Sports metaphors and the Obamacare roll-out

Updated: Friday, October 25, 2013
Sports metaphors and the Obamacare roll-out story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - As discontent in the Democratic party grows over the implementation of Obamacare, government officials say they’re bringing in experts from silicon valley to help find a way out of the fiasco that signing up has become.

Tonight, in Tom’s Corner, Tom Van Howe says the administration’s handling of President Obama’s signature legislation is a “how-to” lesson in destroying credibility in record time.

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I’m not a big fan of sports analogies. But sometimes they work.

The late Casey Stengel comes to mind after watching President Obama and his team back-pedal, step up to the plate to accept responsibility, and then point the finger of blame at somebody else.

The administration has had three-and-a-half years to get things ready for this day—for this roll-out of the Affordable Care Act.

Forty-two months to have developed and tested and retested the billion-dollar, new technology that would allow millions of people to effortlessly sign on to, in so many cases, get the the kind of healthcare they’ve never had before.

More than 15,000 days to develop a pretty good sense of how much it would cost to work with insurance companies to gauge whether it would be cheaper or more expensive; to explain  in authoritative detail after detail to a country still divided over the issue.

If Casey Stengel were able to comment today, I suspect it would be similar to what he said about his inept New York Mets in 1968.

“Been in this game a hundred years, “ he said. “But I see new ways to lose ‘em I never knew existed before.”

Where in the world were these people in our nation’s capitol? You know, if there had been only six months to lay all the groundwork, we could say, “well, they did the best they could in the time allowed.”

I know the issue became red meat for conservatives. I know it went to the Supreme Court before becoming the law of the land. I know that had to be distracting.

But good grief! If we have the technology to bug the phone of the Chancellor of Germany, listen in to conversation all over Brazil and in France and who knows where else, you’re telling me we can’t build an Obamacare web site that works?! That works from the beginning?

Instead, look at what we have. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius pointing her finger at the Canadian company who built the system.

Yeah, Canadian.

And that company pointing back at the administration and other companies who helped out.

Sebelius telling us no one—simply no one—and certainly not the President, knew before October 1st this thing would blow up as it did.

Only now is our government turning for advice to the world leaders in computer technology from Silicon Valley.

Today, we learn that we get an extra 45 days to sign up before facing a penalty. But not, we are told, because of the computer “glitch.” Of course not. It's because the public was confused about sign up dates. Really?

Meantime, insurance company insiders are telling CNN that they knew a long time ago that this thing was going to fall like a tent in a hurricane.

Also, today we learned that Sebelius and company are going to start a grassroots effort to boost enrollment in the system so many have already been turned away from.

Where was that effort six months—a year—ago? Honestly!

I believe our country is in desperate need of a well-run, cost-efficient, national healthcare system. But if what we’ve seen so far is any indication...Obamacare will be none of those things.

When he was with the Yankees, Casey Stengel sent a guy down to the minors because he was striking out too much. “Mister,” Stengel told a reporter, “that boy couldn’t hit the ground if he fell out an airplane.”

I think the same can be said about some key people in Washington. Its time to stop the strike outs and get some people on the team who can hit home runs. We’re obviously overdue.

In this corner...I’m Tom Van Howe.

Business News

Last Update on March 31, 2015 07:27 GMT

THE DAY AHEAD

UNDATED (AP) -- Standard & Poor's is due to release the S&P/Case-Shiller index of home prices later this morning.

And the Conference Board releases the Consumer Confidence Index for March.

In Berlin, Germany will release unemployment figures for March.

The U.S. unemployment figures for March will be released on Friday.

In February, employers added 295,000 jobs, the 12th straight monthly gain above 200,000. And the unemployment rate fell to 5.5 percent from 5.7 percent. But the rate declined mainly because some people out of work stopped looking for jobs and were no longer counted as unemployed.

UNITED STATES-CLIMATE CHANGE

WASHINGTON (AP) -- People briefed on the plans say the United States will offer a roughly 28 percent emissions cut as its contribution to a major global climate treaty nearing the final stages of negotiation.

The U.S. plans to formally make the highly anticipated announcement today, the informal deadline for nations to submit their contributions to the United Nations. The goal of 26 percent to 28 percent by 2025 isn't new -- President Barack Obama first unveiled it last year during a trip to Beijing. But the U.S. proposal has drawn intense interest from the vast majority of countries that have yet to announce how deeply they'll pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions as part of the treaty.

Obama's pledge constitutes the opening offer by the U.S. as world leaders strive to reach a climate deal powerful and ambitious enough to prevent the worst effects of climate change. In the works for years, the treaty is set to be finalized in Paris in December. If it's successful, it will mark the first time all nations -- not just wealthier ones like the U.S. -- will have agreed to do something about climate change.

The individuals briefed on the proposal say the U.S. will also assert that its contribution is both ambitious and fair.

CHINA-US

BEIJING (AP) -- U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew is pressing Chinese leaders to suspend proposed curbs on foreign security technology and says a Beijing-led regional bank should work in partnership with existing institutions.

The United States and Europe say Beijing is improperly blocking market access with the curbs in proposed anti-terrorism and banking security measures. The measures have prompted an unusually high-level response, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and other Cabinet officials writing to Beijing opposing them.

The bank rules take effect tomorrow, though institutions have until 2019 to have at least 75 percent of their information infrastructure certified as "secure and controllable" by the government. Suppliers worry that might require them to disclose how their products work or shift ownership of their intellectual property to Chinese entities.

