Thursday, November 28, 2013

Are we on the cusp of peace or of war?

President Rouhani of Iran is working to make life more open for Iranians and to build more bridges to the West.  See "Not for Prime Time: Music Video with Iran's President" and "Iran Invites Inspectors to Nuclear Site".

On the other hand, China has declared certain air space as requiring permission for others to enter.  The U.S., Korea, and Japan felt compelled to enter that air space.  Now China is sending fighter jets into that space.  See "China Sends Jets into 'Air Defense' Zone After Flights by Japan and Korea".

We have one situation slightly defused and another situation ignited.  The first can bring about more peace, and the second can put war a lot closer than most of us want.  Will we have a Kennedy and a Khrushchev to resolve the latter?

Flipped quote of the day – assurances not to be trusted

“It’s another broken promise and more proof this administration’s assurances have no credibility,” said House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio. “This law has been an absolute disaster, leaving us to ask ‘what’s next?’ “
– "Small-business rollout for Obamacare postponed for a year", Noam N. Levey, Star Tribune, 2013-11-27

“The war in Iraq is another broken promise and more proof the  Bush administration’s assurances have no credibility,” never said John A. Boehner, R-Ohio. “This war has been an absolute disaster, leaving us to ask ‘what’s next?’ “

“The release of Xbox/Playstation is another broken promise and more proof Microsoft's/Sony's assurances have no credibility,” never said House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio. “These products have been an absolute disaster, leaving us to ask ‘what’s next?’ “

"[In] 2007 [Microsoft] has spent more than $1 billion to repair the problems associated with the Xbox 360."
– "Xbox, PlayStation deal with launch glitches", Derrick L. Lang, Associated Press, from Star Tribune, 2013-11-28

I wish that those who complain about government inefficiency or corporate missteps would realize that both are organizations of people and people are bound to over-promise and under-deliver.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Quote of the day - civilian control out of control

"[T]he notion of civilian control of the military became meaningless, since civilians were the leading militarists."
- Michael Mann, "Incoherent Empire", quoted by Andrew J. Bacevich in "The New American Militarism".

This was in reference to the reaction to 9/11.  Same section states that military felt it failed to protect country against attack, but is it the military's job to stop criminals?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Google does no evil?

After learning that Google had joined ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, I sent the following letter (paper) to Larry Page, CEO and a founder of Google.  I forgot to include that Google got its start with a federal grant.

By the way, I think that paper letters have far more influence than petitions, online or otherwise.  It's easy to add your name to a petition; it takes time and thought to write a letter.

I didn't take the time to fit into my letter a reminder that Google's start was made possible by a government grant.  See the very interesting "On the Origins of Google".

Larry Page
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View CA 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

I was surprised and disappointed to learn that Google had joined ALEC, an organization that is opposed to much of what Google stands for:

From “Ten things we know to be true” on your company philosophy:

“You can make money without doing evil.”

ALEC is an anti-democratic organization if there was ever one.

Consider the words of Adam Smith:

"The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order [those who live by profit], ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it."

Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith, 1776

For more tidbits from Adam Smith, see “The Invisible Adam Smith” at

I wonder if I want to keep using Google products.  But maybe I should use Google products to fight whatever “evil” Google may do.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Who will you thank at Thanksgiving?

Most people will give thanks for their Thanksgiving dinner to God and to the preparers.  Consider all the others who helped make your dinner possible.

First, consider the people who built the roads for you to get to the store and all those who paid taxes for those roads, both now and long ago.

Consider the people at the grocery store who stocked the shelves, coolers, and freezers with all the food you bought and who checked you out and bagged your groceries.

Consider the people who drove the trucks on the above-mentioned roads to deliver the food to the grocery store.

Consider the people in the warehouses who unloaded the goods from one set of trucks coming from processors, stacked them, and then loaded them on another set of trucks for delivery to local stores.

Consider the people who drove the trucks on the above-mentioned roads to deliver the goods to a warehouse.  Sometimes they are driving long hours under a deadline.

Consider the people who processed the food at a cannery, a packager, or a slaughterhouse.  Many of them work under conditions and wages you wouldn’t tolerate.

