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December 26, 2014

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private expressions of thoughts are concerned, primarily dealing with the case of Elizabeth Lauten.

If I understand correctly, Lauten's comments were published on Facebook.

At this point, regardless of how you have your privacy settings configured, I think everyone has to assume that anything published on Facebook has de facto status as a public statement.

Michael Jackson can be taken as a similar figure, a character of pathos who provides with some entertainment for a while, but for whom we can safely ignore what he is actually saying.

Jackson was supposed to be the weird black guy, and barely and apparently reluctantly black at that.

It was bad form for him to be an angry black guy.

I think part of what is going on is that people simply do not understand computers or the Internet. Even the kids who have grown up around them. There seems to be an almost reflexive assumption that, if you put something on your computer (even if it is stored "in the cloud" or on a common e-mail server like Yahoo or g-mail) it is on your computer, and therefore just as private as if it was in your desk drawer.

Which, of course, it is not.

Likewise, even though people know better, they tend to assume that, once they delete something it is actually gone. Obviously not if you sent it to someone else. But not even if it was just on the hard drive of your own computer. Because your computer doesn't actually delete things immediately. Just deletes the pointers to it; the actual content can stay around for a long time, until something happens to get written over it.

All of which explains why people, and companies, get surprised when stuff gets hacked and spread around. They honestly thought that something that they just sent to one other person, and then both deleted, was actually gone. Just like they had said it aloud with no recording equipment around.

But the reality is, nothing that ever gets into the Internet is going away. Ever. Those e-mails you wrote, and then immediately deleted? Back up copies are out on a server somewhere, just waiting for someone chancing upon the idea of hacking into them. (Or arriving with a subpoena, I suppose.)

We all need a whole new set of reflexes to deal with the new reality. And almost nobody has them.

What wj said:

We all need a whole new set of reflexes to deal with the new reality. And almost nobody has them.

It's not just that people don't get the permanence and lack of privacy that the internet affords. It's that whatever it is that goes viral is often taken as the totality of whoever tweeted/posted it.

It's an extreme case of making a bad first impression...and to millions of people.

On the Sony hack, I don't really buy the NK involvement:

https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2014/12/did_north_korea.html

The TL;DR version is there isn't much more then circumstantial evidence, and the whole 'Interview' angle seemed to not be there from the beginning, which might suggest it's just hackers in it for the lulz:

The most compelling evidence for this scenario is that the explicit North Korean connection -- threats about the movie The Interview -- were only made by the hackers after the media picked up on the possible links between the film release and the cyberattack.

And to quote an earlier Schneier post:

This whole incident is a perfect illustration of how technology is equalizing capability. In both the original attack against Sony, and [the DDoS] attack against North Korea, we can't tell the difference between a couple of hackers and a government.

Ultimately, NK is the ultimate bugaboo. It's alternately cartoonish or ominous depending on the needs of the speaker. It's a villain we never really need to worry about, but can be trotted out when we need someone to blame or rally against. In this case, the FBI (and Sony, and the media) need a villain to blame this on. That doesn't mean NK didn't do it...just that I don't take the FBI's word on it.

'private expressions of thought' was my inept combining of the ideas of the three things above and what Tressie McMillan Cottom said, which made me reconsider the private expressions that the Sony hack revealed. You are right that it was a facebook post, but what Cottom said that got me thinking about this was

Who among us has not been stupid or inappropriate on platforms that seem designed to make us be as stupid and inappropriate as possible? The fear is that this sets a terrible precedent of witch-hunts for good people who make a few mistakes.

I am very sensitive to that argument. I’ve been the witch and I have been the hunted. Neither are great fun but being the hunted is especially horrible. As sensitive as I am to the fear of mob rule on social media that affects livelihoods, something kept me from chiming in on the post-mortems of black Twitter gone wild.

Are the things that were said in the Sony Hack just mistakes? I would have thought so, but to reveal a hidden history that I was unaware of and something that is a precursor of what we have seen recently seems to make a difference.

Making a determined effort to see the silver lining. Examples like the Sony hack may help make people aware that the number of places where they can say socially unacceptable things is shrinking. And eventually, get themm to stop altogether.

Which won't change their personal opinions, of course. But may inhibit their bigotries being passed on to another generation.

Are the things that were said in the Sony Hack just mistakes?

I would say that, at least in principle, it's reasonable to assume a certain level of privacy with email. Social media, less so.

As a practical matter, no digital record is immune from exploitation, by any number of people, in any number of ways.

Making a determined effort to see the silver lining. Examples like the Sony hack may help make people aware that the number of places where they can say socially unacceptable things is shrinking. And eventually, get them to stop altogether.

An interesting angle.
I think you have a strong point. This story, here reported by the (not known for being particularly liberal) Daily Mail, is instructive:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2730307/Malky-Mackay-Iain-Moody-investigated-FA-sexist-racist-homophobic-text-messages-time-Cardiff.html

i doubt it will eliminate bigotry.
It should, at least, draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable discourse rather more brightly.

Eliminating bigotry is one of those ideals which may profitably be pursued, but will never be achieved. (And which will never be even reduced by insisting on a perfect, bigotry-free world. As ever, the perfect is the enemy of the good.)

if it is indeed North Korea, shows that they are a lot smarter than we give them credit for.

Determined? Maniacal? Hidebound? Certainly. Smart? Well, that depends. For a different view on "who doned it" see here. Being barely "smart" enough to operate the crudest of cell phones, I leave the technical back and forth to others.

Kern on! Juche!

From the article

Whoever is doing this is VERY net and social media savvy. That, and the sophistication of the operation, do not match with the profile of DPRK up until now.

The possibility of the DPRK buying the hacking talent to do this is what I think could be the most likely scenario if NK is involved. I'm not sure if this means that they are smart or dumb, but I would not be surprised if they saw the inherent possibilities of attack in our systems of commerce.

"Examples like the Sony hack may help make people aware that the number of places where they can say socially unacceptable things is shrinking. And eventually, get them to stop altogether."

That won't eliminate bigotry. It will just make it dangerous to express any bigotry different from that of the people who position themselves to say what's acceptable. Their bigotry will become mandatory.

