Nuclear hypocrisy

November 30, 2013

The hypocrisy of the Democrats invoking the “nuclear option” to abolish the filibuster for presidential appointments is palpable. I’m not going to bother to cite the myriad statements by Democrats decrying it (here’s one collection). I will cite the New York Times, after the break, because it expresses the hypocrisy so perfectly.

What I want to comment here is on the notion that hypocrisy over the nuclear option is somehow being practiced by both sides. (As a concrete example, there’s NBC’s account.) It’s natural for them to try to tell that story; the hypocrisy of their own side is so inarguable, all they can do is try to attribute some to the other side as well.

It’s utter nonsense. Yes, in 2005 there were a lot of Republicans arguing in favor of using the nuclear option to abolish the filibuster. And yes, some of those same Republicans are inveighing against it now. Does that make them hypocrites?

It would, if they had gone through with it in 2005. They did not. That’s the key historical fact that all the efforts to bipartisanize the hypocrisy somehow, bizarrely, seem to be forgetting.

If the Republicans had abolished the filibuster and now wanted it back, they would be complete hypocrites. They would be just as bad as the real-world Democrats, who demanded the filibuster be retained, got their way, and the abolished it once they were on the other side.

But Republicans didn’t do it. They stepped back from the nuclear option while they were still in the majority. That’s the opposite of hypocrisy. That’s principle.

So let’s not have any more nonsense about how both sides are being hypocritical about the filibuster. It’s not just wrong, it’s historically ignorant.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Intrade is caput

November 30, 2013

The federal government is shutting Intrade down.


Crook hires crook

November 30, 2013

Terry McAuliffe, the ethically-challenged but never-yet-indicted Democrat just elected governor of Virginia, has named a criminal to his cabinet:

The name Levar Stoney may not ring a bell to many in Wisconsin, but the new Secretary of the Commonwealth of Virginia and former Deputy Campaign Manager for Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe has some scandalous history in Wisconsin.

In 2004, Levar Stoney was involved in covering up and lying for five Democratic campaign operatives who slashed the tires of 25 vans rented by the Republican Party for get out the vote efforts.

It’s interesting that, despite all the Democratic bleating about voter suppression (in particular, how any measure whatsoever to inhibit election fraud constitutes voter suppression), it’s the Democrats who actually practice it.


Obama: I’m been civil to tea-baggers

November 30, 2013

So we’ve got President Obama using the phrase “tea-bagger” — a grotesque sexual slur aimed at Tea Party members — on White House letterhead now. Ironically, it’s in a letter explaining that he’s always been civil to them:

I do have to challenge you, though, on the notion that any citizen that disagrees with me has been “targeted and ridiculed” or that I have “made fun” of tea-baggers.

Obama was responding to a letter complaining about references to “tea baggers”. In his short, 1-page letter he used scare quotes four times — twice in that very sentence — but did not use them for the phrase in question.

Does Obama understand that the term is offensive? If so, then he’s just being a jerk; delivering an in-your-face insult while pretending to tout his civility. It’s possible, but it seems unlikely that the president would bother to pen an ironic insult to a private citizen of no particular importance.

The other possibility is that Obama forgot that the term is offensive. How can one forget that a term, invented for the purpose of giving offense, is offensive? I can’t think of a better theory than Mary Katharine Ham’s, that he hears the term so often in the White House that he’s forgotten its vulgarity.


Administration lied about “anonymous shopper” feature

November 22, 2013

One element of Healthcare.gov actually was working in time, so of course the administration scrapped it:

When the troubled federal health care website came online, the key “Anonymous Shopper” function was nowhere to be found — even though it passed a key test almost two weeks before HealthCare.gov launched.

That successful test, noted in documents obtained by CNN and confirmed by a source close to the project, contradicts testimony from an Obama administration official overseeing HealthCare.gov, who told lawmakers earlier this month the function was scrapped because it “failed miserably” before the October 1 launch.

The “anonymous shopper” feature would have allowed people to look at health insurance rates without signing up for account and giving personal information. Had it been available, it would have lessened the load on Healthcare.gov, not enough to make the system work (the system folds under a few hundred users), but maybe enough to make it easier to fix.

