Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Feds Vs. Zombies

This is no great revelation, but it's still fun to see it confirmed with hard data:

It's not exactly a vote of confidence in the powers that be: A sizable number of Americans think the undead would do a better job than the brain dead in Washington, D.C.

Thirty-seven percent (37%) of American Adults believe the federal government would do a better job than zombies running the country today. But the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that most Americans don't share that view, with just as many (37%) who feel zombies would do a better job running the country and another 26% who can't decide between the two.

Personally, I think plants would do better than both.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Mid-Year College Football Update

Well, it appears my earlier predictions were pretty bad.  In terms of the Big 12, I had thought initially that OU or OSU would be in pole position, with KSU and TCU having an outside chance at rising to the top (oops).  At this point in the season, Oklahoma is looking like the leading candidate and has only one loss; they've got the fewest number of tough games remaining on the schedule, too, so they're likely to remain at or near the top.  Texas -- after an awful, awful start to the season in non-conference games -- has seemingly found its mojo, bagged a marquee win over OU, and has yet to drop a league game.  Oklahoma State and Texas Tech both have only one loss but haven't exactly looked the part of one-loss teams very comfortably.  Of those four teams, only OU has faced two of the others already, meaning the worst part of the schedule remains for all of the rest.  These teams will beat each other up over the next 2-3 weeks, and the picture will become clear pretty quickly.

In my opinion, the biggest surprise of the league this year is that Baylor appears to be the team to beat.  Yes, Baylor.  The only undefeated team left in the Big 12, they are averaging something like 70 points per game and have a defense that's actually pretty good.  Put it all together and they're mowing down opponents right and left.  In fact, it is not at all a stretch to say they look very similar to Oregon (side note: how much fun would a BCS Championship game between Oregon and Baylor be???  A whole lot, that's how much!).  Of the two games where they haven't scored around 70 points, one was against KSU (just 35 points) and the other was Kansas (their subs were in for most of the game, but they still posted 59).  Baylor has all four of the above-mentioned teams remaining on the schedule, though, so we'll find out very quickly if they are the real deal or another pretender.

If I had to make a revised guess right now, I'd say it'll come down to a 3-way mess between Baylor, OU, and Texas.  Texas has already beaten OU, but I think Baylor will be too much for them at home at the end of a nasty 3-week run to finish the season; I think OU will edge out Baylor this week.  I'm not sure how the tie-breakers will work out, but I don't really care, either.  I think it would be refreshing to get Baylor's high octane offense into a BCS game, but they're the little guy on the block and as any K-State fan knows the BCS only takes little guys when they have absolutely no other choice.  If Baylor knocks off OU this week, then it will come down to them and Texas running the league table for all the marbles at the final game of the year.

Now, on to K-State.  This is by far the sloppiest and most-prone-to-dumb-decisions Wildcat team I've seen in a long time.  Of the four losses, they had a lead in the fourth quarter in three of them, and just couldn't close the deal.  In all of those losses, they've made plenty of good plays but also just enough boneheaded plays at key times to be self-destructive.  For example, in the NDSU game, the Wildcats were only 2/10 on 3rd down conversions, lost the time of possession battle, and lost two turnovers.  If I recall correctly, they also left a lot to be desired in terms of tackling that night.  Against Texas, the Cats lost three turnovers and had eight penalties; against OSU they were only 5/12 on 3rd down, gave up five turnovers and committed 12 penalties.  I suppose the silver lining is that despite all of these things they were right there in every game...but still.  It's awfully hard to win with careless mistakes like this, especially in close games.

So, they're currently sitting at 3-4 overall (1-3 in the Big 12), with no chance whatsoever of being a factor in the league title.  In fact, with just five games left -- including OU and Texas Tech -- they're going to have to ramp things up pretty hard to come in over .500 for the season and be in a good position for a late December bowl game.  It seems likely they'll beat Kansas and Iowa State, and probably TCU, as well.  It's also likely they'll lose to OU.  That would put them at 6-5, with the game at Texas Tech leaving the only remaining question mark.  It probably won't net a much better bowl game, but a 7-5 record just seems a whole lot better than 6-6, so I'd really like to see that happen.  And who knows?  Maybe they'll get lucky against OU.  It certainly wouldn't be the first time they would have knocked off the Sooners as a distinct underdog.

There are plenty of good things about this season.  Despite losing those four games, they were close in all of them despite numerous self-inflicted wounds.  They lit up the fourth quarter against West Virginia, looking like a highly polished and productive offense for the first time all year.  Maybe the two QB system is starting to work itself out!  It also makes you wonder what might have happened if Thompson and Lockett, the team's top two receivers, had been available during the Baylor game (they were both out with injuries).  Clearly, the offense and special teams both benefit mightily when they are at full strength.  The defense has been pretty solid over the last couple games -- with the best showing by far against Baylor's ballistic offensive assault -- but I think they still lack a couple of major playmakers who can change the game.  But, as I said before, a defense isn't as dependent upon a couple of superstars as an offense is, so it's not necessarily a critical flaw.