"It should, at least, draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable discourse rather more brightly."

Yeah, I think that's the end goal, similar to what Orwell was concerned about: Winning arguments by preventing people from expressing the other side.

The problem with that assertion, Brett, is that this is not a new state of affairs. There's always been an acceptable and unacceptable realm of discourse, so this is just moving the bright lines around. This isn't Newspeak, it's just a shift in the demarcation between propriety and impropriety, from the old orthodoxy's axis to the new's.

But there hasn't always been this determination to enlarge the "unacceptable" realm of discourse to preclude many popular viewpoints from being expressed.

I think it is something analogous to Newspeak.

Actually, I think history (at least in Europe; not familiar with the rest of the world) shows a constant enlargement of the "unacceptable."

About the only thing that has changed is this. Once, the deliberate enlargement was confined to the nobility/upper class. In part, I suspect, as an effort to further distinguish themselves from the lower classes. And, in the last couple of centuries at least, that enlargement then trickled down to the aspirational middle class -- which then became the standard for society as a whole.

So all that has really changed is that changes, with this as with so much else, are propogating a lot faster than they used to.

But there hasn't always been this determination to enlarge the "unacceptable" realm of discourse to preclude many popular viewpoints from being expressed.

Can you please be a little clearer about what you're talking about?

I guess I need to keep up with the news cycle a little more closely, because I'm not sure what, in the undifferentiated clot of crap that made up the Sony hack "dump", we're talking about here.

What "popular viewpoints" were expressed privately by Sony folks that are being "precluded" by the "enlargement of of the unacceptable realm of discourse"?

Or, in plain English, what are people actually being prevented from saying?

How does 'enlarging' preclude? And if they are popular, but are being suppressed, how do you tell if they are popular? Is this more of this silent majority notion?

It sounds as if Brett is suffering from Galloping Dreherism, in which the victim decries the fact that certain eternally unspecified others are "denying" him the "right" to say without consequences things he doesn't wish to admit that he actually wants to say. A little of the syndrome goes a very long way for those who have to listen to the sufferer.

how does "cannot say without consequences" translate to "preclude"?

in Orwell's 1984, the consequences for transgressing meant ending up in a room with a cage full of rats poised and ready to eat your face.

nowadays, the "consequences" for "transgressing" means somebody offering the opinion that what you said wasn't very nice.

somewhere along the line, "consequences" seem to have been defined down quite a bit.

if that's all it takes to "preclude" you from speaking, no ministry of truth is needed. your censor is in your own head.

There can be more consequences than just "what you said wasn't very nice." For example, if your job involves dealing with a variety of customers, and you said something that is likely to be offensive to them, you can end up without a job. Likewise if you are in academia (in a non-STEM department) and lack tenure, going against the prevailing wisdom can get you back on the job market.

And if you are a senior executive, and you say something that offends the sensibilities of your board members, you better be unarguably brilliant at your job. For that matter, if your company has a policy about certain kinds of bigotry, you best not exhibit it on the job no matter what your position.

Granted, there is nothing like the physical or criminal penalties that conflicting with your society's views once opened you up to. But it isn't necessarily trivial either.

"nowadays, the "consequences" for "transgressing" means somebody offering the opinion that what you said wasn't very nice."

Well, unless maybe you're a baker, and somebody decides to force you to bake a SSM cake, and you refuse. Or you're a CEO, and you express support for a ballot proposition that not long before won in a free democratic vote. Or you say something to a friend on facebook, and some activist uses it to get you hounded out of your job.

We're not talking here about the consequences being somebody thinking you're not nice. We're talking about consequences like losing your job. And some people seem to think daring to express not particularly uncommon opinions ought to have that result.

And some people seem to think daring to express not particularly uncommon opinions ought to have that result.

remember, no liberal has ever lost a job because of their viewpoints, ever. (and history started in 2008!)

none of the American 'founders' ever published anything under a false name to disguise their identity for fear of consequences. nobody has ever published a novel under a false name. nobody has ever written a letter to the editor and requested that their name be withheld. and nobody ever used an on-line service under a pseudonym - and i've certainly never been asked about comments i made under a pseudonym during a job interview by someone who knew my pseud and used it to see what i've been saying.

nope, everything is new today and it's all the fault of unnamed leftists. as always.

Fair enough, losing your job is a non-trivial consequence.

If you make statements that are at variance with the values of folks who employ you, you may lose your job. Or, folks may boycott whatever good or service you provide. Etc etc etc.

That can happen if you express a conservative opinion, a liberal opinion, or any opinion at all.

Are you saying that nobody has ever lost their job, or otherwise taken heat of one form or another, for expressing a liberal point of view? Is that the claim?

This isn't 1984, there is no Ministry of Truth, and nobody is in a position to "say what's mandatory". Nobody's bigotry is mandatory, we are all free to nurture and express any form of "bigotry" that we like, where for "bigotry" we apparently may read "have a negative opinion about what other folks think, say, or do".

We are doing it right now.

If your private statements become public, you may be held accountable for them. If you are the public face for a corporation or organization whose owners or governing body doesn't want to be associated with what you said, you might even get a pink slip.

C'est la vie. That's not oppression, it's plain old normal human life.

When somebody puts the cage of rats next to your face, you can claim that Big Brother is oppressing you. Until then, you can't. Because Big Brother is not oppressing you.

Right? Are we clear about that?

Because here we all are, saying whatever the hell we want to say, about whatever the hell we want to say it about. And quite a number of us are either using our real names, or have real life identities that are sufficiently well known that our comments here could be used against us if anybody felt like doing that.

We all have to deal with the consequences of what we say and do. In our current environment, the scope of what we can count on being private is fairly small. It ain't a plot, it's just the reality.

Well, unless maybe you're a baker, and somebody decides to force you to bake a SSM cake, and you refuse. Or you're a CEO, and you express support for a ballot proposition that not long before won in a free democratic vote.

Or, you're Dick Metcalf, and you're fired from Guns & Ammo for noting that the exercise of all Constitutional rights are regulated.

