Fund Your Utopia Without Me.™

27 July 2013

A Taste Of Home: Syon Park's Enchanted Woodland



File:Syon Park Enchanted Woodland 3.jpg


Located on the grounds of Syon Park, a magnificent estate and the west London residence of the Dukes of Northumberland for centuries.   Take a tour.





Odious To The Nose Of Liberty: 'Lawmakers Who Upheld NSA Phone Spying Received Double the Defense Industry Cash'






From Wired:

The numbers tell the story — in votes and dollars. On Wednesday, the House voted 217 to 205 not to rein in the NSA’s phone-spying dragnet. It turns out that those 217 “no” voters received twice as much campaign financing from the defense and intelligence industry as the 205 “yes” voters.

That’s the upshot of a new analysis by MapLight, a Berkeley-based non-profit that performed the inquiry at WIRED’s request. The investigation shows that defense cash was a better predictor of a member’s vote on the Amash amendment than party affiliation. House members who voted to continue the massive phone-call-metadata spy program, on average, raked in 122 percent more money from defense contractors than those who voted to dismantle it. 

Overall, political action committees and employees from defense and intelligence firms such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Technologies, Honeywell International, and others ponied up $12.97 million in donations for a two-year period ending December 31, 2012, according to the analysis, which MapLight performed with financing data from OpenSecrets. Lawmakers who voted to continue the NSA dragnet-surveillance program averaged $41,635 from the pot, whereas House members who voted to repeal authority averaged $18,765. 

Of the top 10 money getters, only one House member — Rep. Jim Moran (D-Virginia) — voted to end the program. 




IT REEKS.





http://tinyurl.com/lfclzhx

ABC News Busted In Editing The Interview Of Juror B29



Juror B29


The media are reporting that a juror says Zimmerman is guilty of murder. That’s not true.


By William Saletan

Did George Zimmerman get away with murder? That’s what one of his jurors says, according to headlines in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and dozens of other newspapers. Trayvon Martin’s mother and the Martin family’s attorney are trumpeting this new informationas proof that George Zimmerman literally got away with murder.”

The reports are based on an ABC News interview with Juror B29, the sole nonwhite juror. She has identified herself only by her first name, Maddy. She’s been framed as the woman who was bullied out of voting to convict Zimmerman. But that’s not true. She stands by the verdict. She yielded to the evidence and the law, not to bullying. She thinks Zimmerman was morally culpable but not legally guilty. And she wants us to distinguish between this trial and larger questions of race and justice.

ABC News hasn’t posted a full unedited video or transcript of the interview. The video that has been broadcast—on World News Tonight, Nightline, and Good Morning America—has been cut and spliced in different ways, often so artfully that the transitions appear continuous. So beware what you’re seeing. But the video that’s available already shows, on closer inspection, that Maddy has been manipulated and misrepresented. Here are the key points. 


 1. The phrase “got away with murder” was put in her mouth.


Nightline shows ABC interviewer Robin Roberts asking Maddy: “Some people have said, ‘George Zimmerman got away with murder. How do you respond to those people who say that?’ ” Maddy appears to reply promptly and confidently: “George Zimmerman got away with murder. But you can’t get away from God.” But that’s not quite how the exchange happened. In the unedited video, Roberts’ question is longer, with words that have been trimmed from the Nightline version, and Maddy pauses twice, for several seconds, as she struggles to answer it. “… George Zimmerman … That’s—George Zimmerman got away with murder. But you can’t get away from God.”

You have to watch her, not just read her words, to pick up her meaning. As she struggles to answer, she looks as though she’s trying to reconcile the sentiment that’s been quoted to her—that Zimmerman “got away with murder”—with her own perspective. So she repeats the quote and adds words of her own, to convey what she thinks: that there’s a justice higher than the law, which Zimmerman will have to face. She thinks he’s morally culpable, not legally guilty.


