Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Critical Obamacare data center crashes, affecting all 50 states

What happens when you elect a President who has no experience in computer science or even in the private sector? What if the President appoints someone to lead HHS who has no experience in information technology? What happens when an administration has the least private sector experience in decades?

This:

A data center critical for allowing uninsured Americans to buy health coverage under President Barack Obama’s healthcare law went down on Sunday, the U.S. government said, in the latest problem for the “Obamacare” rollout.

Verizon’s Terremark operates the data center behind a federal system for determining eligibility for government subsidies to buy insurance nationwide and hosts HealthCare.gov, the website that makes insurance available in 36 of the 50 states.

The data center experienced a failure on Sunday that led it to lose network connectivity, Health and Human Services Department spokeswoman Joanne Peters said.

Online insurance exchanges opened on October 1 under the law to offer health insurance plans to millions of uninsured Americans. But it has been marred by technical glitches and delays as would-be customers encounter error messages and long waits, often failing to make it through the system despite repeated tries.

“We are working with Terremark to get their timeline for addressing the issue,” Peters said in an email. “We understand that this issue is affecting other customers in addition to HealthCare.gov, and Terremark is working (to) resolve the issue as quickly as possible.”

Peters said the newest glitch also affected a data services hub – an electronic traffic roundabout that connects numerous federal agencies and can verify people’s identity, citizenship, and other facts.

Problems with the data services hub affect customers of both HealthCare.gov and the state-run exchanges. State exchanges had been running smoothly.

The verification is necessary to determine eligibility for tax credits that reduce the cost of monthly insurance premiums, a key provision of the law.

[...]The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services told Connecticut officials about the outage and gave no indication of when the data services hub would be functioning again, said a spokeswoman for Access Health CT, the Connecticut exchange.

The problems with the rollout of the law have become a political liability for Obama. The White House has said Obama still has “full confidence” in HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, whose department is responsible for implementing the law. Sebelius has faced Republicans calls for her resignation.

I’m sorry but creating web sites is not the same as giving speeches with a teleprompter where you blame other people and talk about good you are at doing things that you have never done before – at any level, before. When you elect a moron with a history of drug use, you get moron quality work. I had to take a drug test and pass a background check before I could work in the information technology field for a private company, but obviously you don’t have to do that in order to be President.

Filed under: News, , ,

Obamacare web site hides health insurance costs until users apply for subsidies

Another article from health care policy expert Avik Roy in Forbes magazine.

Excerpt:

A growing consensus of IT experts, outside and inside the government, have figured out a principal reason why the website for Obamacare’s federally-sponsored insurance exchange is crashing. Healthcare.gov forces you to create an account and enter detailed personal information before you can start shopping. This, in turn, creates a massive traffic bottleneck, as the government verifies your information and decides whether or not you’re eligible for subsidies. HHS bureaucrats knew this would make the website run more slowly. But they were more afraid that letting people see the underlying cost of Obamacare’s insurance plans would scare people away.

“Healthcare.gov was initially going to include an option to browse before registering,” report Christopher Weaver and Louise Radnofsky in the Wall Street Journal. “But that tool was delayed, people familiar with the situation said.” Why was it delayed? “An HHS spokeswoman said the agency wanted to ensure that users were aware of their eligibility for subsidies that could help pay for coverage, before they started seeing the prices of policies.” (Emphasis added.)

As you know if you’ve been following this space, Obamacare’s bevy of mandates, regulations, taxes, and fees drives up the cost of the insurance plans that are offered under the law’s public exchanges. AManhattan Institute analysis I helped conduct found that, on average, the cheapest plan offered in a given state, under Obamacare, will be 99 percent more expensive for men, and 62 percent more expensive for women, than the cheapest plan offered under the old system. And those disparities are even wider for healthy people.

That raises an obvious question. If 50 million people are uninsured today, mainly because insurance is too expensive, why is it better to make coverage even costlier?

The answer is that Obamacare wasn’t designed to help healthy people with average incomes get health insurance. It was designed to force those people to pay more for coverage, in order to subsidize insurance for people with incomes near the poverty line, and those with chronic or costly medical conditions.

