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Just in time for Christmas

The RoboRoach.

It’s a little backpack that sends tiny signals to one or other antenna, causing the roach to run left or right. Via Bluetooth.

I don’t think it’s a joke. They’ve got a Kickstarter going and they’re taking pre-orders (projected delivery: November 13). Only $99.999999! (PETA’s going to have a cow).

Still watching the O’care rollout with stunned amaze. I fully expected the insurance to be a big steaming pile of FAIL, but I honestly didn’t think they could fuck up the website this badly. After all, the IRS site isn’t too bad. I understand the Medicare site works pretty well. I know this administration is paranoid about outsiders, but surely that doesn’t include their brothers and sisters in government?

I honestly have a hard time understanding how anyone could lose control of a project on this scale. And then release it anyway. All I can think is industrial-grade arrogant combined with monumental stupid.


Comment from acat
Time: October 22, 2013, 10:17 pm

I .. like, and am terrified .. of that kickstarter, Lady Weasel.

As for the Obamacare site, well, two things.

First, its’ design, from what those who have looked have found, is much more like what you’d expect from someone used to writing sites that build mailing lists, i.e. more like OFA, less like IRS.

Second, Obama is not of the Dem hive-mind. He didn’t come up through the ranks, he blew past them.. He didn’t learn the ins and outs of being an executive by being a mayor or governor or .. anything more strenuous than hiring some staffers and voting “present”.

So .. yeah. It is a complete tits-up, as your adopted countrypeople would say, and it is because we elected a know-nothing.


Comment from Mrs Compton
Time: October 22, 2013, 10:50 pm

I’m wondering if there are some ‘operatives’ in there who intentionally screwed things up. Something this massive just couldn’t be an accident…. could it?

Comment from bds
Time: October 22, 2013, 10:55 pm

Apparently you have to perform ‘surgery’ on the roach (during which it is supposedly anesthetized somehow) to attach the leads to its antennae. I think I’ll wait for the clip-on version . . .

Comment from bds
Time: October 22, 2013, 10:56 pm

Oh, and as for the website, like pretty much every other failure of this administration, the problem is that they’re too stupid and arrogant to know that they’re too stupid and arrogant.

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: October 22, 2013, 11:44 pm

Mrs. Compton – from long experience

Never put down to conspiracy what can be attributed to stupidity.

I have encountered this before. People without skills who have received promotions for political reasons honestly believe that anyone can do anything and that skills are not actually necessary to the accomplishment of tasks. Thus giving an important assignment on the basis of political support is viewed as a benefit not a risk… Until the task is not accomplished and the shit hits the fan.

Comment from Mrs Compton
Time: October 23, 2013, 12:10 am

Some Veg,

Mr C use to work for the gubmint, I know all to well how promotions worked! Criminal.

Comment from Bob Mulroy
Time: October 23, 2013, 12:13 am

Is the roach included?

Comment from kilroy182
Time: October 23, 2013, 2:53 am

At the risk of sounding “tin foil hattish”, the ACA seems to be working properly. Millions of people are being given cancellation notices from their insurance companies and being pointed towards the mythical exchanges. When it is all well and truly fubar, they will simply have to save everyone by putting us all on medicare/medicaid. That is if the revolution doesn’t take place before then.

Comment from Davem123
Time: October 23, 2013, 3:04 am

Balanced at the apex of the intersection of Ignorance and Arrogance lies…..O’Bama. He (and his crew) truly believe that he (they) are smarter, more capable and better in every way than either the rabble he “rules” over or the evil ones who oppose him.

Kilroy182- You aren’t mistaken. The failure of the ACA was clearly part of its design. I think they may have simply miscalculated how quickly it would collapse.

Comment from Christopher Taylor
Time: October 23, 2013, 4:58 am

Given that initial tests showed the problem, I suspect they were going to delay but then a few GOP congressmen displayed gonads and demanded defunding of Obamacare, and the administration insisted it not be slowed or stopped. After all, if it was, that would look like the Republicans won, or something. So they went straight ahead.

Plus I think almost all the people in charge of this are big on confidence and big ideas and small on actual doing and work.

