The Accountability Failure In The Wake Of The Obamacare Website Crash Is More Significant Than The Failure Of The Site Itself

It's nobody's fault, really...

It’s nobody’s fault, really…

More than two weeks into the heralded launch of the Affordable Care Act, the roll out of the Healthcare.gov website still qualifies as an ongoing fiasco. The Obama administration was fortunate that this was largely, though not completely, overshadowed by the silly, misconcieved and mishandled government shut-down protest by Congressional Republicans, thanks in part to a pliant and biased newsmedia that welcomed the opportunity not to focus proper attention on yet another inexcusable Administration botch. Nonetheless, it is inexcusable. A business that launched a much-ballyhooed new product this way would be out of business; the executive in charge of such a miserable failure would be toast. The fact that Obamacare is still in business after this competence and diligence betrayal speaks only to the benefits of a governmental monopoly. The fact that no executive is yet toast, however, is less explicable. Perhaps the more accurate statement is that the explanation for it is horrifying. Continue reading

Heroes, Dunces, Truthtellers, Liars, Spinners, Incompetents, and Fools: More Ethics Forensics On The Government Scandal Wave

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This is a mercurial story, several in fact, but one of its most valuable uses is to allow us to sort out various individuals and institutions for their trustworthiness and character based upon their words and conduct regarding the multiple scandals hurtling around Washington.

  • Fool: Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Mn). Bachmann is talking impeachment, which has signature significance: any elected official who brings up impeachment now or anytime before hard evidence turns up proving that President Obama personally delivered  a bag of gold to the IRS leadership to make sure proprietary tax information was leaked is an utter, irresponsible dolt. 1) No President has ever been convicted after their impeachment, and heaven knows we have had multiple Chief Executives factually guilty of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” It is a waste of time, an all-encompassing political warfare glut that this nation can’t afford at this point, especially when the U.S. Senate is in control of the same party the impeached POTUS belongs to. Yes, I agree with the principle that corrupt Presidents should be punished; I’m glad Bill Clinton got his just desserts, but I also know that if he and the rest of the government had been concentrating on what was going on in the world rather than hiding blue dresses, the Twin Towers might be standing today, and 3000—10,000?—-Americans wouldn’t be dead. Impeachment is like using a nuclear bomb: it’s a useful threat, but the reality is too horrible to permit. 2) Anyone who thinks making Joe Biden President is a solution to anything is certifiable. 3) There is nothing at this point that would support a legitimate impeachment. 4) Putting the scandals in that context just supports the agreed-upon White House and media spin that this is all about politics. Shut up, Michele.

Ethics Round-Up in Race, Religion and Sex: GOP Bigotry, Georgetown’s Integrity, and Warren’s Absurdity

Help! I’m buried in great ethics stories!

This is one of those periods in which there are so many juicy ethics stories that I am falling far behind. Here are three that are worthy of longer treatment that I can’t allow to get lost in the crowd: Continue reading

Anti-Bullying Mis-steps: The Perils of Changing Cultural Norms (Part I)

It's a simple rule, really: if they call you a jerk, thy're bullies; if you call them jerks, you're a hero.

The efforts to reduce bullying in schools has already shown the dangers inherent in using the heavy hand and and often empty skull of government authority to adjust social norms. The laudable goal has already led schools to impose their wills where it emphatically does not belong: in the private interactions and communications among student over the internet. This week, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius provided another example of the perils of the government trying to impose a social taboo where it didn’t exist before.

Sebelius was a guest of the Stuart-Hobson Middle School in Washington, D.C., whose students were shown  a new anti-bullying video from the Cartoon Network that among its messages urged children not to call people names like “stupid,” “fat,” and “jerk.”  Immediately after the screening,  CNN’s Don Lemon moderated a panel discussion of the issues raised by “Stop Bullying: Speak Up.”

“What do you think is the best advice for people who are going into watching this film and anyone who is watching?” Lemon asked.