Consider the people who drove the trucks on the above-mentioned roads to deliver the produce or animals to a cannery, a packager, or a slaughterhouse.

Consider the state and federal inspectors who try to enforce those “burdensome” regulations so that you have safe food, uncontaminated by unwanted organisms and chemicals.

Consider the environmentalists who want to reduce the contaminants in our air and water that could make your food less healthy.

Consider the people who picked the fruit and vegetables that are on your Thanksgiving table.  Some of them worked in air-conditioned harvester cabs; others of them picked by hand so long that they wondered if they could stand straight at the end of the day.  Some of them owned the land they worked and kept any profits.  Some worked seasonally at wages you wouldn’t tolerate.

Consider the people who ran the farms.  Some of them were corporate managers and some of them were resident farmer-owners.  These latter took many risks to produce your food besides the general risk of physical injury.  Was the weather going to be just right to give a great crop?  Were the market prices going to be favorable enough to pay their bank loans and still have money left over to live on until the next crops came in?

Consider the local bankers who made many of the loans to farmers.  Did they evaluate the risk properly so that the bank would have enough profit to continue the next year?  Now savings account interest is a joke, but when it was a decent return would the banker have enough profit to pass on to his or her savings customers?

Consider all those who contribute indirectly to your having an enjoyable meal.

If the weather is bad, consider all the snowplow operators who work long, weird hours so that you or your guests could get safely to wherever your Thanksgiving meal will be.

Consider the police who are out patrolling while you travel or are eating.

Consider the firefighters who may have to jump up from their meal at moment’s notice because somebody knocked over a candle or burned themselves with hot food.

Consider the complexity behind some of our simple pleasures.  Without the efforts of hundreds and thousands of people we may never meet, we would have to go out ourselves to grow and harvest what we enjoy in good company in a warm house.

Also posted on the Reader Weekly website at

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Did I miss an important call?

We must get five or six junk calls a day, no longer just at dinner time.  If we don't recognize the voice and the caller doesn't identify himself or herself but only asks for one of us by name, we either hang up or say whoever was asked for is not available at the moment.

A few minutes ago a reasonably sounding female voice asked if I was here.  I replied "He is not available at the moment" and hung up.

Then I regretted my action.  I do have a couple of outstanding discussions with a company or two.  Could it have been one of these calling back as a follow-up?

My wife said the person should have identified herself and would call another time if the business was important.  But I have reservations about the caller identifying herself.  The caller may not have known if she was calling a home or an office.  Would the callee want the answerer to know who the call was from?

I suppose I should have at least asked who was calling before hanging up.

Good service news

Geek Squad sent me email the other day with a link to a status page for the repair of the laptop that I spilled coffee on.  I saw that it was shipped on Saturday.  Today I saw from the UPS tracking number that it had been delivered to a loading dock in Kentucky this morning at about 8:30.  Later the status page said it had been received at 10:57

I think there may be a discrepancy between the UPS time and the Geek Squad time.  The first is using local time and the latter is using customer's time.

Anyhow, as the afternoon progressed, the messages were needed a part at 1:42, part in stock at 1:43, and work completed at 3:16.  I supposed I'll get a status tomorrow that it was shipped, and I will probably be able to pick it up Friday, maybe Saturday.

This incident has sold me on comprehensive coverage for more expensive items.  I don't know what the repair would have cost me without the coverage.  And as I get older and more clumsy, this kind of coverage seems like a very good idea.

The Russians are back!

Me and my fat fingers!  I posted an entry on how the page views of this blog from Russia had gone to zero.  Now the Russians are back and the U.S. page views are down and far less than the Russian views.

I just can't believe that there are more Russians who are truly interested in what I post than Americans.

If you reside in the U.S. and like this blog, please tell your friends.  If you reside outside the U.S. and actually read this blog, I thank you for your interest and I hope I can keep your interest.  Maybe if the ranking of this blog goes up enough, the reverse spam will go down.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Paranormal events

Wisconsin Public Radio's To the Best of Our Knowledge had an hour devoted to ghost stories recently.

One of the sections was on people who think of someone dying at another place and they are proven right.  What too many people don't consider is all the people who thought of someone dying and no such thing had happened.

