B12 Solipsism

Spreading confusion over the internet since 1994

Your Data Is Not Safe at Anthem Nor At Other Healthcare Corporations

Classless Society

The next decade is going to be a continual escalation of these sorts of crimes. Many sectors of corporations have skimped on beefing up their security practices, making data theft easier for criminals to steal consumer data.

patient medical records typically include information not easily destroyed, including date of birth, Social Security numbers and even physical characteristics that make them more useful for things like identity theft, creation of visas or insurance fraud by falsely billing for expensive medical or dental procedures that were either never done or performed on someone else. Some criminals have also tried a form of so-called ransom ware in which they threaten to reveal medical information unless they are paid.

“The whole thing is evolving,” said Barbara Filkins, an analyst with the SANS Institute, which has studied the risk to the health care sector.

Hospital systems, for example, are increasingly asking for photo IDs and driver’s licenses in an effort to block patients who have stolen someone else’s medical identity, said John Barlament, a lawyer at Quarles & Brady in Milwaukee. The use of medical identity fraud is growing, he said. “It’s a one-way trend here,” he said.

(click here to continue reading Data Breach at Anthem May Lead to Others – NYTimes.com.)

Site of the Doctors' Commons
Site of the Doctors’ Commons

From my perspective, I hate when health care providers make copies of my drivers license and write down my social security number and so on. Why? Because I don’t trust that they will keep my data safe. Especially as there is a push to digitize health records, health practitioners need to have stronger data management and destruction policies. Should a dentist I visited once several years ago be able to keep all my information for ever? I guess I need to get a fake ID for these sorts of situations.

The push to digitize patient health records in hospitals and doctors’ offices has also made medical records increasingly vulnerable, according to security experts. Moving medical records from paper to electronic form allows both patients and providers better access, but it has also made patient records susceptible to breaches, whether unintentionally or through a criminal attack.

About 90 percent of health care organizations reported they have had at least one data breach over the last two years, according to a survey of health care providers published last year by the Ponemon Institute, a privacy and data protection research firm. The founder, Larry Ponemon, a security expert, says most were because of employee negligence or system flaws, but a growing number are malicious or criminal.

Last year, 18 health care providers reported data breaches because of some form of hacking. Information at Centura Health was compromised last year after a phishing scheme obtained access to employee email accounts. The data included, in some instances, Social Security numbers, Medicare beneficiary numbers and clinical information for 12,000 patients of the facility, based in Englewood, Colo. In another case, a keystroke logger virus that infected three computers for a few weeks early last year at the student health center at the University of California, Irvine, may have captured patient’s health and dental insurance numbers and diagnoses.

Health care providers have sharply increased their spending on data security in the last year, but they remain technologically far behind other industries, say experts.

(click here to continue reading Data Breach at Anthem May Lead to Others – NYTimes.com.)

Written by Seth Anderson

February 7th, 2015 at 12:35 pm

Posted in Business,health

Tagged with , , , ,

Bob Dylan Hates Purple Throated Vocalists As Much As I Do

Trio of musicians
Trio of musicians

Long time readers of this humble blog might remember a discussion or two about singers who over-sing. Artists like Whitney “permanent orgasm” Houston, for instance, who constantly ululate over and around the melody until it makes your ears bleed. There’s probably a better way to describe this style of singing, but I call it purple throated, in homage to the phrase “purple prose”.1

Bob Dylan is many things, but one of my favorite aspects of his persona is his love for music, and his propensity to speak the unvarnished truths about musicians.

Such as in his speech at the MusiCares Person of the Year event yesterday:

Dylan was gracious enough not to identify by name the singer who was the recipient of his sharpest barbs. But he seemed to be referencing Ambrosius, who has had several R&B hits, most notably 2010’s Far Away, sang the national anthem at a 2012 Floyd Mayweather-Manny Cotto fight.