2. She stands by the verdict. 


ABC’s online story about the interview ends with Maddy asking, “Did I go the right way? Did I go the wrong way?” But that’s not the whole quote. In the unedited video, she continues: “I know I went the right way, because by the law and the way it was followed is the way I went. But if I would have used my heart, I probably would have [gone for] a hung jury.” In another clip, she draws the same distinction: “I stand by the decision because of the law. If I stand by the decision because of my heart, he would have been guilty.” At one point, she says that “the evidence shows he’s guilty.” Roberts presses her: “He’s guilty of?” Maddy answers: “Killing Trayvon Martin. But as the law was read to me, if you have no proof that he killed him intentionally, you can’t say he’s guilty.” That’s the distinction she’s trying to draw here: Killing is one thing. Murder or manslaughter is another.


 3. She thinks the case should never have gone to trial.


According to ABC News, when Roberts asked “whether the case should have gone to trial,” Maddy answered, "I don't think so. … I felt like this was a publicity stunt.”


4. The jury was not ethnically divided on Zimmerman’s culpability.


Unlike Juror B37, who spoke to CNN, Maddy doesn’t say—at least not in the edited clips—that Zimmerman was a good man or that Martin shares the blame. But some white jurors seem to have shared Maddy’s feelings. “A lot of us had wanted to find something bad, something that we could connect to the law,” she says. “We felt he was guilty,” she adds in other comments quoted by ABC News. “But we had to grab our hearts and put it aside and look at the evidence."


5. Race wasn’t discussed, and she didn’t focus on it.


Unlike Juror B37, Maddy knows what it’s like to be profiled. She says it has happened to her while shopping. But she withholds judgment as to the role of race in this case. Roberts asks: “How do you respond when you see people who are making this about race, who are saying, had Trayvon not been a young black man, that the conversation would be different?” Maddy tilts her head noncommittally and responds: “Is it true? That’s the question to be asked.” In another clip, Roberts says, “That was something that a lot of people from the outside thought must have been the discussion in the deliberations, about race, about color. But that wasn’t the case?” Maddy affirms, “It was not the case.” When the verdict was announced and she was released from sequestration, she was dismayed to discover the national outrage. “I didn’t know how much importance” was attached to the trial, she says, “because I never looked at color. And I still don’t look at color.”

The value of colorblindness is controversial. Some people believe that when you don’t talk about race in a case such as this one, you’re excluding racial bias. Others believe that you’re simply overlooking that bias. But Maddy’s comments indicate that sequestration worked. The jurors focused not on the meaning of the case to outsiders, but on the evidence and the law.


6. She was no pushover in the jury room. 


“I was the juror that was gonna give them the hung jury,” she says. “I fought to the end.” Roberts asks: “Did you feel a little, for lack of a better word, bullied in the deliberations?” ABC News seems to have cut the video here, so we don’t know what was taken out. But in the edited video, Maddy’s next words are, “I don’t know if I was bullied. I trust God that I wasn’t bullied.” Roberts asks, “Do you feel that your voice was heard?” Maddy assures her, “My voice was heard. I was the loudest.”


 7. To the extent she feels racial or ethnic pressure, it’s against Zimmerman.


In the Nightline video, Roberts notes that Maddy could have hung the jury. Roberts asks: “Do you have regrets that you didn’t?” Maddy pauses, tilts her head, and thinks about it. “Kind of. I mean I’m the only minority. And I feel like I let a lot of people down.” In the GMA version, Maddy’s reference to being the only minority has been seamlessly edited out. But this theme returns in other clips. “I couldn’t do anything about it. And I feel like I let a lot of people down,” she says. And again: “I feel like I let ’em down. We just couldn’t prove anything.” She feels the anger and the cosmic injustice. But they don’t change her legal judgment.


 8. Acquittal is not personal—or national—exoneration.


This is what she’s really trying to convey. “Maybe if they would put [out] the law, and a lot of people would read it, they would understand the choices that they gave us,” she says. The tragedy of the case, and the long-standing sense of racial injustice that surrounds it, shouldn’t and didn’t dictate the verdict.