We expected a rebuilding year, but I think it's fair to say that the 6-7 wins they're on pace for is still a bit of a disappointment.  I feel like most of the problems thus far (i.e. turnovers and stupid penalties) have been things that can/should be coached and practiced out of them, which probably explains why I feel like they are simultaneously a disappointment and a better team than their record might indicate.  If they can clean up the idiotic and untimely mistakes, they might be able to pull off some surprises here and there and raise the hopes for another potential league championship run next season.  If...

Monday, October 28, 2013

This Is eSports Ep. 1 - StarCraft 2 And Competitive Gaming

I've wanted to do a series on this subject for a long time, so I'm excited to finally get around to it.  I'll have more updates on things of greater consequence in the next couple days, but for now...let's have some fun!

If you know me, you know I love a video game called StarCraft 2.  It's one of the most popular RTS (real time strategy) games in the world today, and the focus of a huge amount of the professional gaming industry.  Yep, you read that right - there's a professional gaming industry.  It's big, especially overseas, and it's growing by leaps and bounds every year.  I'll have more of the nuts and bolts as this series goes on, but for now I just want to post a series of videos made by Red Bull specifically to help non-gamers understand what eSports is all about.  So, without further ado, here's the first video in the series:

The best description of StarCraft 2 I've ever heard is "chess at warp speed," and I think that's extremely accurate.  Players have to build an economy, create an army, and fight their opponent simultaneously.  If their opponent does something unusual or adopts a certain strategy, a change in one's own strategy is usually required.  Much like in football, hiding the strategy for as long as possible is an art form in itself, and some are better at it than others.  The trick is that players have to be decisive, intuitive, and both proactive and reactive, all at the same time.  StarCraft 2 is a game that is easy to play, but tremendously difficult to master.

But back to the pros.  The measuring stick for how "fast" they play is actions per minute, which is the number of keypresses and/or mouse clicks per minute.  Most pro players average -- AVERAGE -- between 200-300apm, with temporary spikes of up to 500apm or more during intense periods of the match.  And each click has meaning - some strategic, some tactical, and some both.  It is not uncommon for pro players to be building one or two new bases, managing multiple weapons/defense upgrades, and fighting two or three army skirmishes at the same time.  It's insane.

With the explosion in popularity of games like StarCraft 2, an industry sprung up to support it, and that's where eSports (i.e. electronic sports) comes from.  There are teams of pro players, complete with major industry sponsors (like Red Bull, Intel, or AMD) and endorsements, competing in tournaments all over the world.  Players get paid a full salary and keep their tournament winnings, and the top players in the world can make over $500,000 a year.  The biggest tournaments often have first prize amounts in the tens of thousands of dollars.  Aside from the players and teams, organizations like Major League Gaming have arisen to host tournaments and provide some structure to the industry.  Most of these organizations are regional, with MLG being the single biggest player in North America, Dreamhack being the major one in Europe, and so on, all around the world.  South Korea is the nexus of competitive gaming, and roughly 90% of the best StarCraft 2 players in the world are Korean.  It's one of their national sports, they have two 24/7 cable TV channels broadcasting live StarCraft 2 matches, and they have a team sponsored by the South Korean military so that the compulsory two year term of service doesn't derail the best gamers when they reach that point in their lives.  Major championship events in South Korea bring  in vastly more spectators than the Super Bowl does here in America.

As the eSports industry expanded, so did peripheral industries.  Not only things like specialized keyboards, mice, and other high performance gaming gear, but also new fields like "casting," or broadcasting the strategies and play-by-play as matches take place so that even viewers with little knowledge of the game have a solid understanding of what's going on.  Think John Madden for StarCraft 2, and you'd have a pretty good idea of what it is.  This works extremely well in live tournaments, of course, but the best casters (like Husky or Day9) also download replays from top matches, record their audio commentary, and then post the finished product to YouTube where anyone can watch.  The best casters have literally hundreds of millions of YouTube views, with individual videos getting as many as a couple hundred thousand views each.  These guys are professionals, too, as casting provides their sole source of income.  This is just one example of the peripheral industries that have been created around eSports, and the whole thing is still growing.

In reality, it's just now starting to reach a critical mass, at least in North America.  With the proliferation of broadband Internet and free or low cost sites like (the biggest streaming platform in the world) where people can share their gaming, it is easier than ever to find top quality matches for any game at any time, or post your own.  I'm convinced that the rise of mobile gaming has broken a barrier that kept video games pigeon-holed to young kids and geeks, and now it is perfectly acceptable to be a "gamer."  Combine all these factors with the more commonly accepted practice of watching TV shows online, and you have the makings of an entire industry that is surging forward with each passing year, gaining in popularity and becoming more and more lucrative at the same time.