According to CNN, the feature actually did work, but the administration struck it from the system, and lied about the reason why:

Chao said he made the decision in conjunction with colleagues and testified before Congress last week that it was because the feature “failed so miserably that we could not conscionably let people use it.”

Yet a CMS document made public by the same committee last week tells a different story. The agency and one of its subsidiaries, the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, was working with government contractors on the website. It determined the Anonymous Shopper feature “tested successfully,” revealed “no high severity defects open” and that “remaining lower severity defects will not degrade consumer experience.”

CMS raised questions about the “tested successfully” denotation for the feature in a statement. . . ‪The source close to the project, however, said the anonymous shopper function did pass testing conducted in the weeks ahead of the HealthCare.gov launch.

CNN doesn’t seem to know why the feature was scrapped, but we do. The Obama administration doesn’t want people to know the real price of their insurance; they only want people to see price with subsidies, and they can’t do that anonymously:

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.

So here we have yet another Obama administration official committing perjury. Chao knew perfectly well that the feature wasn’t scrapped for failure; his own words show that plainly:

The successful test occurred on September 17, according to a source familiar with the project. The next day, in an internal e-mail obtained by CNN, Chao wrote the shopper function “isn’t needed and thus should be removed.”

Fortunately for Chao, no Obama administration will ever be prosecuted for perjury while Obama is in office.

POSTSCRIPT: We should note, by the way, that Obama promised the system would have this feature:

“Just visit HealthCare.gov, and there you can compare insurance plans, side by side, the same way you’d shop for a plane ticket on Kayak or a TV on Amazon,” Obama said on October 1, the day the website went live. “You enter some basic information, you’ll be presented with a list of quality, affordable plans that are available in your area, with clear descriptions of what each plan covers, and what it will cost.”

Sure, it’s small potatoes next to his broken promises to let you keep your health insurance, and cut your premiums by $2500, but it’s still worth noting.

POST-POSTSCRIPT: The system does have a related feature now, but it’s crippleware. It takes too little information to give a good estimate and consequently underestimates premiums by as much as a factor of two. That’s presumably deliberate. CNN again:

The “Plan Preview” tool was added to the site October 10, amid criticism there was no window shopping feature. But it only includes two age categories for estimates — “49 or under” and “50 or older” — and has been criticized for providing wildly varied cost estimates.

“It’s not as good as Anonymous Shopper,” Karp told CNN. “It doesn’t provide the full experience of anonymous shopping that was recommended” in the prototype CMS encouraged state exchanges. . .

As far as the real thing, they have no plans to release it at all:

At the federal government’s order, the contractor responsible for it, CGI, is not even working to ready it, a source close to the project tells CNN. HHS would not provide an estimate of when the window shopping feature will be available.

(Previous post.) (Via Hot Air.)


Healthcare.gov isn’t done

November 22, 2013

The Healthcare.gov fiasco is getting so bad, it’s not even good comedy:

Between 30 and 40 percent of the IT system for the federal health insurance marketplace must still be built, a top official at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said Tuesday.

Henry Chao, the agency’s deputy chief information officer, said that a large portion of the behind-the-scenes work has yet to be finished.

 “I think it’s just an approximation, we’re probably sitting somewhere between 60 or 70 percent [completed],” he told the House Energy and Commerce Oversight subcommittee. . .

Instead, he said, the major projects under construction involve back-end work, like setting up the procedure to pay health insurance companies once plans begin in January.

 “There is the back office system, the accounting systems, the payment systems, they still need to be [built],” he added.

The whole back end isn’t even built. Wow.

(Previous post.)


Cronyism: a textbook case

November 22, 2013

Millions of people in the health care individual market are seeing their plans cancelled, and millions more who get health insurance from their employer will see it soon. But there is one group to whom Obama is keeping his promise to let them keep their plans: unions.

Yes, it turns out that those who get their health insurance from a union have a real grandfather clause. While everyone else will eventually lose their insurance, unions will keep theirs.

I guess this is how American government works now: screw everyone but exempt your friends.