But by the same token, the verdict doesn’t absolve the tragedy or the injustice. “I want Trayvon’s mom to know that I’m hurting,” says Maddy. “And if she thought that nobody cared about her son, I can speak for myself. I do care.” And it’s not just about the Martins. “There’s no way that any mother should feel that pain,” says Maddy. In another clip she adds, “My hope is that we stop walking around looking at color.” Martin’s mother, in a statement responding to Maddy’s interview, says the case “challenges our nation once again to do everything we can to make sure that this never happens to another child.” Amen.



SoRo: 

If there were any moral and real 'street' justice in this world, ABC, MSNBC, NBC, CNN, the New York Times, and the rest of the despicable MSM, which convicted George Zimmerman long before he stood trial, would not only be bankrupted and universally discredited, all of their so-called 'journalists' would be in public stockades where we could throw rotten tomatoes at these unAmerican, lying, race-baiting, divisive, and utterly corrupt cretins.

Let it never again be allowed to stand the patently false claim that the MSM doesn't have a hard left-wing political and social biases.  If the Zimmerman case proves anything, it proves beyond ANY doubt that the MSM has absolutely no shame and that it will do anything, including undermining the American legal system to forward its 'Progressive' ideology, which is, in all actuality, as reactionary and vile as that preached by one of the most prominent media figures in Progressive history, the extraordinarily racist, treasonous, and hateful Josephus Daniels, the editor of North Carolina’s Raleigh News & Observer.


Just as many of us don't hold Edward Snowden up as an American hero because we are grateful that we've learned more about what the government is doing to us, you don't actually need to be a Zimmerman fangirl/boy to be sickened by the MSM's shameful behaviour in the case.  The Founders gave the press special constitutional rights BECAUSE they were supposed to report honestly without fear of reprisal.  If they cannot or will not be merchants of truth, then, perhaps, they need to lose some of those protections.  



http://tinyurl.com/qfk3ljx





Pic of the Day: 'I'm A Moron...'



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When Is A Royal Baby A Foetus?






 Technically, right up until the moment he's born. And yet we've called him a baby the whole time. What media coverage of the recent pregnancy and birth has to do with abortion politics.



By Owen Strachan

Moral philosopher James Q. Wilson wrote that humanity “has a moral sense.” Whether that moral sense is grounded in evolution, the image of God, or some other foundation, it sometimes leads us to act better than we speak. There are surprising moments, in other words, when our pre-conscious emotional and moral wiring responds to a situation in a way our more studied judgments would not permit. A usually callous employee comforts a just-fired coworker in genuine sympathy. A man who hasn’t acted chivalrously in all his days instinctively holds a door open for a pregnant woman. A teenager roaming in one of those teenage-mall herds apologizes to a passer-by whom her friends have just mocked.

This week, as the U.K.’s Prince William and Kate Middleton were expecting their child at any moment, the impending birth received a galaxy’s worth of media coverage. That the child would be heir to the throne was a motivating factor in all this attention, to be sure. I was interested not only for this reason but for a less-noticed one: Countless media reports bore news about the “royal baby.”

Why was this noteworthy? Because this term, to get exegetical for a moment, was not used to describe the future state of the child—once born and outside of the womb, that is. No, the American media used this phrase “royal baby” to describe the pre-born infant. It’s not strange for leading pro-life thinkers like Eric Metaxas and Denny Burk to refer to a fetus as a “baby.” It's not strange, either, for people to refer to a child they're expecting as a "baby," regardless of where they stand on the issue of abortion. It is strange, though, for outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post and Boston Globe--which purport to be neutral on the issue--to use this seemingly explosive phrase without so much as a qualification. And why is this strange? Because it codes a pro-life position into their description of the unborn child.

