No False Dogs Before Me

Good News, Bad News in War on Privacy

Thursday, December 19, 2013
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MAKES ME BLUSH: It’s come to this: The only real way to keep other people from invading the sanctity of your underwear drawer is not to wear any underwear. I mention this in light of recent developments with the National Security Agency (NSA) and, oddly enough, our friends in charge of Cottage Hospital.

Recent revelations about the NSA ​— ​which has been strip-mining the metadata of phone records of millions of American citizens far more rapaciously than any coal company ever pillaged Appalachia ​— ​demonstrate that no matter how warped and creepy Edward Snowden might be, he’s done a great service by exposing this practice. No, they may not be listening to what we say, but they’ve been tracking whom we’re talking to. The good news is that a fat-faced federal judge named Richard J. Leon ​— ​armed with the facts that creepy Snowden brought to light ​— ​termed the practice “almost Orwellian.” Leon declared the practice unconstitutional, explaining that it violated protections against warrantless search and seizure by government agencies. “I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary’ invasion than this systemic and high-tech collection of personal data on virtually every single citizen,” he wrote, “for the purpose of querying it and analyzing it without prior judicial approval.” Leon pointedly noted the government failed to present a single instance in which this invasion of privacy thwarted a terrorist attack.

Angry Poodle

Given Leon’s political history as a legal hit man for the Republican Party and the imperial presidency, this story clearly qualifies as the dog-eats-dog variety. Before his appointment to the federal bench by George Bush II, Leon churned out legal opinions arguing if a president committed a crime, it wasn’t a crime because the president committed it. Once on the bench, he flowered into a far more interesting and unpredictable character. On the issue of Gitmo detainees, Leon has issued rulings both affirming and denying their rights. More recently, he ruled the Food and Drug Administration is required to certify that drugs imported into the United States to kill condemned death row inmates can do so safely and humanely. In his NSA decision, Leon challenged the Supreme Court’s 1979 wiretap ruling that has been used to justify the NSA’s war on our phone records. That case involved a Baltimore man who stole a woman’s car and then peppered her with threatening phone calls. When the cops caught him by tapping her phone, he objected they never got a warrant. The Supremes concluded no warrant was needed because phone customers ​— ​knowing that the phone company kept records of all their calls ​— ​had no expectation of privacy. The most important fact here is that the car thief’s name was Michael Lee Smith, which ​— ​yet again ​— ​proves my theory that people with the first, last, or middle name Lee (or any variant) are disproportionately prone to sociopathic behavior. Judge Leon argued the feds could no longer use a case in which one person had her phone tapped for a few days to justify tracking every phone call made in the United States. The telephonic realities of 1979 and the present had changed in ways exceeding the scope of science fiction. To liken one to the other was akin to equating a grain of sand to the whole beach.

That’s the meta-news on metadata, and for once, it’s really good. On the micro level, I was one of 32,500 individuals to receive a Dear John note from Cottage Hospital ​— ​our favorite local monopoly ​— ​informing me that a private vendor they’d hired to manage their computerized records inadvertently forgot to lock up their equivalent of my underwear drawer where four years’ worth of my medical records were kept. Someone, they said, could have come in and taken a peek. On December 2, Cottage got a call from an unnamed third party reporting the records of at least one of the 32,500 showed up on Google. The good news, we’ve been told, is that absolutely no financial data has been breached. There’s nothing in my records that would cause personal embarrassment, but such information is intensely personal and private. If patients think Cottage can’t keep their secrets, maybe they won’t tell their doctors what their doctors need to know.

I’m far more upset that Cottage ​— ​our community hospital, where we are told 2,300 babies are born a year ​— ​has unilaterally decided to shut down its subacute care ward at Goleta Valley and outsource that extremely vital, if difficult and no doubt expensive, function to a hospital I’ve never heard of located in Camarillo. For years now, the plan has been that the subacute care ward ​— ​where service-intensive patients who may never get better are sent ​— ​would be relocated to Cottage’s new and improved Santa Barbara campus. Now we are told that’s no longer the case. Instead, they’ll be sent to St. John’s Pleasant Valley Hospital, which we are told by Cottage is so much more, well, pleasant. Not only that, but according to the Cottage press release, it’s “nestled near the foothills of Camarillo.” Everything is better, after all, when it’s nestled. What may not be so pleasant, however, is the extra drive. On a good day, Camarillo is 43 minutes from Santa Barbara. One way. If you live in Lompoc ​— ​as some patients’ parents do ​— ​it’s effectively a two-hour drive. One way. Oh well, what’s a four-hour drive if your semi-vegetative son is nestled near the foothills? I’d remind you all the last time Cottage outsourced a vital community function, it relocated our only geriatric psychiatric wing to St. John’s (Unpleasant) Hospital in Oxnard. Guess what? St. John’s geriatric psych ward shut down shortly thereafter, and today Santa Barbara has no facility in which to nestle its geriatric psych patients.