“Critics say I mangle my melodies, render my songs unrecognizable,” he said. “Let me tell you something: I was at a boxing match a few years ago, seeing Floyd Mayweather fight a Puerto Rican guy. And the Puerto Rican national anthem, somebody sang it. And it was beautiful, it was heartfelt, it was moving. After that, it was time for our national anthem, and a very popular soul-singing sister was chosen to sing it. She sang every note. That exists. And some that don’t exist. Talk about mangling a melody. Take a one-syllable word and make it last for 15 minutes.  To me, it was not funny. Mangling lyrics, mangling a melody, mangling a treasured song. No, I get the blame.”

(click here to continue reading Dylan disses Merle Haggard, others, in MusiCares speech.)

If you want to torture your ears, here is the YouTube of that rendition of the US National Anthem, available at the moment.

Dylan also discusses another my favorite songs, Sunday Morning Coming Down. I’m partial to the Kris Kristofferson version, but the Johnny Cash cover is pretty spot-on too.

Dylan recalled reading an interview with Tom T. Hall, the country singer and songwriter noted for story songs like Harper Valley PTA and (Old Dogs, Children And) Watermelon Wine, during a Nashville recording stint many years ago. In the interview, Dylan said, “He was (complaining) about some kind of new song coming in. And he couldn’t understand what these new kinds of songs were that were coming in or what they were about.”

“Now, Tom, he was one of the most pre-eminent songwriters at the time in Nashville. A lot of people were recording his songs, including himself. But he was on a fuss about James Taylor and a song James had called Country Road. Tom was going all off in this interview: ‘Well, James don’t sing nothing about a country road; he just says that he can feel that ole country road. I don’t understand that.”

“Now some might say Tom was a great songwriter, and I’m not going to doubt that. At the time, during his interview, I was actually listening to a song of his on the radio in the recording studio. It was called I Love. And it was talking about all the things he loves. An everyman song. Trying to connect with people. Trying to make you think he’s just like you and you’re just like him. We all love the same things. We’re all in this together.”

“Tom loves little baby ducks. Slow-moving trains and rain. He loves big pickup trucks and little country streams. Sleep without dreams. Bourbon in a glass. Coffee in a cup. Tomatoes on a vine and onions.”

“Now listen, I’m not every going to disparage another songwriter. I’m not gonna do that. I’m not saying that’s a bad song, I’m just saying it might be a little over-cooked.”

Dylan said that Hall and a few other writers had the Nashville scene “sewn up” — until Kris Kristofferson came along and started writing songs like Sunday Morning Comes Down, which Johnny Cash turned into a No. 1 single.

“That one song blew Tom T. Hall’s world apart,” Dylan said. “It might have sent him to the crazy house. God forbid he ever heard one of my songs.”

“If Sunday Morning Coming Down rattled Tom’s cage and sent him into the looney bin, my songs surely would have made him blow his brains out.”

(click here to continue reading Dylan disses Merle Haggard, others, in MusiCares speech.)

Bob Dylan - Shadows In The Night
Bob Dylan – Shadows In The Night

By the way, Bob Dylan’s latest album, Shadows in The Night, is actually pretty good, in a melancholy sort of way. Very down-beat, but in a quiet mood, I like it. I’m guessing I might not have appreciated it as much when I was 17, insistent that every song I heard be guitar-driven, but now that I’ve expanded my musical palette a bit, I can appreciate songs by Frank Sinatra, Irving Berlin, Rodgers and Hammerstein, et al.  Also, Dylan’s voice sounds much better than it did on that lame Christmas album2 released a few years ago.

Footnotes:
  1. In literary criticism, purple prose is prose text that is so extravagant, ornate, or flowery as to break the flow and draw excessive attention to itself. []
  2. Christmas In The Heart []

Written by Seth Anderson

February 7th, 2015 at 11:51 am

Posted in Arts,Music,Suggestions

Tagged with

super Snow Day was uploaded to Flickr

snow still falling steadily

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I took super Snow Day on February 01, 2015 at 10:19AM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on February 01, 2015 at 04:23PM

Written by eggplant

February 1st, 2015 at 10:54 am

Dirty Wurds 45 – Caped Crusader Records was uploaded to Flickr

Chicago Garage Rock

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I took Dirty Wurds 45 – Caped Crusader Records on January 30, 2015 at 10:51AM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on January 30, 2015 at 04:51PM

