vol XII no 1
Edi Birsan asks me to let you know that The Piggyback Society for Northwest Diplomacy
will be presenting North American DipCon XXXVII on April 23rd - 25th 2004 in Portland
Oregon. Continued updates and further announcements may be found at www.piggybackdip.org.
Enjoy the zine!
Variations on a Theme
Some words of warning from Pastor
A brief introduction to Hyper-Text Markup Language (html)
HTML is used on the internet to tell your browser how to display the information in a document. The
formatting information is contained in a number of "tags". A "tag" consists of a less than' symbol, a tag name,
some optional parameters, and ends with a greater than' symbol. Most html tags come in pairs; a beginning tag
and an ending tag, which tell your browser where to start and where to end the formatting specified. The ending
tag has the same name, with a right leaning line, "/", in front of the name. For instance, the pair of tags which
tell your browser that a document is indeed an html document, could look like this: <html> and </html>.
These would be the very first and last items in the document. In most documents, there would be additional
information about the html version used in the beginning, or "header" tag.
Last Friday, I recieved a phone call for Barb. Trying to be the efficient secretary, I replied
that she wasn't in; could I take a message? I was told that this was a reminder call from
Family Medicine'. Now, on the face of it, that really doesn't say much, does it? Family
Medicine' is a nice generic name, could be any medical clinic, pretty much anywhere.
Whether I recognize the name or not, whatever the actual name, I would only have to look in
the phone book to know where to find them. But, a "reminder call"? What's that? Since
I've had my own dealings with the medical and dental systems over the last few decades, I,
as, I suspect, most, if not all, of you also, know that "reminder call" means, "we know you
won't remember your appointment tomorrow, so we're calling you to remind you to get your
sorry ass in here so we won't have a fifteen minute slot when we aren't earning big bucks
from your insurance company to cover the overhead we have to hire to fill out all the paper
work your insurance company requires." So, I wrote down "Family Medicine" and
"Monday", that being the next working day, then asked, "She has an appointment Monday,
when?" Now things really start to get bizarre. I was told, "I can't tell you that."
Excuse me? You're calling to tell me that Barb has an appointment on Monday, and you
can't tell me when so I can let her know? "Nope." Why not? "HIPPA."
That's the short, clean, summary of the conversation. There was not much additional
semantic content to it, although it continued for several more minutes.
I want you to know that I try to be cool, calm, and relaxed most of the time. I think I do
manage to pull it off most of the time. But, when I was told "HIPPA", my blood pressure
must have gone up twenty points. Let me digress.
Nearly a year ago, I went into my dentist's office for a semi-annual teeth cleaning. When I
arrived, several sheets of paper were shoved over the counter at me and I was instructed to
"sign this." "This" turned out to be an acknowledgement that I'd recieved a copy of the
office's disclosure sheet which they are required to prepare under "HIPPA". Since I was in
the Navy, I have not signed anything I haven't read in it's entirety. So, I sat down in the
waiting room, and started to read. Barely having started, I was called in for the cleaning.
The crux of the following conversation was that I wasn't signing anything not fully read, nor
was I signing for anything not fully read, and that I could get my teeth cleaned without
signing, but that if so, I would have to pay cash for the appointment; but that if I did sign,
they could bill the insurance company. So, clearly, "HIPPA" involves some extortion. I
ended up cancelling the appointment, and left saying I'd call to reschedule. I spent most of
the next hour reading everything I'd been handed. Then I spent most of the next two hours
on the Internet in the library looking up fun facts on "HIPPA". Mostly, they are not.
As I gathered, quite a bit of this law concerns transferring of medical information and
payment of medical claims via electronic communications. Other parts concern "privacy".
Specifically, no medical office may discuss any of a patient's medical status or information,
including appointment times, with any other living human being other than the patient him or
her self without that patient filing a signed written release to discuss said information with
specifically named individuals. It goes on to say that the Feds can raid all of your medical
info, and your medical office is not permitted to tell you that they have.
With that background, this "reminder call" really rubbed me the wrong way. I called the
local office of our local congress critter. The nice lady who answered the phone, after she
had patiently waited through my ire, dispensed with the obviously eminently excellent idea of
trashing the entire HIPPA bill, and got me back to brass tacks, explained that there are folks
who would be in quite a bit of danger if certain family members learned that they even had a
medical appointment. Well, if ours was one of those situations, which it certainly is not, it
seems to me that Family Medicine' had already messed up in a big way. "How many folks
are in that situation?" I asked. "Hopefully, not very many," I was told. Sounds like "opt
out" when "opt in" would have been much more appropriate, and would have inconvenienced
many fewer of us all.
We also covered the confiscation of personal information. Item: If I happen to disappear for
an extended period, and an unrecognizable body in subsequently discovered in my favorite
hiking area, the authorities will likely x-ray the remains and ask my dentist to compare the
x-rays to my dental records. I know that happens and in the event I've disapeared there's not
much I'd be able to do about it. I object to the Feds claiming the right to abscond with my
personal information: that is a flagrantly unreasonable search and seizure. Also, I object
extremely to their claiming the right to hide the fact from the victim, whether myself or
anyone else. Finally, I most vigorously object to their attempting to get me to agree to the
above violations of the constitution, no matter how indirectly it was done.
I then went on to explain that as far as I was concerned, the County of Clallam, by requiring
all voters to use mail-in ballots, had stolen my right to a secret ballot. You know how mail-
in ballots work: one punches the card, puts it into an envelope, puts that into a second
envelope, which one signs, and drops that whole shebang into the post. When they first
required mail-in ballots, I went in to the courthouse to cast a ballot. The alternatives given
me were to drop it in a box, or schedule an appointment for the next day to watch their
procedure. I was there then and did not want to make a second hour long round trip to verify
that when I'm present they won't be checking to see how I voted. My objection is that,
under the present circumstances, when my ballot leaves my hand, it can be identified as mine
the potential exists. It's the first step over the edge to that slippery slope at the bottom of
which every voter's vote is known.
Well, I need to leave some room for a few games in here, so I'll stop after I say one more
thing. More of us need to be complaining loudly, before we find ourselves in Pastor