December 6, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 8:15 PM


Trump Jr. cites attorney-client privilege in not answering panel's questions about discussions with his father (KYLE CHENEY, 12/06/2017, Politico)

Posted by orrinj at 8:10 PM


The Hidden Player Spurring a Wave of Cheap Consumer Devices: Amazon (Farhad Manjoo, Dec. 6, 2017, NY Times)

A few weeks ago, Wyze Labs, a one-year-old start-up in Seattle, sent me its first gadget to try. It's a small, internet-connected video camera, the kind you might use for security or to keep tabs on your dog or your baby.

On the surface, the camera doesn't sound special. Like home internet cameras made by Nest or Netgear, the Wyze device can monitor an area for motion or sound. When it spots something, it begins recording a short clip that it stores online, for access on your phone or your computer.

But the WyzeCam has one groundbreaking feature that no rival can match. It is being sold for such an unbelievably low price -- $20 -- that it sent me tunneling into the global gadget industry to figure out how Wyze had done it. That, in turn, led to a revelation about the future of all kinds of products, from cameras to clothes.

That future? We're going to get better products for ludicrously low prices, and big brands across a range of categories -- the Nests and Netgears of the world -- are going to find it harder than ever to get us to shell out big money for their wares.

There's a hidden hero in this story -- or, if you're a major brand, a shadowy villain. It's Amazon.

Posted by orrinj at 6:45 PM


U.S. trade gap soars as imports from China hit record high (DOUG PALMER, 12/05/2017, Politico)

The U.S. trade deficit jumped 8.6 percent in October as imports from China and other suppliers hit a record high ahead of the holiday shopping season, a Commerce Department report released Tuesday showed.

The monthly trade gap totaled $48.7 billion, the highest level for a full month since President Donald Trump took office on Jan. 20.

Ahead of the election, a Trump campaign adviser asserted they could eliminate the deficit in one or two years. Instead, the 2017 deficit is on track to exceed the 2016 level of $505 billion.

If Donald resigned today his major achievements would be accidentally leading to the removal of sexual abusers from positions of power and ruining some immigrant lives for no reason. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:31 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:15 PM


America's Forgotten Post-War Conservative : Vance Packard predicted the anxieties of 1950s America--and our present day--better than almost anyone. (ADDISON DEL MASTRO • December 6, 2017, American Conservative)

Vance Packard is not a name that comes to mind when you think of mid-century conservatives. Certainly, you won't hear him mentioned alongside William F. Buckley, James Burnham, or Russell Kirk. If Packard is remembered at all, it is as the author of the anti-advertising tome The Hidden Persuaders, and more generally as a left-leaning critic of consumer capitalism and of America's complacent Cold War culture.

That image is not exactly wrong, but it is woefully incomplete. Vance Packard may have been a liberal in his own time, but today he reads as a reasonable and fundamentally conservative voice in an era that was redefining at breakneck speed the nature of American life. [...]

In A Nation of Strangers, published in 1972, Packard presciently warned against the "attrition of communal structure" brought on by Americans' increasing tendency to move, splitting up extended families and rooted communities. This was often, he noted, a result of corporate ladder-climbing, which required transferring often and all over the country. He recounts an anecdote involving a CEO who forced his entire company to relocate halfway across the country rather than relocate himself.

Packard also decried the suburban trend towards wiping out true public spaces. Two decades before the great mall-building spree of the 1990s, he worried that shopping malls were becoming the only "public" spaces where young people could meet up and hang out. That they were designed to promote consumerism was a feature, not a bug. Packard, it seems, was something of a New Urbanist.

Among the hopeful signs--reversals of trends he saw in Nation of Strangers--are deurbanization, declining mobility, telecommuting, grown children living at home, etc.

Posted by orrinj at 5:39 PM


I Believe Franken's Accusers Because He Groped Me, Too (TINA DUPUY, 12/06/17, The Atlantic)

Tweeden's story rang true to me. I'd told myself I was the only one. I'd been groped by Franken in 2009. [...]

Nearly 20 years ago, during Kenneth Starr's investigation of President Bill Clinton, I was taking night classes, waiting tables, and chasing boys who looked like Ricky Martin. At the time, the focus on Clinton's sex life seemed to me a Republican-fueled, puritanical media frenzy. I thought it was a crusade to penalize consensual sex. Clinton was the first Baby Boomer president. He came of age during the sexual revolution and his wife was an "overbearing yuppie wife from hell"; there was a counter-culture couple in the West Wing! To family-values Republicans, the Clintons were an affront to all that was good and holy.