Comment from A Federal Employee
Time: October 23, 2013, 6:06 am

I know this administration is paranoid about outsiders, but surely that doesn’t include their brothers and sisters in government?

I’ve had to deal with programmers working as government employees, and I’ve rarely had any good experiences with that sub-species. They may be technically competent, but seldom have the latest tools, and may not be allowed to fully debug a program before it’s released. Or allowed to update said software using “customer” feedback. The stuff often works … … after a fashion. And only after a lot of work.

Hell, I had professional experience (a couple or three years ago) with one web based application that was written by a contractor, but was deliberately deployed without beta testing. Parts of that package are still being debugged now. And that was targeted for a relatively small audience within the Federal government.

Then there’s the fact that any major software package development by the Feds is invariably a key element for the plans of some SES or flag officer to build an empire.

Hence, the colossal clusterfuck that we are seeing for ObamaCare is of no surprise to many people used to the Federal bureaucracy.

Those other government sites were likely developed by contractors as well. Just competent contractors. Or at least contractors not having their elbows joggled every 3 minutes by a paranoid, micromanaging control freak holding down a desk in the Obama Administration.

Comment from Tom
Time: October 23, 2013, 10:42 am

“All I can think is industrial-grade arrogant combined with monumental stupid.”

Is there anything, that this administration has done since January of 2009, that hasn’t combined those two features? I don’t think Obama is a drooling moron, the way compassionate and caring liberals used to refer to the Previous Occupant, but I do think he’s completely incompetent. In its own way, that may be a blessing. Imagine if someone who hated America as much as he appears to do was both President and competent.

Good Lord, that would be a nightmare scenario.

Comment from Some vegetable
Time: October 23, 2013, 12:02 pm

You mean Hillary? Because she’s next.

By the way, I can’t wait for tomorrow. That freaking robo-roach creeps the Hell of me.

Comment from Anonymous
Time: October 23, 2013, 12:39 pm


I don’t know whether to credit these folks with exceptional stupidity, or exceptional deviousness….

You are correct that Obamacare is working to the extent that the private health insurance market is rapidly contracting, to the point that there may not be any more individual policies…..ever.

And as to that vanishingly small number of people signing up for Obamacare?

Just let them get their hooks (and their former ACORN operatives, currently employed as “Navigators”)into the massive illegal immigrant “market”….and that “problem”, too, will be solved.

How to pay for it all?

Well….that is what debt ceiling hikes are for!

You aren’t advocating that the US default on its debts….are you? ARE YOU?

Comment from Oceania
Time: October 23, 2013, 1:26 pm

I see the Saudi Terror State has just cut diplomatic relations with Yankistan …. how ‘quaint’?

Comment from Wolfus Aurelius
Time: October 23, 2013, 2:46 pm

Comment from Some vegetable
Time: October 23, 2013, 12:02 pm

. . . That freaking robo-roach creeps the Hell [out] of me.
Oh. Wait. You mean it’s a real roach, and you put this backpack on it?

Scroo that. I don’t touch those things; I leave ’em as hors d’oeuvres for my cats.

Comment from Veeshir
Time: October 23, 2013, 3:50 pm

I’d buy it if they could get it to work on the roaches in Congress.
They need directions badly.

I’d say Obama is willfully ignorant, or rather, he knows way too much to learn anything.

The result is what I call functional stupidity.
He might be quite intelligent, but he doesn’t use it so we’ll never know.

Comment from Subotai Bahadur
Time: October 23, 2013, 7:09 pm

There is another factor that kludges the whole system. The Obamacare website is designed to first send all your personal and financial data via interface to 50+ different Federal agency databases [and innumerable scammers, as apparently a felony conviction is a prerequisite for being hired as a “Navigator”]. Most of those databases were created generations ago by government or contractor programmers long retired, using languages and protocols no longer used or taught. Think COBOL. Think idiosyncratic adaptations of those ancient languages long ago. Now think of the mass of the “best and brightest” programmers flooding in, none of which have heard of the old languages and protocols. Add to that the detail that the current site was done on a no-bid basis by a Canadian political crony [with a bad reputation], who subcontracted it to India. Indian programmers had a distinct style of programming …. and their own version of English that may not coincide with either American English, or legislative pseudo-English.