Written by eggplant

January 30th, 2015 at 11:39 am

Dirty Wurds – 45 – Not This One / Mellow Down Easy was uploaded to Flickr

Chicago Garage Rock

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I took Dirty Wurds – 45 – Not This One / Mellow Down Easy on January 30, 2015 at 10:49AM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on January 30, 2015 at 04:50PM

Written by eggplant

January 30th, 2015 at 11:38 am

Nothing Has Changed Except was uploaded to Flickr

rain, West Loop

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I took Nothing Has Changed Except on December 22, 2014 at 03:24PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on January 28, 2015 at 02:10PM

Written by eggplant

January 28th, 2015 at 9:43 am

Apple Response To National Center for Public Policy Research Re Climate Change

Apple Store with Tree
Apple Store with Tree

From Apple, Inc.’s 2015 Proxy Statement is this proposal from conservative think tank, The National Center for Public Policy Research. We’re quoting the proposal, and Apple’s response to it (which boils down to a long-winded no, are you crazy?, for many reasons). This think tank exists mostly for the task of “dispelling the myths of global warming by exposing flawed economic, scientific, and risk analysis”, and to publicly scold corporations that drop support for ALEC, so you can imagine why they are pressuring Apple. For the lolz, of course. And to support their corporate masters…

On page 62 of the Proxy Statement:

Proposal No. 5 – Shareholder Proposal The Company has been advised that The National Center for Public Policy Research, 501 Capitol Court, N.E., Suite 200, Washington, D.C 20002 (the “NCPPR”), which has indicated it is a beneficial owner of at least $2,000 in market value of the Company’s common stock, intends to submit the following proposal at the Annual Meeting: Risk Report

and the proposal:

WHEREAS, The Securities and Exchange Commission has recognized that climate change regulations, policy and legislation pose a business risk to companies. One risk is that federal, state and/or local government policies, adopted in whole or in part due to climate change concerns, that subsidize renewable energy and upon which company business plans rely may be repealed or altered. These changes in policy may be significant, and may come with little advance notice to the company.

RESOLVED: Shareholders request that the Board of Directors authorize the preparation of a report, to be issued by December 2015, at a reasonable cost and excluding proprietary information, disclosing the risk to the company posed by possible changes in federal, state or local government policies in the United States relating to climate change and/or renewable energy.

concluding with

Apple Inc. has made renewable energy a priority. The Wall Street Journal reported on September 17, 2013, “Apple Inc. now gets 16% of its electricity from solar panels and fuel cells that run on biogas.” One state in which Apple has significant renewable energy investments is North Carolina, which may soon repeal its law providing advantages for renewable energy production, following a report by two think-tanks concluding that this law will cost state consumers $1.845 billion between 2008 and 2021. Subsidies and policies favorable to renewable energy also are being challenged in other states and also at the federal level, where renewal of the approximately $12 billion wind production tax credit (PTC) is challenged annually and in the past has only been renewed at the very last minute, following closed-door negotiations by lawmakers. The PTC’s future is impossible to predict. 

Apple Logos
Apple Logos

Apple’s response:

The Company’s Statement in Opposition to Proposal No. 5 The Board recommends a vote AGAINST Proposal No. 5. This proposal would result in the production of a narrowly focused report that would yield an incomplete and therefore inaccurate analysis of the Company’s exposure to risks associated with changes in government policies with respect to climate change and renewable energy. In effect, the proponent is asking the Company to spend valuable time and limited resources analyzing hypothetical changes in U.S. federal, state or local governmental policies. The Company has already presented an analysis of the risks and opportunities associated with climate change on its website at www.apple.com/environment/climate- change and in its public filings with the SEC, as well as in a shareholder-requested and industry- recognized reporting tool, the CDP questionnaire.

and continues:

The additional report would therefore provide little to no additional value. As explained on its website, the Company believes climate change caused by emissions from burning fossil fuels is a real problem, and has committed to reducing the Company’s carbon footprint.