(Previous post.)


The human cost of Obamacare

November 22, 2013

Barack Obama and the Democrats have probably killed this woman:

My grievance is not political; all my energies are directed to enjoying life and staying alive, and I have no time for politics. For almost seven years I have fought and survived stage-4 gallbladder cancer, with a five-year survival rate of less than 2% after diagnosis. I am a determined fighter and extremely lucky. But this luck may have just run out: My affordable, lifesaving medical insurance policy has been canceled effective Dec. 31.

My choice is to get coverage through the government health exchange and lose access to my cancer doctors, or pay much more for insurance outside the exchange (the quotes average 40% to 50% more) for the privilege of starting over with an unfamiliar insurance company and impaired benefits.

Am I being overly harsh? Possibly. But it seems fair to put a human face on the consequences of the Democrats decision to up-end the entire health care system.

POSTSCRIPT: Besides, those same people accused Mitt Romney of murder in a tragic death to which Romney had only the flimsiest connection, and no culpability whatsoever.

(Previous post.)


Tech surge JV

November 22, 2013

President Obama’s “tech surge” to fix Healthcare.gov is a slogan with nothing behind it:

President Obama promised elite Silicon Valley talent to fix Healthcare.gov, but so far his “tech surge” appears to consist of a handful of White House fellows assigned to the main contractor that designed the troubled website.

“If there were tech experts that were flown in from Silicon Valley, they did not land at our facility,” said a knowledgeable official who spoke on condition of anonymity. . .

Federal officials plucked participants in the Presidential Innovation Fellows program and assigned them to CGI Federal, the U.S. subsidiary of CGI Group, the Canadian firm that was awarded the $94 million main design contract for Healthcare.gov. Fellows typically spend six to 13 months working in a federal department or agency as “change agents” and to promote government-wide innovation, according to whitehouse.gov.

Why not use real experts? Well, none of the considerations that led to them to use amateurs in the first place have really changed. They still see this is a political problem, not a technical problem.

(Previous post.)


Obama’s political problems became Healthcare.gov’s technical problems

November 22, 2013

The Washington Post has a heavily reported article on how Obamacare is failing as a direct result of the White House prioritizing political considerations over technical ones. It dovetails well with earlier reporting on the matter but brings much more detail. It ought to be read in its entirety, when you can find the time.

My favorite example is this one:

According to two former officials, CMS staff members struggled at “multiple meetings” during the spring of 2011 to persuade White House officials for permission to publish diagrams known as “concepts of operation,” which they believed were necessary to show states what a federal exchange would look like. The two officials said the White House was reluctant because the diagrams were complex, and they feared that the Republicans might reprise a tactic from the 1990s of then-Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.), who mockingly brandished intricate charts created by a task force led by first lady Hillary Clinton.

In the end, one of the former officials said, the White House quashed the diagrams, telling CMS, instead, to praise early work on those state exchanges that matched the hidden federal thinking.

They refused to release vital information on how the system was supposed to work, because they were afraid Republicans might inform the public how the system was supposed to work. And yes, I think their fear was justified.

(Previous post.)


Go back to spin school

November 22, 2013

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) explains that Obama didn’t break his promise about letting people keep their health insurance. What he meant was (you might want to be sitting down for this): you can keep your plan until we pass our bill!

I swear I am not making this up:

Well, as I understand it, you can keep it up to the time — and I hope this is correct, but this is what I’ve been told — up to the time the bill was enacted. Then, after that, it’s a different story.

Really, she actually did say that. Video here.

(Previous post.)


Healthcare.gov violates security standards

November 22, 2013

It’s a good thing that Healthcare.gov doesn’t work, because the system is also insecure:

As HealthCare.gov was being developed, crucial tests to ensure the security and privacy of customer information fell behind schedule.

CBS News analysis found that the deadline for final security plans slipped three times from May 6 to July 16. Security assessments to be finished June 7 slid to August 16 and then August 23. The final, required top-to-bottom security tests never got done.

The House Oversight Committee released an Obama administration memo that shows four days before the launch, the government took an unusual step. It granted itself a waiver to launch the website with “a level of uncertainty … deemed as a high (security) risk.”