Or, you're Phil Donahue, and you're fired for being a "difficult face for NBC in a time of war".

Or, you're the Dixie Chicks, and you received bomb threats, death threats, and lost millions of dollars in revenue because folks didn't like what you said about the President.

Right?

Is that Big Brother? Or the Ministry of Truth? Or 1984?

Everybody is responsible for what they say. Sometimes it might cost you something to hold an opinion. Sometimes things you thought you said in confidence are made public, without your consent or participation.

That's not the dreaded oppressive hand of liberal (or whatever) hegemony, it's just life.

When you look up and see the cage full of rats, we can talk about 1984.

My wife and I spent Thanksgiving with friends - the husband has an OB/GYN practice in NH.

One of the other guests was a GP, and the two of them were discussing how many of the health care improvement processes introduced recently, either as part of Obamacare or otherwise, were counter-productive.

They had to spend more time on charts and reporting, their compensation was less, it wasn't actually creating value for the patient.

They actually had a number of reasonable points.

The GP got onto the topic of how practicioners now have to ask you for your SSN before any procedure. Like, even if they just leave the room and come back in, they have to ask you again.

I mentioned that I'd noticed that when I had a blood draw recently, and agreed that, whatever the motivation, it seemed like kind of overkill.

The GP says:

You know what it reminds me of? Nazi Germany.

And he wasn't kidding.

Nazi Germany is when they take political power by assassinating their enemies, destroy your property, and drag you out of the house at night and kill you.

Nazi Germany is not when the phlebotomist has to ask for you SSN before drawing your blood.

When the private conversations of Sony execs are made public and they are embarrassed, it's not 1984. It's ridiculous to even try it on as an analogy.

No rats, no Big Brother.

We should stipulate that we are talking about saying what we please within the boundaries of the US. In some other nominal democracies, there can be legal (both civil and criminal) consequences of say what you please. In the US, legal consequences, at the moment, are pretty minimal.

"Nazi Germany is not when the phlebotomist has to ask for you SSN before drawing your blood."

I don't know, Nazi Germany *might* be when the phlebotomist has to ask your SSN before drawing your blood. Depends on what happens when the phlebotomist refuses to do it, I think.

Fascism had two sides, you know. Taking power by assassinating enemies, destroying property, and dragging you out of the house at night to kill you was one side, and it was awful.

Deciding it was too much trouble for the government to openly take ownership of the entire economy, and just regulating it to the point where businesses were de facto extensions of the government, doing what they were told or else, was the other side. And it was pretty awful, too.

That's the side of Fascism we're adopting in the US, and probably what the doc was referring to.

I don't know, Nazi Germany *might* be when the phlebotomist has to ask your SSN before drawing your blood.

No, it's not, and IMO it's an insult to the people who actually had to live under the Nazis or any of the other totalitarian regimes you care to name, right or left, to even play around with the analogy.

That's the side of Fascism we're adopting in the US, and probably what the doc was referring to.

Fascism is a fun word to throw around.

We aren't adopting fascism.

The doc was an entitled ass who wanted to raise his annoyance at the bureaucratic burdens of being a health care provider in the 21st C US to the level of being rounded up, killed, and then incinerated.

It was obscene, and so is talk about Big Brother and 1984 in the context of Sony executives being embarrassed by having their politically incorrect gossip made public.

Show me the rats. No rats, no Big Brother.

Oh, you don't think it depends on what happens when the phlebotomist refuses to obey orders? Is that true for all values of "what happens", or just the values you find plausible?

when the phlebotomist refuses to "obey orders" it ends up as a black mark on a document somewhere.

that, or she's dragged into the street and shot as an example to others.

one or the other. either one could be Nazi Germany.


tell us again how you hate when people abuse the language.

Deciding it was too much trouble for the government to openly take ownership of the entire economy, and just regulating it to the point where businesses were de facto extensions of the government, doing what they were told or else, was the other side.

I haven't looked at the subject in a long while. But isn't that what is called "state capitalism"? Which fascism frequently adopts, but the two aren't really equivalent.

And while government regulation is a hassle, and an irritation, and even counter-productive, we are nowhere near the point where the businesses are a de facto extension of the government. It's arguable whether we are even anywhere near the mid-point between that an the libertarian ideal of no government regulation at all.

Should we cut out a whole lot of ridiculous government regulation? Absolutely. But that's no the same as saying that we would be better with no regulation. Nor the same as saying that, as it stands, the government is anywhere near managing (let alone micromanaging) business.

Oh, you don't think it depends on what happens when the phlebotomist refuses to obey orders?

OK, fine, if they shoot the phlebotomist, rape his wife, and sell his children into slavery, then it's just like Nazi Germany.

And you're right, I don't find that "plausible".

Seriously, it's stupid to even pursue a discussion at this level. More than stupid, it's shameful and debased.

Nobody shoots the phlebotomist. It's not Nazi Germany.

Nobody's trying to oppress the phlebotomist. They're trying to establish a protocol that will reduce the likelihood of people getting the wrong procedures done on them.

The result is the sometimes comical outcome of the phlebotomist asking me for my SSN twice. It's harmless - utterly and completely harmless - and we put up with it because *most of the time we're not talking about a phlebotomist briefly leaving the room and re-entering*.

Most of the time we're talking about a health care provider walking into a room where they are supposed to provide some service, and making sure the person on the receiving end is who they think they are.

That's why they do it. Sometimes it's overkill. It's never harmful, and it's hard to even imagine a scenario where asking somebody for their SSN before administering care is harmful.

The entire analogy is f***ing obscene. Hideously, enormously, absurd and obscene.

Do you remotely recognize that?

Seriously, WTF.

we are nowhere near the point where the businesses are a de facto extension of the government.

Au contraire.

Unless that "SSN" requirement was just implemented in the past 10 days, I'd have to say that it sounds like a local issue; either of state regulation or insurance requirements.

It certainly makes sense that health-care providers make extra sure that they've got the right person, and there's plenty of horror stories out there of people that went into surgery to fix 'A', and got mixed up with a patient that was having 'B' removed. (IIRC, surgeons are now making copious use of sharpie markers, for just such reason. Fascism!)