Chinese officials said they were delaying implementation of the bank rules, according to a senior U.S. Treasury official who spoke on condition of anonymity. Communist leaders are uneasy about China's reliance on foreign encryption and security technology and are trying to build up their own suppliers.

JAPAN-CHINA-ASIAN BANK

TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's top government spokesman says Tokyo has no plan as of now to join the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters today that Japan is still seeking answers about how the regional financing institution would be governed.

Beijing has set a March 31 deadline for founding members to express interest in joining the AIIB.

The U.S. maintains that the Beijing-based regional bank should work in partnership with existing institutions such as the World Bank. It contends the bank might extend credit without adequate environmental, labor and social safeguards.

But it has found itself isolated on the issue as other major Western countries have indicated they plan to join.

Suga denied reports Japan was seeking more time to decide on the issue.

IBM-INTERNET OF THINGS

NEW YORK (AP) -- IBM is investing $3 billion to build an "Internet of Things" division aimed at harnessing the massive trove of data collected by smartphones, tablets, connected vehicles and appliances and using it to help companies better manage their businesses.

IBM estimates that 90 percent of all data generated by mobile and "smart" devices is never analyzed. The Armonk, New York, company hopes to change this by teaming up with companies like Twitter and the Weather Co., the owner of the Weather Channel, and developing cloud-based data services and tools for app developers.

Glenn Finch, Big Data and Analytics Lead at IBM Global Business Services says IBM is training more than 2,000 consultants, researchers and developers to help businesses come up with new ways to use the vast amounts of data that are now available. This could mean combining Twitter data with economic and weather data to predict what someone might be interested in buying.

TRAIN DERAILMENT

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- A state board has approved a $361,000 fine against CSX Transportation for a 2014 derailment in Lynchburg that spilled Bakken crude oil into the James River.

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality proposed the fine in a consent order that CSX approved. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that the State Water Control Board approved the civil penalty on Monday.

CSX also agreed to complete restoration of the river bank in the area of the derailment and monitor the river for any long-term environmental impacts from the incident.

The consent agreement also calls for CSX to pay more than $18,500 for DEQ's investigative costs.

Seventeen cars derailed on April 30, 2014, with three going into the river and one catching fire.

OIL TRAINS-SAFETY

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- The BNSF railroad says it has started taking additional safety measures for crude oil shipments because of four recent high-profile derailments in the U.S. and Canada.

Under the changes, BNSF is slowing down crude oil trains to 35 mph in cities with more than 100,000 people and increasing track inspections near waterways. The Fort Worth, Texas, based railroad also is stepping up efforts to find and repair defective wheels before they can cause derailments.

BNSF spokesman Michael Trevino says these additional safety efforts were imposed last week in response to the recent derailments, including one involving a BNSF train earlier this month near Galena, Illinois, and the Mississippi River.

In February, a 100-car Canadian National Railway train hauling crude oil and petroleum distillates derailed in a remote part of Ontario, Canada. And less than two days later, a 109-car CSX oil train derailed and caught fire near Mount Carbon, West Virginia, leaking oil into a Kanawha River tributary and burning a house to its foundation.

MORGAN STANLEY-CHINA

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The University of Michigan, defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. and a foundation helping Appalachian children all own stakes in an overseas investment fund backed by two major Chinese companies, which recently froze their stocks and missed financial reporting deadlines.

The American organizations invested in the $1.4 billion fund -- managed by New York banking giant Morgan Stanley -- for their endowments or retirement funds, parts of which could be at risk amid news that auditors have yet to sign off on the Chinese companies' books.

Those delays sometimes mean accounting troubles are ahead, which could put the investments in jeopardy. But the companies declined to explain the reasons for the unusual delays, and would say only that the auditors' work wasn't finished.

VOLVO PLANT

DETROIT (AP) -- Volvo Cars is planning to build its first-ever U.S. assembly plant as part of a push to increase sales in this country.

The $500 million plant will be Volvo's first car plant in North America.

The Swedish automaker says it has a short list of possible locations but didn't reveal them Monday. The company is expected to announce the location in the next few months.

Volvo has been owned by Chinese automaker Geely Holding since 2010. It currently has two plants in Europe and two in China.

Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson said the decision to open a U.S. plant highlights Volvo's long-term commitment to the U.S. market.

Volvo has sold cars in the U.S. since 1955, but the brand struggled after its sale to Ford Motor Co. in 1999. Its products got old and couldn't compete with newer rivals from Audi and others. Geely bought Volvo from Ford for $1.8 billion, a fraction of the $6.4 billion Ford had paid to acquire it.

GREECE BAILOUT

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsiipras says his country will be unable to repay massive bailout debts without eventually restructuring them. His statement came as pressure from lenders mounted on Athens to produce viable cost-cutting reforms to unlock emergency funds and prevent default.

Tsipras told Greek lawmakers late Monday that his two-month-old government had not abandoned its pledge to seek a debt settlement and push for more generous deficit targets.

Greece's reserves are running low on money needed to repay debts and keep the country running after troubled negotiations with lenders and early general elections in January stalled the payout of more than 7 billion euros ($7.6 billion) left in bailout funds for months.

In Brussels, an EU Commission spokesman said a deal with Greece requires a lot of technical work even after hours of meetings to discuss the Tsipras government proposals over the weekend.

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