I am a Christian who believes deeply in the sanctity of life, so for me, this language choice is revealing. The two most common arguments made today by thoughtful pro-choicers  are as follows: a) the being in the womb has no distinct personhood when in the mother’s body, as it is only a fetus and not yet a person (as seen in this ruling of a 2004 Houston court), or b) the fetus has some hard-to-define measure of personhood, yes, but a sufficient degree less personhood than the mother such that the mother may conscionably, though sometimes painfully terminate it (as in this New York Times essay). The linchpin of both of these arguments is location, closely related to dependence. If the fetus is born, it is outside the womb and relatively independent of the mother. If the fetus is unborn, it is inside the womb, part of the mother’s body, and therefore dependent on the mother and subject to her decisions.

These arguments—which really are basically one and the same—have persuaded many people. The result, virtually enshrined into media law, is this: Pre-born beings are to be called fetuses, and post-birth beings are to be called babies. Here’s the New York Times referring to aborted babies as fetuses in the Kermit Gosnell trial, for example; NPR follows the same logic, as does CNN. Fetuses, it seems, are essentially subhuman. Outside of the mainstream media, the rhetoric builds from this impersonal foundation. Not only are pre-born children subhuman; they are considered “clumps of cells,” in fact, or pre-human "seeds." In both the mainstream media and the pro-abortion movement, fetuses are future humans being knit together in a woman’s body. They are not humans while in the womb. To kill them is not to kill a human, but something not-yet human.

How strange was it, then, that leading news sources referred to the fetus of William and Kate as the “royal baby.” There were no pre-birth headlines from serious journalistic sources like “Royal Clump of Cells Eagerly Anticipated” or “Imperial Seed Soon to Sprout.” None of the web’s traffic-hoarding empires ran “Subhuman Royal Fetus Soon to Become Human!” No, over and over again, one after another, from the top of the media food chain to the bottom, Kate’s “fetus” was called, simply and pre-committedly, a baby. Why was this? Because, as I see it, the royal baby was a baby before birth. The media was right; gloriously, happily right.

Like all babies-in-womb, in the months before Kate gave birth, the royal heir was spinning around, jabbing mom at inopportune moments, reacting in sheer physical bliss to the soothing sounds of dad’s voice, getting hungry, becoming sad and even agitated when voices were raised in marital conflict, sleeping, sucking its thumb, enjoying certain kinds of music, waking mom up in the night in order to do more spinning around/kicking, and eating hungrily what mom ate. 


Thoughts for Both Sides of the Abortion Debate


How, if at all, does this “royal baby” phenomenon impact the current cultural debate over abortion? Here are a few thoughts for both sides of the abortion debate, pro-life and pro-choice alike. 

First, for pro-lifers, this event can serve as a reminder that human development is a process. There is a definite point at which a baby’s heart starts beating (roughly six weeks), and Kate’s child was surely able to do far more in the late stages of her pregnancy than in the early stages. It should be clear to all that the child is not independent in the womb, and that a one-month-old baby-in-womb has very different capabilities than a post-born baby. Pro-life rhetoric should not outstrip reality, as in the heat of the moment it sometimes can. This is not to deny the inherent personhood of a conceived child; it is to note that fetal development is medically obvious and a part of every child’s narrative. 

Second, for pro-lifers, this event speaks to the happiness of bringing a child into a secure home. William and Kate are married. They have means, furthermore. They can buy not only clothes for their son, but the finest clothes; not only food, but the best food. This is not the case for a good number of women who make the choice to abort their children. They find out they are pregnant, they see the two little stripes on the home test, and their heart drops. They don’t know what to do; they have no help from the man who impregnated them; they already work tirelessly, raise children, and have precious little in the bank. Though every life is precious, some are imperiled from the start.

Now let’s turn this around. 

First, for pro-choicers, the journalistic reaction to the royal baby may be a witness unto life. If the royal baby was not a clump of cells, then neither is anyone else’s baby. Children, as the Christian tradition has argued from the Bible, possess inherent dignity and worth (Genesis 1; Psalm 139). Many religious groups concur. If this is true, then abortion is not good. 