Agency head Marilyn Tavenner accepted the risk and “mitigation” measures like frequent testing and a dedicated security team. But three other officials signed a statement saying that “does not reduce the risk” of launching October 1.

(Via Hot Air.) In fact, the waiver (as CBS describes it) isn’t even allowed under government rules:

Ultimately, the letter recommended that Tavenner issue an Authority to Operate for six months while security testing continued on the site, which she approved. “This is a temporary Authority to Operate,” Sebelius said as she examined the document during the hearing. . .

Yet Sebelius’s matter-of-fact description of the temporary authorization is a lot different from the 2012 memo from Zients on federal cyber-security.

Page 11 of the Zients memo includes the following section:

Does OMB recognize interim authority to operate for security authorizations?

No. The security authorization process has been required for many years, and it is important to measure the implementation of this process to improve consistency and quality government-wide. Introducing additional inconsistency to the government’s security program would be counter to FISMA’s goals.

(Via Instapundit.) Counter to FISMA’s (the Federal Information Security Management Act) goals perhaps, but essential to the Obama administration’s political goals, and you know which takes priority.

The system’s insecurity isn’t just theoretical either. They’re already finding exploitable security holes.

(Previous post.)


Let freedom ring

November 22, 2013

You can finally use electronic devices during all phases of flight.


Liar finally exposed

November 22, 2013

I’ve been harping for years about how Obama’s central health-care promise was a lie:

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.

Now, with millions of cancellation notices going out, people are finally noticing, and the Obama administration is in a tough spot. People don’t like being lied to, particularly over matters consequence. The best that Obama’s defenders at the New York Times can manage is he “misspoke”. The Washington Post does better, practically tying itself in knots with this circumlocution:

the seeming contradiction shows the difference between political talking points intended to sell a controversial law and the intricacies of the health policies that underlie it.

Ah yes, the “seeming contradiction” between the talking points and the actual policies.

He did not misspeak. He lied. He told the same lie, over and over again, for years. In fact, the White House web site still has the lie, even today (weeks after Fox News pointed it out):

For Americans with insurance coverage who like what they have, they can keep it. Nothing in this act or anywhere in the bill forces anyone to change the insurance they have, period.

The lie was essential to getting his plan enacted, and it was essential for getting him re-elected. (If the election were held today, Romney would win.) They set out deliberately to break a system that most people are satisfied with, and to do it, they needed the people to think it wouldn’t affect them until it was too late to stop it.

With the law they passed, the promise was ultimately unkeepable, but they didn’t even try. Get this:

If you dig into the regulations (go to page 34560) [Scofflaw: OMG, page 34560!], you will see that HHS wrote them extremely tight. One provision says that if co-payment increases by more than $5, plus medical cost of inflation, then the plan can no longer be grandfathered. . . Another provision says the co-insurance rate could not be increased at all above the level it was on March 23, 2010. . . [T]he net effect is that over time, the plans would no longer meet the many tests for staying grandfathered.

And of course Democrats voted unanimously to defeat a Republican bill that would have altered the regulations to allow more people to keep their plans longer.

Were they perhaps unaware of the consequences of their policy? This bunch is so unfamiliar with the law of unintended consequences that you can almost imagine it. But no: the federal government does employ civil servants capable of working through the direct consequences of policy, and they did inform the White House:

Buried in Obamacare regulations from July 2010 is an estimate that because of normal turnover in the individual insurance market, “40 to 67 percent” of customers will not be able to keep their policy. And because many policies will have been changed since the key date, “the percentage of individual market policies losing grandfather status in a given year exceeds the 40 to 67 percent range.”

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

With a decay rate of 40-67%, you’re down to virtually zero within a very short time. And it’s not just the individual market. The same is true for the employer market, where the government projects that 39-69% of plans will lose their grandfather status.

And it wasn’t just the White House that knew, Congressional Democrats knew as well. House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD): “We knew that there would be some policies that would not qualify and therefore people would be required to get more extensive coverage.” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY): “No, we all knew.”

