The President says there will be problems and “glitches” because we are trying to do something that hasn’t been done before. I’m not sure that is quite right — there are commercial websites that handle significant volumes of traffic without problems — but his reaction, I think, misses a fundamental point that would not be lost on a businessman. One of the selling points for the Affordable Care Act was that people could quickly and easily get information about competing health insurance options with a few clicks of a mouse. Given that pitch, a business would never roll out a website without being absolutely certain that it worked well, because businesses know that consumers can quickly become frustrated — and a frustrated consumer is one that is not likely to come back. It says something about the government mindset that they would go live with websites that clearly aren’t ready.
The people implementing the Affordable Care Act missed a real opportunity today. The negative publicity about the websites and their problems are the kind of thing that could become fixed in the minds of the American public, with people coming to accept as conventional wisdom the notion that the websites, and exchanges, are an enormous hassle fraught with delay and failure. When you’re trying to convince people who aren’t insured to become insured, and you’re trying to overcome the drumbeat of Republican criticism of “Obamacare,” a disastrous first-day roll-out just makes your job immeasurably harder.
The baseball playoffs start tonight, with the Reds taking on the Pirates. Dog Butt hoped to catch some of the game at Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark, but didn’t realize that the Reds’ late-season collapse means that the game will be played in Pittsburgh instead.
It’s not clear how often NSA employees cross the line and engage in this kind of conduct. The Inspector General letter was in response to a request from Republican Senator Charles Grassley, who sought information on “intentional and willful” abuse of NSA surveillance authority, and the letter reports on “substantial instances” where employees were caught engaging in “intentional misuse” of NSA data-gathering capabilities. Who knows how often such spying goes undetected, or is covered up by a phony excuse for the surveillance, or is deemed not sufficiently “substantial” to warrant disclosure?
People are people, whether they work for the NSA or the local Starbucks. Give them a chance to listen in on conversations or read private emails that might mention their name, and at least some of them are going to do it. With the lack of meaningful oversight of the NSA, due to its super-secret status, the temptation to dip into forbidden territory must be even greater.
We really need to revisit what we are doing with our surveillance programs and figure out a way to address the routine gathering of huge amounts of information — and the inevitable abuses that follow. In the meantime, people who are dating NSA employees should be on guard.