The Company also provides detailed information on its renewable energy and sustainability efforts in its annual Environmental Responsibility Report, available online at www.apple.com/environment/reports.
In 2014, the Company also provided detailed responses to the CDP questionnaire. Those responses, requested by shareholders, outline the Company’s views on the risks and opportunities of dealing with climate change. The report requested by the proponent would focus on one domestic aspect of climate change potential risk.

This approach distorts the global realities of climate change risk for the Company and its shareholders. The Company continually evaluates its reliance on both traditional and alternative energy sources and regularly makes decisions to mitigate the Company’s exposure to potential price increases, supply shortages and changes to federal, state and local government policies related to the environment. The Company’s public filings and reports already provide substantial disclosure regarding the Company’s approach to renewable energy and sustainability.

For example, with respect to regulatory risks, the Annual Report included a risk factor entitled “The Company is subject to laws and regulations worldwide, changes to which could increase the Company’s costs and individually or in the aggregate adversely affect the Company’s business.” This risk factor specifically addresses potential changes in laws and regulations, which could “make the Company’s products and services less attractive to the Company’s customers, delay the introduction of new products in one or more regions, or cause the Company to change or limit its business practices.”

The report requested by the proposal would not, in substance, provide any more meaningful detail than the Company’s existing disclosures nor would it justify the use of significant resources associated with preparing such a report. The Company believes that the fulsome disclosure already publicly available in the Company’s public filings and on the Company’s website are more than adequate to address the underlying issues outlined in the proposal. The Company also believes that producing the report requested by the proposal would not be an efficient use of Company resources nor an effective way to protect shareholder value.

Let’s hope this proposal fails. I voted against it1

Footnotes:
  1. I once bought 11 shares of Apple with some extra money I made, I only regret I didn’t purchase more, especially as these shares have risen dramatically in value, and then split seven-for-one in 2013. If I had bought more Apple shares when they were $85 instead of paying health insurance, for instance, maybe I could have some money in the bank… []

Written by Seth Anderson

January 28th, 2015 at 9:26 am

Regulatory Reform As A Cover for Corporations to Skirt Laws

Will Obama have to resort to veto pen finally, now that Harry Reid is no longer blocking ridiculous GOP bills from getting passed? I guess we’ll soon see. And the real test will be on the non-sexy things, like regulatory reform.

Please  Vote 

Obama Has Only Vetoed 2 Bills. That’s About to Change—Thanks to Democrats | Mother Jones: “Regulatory reform: By far the least sexy of the topics that might be forced on Obama, changes to how the government writes its rules could pose the biggest trouble for the president. Unlike finance, environmental rules, or health care reform, it’s an obscure topic unlikely to garner an outpouring of public outcry. These are changes portrayed as making government more sensible and business-friendly, always a favorite image to project by moderate Democrats who still cling to Bill Clinton’s mantra of deconstructing Big Government, yet they could stymie efforts to write rules for those specific policy areas.

Changes to how the government writes rules ‘seem both kind of technical and innocent, because they talk about things like cost-benefit analysis, or increasing judicial review, or more economic requirements to help small business’ says Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch. ‘Things that don’t sound threatening and maybe even ease tensions with constituents who don’t really like the idea of red tape and have this idea that if we change it at the federal level lots would be easier at home.’ But in essence, these rules just offer cover for big business to delay the laws that they don’t want to comply with—continuing to set their own rules and skating by for years after the public thinks they’ve already been kept in check.

Last week, the House passed the Regulatory Accountability Act, a bill that would force all agencies to conduct a cost-benefit analysis for each rule. This process tends to favor business interests over consumers. The bill would also make it easier for judges to toss aside rules and force agencies to hold lengthy public hearings for each rule they consider. Past iterations of this bill have received support from Senate moderates like Florida’s Bill Nelson, Maine’s King, and West Virginia’s Manchin.