There's a tv drama series based on the premise of what can happen when a practitioner fails to verify patient and procedure.

Jane the Virgin

If your private statements become public, you may be held accountable for them.

I am in general all for this kind of anti-bigotry: you say something socially unacceptable and your friends/acquaintances let you know it was unacceptable. The correction is generally meted out by people who know you beyond the comment, let occasional misspeaks slide, and are willing to let you move on and better for it.

A key feature of this is that small mistakes or misunderstandings don't bury the individual. If someone says something off color at a bar with some friends, they might be shamed. But if that same comment goes viral on twitter or facebook...they can become national pariahs, get fired, or otherwise suffer disproportionally. Those snippets can represent the totality of what is known about an individual. It's making a really bad first impression to the entire country.

That can even be weaponized, once you start talking about faked comments or doxxing.

And further, it can serve to limit legitimate debate and the ability of question social orthodoxy. If any questioning of social orthodoxy runs the risk of bringing the weight of the internet down on you (or your employer)...I can see how people may become hesitant to express unpopular views.

None of this should be taken to say people should be able to express any view without consequence...indeed, that would remove a core benefit the free exchange of ideas. Just that, imo, we should endeavor to keep social response proportional to the offense.

Certainly not Big Brother, but sometimes society visits evil upon itself.

OK, russell, if you think that we are near the point where the businesses are a de facto extension of the government, why do you think so? Maybe you are in a different kind of business than I am....

Yes, I get extremely irritated at some of the regulations I have to deal with, and even more with the dumb way that those regulations are implemented by bureaucrats who have no clue how a business works. But I certainly don't see either of the businesses I am involved in** having to act as an extension of the government. The government barely has a clue what we do, and shows no sign of interest in how we do it. And the state government comes a lot closer to knowing than the Feds do.

** One is an IT company and the other is an independent film company.

Certainly not Big Brother, but sometimes society visits evil upon itself.

Yes, I think that is exactly right.

IMO people suffering embarrassment, loss of job, loss of friends, whatever, due to their private statements being published sucks. I think doxing sucks, I think hacking people's private communications and publishing what you find sucks.

I think all of that sucks, and some of it may well be (and in some cases ought to be) illegal.

And none of it has anything whatsoever to do with Orwell. None of it whatsoever has anything to do with state coercion, or some cabal of people making their personal bigotry "mandatory".

It has to do with technology facilitating the public exposure of private communications, which is a different issue altogether.

OK, russell, if you think that we are near the point where the businesses are a de facto extension of the government, why do you think so?

Sorry, I did not state my point clearly.

I do not think we are anywhere near businesses being a de facto expression of government. By my comment "au contraire", I didn't mean, "no, you are wrong, businesses *are* an extension of government".

What I meant was "quite so, and in fact the opposite is true. Government is in many cases the instrument of businesses".

Sorry for the confusion.

We're not talking here about the consequences being somebody thinking you're not nice. We're talking about consequences like losing your job. And some people seem to think daring to express not particularly uncommon opinions ought to have that result.

Isn't fire-at-will grand?

Has anyone lost their job because of the Sony Hack?

I hope that our standard of free speech is a little higher than not being as bad as Nazi Germany or George Orwell's 1984.

"A key feature of this is that small mistakes or misunderstandings don't bury the individual."

Tell that to Paula Deen.

"tell us again how you hate when people abuse the language."

I do, and I wasn't. I was pointing out that it really does depend on what happens to the phlebotomist. And I didn't misuse even one word in the process.

I was pointing out that it really does depend on what happens to the phlebotomist

Are the cases of The Dixie Chicks and Paula Dean the same, or different? Was the outcome in one somehow "good" and the other "bad" in some moral sense? If so, how?

And some people seem to think daring to express not particularly uncommon opinions ought to have that result.

So how "common" the opinion is, is somehow related to this? Does this mean that bad consequences arising from expressing "uncommon" opinions is in some sense "more justified"?

Tell that to Paula Deen.

Deen hasn't been buried.

So, our sacred right to call other people niggers has been preserved, even if at the cost of a Food Network contract.

It's a good thing, too. If you can lose a contract for calling people nigger, where does it end?

Who's next, folks who call other folks kikes?

Folks who think we should kill all the brown people at the border and let god sort them out?

Folks who think the best way to keep the little woman in line is a love tap to the jaw?

So many popular views, banished from the public arena. Jefferson must be spinning in his grave.

I was pointing out that it really does depend on what happens to the phlebotomist.

If the phlebotomist was fired from his job and had his property taken from him and then was sent off to be worked to death in a camp because he was jewish / gay / a slav / anything but aryan, then it would be like Nazi Germany.

If the phlebotomist, having failed to ask for my SSN, was taken out back and shot, that would, amazingly enough, not really be like Nazi Germany.

It would be sort of like government by the Piranha brothers, but not Nazi Germany.

And, of course, none of that is going to occur except in your vivid and paranoid imagination.

So, the doctor's point, and your own, are utterly without merit. You're both full of crap.

I can't get terribly upset about somebody who years ago referred to a black guy who held a gun to their head as a "nigger", or used the word when quoting somebody who'd used it. This was a case of reaching back into the past, and applying the standards of today. The problem with that is that you can't comply with the standards of today in the past, because you didn't know in the past what they'd be.

Yesterday, the phlebotomist was free in regards to what he said. Today, he's compelled to ask for a SSN even if doing so is irrational. Tomorrow? Nobody knows tomorrow. We're not Nazi Germany today, I have no confidence about 10 years hence, Nazi Germany wasn't Nazi Germany 10 years prior.

In fact, they went from free elections to the final solution in a terrifyingly short span of years. If history teaches us anything, it's that "It can't happen here" is the utterance of a moron, and that you're better off fighting tyranny before it gets a good foothold.

This was a case of reaching back into the past, and applying the standards of today.

Even you routinely "reach into the past" and condemn the nazis. So how is the Paula Dean case different?

Or to quote somebody above, "Is that true for all values of "what happens", or just the values you find plausible?"

and i'll just note that i've been to a phlebotomist post-ACA and did not have to give my SSN multiple times.

