Tag: government

Nothing a few load balancers and a debt limit increase can’t fix

From Digital Trends, the debacle that is Healthcare.gov

The reason for this nationwide headache apparently stems from poorly written code, which buckled under the heavy influx of traffic that its engineers and administrators should have seen coming. But the fact that Healthcare.gov can’t do the one job it was built to do isn’t the most infuriating part of this debacle – it’s that we, the taxpayers, seem to have forked up more than $634 million of the federal purse to build the digital equivalent of a rock.

The exact cost to build Healthcare.gov, according to U.S. government records, appears to have been $634,320,919, which we paid to a company you probably never heard of: CGI Federal. The company originally won the contract back in 2011, but at that time, the cost was expected to run “up to” $93.7 million – still a chunk of change, but nothing near where it ended up.

They are throwing more servers at the problem right this moment. It won’t help. But at least it looks pretty.

(h/t Hacker News)

MG signing off (as even the sturdiest structure built on a foundation of straw and mud is going to sink)

Something Thoreau wrote on June 16, 1854

“Suppose you have a small library, with pictures to adorn the walls – a garden laid out around – and contemplate scientific and literary pursuits, etc., etc., and discover suddenly that your villa, with all its contents, is located in hell, and that the justice of the peace is one of the devil’s angels, has a cloven foot and a forked tail – do not these things suddenly lose their value in your eyes? Are you not disposed to sell at a great sacrifice?”

He was a known tax protestor, but it is still fascinating that he was exploring deeply what government should be doing, that is to make life more valuable, at a time of relative harmony.

MG signing off (thinking old ideas are worth revisiting, even if history is doomed to ignorance)

The Standard & Poors Bullshit Meter

They may believe they accomplished something grand after the previous weekend’s debt ceiling drama, but thankful we have the S&P Bullshit Meter to keep the story straight:

S&P 500 - August 2, 2011

They may not be running completely on empty, although even that is certainly debatable. But they sure as heck are oblivious to how information flows ’round nowadays.

MG signing off (to put on my waders despite no plans to go fishing)

“Are they just checking boxes like mindless drones?”

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on missing out on federal education funds…

This ain’t no political forum, but I thoroughly enjoyed the lesson the above provides.

No accountability when it comes to accrued liabilities

I went to school in a state that mandated a fifth year to sit for the CPA exam. I was broke after 3 1/2 years, so after graduation I bolted to another state to work (and sit). Unfortunately, the Master’s in Accounting I skipped covered governmental and non-profit accounting, so I had to teach it to myself.

It never agreed with me, as it didn’t reflect reality. My instincts, it seems, were correct – the “right side” of the federal government’s balance sheet is short a few bucks…actually something like 50 trillion short, when you ignore accrued liabilities.

This isn’t newsDavid Walker, Comptroller General of the GAO, has been talking about it for a while. But major media coverage has been sparse to this point.

Spamming not an effective protest measure

As much as folks think email is a free an easy way to spam for a cause, all it winds up doing is destroying credibility.

Latest, a group that doesn’t like the way the internet is run is spamming the US Department of Commerce.

Feeling powerless? Spamming corporate and governmental bodies isn’t going to help you.

Now there are two great ways to keep calls private

First, someone noted that Skype technology possessed pretty strong encryption. And while it is only a matter of time before folks crack Skype encryption (or Skype cracks from lawsuits), in the tech sector someone else is always finding a new and better way to do things.

Next up in the “protect your phone conversations” department – Zfone, the latest creation by PGP whiz Phil Zimmerman. Wired calls it “a pretty good way to to foil the NSA”, and coming from Zimmerman, I wouldn’t doubt it. PGP was on the ITAR list for a while, and if my memory serves me correctly, Mr. Zimmerman even got a bit of heat for creating PGP in the first place.

PGP has been available as a commercial app for sometime. I’ve been using it since my Windows 2000 days to secure disk data. Steal my laptop or backup drive and you’ll find it pretty much useless for anything other than hardware resale. It wouldn’t surprise me if Zfone is hardened the same way.

So much for all that wiretapping political rigmarole.
(more…)

Google and Government Flip and Flop

Google just avoided providing the government with person-specific search data, but has to lift the hood on their engine for them nonetheless (whatever the hell that means).

Meanwhile, the center of the internet universe (according to some) has been ordered by a Federal Magistrate to turn over some crook’s Gmail account data, including any deleted emails.

With the search stuff, who cares? Everyone looking for bad stuff on the net most likely already knows where to find it. But in the second regard, I’d say this is a nail in the coffin for free, web-based email services. Even those folks (like me) who use services like Gmail on a “POP only, Delete After Download” basis now get to wonder when and where all those emails they thought they deleted might…well…er…pop up again.

I suspect that for many, Gmail is the defacto address for every Craigslist communication and email newsletter they don’t really want, so its not a problem. But, if you use such services to correspond with the attorneys forming your irrevocable trust, or set up meeting times with the boyfriend or girlfriend your husband or wife doesn’t know about, I’d say you could get finely screwed (not that you aren’t already, in either case). If these services become useless for anything but cat and mouse games with internet marketers, I don’t see longevity in them.

Of course, if your surreptitious liaison schedule is already wrapped in one of those extremely long encryption keys you generated for the sender, you aren’t going to care who gets their hands on that email – you’ll be the one in the coffin before anyone gets around to reading it.

US Gov’t tests cybersecurity and “shut-up” power

A pack of US Government agencies, along with a couple of states, performed a mock attack to test their internet security readiness.

Some of the critical points of contact – power grids, financial systems, and…..bloggers. The government wants to make sure the bloggers can’t spread misinformation. Hmm. That portion of the exercise is rumored to have included testing a system to close comments on major media’s blogs when the miscreants call those authors on the carpet. But again, that is just rumor.

Homeland Security not looking inside

Ever since 9-11, everyone has been clamoring for business with the US Government. Business is booming in and around Washington, and everyone who wants to bid on work must run through the venerable General Services Administration. Unfortunately, that organization is running a system woefully lacking in security.

It isn’t the first time the government hasn’t paid attention to their own shop. A spammer is now going to jail after bouncing his mail off government servers, and that is just news from the last week.

The government needs to wake up and smell the coffee. While they clamor to peek into Americans’ private lives, driven by groupthink paranoia, they are sitting on holes in their own systems big enough to drive trucks through.