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Dems’ healthcare act, the motherload of all #failwhales, and the GOP Shutdown

The spin on healthcare act, the debt ceiling and the debt – where’s the off ramp for either party or for the American public at large, and who holds the cards?

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Healthcare Act debacle, debt, and the Shutdown Showdown

The Democratic spin so far is that “overwhelming” demand and desperation for healthcare are the sole problems with logging into or staying on the healthcare.gov website exchanges. I’m not desperate or in demand of a new tax or mandate, I’m simply interested in learning how true or false everything we’ve heard about the Affordable Care Act is. It is curious that everyone I’ve asked (Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Tea Party, or Independent) confesses that their interest in logging in is simply curiosity, a curiosity the administration doesn’t seem to be able or willing to answer – no numbers have yet to be released on how many uninsured have signed up versus profiles created.

Today the site is easier to log into, but the new problem with is that once logged in, you get a simple “downstream error,” or a complete profile circle jerk, rendering the site as useless as it was a week ago. Spits and sputters are one thing, but anyone launching a popular site knows you roll out softly, possibly by beta invite, and scale the impact of traffic so the backend can handle it. Why a launch strategy wasn’t employed by the administration is beyond comprehension of any tech company in the know, but the rush to be right on healthcare seems to have trumped common sense.

The growing disillusionment of Americans

The spin is thick from all parties, and consumers hope they’ll find amazing rates on the other side of the massive federal #failwhale website healthcare.gov, but confidence isn’t high because the positive stories are far and few between. The Associated Press last week doted over a few success stories (later revealing the main poster child was a fake), but what struck me were the horror stories, and actually how few positive stories there were at all – especially from those realizing this isn’t exactly free healthcare as I’ve heard many call it, especially during the election cycle in 2012.

We would like to see some accountability from Washington on the numbers, the internal polling data from the White House on public sentiment regarding experience on healthcare.gov, lest holding out on the government shutdown might be a better idea than opening the government, as Americans learn that a year delay may actually be a better idea. It’s not hostage taking, it’s called give and take in negotiating, and this President isn’t negotiating on healthcare, or even the debt.

The escalating rhetoric

The Republicans have the upper hand in this standoff in Washington, if they can stay out of their own way. At first, I believed that delaying the mandate for a year was a noble idea that would help average Americans, but now I believe it to be an out for the President.

My take on what I’ve seen and heard from the White House is a straight line attack on Tea Party elected members, and the rhetoric seems to be escalating with claims that just a few members hold the House hostage in the shutdown showdown – The President said as much in his press event yesterday. This is the White House not allowing a good crisis to go to waste. Spurn the Tea Party now before the midterms – a likely winner in local races with voters who aren’t really listening to both sides of the issue, however, the inability to navigate the healthcare.gov exchange would be a strong counter that Republicans stood their ground.

Is this the future waiting room at the doctor’s office?

If united, Republicans win either way because average voters are soon going to realize that if enough young people do not enter the exchanges to offset costs, we’re likely to see a new payroll tax similar to that of social security (and we all know the ending of the social security movie if something isn’t done to correct the shortfall).

The alternate route of a single payer system may be highly likely as the talking points are shifting in that direction already as if to prepare the American public that there may be a more practical (as Democrats would say) solution, which was the Democratic wish all along.

It’s been a week today and our family has yet to see even a set of options in the system, we’ve given up and are now shopping the private sector for an alternative. We’ve discussed it and have realized that if the mess we’re seeing now online looks anything like our future waiting rooms of doctors’ offices across the country, being insured privately outside of the exchanges may be the more preferred method of avoiding the aggravation, and our doctor may appreciate it even more. But that’s the real problem – no one knows, and no real answers came on October 1st except that something is wrong here, really wrong, especially when Experian is embedded in the online transaction to verify your identity. Is your health to become a credit risk probability? It only makes sense.

The way forward

In fairness, as an (I) Independent, I’ve been leery of the Healthcare Act from it’s first mention, and today I am no less concerned, but I did hope to log in and be completely wrong and find the healthcare my family needs.

In no way do I believe the explosion of visits to the site had anything to do with purchasing healthcare, it had to do with wanting to finally know the reality of what healthcare will look like from now on, and it looks like we’re going to have to wait a bit longer to see how the movie really ends.

I’d ask the Republicans to step aside on the Affordable Health Care Act, and not allow the Administration a one year reprieve – get to the real meat at hand, which is the national debt and the debt ceiling. Open the Government and get to the debt ceiling debate and put healthcare back on the shoulders of the White House. That’s the offer that should be made by Republicans – real budget reform for the debt ceiling and deal with social security and medicare once and for all. Land an immigration bill we can all live with and remove the President’s stick. The reforms of the Clinton second term could be a reality right now, but October 17 is virtually minutes away.

