April 23, 2014

Have you been able to sign up for Obamacare?

Have you been able to sign up for healthcare through the federal government’s site? Reports are widespread that few people have, and those who are trying are finding the site has serious technical problems. If you have, or have not, been able to get your healthcare through the federal website, I’d like to hear your experience. 


With the shutdown over and the budget crisis averted, or at least put off for a few months until we do this all over again in January, let’s get back to what we were doing before–trying to figure out Obamacare.

And by ‘we,’ I mean the whole country.

Just over two weeks ago, the Obamacare website went up, and almost immediately it became clear that the Obama Administration had overpaid a Canadian company to create a site that is, to put it mildly, glitchy and unreliable.

Take the case of my good friend Curt Bentley. Never a huge fan of the healthcare law, he is nevertheless exactly within the class of Americans for whom the law was designed.

Nearly three years ago, I left a solid, good paying job to strike out on my own in the legal business, and in so doing, left behind medical and dental benefits along with a steady paycheck.

Did I mention he has five kids under the age of ten? I don’t know how he managed it.

Required to sign up for healthcare by the law, Curt headed over to healthcare.gov to sign up and began entering his information to get a quote and find out what healthcare was going to cost him.   Immediately he faced problems.

I chose a username and password, and was directed to a page where I supposed to enter answers to security questions . . . except the security questions didn’t appear.  I tried reloading the page, same problem.  I tried going back to the beginning of the account creation process, same problem.  I then thought there may be an issue with my browser (Safari on a MacBook Air) correctly processing the javascript that’s populating the form fields, so I tried in Firefox and Chrome — same problem.

I then tried to click on the link for online support chat, which opened, took my name, and promptly died.

So, I gave up for a few hours.

When I came back later in the day, I wasn’t even given the opportunity to try and create an account, the link simply directed you to a dead end page that said the website was having trouble due to excessive demand.

I called it a day.

You would too.

It was eight days before Curt was able, after going to the site each day and making the attempt, to create a profile. Despite the slow response time on the site, Curt plowed on, and 45 minutes later he submitted an application.

I then submitted my application, waited, waited, and waited some more, and then finally received an email stating that the verification system was not functioning.  My application was labeled “In Progress.”  So, I left and went on to other things, figuring that verification would eventually happen.

Returning on Day 9 to check on the status of the submitted application, the site told him the application was incomplete, then started him up again halfway through the application (which he had already completed and submitted the day before). Day 10 through 12 were much the same, and by now, says Curt, it was starting to feel a bit like Groundhog Day.

He decided to contact customer support on Day 13.

After struggling with this for 10 minutes or so, I clicked on the live chat support link.  This time I was connected with a representative, who cheerily asked my how she could help.  When I started to describe my problem, she simply wrote, “Please call telephone support.  Have a nice day!”

When he logged out, the site provided him with a notice in Spanish, “despite asking repeatedly over the last week to designate my preferred language — English.”

The next day it asked for his immigration papers, even though Curt was born in Iowa.

Read the blog post at Utah Political Summary.

In what is supposed to be the holy grail of the bleeding hearts on the left to give healthcare to the masses, Obamacare’s entry site has largely failed to serve its intended targets. From the front lines, for example, Wisconsin is reporting that less than fifty people have signed up in the last two weeks.

Less than fifty.

Federal officials have so far refused to provide data showing just how few, but Wisconsin officials did their own survey and Insurance Commissioner Ted Nickel says fewer than 50 people were able to sign up through healthcare.gov during the first week.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Minnesota which is not relying on the federal website, 5,500 have signed up.  This is after the federal government gave $50M to a Canadian company to set the site up.

Money can’t buy you love, nor can it solve the world’s problems, no matter what bleeding hearts of the world may hope. But don’t expect that to change how liberals form public policy or govern.

What You’ll Never See if You Live in Utah: A Presidential Candidate

What will you never see if you’re a voter in Utah?

You’ll never meet the candidates for President, unless you count emails asking for money or phone calls.

If you live in New Hampshire, though, or Iowa, or maybe even South Carolina, you might learn something like this:

You learn that Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) is awful at small talk. Texas Gov. Rick Perry is a ham, breaking into funny voices and goofy faces. And former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is . . . not like that at all. “Like talking to your doctor,” one voter remembered.

And, as it turns out, former Utah governorJon Huntsman Jr. is surprisingly calm after he’s been bitten by a goat.

That’s right. People in New Hampshire actually shake hands and talk with the candidates, not just about them. Even then, they have a hard time making up their minds.

But, during this chaotic primary system, even some of these people — the Platonic ideal of the American voter, close enough to look each candidate in the eye — are still struggling to make a choice.

And so, one night this week, Andy and Betsie Bridge decided they couldn’t make up their minds until they had gone to see former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) in the flesh.

For the third time.

Gag.