So, now you have a taste of it, but I'll have much, much more about this in the future.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Trick Shot Titus

I love videos about people being awesome, so when I stumbled across Trick Shot Titus I had to post about him.  The fact that he's from Kansas just makes it that much better.  Enjoy!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Awesome App You Need To Try: Vs. Football

I've been beta-testing a new app called "Vs. Football" for the past couple weeks, and it's a ton of fun. It's an asynchronous (i.e. turn-based) game where you call a play and send it to your opponent, and when they call their play you both see the results, and then move on to the next play.  Think Words With Friends or Ruzzle, but with football!

I couldn't begin to explain the details as well as the official page (check it out here), but I will say without hesitation that if you love football, you'll love this app.

The official release date is tomorrow, but there's a sign-up on the site where you can get a notification when the app hits your app store (it will be available for both Android and iOS).  It's free to download and play, but in-app purchases will give you additional plays for an advantage over your opponents if you want it.

Seriously, go get it.  Then send me an invite - I'm open to all challengers!  :)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Pet Peeves About Job Searching

I saw a fantastic article at and couldn't resist posting it in its entirety:

Your business's most expensive asset is probably its people. It's all about those brains getting your work done, so you want the best you can possibly get, right? But, if you're not careful, you may be inadvertently driving away the best candidates with your recruitment policies. Here are five things good job candidates hate.

Tedious online applications. Go apply for a job at your company. How long does it take you? 30 minutes? An hour? Do you get almost done when it crashes and tells you to try again later? We like data. Data is good. But the method which many online job applications collect it is painful and intrusive and unnecessary. At some point, people who aren't desperate get fed up and quit.

Who are the least desperate for a new job? Those already employed in good positions. They tend to be the very people you want to hire.

You show me yours, but I won't show you mine. No one wants to go through a huge interview process only to find out that the job candidate wants $50,000 more than your budget will allow. But instead of having an honest discussion at the beginning, where both sides reveal what they are thinking, many recruiters demand candidates provide a complete salary history.

Now, the reality is that you should be tailoring the salary to fit the job and not basing it on previous salaries. I understand that your star candidate isn't likely to leave his current job for less money, but you know what? You never know. Instead of demanding their information, try giving up some of yours. Be honest: "We don't have an exact salary in mind for this position. It will depend on the candidate's skills, but we're looking for somewhere between $75,000 and $95,000."

Now, I know can see the sheer panic on the faces of your recruiters. "If we say that, everyone will expect $95,000!" No they won't. They aren't dumb.

Silence. If a candidate has simply submitted a resume, you're not obligated to do anything other than send an automated response that says, "We've received your resume. Don't contact us, we'll contact you." (Although you should say it a bit more nicely.)

Once you've brought someone in for an interview, radio silence is just rude. Socially unacceptable behavior. Inappropriate. You should fire your recruiters if they do this. Heaven knows I understand that things happen in the recruiting process--priorities change, budgets shrink, internal candidates get shuffled around. Still, once someone has taken time out of their day to come in to your office, you owe them a response. Remember that the candidate who isn't exactly right for today's open position may be perfect for tomorrow's open position. Simply by not responding, you may have lost that candidate forever.

Meaningless job descriptions. "Dynamic individual, self starter, who can provide thought leadership, through effective communication." Sound familiar? It means nothing. I mean, honestly, is there job description out there that says, "Boring individual, drone, will be micro-managed and expected to communicate poorly"? Because otherwise, the first job description is meaningless.

Focus on what the person in the position will actually do. And don't worry about skills that are not needed. If someone's job is going to be to sit in a cube and produce TPS reports, they don't need to be dynamic thought leaders, so don't ask for it. When you write a job description, sit down and write a list of tasks that the candidate would be expected to do in a week. Provide that information and your candidates will self-screen.

Too much focus on the perfect candidate. We all want perfection, but it's not likely that the picture you've created in your head actually exists. So don't throw out the great candidates in your search for the perfect candidate. Some things can be taught. Others really aren't necessary. I've seen people dragged through four or more rounds of interviews only to be rejected at the end, and the position reposted. In the meantime, not only does this make quality candidates want to avoid you like the plague, but you're spending a fortune trying to find someone and the position is still empty. Look for great, yes, but not perfect.


Over the years, I have raged about all of these things (especially #1 and #2).  The one that isn't on here but should be is slogging through that tedious application process only to reach the end and then upload your resume.  Seriously??  Why did I just waste an hour filling out a bajillion stupid little boxes when I could have just uploaded the document and given you everything you needed in one shot?  Personally, I find this an immediate turn-off, and a first strike to even wanting to work at that company.

