Archive for August, 2008

Are there no workhouses?

August 28, 2008

Talking Points Memo

Mr. Goodman, who helped craft Sen. John McCain’s health care policy, said anyone with access to an emergency room effectively has insurance, albeit the government acts as the payer of last resort. (Hospital emergency rooms by law cannot turn away a patient in need of immediate care.)

Okay, this is not quite the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard, but Goodman is certainly working hard to get in the running. Ask the people who pay three times the insurance-company rate for the same care at the ER or the rest of the hospital, and who stand to lose savings, car, house as a result whether they’re effectively insured. Heck, ask the people whose insurance company declines payment because they didn’t call three days ahead of time to get clearance for and ER visit whether they’re effectively insured.

Sometimes it seems the GOP isn’t even trying to pretend they care about the non-rich any more.

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There will always be a Texas

August 27, 2008

Federal Judge, Chastising the Texas Courts, Orders a Stay of Execution – NYTimes.com

Judge Garcia said lawyers for Mr. Wood had submitted enough evidence of a delusional state of mind to warrant a hearing on the matter, and he strongly chastised the state courts for denying Mr. Wood a lawyer and a psychologist to help make that claim.

Mr. Wood was caught in a Catch-22, the judge said. The state courts ruled that he had to show he was insane for them to appoint a lawyer and a psychologist to help him prove he was insane.

I’m surprised this didn’t already exist

August 27, 2008

Bush makes last-minute grab for civil liberties | The Register

The border-crossing database being created in the name of Homeland Security came to light last month in a Federal Register notice, and is intended to form a record which can “quite literally, help frontline officers to connect the dots”, according to a Homeland Security spokesman.

But it won’t just be terrorists who are tracked on the database. The information will be available to any court or attorney in civil litigation, or even the media: “When there exists a legitimate public interest in the disclosure of the information.”

As a fully paid up member of the fourth estate The Register is looking forward to having access to US border crossing records, but we promise to only use the information in legitimate cases, so if you’ve done nothing wrong you have nothing to fear from us.

More bad science press releases

August 25, 2008

Eureka: Solar Princess Receives Double Crown

Nicole was awarded both Prizes for her work in developing and patenting a revolutionary solar cell that can be manufactured at low temperatures using everyday items like a pizza oven, nail polish and an inkjet printer. Nicole hopes that her technology will mean cheap, clean and green energy for developing countries, providing electricity to 2 billion of the world’s poorest people.

I think the first tipoff was the description of a pizza oven as providing low temperatures. Normal operation of the ones I’ve seen is about 500F/300C, which is lower than the 1000C+ of some deposition chambers, but nowhere near cold. And you can run an oven like that (self-cleaning cycles, anyone) up to about 600C if you’re willing to void the warranty and use gloves to open the door.

Nail polish isn’t much good for solar cells, but I bet they’re talking about the bog-standard industrial solvent acetone, which is used in semiconductor fabs everywhere.

And ink-jet printers? Well, yeah. Any device that’s capable of depositing fluids of your choice in picoliter-resolution quantities with a spatial resolution of 10-20 microns would probably be useful for making circuits. The amazing thing isn’t that the process in question is so low tech, it’s that so many millions of these incredibly sophisticated gadgets sit on desks around the world.

No MacGyver, but good on her anyway, and shame on the writer.

Them was the days

August 24, 2008

Gamasutra – Atari: The Golden Years — A History, 1978-1981

[Following his article on Atari’s genesis, game historian Fulton returns with an amazingly detailed piece on Atari’s ‘golden years’, from Asteroids through Battlezone.

And of course this is perfeclty safe for people who contain metal parts

August 22, 2008

Intel Moves to Free Gadgets of Their Recharging Cords – NYTimes.com

The Intel team describes its system as a “wireless resonant energy link,” and is experimenting with antennas less than two feet in diameter to remotely light a 60-watt light bulb.

In 2006, the M.I.T. researchers demonstrated that by sending electromagnetic waves around a waveguide it was possible to produce “evanescent” waves that could permit electricity to wirelessly tunnel to another waveguide “tuned” to the transmitting loop.

Mostly, I think it’s pretty cool, albeit another 25% in power consumption by all the things that are currently plugged in doesn’t sound so great.

Another opportunity for organleggers

August 22, 2008

BBC NEWS | Health | Face transplant ‘double success’

The second operation, carried out in Paris in January 2007, involved a 29-year-old man disfigured by a neurofibroma, a massive tumour growing on his facial nerves.

Its removal was timed to coincide with a face transplant, and a year later, doctors again declared the operation a success.

The patient told them that previously he had been considered a “monster”, but now felt like an anonymous person in the crowd.

Well, not really, considering the pain and the antirejection drugs and all.

Mostly, I wonder who the person ends up looking like — if the underlying bone structure is mostly original, do the muscles eventually take the pattern of the recipient?

not the confidence-builder you might think

August 22, 2008

The Columbus Dispatch : Ohio’s voting machine glitch exposed

But in a letter Tuesday to Brunner, Premier President David Byrd admitted that further testing showed a source-code error that can cause votes not to be recorded when memory cards are uploaded to computer servers under certain circumstances.

“We are indeed distressed that our previous analysis of this issue was in error,” Byrd wrote.

[…]

But Premier spokesman Chris Riggall said the programming problem had gone undetected after years of use and both federal and state testing. He stressed that the systems are secure in conjunction with other election safeguards in place.

Finding major bugs after extensive testing doesn’t tell you your system is mostly bug-free. It tells you your testing regime sucks.

Nothing to see, move along

August 20, 2008

Making Light

Let’s look at a few more things, and a bit of a timeline.

* 4/5 August (or earlier) 2008: Recruiting begins for a massive botnet. It’s so extensive that it makes the international news.
* 7 August: Georgia provokes Russia in South Ossetia
* 8 August: Russia invades Georgia. One component of the invasion is a DDoS attack on govenment, media, banking, and transportation, powered by a massive botnet.

I believe in many things, but when it comes to combined-arms attacks I don’t believe in coincidence.

Actually, that timeline may be off, in that some of the claims say that the russians induced Georgia to “provoke” them by shelling Georgian positions. (Not quite Poland, but it’ll do.)

George Bush should be happy, btw, because it means that maybe the US won’t be the only outlaw pariah former superpower on the world stage. Or maybe that will make him sad in his twilight years.

A confusion about sequence

August 20, 2008

The Reality-Based Community

Given that the besetting problem in Pakistani politics is corruption, has anyone done a careful analysis of how much $10 billion in bribes (that’s less than a month’s spending in Iraq, if you’re keeping score at home) would buy us in Islamabad?

I think we know pretty exactly what $10 billion in bribes would buy us in Islamabad, because that’s roughly what we’ve spent in unaccounted “security assistance”.

Oh, you wanted to bribe people to do sensible things? That’s another matter enirely.