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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Dr Quincy we need you!

    In the 1970's and 80's there was a famous TV crime show called "Quincy M.E." (Medical Examiner).   This show was an early version of CSI:Miami, only without the dim-lights, hush-hush dialog, sexy lab-workers and gun-toting-coroners .  It was the first show to use science to find murderers and solve crimes.  In one show, for example, Quincy solves a murder where a man poisons his wife slowly over time with "lead" in her coffee.  Her doctor doesn't suspect anything wrong and treats her for anemia.    She of course dies from lead poisoning, but Quincy is able to find the lead in her "ashes" and convict the husband.

     Where is Quincy when you need him because the "perfect crime" has been committed against the American people in the name of healthcare.  To explain, let's go back to 2009 when this all started.   The democrats owned both houses and the presidency.   They made it their mission to "fix healthcare" and began proceedings to look at "solutions" (most of which had already been written).  The healthcare industry had seen this before under Clinton and the democrats knew that.  They knew they needed to keep the healthcare providers appeased or else they would dump millions of dollars into elections to push them out.   To do this, the democrats promised that their solution would provide  between 6 and 30 million new customers to the healthcare companies in return for them having the power to regulate them.   The healthcare companies pulled back their opposition funding and said "ok"  (Karl Marx once said "The capitalist will sell you the very rope to hang him with").  

      But what has happened is:
  1. Most young people are opting for the "penalty" under ObamaCare since it's less costly than buying health insurance.
  2. Healthcare companies now have to take people with pre-existing conditions like cancer and diabetes.  Without bringing in more healthy people (see #1) insurers are incurring more costs.
  3. People trying to get healthcare from are finding it impossible to log in and submit their enrollment.  Obama "says" they will fix the issue, but what's the hurry?  They will get to it sooner or later...(just look at how long we have been investigating Benghazi!)
  4. ObamaCare limits what providers can charge and how much they can raise their rates.  They will be stuck between a proverbial "rock and a hard place" with the only choice eventually being to go out of business.
    The progressives (note I don't say democrats here) plan is not that Obamacare will "morph" into Universal Healthcare, but instead that it will drive out all the competition and create a healthcare "crisis" of such a magnitude that the only solution is to have the federal government take it over and give us ... Universal Healthcare.  It's the perfect crime of the century as all the consequences look like they were accidental/coincidental and not intentional.   It will be a slow painful death (like lead poisoning) for the health insurers over many years.  They intend it to be that way because you can't kill off 1/6th of the economy over night or else people will become suspicious.  Instead it must be slowly so that no one notices.  

    This is why ObamaCare must be repealed as soon as possible (and NOT replaced).  

Friday, October 18, 2013

You think ObamaCare is bad now?

   There's an old polygamy joke that goes like this:  

Question: What's the punishment for having more than one wife ?  
Answer :  Having more than one wife. 
     So also one might say the punishment for having big government is having... a big government to deal with. 

     We have all heard the horror stories of people doing business with those in government   How it's slow, unresponsive and lacking in concern and feeling.   Just look at how people fly thru the DMV at a snails pace.  People waiting in chairs for hours because it makes no difference to those working in the DMV if they serve 5 or 500 customers a day.   They will still have their jobs and their cushy retirement programs.  But now we have ObamaCare which is the "DMV on steroids" with millions of people waiting line rather than a few hundred.  The federal government's computers and computer networks and databases were never designed to work in the real world and in real time.  They were designed to be accessed by a few thousand government bureaucrats working on government computers.   It was never designed to be accessed by millions of people with a variety of computer interfaces outside the government networks who want answers NOW not in 1 to 3 days.  Some have argued that the IRS deals with large numbers of people so why can't ObamaCare ?  Simply because processing 1040s at your leisure ( you submit your data to the IRS and they get back to you at a later time) is completely different than processing requests real time.  

     I think ObamaCare is a gift to those who believe in small government as it shows us all how bad it really can be.  After all, most Americans do not deal with the federal government on a regular basis.  For most of us, April 15th is really the only time we interface with an agency of our beloved government.  But now, thanks to AHA millions of us will be getting a daily dose of government run healthcare and will see how bad it can get.  I think it to be hilarious that those who have never run a business let alone a website have taken on more they can handle as all it takes to bring the system down is one slow unresponsive database or network and crash goes the system. So often politicians tell us "We sent a man to the moon and back ... we can certainly do ______".   But it's one thing to cram 3 men in space capsule and hurl them 238,000 miles into space and back and it's another thing to handle 1/6 of the nations economy and handle millions of people with millions of differing health issues and needs.

