Category Archives: Privacy

Privacy, And Why It Matters

The following is a guest post from JV:

Assistant Dear Leader Nancy Pelosi has told us explicitly- “Every aspect of our lives must be subjected to an inventory.” And who better to inventory it, than the compassionate, caring, DMV-like state! And I just can’t wait until we have those Red Guard-like “self-criticism struggle sessions!” I’m sure that will fix things in a jiffy!

“If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know,” Google non-Einstein CEO Eric Schmidt said in 2009, “maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” Really, Eric? How’s that prostate health of your’s going along? And tell us what you REALLY think of those Kate Upton pix on the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. Y’know….what you really think.  Anything else about your health or, um….marital and/or sex life you care to let us all know about? If not, “maybe you shouldn’t be doing ‘it’ in the first place,” right?  BTW, care to tell us how you ran Novell into the ground, Mr. Schmidt? Full details, please! Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder, says the same thing as Herr Schmidt. Just curious though: Does Mr. Zuckerberg mind if the paparazzi join him in bed tonight? Would be great  to get some close up photos of him in his PJs clutching his fuzzy yellow teddy bear!  Does he close the door when in the washroom, or taking a shower? Care to give us the complete details of your latest spat with your significant other? Or is that others?  And DO tell us all about your early dating life, struggles with pimples, and how you felt when you didn’t make the football team when you were 15. Oh yes…can you provide your SSN, Visa card number and cell phone number while you are at it?

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And why, exactly, are Obama’s records – like his medical or university ones – sealed? Can we start with this new Pelosi-esque open “inventory” of our lives with our Dear Leader? No? Why not?? And why did Lisa Jackson, EPA czar, feel a need for a fake email account, if Obama appointees are also so on board with this approach? Why is Kathleen Sibelius doing the same thing with her fake email account? Can we get the details on half of Obama’s cabinet that cheated on their taxes, while we are at it?

Of course, when the First Congress enacted the original Crimes Act in 1790, there were only 17 recognized Federal crimes, and it was reasonable to assume that as long as a person was a law-abiding citizen, he was not at risk of arrest. Today there are more than 4,500 Federal crimes and tens of thousands of Federal regulations – and this is JUST at the federal level I’m sure I must be guilty of at least a few of them, so perhaps Nancy Pelosi could just go ahead and sign me up for a few at random ones at one of the government levels (federal, state or municipal)? The Federal Register –comprised of government agencies’ new regulations, proposed rules, and presidential papers –  is, according and Rep. Randy Forbes (R—4th District of Virginia) 34,000 pages in length. The Government Printing Office stated on June 14, 2011, the actual number of pages was 34,844, but then, as pages are added every day, whose counting! But that was actually just the running tally of the number of pages published in 2011 to date. According to Jim Hemphill, Assistant to the Director of the Federal Register, the 2010 total was actually 81,405 pages, of which “only” 46, 758 were dedicated to rules or proposed rules (Whew! I was worried there for a minute!). The rest were agency hearings, meetings, investigations, etc.

As Tim Carney writes in the Washington Examiner, “Citizens that the federal government wants to indict, the federal government can indict if it monitors them closely enough. That’s why it’s so disturbing to learn that the federal government doesn’t need to obtain a warrant on us in order to get our emails and phone records…. One threat to privacy is Congress expanding the use of these Big Brother tools. Another threat is an administration using it illegally. This happens. President Bush used surveillance powers inappropriately. New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer targeted political opponents with state surveillance. So what’s next? A president targeting hard-core environmentalists or pro-life activists on the suspicion they’ll carry out terrorist attacks? This may not sound likely, but recall scare stories about “ecoterrorists,” and how Obama’s Department of Homeland Security has warned that Tea Partiers are serious threats.You don’t need a new Nixon for this to become reality. You just need a president convinced that his political opponents are not only incorrect, but positively dangerous.”  We know the “Yes we can” chanters aren’t on board with this, so what about Bush? Or Nixon? As the Verizon commercial might say to these leftists, “Can you hear me now?!!!”

But the very best response to the utterly absurd contentions of Komrades Schmidt and Zuckerberg – and all their ilk – is found at lawyer Harvey Silverglate’s, Three Felonies a Day website. The website has exactly what you think it does: a rendering of how you, dear average citizen, are literally guilty of three felonies a day. Yes, you!