My point is this: If Cottage can accidentally expose our medical records ​— ​and our not-so-tidy whities ​— ​to potential prying, they should return the favor. Nice, pleasant, and nestled just don’t cut it when explaining why they want to outsource a vital medical service. Cottage, open up your own underwear drawers, and let the light come shining in.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Cottage CEO Werft and his gang care nothing about this community, much less the people who's care they've been entrusted with.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 2:20 a.m. (Suggest removal)

It'd be interesting to see their Charge Master, which itemizes the prices patients are charged for items such as gauze etc.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 2:30 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Revisionist history Nick. Cottage didn't expose patient records. A vendor did, and their contract was subsequently terminated.

Botany (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 5:59 a.m. (Suggest removal)

For once and twice, here, I completely agree with Ken_Volok, although not completely with his grammar. Cottage is a monopoly that does exactly as it wants, Santa Barbara (and Santa Barbarans) be damned if they are in the way. I didn't know about the geriatric care unit, but that's par for the course and outrageous, especially in this area where there are so many seniors.

It would be interesting to see a comparison of tri-county hospitals in terms of quality of care, patient satisfaction, and the other parameters that are analyzed. Those figures exist; perhaps the Indy would do a feature on area hospitals?

at_large (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 6:42 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"Cottage" conjures up such pleasant, cozy connotations. Better they change their name to more aptly reflect today's reality of the monster monopoly that ought to surprise no one. It was exactly 10 years ago yesterday that "Cottage" presented their big plans to demolish St. Francis in order to build their condo project. How very ironic, demolishing a medical building in order to keep individuals from driving too far, instead of repurposing it for something like, say a sub-acute unit... What they're doing with this sub-acute unit is completely predictable and totally despicable and in character with their Wall Street-like actions of the past decade.This was all a part of their big real estate scheme, which is their primary business, in case anyone hasn't been watching. But they got very good at playing the media, the politicians and the generous and kind-hearted people of this community, soaking up all the available donations while handing out huge salaries. Check out Werft's huge compensation package, and see if they shouldn't change the name from humble little Cottage to Mega-Mansion.

gardengal (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 7:37 a.m. (Suggest removal)

As I've pointed out before, the cost of a hip surgery at Cottage is more than double the average cost at other hospitals within a 100 mile radius. Having said that, my experiences at with Cottage outpatient surgeries (10, count 'em, in the past 15 years) have been nothing less than outstanding, every time. Moving care is pretty reprehensible, though.

BTW, our "beloved" Senator (concealed carry only for me more taxes for you) Feinstein is protesting the court rulings on NSA.

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 8:49 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Botany, you are a breath of fresh air in this typical faux outrage buzz-word buzz-off.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 9:16 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Nick, the judge's first name is Leon which is a variation of Lee. Just saying.

Herschel_Greenspan (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 9:30 a.m. (Suggest removal)

What's creepy and warped about Edward Snowden? Are you thinking of Julian Assange?

RyanOSorress (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 8:42 p.m. (Suggest removal)


John_Adams (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 8:49 p.m. (Suggest removal)

All of you that are complaining need to get off your high horses and shut up. If you feel you can do a better job running the Hospital then get off your butts and go in there and do something about it. The people that work at the Hospital dedicate their lives to saving and helping others in our community. Those who support and donate to Cottage understand this. Take your negativity else where.

Craig_SB (anonymous profile)
December 28, 2013 at 11:08 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The problem with that, Craig, is that if you're attacked and seriously injured by one of Cottage's security thugs in the process of going in there and doing something about it, as others have been ( you probably can't afford their charges for treatment and may not be in good enough shape to drive to Saint Joseph's.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
December 29, 2013 at 9:10 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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