When Toni Morrison called Bill Clinton the first black president, she wasn't saying he was down with the cause; she was saying he was dismissed and demeaned by the existing power structure. Clinton was born poor in a backwater state, raised by a single mother. He ate Big Macs, played the sax, and chased women. And when, Morrison wrote, "his unpoliced sexuality became the focus of the persecution," African American men felt a kinship. "The message was clear: 'No matter how smart you are, how hard you work, how much coin you earn for us, we will put you in your place or put you out of the place you have somehow, albeit with our permission, achieved,'" Morrison wrote. "'You will be fired from your job, sent away in disgrace, and--who knows?--maybe sentenced and jailed to boot. In short, unless you do as we say (i.e., assimilate at once), your expletives belong to us.'"

Gloria Steinem penned her own defense, "Feminists and the Clinton Question," in The New York Times. "Like most feminists, most Americans become concerned about sexual behavior when someone's will has been violated; that is, when 'no' hasn't been accepted as an answer," she wrote. In 1998, this was the final word for feminists: Yes, Bill was a womanizer, but, relax, the ladies liked it.

I ignored the very idea that Bill Clinton raped Juanita Broaddrick. I put it in the same category as Bill Ayers, the New Black Panther Party, and Benghazi: A shorthand swipe Republicans lob on cable TV. Besides, I liked Bill Clinton. I had a single mother too.  I also liked Hillary. As first lady, she made old men furious for not "knowing her place." The Clintons were an inspiration to me.

Then Tweeden tweeted #metoo.

Posted by orrinj at 5:36 PM


Day 3 I-66 toll hits $23. Are commuters finding alternatives? (Luz Lazo, December 6, 2017, Washington Post)

During the Wednesday morning rush hour, solo drivers on I-66 express lanes faced tolls near $23 for the 10-mile stretch from the Capital Beltway to the District line. That was much lower than Monday and Tuesday when tolls hit $34.50 and $40, respectively.

State transportation officials say demand to use the lanes is lessening, leading to the lower toll rates. (In a dynamic toll system, rates continually adjust to traffic conditions- prices go up when the lanes get full and decrease when traffic is lighter).

On Monday, the alternative routes to I-66 saw traffic counts rise between six and eight percent in the morning commute. Route 29, saw the biggest impact, with a traffic increase of 8 percent in the morning and up to 11 percent during the evening rush.

DC itself should just be closed to traffic.

Posted by orrinj at 5:31 PM


Investigators probe European travel of Trump associates : Questions linger about 2016 trips by Donald Trump Jr., Carter Page, Michael Cohen and other Trump associates. 9JOSH MEYER 12/06/2017, Politico)

Congressional investigators are scrutinizing trips to Europe taken last year by several associates of President Donald Trump, amid concern they may have met with Kremlin-linked operatives as part of Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election. [...]

When a House Intelligence Committee member asked Page last month about his end-of-summer 2016 visit to Budapest, for instance, Page initially said he "did a lot of sightseeing and went to a jazz club. Not much to report."

Under further questioning, Page admitted to meeting with a Hungarian government official who some congressional investigators suspect is an intelligence officer and cryptically offered that "there may have been one Russian person passing through there."

Trump Jr. flew to Paris late in the campaign to meet with and speak before a foreign policy group with ties to Russian officials. Cohen traveled three times to Europe last year, though he strongly denies the claim in a controversial dossier on Donald Trump's Russia connections that he met secretly with a Russian official in Prague.

At this point, it seems inevitable that even the most scurrilous parts of the dossier will be proved.

Posted by orrinj at 5:28 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:56 PM


Democratic Senators turn on Al Franken (Alexi McCammond, 12/06/17, Axios)

Even though many of claims against Franken are from before he served in the U.S. senate, the mounting calls for his resignation show that Democratic lawmakers aren't tolerating any behavior from their colleagues.

Posted by orrinj at 7:36 AM


'Holy crap': Experts find tax plan riddled with glitches : Some of the provisions could be easily gamed, tax lawyers say. (BRIAN FALER 12/06/2017, Politico)

Republicans' tax-rewrite plans are riddled with bugs, loopholes and other potential problems that could plague lawmakers long after their legislation is signed into law.

Some of the provisions could be easily gamed, tax lawyers say. Their plans to cut taxes on "pass-through" businesses in particular could open broad avenues for tax avoidance.

Others would have unintended results, like a last-minute decision by the Senate to keep the alternative minimum tax, which was designed to make sure wealthy people and corporations don't escape taxes altogether. For many businesses, that would nullify the value of a hugely popular break for research and development expenses.