I did not retain the source for the information below, but let me cite this excerpt: “Legal experts such as retired Louisiana State University law professor John Baker say, “There is no one in the United States over the age of 18 who cannot be indicted for some federal crime… That is not an exaggeration.” It is because more than 4,500 federal laws exist. These laws crisscross 50 titles and roughly 27,000 pages of the U.S. Code. And to complicate matters, at least another 10,000 regulations from dozens of disparate federal offices and agencies carry severe and criminal punishments. Adding to this volatile mix is the established trend that government seeks to “criminalize nearly every aspect of our lives,” says The Heritage Foundation in its ‘You Could Go To Prison for Five Years By Making a Clerical Error’. Here’s how: “The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration (PHMSA), an agency within the Transportation Department, recently proposed a regulation that would make filing duplicate applications to transport fireworks a crime punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment.” In other words, if you’re overly cautious and submit more than one application, you could go to federal prison. And we’re not talking here about nuclear material, hazardous waste, or toxic chemicals. We’re talking about firecrackers and bottle rockets used by patriotic Americans to celebrate what’s left of our independence. The report continues: “Why such a severe punishment for merely filing a duplicate application?” To quote PHMSA, “The submission of duplicate applications under both processes may result in confusion, slower processing, and diminished safety.” Ah yes… that old “safety” thing again! Heck, we are so “safe” that 75% of us could be in jail – unless you have a good lawyer like Jon “I lost $1.6 billion” Corzine does, or are a special crony of the elite.

Traditionally, we have a separation between civil and criminal law. The reason is so punishments fit the crime. Also, for a crime to exist, there ought to be criminal intent. None of these factors fit the example above, because common sense and decency by central powers have been thrown out the window. In another example from the report, under current law, if you’re negligent and drop a banana peel on the floor, and a customer slips on it and gets injured, the customer has the right to sue for monetary damages. That’s fair. No one gets locked up in jail; it was just a mistake.But under The Clean Water Act, simple, unintentional accidents are crimes. You can get charged with a felony and sent to prison for three years because your employees accidentally installed the wrong water filter. This happened to Mr. James Hong [United States v. James Ming Hong]. If your employee drives heavy equipment and accidentally punctures a buried petroleum pipe, and the contents spill into a waterway, you’ll have a felony on your personal record for life, and also sit in prison for six months, just as it happened to Edward Hanousek, Jr. [Edward Hanousek v. United States].

Civil forfeiture (as opposed to criminal forfeiture) happens when law enforcement agencies “seize property upon the mere suspicion that it may have some connection to criminal activity,” says president and general counsel of the Institute for Justice, Chip Mellor. “Under civil forfeiture, police and prosecutors can seize your car or other property, sell it and use the proceeds to fund agency budgets–all without… charging you with a crime… with civil forfeiture, owners need not be charged with a crime… to lose homes, cars, cash or other property.”

This nightmare is happening now to Mr. Russ Caswell…

In United States v. 434 Main Street, Tewksbury, Massachusetts (The Motel Caswell), the Justice Department teamed up with the local police department to strip Caswell’s ownership of his motel. Notice the case title, United States v. 434 Main Street, Tewksbury, Massachusetts. The defendant is an actual street address, not a legal entity; the government is suing the property. Caswell and his family are NOT accused much less convicted of any crime. The government’s position: Over the last 20 years, this motel, which has been in the Caswell family for two generations, is the location where some lodgers have been arrested for crimes. (So, apparently that makes the cops entitled to the property.) It’s important to mention that throughout this time “the Caswells themselves have worked closely with law enforcement officials to prevent and report crime on their property,” says the Institute for Justice. The Caswells have been responsible and diligent owners. Their motel is worth at least $1 million and is owned free and clear, making it a juicy prize. For perspective, in 1986, the year after the U.S. Department of Justice’s Asset Forfeiture Fund was created it took in just $93.7 million. According its Annual Financial Statements for the year 2011, the fund increased to $2.85 BILLION in 2011, up from $2.58 BILLION in 2010, nearly an 11% increase in one year.

Does anyone still have questions on why this issue is important?