Someone, please: reboot the system, and soon. I’m all about Iowa and New Hampshire voters getting their say in the choice of the next president, but I’m also all about Mississippi getting their say, too, as well as North Dakota, Oregon, New Mexico, and, yes, Utah. With its primary scheduled for late June (and prohibited from being held earlier than March by the Republican National Committee)  the decision will be all but a foregone conclusion, and Republican voters will go to the polls on that warm Tuesday in early summer to show their solidarity with whoever is left standing, not to make a choice for who should lead the free world.

Enough already. Who died and made Iowa and New Hampshire king and queen of the primary process? We don’t need Iowa to tell us how to vote.

It’s time to change the system. Allow states to hold their primary when they want, or at least rotate which states vote first. Perhaps set up regional primaries, rotating the first primary votes between regional blocks of states. Anything but this archaic and unfair (to us, not the candidates) system of watching Iowa and New Hampshire kick off the presidential election, select the nominee, and cut candidates who will never get their name on the ballot in states that would surely support them otherwise.

It’s good for the country. Rather than allowing the candidates to pour into early states Iowa and New Hampshire, they would be forced to mount nationwide (or at least region-wide) campaigns.  Candidates with broad popular support (like Tea Party candidate Michelle Bachmann, who just dropped out or libertarian-Republican Ron Paul, who garnered third place in Iowa) and candidates with strong organizational skills and networks (such as Mitt Romney) would be well equipped. Others, with more broad support in specific regions (such as, perhaps, Jon Huntsman in the west or Rick Perry in the south), will succeed in their regions, giving them a fighting chance to make their case for longer than a few debates and a couple of primaries. And idiot flabber blabbers (like Newt Gingrich) can rely on attacking the media where ever the media is found.

Everyone would get a say in the vote, not just the 120,000 people who show up to vote in Iowa.

Don’t think it matters? I’d bet good money that we wouldn’t have seen an Obama v. McCain match up in 2008. And that could have meant a different course for history, not to mention for the economy.

[Washington Post]

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Iowa Caucuses are Bad for Democracy

Are you paying attention? Are you watching the results? Is Iowa on your radar?

Today, a non-binding vote by a tiny fraction of America will kick-off the primary season. That vote will award zero delegates.

That’s right. Zero.

National Review Online‘s Daniel Foster well encapsulates my feelings on it:

[blackbirdpie url="http://twitter.com/#!/DanFosterNRO/status/154227133244375041"]

It’s not unlike the Ames Straw Poll back in the summer of 2011 (remember that?) when Michelle Bachmann‘s supporters won her a meaningless straw poll that lead to Tim Pawlenty‘s withdrawal from the race. Yeah. Meaningless, but with serious repercussions. Pawlenty suspended his race for the White House. Not because of a scandal, crazy comments, or weak debate performances (see also “Oops”), but because he didn’t win the straw poll.

Too bad for America.

So, what’s it going to be? It’s a good chance that one of these guys or gal (to the right) will  not be moving on, and yet, 99.03% of Americans will have had no chance to vote on them.

How did we come to this? How did one of the smallest states in the nation become the gate-keeper to the White House?

The caucuses were moved to the front of the schedule essentially by accident in 1972. In 1976, Jimmy Carter, a dark horse candidate, committed himself to campaigning aggressively in what was still considered a political backwater and emerged a star. That alone should have been a warning sign. Instead the political press romanticized the place and started treating Iowa as special.

Thus began the self-reinforcing claim that Iowa is first because it is important, when in reality it is important because it is first.

It’s bad policy. It’s bad democracy. And it’s bad for our country. Nothing about Iowan makes them special, makes them unique, or suggests they should be representative of the  hundreds of millions of Americans who will never have a say about the race.

Including Utah, which votes in the last ten days of June, when the race will, likely, be over.

So, while the entire country may be ready for a tidal wave to end the Presidency of Barack Obama, only .07% are able to weigh-in this weekend.

Whether you support Romney, the “not Romney” of the moment (currently known as “Rick Santorum“), or Paul, you won’t have a say about it. Let’s be smart–let’s end the Iowa Caucus and shift to a national primary, wherein all voting is held in the same day. It’s what we do to select the President in the general election and it is what we should do to select our nominees, too. The current primary system disproportionately benefits states that hold early primaries, through legislative subsidies and pork barrel benefits to curry favor and campaign spending during elections, and penalizes states who vote late by either eliminating candidates long before they vote or penalizing them if they attempt to vote early.

Last year, Occupy Wall Street (and its mini-me iterations across the country) protested crony capitalism between big business and Washington, D.C., perhaps with some justification. The primary system, as currently constituted, sets up a system of cronyism just as harmful and distorting to our elective process. A national primary would put voters on equal standing across the nation, would force Presidential candidates to prove they can set up and organize a national organization (rather than go on vacation to Greece during the opening months of the campaign), and prevent parties and Congress from give special favors and penalties on states that fail to follow party rules.