Yeah, I think that's the end goal, similar to what Orwell was concerned about: Winning arguments by preventing people from expressing the other side.

nobody is being prevented from expressing anything. even the KKK can get out there and march around and say what they want.

you're just sad because people who don't agree with you are still free to react to what people who do agree with you have to say.

boo hoo. pity the poor stifled "conservatives", please! (because they have a giant industry built on self-pity and professional victimhood!)

In fact, they went from free elections to the final solution in a terrifyingly short span of years.

You seem to be an educated person, so you might know what happened with Germany before Hitler took power, and before Night of Breaking Glass.

Life in Germany became very interesting, in the Chinese sense of the word, from the time Kaiser Wilhelm took power in 1888. The liberal, innovative, democratic Germany I think you were referring to ended then, not in 1932.

History is not a series of snapshots. When a country becomes a hell-hole, it isn't because of government regulation. There's much, much more going on.

I'd be willing to wager that this is a more telling harbinger of future tyranny than energy efficient light bulbs or low flush toilets.

Just sayin'.

Yesterday, the phlebotomist was free in regards to what he said. Today, he's compelled to ask for a SSN even if doing so is irrational. Tomorrow? Nobody knows tomorrow.

First, it is not in the least irrational to require practitioners to ask for a SSN. There are situations - if they leave and re-enter the room, if they are treating somebody they've known for 25 years - where it's unnecessary.

Not the same thing.

And in no case whatsoever is it oppressive or anything more than, at the very very worst, mildly annoying.

At worst it's harmless, at best it keeps people from receiving incorrect or inappropriate medical procedures.

Net/net, it's fine.

And yes, if tomorrow the government somehow begins acting just like the government of Nazi Germany, then they will in fact be just like Nazi Germany.

That's not an argument, it's a tautology.

If I turn into a frog, why then I will be just like a frog. Airtight logic, that.

The simple and obvious point, which seems to elude you, is that requiring a medical practitioner to identify their patient before proceeding *is not, remotely, anything like Nazi Germany, at all*. It's not even an infinitesimal baby-step along the way. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the policies and behavior of the Nazi government, at all.

That's the point.

Hey! I had to stop for a red light, and if I ran it I would get a very expensive ticket and have to pay a surcharge on my insurance!

Next stop - the Gulag!!

Hey, I had to present my ticket and a picture ID before those bastards would let me board my plane.

Who will release us from these chains!?!?!!

Aren't those stupid statements? Wouldn't you laugh if somebody tried to present them as sincere arguments, rather than jokes?

I hope you would.

Your argument here is precisely that stupid.

The funny thing about libertarians - the thing that makes me want to fake a cell phone call and exit the room whenever I run into one in social situations - is that the rhetoric all sounds great, but when you get down to the actual cases that they are worked up about, it ends up being the most penny-ante, ridiculous bullshit that you could ever imagine.

Let's all water the tree of liberty so that our phlebotomist doesn't have to ask us for our SSN. That will certainly inspire us all to mount the barricades.

If we want to talk about troubling HR practices involving social media, I'm frankly substantially more worried by recent trends like employees not being hired/retained unless they provide their management with account access to their social media than of high-profile personnel in corporations being terminated following broadly-disseminated gaffs thereupon. I mean, yes, one can of course be troubled by both, but the former is still far more problematic from where I stand.

"The simple and obvious point, which seems to elude you, is that requiring a medical practitioner to identify their patient before proceeding *is not, remotely, anything like Nazi Germany, at all*."

It's requiring. It's the government deciding that it's competent to, entitled to, micromanage the internal affairs of entities that aren't government.

It's government deciding that EVERYTHING is it's business, and that it knows better about everything.

I'd like to see government with the humility to understand that it has it's job, and other people have their's, and to leave it to them.

Brett, doesn't that just amount to a full-employment scenario for the lawyers? Because if the government is not establishing standards for things like procedures to make sure that the right patient is getting treated, there will be more mistakes.

And that, in turn, will mean that the only recourse is to sue the doctor who made the mistake. (Or, if you cannot afford a lawyer, just live with it. Or not live with it, as the case may be.)

You can envision some utopia where everybody invents essentially the same procedures, lest they get forced out of business. But can you find an example of that actually happening? Ever? In all of history?

Sure, this time might be different. But I sure wouldn't bet the ranch on it.

That said, I would agree that we have rather too many government regulations. But focusing on silly little things like requiring doctors to check to make sure that they are working on the patient they are supposed to be? That just detracts from the effort to get rid of the regulations which actually are ridiculous.

It has nothing whatsoever to do with the policies and behavior of the Nazi government, at all.

This. I've been avoiding weighing in, because, bluntly, comparisons to nazi germany (absent actual genocide) are stupid.

Worse than that, they detract from actual discussions. There are many ways a policy can be inefficient, bad, or even oppressive without reaching the level of nazi germany. By invoking the nazis, all that needs to be done to dismiss the argument is to point out, in fact, the nazis were exceptional destructive and evil.

So I know nothing about the 'having to ask for SSNs' aspect of the ACA. I haven't heard of it until now. In terms of at the "very very worst, mildly annoying": I do know people that don't have SSNs. I am concerned, that if fully enforced as simply described above, it may inhibit people without SSNs from acquiring medical care. That, I hope I don't have to convince anyone, is not good.

I hope, and expect, that's not the case, but I'm not going to rush to judgement without seeing the part of law, or regulations, that specifies this.

"Because if the government is not establishing standards for things like procedures to make sure that the right patient is getting treated, there will be more mistakes.

Two assumptions there:

1. That nobody but the government can get things right.

2. That the government IS going to get things right.

Essentially, it rests on the assumption that the government knows everybody's business better than they do, so that the "standards" the government sets will always be improvements.

So, here we have a "standard", that you identify the patient each separate time you encounter them, by asking them their social security number. That's going to be a lot of help for tourists from other countries, right?