Your Doctor…Friend or Foe?

Everyone hopes that when they visit the doctor that they leave in a better state then when they arrived or at least have a plan to achieve a condition of better health. This is a reasonable expectation. It is also expected that conversations between a healthcare provider and their patient will be held in confidence as guaranteed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. I understand the medical necessity to inquire about certain social habits. The amount of alcohol that a patient consumes or tobacco that they use can have a direct impact on their health and could even be the exact cause for certain medical problems. No one expects that their physician will be a spy for the government and have an agenda outside of the patients chief complaint.

This is exactly what some of the 23 Executive Actions that President Obama signed into law will see to if the President has his way. Let me be clear, my doctor asking me about whether I own firearms or not is not going to have even the slightest impact on what is causing my chronic cough. This is a separate issue from those suffering from mental illness. If there is a patient that presents with mental illness and verbalizes threats or acts in a threatening manner it presents a different set of circumstances and at that point it seems prudent that the doctor may incur an obligation to report a credible threat. What the recent Executive Actions are encouraging include:

1. Protect the rights of health care providers to talk to their patients about gun safety: Doctors and other health care providers also need to be able to ask about firearms in their patients’ homes and safe storage of those firearms, especially if their patients show signs of certain mental illnesses or if they have a young child or mentally ill family member at home. Some have incorrectly claimed that language in the Affordable Care Act prohibits doctors from asking their patients about guns and gun safety. Medical groups also continue to fight against state laws attempting to ban doctors from asking these questions. The Administration will issue guidance clarifying that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit or otherwise regulate communication between doctors and patients, including about firearms.

2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.

3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.

4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.

What seems likely to result from this in my opinion:

1. Physicians, Medical Groups, Hospitals, etc. will start to implement gun owner questionnaires into their patient screening processes. Further down the road, ObamaCare funding could even be limited based on inclusion of this questioning during patient visits. This leaves patients in the predicament of either answering questions unwillingly or being forced to lie to their healthcare providers to protect their individual freedoms that are supposed to be guaranteed by the Constitution.

2. There are not currently any “unnecessary legal barriers” in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. The President wants your medical information to be disclosed when you want to purchase a firearm. The HIPAA laws state that:

  • Health providers and health plans, INCLUDING government programs that pay for health care must comply with HIPAA laws.
  • The information protected includes information health care providers put in your medical record, conversations your doctor has about your health care with others, information about you in your health insurer’s computer system, billing information about you at your clinic, and most other health information about you held by those who must follow these laws.
  • Covered entities must put in place safeguards to protect your health information and must reasonably limit uses and disclosures to the minimum necessary to accomplish their intended purpose.
  • The HIPAA Privacy Rule sets rules and limits on who can look at and receive your health information. To make sure that your health information is protected in a way that does not interfere with your health care, your information can be used and shared:
  1. For your treatment and care coordination.
  2. To pay doctors and hospitals for your health care and to help run their businesses.
  3. With your family, relatives, friends, or others you identify who are involved with your health care or your health care bills, unless you object.
  4. To make sure doctors give good care and nursing homes are clean and safe.
  5. To protect the public’s health, such as by reporting when the flu is in your area.
  6. To make required reports to the police, such as reporting gunshot wounds.
  • Your health information cannot be used or shared without your written permission unless this law allows it. For example, without your authorization, your provider generally cannot:
  1. Give your information to your employer.
  2. Use or share your information for marketing or advertising purposes.
  3. Share private notes about your health care.

Seems like a whole bunch of reasons to not share your medical information when you go to purchase a firearm.

3. Uncle Sugar, uh I mean Uncle Sam is going to offer a lot of money to states that are willing to do what he wants!

4. The AG will look at who else might be a good candidate to ban from owning guns. Maybe so that felons and those with convictions for domestic violence don’t feel so alone, military veterans and those who speak out about individual liberty and freedom will likely be added to the list of those who cannot possess a firearm.

I wouldn’t go so far as being paranoid but at the same time I would not make it a habit to tell your life story to the dude that you just met at the bus stop. At least take the time and consider if the questions that your doctor is asking you are actually pertinent to your medical care and if your healthcare provider is on your side.

Don’t worry…now that our doctors are against us, our kids will be next.