Some provisions are so vaguely written they leave experts scratching their heads, like a proposal to begin taxing the investment earnings of rich private universities' endowments. The legislation H.R. 1 (115) doesn't explain what's considered an endowment, and some colleges have more than 1,000 accounts.

In many cases, Republicans are giving taxpayers little time to adjust to sometimes major changes in policy. An entirely new international tax regime, one experts are still trying to parse, would go into effect Jan. 1, only days after lawmakers hope to push the plan through Congress.

The GOP basically has enough votes in each house to pass any bill that cuts the corporate tax rate, so why not just strip everything else out and pass that?
Posted by orrinj at 7:07 AM


Four Promising Takeaways from the Masterpiece Cakeshop Oral Argument (David French, December 5, 2017, National Review)

First, Kristen Waggoner, the ADF attorney arguing for Jack Phillips strongly and clearly made the most vital point -- the issue was the artistic message, not the identity of the customer. Here's a key part of the transcript:

JUSTICE GINSBURG: What if -- what if it's -- if it's an item off the shelf? That is, they don't commission a cake just for them but they walk into the shop, they see a lovely cake, and they say we'd like to purchase it for the celebration of our marriage tonight. The Colorado law would prohibit that. Would you claim that you are entitled to an exception?

MS. WAGGONER: Absolutely not. The compelled speech doctrine is triggered by compelled speech. And in the context of a pre-made cake, that is not compelled speech.

In other words, Masterpiece Cakeshop not only serves gay customers, it would sell a gay couple a wedding cake. What he won't do is use his artistic talents specifically and intentionally for the purpose of celebrating a same-sex union. That's the vital distinction. That's what implicates the compelled speech doctrine. Good on Waggoner for making the distinction up front.

...should Colorado be able to compel the owner of a Jewish deli to put cheese on roast beef sandwiches for customers who don't keep kosher? 

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 AM


Coal CEO: Senate tax plan 'wipes us out' (Matt Egan, December 6, 2017, CNN)

Coal CEO Robert Murray warns that if the Senate version of tax reform is enacted by President Trump he'll be destroying thousands of coal mining jobs in the process.

"We won't have enough cash flow to exist. It wipes us out," Murray told CNNMoney in an interview on Tuesday. [...]

For coal companies, it could be a double-whammy. It would preserve the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) and impose new limits on the interest payments that businesses can write off. Murray Energy estimates that these changes would raise its tax bill by $60 million per year.

Posted by orrinj at 5:44 AM


Microwave weapon could fry North Korean missile controls, say experts (CYNTHIA MCFADDEN, WILLIAM M. ARKIN, KEVIN MONAHAN and KENZI ABOU-SABE, 12/05/17, NBC)
The U.S. has microwave weapons that proponents believe could stop North Korea from launching missiles by frying their electronics.

The weapons were discussed at an August White House meeting related to North Korea, according to two U.S. officials with direct knowledge.

Posted by orrinj at 5:43 AM


Posted by orrinj at 5:22 AM


The Flaw in Strategic Genius Steve Bannon's Plan to Sour Utah Voters on Mitt Romney (Margaret Hartmann, 12/05/17, New York)

"You hid behind your religion. You went to France to be a missionary while men were dying in Vietnam. Do not talk about honor and integrity," Bannon said. [...]

Attacking Romney probably won't have any effect on the Alabama race, but it may come back to bite Bannon's preferred candidate in Utah. It's unclear if the 83-year-old Hatch will run for reelection, or if Romney would launch a primary challenge. However, a recent poll showed 3 of 4 Utahns want Hatch to retire, and Romney would destroy him if the 2018 election were held today.

Regardless of whether Hatch or Romney run, now Bannon's endorsement will be toxic to any candidate in Utah. The state is 63 percent Mormon, and presumably those voters - who aren't big Trump fans to begin with - do not see Romney's missionary work as a flimsy excuse to avoid Vietnam service. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:11 AM


These 3D-printed objects don't need batteries to connect to Wi-Fi (ABHIMANYU GHOSHAL, 12/06/17, Next Web)

One of the big tradeoffs that comes with the convenience of having smart devices run your home is the hassle of keeping them powered, either with batteries or by plugging them into the wall. But a new project devised by researchers at the University of Washington could one day help guide the creation of gadgets that don't require any power at all to stay online.

Vikram Iyer, Justin Chan, and Shyamnath Gollakota from UW figured out a way to 3D-print plastic objects with wireless capabilities baked right in - no power source or electronics necessary.