No, that is not the assumption at all. The assumption is that there is some merit in having standards that are uniform across the board. If you think that such standards will arise naturally, take a quick look at the (lack of) success of a standard operating system (e.g. UNIX) vs Microsoft's and Apple's proprietary standards. And note also the level of security ineptitude in Microsoft's operating system, which has done little to drive it out of business.

Should government make standards without getting expert input? Obviously not -- as you say, government doesn't know the details of everybody's business. But saying that they should get expert input is not the same as saying that they should totally stay out.

Still govermemt is also the only way that you get consistent standards in any reasonable time. Not, admittedly, always great standards -- which is why the US is still not on the metric system, even though everybody else in the world made that decision (by government fiat) long since. But the fact that something doesn't work perfectly is not proof that it can never work.

So I know nothing about the 'having to ask for SSNs' aspect of the ACA.

Actually, my bad. Not SSN, but birthday.

That perhaps alleviates some of the practical objections.

It's requiring. It's the government deciding that it's competent to, entitled to, micromanage the internal affairs of entities that aren't government.

Thank you.

This is actually not necessarily a bad point, per se.

And, I suspect was actually the doctor's fundamental objection - he's known Mrs. Jones for 20 years, why do the feds make him ask her for her birthday before he can give her a physical?

He had similar issues with things like not being able to give verbal orders to staff (he says he's required to put them in writing), etc.

I don't know if the feds think they "know better" than the GP, or not. What I think is that they are trying to address a given problem by defining a protocol which, if followed consistently, will make the problem less likely.

Should the feds be in the business of trying to reduce the number of cases of people getting the wrong medication or procedure due to mistaken identity?

In my very humble opinion, that's a reasonable question, but not one that rises to a legal, constitutional, or even philosophical level. If they can improve the situation by mandating a protocol, it's fine if they do so. If they don't improve things, or in fact make things worse, they should stay out of it.

And, for "improve", I don't look for "make every single case and situation better". Asking for the birthday doesn't add value to every interaction, but then again not doing so and/or having no protocol at all also doesn't add value in every case.

In other words, the option of doing nothing and staying the hell out of it is also not without cost.

It's taken me a bit to realize that the example is about record checking. I went to the doctor here about 3 weeks ago for a procedure, and each time I had an encounter with nurse or doctor or other member of the staff, they asked me to tell them my name. Being a foreigner here and probably the youngest one in the building, I could have blown a cork and said damn it, of course it is me, I've told you the past 5 times you've asked and unfortunately, I know foreigners who would have (or who have) done so.

However, the clinic has lots of elderly (I guess I am too, but more elderly than me) and a lot of cases of Alzenheimer's, so building that simple check-off eliminates or at least reduces the possibility that someone gets the wrong procedure or the wrong prescription. It is an interesting valuing of identity, in that what the phlebotomist wants is to not be told to do anything. The idea that a procedure or a system could help him, or that somehow he would never ever make a mistake, seems to be a lot more hubris than anything the government is doing.

I'd like to see government with the humility to understand that it has it's job, and other people have their's, and to leave it to them.

Where is this humility when it comes to enforcing property rights? A women's right to choose? Making it hard for a citizen to vote? Blue laws? "Right to Work" laws? Patents? The national security state? Immigration? The 10 commandments in the public square? Secondary economic boycotts? Freedom to do business with Cuba? So called "free trade".

I could go on.

Humility, it would seem, is in the eye of the beholder. That's where the rubber meets the road. It's not the extent. It's the what.

Take one example: If you skew public policy to put nearly all wealth in the hands of a few, and reduce actual choices for those left out, don't snivel to me about tyranny.

We all use government to get the what. Claiming some pure principle is in play to "reduce government" is just a self-serving cry to put the locus of power where you think it will result in outcomes you approve of.

I would agree that we have rather too many government regulations.

A common generality that strikes me as totally without content. In my book, this is just a rhetorical club. By what metric are you asserting there are "too many"? Does "too many" = social harm, or are we being asked to just nod our heads in agreement?

Or are you really saying there are regulations you don't agree are good ones? Is that not actually a different question?

Perhaps you could provide us with an example of one such regulation for discussion.

That could help. Thank you.

I would agree that there are both regulations which are unnecessary, and also regulations which are actively socially harmful. (Some regualtions may be both, of course.)

An unnecesary regulation: crop price supports. That is, payments to growers when the actual market price of a particular crop is below a government-set price. Other businesses manage to cope without price supports; obviously agriculture could, too.

Actively harmeful regulation: subsidies for corn-based ethanol production, combined with restrictions on (cheaper) ethanol imports from non-corn sources. (Brazil can make ethanol from sugar cane and export it to the US more cheaply than we can make it from corn. But is not allowed to.)

No doubt others can come up with more examples of both kinds. But that may give an idea of the disstinction.

"In my very humble opinion, that's a reasonable question, but not one that rises to a legal, constitutional, or even philosophical level. If they can improve the situation by mandating a protocol, it's fine if they do so."

Sure, it's a constitutional issue, if it's the federal government. Notice the absence in the Constitution of a "if it will improve the situation" clause? Government of enumerated powers, that's a constitutional issue.

wj
Thank you for the reply.
1. Crop price supports-a policy that has outlived its usefulness.
2. Ethanol-an unwise policy coupled with essentially tariff protection.

I would agree these policies are not doing much, if any, good. However, that is a long way from saying there is "too much" regulation which is simply rightwingspeak for "regulations I don't much like".

"Too much regulation" is certainly used by some people to mean, as you say, "regulations I don't like." (While, surprisingly often, demanding other regulations to do things that they do like.)

But that doesn't mean that there are not regulations which do not accomplish anything useful while waste resources in efforts to follow them. I admit that my examples, whipped out off the top of my head, do not illustrate that very well. I'll see if I can come up with some better specific cases.

Notice the absence in the Constitution of a "if it will improve the situation" clause?

1. Congress has explicit taxing and spending power, and if they want to make obtaining federal spending contingent, they are free to do so.
2. Marbury v. Madison

On a strictly "Constitutional" basis, your argument is essentially special pleading.

Notice the absence in the Constitution of a "if it will improve the situation" clause?