But the laws’ supporters and enforcers don’t want you to know that, because it would violate the President’s incessantly repeated promise that nothing would change for the people that Obamacare doesn’t directly help. If you shop for Obamacare-based coverage without knowing if you qualify for subsidies, you might be discouraged by the law’s steep costs.

So, by analyzing your income first, if you qualify for heavy subsidies, the website can advertise those subsidies to you instead of just hitting you with Obamacare’s steep premiums. For example, the site could advertise plans that cost “$0″ or “$30″ instead of explaining that the plan really costs $200, and that you’re getting a subsidy of $200 or $170. But you’ll have to be at or near the poverty line to gain subsidies of that size; most people will either not qualify for a subsidy, or qualify for a small one that, net-net, doesn’t make up for the law’s cost hikes.

This political objective—masking the true underlying cost of Obamacare’s insurance plans—far outweighed the operational objective of making the federal website work properly. Think about it the other way around. If the “Affordable Care Act” truly did make health insurance more affordable, there would be no need to hide these prices from the public.

The plain truth of the matter is that you can’t lower the costs of health care by covering more people or by covering more treatments or by regulating more doctors. All of those things don’t lower the cost of health insurance – they raise it. The subsidies that the Democrats are offering are costs that are being added to the deficit. They will have to be paid by job creators and their employees through higher taxes later. Obamacare didn’t solve a thing. It just adds costs and complexity. It’s the equivalent of shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic.

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How many people have signed up for Obamacare?

The Weekly Standard reports.

Excerpt:

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew refused to answer Fox host Chris Wallace’s simple question this morning: How many people have signed up for Obamacare?

“I’m going to ask you one last time,” said Wallace, “because, forgive me sir, you haven’t answered it: do you not know how many people signed up, which would seem to indicate another major software glitch, or is it that the numbers are embarrassingly small?”

“Chris, our metric for this week was, could people get online, get the information they need to make an informed,” said Lew, sidestepping the straightforward question. “They have been getting that information. We are confident that they are going to make the decision — they have 6 months to make the decision.”

Wallace tried again: “So do you not know or is that the number is –“

“Well, it’s obviously not my primary area of responsibility,” said the treasury secretary.

I have a more important question. Why did we elect a community organizer to make health care policy?

Reuters says that the IT architecture for the web application stinks.

Excerpt:

Days after the launch of the federal government’s Obamacare website, millions of Americans looking for information on new health insurance plans were still locked out of the system even though its designers scrambled to add capacity.

[...]Five outside technology experts interviewed by Reuters, however, say they believe flaws in system architecture, not traffic alone, contributed to the problems.

[...]“Adding capacity sounds great until you realize that if you didn’t design it right that won’t help,” said Bill Curtis, chief scientist at CAST, a software quality analysis firm, and director of the Consortium for IT Software Quality. “The architecture of the software may limit how much you can add on to it. I suspect they’ll have to reconfigure a lot of it.”

[...]One possible cause of the problems is that hitting “apply” on HealthCare.gov causes 92 separate files, plug-ins and other mammoth swarms of data to stream between the user’s computer and the servers powering the government website, said Matthew Hancock, an independent expert in website design. He was able to track the files being requested through a feature in the Firefox browser.

[...]“They set up the website in such a way that too many requests to the server arrived at the same time,” Hancock said.

He said because so much traffic was going back and forth between the users’ computers and the server hosting the government website, it was as if the system was attacking itself.

Hancock described the situation as similar to what happens when hackers conduct a distributed denial of service, or DDOS, attack on a website: they get large numbers of computers to simultaneously request information from the server that runs a website, overwhelming it and causing it to crash or otherwise stumble. “The site basically DDOS’d itself,” he said.

[...]The government official blamed the glitch on massive traffic, but outside experts said it likely reflected programming choices as well.

Obama doesn’t know anything about software engineering. And all his appointees are radical leftist political hacks. Obama’s administration has the least private sector experience of any recent administration. These people have no idea how to design large-scale web applications. They outsourced the whole thing and it blew up in their faces.

But do you know who does understand information technology? Someone with a Bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a Master’s degree in computer science from Purdue University would.