Sebelius answered, in part: “I think, very important, is for kids to understand how powerful you really are. You might feel like you’re not big enough, not strong enough, not–don’t have enough tools. But just saying, ‘Stop it! You know, you’re being a jerk!’–walk away, get away from this person can make a huge amount of difference.” Continue reading

Obama, Sibelius and Plan B: Bad Science, Bad Ethics, Bad Policy

After FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg advocated that all women of child-bearing age be allowed to buy Plan B, the so-called “morning after pill,” without a prescription, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sibelius overruled the FDA with President Obama’s imprimatur. Sibelius said..

“After careful consideration of the FDA Summary Review, I have concluded that the data, submitted by Teva [the Plan B manufacturer], do not conclusively establish that Plan B One-Step should be made available over the counter for all girls of reproductive age. The average age of the onset of menstruation for girls in the United States is 12.4 years. However, about ten percent of girls are physically capable of bearing children by 11.1 years of age. It is common knowledge that there are significant cognitive and behavioral differences between older adolescent girls and the youngest girls of reproductive age. If the application were approved, the product would be available, without prescription, for all girls of reproductive age.”

What’s going on here? What’s going on here is that the Administration wants to avoid a direct clash with those who regard human life as being created from the moment of conception. Sibelius’s implies without saying that a pill that ends an unwarranted pregnancy within 72 hours is an abortion pill, or at least she is crafting HHS policy for the pleasure of those who believe this. No science supports the contention that a fertilized egg that has yet to travel to the uterus—what Plan B prevents— is a human being; the position is a moral/religious one that exists independently of science. Continue reading

Health Care Reform: Capitol Hill Illusions, Delusions and Lies

The biggest political lie of 2010 is off to a flying start in 2011. As the new Republican House majority sets out to “repeal” the new health care law, Democrats are waving a report from the Congressional Budget Office that the media describes as stating that such an act would actually add to the deficit, because the CBO has calculated that the law, as it stands, will reduce the federal deficit by about 270 million dollars.

But wait a minute! What CBO is really saying is that if the assumptions and projections incorporated into the law are accurate, then the law will cut the deficit. The Congressional Budget Office is not allowed to challenge the assumptions written into a law, only to calculate what a law will cost according to those assumptions. This also means that the CBO will not assume that the costs of implementing the many administrative measures in the law will rise—as the costs of all major federal programs inevitably do. Speaker John Boehner has stated that he doesn’t believe that anyone in Washington, including the Democrats, really believes that the new law will reduce the deficit. Ezra Klein, the Washington Post’s mouthpiece of the Left, claims that the Republicans actually know the law will lower the deficit. Who’s lying? Or perhaps a better question is, what constitutes a lie in such a convoluted context? Continue reading

Ethics Observation of the Week: the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto

Dissecting a Washington Post op-ed in which Attorney General Eric Holder and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius argued for the constitutionality of Obamacare,  Wall Street Journal wit and political commentator  James Taranto argued that the two Obama officials…

“…can’t even muster a coherent argument in favor of ObamaCare as a matter of policy. The op-ed opens with what is meant to be a heartstring-tugging anecdote: Continue reading

“No Tolerance” For Adversary Free Speech at Obama’s HHS?

According to a press release sent out by the Department of Health and Human Services, “Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the national association of health insurers, calling on their members to stop using scare tactics and misinformation to falsely blame premium increases for 2011 on the patient protections in the Affordable Care Act.” In her letter, Sibelius wrote…

“It has come to my attention that several health insurer carriers are sending letters to their enrollees falsely blaming premium increases for 2011 on the patient protections in the Affordable Care Act.  I urge you to inform your members that there will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases.”

This is an ethics foul, and one that is both frightening and clumsy. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Sen. Max Baucus

Sen. Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat who, along with Majority Leader Harry Reid, was the prime mover of Obamacare through to passage by the U.S. Senate, attended a citizens forum in Libby, Montana regarding health care reform and other issues, along with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius.

One attendee, Judy Matott, asked Baucus  and Sebelius, “if either of you read the health care bill before it was passed and if not, that is the most despicable, irresponsible thing.”

Baucus replied that he “essentially” wrote the Senate health care bill, but didn’t actually read it. Continue reading