Second, for pro-choicers, this strange cultural moment is a reminder that dependence does not mean unhumanness. The child of William and Kate will need assistance to live for many days, months, and even years yet. If the standard of personhood is unaided independence, then the royal couple do not have a son even now. They still have a clump of cells. When the child is ten, or maybe 12, he will be able to care for himself at a rudimentary level without the assistance of others and the presence of his parents, especially his mother.

Independence and location are not and cannot be the markers of personhood, in other words. If this is so, then our elderly loved ones are not people; our handicapped brothers and sisters are subhuman; our depressed and despairing friends, whom we must diligently and self-sacrificially care for, have ceased to exist. But all this is not so. To be human, in fact, is to be anything but independent, whether one thinks of the benefits of family members, friends, spouses--and perhaps, persons unseen yet powerfully perceived. 


What's Next?


Wilson judged rightly when he said that humanity has a moral sense. But his epigram did not end there. In his famous book The Moral Sense, Wilson went on: “Mankind has a moral sense, but much of the time its reach is short and its effect uncertain.” This second part of this classic formulation is as important as the first. We all err in many ways. Furthermore, it is not clear what will become of our morality even when we intuit what is right and wrong. It may be, in the case of the “royal baby,” that a few folks will recognize the ironic nature of the media’s coverage. A good number of those who do, however, won’t necessarily care.

But in a society that has moved to a stunning degree away from pro-choice identification and toward some form of pro-life conviction, it may also be that the American moral sense, short as its reach is, uncertain as its effects are, will, after much travail and division, shelter the babies that now spin, kick, and play in their mother’s wombs.

Whether royal or unroyal, they are just that, after all: babies.









26 July 2013

Did The FBI Plan To Assassinate The Leaders Of The Occupy Movement?



M2RB:  Pink Floyd live






The lunatic is on the grass
The lunatic is on the grass
Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs
Got to keep the loonies on the path
The lunatic is in the hall
The lunatics are in my hall
The paper holds their folded faces to the floor
And every day the paper boy brings more
And if the dam breaks open many years too soon
And if there is no room upon the hill
And if your head explodes with dark forbodings too
I'll see you on the dark side of the moon
The lunatic is in my head
The lunatic is in my head
You raise the blade, you make the change
You re-arrange me 'till I'm sane
You lock the door
And throw away the key
There's someone in my head but it's not me.





Let me start by noting that THIS IS THE FIRST - AND PROBABLY LAST - TIME THAT YOU WILL SEE AN INFOWARS.COM ARTICLE ON MY BLOG.  My anti-Alex Jones cred is stellar and, if you don't believe me, use the search feature on the top left and see for yourself.  (You can also search Ron Paul if you are in the mood for additional trashings.)

Having said that, if the above document from the FBI is true, we've officially crossed the Rubicon.  You might not like the Occupy Movement, but remember, it could be your head in the crosshairs next.

So, maybe, I've temporarily travelled to the dark side of the moon and joined the lunatics, but the subject matter is serious enough to at least be aware of it.  In no way am I vouching for it or even remotely saying that I'm sold, but...  Anyhoo, the question is:  'Did The FBI Plan To Assassinate The Leaders Of The Occupy Movement?'

Although I know that our government has massacred Indians, put out an extermination order on Mormons (Missouri Executive Order No 44), interned German-Americans during World War I, interned Japanese-Americans, German-Americans, and Italian-Americans during World War II, forcibly sterilised more than 100,000 Americans, created the eugenics, propaganda and and street enforcer weapons that were later perfected by the Nazis, Mussolini, Mao, and others, etc, there is still a part of even my government-hating soul that doesn't want to believe that our government could ever commit the evils that we've seen other countries like the Soviet Union, China, Germany, North Korea, etc, engage in on a massive scale, but the people in those countries probably felt the same way at some point.

I post.  You decide.

From Infowars.com (ignore the hysterics and hyperbole in the full article, if you can, and focus in on what is being alleged as supposedly evidenced by a FBI document obtained through a FOIA request): 

In June, Infowars.com cited a report by WhoWhatWhy.com revealing that the “FBI was aware of an organization, possibly a local police department or private security company, that had plans to assassinate peaceful protesters during the Occupy Movement.”

