Tuesday, April 30, 2013

What You Should NOT Be Reading

I have been posting some links to interesting articles, but I wanted to warn you about wasting your time on certain subjects as well.

  • Obama's red line of death in the sand comments relating to possible, but maybe not, Syrian use of chemical weapons.  There is no sense beating up on the President's feckless approach to foreign policy.  There is precious little up side to any action in Syria, even if the regime is using chemical weapons.  It is probably in our interests for this civil war to be a stalemate for a long time, as it eats into resources of Iran and other players in the area.
  • Anything else Obama said at his press conference as his second term is essentially over.
  • Koch brothers take over of American newspaper outlets. If those fabulously rich conservatives want to waste their money on a dying industry and some fool lefties get tied in knots, precious little changes.
  • Breathless commentary from MSM types about gay basketball players coming out.  Most Americans are thinking, of course, since there are guys in every other walk of life.
What do I really care about? Immigration reform that really increases border security would be a nice start.  Work on a real budget that includes entitlement reform and tax simplification so that the economy can grow.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Liberty Movement Reading

Via College Insurrection via Instapundit, Parents Beware of College Borrowing.  The return on investment of college tuition keeps falling as the price keeps rising, parents shouldn't join the legions of borrowers who will be crushed in a debt crisis, especially when you can't discharge college loans in bankruptcy.

Dean keeps us updated on the stench of billions of waste and continued appearances of impropriety of California's high speed choo-choo imbroglio.  Fantasy vs. Reality of this project pictured below.

What You Should Be Reading

I am toying with the idea of an occasional round up of the best analysis and writing I find in the liberty movement and elsewhere.  This is my first foray.

KT Cat notes the explosive situation in Spain.  In my view, Europe is a crisis away from the EU collapsing, they have desperately staved off disaster to date, but for how long?

W.C. Varones notes that the FBI often gets the wrong guy in high profile cases and points with pride to predicting same.  He also sees gold as a buying opportunity.

The Economist notes all of the problems with Europe's Cap and Trade for carbon emissions, but then can't bring themselves to disavow this stupidity.  Meanwhile, shale gas has reduced U.S. CO2 emissions to early 1990s leves, faster than any cap and trade scheme.  (H/T Professor Perry)

George Will points to the historic tragedy of waiving constitutional rights by dissecting the fraud, suppression of evidence and outright lies that led to the Supreme Court upholding Japanese internment in Korematsu v United States, which decision reeks worse than Kelo v New London.

That's all for now.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Taking Issue with the Navy's Vice Chief on Acquisitions Approach

The U-T interviewed Admiral Mark Ferguson, the Vice Chief of Naval Operations (VCNO) on the impacts of sequestration to the Navy, especially the local impact.  With regards to acquisition cut backs, he had this to say:
On investments (in new equipment), we had to reduce quantities. We’re buying less — an E-2D, a P-8, some Broad-Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) unmanned aerial vehicles. Those quantities are reduced and we pushed them into the future.
What the VCNO didn't say is that the reduced production rates will have the predictable effect of increasing unit costs.  There are so many GAO reports over two decades that discuss the causal relationship between "low production rates" and higher unit cost that I will not link them here.  The administration has not taken the opportunity to look at acquisition programs in the light of the reduced budget and cut programs that are not performing.  Instead, the so called "salami slice" approach means that every program will bleed a little and underperform.

The Congress and the Department of Defense should look at programs that are likely to be obsolesced by technology and kill them.  It has been widely understood for some time that manned fighter and attack aircraft will be made irrelevant by unmanned aerial vehicles within a decade or so.  Here is what the GAO found in examining the JSF program:
Joint Strike Fighter restructuring continued throughout 2011 and into 2012, adding to cost and schedule. The new program baseline projects total acquisition costs of $395.7 billion, an increase of $117.2 billion (42 percent) from the prior 2007 baseline. Full rate production is now planned for 2019, a delay of 6 years from the 2007 baseline. Unit costs per aircraft have doubled since start of development in 2001. Critical dates for delivering warfighter requirements remain unsettled because of program uncertainties. While the total number of aircraft DOD plans to buy has not changed, it has for 3 straight years reduced near-term procurement quantities, deferring aircraft and costs to future years. Since 2002, the total quantity through 2017 has been reduced by three-fourths, from 1,591 to 365. Affordability is a key challenge–annual acquisition funding needs average about $12.5 billion through 2037 and life-cycle operating and support costs are estimated at $1.1 trillion. DOD has not thoroughly analyzed program impacts should funding expectations be unmet.
The extended quote is necessary, because those kinds of acquisition challenges for a fighter likely to be made obsolete make no sense.  Even if the JSF can marginally outperform unmanned vehicles, the risks of losing pilots to capture or death are going to make the unmanned option very attractive to decision makers, as we are already seeing with drone strikes in Yemen, etc.   There is plenty of savings available from killing one big program, that can help make more necessary programs healthy or can be used to meet budget targets.