(Previous post.)


Lies lies lies

November 22, 2013

Don’t take it personally, America, this White House lies to everyone, including their own people:

White House Bungles Leak About GOP Leader Trashing Obama

The White House today was forced to backtrack on a rumor Obama administration officials started about a Republican House leader who purportedly insulted President Obama to his face, telling the president, “I cannot even stand to look at you.”

Turns out, it never happened. How do we know? The same White House that was responsible for starting the buzz now says there was a “miscommunication” and a “misunderstanding.”

It was a strange story, because while it’s certainly common for that bunch to lie, it’s not at all common for them to retract their lies. As it turns out, this particular lie was told just to Senate Democrats, apparently in an effort to charge them up during the budget fight, much like a coach who motivates his team using the opposing team’s insults. And he’s certainly not the first just to make up the insults when none were at hand.


Democratic aides face sticker shock

November 22, 2013

I shouldn’t be taking pleasure in the misfortunes of others, but Obamacare has taught me to hate the Democrats to a degree I never did before. They did this to us on purpose, exploiting their momentary ascendancy, and ignoring — nay, mocking — our protests. Reading this sort of story makes me really happy:

Veteran House Democratic aides are sick over the insurance prices they’ll pay under Obamacare, and they’re scrambling to find a cure.

“In a shock to the system, the older staff in my office (folks over 59) have now found out their personal health insurance costs (even with the government contribution) have gone up 3-4 times what they were paying before,” Minh Ta, chief of staff to Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), wrote to fellow Democratic chiefs of staff in an email message obtained by POLITICO. “Simply unacceptable.”

In the email, Ta noted that older congressional staffs may leave their jobs because of the change to their health insurance.

Enjoy your handiwork, jerks.

(Previous post.)


Obama administration relents on speech codes

November 22, 2013

The Obama administration seems to be abandoning its effort to institute unconstitutional speech codes throughout higher education:

The federal government is backing away from the nationwide “blueprint” for campus speech restrictions issued this May by the Departments of Education and Justice. The agencies’ settlement with the University of Montana sought to impose new, unconstitutional speech restrictions, due process abuses, and an overbroad definition of sexual harassment and proclaimed the agreement to be “a blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country.”

But in a letter sent last week to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the new head of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), Catherine Lhamon, said that “the agreement in the Montana case represents the resolution of that particular case and not OCR or DOJ policy.”

“Assistant Secretary Lhamon’s clear statement that the Montana agreement does not represent OCR or DOJ policy—meaning it’s not much of a ‘blueprint’—should come as a great relief to those who care about free speech and due process on our nation’s campuses,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “Colleges have been bewildered trying to reconcile their obligations under the First Amendment with the requirements of the ‘blueprint’—essentially an impossible task. OCR and DOJ now need to directly inform our nation’s colleges and universities that they need no longer face that dilemma.”

We noted this stunning attack on free speech in higher education last May. Unfortunately, the administration never relented in its attack on due process in higher education, and most universities have implemented the policy by now. (Mine has.) All this from the president who once taught Constitutional law.

Still, take your good news where you can find it. And congratulations to FIRE. It’s hard to see this happening without them.

(Via Instapundit.)


Obamcare problems pervasive

November 22, 2013

As a general rule, just don’t believe anything the Obama administration says:

An executive of the largest contractor working on the federal health insurance exchange website told Congress Thursday that problems with erroneous enrollment information being transferred to insurance companies were “isolated” – a claim later echoed by an Obama administration official.

But insurance industry officials have told the Washington Examiner that this is simply not true. The problems – such as duplicate enrollments being sent from the federal system to insurers, incorrect cancellations, and spouses being mixed up as children – were in fact being widely encountered across the insurance industry.

(More on this here.) To be clear, these problems are distinct from the web site being unable to handle more than a handful of applicants at a time. In fact, as we’ve noted, the fact that the web site doesn’t work actually masks this problem; if people can’t sign up, the system doesn’t get much chance to fail. With only a handful able to use the system, they’ve been able to correct the bad data by hand. If they ever get the site to take applications, the problems from its delivering incorrect data to insurers will be huge.

