A Critical Insight.

Today, Belmont club has a post, with a link to another blog post, that I think explain a lot of the Obamacare fiasco.

Fernandez begins with a discussion of Obama’s technique with favored columnists.

get him in an off-the-record setting with a small group of opinion columnists — the David Brooks and E.J. Dionne types — and he’ll talk for hours. …

“It’s not an accident who he invites: He reads the people that he thinks matter, and he really likes engaging those people,” said one reporter with knowledge of the meetings. “He reads people carefully — he has a columnist mentality — and he wants to win columnists over,” said another. …

These people are, like him, unsophisticated in technology. They are lawyers or journalists and the numbers of math and science courses represented in the room are few.

The other blog post is titled “Government is magic.”

Our technocracy is detached from competence. It’s not the technocracy of engineers, but of “thinkers” who read Malcolm Gladwell and Thomas Friedman and watch TED talks and savor the flavor of competence, without ever imbibing its substance.

These are the people who love Freakonomics, who enjoy all sorts of mental puzzles, who like to see an idea turned on its head, but who couldn’t fix a toaster.

This strikes me as a huge insight into why this administration doesn’t understand the trouble it is in.

One common criticism of India has been that the British left a tradition of education in Humanities and Medicine but not in auto mechanics and basic trades. The people in the Obama administration are contemptuous of people like “Joe the Plumber” who works at a trade and hopes to save enough to start his own small business. The Obama people like “BIG IDEAS” and don’t know much about implementing them.

The ObamaCare website is the natural spawn of that technocracy who love the idea of using modernity to make things faster and easier, but have no idea what anything costs or how it works.

It’s hard to have a functioning technocracy without engineers. A technocracy made in Silicon Valley with its complete disregard for anything outside its own ego zone would be bad enough. But this is a Bloombergian technocracy of billionaires and activists, of people who think that “progress” makes things work, rather than things working leading to progress.

I wonder how many lines of code Bloomberg has written ?

You have to be special to join the circle, one so high above the madding crowd that you are like the president, who as Valerie Jarrett puts it, was “bored to death his whole life … just too talented to do what ordinary people do.” The question that almost asks itself is how if such people are so smart, so comfortable with ‘grand concepts’ then how could they have gotten so many things wrong in the past 5 years.

Part of the answer may lie in what grand thinkers are consciously believe they are not. Vice President Joe Biden explained why nobody in the White House seemed to know the Obamacare website would not function. “Neither he and I are technology geeks, and we assumed that it was up and ready to run.”

“But the good news is although it’s not, and we apologize for that, we’re confident that by the end of November it will be and there will still be plenty of time for people to register and get online.

They just don’t know how things run and why some things work and some don’t. Don Rumsfeld famously referred to “known unknowns” and he has had experience running a big private company, GD Searle. The Obama people have never run anything. What efforts they have made at running things have been mostly failures. Valerie Jarret, who seems to be Obama’s alter ego, is a slum lord in Chicago.

According to the documents obtained by Judicial Watch from the Illinois Secretary of State, Valerie Jarrett served as a board member for several organizations that provided funding and support for Chicago housing projects operated by real estate developers and Obama financial backers Rezko and Allison Davis. (Davis is also Obama’s former boss.) Jarrett was a member of the Board of Directors for the Woodlawn Preservation and Investment Corporation along with several Davis and Rezko associates, as well as the Fund for Community Redevelopment and Revitalization, an organization that worked with Rezko and Davis.

(According to press reports, housing projects operated by Davis and Rezko have been substandard and beset with code violations. The Chicago Sun Times reported that one Rezko-managed housing project was “riddled with problems — including squalid living conditions…lack of heat, squatters and drug dealers.”)

Obama famously failed at asbestos remediation in Chicago slums.

But a Globe review found that thousands of apartments across Chicago that had been built with local, state, and federal subsidies – including several hundred in Obama’s former district – deteriorated so completely that they were no longer habitable.

Grove Parc and several other prominent failures were developed and managed by Obama’s close friends and political supporters. Those people profited from the subsidies even as many of Obama’s constituents suffered. Tenants lost their homes; surrounding neighborhoods were blighted.