Presidential candidate Herman Cain

Presidential candidate Herman Cain

A while back, we had an opportunity to elect a software engineer who is also one of the country’s most successful businessmen – Herman Cain. His massive company had a huge IT infrastructure. But we didn’t vote for Herman Cain, we voted for Obama. If we had voted for Herman Cain, then IT would be leveraged successfully to support whatever government involvement in health care was appropriate. If you want software done right, then elect a software engineer. If you want to run the country like a successful business, elect a successful businessman.

Filed under: News, , , , ,

Can Darwinian evolution create new functional biological information?

Here’s a great article from Evolution News that explains the trouble that Darwinian evolution has in building up to functional new biological information by using a process of random mutation and natural selection.

Casey Luskin takes a look at a peer-reviewed paper that claims that Darwinian evolution can do the job of creating new information, then he explains what’s wrong with the paper.

Excerpt:

In Wilf and Ewens’s evolutionary scheme there is a smooth fitness function. Under this view, there is no epistasis, where one mutation can effectively interact with another to affect (whether positively or negatively) fitness. As a result, any mutations that move the search toward its “target” are assumed to provide an immediate and irrevocable advantage, and are thus highly likely to become fixed. Ewert et al. compare the model to playing Wheel of Fortune:

The evolutionary model that Wilf and Ewens have chosen is similar to the problem of guessing letters in a word or phrase, as on the television game show Wheel of Fortune. They specify a phrase 20,000 letters long, with each letter in the phrase corresponding to a gene locus that can be transformed from its initial “primitive” state to a more advanced state. Finding the correct letter for a particular position in the target phrase roughly corresponds to finding a beneficial mutation in the corresponding gene. During each round of mutation all positions in the phrase are subject to mutation, and the results are selected based on whether the individual positions match the final target phrase. Those that match are preserved for the next round. … After each round, all “advanced” alleles in the population are treated as fixed, and therefore preserved in the next round. Evolution to the fully “advanced” state is complete when all 20,000 positions match the target phrase.

The problem with this approach is that a string of biological information that has only some letters that are part of a useful sequence has no present function, and therefore cannot survive and reproduce.

Look:

Thus, Wilf and Ewens ignore the problem of non-functional intermediates. They assume that all intermediate stages will be functional, or lead to some functional advantage. But is this how all fitness functions look? Not necessarily. It’s well known that in many instances, no benefit is derived until multiple mutations are present all at once. In such a case, there’s no evolutionary advantage until multiple mutations are present. The “correct” mutations might occur in parallel, but the odds of this happening are extremely low. Ewert et al. illustrate this problem in the model by using the example of the difficulty of one phrase evolving into another:

Suppose it would be beneficial for the phrase

“all_the_world_is_a_stage___”

to evolve into the phrase

“methinks_it_is_like_a_weasel.”

What phrase do we get if we simply alternate letters from the two phrases?

“mlt_ihk__otli__siaesaaw_a_e_.”

Under the assumptions in the Wilf and Ewens model, the “fitness” of this nonsense phrase ought to be exactly half-way between the fitnesses of “all the world is a stage” and “methinks it is like a weasel.” Such a result only makes sense if we are measuring the fitness of the current phrase by its proximity to the target phrase.

But the gibberish of the intermediate phrase doesn’t cause any problem under Wilf and Ewens’s model. Not unlikeRichard Dawkins, they assume that intermediate stages will always yield some functional advantage. And as more and more characters in the phrase match the target, it becomes more and more fit. This yields a nice, smooth fitness function — rich in active information — not truly a blind search.

Not only is there that first problem, but here’s a second:

Wilf and Ewens endowed their mathematical model of evolution with foresight. It is directed toward a target — an advantage that natural selection conspicuously lacks. And what, in our experience, is the only known cause that is goal-directed and has foresight? It’s intelligence. This means that once again, the Evolutionary Informatics Lab has shown that simulations of evolution seem to work only because they’ve been intelligently designed.

This is worth the read. If Darwinian mechanisms really could generate code, then there would be no software engineers. The truth is, the mechanisms don’t work to create new information. For that, you need an intelligent designer.

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