This is the effect of the continued expansion of entitlements and rising debt, we have to make tough and risk decisions with regards to acquisition programs.  Without making tough choices we will end up wasting huge amounts of money on a wide variety of systems, but none will be procured in the quantity or quality needed.

The other area where acquisition reform is needed is in the procurement of of information technology for the services.  The Department of Defense would be the 17th largest economy in the world, were it a separate country.  Both the Congress and the leaders of the DoD insist on running it as if it were a business when it comes to IT systems.  But no one is able to scale IT across the diversity of business lines that make up the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force.  Big multinational firms that have multiple business lines don't try to unify their financials into single systems, they perform a roll up from separate feeder systems.  The poverty of the DoD's approach is illustrated by the recent Air Force decision to cancel an Enterprise Resource Planning project after blowing through $1 billion.  Rather than forcing the services to have a financial system that meets Sarbanes-Oxley standards, the Congress should just ensure that the services can track expenses (costs) and the value of capital equipment.  There is no need for further level of detail, because there is no need to assure investors of the ongoing value of the firm.

The insistence on killing large programs could lead to greater discipline in coupling programs to strategic need and actually produce better defense.  Predictably, the administration and the Congress will avoid strategic choices and waste your tax dollars.

There is a lesson in here that relates to government control of health care, but I will let the reader draw their own conclusions today.

Monday, April 22, 2013

More Analysis of the San Diego TMD Hotel Tax

This is a follow up to yesterday's post.  Over on the sdrostra.com blog, the City Attorney responded to my criticism of Judge Denton's ruling.  He made some cogent points.  First, he affirms the ruling, stating that because the Tourism Management District (TMD) tax is a business-based assessment, only the hotels themselves have standing to sue. The business based assessment district is an exception in Proposition 26 to the definition of a tax.  One of the exceptions is:
A charge imposed for a specific benefit conferred or privilege granted directly to the payor that is not provided to those not charged, and which does not exceed the reasonable costs to the local government of conferring the benefit or granting the privilege.
As such, the hotel occupant is not directly assessed the tax. The fact that hotels charge it as a "pass through" seems misleading, but a guest would have to sue the hotel itself for false advertising or on some other legal theory, according to Goldsmith.  I haven't seen a San Diego hotel bill since the passage of the tax, so I don't know if the hotels are calling this out as a separate tax.

However, he doesn't appear to be a fan of the tax itself.  In a legal opinion prepared for the city council in June, 2012, he makes the following suggestion:
Due to the Risks Associated with Assessment Districts to the City, this Office
Suggests that Interested Property Owners and Businesses Consider Forming
Private Associations to Implement the Improvements Activities Desired
He explains that "The current legal landscape with respect to both business-based and property-based assessment districts is treacherous. The passage of Prop 26 has left the legality of business-based assessments in limbo until it is clarified by legislation or litigation. . . A potential solution to this dilemma is for the businesses or property owners to form their own private association and “assess” each of the members for the benefit conferred. The association could also consider recording instruments that would act as a lien on their businesses or property to ensure payment and participation."

I appreciate his willingness to patiently argue his position with me.  Closing question: Why haven't the hoteliers themselves used this option to reduce the risk to the business operations of the TMD?  Perhaps some students with connections in the hospitality industry could ferret out the answer.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

San Diego Hotel Tax Update

In a ruling that certainly disappoints, Judge Steven Denton has dismissed the lawsuit of Mel Shapiro challenging the 2% hotel tax that supports the San Diego Tourism Management District (TMD).  The suit was dismissed on the technical grounds that Mr. Shapiro lacked standing to file the suit because he was not an affected hotel owner.  From the U-T:

Shapiro, the judge concluded, “does not contend he falls into such a category of persons affected by the assessment/tax. Therefore, (he) does not have a direct interest for the purposes of a validation action.”
That legal argument, if it is sustained in a final ruling, could lead to dismissal of the other two suits.
“Under this ruling, only the hotels would be able to challenge the assessment because they pay the money,” said
[City Attorney Jan] Goldsmith. “It would set a strong precedent for the other two suits.”
I agree that only those with standing should be able to sue, even when I am sympathetic to the desired outcome of the plaintiff.  However, the City Attorney's comments imply that a San Diego resident who stayed in a local hotel and was forced to pay the tax would lack standing.  This seems to violate common sense.  As I posted previously, the tax is collected under the color of authority of the city government, the city clerk certified the hotelier's election result.  If so, why can't a private citizen who had to pay the tax, challenge the ruling?