Progressive blogger River Daughter put it succinctly:

In terms of concrete accomplishments, Obama and “hundreds of other organizers” were not able to transform the South Side neighborhoods or bring in new industries to provide jobs…

His experience in the Annenberg Challenge was poor.

An August 2003 final technical report of the Chicago Annenberg Research Project by the Consortium on Chicago School Research said that while “student achievement improved across Annenberg Challenge schools as it did across the Chicago Public School system as a whole, results suggest that among the schools it supported, the Challenge had little impact on school improvement and student outcomes, with no statistically significant differences between Annenberg and non-Annenberg schools in rates of achievement gain, classroom behavior, student self-efficacy, and social competence.

Obamacare is about the same in terms of success. Much more expensive, of course.

Modernity has to be built. It has to be constructed brick by bit by rivet by cable by people who know what they are doing. Modernity without competence is as worthless as the ObamaCare website which looked pretty enough to give the illusion of technocratic modernity, but didn’t actually work.


The United States government is the ultimate giant unworkable mess. It is a living cargo cult where everyone marches around following routines that are supposed to yield great prosperity, but never do. The processes themselves are broken and make no sense, but the cargo culturers of the government cannot and will not hear that. They know that the government will magically make everything work.

14 thoughts on “A Critical Insight.”

  1. tl/dr

    Well I did but there is nothing new at all. You got nothing. Government is bad, government is incompetent, our leaders can’t code … nothing at all.

  2. “Neither he and I are technology geeks, and we assumed that it was up and ready to run.”

    Doesn’t understand the tech, told subordinates to get it done, didn’t monitor progress, avoids responsibility for failure and blames others (but would have taken full credit for success).

    Sounds like a bad manager.

  3. An astounding failure of leadership. One doesn’t have to know how to code to manage a complex program. One must know how to manage people. One must know that complex assignments require vigorous oversight. Clearly 0. (the responsible one) and his group in power are not up to such a task….but we knew that from past experience.

    PenGun you’re right, it’s the same ole, same ole from this administration so why shouldn’t our reaction be the same ol, same ol, only more so? There is a difference here in the enormity of the failure and failure-to-be. In the end more than a hundred million citizens will feel the failure directly; something like one fifth of the US economy will be guided by fascist bureaucracies.

  4. In years to come, as the full extent of criminality by the Obama administration is realized; It will go down in history as the biggest rip-off of the US Treasury ever.

  5. We have allowed the worst possible combination of personal and professional characteristics to become dominant in our social, educational, and political lives, and they are undercutting the accomplishments of generations of hard working people at all levels due to their sheer incompetence and corruption.

    The idiot troll above thinks that the objection being made is some generic observation about government, but that is only a part of the problem.

    The deeper issue, obviously much too deep for the shallow mindset of the progressive mentality, is that an entire type of thinking, a manner of approaching social and other issues, is not only ineffective but actively malicious in its effects.

    The political system of this country has been taken in a form of stealth coup by the legal profession, and, as befits that group’s approach to any issue, all problems are now seen as being best addressed by acts of legislation, all issues are considered only in terms of how the law and courts can dispose of them, and the tools of government, at all levels, are considered to be amenable to solving any problem, real or imagined, if the law is structured and interpreted properly.

    Magical thinking has replaced the hard edged empiricism that built the industrial base of this society, and the good intentions of the actor are more significant than any beneficial or ill effects of the acts themselves.

    The most dangerous aspect of this mentality is the presumption that any act by the state has accomplished its purpose simply by being enacted, and that any further revisions are good if they reform the original program by adding to it, and are evil if they detract from or reduce it.

    The only exception to that sequence is any aspect of national defense, which is always considered wasteful and extravagant, and is always eligible for cutting in favor of more important social programs.

    We are in a totally unsustainable budget spiral, powered by enormous entitlement programs that are devouring the greatest percentage of our national wealth, running up huge deficits, and are so toxic that any hint of their being curtailed brings down the full fury of society’s powers on the hapless candidate who even mentions such a possibility.

    It may take as long to disassemble this statist monstrosity as it took to construct it, but rejecting the catastrophic medical fiasco now engulfing the country would be a good place to start.