I woke up one night certain that a friend had died.  This was almost two decades ago and he is still alive.

Too often people are incredulous about some "miracle" but completely ignore all the times the "miracles" didn't happen under similar circumstances.

One of the anecdotes I read long ago was a picture of a shipwreck where survivors were huddled on shore.  Supposedly these survivors had prayed they would reach safety.  The cynic asked about all those who prayed to reach safety but drowned.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Whither America? Idealism or Ideology?

The following was published in the Reader Weekly of Duluth on 2013-11-14 and can be found at

Idealism is a set of goals; ideology is a set of rules.  Idealism is a guide to how you act; ideology is a set of rules on how you and everybody else must act.  Idealism takes into account reality; ideology creates its own “reality”.  “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.”  This is attributed to Karl Rove or Dick Cheney.  They ignore to our detriment Newton's third law of motion:  "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."  If you create your own reality, then others will create their own reality.  Overwhelming force meets roadside bomb.

The Alworth Center for the Study of Peace and Justice had two recent speakers who addressed these issues.  Robert J. Art, author of “A Grand Strategy for America”, cautiously leaned toward ideology.  Andrew J. Bacevich, author of “The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism” and “Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War”, is fed up with the “Imperial Presidency” and the “Wise Men” who are getting us deeper and deeper into problems,  thus creating even more problems.

Art states that we must strike a balance between isolationism and being the world’s policeman. Isolationism often means withdrawing from most of the world’s affairs.  This is rather difficult given how intertwined the world economy has become.  We have already seen how often being the world’s policeman causes more problems than it solves.

Art says we have six important interests:

1) Protect the homeland and prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction
2) Keep deep peace among Eurasian great powers
3) Assure assets (oil) for market
4) International economic openness
5) Democracy’s spread and observance of human rights
6) Avert severe climate change

To support these interests, Art gives eight grand strategies, including dominion, isolationism, and selective engagement.  Dominion just won’t work; it will get us into deeper and deeper military involvement.  The U.S. has tried it on various scales for over a century, and our politicians still haven’t learned.  Isolationism has many aspects, but if the U.S. isolates itself from the rest of the world, will the rest of the world help if the U.S. needs help?

Art prefers selective engagement.  Selective engagement is based on fundamental goals, it concentrates on those “regions of most consequence to the United States”, “it maintains a forward-based defense posture”, “it prescribes a set of judicious rules for when to wage wars”, and “it calls for American leadership.”

But the devil is in the details.  It seems to me that this selective engagement has been going on for decades.  President after president, Republican or Democrat, has had a set of fundamental goals, has thought that region after region was consequential, has had “defensive” forces all over the world, has thought his rules for war were correct, and of course, has insisted on being first among “equals”.

In both “The Limits of Power” and “Washington Rules”, Bacevich examines the consequences of strategies like Art proposes.  We have moved to an imperial presidency where the President not only does his best to ignore Congress in “power projection” but ignores the military and diplomatic departments and huddles with his “Wise Men”.  Kennedy did it in the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Bush did it with Afghanistan and Iraq.  Obama is doing it with drones in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  And often the President doesn’t understand that he, the unelected “leader of the free world” is being manipulated by his “Wise Men”–McNamara, Cheney, and so on.  Bacevich writes about Kennedy’s team, "With the certainty of men unacquainted with the actual use of power, they did not doubt their ability to compel war to do their bidding."  This could apply to just about every inner circle since.
Bacevich sees U.S. leaders having a credo backed up by a “sacred trinity”.

Credo: “The United States—and the United States alone—to lead, save, liberate, and ultimately transform the world.”

Sacred trinity: "an abiding conviction that the minimum essentials of international peace and order require the United States to maintain a global military presence, to configure its forces for global power projection, and to counter existing or anticipated threats by relying on a policy of global interventionism”.

Bacevich suggests an alternate credo: “America's purpose is to be America, striving to fulfill the aspirations expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as reinterpreted with the passage of time and in light of hard-earned experience.”

He proposes a new trinity:

“First, the purpose of the U.S. military is not to combat evil or remake the world, but to defend the United States and its most vital interests.”

“Second, the primary duty station of the American soldier is in America.”