Hopefully, an affected hotel that was not in favor of the TMD tax will challenge the it.  The TMD tax needs to get in front of the California Supreme Court.  The consequences of the murky legal character of the tax can only hurt the city, if they are not resolved.  To be clear, I remain opposed based on arguments presented previously.  I sincerely hope for a lawsuit that will bring clarity to the matter, because there is still risk from a lawsuit that is ruled to have standing.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Islamic Terrorist Brought to Justice - America Rises to the Challenge

This afternoon, I prayed earnestly that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev would be captured alive.  I thank God that it was so.  I hope that his capture and the subsequent information we find will shed light on how the tragedy at the Boston Marathon came to be and help us prevent further attacks.  I am proud to be an American, where even terrorist murderers are captured alive, when we are able.  One of the state police spokesman was very matter of fact today, saying, we always attempt to capture suspects alive, with an air that suggested the reporter who questioned that was somewhat ignorant.

Once again, ordinary Americans also rose to the occasion in aiding the capture of a terrorist.  The quick thinking of the man on Franklin St. who called 911 to report that a bloodied man was in his boat was the key action that aided in his capture.

It is clear that the bombings were the work of Islamic terrorists.  I thought this was going to be true, but wanted some confirmation. We have to face the unpleasant and uncomfortable fact that even if a very small minority of Muslims are willing to martyr themselves by attacking the West and America, we are going to have a long and bloody effort ahead of us.  Muslims complain that these people are a small minority who tarnish the name of Islam.  Fair enough.  Perhaps the Islamic community should monitor for the signs of radicalization and aid authorities when they are aware of likely terror activity or cells.  Preaching hate, jihad and murder should be unacceptable to all Americans, including Muslims.  Why does preaching that marriage should be reserved for a man and a woman provoke outrage on the left, but not the preaching of jihad and hatred for Western values?

I oppose the death penalty, with two exceptions, treason and espionage.  The reason for those exceptions is that those crimes are an assault on the country as a whole.*  Under the doctrine of inherent right of self-defense, nations have the right to hang those found guilty because we are defending ourselves against a foreign threat when doing so, just as we may kill enemy soldiers on the battlefield.  As horrible as other crimes may be, I oppose the death penalty for them because our society is capable of self defense in locking such persons away.  But treason and espionage are acts of war against the nation itself.  If found guilty, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be facing the death penalty.  Perhaps he might bargain for a lesser sentence by providing our government with needed information.

This is a great country, where we rise to the occasion during such times.  Even the President, who frequently angers me with his public statements, rose to the occasion with an excellent summary.  I applaud the brevity and clarity of his remarks.  It is a reminder that we are more united than we may give ourselves credit for.

* For a complete treatment of the morality of the death penalty, see the Evangelium Vitae of Pope John Paul II on the Value and Inviolability of Human Life.  I quote from section 56 below:
This is the context in which to place the problem of the death penalty. On this matter there is a growing tendency, both in the Church and in civil society, to demand that it be applied in a very limited way or even that it be abolished completely. The problem must be viewed in the context of a system of penal justice ever more in line with human dignity and thus, in the end, with God's plan for man and society. The primary purpose of the punishment which society inflicts is "to redress the disorder caused by the offence". Public authority must redress the violation of personal and social rights by imposing on the offender an adequate punishment for the crime, as a condition for the offender to regain the exercise of his or her freedom. In this way authority also fulfils the purpose of defending public order and ensuring people's safety, while at the same time offering the offender an incentive and help to change his or her behaviour and be rehabilitated. 
It is clear that, for these purposes to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent 
In any event, the principle set forth in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church remains valid: "If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons, public authority must limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person".

In my view, the crimes of treason and espionage are such threats to the state as to be an existential threat of the state's ability to provide for the public order and people's safety.  This is my reasoning for the exception.