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network for tech and entrepreneurs, proudly celebrating 10 years in publishing, recently ranked as the #5 startup in Austin. Before founding AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation and also acquired several other firms. His resume prior includes roles at Apple and Kroger Foods, specializing in marketing, communications, and technology integration. He is a recipient of the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), has built partnerships and bridges between tech recruiters and the best tech talent in the industry, and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular monthly networking events. Benn does not venture into the spotlight often, rather believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits, develops, and gives all credit to those he's empowered.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. rolandestrada

    October 9, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    I mostly agree with “The way forward”. I checked the California healthcare page. It’s more expensive than my current plan. My current plan by the way went to $270 from $230. So much for lowering my health insurance.

    Interestingly, the part of Obamacare that intrigued me the most – purchasing insurance across state lines – is mostly not mentioned. That part of the bill has also been hampered with minimum care standards for all states. I’m not even sure when it is supposed to take effect. Introducing true market competition is one of the best ways to help lower premiums and thereby give people the ability to obtain affordable healthcare.

    The debt ceiling is truly a ridiculous issue. We are one of only two Democratic countries that has a debt ceiling. There is no point of having a debt ceiling if we constantly surpass it. Get rid of it. The President doesn’t make the issue any clearer when he makes illogical statements as he did in yesterday’s press conference, “And because it’s called raising the debt ceiling, I think a lot of Americans think it’s raising our debt. It is not raising our debt. This does not add a dime to our debt.” Crazy! It clearly raises out debt.

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Opinion Editorials

Study says women need to be seen as “warm” to be considered confident

(EDITORIAL) A new study reveals that despite progress, women are still successful when they fall into a stereotype. Let’s discuss.

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About 15 years ago, I took a part-time job in a mental health clinic handling bookkeeping and billing. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but I attacked the job with what I felt was confidence. For the first few days, I simply felt as if I was an imposter. I kept asking questions and pushing forward, even though I didn’t make much progress. Within just a few days, I felt the hostility of the office manager.

It got progressively worse, and I couldn’t figure out what the heck I’d done to make her so confrontational with me. I thought I was pleasant and respectful of her position, and I was getting along with the other employees. When I talked to our boss, I was told that I intimidated the office manager. HUH? Me? Intimidating? I was a complete mess at the time. I could barely put together a business casual wardrobe. My emotional health was so fragile that I rarely went anywhere new. And she found me intimidating?

Researchers have been studying how people judge others. Susan Fiske, researcher out of Princeton, found that competence and warmth are two of the dimensions used to judge others. Based on that research, Laura Guillén, Margarita Mayo, and Natalia Karelaia studied the competence and warmth at a software company with 236 engineers.  Guillén and her team collected data at two separate times about these engineers and their confidence and influence within the organization.

They found that “men are seen as confident if they are seen as competent, but women are seen as confident only if they come across as both competent and warm.

Women must be seen as warm in order to capitalize on their competence and be seen as confident and influential at work; competent men are seen as confident and influential whether they are warm or not.”

We encourage women to be confident, but based on current research, it may not be enough to close the gender gap in the workplace. A woman must be seen as helpful and dedicated to others to have the same influence as a man. As a woman, it’s easy to be seen as the #bossbitch when you have to make tough decisions. Those same decisions, when made by a man might be considered just “business as normal.”

I guess the lesson is that women still have to work twice as hard as men just to be seen as equals. I know that I have to work on empathy when I’m in an office environment. That office manager isn’t the only person who has thought I’m intimidating. I’ve heard it from it others, but you know what?  As a self-employed writer, I’d rather be seen as undeterred and daunting than submissive and meek.

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Opinion Editorials

“Starting a business is easy,” said only one guy ever

(OPNION EDITORIAL) Between following rules, finding funding, and gathering research, no business succeeds without lifting a finger.

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While browsing business articles this week, I came across this one, “Top 10 Business Ideas You Can Start for Free With Barely Lifting a Finger.” These types of articles make me mad. I can’t think of many successful freelancers or entrepreneurs who don’t put in hours of blood, sweat and tears to get a business going.

The author of the article is Murray Newlands, a “VIP Contributor.” Essentially, he’s a freelancer because he also contributes to Forbes, HuffPro and others. He’s the founder of ChattyPeople.com, which is important, because it’s the first business idea he promotes in the article.

But when I pull up his other articles on Entrepreneur.com, I see others like “How to Get Famous and Make Money on YouTube,” “Win Like A Targaryen: 10 Businesses You Can Start for Free,” and “10 Ventures Young Entrepreneurs Can Start for Cheap or Free.”

I seriously cannot believe that Entrepreneur.com keeps paying for the same ideas over and over.