     Of course we are now hearing the excuses from the media about how this is just version 1.0 and things will get better in 2.0 
Why I don't think it will get better

1) ObamaCare is a mess to start with:

ObamaCare Flow Chart
    With over 3000 pages and thousands of pages of regulations and exceptions yet to be added, it is the perfect example of something that was "designed by committee" by people who have never worked a day in their lives int he private sector.  In my company we call this "powerpoint engineering"  where all looks great from a Powerpoint presentation slide but the real devil is in the details of implementation.

2) ObamaCare is a moving target:

    Every day new regulations and exceptions are being added.  Who's not eligible and who is and for how much.  This becomes a programming nightmare for those doing the software development.  The main challenge of ObamaCare 2.0 won't be in fixing the user interface issues, instead it will be incorporating the AHA  changes that either someone in HHS or Congress has requested.  Going back to the NASA example, the main thing that allowed NASA to land a man on the moon was that the moon has a regular stationary orbit that obeys the laws of physics which does not change.   Government, industry, and the medical field are not.  Peoples needs change constantly.  The medical field is constantly evolving and improving.  Medical procedures that were not even thought of 10 years ago are common place today while methods used 10 years ago are now extinct.  Likewise the business and internet landscape morph as newer ways of communicating and paying for our services come about and business adapts to these changing needs.
     If history is any predictor of the future, we will see countless "glitches" to come.  Like a dog who pees on a tree to leave his mark over another dogs, so also bureaucrat after bureaucrat will come in want to "change" the system make their mark on it 

    .... only in this case WE ARE THE TREE.

3) Government systems were never designed to be efficient

     As I mentioned before, it's one thing for a system to be accessed by a government worker who has nothing better to do with their time that wait for a response (they get paid anyway) and it's another thing to have a system designed to be accessed by person who does.   

     ObamaCare is the first time in our countries history that we are witnessing the government try to "compete" (if you can call it that) with the private sector.   In their smugness our politicians have over-sold themselves with their "Yes we can!" chanting and now they must deliver on what they promised and so far many are very very unimpressed. 

4) Enrollment is the EASY part... delivering the goods is the HARD part

    In a famous episode of Seinfeld, Jerry lambasts a rental-car agency clerk who did not have a car for Jerry even though he had a "reservation".   He informs the agent, "Anyone can TAKE a reservation, its the KEEPING of the reservation that is the important part!".   

    Likewise , ask anyone who works in sales and they will tell you receiving the orders is the easy part, it's the delivery of the product that is difficult.  Given this, ObamaCare enrollment should have been the easy part for them and paying for it all even harder because you will have the system accessed by millions of workers from doctors offices, to hospitals and clinics around the country.  All of them trying to access the system for payment or to see if you are enrolled or not and whether or not they will pay for procedure X.   Now imagine, you standing in the doctor's office waiting for them to access your records... waiting ... waiting ... waiting.   It's one thing to tell a person at home on their computer to "Please try again later" and it's another to have them stand there for hours waiting for an answer.  If you think I am just trying to scare you, look at Canada.  A recent government study of their own healthcare system showed that the AVERAGE wait time to see a doctor was 17.7 weeks. That is almost 5 months!   Can you imagine you wake up one day and you have blurry vision or constant dizziness and you need to see a doctor but the soonest they can see you is in 4-5 months?   (also, that is an average wait time which means would could be waiting for 7-8 months in some cases).   That is what awaits us with ObamaCare in the future.

5) ObamaCare doesn't need to get better.... they just have to make the others suck more!

    The only way for government to compete with the private sector will be to constantly change the rules of the game and thus penalize their opponents in order to win.   This puts the government at unfair advantage over its "competitors".

     Take for example the mandate that insurers must take people with pre-existing conditions.  This allows people to hold off on paying for health insurance (they will still have to pay the penalty) until they need it.  But private insurers need these healthy customers to help pay for the less-healthy.   Without them, they will need to raise their rates to cover of cost of the ones who do.  This is liking bring your car on a flat-bed truck to the insurance company to buy insurance AFTER you've had an accident.   If insurers were forced to take you as a customer, no one would buy it until they needed it and all the insurers would go broke.