Weekend Music

This weekend's music is a reminder that we have seen much, much tougher times and far worse threats to the Republic than the random violence of a few deluded maniacs.

He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.  Indeed.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Potential for Good in the Senate Immigration Bill

But we have some questions too.  First, why the heck does the dang thing have to be over 800 pages?  My brother rightly excoriated the ACA when it was being passed for its Byzantine complexity.  This bill is only slightly shorter.

A round up of key features pulled from various news sources:

  • Provisional residency and a long, long term path to citizenship for those who were here illegally prior to January 1, 2012.  This is my least favorite part. We are going to make citizens out of those broke the law.  I am against deportations, and we need some kind of normalization, but this strikes at the rule of law. There will be a background check and a $500 fine and a fifteen year path, so I can probably live with this.  Also the DREAMers legal status will be codified into law.  
  • More money for border security, with specific metrics regarding apprehensions.  I like this a lot more.  Stopping illegal border crossers simultaneously is humane and upholds the rule of law.  I believe that Mexico's declining birth rate will also help with this issue.  There are also provisions to monitor for those overstaying their visas, another key source of illegal immigration.  The downside is that e-Verify is being resurrected and mandated.  I find it ironic that mandate the use of e-Verify got Arizona sued by the feds.
  • Expanded H-1B visas and streamlining, hooray, but with new rules about wage rates, boo. A new program for agricultural workers will be put into place, as well as other unskilled labor.  All of this will be accompanied by more federal bureaucracy to monitor labor conditions and wages and whatever.  I am happy for the increased immigration.  I am unhappy about the attendant bureaucracy and inevitable vote buying and corruption that will follow.  There is also provisions for granting visas to foreign born college students getting advanced degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). We need more such immigrants to grow our economy.
  • The bill will make it easier for spouses, children and parents to be united.  Seems good as well.  
Overall my first impression is that this is good, even if compromises were made.  I would hope that Republicans fight to reduce the number of new bureaucrats that have to be hired and streamline some of the processes that allow employers to bring in foreign workers.

I knew immigration was a done deal a couple of weeks ago when my son's monthly newsletter from UCFW-135 started touting the benefits of immigration reform (sorry, can't find the online newsletter link).  Big labor had always been the big stumbling block in my view.  When I knew they were on board, I knew a deal could get done.  

Conservatives should be in favor of immigration reform, because of our belief in limited government.  Businesses should be able to hire labor from where ever they can find it.  We must maintain the sovereignty of our borders, but overall we should have a free market in labor.  Adam Ozimek and Sean Rust make this point:
Lost in such pessimism [about immigration reform] is the usual conservative optimism about the benefits of when the government gets out of the way and lets people work and trade together in free markets. Gone is the optimism about how competition helps create a dynamic and growing economy, benefits consumers, and makes all of us, even the employees of Mom & Pop groceries, better off in the long-run. Many Republicans forget that trade and free markets are not a zero sum game; that immigrants pay taxes, buy goods, innovate, start companies, and grow the size of our economic pie. There's empirical evidence backing all this up, but Republicans are often drawn to the most pessimistic studies and interpret all of the evidence in light of strong prior beliefs about a zero sum economy where competition is a bad thing.

It indeed seems an inconsistency to oppose immigration based on static economic models when we object to the use of those models when it comes to determining the benefits of reduced tax rates. Increased legal immigration will expand our economy.  Now, if Obama would just open up federal lands for fracking, we might get a recovery in spite of the ACA and regulatory overload of this administration.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

First Signs of Stupidity

I posted yesterday about the futility of our security measures.  Right on cue, the city of Indianapolis and the Indian Pacers are doing the following: (H/T Reason.com)
The Indiana Pacers, after consulting with the Department of Homeland Security, will remove all trash cans outside of Bankers Life Fieldhouse for all events, said Greg Schenkel, vice president of public relations for the Pacers.
This will reduce the chance of terrorism at a Pacers game by exactly zero.  Meanwhile, you have to believe that those trashcans served a purpose.  Will a build up of trash obscure a small package of poison powder that would have been noticed and contained if a trashcan had been present?  Gestures of futility just inconvenience ourselves and do nothing to fight terrorism.  

