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Comment: Re:this isnt an "obamacare" thing. (Score 1) 130

by michael_cain (#48689143) Attached to: 2015 Could Be the Year of the Hospital Hack
Medical practices, especially small practices, who haven't followed the changes to HIPAA that have occurred outside of the context of the ACA, will be in for a rude surprise if they're sloppy enough about their security practices ("willfully negligent") and have a breach. The civil fines have gotten much higher, are easier to impose, and it's much harder for the medical practice to hide behind service companies.

Comment: Re: Not quite true (Score 1) 307

by Zeinfeld (#48430745) Attached to: UK Hotel Adds Hefty Charge For Bad Reviews Online

Whether the term is enforceable or not is debatable and almost certain to be rendered moot. Unlike US Republicans, UK Conservatives do actually believe in the rule of law and honest business practices (sort of). There isn't any party who believes that screwing the consumer is a constitutional right. There will be a bill passed.

A rather more direct question is whether the hotelier was entitled to collect the charge under the credit card agreement. And that is unambiguous, he isn't. A credit card merchant cannot use a charge card to recover a disputed charge. It does not matter what the purported contract term was or if it is enforceable. The credit card agreements are designed to prevent cardholders from dishonest merchants. So the consumer will get their refund and the hotelier will find themselves facing a 30 quid chargeback fee.

The only option for the hotelier to recover would be to take the matter to court. The most he could win is the hundred pounds, if he lost he would likely be out the legal costs which could be a couple of thousand. Small claims courts don't usually award costs but they might well do so in this case. Judges tend to detest bullies.

Comment: Re: Ask the credit card for a refund (Score 1) 307

by Zeinfeld (#48430547) Attached to: UK Hotel Adds Hefty Charge For Bad Reviews Online

Its more than that, without regulation you end up with a lemon-law market.

Lots of times the difference between an honest product and a dishonest one only becomes apparent years later. If the product is safety equipment you only find out if the hard hat works when someone drops the brick on your head.

The libertarian theory that self interest will drive people to make honest products has turned out to be utterly false. In fact it turns out to be quite difficult for a company that intends to do the right thing to do so. I once had to get a guy fired after I found he had goosed his response rates for customer support calls by deliberately setting the phone tree up as a maze.

People do all sorts of idiotic short sighted stuff. This hotelier for example got his pants in a twist over a bad review and now he has probably sunk his business completely.

Rational choice is not an empirical fact of human behavior. It is a modelling assumption that tends to give good results in certain cases. But it does not hold for corporations because the interests of the corporation are not identical to those of the employees. All those banks who go belly up because the traders get big rewards for raking in profits and face no consequences for a loss. I don't gamble with my own money but if you want to give me $100,000 to gamble with I am happy to take it to Vegas, find a roulette wheel and let you take 100% of any losses and 90% of any gains.

Comment: Re:Watch your kneecaps (Score 1) 468

by michael_cain (#48287023) Attached to: Boo! The House Majority PAC Is Watching You
It's a state-level decision, so where do you live? Does your state have citizen-initiated ballot issues? If so, file the paperwork, print off petitions, gather like-minded friends (or more effective, hire staff) and collect signatures. I live in Colorado, which has probably the lowest hurdle in the country for getting citizen initiatives on the ballot. You wouldn't believe some of the proposals that I've been privileged to vote on over the years.

Comment: Re:West Virginia too (Score 1) 468

by michael_cain (#48286973) Attached to: Boo! The House Majority PAC Is Watching You
The problem is that with the US system, you cannot vote blank.

There is no such thing as "the US system." Elections, including all of those for national office, are conducted by the individual states. Western states in particular are returning to paper in the form of mail-in ballots. Oregon and Washington are mail-in only; Colorado sends a mail-in ballot to every registered voter but still allows in-person voting at vote centers (last year, more than 80% of votes cast were cast by mail); Arizona and California have permanent no-excuse absentee ballot lists and both have more than 50% of votes cast being cast by mail.

Comment: Re:This (Score 1) 1007

...seems to only happen in the USA. Why ?

The US (and the colonial areas before it was a country) has experienced at least three religious "Great Awakenings," the first starting circa 1730. These are generally associated with various sorts of social upheaval and/or populist movements, and the rise of new denominations. There are almost as many theories about why they occur as there are sociologists and/or historians who study them. My own (strictly amateur) interpretation for what is happening now is the collapse of rural America and the struggle to hold that off.

Comment: Are liquid-nitrogen superconductors relevant? (Score 1) 350

by michael_cain (#48173117) Attached to: The Physics of Why Cold Fusion Isn't Real
As I recall, only some of the samples prepared by identical methods displayed superconductivity. Eventually fabrication became reliable, but it took considerable time. Granted, superconductivity is a whole lot easier to measure than excess heat on the scale that some LENR experiments claim to produce.

Comment: Re:Short Trip mileage (Score 1) 403

by michael_cain (#48091959) Attached to: Fuel Efficiency Numbers Overstate MPG More For Cars With Small Engines
Americans, by and large, buy cars geared to handle their most extreme trips -- the once-a-year 500-mile drive to Grandma's, the occasional day when you have to drive through a nasty snowstorm to get home from work, one trip a week for a few weeks to haul six little boys with football gear to practice, etc. This was an affordable luxury when gasoline was cheap. In the future, not so much.

Comment: What's the GRE experience been? (Score 1) 95

The Graduate Record Exams have been given on computers for a number of years. That's a serious blessing for the long essay portion of the test, especially for those of us who type faster than we can write longhand (and you can edit!). Do they have a problem with cheating? With students accessing the Internet?

Comment: Re:some renewable techs didn't pan out (Score 2) 198

by michael_cain (#47932409) Attached to: Wave Power Fails To Live Up To Promise
Can't speak to wherever in Australia they were planning, but Oregon is a tough market. Lots of hydro, growing wind segment, and not enough transmission capacity to make sure excess can be shuffled off to other markets. 2011 was a wet year, and oversupply was already somewhat of a problem. The economics for intermittent renewable sources -- wind, solar, wave -- get worse in a hurry if you can't sell all the power you could potentially generate.

Comment: Re:Credit System (Score 1) 444

...but when it is not producing energy from a renewable source it is consuming it from a non-renewable source.

The US doesn't have a single power grid, it has three power grids that are almost completely independent of one another. Asking the renewable vs non-renewable question on a scale larger than the interconnect is inappropriate. And to some extent, asking the question on a scale smaller than the entire interconnect is an accounting fiction. Each of the three interconnects has a very different generating profile. Nevada is part of the Western Interconnect. Generation in the Western Interconnect as a whole runs 40-45% from non-fossil sources over the course of a year. The biggest contributor to that is conventional hydro power, with nuclear second. By 2016 or so, wind will overtake nuclear; sooner than that if any of the six commercial reactors operating in the Western Interconnect have major problems.

There have been a large number of nuts-and-bolts studies for doing low-carbon power in the US. All draw basically the same conclusion. It's straightforward to do in the Western Interconnect because of the available resources and geography. For the rest of the US it's an enormously harder problem.