   Secondly, the government can force the private sector to pay for procedures and drugs that are too costly for them since they don't own a printing machine that prints 100 dollar bills like Congress does.  This leaves the private companies with no other choice other than to raise their rates to cover those costs as well.

    All of this will then force more and more people over to ObamaCare until all that is left is a single-payer system.  (kind of what they had in mind... don't you think?)  

6) The political class will not be using ObamaCare

    You may think that if we end up with a single-payer system, won't it be in Congress's best interest to make ObamaCare work too since they will be using it as well?   Answer: no.    This is because they have (and will always) exempt themselves from their own law.  They will be able to pay for their own healthcare without using the government system.  Watch and you will see the development of a large group of doctors and hospitals grow up around Washington DC to serve the political class directly.  They will get excellent healthcare while the rest of us will be standing in lines that would make a DMV worker blush.   For just like they see no reason to improve the TSA because they fly in their own government-run jets, they will have no incentive to improve the single-payer-healthcare system either.

7) Scam-ers and hackers will make it even worse.

   With every government program that doles out money, the scam-ers are bound to follow.   Medicare, for example, has been a bonanza for scam-ers to tap into and bilking the program for billions of dollars of fraud and abuse every year.   ObamaCare will undoubtedly eclipse Medicare fraud in little or no time at all.   A common way for them to do this is to submit bogus claims and abuse the new ObamaCare medical codes (there are thousands of them now) to get payment for services not performed.   Still others will milk the system by acting as ObamaCare advocates and surrogates.  These people will promise to help people "navigate" the complex world of federal healthcare only to leave the people in worse shape than they started.  They will prey upon the fears of the elderly and the uneducated and will con them out of their hard earned savings by claiming to have connections not available to the average person.   
    Finally, computer hackers looking for a new target will set their sites on ObamaCare to:
  • Terrorize the system (for fun or for profit)
  • Gain access to valuable information (SS#, Tax records, Medical Records, etc..)
     To keep ahead of this, the programmers will have to patch their software on a daily and maybe even hourly basis to close the various backdoor-entries and prevent:
  • Trojan horses
  • Invalid-code entries
  • Worms 
  • Viruses 
  • Data-miners
  • Password-loggers

    So if you still think that ObamaCare 1.0 will get better under 2.0 there is nothing more I can do for you other than to say "Good Luck!" and tell you to bring something to read when you go to the doctor's office .... you'll need it!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

An offensive flag

   If you thought I was going to discuss flags like this

or even this ...

you would be wrong.

Instead I am talking about this...

     At Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill California (where else) a principal banned (yes banned!) the wearing of the American flag during Cinco de Mayo (May 5).  While students were allowed to wear shirts with the Mexican flag (and some were even wearing "La Raza" flags), students were not allowed to wear or display the American flag as it might be found to be offensive to some students and insight a riot.  Recently this case came to a federal court and the federal judge agreed with the principal's decision.

    While I do understand that students do not have full freedom of speech on campus and they do have a right to say what is allowed and what is not allowed (do we really want pornographic T-shirts etc.. around the campus?)  but is it too much to ask our youth to RESPECT each others flags and views?  After all, when foreign dignitaries come to our country they raise their flag and play their anthem at government dinners and meetings.  We stand and honor their flag as they do in return for ours.  (Our flag is always flown higher than theirs when in our country).  We raise the Canadian flag at hockey, baseball and basketball games between our two countries and our fans stand out of of RESPECT.

    A while back I wrote a blog about how political correctness in schools removes all opportunities for our children to learn self-control, respect and honor.  These necessary traits for a decent society are not instinctive to use as humans.  In fact just the opposite is true of us.  These traits must be taught at a young age or else they never will be learned and to learn them is to be put into situations where others who are not like you and may disagree with you are present.  But if political correctness takes away all of these learning opportunities then our children will be like kids who never received their measles or diphtheria shots and will be unprepared to handle worse situations when they are older.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

NBA and ObamaCare

    I am an avid sports fan.  I love watching football (New England Patriots... of course!) , baseball (Red Sox and Cardinals), hockey (Bruins and Blues) and occasionally tennis.  I grew up playing these sports and enjoy watching teams compete at all levels (high school, college, professional).  To many sports are often metaphoric.  They are "the world in micro".   The weak verses the strong.  The little against the big.  The good vs the bad.   The fast against the not-so-fast.   The rich against the not-so-rich.  The under-dog against the big-dog.