“Third, consistent with the Just War tradition, the United States should employ force only as a last resort and only in self-defense.”

Bacevich quotes Reinhold Niebuhr frequently:
“[H]e warned that what he called ‘our dreams of managing history’–born of a peculiar combination of arrogance and narcissism–posed a potentially mortal threat to the United States.”  “The Irony of American History”, 1952

Niebuhr predates Pete Seeger who said it more simply, “When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn.”

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A bad tech week

Besides the problem of my iPhone not turning on yesterday, I spilled coffee on my laptop keyboard this morning.  I tried holding too many things at the same time.  Now the shift key on one side doesn't work and both option keys don't work.

Besides that, I've been trying to sync my calendars among my laptop, my iPhone, and my iPad.  I've read post after post on this problem and have found no satisfactory answer.  People on one device never get transferred to another device.  I used Contact Cleaner on my laptop address book and wound up deleting a couple hundred people on my iPad.  Needless to say, I did not sync my address book to my iPhone.

Then I received a letter from my bank that they had moved money from my savings account to my checking account.  On my first try to access my account, their system was unavailable.  When I finally got on, I found that there had been yet another transfer made.  As I reviewed the online statement, I found that I had transferred money from checking to savings instead of the other way around.  At least I have an account that makes sweeps rather than overdraft charges.

Now I'm off to Best Buy to find out if the Geek Squad can repair my keyboard with little time and no charge.  I assume there will be a charge because it was my fault rather than Apple's.  I do hope that I move money the right way to pay any charges.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

PANIC! My iPhone won't turn on!

Boy!  All those complaining about the glitches about the Affordable Care Act should go to the discussion boards of almost any hardware or software company.  Dozens and dozens of people complain about problems and the companies never respond directly.

This evening my iPhone would not turn on after my not having used it for an hour or so.  I held and held the power button or the home button.  Nada.  I planned on going to Best Buy tomorrow about it, I have a two-year warranty contract.  But first, why not try the Apple Community?

Ah ha!  People have been complaining about this problem for over a year.  I found at least four threads about the problem.  The solution provided by other users is simple: hold the power button and the home button down at the same time.  I think my screen came on within a few seconds.  Some had to hold it even longer.  Some had no success.

By the way, when I had my iPhone working again, I noticed I had an App update.  The reason for the update?  Bug fixes.  When was that app updated last?  About a week ago.  The reasons?  Bug fixes!

If you like the Boundary Waters of Minnesota…

…make your voice heard.

I received this as part of an email from Sustainable Ely:

Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness and Sustainable Ely hosted Bill Carter, author of Boom, Bust, Boom, in Ely last week.  He spoke to over 120 people in a packed venue about the impacts sulfide ore mining will have on this area if it is allowed to proceed.

There was a great deal of worthwhile information in his presentation, but two points stood out.

    •    Towns with copper mining are not nice places to live or visit.  He stated his belief that sulfide ore mining will change this area.  The pollution, the industrial activity, the make up and culture of this community, and the current sustainable economy will be impacted, and not in a positive way.

    •    We need to make our story national.  People from around the country (and world) come to recreate here, vacation here, and live here.  We need everyone with a connection to this area or who wants to protect public lands to know about this possible sulfide ore mining.  It is possible to stop this, but we need to spread the word and engage more people.  NMW has taken the lead on this by forming a national coalition to stop mining in the Boundary Waters watershed. (More information will be coming out about this in the weeks to come.) The work has started, but there is much, much more to be done.

Democratic capitalism is an oxymoron

Democratic means government by the people.  It is commonly understood that each person has one vote.

Capitalism is raising money for an enterprise with the contributions of a few people or thousands of people.  Each contributor of capital to the enterprise has as many votes as the number of shares he or she holds.  One can argue that this is fair; the person who put one million dollars into the company had a greater interest than the person who put one hundred dollars into the company.

In practice, capitalism becomes distorted to the rule of a few.  Capitalism leads to a plutocracy both in the enterprise and in the various governments.

In the enterprise, members of the board periodically award themselves and the top executives shares in the enterprise, thus increasing the number of votes they have, at no or low cost.

