If you’re looking for an epitaph for the republic (and these days who isn’t?) try this — from August 2010 and TechCrunch’s delirious preview of Healthcare.gov:
“We were working in a very very nimble hyper-consumer-focused way,” explained Todd Park, the chief technology officer of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “all fused in this kind of maelstrom of pizza, Mountain Dew, and all-nighters . . . and, you know, idealism. That kind of led to the magic that was produced.”
Wow. Think of the magic that Madison, Hamilton, and the rest of those schlubs could have produced if they’d only had pizza and Mountain Dew and been willing to pull a few all-nighters at Philadelphia in 1787. Somewhere between the idealism and the curling slice of last night’s pepperoni, Macon Phillips, the administration’s director of new media, happened to come across a tweet by Edward Mullen of Jersey City in which he twitpiced his design for what a health-insurance exchange could look like. So Phillips printed it out to show his fellow administration officials: “Look, this is the sort of creativity that is out there,” he said. “One thing led to another and he left Jersey City to come to D.C. and helped push us through an information architectural process.”
Don’t you just love it! This is way cooler than the decline and fall of the Roman Empire: The only “architectural process” they had was crumbling viaducts. I think we can all agree that Barack Obama is hipper than all other government leaders anywhere, ever, combined. Unfortunately, the dogs bark and the pizza-delivery bike moves on, and, in the cold grey morning after of the grease-stained cardboard box with the rubberized cheese stuck to it, Obamacare wound up somewhat less hipper and, in fact, not even HIPAA — the unpersuasively groovy acronym for federally mandated medical privacy in America. Appearing before Congress on Thursday, the magicians of Obamacare eventually conceded that, on their supposedly HIPAA-compliant database, deep in the “information architectural process” is a teensy-weensy little bit of “source code” that reads, “You have no reasonable expectation of privacy regarding any communication of any data transmitted or stored on this information system.”
Democrat members of the House committee professed to be bewildered at why anyone would be either surprised or upset to discover that his information can be shared with anyone in the federal government, including a corrupt and diseased IRS that uses what confidential information it can acquire to torment perceived ideological enemies. And at a certain level the more blasé of the people’s representatives such as New Jersey’s Frank Pallone have a point: If Obama thinks nothing of tapping Angela Merkel’s cell phone (as she had cause to complain to him on Wednesday, in what was said to be a “cool” conversation, and not in the hepcat sense), why would he extend any greater privacy rights to your Auntie Mabel?
Incidentally, do you think we need a congressional oversight committee to look into the effectiveness of congressional oversight committees? Every time I’m stuck at Gate 37 and glance up at the 24/7 Wolf Blitzer channel there’s somebody testifying about something: Benghazi . . . Lois Lerner . . . Obamacare . . . No one gets fired, no agency gets closed, nothing changes.
The witness who coughed up the intriguing tidbit about Obamacare’s exemption from privacy protections was one Cheryl Campbell of something called CGI. This rang a vague bell with me. CGI is not a creative free spirit from Jersey City with an impressive mastery of Twitter, but a Canadian corporate behemoth. Indeed, CGI is so Canadian their name is French: Conseillers en Gestion et Informatique. Their most famous government project was for the Canadian Firearms Registry. The registry was estimated to cost in total $119 million, which would be offset by $117 million in fees. That’s a net cost of $2 million. Instead, by 2004 the CBC (Canada’s PBS) was reporting costs of some $2 billion — or a thousand times more expensive.
Yeah, yeah, I know, we’ve all had bathroom remodelers like that. But in this case the database had to register some 7 million long guns belonging to some two-and-a-half to three million Canadians. That works out to almost $300 per gun — or somewhat higher than the original estimate for processing a firearm registration of $4.60. Of those $300 gun registrations, Canada’s auditor general reported to parliament that much of the information was either duplicated or wrong in respect to basic information such as names and addresses.
Also, there was a 1-800 number, but it wasn’t any use.
So it was decided that the sclerotic database needed to be improved.