I think the reality is that most companies are absolutely atrocious in their hiring process, and are guilty of most -- if not all -- of these simultaneously.  This stuff happens on job changes within a company, too, which is simply compounding the original mistakes.  If someone is already an employee, they already know a pretty fair amount about the company and don't need the outward-facing gibberish intended to persuade people to come work there.  Instead, how about you get real with people who've already committed to you and focus on getting the right person with the right skills into the right position.

Unfortunately, too many HR departments are huddled in their secretive caves of "confidentiality" with giant blinders preventing them from seeing anything but how they've "always done it" in the past, living in the stone ages of dead tree resumes and giant collections of text boxes, inconveniencing applicants to no end, and being actively hostile toward real human beings who are trying to improve their lives and careers.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

30 Common Internet Lifehacks Tested

What is a "lifehack?"  Basically, it's a way to do something in life that isn't conventional or the obvious way to do it.  It's the opposite of functional fixedness, which is a cognitive bias that an object can only be used in the way it is normally used.  There are numerous websites dedicated to lifehacking, the biggest of which is called, naturally, Lifehacker.  Most of the time this stuff is just amusing, but sometimes it's genuinely useful.  As I watch these things, I often wonder if it actually works.  Well, MentalFloss has come to my rescue, testing out 30 of the most commonly repeated Internet lifehacks.  Watch, learn, and enjoy...and be surprised:

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Three Records Worth Noting

Sunday was an awesome day for Kansas City Chiefs fans, as there were three records to celebrate.  The first was the largest flyover (49 aircraft) during the national anthem, and it was impressive indeed:

Second was the loudest open-air stadium in the world, as confirmed by the Guiness Book of World Records:

Third...well, the Chiefs are 6-0.

'Nuff said.

Monday, October 14, 2013

New Week, Same Train Wreck

"The most effectual means of preventing [the perversion of power into tyranny] are to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large, and more especially to give them knowledge of those facts which history exhibits, that ... they may be enabled to know ambition under all its shapes, and prompt to exert their natural powers to defeat its purposes." --Thomas Jefferson, A Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge, 1779


So, as another new week dawns, how's Obamacare going?  Let's first look at the execution of the website itself.

Despite the premise of insuring an additional 30 million Americans -- which it will not do -- they used three years of prep time to build the website to handle a capacity of...wait for it...50,000 users.  But even that isn't going well.  Here are just a few of the problems that have been reported...

In fact, it was such a terrible first week that only a whopping total of 51,000 applications were processed.  For anyone who's counting, that's roughly .00016% of the population of America.

Keep in mind that this website cost taxpayers around $630 million to create over the course of three years.  And yet, the problems are obvious and voluminous, and the results are undeniably atrocious, prompting speculation that they never even tested any of it before rolling it out to the public. 

What little data insurers are getting out of the exchanges is often faulty, forcing them to manually correct that data or risk having people who signed up still not get coverage.  When considering the magnitude of correcting even a small fraction of submissions manually, the insurance industry is now "scared to death" of Obamacare. 

The propaganda machine continues to be a debacle, too.  For example, a rally in South Carolina to tout the benefits of Obamacare ended up with only two people in attendance.  In Pittsburgh, a major event at Heinz Field featuring HHS Tyrant-in-Chief Kathleen Sebelius and the owner of the Steelers brought in only 100 people...and none of them could get into the website on-site, either.  Even the most fervent supporters of the government takeover of health care are freely admitting that it has been a complete and utter failure, and CBS called it "nothing short of disastrous."  CNN anchor/Obama cheerleader Wolf Blitzer suggested that, "If they weren’t fully ready, they should accept the advice that a lot of Republicans are giving them — delay it another year, get it ready, and make sure it works."  That's kind of like a vampire suggesting that garlic and sunlight are good for the skin.  Anyway, if this is the level of competence that surrounds just Obamacare's enrollment website...why does anyone think they can actually administer health care itself more effectively??

Now let's look at doctors.  First, check out this quick interview to learn more about how Obamacare is going to drive a deeper wedge between doctors and their patients. I guess that helps explain these survey results of 1,000 doctors:
  • A majority (55.5 percent) of practices believe the exchanges will have an unfavorable, or very unfavorable, impact on their practice.
  • Fewer than three in 10 practices (29.2 percent) definitely plan to “participate with any new health insurance product(s) sold” on an exchange, with a majority (56.4 percent) still uncertain.
  • Of those not participating in the exchanges, the top concern, listed by 64 percent of practices, was “concerns about the administrative and regulatory burdens related to these products.”
  • More than two in three practices said that reimbursement rates for exchange plans are somewhat lower (36.2 percent) or much lower (33.2 percent) than “average payment rates from all commercial payers in your area”—and these lower reimbursement rates likely explain the lack of robust commitment by physician practices in participating in exchange plans.
This particular survey includes doctors from some prime practices like the Mayo Clinic.  Not exactly a ringing endorsement, and yet another reason to stop Obamacare in its tracks before it becomes too entrenched to back out.  Oh, speaking of doctors and Obamacare, did you know that thousands of doctors in Connecticut were fired by United Health Care due to the enormous costs of Obamacare?  No more Medicare for their patients!  So much for "keeping your doctor and your plan" if you like them.