In government, the executives and other large shareholders put a lot of money into lobbying government for laws in their favor and into campaigns of political candidates who they believe will be sympathetic to their interests.  Regular readers of this blog know what Adam Smith thought of that influence.  See "The Invisible Adam Smith".

Capitalism, when there are many companies with similar focus, is a very good idea.  It means that there are many people working on bringing new or lower cost products to the market.  This doesn't mean that government can't produce good ideas; it just does not have enough resources to produce as many good ideas as are needed.  And often government is needed to encourage good ideas in certain fields or to curtail bad ideas that are harmful to the public.  In fact, corporations fall all over themselves to get government contracts to build roads or build more lethal weapons.

You might be able to come up with a better blended phrase that reflects the need for both democracy and capitalism.  My best shot today is balance of democracy and capitalism.  Now the next question is: when will this balance be achieved?

Monday, November 11, 2013

I don't miss Russian reverse spamming

Starting about a week ago, this blog has had no readers from Russia.  Up to then, the number of page views from Russia often outnumbered the page views from the U.S.  Then the page views from Russian started dropping.  My minuscule page count dropped somewhat, but it seemed my U.S. views went up.  Not to stellar heights, but a bit better than previously.

I don't know why the Russian reverse spamming stopped, but I'll take any and all of the following: they saw no response from me,  Russian authorities put some of them out of business, or internet authorities in the U.S and elsewhere stopped the spammers probes.

Now, is the increase in page views because reverse spammers have moved to the U.S. or is the increase because real readers are telling their friends or I'm thinking up clever keywords.  I do now that some of my entries on Kathleen Sebelius are still getting many hits.

Whatever, I do appreciate the two or three dozen regular readers.  I  hope I can give you something of interest several times a week.

Spam français

For francophones, here is the text of an email I received this past week; the email gives itself away as spam.  For francophobes, an explanation follows.

Chér(e) client(e)

Nous vous informons que votre compte arrive a expiration dans mois 48 heures, il est impérratif d'effecteur une vérfication des vos informations prérsent, sans quoi votre compte sera détruit. Cliquez simplement sur le lien ci-dessous et ouvrer une session ' l'aide de votre Apple ID et de votre mot de passe.

Vérfiez maintenat.

Merci, L'assistance a la clientéle Apple

This email is filled with misspellings: dropped letters and unaccented letters.  It is misdirected; what makes the sender think that I have a French Apple account.  And the dead give-away that too many gullible people miss, one never acts on a strange email that asks for the recipient's password (mot de passe).

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Elections – Congratulations and condolences

To all those elected or re-elected yesterday all across the country, congratulations on the support you received from voters.  May you serve wisely.

To all candidates, elected or not, condolences on the poor support you received from the people. If Duluth is any indicator, turnout was probably a third of the registered voters.  That means two-thirds of the registered voters did not show support for any of the candidates.

If you lost and are willing to try again, get a larger number of supporters who will turn to get even more voters out on your next try.  If you are successful, may you have received the votes of a majority of registered voters.

If you won, may you have the humility to realize that more registered voters did not support you than those who did.  If you run again, get a larger number of supporters who will turn out to get even more voters on your next try.  If you are successful, may you have received the votes of a majority of registered voters.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

I love taxes and regulations!

Printed in the Reader Weekly, 2013-10-31 and found at

I submitted it as follows; I did remove from this copy the missing section in last week's Reader Weekly.

Well, not all that much.  What I like is all the benefits that taxes and regulations bring me and many other people.

Like many, I find paying taxes a chore.  I have to set aside money twice a year for property taxes.  I have to keep lots of records and fill out detailed forms to calculate how much federal and state income tax I owe.  And because I don’t have withholding on all of my income, I have to estimate these taxes quarterly and pay a portion of the presumed shortfall.

A few years ago I had a sore chest, extreme sweating, and nausea.  Was this a heart attack?  Don’t hesitate; call 9-1-1!  Within five minutes a fire truck with four fire fighters/emergency medical technicians arrived.  Without going into all the details, I was hospitalized but it was determined that I did not have a heart attack.  My taxes, your taxes, and the taxes of many others paid for this quick response.

Was this an entitlement?

