The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Significant data disclosure at Stanford Hospital

I don't have all the details, but it looks like an employee at one of the hospital's vendors did something really stupid:

A medical privacy breach led to the public posting on a commercial Web site of data for 20,000 emergency room patients at Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto, Calif., including names and diagnosis codes, the hospital has confirmed. The information stayed online for nearly a year.

Since discovering the breach last month, the hospital has been investigating how a detailed spreadsheet made its way from one of its vendors, a billing contractor identified as Multi-Specialty Collection Services, to a Web site called Student of Fortune, which allows students to solicit paid assistance with their schoolwork.

Gary Migdol, a spokesman for Stanford Hospital and Clinics, said the spreadsheet first appeared on the site on Sept. 9, 2010, as an attachment to a question about how to convert the data into a bar graph.

One can easily see how this happened: someone on the billing contractor's staff was taking a class of some kind and decided to use real, live, HIPAA-protected data for a project. My law-school Wills instructor, Jerry Leitner, would explain this by the "omnibus explanation," the thing that explains nearly every human endeavor that ends badly: stupidity.

The article mentions Stanford got fined $250,000 from the breach. I wonder if they'll be able to get a contribution award from the contractor?

Second-warmest on record

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported yesterday that 2011 was hot, damn hot, real hot:

The average U.S. temperature in August was 24.3°C, which is 1.7°C above the long-term (1901-2000) average, while the summertime temperature was 23.6°C, which is 1.3°C above average. The warmest August on record for the contiguous United States was 24.3°C in 1983, while its warmest summer on record at 23.7°C occurred in 1936. Precipitation across the nation during August averaged 58.7 mm, 7.4 mm inches below the long-term average. The nationwide summer precipitation was 25.4 mm below average.

Climate highlights include:

  • Excessive heat in six states – Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana – resulted in their warmest August on record. This year ranked in the top ten warmest August for five other states: Florida (3rd), Georgia (4th), Utah (5th), Wyoming (8th), and South Carolina (9th).The Southwest and South also had their warmest August on record.
  • Several major U.S. cities broke all-time monthly rainfall amounts during August. New York City (Central Park) measured 481.3 mm of rain, exceeding the previous record of 428 mm in 1882. In Philadelphia, 490.5 mm of rain was observed, besting the previous monthly record of 332 mm in September 1999.

So, weather extremes, a hot summer, record rainfall, and massive property damage from storms. Can't wait to see what happens this winter.

Perry steps on the third rail

David Frum is calling Rick Perry's statement last night about Social Security "the mother of all unforced errors:"

Perhaps not since George McGovern’s annihilation at the hands of Richard Nixon in 1972 has a candidate’s Primary base been so alienated from the center of American political thought as the Tea Party is today. Make no mistake: no candidate who doesn’t convincingly throw the red meat to the Tea Party audiences will have a sliver of a chance of getting nominated.

I’m not going to go so far as to predict the result of a Presidential Election that is 14 months away, but I will posit that while “Change we can Believe in” might be a somewhat tired slogan by that point, it sure as hell beats “Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme”

That, and his complete misunderstanding of Galileo's trial kind of made the evening.

Self-reinforcing pathologies

Via Fallows, a condemnation of both political parties by a former GOP operative:

The Democrats have their share of machine politicians, careerists, corporate bagmen, egomaniacs and kooks. Nothing, however, quite matches the modern GOP.

It should have been evident to clear-eyed observers that the Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult, or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe. This trend has several implications, none of them pleasant.

Far from being a rarity, virtually every bill, every nominee for Senate confirmation and every routine procedural motion is now subject to a Republican filibuster. Under the circumstances, it is no wonder that Washington is gridlocked: legislating has now become war minus the shooting, something one could have observed 80 years ago in the Reichstag of the Weimar Republic. As Hannah Arendt observed, a disciplined minority of totalitarians can use the instruments of democratic government to undermine democracy itself.

Th[e Republican] tactic of inducing public distrust of government is not only cynical, it is schizophrenic. For people who profess to revere the Constitution, it is strange that they so caustically denigrate the very federal government that is the material expression of the principles embodied in that document. This is not to say that there is not some theoretical limit to the size or intrusiveness of government; I would be the first to say there are such limits, both fiscal and Constitutional. But most Republican officeholders seem strangely uninterested in the effective repeal of Fourth Amendment protections by the Patriot Act, the weakening of habeas corpus and self-incrimination protections in the public hysteria following 9/11 or the unpalatable fact that the United States has the largest incarcerated population of any country on earth.

The U.S. usually corrects itself when one side over-reaches. I think we still have worse ahead of us, but so far, I don't believe we'll wind up as Weimar did. I hope.

Twins at Angels

Yesterday I flew to California to continue the 30-Ballpark Geas, arriving at my first-row seat in Angel Stadium just in time for the first pitch.

A short time later, the Angels got a grand slam, which ultimately devolved into the pitcher's duel you see here:

Yes, with 16 runs and 23 hits, most of the 8 guys who pitched in the game saw their ERAs rise a bit—more than a full point in winning pitcher Jered Weaver's case.

At one point during the game I counted four beach balls tossed around. Occasionally one would land in the field to a chorus of boos the ball's destruction. A couple of them managed to stay alive the whole game:

Later today I'm flying up the coast to visit my family, but first I've got brunch with an old friend in Hollywood. Yes, it's that kind of weekend.

Photo of the Day

This evening at Angel Stadium in California:

Canon 7D at ISO-800, 1/250 at f/8, 18mm, here.

The home team won, which I always like to see when I'm not someplace the Cubs are visiting. More photos and game info tomorrow night. Right now my body thinks it's midnight.