October 25, 2013


The Express-Star


Who's responsible for the problems in the Affordable Healthcare website rollout?


AT: Contrary to what appears to be the popular subconscious belief President Obama, his advisers, his staff and almost all the people in the executive are not website code writers. 

They troubleshoot their internet problems just like any of us would: by calling the company responsible. That company is CGI Federal, the main contractor hired to create

In midweek, CGI representatives were like turtles on their backs in front of a congressional panel, waving their arms and legs around in a frenzy, deflecting the blame so that someone would kick them upright. The conservative media did just that, but I'm not buying it.

When someone is hired to do a job -- whether it's cutting a lawn, cutting hair, paving a sidewalk, building a structure -- it is understood that they are the experts. So, when CGI blames the government for setting a schedule that did not allow for proper testing of the website, where were they then? Why now say the schedule was set wrong, when you are the expert and should know the time it takes to set things up?

Whenever you role out a website such as, you do so by making sure it can accommodate for millions of people at once with little to no issue. CGI, the company hired to do this exact job, did not, and it's time we let them continue to flail their arms as the turtle-on-its-back company bakes in the spotlight.


JB: I'm about as liberal as it gets, and I am a staunch supporter of The Affordable Care Act, but the problems is experiencing are not only shocking, they're kind of hilarious. 

I mean, how do you not beta test the technological aspect of the most controversial piece of legislation from the last two decades? Members of the GOP have spent years trying to persuade the nation as a whole that Obamacare is doomed. A successful launch was the perfect rebuttal to the criticism. 

Instead, we have an almost Microsoftian error that prevents the uninsured from getting help and leaves doubts in the mind of every American.


A teacher in Danver, Mass., was found dead in the woods outside her school, and a 14-year-old student has been charged with her murder. Is it justified that he, according to the state's law, be tried as an adult?


JB: I'm not trying to take anything away from the tragic nature of Massachusetts teacher Colleen Ritzer's death. The 24-year-old's demise was horrific. Justice needs to be done. 

However, I cannot abide charging 14-year-old suspect Phillip Chism as an adult. The evidence is strong against Chism, but trying him as an adult is simply wrong. Young teenagers have some notion of consequences, but I find it very hard to believe they grasp the full gravity of their actions. I can vouch for this personally with some of my more interesting life decisions being made during my early teens. 

The last thing we as a society need to do is set some sort of precedent on how we deal with juvenile criminals in the wake of this tragedy.


AT: I have sympathy for children, and I probably have a little more sympathy than I should for criminals.

It seems to me the justice system should focus on rehabilitation, not punishment; however, there must be a punishment aspect involved when someone is found guilty of a crime. This is even more true for taking the life of another, and if this 14-year-old is, in fact, found guilty, than trying him as an adult is justified.

I remember when I was 14, and I remember my friends who were 14. The idea that a person of that age does not fully understand the actions and implications of murder is naive. These are not the sheltered, innocent kids of yesterday; the youth of today is far more advanced, regardless of whether that's a good or a bad thing.

I don't want to begin to speculate on why a 14-year-old that, according to classmates and school officials, was a quiet, happy, fairly popular student could ever commit such a terrible act. But, for anyone to commit murder, it takes some sort of thought before execution. 


Are European nations justified in their anger that the U.S. has been actively spying on not just citizens in foreign countries, but the heads of state in those countries, as well?


AT: This is the easiest question to answer: unequivocally, yes.

What is the purpose of an ally, of NATO, of military cooperation if it is not accompanied by trust? I understand the NSA collecting data on citizens in foreign countries. It should be done with the full cooperation of other national security agencies, but the need is there.

There is no conceivable reason to spy on the leaders of a country we have a huge military base in. Why do we care what's on German Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone? I fail to see how the revelation that she enjoys a lager with her sausage for Sunday afternoon lunch is relevant to our national security….unless, of course, we're unlocking the secret to a newly designed bratwurst bomb.

There is also no basis for the argument that these countries should not blame us for spying when "everyone knows" they do the same to us. I like to think a NATO ally has no reason for spying on the U.S., since there is little place for secrets among friends. Save the drama for China, Iran, Syria, Pakistan; this wanton, all-inclusive information gathering by the NSA will only waste time, money, and friendships.


JB: Well, as a man of Jewish decent I can't say I'm overly upset that we've been spying on Germany. I don't really see the point, given one of our largest military bases is located in Deutschland, but hey, safe is safe. 

In all seriousness, I side with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Spying on her phone calls seems like a waste of our time and money. Certainly the NSA has more pressing targets to which they can allocate their time and energy. 

I king of doubt the Fourth Reich is on the verge of emergence. 

I can only assume that it was a slow week, and NSA agents were throwing darts at a map to decide what world leader would be honored with their ears.