One of the ER doctors I saw lived in our house a few years before we bought it.  He was a graduate of the UMD medical school.  State taxes paid some of the cost of operating UMD.  Would there be as many doctors and nurses if they or their parents had to pay the full cost of their education, starting with elementary school?

Is this an entitlement?

Keep in mind George Washington’s farewell address, which contained among much other ignored advice:

“[I]t is essential that you should practically bear in mind, that towards the payment of debts there must be Revenue; that to have Revenue there must be taxes; that no taxes can be devised, which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant…”

Most of us drive regularly on streets and our commerce depends on the roads.  They cost a lot more than the streets of George Washington’s time.  And city streets like George Washington rode his horse on still existed in my lifetime.  See “11 Traveled Dirt Streets to Be Hard Surfaced at No Cost to Property”, Kansas City Star, 1944-04-06.

Are hard-surfaced streets an entitlement?

Red lights are a bothersome regulation.  Why should I wait while somebody comes by on the cross street?  Well, when I’m driving on the cross street, I appreciate that the other traffic will stop periodically so that I may drive into the intersection safely.

Requiring auto insurance is a bothersome regulation.  But it sure is nice when another person is at fault for banging my car that their insurance will pay for the damage.  I think it was in Michigan that a driver came out from a parking lot and put a dent in the side of our car.  He didn’t stop, and so I made a U-turn and followed him a block or two before he stopped.  We pleasantly exchanged information and we went on our way.  But after a few blocks we saw his insurance agency.  We stopped in and related the incident.  Oh, but he buys the insurance and cancels within a week or so.  Off we went to the police station and told our story again.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everybody followed these “burdensome” regulations?

Among my allergies is quaternium-15, an ingredient in many lotions.  Imagine my surprise when a hypoallergenic lotion contained quaternium-15.  If regulations didn’t require a list of ingredients, would I wind up having an allergic reaction and not know why?

My wife has to stay away from soy lecithin.  Dark chocolate is a healthy treat.  Many dark chocolate bars contain soy lecithin.  If regulations didn’t require the labeling of ingredients, what would happen to her if she ingested soy lecithin unknowingly?

When all the nutrition information was mandated on foods, I pooh poohed it.  Come on, you know a candy bar has lots of calories; so stay away from candy bars if you have a weight problem.  I recently had a colonoscopy and was told not to take iron before the procedure.  Chocolate was one of the OK foods.  But, dark chocolate contains 6 to 35 percent of the daily value of iron.  If I had that much iron would it have changed the diagnosis?  I stayed away from chocolate and I had a negative result.  Without the regulated nutritional information I might have had a false positive result.

Many corporations regard regulations against air and water pollution as burdensome and anti-free market.  Many studies have shown that many of the chemicals in our environment are causing brain impairment in children and that they don’t perform well in school.  Oh, poor school performance is not caused by pollution, it’s the “greedy teachers’ unions”!

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. supposedly said he liked taxes, “They buy civilization.”  I would add without regulation, we would not have civilization.

Letter - ACA and Murphy's Law

Almost two weeks ago I sent to the Duluth News Tribune about the computer problems with the Affordable Care Act.  I had given up on its being published because of the huge number of election letters the DNT has been publishing.

At a meeting this morning, a friend said he liked my letter in the DNT.  I was surprised and checked with my iPhone.  It was below the last letter I looked at when I read the DNT online this morning.  I would have seen it if I had just scrolled a bit further down.

You can find the published version at  Chuck Frederick, the opinion editor, did a good job of editing my letter, adding a phrase and some punctuation.  What I actually sent follows:

A major computer system has problems; what's new?  In this case, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) software for signing up.  I've been working with computer systems for over fifty years and Murphy's law is still in force.  If something can go wrong, it will!

Decades ago a customer computer crashed regularly.  It was my job to find out why.  It took months of asking questions until I received sufficient information from the customer to isolate the problem to a single program.  That information allowed me to determine the crash was related to a hardware problem.

Murphy's law is working today in almost every computer and every program we use.  How often do you install version x.0 of some software and within weeks you receive version x.0.1?

Those working on the ACA software have my sympathy.  May you ask the right questions.