The classified document released by the FBI read:


An identified [DELETED] as of October planned to engage in sniper attacks against protestors (sic) in Houston, Texas if deemed necessary. An identified [DELETED] had received intelligence that indicated the protesters in New York and Seattle planned similar protests in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin,Texas. [DELETED] planned to gather intelligence against the leaders of the protest groups and obtain photographs, then formulate a plan to kill the leadership via suppressed sniper rifles.


“According to journalist David Lindorff, the FBI planned to assassinate the leaders of the now moribund Occupy movement ‘via suppressed sniper rifles,” a follow up report by Kurt Nimmo confirmed.



 As I said, I post; you decide.  I'm still thinking about it. 



 http://tinyurl.com/mqnzlqx








Labour Pains! Joke Pregnancy Prank Sends Men Running For Cover After Baby Pops Out And Runs After Them!




Shocking: Watching a woman give birth in the street is a situation which would make many of us panic

Shocking: Watching a woman give birth in the street is a situation which would make many of us panic. So spare a thought for these unfortunate bystanders who were caught up in a hilarious prank which saw a 'mother to be' go into labour and give birth to a small person



It's Friday and time for another 'Weird News' post...







By Jill Reilly



Watching a woman give birth in the street is a situation which would make many of us panic. 

So spare a thought for these unfortunate bystanders who were caught up in a hilarious prank which saw a 'mother-to-be' go into labour and give birth to a small person which then chased after them.

In the hilarious footage posted on LiveLeak and filmed in Egypt, a heavily 'pregnant' woman is seen grabbing her stomach as she staggers along a seafront promenade.

Her partner anxiously tries to hold her up and calls a few men sitting on the wall for assistance as his wife goes into labour.

They unsuspecting bystanders rush over and the mother, wearing a ankle-length blue dress grabs one of their hands as she flails around in distress.

She is gently led over to lean against her partner on a nearby car as the men continue to fuss around her.


Set-up:

Set-up: In the hilarious footage posted on LiveLeak a heavily 'pregnant' woman is seen grabbing her stomach as she staggers along a seafront promenade in Egypt


Help:

Help: Her partner anxiously tries to hold her up and calls a few men sitting on the wall for assistance as his wife goes into labour


Distress: They unsuspecting bystanders rush over and the mother, wearing a ankle-length blue dress grabs one of their hands as she flails around in distress

Distress: They unsuspecting bystanders rush over and the mother, wearing a ankle-length blue dress grabs one of their hands as she flails around in distress


Concerned: She then dramatically throws her arms back and is guided to the pavement by the concerned group

Concerned: She then dramatically throws her arms back and is guided to the pavement by the concerned group


She then dramatically throws her arms back and is guided to the pavement by the group.

Suddenly, she opens her legs and a small person wearing a nappy with a bald patch emerges from under her dress.

The baby then chases the men who have run away in horror at his appearance.


Terrifying:

Terrifying: Suddenly, she opens her legs and a small person wearing a nappy with a bald patch emerges from under her dress


Horrifying: The tiny person then chases the men who have run away in horror at his appearanc

Horrifying: The tiny person then chases the men who have run away in horror at his appearance


Overwhelming: The shock is too much for one of them who trips over and falls to the ground

Overwhelming: The shock is too much for one of them who trips over and falls to the ground


The amusing scenario is repeated several times- in one case the woman lifts her dress and the little person springs out.

Another clip shows a man collapsing to the ground on a beach and half a dozen men crowding around him.

Suddenly the little person springs from under his garments, causing half the group to fall over and the other half to run away in fright.

The reaction seems to always be the same - the men sprint in horror from the scene.


Birth prank

The prank was repeated several times - sometimes the woman lifted up her dress to let the tiny person run out


Frigh

Fright: Another clip shows a man collapsing to the ground on a beach and half a dozen men crowding around him. Suddenly the little person springs from under his garments, causing half the group to fall over and the other half to run away in fright


Pattern

Pattern: The amusing scenario is repeated several times and the reaction seems to always be the same - the men sprint in horror from the scene




http://tinyurl.com/kt9q5no




Privacy Be Damned



Obamacare


The imminent health-exchange scandal.


