Last year, there was an online service that was in very high-demand.  It was hyped, but its rollout was very rocky. When it was released to the public, it tended to crash a lot.  It couldn’t handle the number of users it was getting.

People criticized the organization that created it for being unprepared for the number of users, and for designing the system poorly.  It was quite embarrassing, especially since the organization behind it has always been a lightning rod for controversy.

You probably think I’m talking about the Health Care website.  But I’m not. I’m talking about the video game SimCity 4. It’s not the only game that had this kind of problem, though.  Same thing happened with Diablo III in 2012.

The game companies got flak for it, too–gamers hate Electronic Arts about as much as Republicans hate President Obama, but with the additional problem that they aren’t allowed to filibuster EA’s products and demand they come back with new ones.  It’s the equivalent of if Republicans had to pass and endorse all Obama’s pet projects or else leave politics entirely.

But at what point does this sort of thing start to constitute a pattern?  When the U.S. Government and two separate large electronics companies cannot roll out a satisfactory online service, you have to wonder if anyone knows what they are doing as far as building online services.

One argument might be that in all cases, the people making the service thought so many would have to use it–because of the law in the one case, and because of the gaming industry hype machine in the others–that they felt no reason to do a good job on the service in question.

But I don’t buy that for the Health Care case, because it’s one of the major political issues of the time, and even if you are so cynical as to believe the architects don’t care about the people, many of them will find their careers riding on the success or failure of the program.  So they had good reason to make sure the product worked from the get-go.

I don’t have any real explanations for this myself.  I just think it is interesting that wealthy organizations, who ought to have enough resources to understand what they can and can’t make, keep failing at debuting web products like this.

The other day a friend of mine and I were discussing Ronald Reagan’s famous line “There you go again” to Jimmy Carter in their 1980 debate.  Specifically, that neither of us knew what the context of the famous line was.  So, naturally, we had to find out:

The topic at hand was health insurance, which goes to show you how long the nation has been dealing with that issue. But listen to the rest of Reagan’s response. Reagan says that he supported some other piece of legislation instead of Medicare.  I wondered what might have been, and trying to find out, all I came across was this from Wikipedia:

When [Reagan’s opposition to Medicare] arose in a televised debate in late October, Reagan responded: “When I opposed Medicare, there was another piece of legislation meeting the same problem before Congress. I happened to favor the other piece of legislation and thought it would be better for the senior citizens. … I was not opposing the principle of providing care for them…” Carter’s campaign accused Reagan of “rewriting history”, saying that there was no such alternative legislation

This sort of thing irritates me.  It is a simple “yes” or “no” question: was there, or was there not, an alternative piece of legislation?  It’s not a matter of “Reagan said” vs. “Carter said”.  I would have thought that people could manage to properly fact-check a debate after 33 years.

They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the Internet. And again, the Internet is not something that you just dump something on. It’s not a big truck. It’s a series of tubes. And if you don’t understand, those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it’s going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.–Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) June 28, 2006.

I’ve heard a lot over the past few weeks about how the government’s new health care site doesn’t work, how the rollout was “botched”, and so on.  What I haven’t heard–and I admit, I haven’t followed the story closely–is what actually is wrong with it.

So far, I have only found one concrete account with screenshots showing a problem definitively: Rob Nikolewski at the New Mexico Watchdog shows that the security question boxes don’t work. Besides that, the only thing I have heard is that “it’s slow”. Well, of course. Lots of people are using it. Glitches like this happen when launching something that will have a lot of users–look at some famous Massively-Multiplayer Online games, for example.

To me, it’s unfortunate that this happened, but its also far from unprecedented or even unexpected.  The Republicans are acting like it’s a massive scandal.  Personally, I think everyone is overreacting to it.  I wonder if, because many politicians tend to be less-than-web-savvy types, it seems like a bigger problem to them.

So, the government is shutdown, and the two Parties are blaming each other for it.  To some extent, the blame must be shared–it takes two to tango, and it also takes two to come to a stalemate.  In that sense, both Parties are to blame.

But the interesting thing is that only one of the Parties spends most of its time decrying the evils of an oversized Federal government.  So when that same Party, after being at least partially responsible for the shutdown, then starts moaning about how awful it is that the Federal government’s services are being denied to the citizens, it makes them look hypocritical and stupid.

This by itself would be bad enough for them, but they have an additional problem, which is that they seem to have no clear goal. They want to delay Obamacare and… what?  They have no plan, no vision for the nation.  It seems to me that they have developed a Captain Ahab-like obsession with defeating Obamacare, so much so that they’ve lost all sense of perspective.

The Supreme Court Justices. Image via Wikipedia

There are two major theories going around about the Supreme Court decision on Obamacare:

The first theory would mean that all the liberal celebration needs to stop.  The second would mean we have a Chief Justice who made a decision based on what people would think of him.  Neither option is very good, really.  But the most interesting interpretation I’ve heard is P.M. Prescott’s, which essentially states that what Roberts ruled was completely consistent with his pattern up to now.

I plan to do some more in-depth posts on the Supreme Court soon–the stuff I’ve been reading about the Court this past week is quite interesting.

People are lauding Chief Justice Roberts for his decision.  It seems like he doesn’t like the law, but decided against overturning it because he felt there was not much of an argument for doing so.  Which is what Judges are supposed to do.  Don’t take my word for it, though.  Take this guy’s:

Anyway, it is rather funny that what saved the law was interpreting it as a “tax”.  The Democrats tried to desperately not to call it that, because people hate taxes, but in the end that is what it needed to be to stand.

Two years ago (it feels like yesterday) when the Health-Care bill passed, I concluded my posting on the topic with “Alea iacta est“. I said this because, at the time, everyone agreed that this was a momentous, historic occasion, with Democrats saying it was a progressive triumph and Republicans pretty much calling it the end of America as we know it. Everyone agreed it was a big deal–indeed, some went even further than that.

But now, the word on the virtual street is that the Supreme Court is going to uncast the die and pack up and go right back across the Rubicon. At the time, people had said there would be a big court case about, but no one on the Democratic side seemed that worried about it, and no one on the Republican side seemed to think it would get struck down. The Judicial Branch: the most forgettable branch of government.

What seems especially funny to me is that it is apparently all on the shoulders of one guy: Justice Anthony Kennedy. It seems to me the Court will otherwise vote along political lines, which really takes the fun out of the whole guessing game, if you ask me.

Back in January, right before Scott Brown’s victory in the Senate race, I wrote:

 “Once a campaign takes on an aura of extreme importance, it changes things. Epic struggles and charismatic people complement each other beautifully…. I speculate that charisma doesn’t just help a person get involved in great events, it almost demands them to.”

I then said:

“All sending Obama to help Coakley does, I think, is demonstrate how important the election is. And that plays right into Brown’s hands.”

I was right, I think. But what I didn’t think of then was that Brown’s election didn’t mean the end for “Obamacare”, it just made it into an ‘Epic Struggle” to get it passed… and guess who the most charismatic guy in that fight was?

I’m not sure if this actually is the reason it passed; but it certainly would fit in with what I’ve said before on this blog about charisma.