Archive for July, 2009

Merchants of Death!

July 29, 2009 Leave a comment

You know, the real problem with this post is that it doesn’t go far enough. I mean, what about the hospitals? They’re party to the “18,000 deaths,” right? Refusing to perform non-emergency care and all. The doctors go right along with it, too.

The insurance companies use sophisticated statistical modeling, not possible without the software industry. So they’re complicit. Microsoft sold those companies Windows licenses, so Bill Gates is responsible for some of those deaths. Hell, maybe some of the software is written in C++; damn you Bjarne Stroustrup! You’re killing people!

So, to recap: insurance companies, hospital employees, doctors, nurses, lobbyists, politicians, and software engineers. All complicit in an ongoing criminal enterprise.

Somehow, I don’t think this is a useful line of argument.

Categories: Domestic Policy

To the Moon!

July 20, 2009 Leave a comment

Tor has lots of posts with various sci-fi types remembering the Moon landing. Recommended.

With all this comes people advocating a manned Mars mission.

I don’t know. I don’t think getting all starry-eyed when remembering the Moon landing is a reason to go to Mars. The space program is a good thing, but putting a man on Mars? Meh. I can’t bring myself to advocate for policies based on a sense of wonder.

Categories: Culture, Science

Writing a letter, just like the mafia would

July 16, 2009 Leave a comment

Mark Steyn seems sort of confused, commenting on a letter from an Obama cabinet official:

Why not just break his legs in the Senate parking lot? Kyl “publicly questioned” the stimulus? We can’t have that, can we? The “Dissent Is The Highest Form Of Patriotism” bumper sticker was canceled by executive order on January 20th.

Have I said that I love The Corner? Fantastic stuff.

Moving on, one of the self-anointed guardians of vacuous centrism is angry. Why? Well, the House’s Tri-Committee health care bill apparently makes too much sense. He makes it sound like the Blue Dogs are going to mount a campaign to make the bill cost more and do less. Meanwhile, Ben Nelson believes he’s some sort of automaton, controlled solely by imaginary constituent preferences.

At least Republican craziness is entertaining.

Categories: General

Quick, guess my SSN!

July 6, 2009 1 comment

This is wonderful. Algorithmically generating SSNs based on birth date and place is kind of feasible:

The accuracy of these algorithms is positively disturbing. Using a separate pool of data from the Death Master File, the authors were able to get the first five digits right for seven percent of those with an SSN assigned before 1988; after that, the success rate goes up to a staggering 44 percent. For a smaller state, like Vermont, they could get it right over 90 percent of the time.

Getting the last four digits right was substantially harder. The authors used a standard of getting the whole SSN right within 10 tries, and could only manage that about 0.1 percent of the time even in the later period. Still, small states were somewhat easier—for Delaware in 1996, they had a five percent success rate.

That may still seem moderately secure if it weren’t for some realities of the modern online world. The authors point out that many credit card verification services, recognizing the challenges of data entry from illegible forms, may allow up to two digits of the SSN to be wrong, provided the date and place of birth are accurate. They often allow several failed verification attempts per IP address before blacklisting it. Given these numbers, the authors estimate that even a moderate-sized botnet of 10,000 machines could successfully obtain identity verifications for younger residents of West Virginia at a rate of 47 a minute.

I predict someone will make a Facebook app out of this and trick people into giving out their SSNs (“why yes, that is my SSN!”).

Categories: Tech