The final regulations governing Obamacare amount to over 10,500 pages of legalese that not even Democrats have read.  When asked, one prominent Dem questioned whether or not it was "important" to read all those pages.  Maybe those regulations -- and the lack of understanding of them on the part of lawmakers -- could help explain why costs continue to rise and jobs continue to sputter. 

But, unfortunately, it gets even worse.

Many people are just curious as to what it would cost them to have insurance under the new Obamacare system.  In order to find out what their new premiums would cost, they have to create an account on the website.  Once they're signed up for an'll never go away.  As it is set up now, it's a permanent account.  And if you want to think they'll later change the system so you can simply delete your account, um, I have some land on Mars I want to sell you.  So what's the big deal here?  Well, it's not like any politician will ever *cough cough* use such data for political purposes, of course, but if one were to recall what dimbulb Congresswoman Maxine Waters let slip in a TV interview back in 2011:

It was actually a conversation in reference to Democrats who might run against Barack Obama in the future, but it sure would come in handy here, too, don't you think?  Hmmm...

Anyway, there are a bunch of other existential concerns, too.  The Obama administration is doing anything it can to make things miserable for as many people as possible in order to drum up anger at Republicans -- accurately or not -- for the government shutdown (which is actually only a 17% shutdown), including closing down services at the National Institutes of Health, which cares for children with cancer, and cancelling death benefits to families of soldiers killed on active duty.  The House Republicans sent up a bill to rectify that last one immediately, but Democrats in the Senate killed it.  No, I'm not joking.  The Obama Propaganda Machine (formerly known as the mainstream media) somehow neglected to ask a single question about these tactics in the most recent press conference.  Another fun fact is that the Department of Insurance in Illinois issued a public warning against the Obamacare Navigators -- lobbyists and activists paid by taxpayer dollars to sign people up for Obamacare -- that using them is a giant risk for identity fraud.  Perhaps most disturbingly is this:

However, at least two conditions [in the Maryland Obamacare exchange's privacy policy] may give some users pause before proceeding.

The first is regarding personal information submitted with an application for those users who follow through on the sign up process all the way to the end.  The policy states that all information to help in applying for coverage and even for making a payment will be kept strictly confidential and only be used to carry out the function of the marketplace.  There is, however, an exception: "[W]e may share information provided in your application with the appropriate authorities for law enforcement and audit activities."  Here is the entire paragraph from the policy the includes the exception [emphasis added]:

Should you decide to apply for health coverage through Maryland Health Connection, the information you supply in your application will be used to determine whether you are eligible for health and dental coverage offered through Maryland Health Connection and for insurance affordability programs. It also may be used to assist you in making a payment for the insurance plan you select, and for related automated reminders or other activities permitted by law.  We will preserve the privacy of personal records and protect confidential or privileged information in full accordance with federal and State law. We will not sell your information to others.  Any information that you provide to us in your application will be used only to carry out the functions of Maryland Health Connection. The only exception to this policy is that we may share information provided in your application with the appropriate authorities for law enforcement and audit activities.
The site does not specify if "appropriate authorities" refers only to state authorities or if it could include the federal government, as well.  Neither is there any detail on what type of law enforcement and/or audit activities would justify the release of the personal information, or who exactly is authorized to make such a determination.  An email to the Maryland Health Connection's media contact seeking clarification has not yet been answered.

The second privacy term that may prompt caution by users relates to email communications.  The policy reads:

If you send us an e-mail, we use the information you send us to respond to your inquiry. E-mail correspondence may become a public record. As a public record, your correspondence could be disclosed to other parties upon their request in accordance with Maryland’s Public Information Act.
Since emails to the marketplace could conceivably involve private matters regarding finances, health history, and other sensitive issues, the fact that such information could be made part of the "public record" could prevent users from being as free with their information than they might otherwise be. 
So, what it really boils down to is that your private health care information could easily become very public knowledge for any number of reasons.

Obamacare is a disaster in every way.  Financially it is unsustainable.  Technically, it is a debacle.  In terms of privacy and security, it is a giant exploit waiting to happen.  It is a very short leap to seeing where any information that gets entered into the system can be used against you (or without your knowledge) in any number of ways.

These Democrats will literally stop at nothing to enforce Obamacare on the American people because it is their shortest single route to tyrannical control over this nation.

Yes, Obamacare is the law of the land right now.  But so was slavery at one time.  So was the lack of women's right to vote.  So have any number of things that were incorrect, immoral, and wrong.  Let's get this one right right now.  The American people never did want this.  The only people who want this are tyrants in the government who are seeking control over you and your family, or the cowards who enable them.