That group of 10 to 15 Democrats willing to break from the rest of the party aren’t hiding their plans. ‘If Republicans want a minimum of six or more Democrats to work with them,’ Manchin said earlier this month, ‘and they’re sincere about policy and good policy moving forward, they’re definitely going to reach out, and I’ve reached out to them.'”

(Via http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/01/barack-obama-veto-moderate-senate-democrats)

Written by Seth Anderson

January 20th, 2015 at 10:43 am

Posted in Business,politics

Tagged with , ,

Pip is practicing his Ukulele chords was uploaded to Flickr

Only knows three chords so far

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I took Pip is practicing his Ukulele chords on January 19, 2015 at 12:18PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on January 19, 2015 at 06:20PM

Written by eggplant

January 19th, 2015 at 10:50 pm

Picking the Ukulele was uploaded to Flickr

well, smelling anyway

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I took Picking the Ukulele on January 19, 2015 at 12:18PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on January 19, 2015 at 06:25PM

Written by eggplant

January 19th, 2015 at 10:49 pm

Picking the Ukulele was uploaded to Flickr

well, smelling anyway

embiggen by clicking
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I took Picking the Ukulele on January 19, 2015 at 12:18PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on January 19, 2015 at 06:25PM

Written by eggplant

January 19th, 2015 at 1:08 pm

Pip is practicing his Ukulele chords was uploaded to Flickr

Only knows three chords so far

embiggen by clicking
http://flic.kr/p/qzwvM5

I took Pip is practicing his Ukulele chords on January 19, 2015 at 12:18PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on January 19, 2015 at 06:20PM

Written by eggplant

January 19th, 2015 at 12:38 pm

Imagine My Surprise was uploaded to Flickr

Wells St, Chicago

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I took Imagine My Surprise on January 02, 2015 at 12:17PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on January 12, 2015 at 04:14PM

Written by eggplant

January 12th, 2015 at 2:08 pm

Is Fracking About To Burst The Economy?

The Myth of Trust
The Myth of Trust

I ran across a quite interesting discussion of the history of the Oklahoma oil boom in the 1970s and its subsequent bust in the early 1980s, which is linked with the story of Penn Square Bank. There is a book by Phillip Zweig specifically on this topic, called Belly Up: The Collapse of the Penn Square Bank, I think I’ll have to look for a copy.

If you have a moment, you should read the entire essay.1

History aside, what about the current situation with oil prices cratering? Are we in trouble?

Now of course a debacle of the Penn Square variety requires at least one other thing, which is a banking industry so fixated on this quarter’s profits that it can lose track of the minor little fact that lending money to people who can’t pay it back isn’t a business strategy with a long shelf life. I hope none of my readers are under the illusion that this is lacking just now. With interest rates stuck around zero and people and institutions that live off their investments frantically hunting for what used to count as a normal rate of return, the same culture of short-term thinking and financial idiocy that ran the global economy into the ground in the 2008 real estate crash remains firmly in place, glued there by the refusal of the Obama administration and its equivalents elsewhere to prosecute even the most egregious cases of fraud and malfeasance.

Now that the downturn in oil prices is under way, and panic selling of energy-related junk bonds and lower grades of unconventional crude oil has begun in earnest, it seems likely that we’ll learn just how profitable the fracking fad of the last few years actually was. My working guess, which is admittedly an outsider’s view based on limited data and historical parallels, is that it was a money-losing operation from the beginning, and looked prosperous—as the Oklahoma boom did—only because it attracted a flood of investment money from people and institutions who were swept up in the craze. If I’m right, the spike in domestic US oil production due to fracking was never more than an artifact of fiscal irresponsibility in the first place, and could not have been sustained no matter what. Still, we’ll see.

The more immediate question is just how much damage the turmoil now under way will do to a US and global economy that have never recovered from the body blow inflicted on them by the real estate bubble that burst in 2008. Much depends on exactly who sunk how much money into fracking-related investments, and just how catastrophically those investments come unraveled.  It’s possible that the result could be just a common or garden variety recession; it’s possible that it could be quite a bit more. When the tide goes out, as Warren Buffet has commented, you find out who’s been swimming naked, and just how far the resulting lack of coverage will extend is a question of no small importance.