By Michael Astrue

I have been dismayed, but unsurprised, to see that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is already spinning the launch of its federal health insurance exchange this October. The federal and state “exchanges”​—​HHS recently rebranded them “marketplaces”​—​are a linchpin of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that would allow uninsured Americans to assess and select health insurance plans. Repeated HHS assurances that the systems will be ready for launch have been a critical factor in state decisions as to whether they should use the HHS portal or build their own; at least 14 states have wisely chosen to build their own systems.

A functional and legally compliant federal exchange almost certainly will not be ready on October 1 for those who will have no choice but to use the federal portal. The reasons for failure are not short timelines (Congress gave HHS more than three years), political interference (Congress has not focused on ACA systems), or complexity (states have built well-designed exchanges). The reason is plain old incompetence and arrogance.

After enactment of the ACA, the former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Donald Berwick, had the responsibility of creating systems for the exchanges, which required peripheral support from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Congress did not appropriate special funding for this initiative, and Berwick was unwilling to shift adequate funds within CMS for this critical project. Berwick then failed to persuade HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius to spend one penny on this effort from her massive ACA discretionary fund. Berwick also failed to bully SSA into paying for the entire system; he brushed aside the blatant illegality of that approach.

Civil servants at CMS did what they could to meet the statutory deadline​—​they threw together an overly simplistic system without adequate privacy safeguards. The system’s lack of any substantial verification of the user would leave members of the public open to identity theft, lost periods of health insurance coverage, and exposure of address for victims of domestic abuse and others. CMS then tried to deflect attention from its shortcomings by falsely asserting that it had done so to satisfy White House directives about making electronic services user-friendly.

In reality, the beta version jammed through a few months ago will, unless delayed and fixed, inflict on the public the most widespread violation of the Privacy Act in our history. Almost a year ago both I and the IRS commissioner raised strong legal objections to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which has statutory oversight responsibilities for the Privacy Act. As of the time of my resignation as commissioner of Social Security last February, OMB lawyers could not bring themselves to bless a portal in which I could change Donald Trump’s health insurance and he could change mine.

Incredibly, at the time of our appeal, no senior legal official at HHS had reviewed the legal issues raised by this feature of the ACA. It is my understanding that OMB, despite the recent furor over this administration’s lack of respect for the privacy of citizens, has ordered agencies to bulldoze through the Privacy Act by invoking an absurdly broad interpretation of the Privacy Act’s “routine use” exemption.

The Privacy Act is a general prohibition, subject to narrow exceptions, on disclosure of records between agencies or to the public. The “routine use” exception allows disclosure when the use of a record is “for a purpose which is compatible with the purpose for which it is collected.” Privacy being essential to patient care, it is impossible to justify a “routine use” exception for a system knowingly built in a way that will permit disclosure of intimate health care data.

In this regard, the administration is not only preparing to violate the law, it is also holding itself to a far lower privacy standard than that to which it is trying to hold the private sector. In announcing the administration’s “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights,” last year President Obama himself said, “American consumers can’t wait any longer for clear rules of the road that ensure their personal information is safe online.”

A June Government Accountability Office (GAO) report gingerly avoided all the significant privacy and operational issues surrounding the HHS system, and did little more than report that CMS admitted it was behind on certain parts of the program but felt it could catch up. Nowhere did our congressional watchdogs show any sign that they had actually tested the system and considered its readiness for public use.

Since the HHS inspector general and GAO have been snoozing on their watches, it is time for Congress itself to inspect the current version of the HHS software and decide whether delay of implementation of the exchanges is the right course of action. 

Michael Astrue served as HHS general counsel (1989-1992) and commissioner of Social Security (2007-2013).




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Pic of the Day: King Long Dong Silver Rides Again!








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