Make some calls and send some emails.  Tell your elected representatives that you demand they support all efforts to defund and/or repeal Obamacare.  Then tell everyone you know to do the same.  This is the government versus the American people, and it's a battle this nation cannot afford to lose.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Maxine's Got The Right Idea

Another massive Obamacare is coming in the next couple days, but for now Maxine has the gist of it right...

Monday, October 7, 2013

More Useless Trivia - Idiom Explanations

In case you hadn't noticed, I love useless trivia.  Thus, I love MentalFloss.  Here's their latest, an explanation of a whole bunch of commonly used idioms.

I bet this guy would have rocked Nerd Bowl hard.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

So...How's That Obamacare Thing Working Out?

Calling it a "rough start" would be generous, I think.  

Not a single successful registration to one of Louisana's new plans.

In Kansas and Missouri it was "more fizzle than bang."  Nationally, reporters tried -- and failed -- to access the system in numerous states.

Heritage has a "by the numbers" round-up of day 1:
0—Enrollment navigators certified in Wisconsin in time for the start of enrollment.
0—Individuals one North Carolina insurer was able to sign up for subsidized insurance.
3—Months President Obama warned Americans could face glitches when trying to sign up.
4—Hours Maryland’s exchange opening was delayed.
7—Miles one Indiana resident drove to obtain enrollment assistance; after receiving little information and a four-page paper application, the potential applicant called the trip “a waste of time.”
22—Actual enrollees in Connecticut’s exchange out of more than 10,000 individuals who visited the website by mid-afternoon, a conversion rate of 0.22 percent.
34—Minutes one Politico reporter listened to “smooth jazz” before reaching an actual call-center representative.
35­—Minutes one MSNBC reporter spent attempting to enroll online, before finally giving up.
47—States whose exchange websites “turned up frequent error messages.”
1,289—Days between the signing of Obamacare and yesterday’s launch, a gap which prompted one insurance broker to comment, “You would just think that with all this time they’ve had to get it set up and ready to go there would have been a better premiere.”
2,400—Individuals who had their Social Security numbers and other personal data disclosed even before the exchanges opened for business.
Day two was even worse.  More providers failed to get a single successful registration.

And remember...they had three years to prepare for this day!  The incompetence here is staggering, and it just further illustrates how the government should not be allowed to manage this system.  This was no surprise, though, despite the HHS claiming they would be "ready" on time for months.  Unfortunately, it means that the functionality and privacy of the people in the system -- and their data -- is tremendously vulnerable:
Additionally, thousands of federal and state officials and Obamacare “navigators” will have access to Americans’ information, all but guaranteeing that personal information will be mishandled. Even worse, federal guidelines do not require navigators to pass a background check and call for only 20 hours of training before granting navigators access to personal information.

These will not be the last of the government’s Obamacare cyber troubles, either. The government’s cybersecurity woes have been well-documented by Heritage, and the issues with the Obamacare exchanges are merely continuing this troubling trend.

The cyber risks in the Obamacare exchanges endanger Americans by making them more susceptible to identity theft, insurance fraud, and other crimes. Add to that a whole host of other Obamacare failures, delays, special exemptions, broken promises, and unintended consequences, and it is clear why this law is bad for Americans.
There's a lot of high-fiving amongst Obamacare supporters about the exceptionally high interest in signing up...but those numbers were (ahem) inflated:
California's health insurance exchange vastly overstated the number of online hits it received Tuesday during the rollout of Obamacare.

State officials said the Covered California website got 645,000 hits during the first day of enrollment, far fewer than the 5 million it reported Tuesday.

The state exchange had cited the 5 million figure as a sign of strong consumer interest and a major reason people had so much difficulty using its $313-million online enrollment system.

Dana Howard, a spokesman for Covered California, said the error was the result of internal miscommunication.

"Someone misspoke and thought it was indeed 5 million hits. That was incorrect," he said.

Howard said the revised Web traffic still represents a huge response. He said the number of unique online visitors Tuesday was 514,000 and the state received 19,000 calls.

More details:
California, the ultimate blue state whose federal lawmakers voted overwhelmingly in support of Obamacare, turned less than 1 per cent of its Web visits into 'Covered California' participants on Tuesday.

'We had over 5.7 million hits to our website as of 3 p.m. yesterday,' Covered California spokeswoman Kelsey Caldwell told MailOnline Wednsday.

'7,700 consumers began their application process yesterday. ... 4,143 applications are pending,' she added. 'We received 23,269 calls yesterday to our service center.'

Caldwell couldn't say how many of the 5.7 million website hits were from unique Californians. But assuming 712,500 online visitors saw eight different Web pages each, the sign-up rate was 0.58 per cent.

Connecticut saw a similarly low rate of interest. Democratic Congressman Jim Himes tweeted after 8:30 p.m. Monday that his state's health exchange had 'received 28k visitors, and took 167 applications for health insurance. Day 1.'