I see ample warrant in Article I section 8 for the feds to establish protocols for health care providers.

Especially considering how much the feds pay for health care goods and services in the US.

I'm sure you don't see it that way. A chacun son gout.

building that simple check-off eliminates or at least reduces the possibility that someone gets the wrong procedure or the wrong prescription.

Correct.

The purpose of protocols is to insure that the success of whatever procedure is under the discipline of the protocol doesn't depend on the particular skill of whoever is providing it.

A given provider could see that as an intrusion into their area of expertise, or perhaps see an insulting implication that they don't know how to do whatever it is they do without having Big Brother looking over their shoulder to make sure they don't screw up.

Other folks just see it as a protocol, intended to help them do the right thing when conditions are not ideal.

In any case, the intent is to reduce the likelihood of error.

When I learned to ride a motorcycle, the instructor drilled FINE-C into our heads.

Fuel
Ignition
Neutral
Engine (i.e., the cut-off switch)
Clutch

We could all have taken that as an insult to our most excellent native motorcycle startup skills, or we could have taken it as a simple protocol to help us start our bikes correctly.

The guys who thought it was an insult, that they knew better and didn't need any jive-ass instructor telling them how to ride their bikes, are probably all dead now.

Brett,
if the ACA/SSN hill is the one you want to die on, you're going to have to cite chapter and verse of the requirement.

Because *some* of use have had recent GP appointments, where they just asked the usual "name/DOB" by the receptionist to verify the appointment, and everything beyond that was the same-old same-old "Hi, Mr. X, how are you today?"

Yeah, N=1, but it's direct experience, not friend-of-a-frient.

So [citation required]

or even friend-of-a-friend. Or fiend.

I'll see if I can come up with some better specific cases.

Fair enough. Good topic for another post as the peanut gallery could try to unearth the obscure justification for said regulation.

It may come as a surprise to some that there usually is one, for good or for ill. All of those "useless regulations" did not come from the sky on tablets.

We were responsible.

Sucks to be us.

No question that somebody thought they were accomplishing something worthwhile when any of those regulations were written. Or at least with the law for which the regulation is the attempt by a bureaucrat to decide how to actually do what the law apparently wants. Which is frequently less than obvious to anyone who is not a politician (or, I suppose, a lobbyist).

I like the idea of an entire (open?) thread devoted to all of us rolling out our favorite "useless regulation." And then the rest of us offering up rational justifications for it. (Whether or not that was the justification which caused it to be written in the first place.) And, to keep the fun going, disputing the proposed justifications. Whee!!!

Snarki, the SSN thing was my mistake, not Brett's. The requirement the GP was bugged by was name and DOB.

I don'the know if that changes Brett's sense of it being objectionable or not.

Telling someone your real name opens you up for evil black(!) magic influences and your date of birth can be abused astrologically too. It's all a wicked plot!!!!

As a policy matter, my only real concern with this one is that putting 'standards' into law freezes their development. Personally, I'd start putting medical records into RFID chips, you could wear around your neck. But policy and whether the level of government doing something is constitutionally entitled to do it are two separate concerns, and both matter to me.

My apologies for misidentifying the source of the "SSN requirement", and missing it's retraction. Sorry, Brett. Sorry russell.

On Brett's technical suggestion: an RFID chip would simply provide an "ID #", the actual medical records would have to be on a server, indexed by the ID. All of which would have to be available to your normal GP, pharmacist, and specialists, plus EMTs and critical trauma center/ERs all across the US, because medical problems don't just happen at home. Good luck getting everyone on the same page without some sort of centralized directive, whether from HHS, AMA, DOD, or IEEE.

russell:

Not SSN, but birthday.

That perhaps alleviates some of the practical objections.

It does, thank you. The DOB thing strikes me as inline with this book (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Checklist_Manifesto ) which I recall liking, although its been quite some time.

I think there is still a lot to dislike about the ACA, but this particular requirement doesn't strike me as that horrible.

wj/boppyp:

In terms of 'useless regulation', I would offer up cannabis scheduling. Actually, large parts of the war on drugs.

We were responsible.

Indeed.

"an RFID chip would simply provide an "ID #""

RFID chips can do a lot more than that these days, up to 64Kb at this point. But, yes, they'd have to address an external database for most of it. (My medical records would require a Blueray disk at this point!) My new doctor today had no trouble pulling up my medical records going back a couple decades. The systems are starting to come together without external orders forcing it. Even if they don't come together, the chip can just provide a link to the system you're using.

Frankly, I'd be afraid of too much government involvement. The potential for political abuse of medical records could be high.

thompson, the whole War on Drugs definitely counts as regulation which is socially damaging.

For marijuana specifically, there was originally a rationale. Various negatively viewed minority groups used it: Mexicans, Mormons (yes, really!), jazz musicians (i.e. blacks). So getting it banned was driven, in major part, as a way to attack those groups.

Historical note: in colonial Jamestown, growing hemp was legally required. And hemp could be used to pay your taxes. How the world has changed!

How, in any practical sense, is it any easier for everyone to wear an RFID chip around their neck, than for someone to just ask "name and date of birth?" before doing whatever it is they're supposed to do?

Who collects all of this medical information and burns it onto a chip?

How do we manufacture and distribute RFID chips to everyone in the country, state, county, or whatever jurisdiction you would like to have do this?

How do get anything like a useful level of compliance so that everyone is actually wearing their RFID chip necklace whenever they happen to need medical care?

What if they weren't planning on needing medical care that day (like, they were hit by a bus), and didn't happen to be wearing it?

I guess I am, once again, sort of gobsmacked by objections to the horrible oppressive bureaucratic nightmare of asking somebody for their DOB, when the proposed alternative involves about 1,000 times the effort, coordination, and general logistical oversight.

Why is that better?

As far as who gets to define protocols for stuff like this, my basic point of view is that I don't really care.

If the feds scare you, let the state do it.

If the state scares you, let the county do it.

If the county scares you, let the AMA do it.

If all of that is simply too top-down road-to-serfdom nightmarish, screw it. We'll all just take our chances, if the doc cuts your leg off when you really just came for a flu shot, we'll sue him later and call it done.

