.”
In fact, the Park Service is actually renting the barricades it is using to close the Farm. A strange “shutdown” indeed.
UPDATE: More of this crap:
It is obvious that the Park Service intends to block access to these trailheads, even though it literally costs them nothing to leave them open and by closing them they actually increase the possibility of serious problems for drivers on the road and hikers still in the park. In fact, it is costing them money they don’t have trying to block access.
To block access is thus a deliberate, senseless, and mean-spirited act that demonstrates quite clearly the political goals of the Obama administration during this shutdown.
Indeed. Glenn Reynolds adds, “I’m surprised they didn’t put a bag over the Washington Monument.”
Clearly the Obama administration is supremely confident that the public will hold Republicans responsible for everything, no matter what. If they had any worry about blowback at all, they wouldn’t dare indulge in such mean-spirited behavior.
UPDATE: Still more:
The campgrounds are self-sufficient and receive no federal funding. No government employees staff or manage the parks. The management companies pay the National Park Service out of the funds they generate from operating the thousands of campgrounds. . .
Notice that last part. The parks not only do not cost the taxpayers any money, they pay funds into the Treasury out of the fees park users pay. Shutting them down will cost the taxpayers money.
Government officials are special. Civilians may have no moral obligation to obey the law (see #1), but government officials are empowered by the law, so they are specially obligated to take the bitter with the sweet. The oath of office operates to convert law into a personal promise.
By government officials, I mean specifically executive-branch officials, in regard to the law they are tasked with administering. For the president that’s everything (or, more precisely, all Constitutional federal law). For other executive-branch officials it depends on their portfolio: if you work at the IRS, you might not be morally obliged to obey speed limits, but you had better obey every jot and tittle of tax law.
The Obamacare spin this morning was about how the new exchanges melted down because of intense consumer interest. But when the statistics become known (if they ever do), I think we will learn that the traffic was well within the range that a competently constructed system can handle.
The exchanges don’t work because their designers entirely neglected the problem of their implementation. They thought it was sufficient simply to decree that the exchanges would exist.
UPDATE: More here.
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.
Last week, our family received notice from Anthem BlueCross BlueShield of Colorado that we can no longer keep the plan we like because of “changes from health care reform (also called the Affordable Care Act or ACA).” The letter informed us that “(t)o meet the requirements of the new laws, your current plan can no longer be continued beyond your 2014 renewal date.”
Yes, we knew this was going to happen, but this is worth quoting for its bluntness.
Megan McArdle looks at how states that trying to limit health insurance premiums are resulting in insurers dramatically cutting pack their provider networks.
It’s a case study suitable for a basic economics textbook: Hugo Chavez’s regime in Venezuela imposes price controls on toilet paper. Production of toilet paper plummets as producers decline to produce it at a loss, causing a severe shortage. The regime then nationalizes toilet paper production.
It’s sad watching Venezuela’s death spiral play out. If toilet paper is being nationalized, we can’t be far from the instigate-a-war phase now.
POSTSCRIPT: Of course, somehow it’s all America’s fault.
The IRS has not yet destroyed lists of donors to non-profits that it compiled illegally and pledged to destroy.
Put politicians in charge of health care, and this is what you get:
The federal government wants to reduce the number of Americans diagnosed each year with cancer. But not by better preventive care or healthier living. Instead, the government wants to redefine the term “cancer” so that fewer conditions qualify as a true cancer.
All is proceeding as I have foreseen. Alas.
Now that Obamacare has launched, we can evaluate how well Barack Obama has fulfilled his promise to cut everyone’s health care rates by $2500 per year. It may surprise low-information voters, but will be no surprise to those who have followed this disaster closely, that most people will not see a reduction at all, much less a reduction of $2500 per year. Among younger men (the group probably being screwed most badly by Obamacare) we are seeing this:
The blue states are the ones in which premiums are dropping at all. In most states, premiums are not only rising, but skyrocketing. For other groups the picture looks similar; only the magnitude of the disaster is different. You can find all the maps here. The article also shows that most people will not get subsidies enough to break even.
In a tacit acknowledgement that the numbers are terrible, the Obama administration released very little information, and tried to keep even that data from Obamacare’s critics:
The report was issued to news organizations on Tuesday under a strict embargo, with specific instructions not to share the information with anyone else, like outside health insurance experts who might be able to provide more analysis of the numbers. Apparently, though, the word still leaked out.
In a ruling Monday night, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson turned down the Justice Department’s request to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee after President Barack Obama asserted executive privilege to prevent some records about the administration’s response to the “Operation Fast and Furious” gunrunning scandal from being turned over to Congress.
“This case presents the sort of question that the courts are traditionally called upon to resolve,” Jackson said in her 44-page decision, issued more than five months after lawyers argued the issue in her packed courtroom and more than a year after the House committee filed suit. “Dismissing the case without hearing it would in effect place the court’s finger on the scale, designating the executive as the victor based solely on his untested assertion that the privilege applies,” she wrote.
The decision does not immediately grant Congress access to the documents; it merely means that the administration must now defend it’s claim of executive privilege in court. Put another way: the Obama administration’s position was not just that it can cast executive privilege over any document it likes (presidential or not), but that the courts have no power to review that decision. It was as astonishingly broad claim of authority, so the only surprise is it took so long to issue a decision.
Moreover, the House of Representatives is likely to prevail on the merits as well, as John Hinderaker explains.
The New Republic thinks that Obama should send the army against the House of Representatives.
Of course, they can’t really think that (can they?), so why talk that way?
UPDATE: As Ed Driscoll points out, a few years Democrats were pretending that they believed that merely putting a crosshair on a map was enough to drive people to violence. Now they are broadcasting an explicit call to violence.