I have not done any programming for scores of years; and that was in FORTRAN IV. But I know enough to be sure that this is a cluster of the first order.

Subotai Bahadur

Comment from AliceH
Time: October 24, 2013, 12:56 am

I absolutely believe this much of a disaster could be totally unplanned. In addition to arrogance and stupidity, just need to add one more element: Fear.

Somewhere in the upper middle hierarchy (and probably all the way up from there) you reach the managers who respond to their staff’s concerns with “Don’t tell me your problems, you’re paid to bring me solutions!” or “If you can’t do the job you’re being paid to do, tell me know and I’ll get someone who can”.

These same tyrannical do-nothing/motivate-by-threat managers then report all smiles and rosy horizons to their bosses – because even if it’s not quite true, they think their peers’ groups are probably doing even worse jobs so chances are someone else will hose up before they’re own mess is discovered.

Comment from Christopher Smith
Time: October 24, 2013, 7:00 pm

When I was a SW consultant I was brought in on a project to do some documentation for the next phase. I had nothing to do once I learned the word processor, and I was in on the meetings. It was a distributed project, with programs on various machines sending data around.

The first schedule meeting I was in I noticed some interesting features of the schedule. First was that nobody was taking off for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Since this company didn’t let you save vacation until the next year, everyone but consultants would be gone about December 7.

This change was put in, but the end date remained the same.

The next meeting I noticed that they had no time allocated for integration of the parts and testing/debugging.

The next schedule had these things added, but the end date remained the same.

Then I noticed that they hadn’t assigned anyone the job of figuring out how these various programs would talk to each other and writing that code. Oops.

I ended up doing that, since I had nothing better to do.

And this was by no means the worst programming situation I ran into while consulting. It might have even been one of the better ones.

Comment from David Gillies
Time: October 24, 2013, 10:09 pm

On the face of it, the Obamacare website is a shopping cart application glued onto a Content Management System. Industry knows how to do both of these things (the customer-facing portion of Amazon is a shopping cart/CMS front-end to their warehousing/shipping/billing system). But as Subotai says, the data sources on which this abortion is forced to rely are heterogeneous, old, and pre-date the ACA. Even you are given the luxury of a clean slate at the start of a large-scale project like this, designing the data model is hard. Really hard. Getting it wrong can kill a project. Being made to corral pre-existing datasets into a coherent, consistent system is a nightmare.

There are any number of issues. First up is the actual quality of the data itself. In many cases the data will have been entered by lowly clerks, and is likely to be rife with missing, incorrect or contradictory information. Then there is the problem of modelling the relationships between the various entities in a given system. Most modern database systems (at least ones of this nature) have a requirement that a given chunk of data is represented exactly once. This is called normalisation, and it is vital for consistency. As soon as a given datum can exist in two places, you lose coherence. Getting it back again can be impossible. I bet at least some of the datasets in this system are not even in First Normal Form. Then there is the problem that a given datum in one database may be conceptually the same as one in another database, but with no way of enforcing consistency between the two. If one gets updated and the other not then this is an error condition (atomicity is violated.) There may be different data representations of the same item ,and reconciling them is difficult (consistency is violated.) There may be no way of preventing a change in one dataset having unforeseen and deleterious knock-on effects throughout the system (isolation is violated). Once data has been entered, unless strong safeguards – both policy and technology-based – are in place, it may start to ‘rot’ (durability is violated.)

This is purely the technical aspect of this problem. Given the complexity of ACA, it is entirely possible that as drafted there exists a set of criteria that cannot simultaneously be satisfied i.e. the intersection of the constraints on the system’s behaviour is the empty set. No amount of technical effort can circumvent this problem. If you get some rule that boils down to, say, x ∈ ℝ | x < 3 ∧ x > 7 then I’m afraid that x ≡ ∅ and there ain’t nuffin’ you can do about it. It is surprisingly easy to introduce conditions like this even in reasonable, well-designed systems (q.v. Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem) let alone in a monstrosity like Obamacare. This may not be fixable even in principle.

Comment from Oh Hell
Time: October 25, 2013, 1:37 am

They want it to fail. It will drive us into a single payer market, which is what they want. Control healthcare and food and you are well on the way to controlling everything….

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