The business ideas that are suggested are pretty varied. One suggestion is to offer online classes. I wonder if Newlands considered how long it takes to put together a worthy curriculum and how much effort goes into marketing said course.

Then, you have to work out the bugs, because users will have problems. How do you keep someone from stealing your work? What happens when you have a dispute?

Newlands suggests that you could start a blog. It’s pretty competitive these days. The most successful bloggers are ones that really work on their blog, every day. The bloggers have a brand, offer relevant content and are ethical in how they get traffic.

Think it’s easy? Better try again.

I could go on. Every idea he puts up there is a decent idea, but if he thinks it will increase your bottom line without a lot of hard work and effort, he’s delusional.

Today’s entrepreneurs need a plan. They need to work that plan, rethink it and keep working. They have to worry about liability, marketing and keeping up with technologies.

Being an entrepreneur is rewarding, but it’s hard work. It is incredibly inappropriate and grossly negligent to encourage someone to risk everything they have and are on the premise of not lifting a finger.

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Opinion Editorials

New age stranger danger: teaching kids about AI

(OPINION EDITORIAL) The world is changing and so is technology. As tech changes so must we, in teaching kids about the dangers about AI.

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When I was younger, when my siblings and I would come home from school, we were required to nourish our minds for an hour (study, homework, read, do math practice, whatever we were feeling that day) and then we were banished from the house until dinner.

We had to go outside and create our own fun. We rode bikes to friends houses, we went “fishing” in the creek, sometimes before we left the house we’d search the couch for loose change and go to our favorite corner store and share a bag of skittles.

Our neighborhood was a safe one — it was one of those ideal 90s neighborhoods where our house was seated on the end of a cul-de-sac so there was little traffic and there were enough kids on the street to field two kickball teams.

Each parent on the street was allowed to reprimand us and there were rarely any locked doors. As a 10 year old it felt like ultimate freedom. But, with that freedom came a very important lesson in strangers and what to do if we were ever approached by one.

I’m sure stranger danger is still a thing taught by parents and schools alike but we went from don’t talk to strangers online or get in strangers’ cars to getting online to request a stranger to drive us somewhere.

With the advancement of technology has come a readiness to bring strangers in (/near / to) our homes. The most invitations coming from those personal assistants many homes can’t seem to function without.

Alexa, Google Home, Bixby or whatever assistant you may use are all essentially strangers that you are willingly bringing into your home.

Just yesterday I had a conversation with a college kid that didn’t know that the microphone on those things are always on — as such is true with the Facebook, Instagram and Facebook Messenger apps.

In a recent article from Rachel Botsman (BOTSman, hmmmm), she describes the experience her three year old had with an Alexa.

Over the course of the interactions, her daughter asks the bot a few silly questions, requests a few items to be bought, asks Alexa a few opinions, she ultimately sums up her daughter’s experience as saying, “Today, we are no longer trusting machines just to do something, but to decide what to do and when to do it. The next generation will grow up in an age where it is normal to be surrounded by autonomous agents, with or without cute names.”

I’m not a mother and I’m definitely old enough to be extremely skeptical of machines (iRobot anyone?) but the effects smart bots will undoubtedly have on future generations have me genuinely concerned. Right now it seems as harmless as asking those assistants to order more toilet paper, or to check the weather or to see which movies are screening but what will it become in the future?

A MIT experiment cited in the Botsman article 27 children, aged between three and 10, interacted with Alexa, Google Home, Julie (a chatbot) and, finally, Cozmo (a robot in the form of a toy bulldozer), which are all AI devices/ toys.

The study concluded that almost 80 per cent of the children thought that Alexa would always tell the truth.

Let me repeat that — 80 PERCENT OF THE KIDS BELIEVE THAT THE AIS, CREATED BY COMPANIES WHO WANT TO SELL PRODUCTS, WILL ALWAYS TELL THE TRUTH.

The study went on to conclude that some of the children believed they could teach the devices something useful, like how to make a paper plane, suggesting they felt a genuine, give-and-take relationship with the machines.

All of these conclusions beg the question, how can we teach kids (and some adults if we’re being honest) about security and privacy in regards to new technology? How do we teach kids about commercialism and that as innocent as they may seem, not every device was designed altruistically?

We are quickly approaching an age where the strangers we introduce our kids to aren’t the lurkers in the park with the missing dog or the candy in the van, but rather, a robot voice that can tell a joke and give you the weather and order +$70M worth of miscellaneous stuff.

So now, it’s on us. Children of our own or not, we have to start thinking about best practices when it comes to teaching children about the appropriate time to trust in a computer. If the 5 year olds with smart devices are any indicator, teaching kids to be stingy with their trust in AIs will be an uphill battle.

This story was first published here in October of 2017.

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