That indicates just 0.59 per cent of Connecticut residents who sought information about their state's Obamacare program on Monday decided to become part of it, according to Access Health CT spokeswoman Kathleen Tallarita.

New York Department of Health executive director Donna Frescato said in a statement that 'more than 12,000 business owners and individuals from across the state have shopped online for low-cost health insurance plans ... and the site has received nearly 30 million web visits.'

A spokesman didn't respond to a request for clarification about whether those 12,000 people completed applications for health coverage. If they did, and if each 'web visit' corresponded to a New Yorker who saw 8 pages, the state's enrollment rate would be the lowest of all – 0.32 per cent.
Remember earlier in the week where we saw that Obamacare enforcers in the IRS had to be trained not to leave personal information on fax machines?  Well, it appears incompetence wasn't the only problem we will have to deal with:
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius controls a $54 million slush fund to hire thousands of “navigators,” “in-person assisters” and counselors, who are now propagandizing and recruiting Obamacare recipients into the government-run exchanges. As I warned in May, the Nanny State navigator corps is a serious threat to Americans’ privacy. Background checks and training requirements are minimal to nonexistent. A history of fraud is no barrier to entry.

Case in point: the seedy nonprofit Seedco. This community-organizing group snagged lucrative multimillion-dollar navigator contracts in Georgia, Maryland, Tennessee and New York. The New York Post reports this week that the outfit “is partnering with dozens of agencies, such as the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Food Bank for New York City and the Chinese American Planning Council, in each of (the Big Apple’s) five boroughs.” They’ll have access to potential enrollees’ income levels, birthdates, addresses, eligibility for government assistance, Social Security numbers and intensely personal medical information.

Given the enormous responsibility to handle sensitive data in a careful, neutral manner, combined with the overwhelming pressure to boost Obamacare enrollments, you’d think the feds would only choose navigators with the most impeccable records. Yet, less than a year ago, Seedco agreed to settle a civil fraud lawsuit “for faking at least 1,400 of 6,500 job placements under a $22.2 million federally funded contract with the city.”

Seedco’s corrupt behavior went far beyond defrauding taxpayers through abuse of New York City programs, federal Labor Department funding and federal stimulus dollars. Seedco (which stands for “Structured Employment Economic Development Corporation”) tried to destroy and defame whistleblowing official Bill Harper, who discovered and reported the rampant falsification of data.

First, Seedco denied the charges; next, they trashed Harper’s reputation in the pages of The New York Times. Only after the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan brought suit did the organization acknowledge systemic, repeated wrongdoing. Seedco forked over a $1.7 million settlement in December 2012. Mere months later, they were racking up federal Obamacare navigator work.


The Nonprofit Quarterly noted that Seedco’s fraud was “kind of breathtaking” in its “creativity and illegal audacity”
While the debacle is rolling out to engulf the nation, the government "shutdown" persists (I use the term loosely because it's really not a shutdown).  But, the subject should be discussed a bit, so let's get to it. 

I think it's very interesting that 95% of the Department of Education is classified as non-essential personnel.  Kinda makes you wander if we should have that department in the first place, doesn't it?  It's certainly not in the Constitution!

Another interesting thing to note is that some non-essential things have been closed that actually don't need to be closed.  You know, like the World War II Memorial.  There's no reason it needed to be shut down, but the Office of Management and Budget (which reports directly to the President) ordered it to be barricaded from the public.  Why would they do that, if not to further aggravate tensions and generate even more heat in their propaganda battle against Congressional Republicans?

Veterans can rest assured, though, that they are not alone in their political persecution by this White House.  The Democrats in the Senate have now voted down a standalone bill proposed by the Republicans to restore funding for the NIH, which treats cancer patients.  Harry Reid's response to a reporter's question of helping children with cancer: "Why would we want to do that?"

Like, duh.  That would help Republicans!  It's far more important to demonize them than to be concerned with sick children.

But it's still the Republicans' fault for shutting down everything.  Speaking of which, Barack Obama claims he's "bent over backward" to work with Republicans. He must be conveniently forgetting about all those times (like yesterday) when he simply refuses to negotiate.

Welcome to Obamacare, folks!  You didn't ask for it.  You didn't want it.  But you've got it now.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Voice Out Of History