(Previous post.)


Obamacare vs. the poor

November 22, 2013

The premise of Obamacare was to make health care affordable for the less fortunate. It doesn’t. That’s the conclusion of the notably right-wing, anti-Obama, Republican-mouthpiece newspaper The New York Times:

As technical failures bedevil the rollout of President Obama’s health care law, evidence is emerging that one of the program’s loftiest goals — to encourage competition among insurers in an effort to keep costs low — is falling short for many rural Americans.

While competition is intense in many populous regions, rural areas and small towns have far fewer carriers offering plans in the law’s online exchanges. Those places, many of them poor, are being asked to choose from some of the highest-priced plans in the 34 states where the federal government is running the health insurance marketplaces, a review by The New York Times has found.

(Via the PJ Tatler.) It’s not true that competition is intense in populous regions either, so it’s particularly damning if competition is even less intense in poor regions.

So if Obamacare isn’t about helping the poor afford health care, what is it about? One thing, the same thing they’ve always wanted: government control of your health.

(Previous post.)


Ah, the reality-based community

November 22, 2013

The left likes to style itself the “reality-based community,” or to claim that “reality has a liberal bias.” They seem to think that this is desperately clever. I’ve never really understood why. It’s just a more arrogant way to say I’m right about everything. Very often leftists mistake arrogance for cleverness (see also: Barack Obama), so that’s probably what’s going on.

But anyway, the reality-based community. Yes, let’s see how the reality-based community saw the oncoming train wreck of the Obamacare rollout:

Just days before HealthCare.gov went live with disastrous results, top White House officials were excitedly briefing lawmakers, reporters, Capitol Hill staff members and Washington pundits on their expectations for the government’s new health care Web site.

(Via Hot Air.) They really thought it would work! Which seems astonishing, since everyone knew it wouldn’t:

CBS News is learning the Obama administration knew of the risks associated with the Obamacare rollout well before last month.

Three years ago, a trusted Obama health care adviser warned the White House it was losing control of Obamacare. A memo obtained by CBS News said strong leadership was missing and the law’s successful implementation was in jeopardy. The warnings were specific and dire — and ignored.

David Cutler, who worked on the Obama 2008 campaign and was a valued outside health care consultant wrote this blunt memo to top White House economic adviser Larry Summers in May 2010: “I do not believe the relevant members of the administration understand the president’s vision or have the capability to carry it out.” Cutler wrote no one was in charge who had any experience in complex business start-ups. He also worried basic regulations, technology and policy coordination would fail.

(Via Hot Air.) How could they fail to be aware of what everyone knew? Time’s Gloria Borger (an Obama apologist!) has a simple explanation:

This much is clear, after speaking with both past and present senior administration officials: no one was really in charge, so no one knew for sure how bad the overall picture was. What’s more, and—perhaps most telling—no one wanted to even hint to the president that this techno-savvy administration possibly had a website stuck in, say, 1995. “People don’t like to tell him bad news,” says an ex-White House staffer.

(Via Ace.) Enjoy that “reality-based” bubble, Mr. President.

POSTSCRIPT: But wait, there’s more “reality” to be mocked. Kathleen Sebelius claims that Healthcare.gov has never crashed. And here’s the key mouthpiece of the far-left, Media Matters:

Right-wing media have used temporary technical glitches exacerbated by a flood of interest to demagogue against the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges. In reality, the technological issues are caused in part by high levels of traffic, which demonstrate that millions of Americans are signing up for the health care program.

“In reality”! That piece was posted on October 1, the day Healthcare.gov launched. How many people signed up that day? Not millions, as Media Matters claims. Not even hundreds. Heck, not even tens. Just six.

Ah, the reality-based community.

(Previous post.)


/AFK

November 22, 2013

I’ve been too busy to blog the last few weeks, so I’ve missed the opportunity to note the vindication of every criticism we leveled at Obamacare (save only those that can’t come to pass until Obamacare has had a few years to wreck the health care system), and the exposure to everyone of the Obamacare administration’s lies and incompetence. I’ve got some catching up to do.