   For a few years I even enjoyed watching the NBA.  Living in Sacramento, there wasn't much to celebrate for a long time.   Then in 2000, things changed and the Kings began to have winning seasons and I like many took notice and began to watch.  It was exciting and my kids and I would watch every game we could.   My son and his friends got tickets that allowed them to sit 3 rows up from the teams bench.  My daughter and I even got to see the a playoff game with Utah.   But then 2002 Game 6 with the LA Lakers happened.   We watched in horror as the Lakers were sent to the free throw line 40 times compared to the Kings 25 times.  We gasped as Mike Bibby of the Kings was smashed in the face by Kobi Bryant with a forearm right in front of a referee standing 10 ft away and no foul was called even though Bibby was lying on the floor with blood coming out of his nose.  We cried out when we would see Shaquille stand in the 3 second zone for 5,6 even 7 seconds with no lane violation called.   Webber and Divak were called for fouls that one could only say were because they got in the way of the Lakers movement to the basket. 

    In the end, the Kings lost to the Lakers 106-102 and for days afterward, sports casters and sports writers (many not connected to the Kings) excoriated the NBA for having a playoff game so poorly officiated one can only assume that it was rigged from the top.  It angered not only Kings fans, but also fans across the nation who demanded an investigation be done to see what could be done to prevent such a travesty from occurring again. 

    Clearly the NBA Commissioner, David Stern, wanted to see a Game 7 between the two teams because it would be one of the most watched games ever for the NBA.  But his vision was too short sighted.  While, yes, he did get his Game 7 match-up (the Lakers won and went on to easily win the Championship), he lost the belief of NBA fans in the game.   For a long time many suspected that the league was not officiated fairly, (even during the regular season) and now they had visible hard proof that solidified their views.  

    I was one of those people.

    I never watched another NBA game after that season.  I could not watch "star players" go on being treated differently than "non-start players".   I told my son once, "they should put a big gold star on the front and back of their jersey so the refs, fans and other players know that certain rules don't apply to them".  And I wasn't alone either.   The NBA after that season began to see a slow and steady decline in viewers and fans.  In 2002, the Championship game had a Nielson Rating of 10.2 but the 2003 Championship only garnered a lowly 6.5 rating (second lowest in history).   

    We as Americans love sports.  But what we demand even more than good players is good referees and fairness during the play.  Without fairness and equal application of the rules, the sport turns into nothing more than another version of the WWE were the winner is already known and everything we see is just theater.

    So how does this apply to ObamaCare (AHA) you ask.  Well just like the NBA is playing favorites to some players and giving them different rules to follow, so also our government is picking winners and losers in how it applies to AHA.  No sooner than the law was signed into affect, the President began giving "waivers" to companies who were favorable to him and helped him get elected. Later, when it was found out that government workers were not shielded from the law and would be paying through the nose for their healthcare, the President swooped in to give them an exception. When Union workers saw that they were going to pay more the cried out for an exception too and given their support for the President to win his last election they will most likely get one.  GE also saw they were going to have to pay more because of the medical-device-tax and so they have lobbied Congress hard to make an exception for them as well to protect them from this tax.

    Is this fair?  Is this right?

    Of course not! This defies what we believe in.   We believe in equal-protection-under-the-law.   We believe laws are to be administered equally and justly (like rules on a basketball court) and we are angered when the rich or the politically connected get off with no jail and little or no fines.  Obama ran on being for the little-guy but his last 5 years have shown just the opposite.  

    I don't believe the American people will take this much longer.  I believe (and hope) they will grow tired of watching this game and demand things be changed.  But maybe I am just an optimist.   After all, it's been over 10 years since the 2002 NBA playoffs and people are still wasting their time watching basketball even though "stars" will charge without being called, stand in the lane for what seems like an eternity and move around the court without even trying to dribble the ball.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Disposable Engineering lacks passion

     Solomon wrote over 3000 years ago,  "Meaningless, meaningless ... everything is meaningless... a chasing after the wind".   I could not agree more with him today.
   "What are you working on these days?"   