Bruce Schneier has a nice article about fighting terrorism based on movie plots and the last attack.
Terrorists don't care if they blow up subways, buses, stadiums, theaters, restaurants, nightclubs, schools, churches, crowded markets or busy intersections. Reasonable arguments can be made that some targets are more attractive than others: airplanes because a small bomb can result in the death of everyone aboard, monuments because of their national significance, national events because of television coverage, and transportation because most people commute daily. But the United States is a big country; we can't defend everything.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Boston Tragedy - What Will Be Our Response?

I am disinclined to write at length about the tragedy at the Boston Massacre, because little relevant is know except the number of dead, 3, and injured 140+.  There have been various reports about suspects, none of them reliable.  For the dead, my heartfelt sympathies to their loved ones.  It is hard to imagine the heart-break of having someone you love die in this gruesome way on Patriots' Day, especially the parents of the eight year old who was among the dead.  The injuries to those who survived will also be mind-numbing.  Our prayers go to the injured as well, many are suffering grievously.

I worry also about what self-inflicted stupidity will result from the tragedy that will further erode our rights without adding to our real security.  Early reports suggested that the bombs might have been in back packs.  Will we be checking young mother's diaper bags when they take their babies to the beach as our next move to ensure safety.  Will we ban backpacks altogether, or at least at any public gathering?

After 9-11, we started to strip down at the airport and take off our shoes and generally suffer humiliation just to use air transport.  Who can argue that we are safer as a result?  As a people, we need to stop believing that the we can be made perfectly safe and that our safety is solely the province of the government.  Private firms and private citizens can and will take action without violating the rights of others.  Airline safety could be vastly improved by merely reinforcing the cockpit door and arming pilots, for example, to prevent hijackings.  The shoe bomber was stopped by passengers.

I hope for a more sensible debate about security when the details of this tragedy are revealed.  Ceding more of our personal liberty shouldn't be on offer.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Real Crime Is What's Legal - Gifts to Staffers

The U-T reports that legislative staffers in Sacramento are the recipients of significant largesse from lobbyists last year.  What a shock.  It turns out the legal limit for Sacramento staffers is $420, twenty times greater than the $20 limit imposed on federal employees.
Groups that spent the most on lobbying last year provided legislative aides with about $69,500 in gifts. A U-T Watchdog review showed that the same groups — from companies to associations and unions — bestowed roughly $70,500 in gifts to lawmakers.
And who gives the gifts?
Many of the top gift-givers are in highly regulated industries, among them AT&T, Sempra Energy, Edison International and Comcast. AT&T and its affiliates spent more than $27,000 on tickets for aides, including passes to Monster Jam, WWE Raw and Disney on Ice. The figure was nearly seven times what the company spent on lawmaker gifts.
Of course they're in regulated industries.  Just more reason to have government regulate fewer areas of our life, and grant fewer monopolies requiring regulation.  I don't blame the unions and companies for giving gifts within legal limits.  Working the legislative system to protect one's interests is necessary in a day and age when calls for more regulation follow the discovery of every new societal ill, whether its the fact that the poor lack high def televisions or hospitals with private rooms for rich patients provide with food with higher nutritional value.  By God, we are going to find a legislative and regulatory cure for these ills, by taxing cable users to subsidize high def tv giveaways or regulating a consistent nutritional content in hospital meals, complete with inspectors and food tasters.

Government is too big.  This is just one more symptom.  Government's size distracts it from its main mission of securing our rights by protecting us and running the courts.  It's size also is a drag on the economy.  I work for the federal government and while well intentioned, everything we do is rife with red tape that makes us inefficient.  We should do the minimum we are constitutionally mandated to do.  The red tape will never go away, because there is always someone ready to use "streamlined" processes to steal your tax dollars.  We need to embarrass the left over every suggestion that government can do anything efficiently, because it can't.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Let the Means Testing Begin - Sebelius Proposes Medicare Changes

I have always felt that means testing for Medicare and Social Security was inevitable.  Liberal groups have opposed the idea because means testing changes the entitlement programs from covert wealth redistribution schemes to overt wealth redistribution schemes. Liberals believe being overt, i.e. "transparent" about the wealth transfer would undermine popular support.  To which I reply, "Great, who cares?"  The programs are going bankrupt, popular support or otherwise, making them less important to the social fabric of the middle class, especially upper middle class will allow for some sensible discussion of further reform.  A recent letter to the NYTimes captures the liberal thinking quite well.
Social Security is our most successful antipoverty program, more successful than any welfare grants. Medicare is our most successful medical care program, more successful than Medicaid. In each instance the program available without means-testing works better, without stigma and with general approval and political support. Means-testing turns applicants into potentially fraudulent beggars for charity.
. . .
Entitlements without means-testing unite us into one country. Means-testing divides us into rich and poor, each resenting the other. Our tax system is a much more effective mechanism to deal with disparities in wealth and income.
The letter was responding to an Op-Ed piece by Yuval Levin discussing how the two programs might be means tested.  While I quibble with some of the particulars, I don't see any other long term solutions.

