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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 14-Oct-2013
14-Oct-13 World View -- IT systems a continuing disaster

Web Log - October, 2013

14-Oct-13 World View -- IT systems a continuing disaster

Al-Qaeda surges back in Iraq following U.S. withdrawal

This morning's key headlines from

Moscow police arrest hundreds after a massive race riot

Moscow police detain a man on Sunday (Reuters)
Moscow police detain a man on Sunday (Reuters)

Moscow police arrested more than 380 people on Sunday during a race riot in which about 1,000 neo-Nazi ethnic Russian nationalists attacked a vegetable warehouse run by natives of Russia's southern provinces in the North Caucasus who had migrated to Moscow. This was the worst race riot in some time between mostly Orthodox Christian ethnic Russians and mostly Muslim North Caucasians. The riot was triggered by the knife murder, on Thursday, of an ethnic Russian while he was out walking with this girlfriend, who later described the assailant as a Caucasian. Hundreds of police were sent in to bring the riot under control, but some reports indicate that the police did nothing to stop the ethnic Russians from looting the warehouse. Moscow police promised to pay up to one million rubles for information that would help to identify and find the murder suspect. Russia Today and AFP

Al-Qaeda surges back in Iraq following U.S. withdrawal

Al-Qaeda has come roaring back in Iraq since U.S. troops left in late 2011 and now looks stronger than it has in years. The terror group has shown it is capable of carrying out mass-casualty attacks several times a month, driving the death toll in Iraq to the highest level since 2006. Al-Qaeda's forces have been bolstered by bombing attacks on Iraqi prisons that have freed more than 500 inmates. The Syrian war has been a major recruiting tool for al-Qaeda because genocidal maniac president Bashar al-Assad is using heavy weapons to slaughter innocent civilians, and Russia is following a disastrous policy of supplying an unlimited number of heavy weapons to al-Assad. In Iraq, the pace of terrorist killings has increased substantially every month since the American withdrawal, with most of the attacks conducted by al-Qaeda linked terrorists with Shia targets. On Sunday alone, 42 people were killed in a new wave of bombings in most Shia-majority cities. One intelligence official estimates that al-Qaeda now has at least 3,000 trained fighters in Iraq alone, including some 100 volunteers awaiting orders to carry out suicide missions. President George Bush's "surge" into Iraq in 2007 beat back al-Qaeda, and reduced it to a "few small cells struggling to survive," according to the Brookings Institution. But now all of that work is coming undone. AP IT systems a continuing disaster

Long-time readers are aware that from the day it was first proposed in 2009, I've referred to President Barack Obama's health care plan as a proposal of economic insanity, because it's a repeat of President Richard Nixon's wage-price controls, which were an utter, total disaster for the economy. (See "5-Jul-13 World View -- Eurozone and Obamacare continue their parallel economic collapse".)

I had expected Obamacare to collapse for purely economic reasons, just as Nixon's wage-price controls collapsed for economic reasons, despite the kind of overwhelming support from both Democrats and Republicans for wage-price controls that is totally absent for Obamacare. Obamacare is in fact collapsing for purely economic reasons. The administration has been forced to grant one waiver after another to labor unions, Congress, and other political allies, it's used the IRS to target its political opponents, and it was forced to postpone the "employer mandate" by a year, and probably forever. This is exactly the kind of thing that Nixon tried to do to save his wage-price controls, as they spiraled into total disaster and collapse. The only significant portion of Obamacare still remaining is the "individual mandate," which is so full of holes and contradictions that it's unlikely to survive the winter.

But what I hadn't foreseen is that a critical factor in the collapse of Obamacare may well be the IT systems. President Obama is calling them "glitches" that will be repaired soon, but many people are wondering whether they can be repaired. I've suggested that perhaps the Obamacare IT systems were developed by a group of kids out of college whose previous experience was to develop a web site as a homework assignment, and had used this "expertise" in developing and other web sites.

An article by Sean Gallagher of Ars Technica confirms that suggestion, and a lot more. He points out that actual federal employees who do IT work have been retiring or are close to retirement, and haven't been replaced, and so the government has been depending on young programmers working for outside contractors to do the work. Furthermore, he points out that the federal government uses old, outdated hardware and operating systems, and that government-implemented systems, typified by the US Army's Enterprise Email (EE) program, are shoddy and would never be tolerated in the commercial world.

I hadn't foreseen all this, but I should have, based on several personal experiences. The most relevant one is when I was working for military contractor CACI in 2004-5, which was under contract to General Dynamics (not to be confused with Generational Dynamics) to build an internet infrastructure for Air Force bases around the world. I'd been working on this project for 18 months, and it was due for completion in four more months. I realized that there were problems, so I did a quick survey of the other engineers, and discovered that they all assumed that once the hardware was assembled, the software would automatically work. It was clear that of the 20-30 engineers on the project, I was the only one that understood large software systems, and that the project was headed for disaster. I prepared a list of problems, and wrote a memo to my management predicting that project was going to slip at least six months, and asked for permission to do a complete project evaluation in order to save it. I had been fired a couple of times previously on other projects for telling my management that a project was in trouble (even though I was always right), and so in this memo, I actually begged them not to fire me.

Well, that didn't help. I can still remember the Gen-X manager from General Dynamics glaring at me and loudly screaming at me in a meeting that "This project is going to be SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETED IN FOUR MONTHS." Well, of course I was fired a week later, and of course the entire project collapsed a year later, a total loss of $10 million of taxpayer money. I'm still furious about what happened because (a) I was fired for being the only competent engineer, where none of the General Dynamics engineers were competent, (b) The incompetent engineers got to continue working, collecting a salary, and sitting around writing fatuous memos for another year, and (c) if I'd been permitted to evaluate the project and redirect it, I could have saved the project, and the taxpayers' $10 million. But that's the way the government works, especially since the rise of Generation-X.

So, based on that experience, it's pretty likely that has been implemented by incompetent engineers led by bureaucratic morons who really don't care whether the web site ever works or not and don't want to listen to anyone who actually is competent, as long as they continue to collect their enormous salaries.

You might think that's bad enough, Dear Reader, but now the story is going to get MUCH WORSE.

Last week, there were some reports that the Obama administration had paid $634 million to contractors to implement I checked out the reports, and it turns out that the $634 million figure is wrong. The implementation cost was a "mere" $93.7 million.

Are you f--king kidding me????? $93.7 million to build a high volume web site backed up by a database? And they're BRAGGING about this as a low cost??? This kind of project in the commercial world would have cost about $5-10 million, but adjusting for government bureaucracy or additional technical complications, a figure of $20-25 million might have been reasonable though very expensive. $93.7 million is high by several multiples, especially in view of the shoddy results.

So now we can see what must have happened. The Obama administration poured out tens of millions of dollars to a number of incompetent contractors with bloated budgets, probably their political pals and campaign contributors, who employed incompetent young Millennial and Gen-X engineers and managers to implement, and you can see the result, which is similar to the Air Force internet project that I worked on for General Dynamics before I was fired.

And now the Obama administration is so desperate to save Obamacare that it will do anything and everything, legal or illegal, credible or extortionary, constructive or destructive, to save it. It is now going to spend additional tens of millions of dollars to try to save Let's see what happens. Ars Technica and The Blaze

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 14-Oct-13 World View -- IT systems a continuing disaster thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (14-Oct-2013) Permanent Link
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