   This is a common question when a worker in my company meets another co-worker he hasn't seen in some time in the hallway.  I used to hear other co-workers say with conviction

 "I am working on _____ !"  

   You could hear it in the tone of their voice and they way their face would sometimes light up.  You could tell that it meant something to them.  I know, because I was the same way.    I couldn't wait for the product to launch and start being used in computers or other items in our world.  I could say with pride to my family... "I worked on that chip" and they would revel in that pride as well as they told their friends, "My dad worked on that computer!"

   But now over the course of the last several years something has changed.  To illustrate see the diagram below
    Above is how past projects affected our world.  They would sell millions of units and last 2-3 years.   Your contribution, while small would be multiplied by the impact and give you reason to throw your heart and soul into it.  But over time this changed.  Markets were divided up into smaller and smaller units
    Still a substantial amount of impact over time but less in overall volume sold or systems that utilize it. Also, given the designs longevity, you at least felt your work would be used by consumers for a long enough period to be effective in home or business (whatever your market was) it would be appreciated.

    Now today, we have more pressure to develop products faster and faster as consumers are moving to smaller, cheaper systems which they grow tired of quickly and want some new dazzling feature or gimmick which their friend or co-worker now has but they don't.  This leads to the following diagram
     Now maybe you see what I am getting at.   As the market pushes us to develop products faster and faster and into more and more markets each project has a smaller and smaller overall impact to the world.   And there in lies the problem. Engineers don't build new products just because they are told to.  Instead, many do it out of a feeling that they well impact and change the world around them.  That people will use their designs for a long time and do wonderful things with them like them like cure cancer or develop nuclear-fusion. It's like an engineer who worked on the Saturn V rocket that sent us to the moon being asked to work on a hand-held surface-to-air-missle.  Yes it will have some impact (especially on the plane or helicopter its pointed at) but not nearly the same as those watching the rocket leave our earths' gravity and propel 3 men to the moon.  

Disposable Engineering

    Man used to build things that lasted the test of time.  From the Great Pyramids, to the Roman Coliseum and Aqueducts, to the Great Wall of China all were meant to be seen and used for hundreds of years.  But now I believe we are entering the realm of "disposable engineering". In our "throw away world" we have to feed our need for new dazzling features or else we get bored.   We hear people taunt others with phrases like, "You're still using in iPhone4 ?"   "What?  You have to touch your phone to make it work?"   "How can you see anything on that tiny screen?"   "You can't just look away from the screen to stop the video?"  etc.. etc.. etc..   This is leading now to the advent of the use of gimmicks to sell products.   From hand-waving, to wearing a device on your wrist, to having it come in different colors many of our electronic products.   All these are just gimmicks.  Features you will care very little about a week after you purchase it because most likely you forget you even have it or your level of motivation to use it will have diminished to such a low level you won't want to trouble yourself to use it ( I wonder, do you want to talk into a phone on your wrist and have EVERYONE around you hear the response? ... think about it).    

    I lament when I watch commercial after commercial try to sell us these gimmicks too.  Take for example the commercial of the baseball team on the plan where they guy records a video of his teammate bobbing his head as he sleeps and then the other guy adding music to the video to make it even "funnier".   Wow!   That just screams " I have to get that phone!" .... NOT!    Do we not have better things to do with our time?  Is that why I go to work every morning?  So people can waste their time doing stupid videos?  I can still remember a time when commercials would show workers using their computers to solve complex problems, but now we treated to idiotic videos of so-called business people dancing on tables and switching "keyboards" (That happens all the time!) to a peppy beat.

     In my view, the only thing being disposed of faster than our products is the passion it takes to develop them.  How do you get yourself up in the morning knowing your product will be here-today-and-gone-next-week (as opposed to to next year).  How do you validate features which will be used only a handful of times (if ever at all) and it they work only 50% of the time the consumer will be pleased?    How do you challenge yourself to make a product work as fast as possible when the product will be shelved in a matter of months and the total time you saved to the user is measured in minutes or even seconds?  How do you connect with a product that many feel is being "slapped together" like a LEGO building rather than being carefully designed like a beautiful glass skyscraper. 

    Of course many will argue that it your consumers are not going to connect with your product then neither should you and if they are happy with a disposable product then so should you.  If it fills a micro-emptiness in their soul for split-second then maybe you have done your job.  

   I just don't know if I am there yet.