Right on cue, the administration's budget for HHS contains the following gem:
President Barack Obama’s plan to raise Medicare premiums for upper-income seniors would create five new income brackets to squeeze more revenue for the government from the top tiers of retirees, the administration revealed Friday.. . .“Means testing” has been part of Medicare since the George W. Bush administration, but ramping it up is bound to stir controversy. 
The plan itself is complicated. The bottom line is not: more money for the government. 
Obama’s new budget calls for raising $50 billion over 10 years by increasing monthly “income-related” premiums for outpatient and prescription drug coverage. The comparable number last year was $28 billion over the decade.

Inside the details of the plan are increases in premiums and a freeze on adjusting income brackets for inflation.  It is interesting to me only that the administration is floating this idea with little fanfare.  House Budget Chair Paul Ryan is asking Kathleen Sebelius for more details of the plan.  My hope is that this gets more publicity, so the nation starts to realize that we can really only afford to pay for medicare for the poor as part of a welfare program.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

What Has Your Government Screwed Up Today?

Government action in a Republic is subject to politics and bureaucracy, by definition.  It should attempt nothing that can be performed by the private sector, because politics and bureaucratic rules will cause its efforts to fail.

This news was filled with examples last week.

First, the City of El Cajon is out $600K over a loan made to a brewery as part of an effort to revitalize the city center.  Hey, why not a brewery?  Maybe because San Diego already has over 30 breweries, almost Belgianesque.  Now the brewery is closing after being unable to emerge from bankruptcy.  In the comments section of the linked article, Stephen Meadows, the owner, is called a con man by someone who appears to be his brother.

Meanwhile, at the Federal level, Fisker Automotive, which took a $529 million loan in 2009 to build luxury electric cars in Finland, laid off about three quarters of its work force as it "worked through financial difficulties" like no buyers for its cars and preparing for bankruptcy.  To be fair, it did not receive all of the proceeds from that loan, but the company does owe the $129 million to the DOE.

Various provisions of the Affordable Care Act are unlikely to be implemented on time, proving that even if we had read the bill, we still wouldn't know what was in it.  This week? The federal government's health insurance marketplace for small businesses, SHOP, will be delayed, with no reported date of delivery.
The reason for the delay is likely that the government "underestimated a logistical challenge inherent in getting these exchanges up and running," said Bob Graboyes, senior fellow, health care, at the National Federation of Independent Business, a small-business lobbying group in Washington that opposes the law. 
"The information-technology needs required to get these up and running are staggering," he said. "They didn't leave enough time and they underestimated the extent of the task."
I am an IT Manager for the federal government, and I know that even the simplest system is complex to deliver, because government regulation requires reasonable assurances about system security and performance.  But this is a reason to let the private sector do this job.  Further, the government's IT will always fall short for a system like this.  In the private sector, the business has a vested interest in understanding the translation of complex business processes into IT functional requirements.  In fact, business engagement with the IT team is one of the key predictors of IT project success.  However, the federal government is acting as a middleman in this application.  There is no one who really has a business interest in the successful outcome of the system.  I doubt if they will ever build a reasonable IT system.  The alternative will be a very expensive hybrid manual system.

Even though I loathe the idea of the government running an exchange at all, a better solution would be to bid out the business function of running the marketplace and give a cut of the action to the winning bidder.  Then there would be a business with a vested interest in assessing cost, schedule and performance trade-offs necessary to deliver a reasonable system.  It's cheaper to give a business a cut of the action than the billions that will be wasted on a system that is never really going to work.

Putting a bow on this; if only microbreweries needed complex IT systems, maybe I could go to work in my ideal industry in the private sector.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Weekend Music Chill

Hiatus from blogging for school, but I hope to start up again this weekend.  I wanted to get some good music to kick it off, in the Indie Folk genre, which reminds me of old school country.  Here are the Decemberists with Down By The Water

Here are The Lumineers with Ho Hey

Yeah, Misha, you're my sweetheart.