Yes, choice of the nominee of a party is a party process, but the choice should be equal by all members of the party and by all states. After all, the person will represent the entire United States of America, not just the .07 who vote in the non-binding Iowa caucus.

[USA Today]

First Iowa, and now the worst ratings ever.

Last week, Republicans decided to “give Iowa a try.” Then T-paw, first man into the race for President, became the first man out of the race (unless you count this dufus). Then, with a nary a whimper (and a jet black bus), the President kicked off what Mitt Romney called the “Magical Misery Tour,” a bus tour of mid-west swing states.

“During his Magical Misery bus tour this week, it is unlikely President Obama will speak with unemployed Americans, to near-bankrupt business owners, or to families struggling to survive in this economy,” the campaign said in a statement released prior to Obama’s arrival in Minnesota Monday.

I don’t know about that…last I checked, the President wasn’t opposed to having a beer with a couple of regular guys.

Besides, President Obama knows what it looks like to have unemployment staring him in the face. It’s happening to him now.

Yep. It’s President Obama’s worst approval rating since his inauguration. Even with the election more than a year away, he can’t be relishing these kind of ratings. I’m not sure if there’s just a lot of news about the GOP due to Iowa (a debate, a straw poll, a Texan entering the race, and, of course, that butter statue) or if the country is really looking for someone to blame, but President Obama is taking a part of the hit (the economy is swallowing the rest of the malaise).

On the other hand, there’s a lot of politics between now  and the only poll that matters, and President Obama is not idiot. I suspect he’s ready for the next fourteen and a half months.

Grab yourself a cold one, put on your most comfortable shoes, and get ready: it’s going to be a magical ride, misery or not.

 (h/t Gallup and DBKP)

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Random number generators and cable news commentators

The source of all those exit polls, hot air, statistics, and prognosticators fodder…

Also, exit polls in Florida and Iowa, financial analysis, and D&D.

xkcd: Sports.

See also “Mark Twain.” (“There are lies, damn lies, and then there are statistics.”)

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Give Iowa a try…

Map of USA with Iowa highlighted
Image via Wikipedia

Iowa judges are under attack for unpopular rulings that have permitted gay marriage in their state.  Unhappy about the rulings, and displeased that so few could overturn the will of the people, activists are looking to check the power of the judges by way of the ballot box. From the Wall Street Journal

[T]his year, conservatives in Iowa are waging a campaign to vote out of office three supreme court judges, who joined a ruling last year that Iowa’s law barring the recognition of same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

This isn’t the first time I’ve noted the action of one piece of our political “family” (executive, legislative, and judicial) acting against another to check its power.  Our constitution was written in such a way as to disperse power and spread it out, limiting the ability of any one group to tyrannize another. In this case, we see the people, the legislative function by which laws are usually made, acting to check the power of the judiciary.

Judges are intended to be independent so as to be free from political pressure.  This is to enable them to make decisions that are based solidly in the law and the constitution and to act as a restraint against the power of the majority to protect minorities.  However, even this power can be checked. Even when Supreme Court of the United States finds that a law of Congress is misbegotten and unconstitutional, the right to amend the constitution, however high that bar has been set, is still available .

On the state level, because justices are often selected by the executive, they usually have to stand for a “confirmation” vote periodically in order to retain their office.  Usually, because of the low levels of interest in the predominantly mundane work of the courts, few voters follow or even care about confirmation of a judge, and voter turnouts are often low.  In Iowa, voter anger is seeing to assuring that changes.

“We need to vote them off the bench to send a message across Iowa that we, the people, still have the power,” said Bob Vander Plaats, a Republican state politician who is leading the campaign. “Not only will it send a message here in Iowa, but it will send a message in California, in Arizona and across the country.”

The effort in Iowa, the Post reports, worries gay rights advocates and legal experts who say it is wrong to punish judges for unpopular decisions. But on the flip side, campaign advocates say they are simply exercising their democratic right to rein in a judiciary that has overstepped its authority.

Vander Plaats announced this month the creation of Iowa for Freedom, which has rented office space and hired six full-time staff members, who plan to wage a political campaign replete with mailers, phone calls and door-knocking, according to the Post.

While the judges have not, yet, said anything in their own defense, this does raise the question of independence of the judiciary.  Can a judiciary that must cater to the winds of political whim ever be completely, to say nothing of partially, independent and objective sufficient to provide a fair trial?  How can a judge provide a fair trial when he, or she, knows that the parties before them may, or likely will, work to support or oppose their next election?  The result would be that the politically and financially powerful will end up winning their cases, while minorities and poor will lose.

On the other hand, there must be some check against the power of the judiciary to set policy from the bench.  If the judiciary, by one decision, can change a law established by the will of the people, what does it matter that the people have spoken or that the legislature has acted?