Because lawsuits apparently pass every kind of libertarian muster.

My point about the whole thing, overall, is that comparing it - any form of it, mandated by whoever you like - to the advent of Nazi USA is delusional.

And I stand by that point.

And just as a basic point of curiosity, is everyone OK with the pre-flight checklists that pilots have to do, as mandated by the FAA?

I hope the answer is "yes".

Notice the absence in the Constitution of a "if it will improve the situation" clause?

in the late 1700's they phrased it as "promote the general welfare"

The systems are starting to come together without external orders forcing it

How do you know there are no external orders forcing it?

The potential for political abuse of medical records could be high.

What about the potential for abuse by private actors?

That worries you not at all?

In the absence of regulation, how will you prevent abuse by private actors?

How will you even know it's going on?

Honestly, given how relatively easily RFID chips can be surreptitiously scanned, I'm surprised someone suspicious of the government and invoking Big Brother would want everyone wearing uniquely and explicitly personally identifiable ones at all times embedded in their necks. Although it might be fun for corporate data miners.

That's why I dislike the move towards RFID chips in credit cards -- it's just too easy for someone near by to scan the information. And having personal medical information (and, necessarily, identification information) on an RFID chip seems a whole additional level of worse.

But perhaps the idea is that privacy, except from the government, is an outdated concept. Not an approach I am comfortable with. Perhaps the world has just passed me by on this. Then again, perhaps those who think that way just haven't been burned enough to realize the folly.

Here are the FAA regs for pilots.

Needless to say, there are a lot of them. Pages and pages and pages.

They are federal regulations, defined in the US code, enforced by the FAA, a federal agency.

Are they oppressive? Illegitimate? Not supportable under Article I section 8?

If you're OK with these, why is a doctor asking for DOB a problem *at all*, never mind one approximating the dawn of the American Nazi regime?

I'm just trying to figure out how the knee-jerk anti-government libertarian point of view makes any freaking sense, at all.

I guess what surprises - and somewhat disappoints - me is not so much that Brett has seized on yet another opportunity to hijack a thread into his Libertarian Wonderland but that he has succeeded yet again, because too many of us keep engaging with him as if he could be reasoned with. It's killing ObWi, I fear, when every single thread turns into "How Everything Would Be Better Without Government" (O No It Wouldn't) (O Yes It Would). Sad.

thompson, the whole War on Drugs definitely counts as regulation which is socially damaging

This.

Why the fact of the U.S. imprisoning a (far) larger proportion of its population than pretty well anywhere else on earth isn't the first obsession of 'libertarians' in the US is a constant source of puzzlement to me.

wj:

So getting it banned was driven, in major part, as a way to attack those groups.

Yeah, pretty much.

Historical note: in colonial Jamestown, growing hemp was legally required. And hemp could be used to pay your taxes.

You learn something new every day. It also suggests a novel way for the State of Jefferson to break even, should they separate from CA/OR. :)

Nigel:

isn't the first obsession of 'libertarians' in the US is a constant source of puzzlement to me.

It pretty much is for this one anyway. CIA/NSA activities are close behind, but in terms of damage done to society, the war on drugs is pretty much the top of my list.

too many of us keep engaging with him as if he could be reasoned with.

Guilty as charged.

Maybe at some point I'll learn not to dive down that particular rabbit hole.

Partly, I do it because I actually find Brett to be a guy that can be reasoned with.

And partly because the whole libertarian, Ayn Rand worshiping, scariest-nine-words-in-the-English-language thing isn't just killing ObWi, it's killing the nation.

This is not the same country I grew up in, and the changes have not, remotely, been an improvement.

So, it pushes my buttons.

but in terms of damage done to society, the war on drugs is pretty much the top of my list.

Finding common cause regarding this issue, especially with respect to pot, will yield some positive change. I know almost no one who thinks that the prohibition on marijuana is doing anything but causing hardship, hardship that's being doled out in a very racist manner.

Meanwhile, as light relief, the Law of Presidential Godfathership
(really)
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/southamerica/argentina/11316410/Argentinas-president-adopts-godson-to-prevent-him-becoming-a-werewolf.html

Why the fact of the U.S. imprisoning a (far) larger proportion of its population than pretty well anywhere else on earth isn't the first obsession of 'libertarians' in the US is a constant source of puzzlement to me.

libertarian = authoritarian so long as the authorities leave me alone.

that's what i've gathered from them, anyway

Libertarians have been concentrating on this one since the 70's, and much of the state level pot legalization is largely our handiwork.

But for people who value liberty, the US has become a target rich environment.

Brett, you are cordially invited to write a post detailing your handiwork with state level pot legalization. Don't hide your light under a bushel...

and much of the state level pot legalization is largely our handiwork.

I'd be curious to see evidence of this as well. Not because I don't think the LP doesn't favor legalization (it does, it was even a major facet of the Johnson/Gray 2012 campaign, and I know both of them are members of the Marijuana Policy Project). But simply because the LP really isn't that prominent...the membership is less than half a million (http://www.lp.org/news/press-releases/libertarian-party-bucks-trend-with-11-increase-in-voter-registration ).

So, I'd make the lesser claim that the LP contributed to the state-level legalization effort, not that it was predominantly LP handiwork.

There are, however, a whole lot of libertarians who are not actually members of the Libertarian Party. (For a variety of reasons.) So their contributions could be substantial, regardless of the size of the LP itself.

The scariest nine words in the English language:

We are Libertarian and the Market will save US

sorry about that snark, Reagan did have a sense of humor.
http://politicalhumor.about.com/cs/quotethis/a/reaganquotes.htm

So their contributions could be substantial, regardless of the size of the LP itself.

I'd buy that, but that is incredibly hard to quantify and track.

Let's just all agree that there are some things that we agree on. In huge numbers.

I certainly will credit the LP for, over many years, speaking up for pot legalization. Many people of other political persuasions seem to have also been in favor of legalization (or at least not against it), but have been mostly silent.

Most likely, D's were (are) privately in favor, but prefer not to paint a target on themselves when running for office.

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