At least three economic sectors outside the fossil fuel industry, as I see it, stand to suffer even if all we get is an ordinary downturn. The first, of course, is the financial sector. A vast amount of money was loaned to the fracking industry; another vast amount—I don’t propose to guess how it compares to the first one—was accounted for by issuing junk bonds, and there was also plenty of ingenious financial architecture of the sort common in the housing boom. Those are going to lose most or all of their value in the months and years ahead. No doubt the US government will bail out its pals in the really big banks again, but there’s likely to be a great deal of turmoil anyway, and midsized and smaller players may crash and burn in a big way. One way or another, it promises to be entertaining.

(click here to continue reading The Archdruid Report: Déjà Vu All Over Again.)

We’ll see, but it might be a good time to start putting a few Krugerrands under your mattress…

Gold Coins
Gold Coins

Footnotes:
  1. The bank is often cited as being partly responsible for the collapse of Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Company of Chicago, which had to write-off some US$500+ million in loans purchased from Penn Square. []

Written by Seth Anderson

January 12th, 2015 at 11:15 am

Posted in Business

Tagged with , , ,

Keystone XL Pipeline and Carbon Keynesianism

Twists and Turns
Twists and Turns.

During the very first week of the 114th Congress, the new agenda was made clear: Bills to end the Affordable Care Act, to restrict abortion rights, to stop Obama’s immigration plan, and a bill to build the Keystone XL pipeline.

New Approved Keystone XL Pipeline Route

New Approved Keystone XL Pipeline Route

Paul Krugman laughs, and points out the absurdity of the GOP’s Carbon Keynesianism…

It should come as no surprise that the very first move of the new Republican Senate is an attempt to push President Obama into approving the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil from Canadian tar sands. After all, debts must be paid, and the oil and gas industry — which gave 87 percent of its 2014 campaign contributions to the G.O.P. — expects to be rewarded for its support.

Building Keystone XL could slightly increase U.S. employment. In fact, it might replace almost 5 percent of the jobs America has lost because of destructive cuts in federal spending, which were in turn the direct result of Republican blackmail over the debt ceiling.

Oh, and don’t tell me that the cases are completely different. You can’t consistently claim that pipeline spending creates jobs while government spending doesn’t.

Consider, for example, the case of military spending. When it comes to possible cuts in defense contracts, politicians who loudly proclaim that every dollar the government spends comes at the expense of the private sector suddenly begin talking about all the jobs that will be destroyed. They even begin talking about the multiplier effect, as reduced spending by defense workers leads to job losses in other industries. This is the phenomenon former Representative Barney Frank dubbed “weaponized Keynesianism.”

And the argument being made for Keystone XL is very similar; call it “carbonized Keynesianism.” Yes, approving the pipeline would mobilize some money that would otherwise have sat idle, and in so doing create some jobs — 42,000 during the construction phase, according to the most widely cited estimate. (Once completed, the pipeline would employ only a few dozen workers.) But government spending on roads, bridges and schools would do the same thing.

And the job gains from the pipeline would, as I said, be only a tiny fraction — less than 5 percent — of the job losses from sequestration, which in turn are only part of the damage done by spending cuts in general. If Mr. McConnell and company really believe that we need more spending to create jobs, why not support a push to upgrade America’s crumbling infrastructure?

So what should be done about Keystone XL? If you believe that it would be environmentally damaging — which I do — then you should be against it, and you should ignore the claims about job creation. The numbers being thrown around are tiny compared with the country’s overall work force.

(click here to continue reading For the Love of Carbon – NYTimes.com.)

The worship of Mammon.jpg
The worship of Mammon” by Evelyn De Morgan[1]. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Infrastructure improvement? Blasphemy! Spending money to fix bridges, roads, water supply pipes, commuter rails – that’s Socialism! But building a massive pipeline to ship oil from Canada to China via the Gulf of Mexico is God’s commandment. If you consider Mammon a God that is…

Written by Seth Anderson

January 12th, 2015 at 9:27 am