Taking a break from the heavy topic of politics, I've been wanting to post about this for quite some time and just haven't gotten around to it.  In one of the few instances of hearing a voice out of history, check out this incredible story at MentalFloss:
He invented a world-changing acoustic device that allows us to send our voices over great distances, but what did telephone creator Alexander Graham Bell's voice sound like? His last living relative who had heard him speak, granddaughter Mabel Grosvenor, died in 2006. The recordings he and his associates made on discs and cylinders (formed of—among other materials—cardboard, wax, and paper) were silent artifacts from which modern technology couldn’t extract information.
Bell donated more than 400 of these discs and cylinders to the Smithsonian Institution. Though the inventor documented his research well (in case patent disputes should arise in the future), the precise methods used in these early audio recording experiments have been lost for decades.
But physicists from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California have recently made breakthroughs in drawing sound from these discs. By creating high-resolution optical scans and converting those by computer into audio files, the muffled early attempts at recording—unheard for over a century—are audible. Among the recitations of Hamlet, number sequences and nursery rhymes, the team made a particularly notable discovery.
On a 130-year-old disc, recorded on April 15, 1885, is a recording of Alexander Graham Bell’s voice. The legendary inventor declares: “In witness whereof—hear my voice, Alexander Graham Bell.” Even with so few words, much is revealed: Bell's careful enunciation is predictable for a man whose father was a renowned elocution teacher and whose wife was deaf. He lived in England, Canada, and the eastern United States throughout his life, and his voice is tinged with a British accent. For anyone who appreciates Bell’s contributions to modern technology, the recording is awe-inspiring, incredible in its simplicity but groundbreaking in its significance. Head over to Smithsonian to hear Bell speak.

Seriously, go check out the audio at the Smithsonian link.

It's Here...

And by that I mean both the shutdown and Obamacare.  I think it's informative to look at what the Democrats were saying shortly before:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) invoked Albert Einstein's definition of insanity as performing the same action repeatedly and expecting a different result.
You mean like refusing to negotiate on a law most Americans don't want?  That kind of repitition?
He panned the House-passed legislation for increasing the out-of-pocket healthcare costs of lawmakers and staffers.

“This time the House has attached a poison pill that would punish 16,000 congressional staff,” he said.
How about the poison pill that would punish roughly 300 million American citizens?  I guess that one doesn't matter so much to Reid & Co.
Reid declared earlier in the day that Senate Democrats would not accept any changes to ObamaCare. He said they would not even negotiate oven the landmark law until after Congress raises the debt ceiling, which is due to expire Oct. 17.

“We are not going to mess around with ObamaCare, no matter what they do,” Reid said.

“They should get a life,” he said of House conservatives. “It is the law, declared constitutional. The exchanges are coming on board tomorrow.”
Slavery was the law for a long time.  Maybe we should go back to that, Senator Reid?  Or how about women not having the right to vote?  That was declared Constitutional for a long time, too.  I guess he thinks we should go back to those rather than fixing problematic laws that the country has rejected, hmmm?

In reality, what we see here is a pure bully mentality.  I think it's also clear that they see Obamacare as the single most important piece of legislation in recent history.  Doesn't that make you wonder why?

It's the control they get through Obamacare that stokes their lust.  That matters more to them than anything else.  They fought and manipulated and cheated extremely hard to get it shoved into law despite the nation rejecting it, and they're not going to let go of it even if it means fire and brimstone coming down on everyone outside of Washington.

Speaking of control, let's take a look at some of the training given to the IRS, the arm of government that will be responsible for enforcing Obamacare:
As Obamacare enrollment begins, the Department of Health and Human Services has a helpful tip for the program's so-called Navigators: “Do not leave documents that contain PII [Personally Identifiable Information] or tax return information on printers and fax machines.”
“When faxing PII or tax return information, double-check that the recipient’s fax number is correct and that someone is able to pick up the faxed information immediately.”
  • No fake smiles: "Do not pretend to smile, or produce a false smile; these are easy to spot and send the wrong messages." – Section 2.2.1
  • Listen: “By not listening you can become very frustrating to consumers.” – Section 2.2.3
  • Apologize: “Apologizing when things go wrong demonstrates that you care about consumers and their experiences.” – Section 2.2.4
  • "Be Memorable - For the Right Reasons." – Section 2.2.6
Knowing that the people enforcing this law need this kind of training really makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, doesn't it?  Like nothing at all could go wrong.

But of course, even President Obama openly acknowledges there will be "months" of glitches and problems.  As in, the website where the exchanges are accessed not working, maybe?  You know, small things like that.

I want to emphasize, though, that this shutdown will be painted by the Dems and the media as the most severe crisis since...well, ever, if you're inclined to believe them.  Don't buy it.  I refer you to my previous post, and I would also like to point out that during this horrendous crisis most federal employees will not only keep working, but keep getting overtime, comp time, and 'Sunday time,' and if past shutdowns are any indication those who are furloughed will likely get back pay once this all blows over.

Don't buy the hype.

As Heritage puts it:
To President Obama and his allies, the government takeover of health care is an “essential” function that should move forward, despite deep disagreements about its effect on the nation. This debate isn’t over, nor should it be until the American people are protected from having their health care in the hands of government.
A government shutdown isn’t the end of the world, but an Obamacare shutdown would be a great beginning for real health care reform.
I couldn't agree more. 

Funny Somewhat Topical Ecard: The only thing I fear more than the government shutting down is the government staying open.