  6. Tyouth: +1 for using “enormity” correctly. Made my day. Yeah, it wasn’t much of day.

    Too much understatement for me: “seems like a bad manager.” In my experience, which thankfully is slight, I’d change “bad” to “typical”

  7. Thank-you, Dr. Kennedy. The links to The Belmont Club and SultanKnish make for a coherent explanation of what is wrong with our intelligentsia and governing class.
    Perhaps those holding responsible positions in our ruling class as legislators,administrators, or appeals court judges,should be required to have worked successfully in the private sector? Perhaps lawyers need not apply? Yes, lawyers are necessary,but do want the animals running the zoo?

    Ah,the professoriate. Perhaps those in non STEM subjects should be required to have worked,successfully, in the private sector before professing? This would rid us of many of the poseurs who are now imposed upon us. By the way, the idea that sitting in classrooms for an extra few years is necessary to qualify people for higher paying jobs, is another cargo cult belief,which will crash into reality.

  8. Renminbi, this sentence struck especially.

    And in China, they can carry out grandiose projects, but those projects have no vision or competence.

    We see China’s ghost cities and wonder why they do this. Forbes is not worried because they are not based on debt. What is even worse, in my opinion, is that these represent the savings of the Chinese population which they hope to use when they are too old to work. Chinese culture used to revere family and old people had children to support them. Now they don’t. Now, they have this imaginary wealth, instead.

    Another cargo cult.

  9. The people in charge MUST have known about this fakery product by the author of VisiCalc, the program that MADE the personal computer useful:

    Dan Bricklin founded Software Garden, a small consulting firm and developer of software applications, in 1985. The company’s focus was to produce and market “Dan Bricklin’s Demo Program”. The program allowed users to create demonstrations of their programs before they were even written, and was also used to create tutorials for Windows-based programs. Other versions released soon after included demo-it!.

    So, just make a visual presentation layer, and you’re DONE! Think of all the time, money and material saved! Don’t bother with troublesome programmers and computers and ram and bits and bytes, just use Briklin’s program to Demo-It, and rake in the moolah…

    They don’t need no stinkin’ engineers and geeks, they’re LAWYERS.

  10. Reading more of government incompetence in the commentary, it springs to mind that there is no CONSEQUENCE for incompetency. No one is fired, see: Benghazi & Ms Clintons 2016 Presidential plans…, No one has to pay their taxes to keep their job: $85 million owed by IRS/contractors. No one has to obey the law: see gun running, failing to enforce immigration law, etc.
    There is no consequence. Valery Plame and her husband were liars, yet they were feted by the left, their very words being tickets to enter 1600. Lois Lerner broke the law by revealing private records, testified to her innocence, yet refused to testify under oath, and she has had exactly what consequence?
    The current POTUS has shown exactly zero competency previous to his current gig, and has shown little in the current one. Yet, there is no consequence for ignoring Constitutional law.
    That is why government becomes uncontrollable. You can get away with murder … see Fast & Furious.

  11. tomw Says:
    November 3rd, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    That is it exactly. If those in the Governing Class [of both parties] have been increasingly operating outside the law and Constitution for well over a generation, and they have reached the point as now where they can ignore both at will with absolutely no consequences; what basis is there to assume that ANY law or provision of the Constitution will ever be followed in the future?

    If the law restricts the actions of the government or an individual official, can there be any reasonable belief that it will be followed if violating it will be to their benefit?

    If there is an election, given the blatant fraud that has become the norm, can there be any rational belief that the reported results of the election reflect anything but an internal power struggle within the Governing Class?

    If it is decided at a high enough level that we really do not need either any more elections or the inefficiency of a bunch of legislators who do not have any real power [when was the last time we had a constitutional budget or that there was any real congressional oversight?], what mechanism is there to counter that?

    If the Second Amendment is all that we are left with, what does the increasing militarization and federalization of all Executive Branch government departments imply?

    And I cannot help but remember a statement by a relative of a friend of mine who works for Homeland Security [the relative, not the friend] and who graduated from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center at Glyncoe, GA. a few years ago: “A presidential order over-rules the Constitution.“.

    In terms of American history, and the history of Western Civilization since say, Runnymede; is a government that acts in such a fashion legitimate?

    Subotai Bahadur

  12. Subotai Bahadur,

    All very sobering questions. Add this:

    Can the military be expected to support and defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic, after being politicized and purged from the top down based of fealty to the political ideology of the statists?


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