January 2, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:16 PM


Velodyne Just Cut the Price of Its Most Popular Lidar Sensor in Half (STEPHEN EDELSTEINJANUARY 2, 2018, The Drive)

Velodyne is slashing the price of what the company describes as its most popular lidar sensor, the VLP-16 Puck, in half. Given that lidar is among the most expensive components of self-driving cars, the price reduction could help facilitate widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles.

When it first went on sale in 2016, the VLP-16 Puck retailed for around $8,000, so customers will now pay about $4,000 for one. A single VLP-16 can scan 360 degrees around a vehicle, at a range of up to 100 meters (328 feet). Even before the price cut, the VLP-16 was positioned as a more cost-effective alternative to Velodyne's higher-performance VLP-32 Ultra Puck, HDL-32 and HDL-64, both of which offer more capability. The HDL-64, for example, emits four times the number of lasers as the VLP-16.

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 PM


Russia probe grand jury looks like 'a Black Lives Matter rally,' says witness (Richard Johnson January 2, 2018, NY Post)

The federal grand jury handing down indictments for special counsel Robert Mueller doesn't appear to include any supporters of President Donald Trump, according to one witness who recently testified before the panel.

"The grand jury room looks like a Bernie Sanders rally," my source said. "Maybe they found these jurors in central casting, or at a Black Lives Matter rally in Berkeley [Calif.]"

Posted by orrinj at 6:45 PM


The Hunt for Clinton's 33,000 Deleted Emails (Martin Longman January 2, 2018, Washington Monthly)

On July 2nd, 2016, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas suggested that the Russians should be asked to obtain the 33,000 emails. On July 27th, Trump followed Cotton's advice and made a direct appeal to the Russians for the 33,000 emails. This past May, GOP operative Peter W. Smith committed suicide not long after the Wall Street Journal questioned him about his efforts to obtain the 33,000 emails from the Russians.

The Journal stories said that on Labor Day weekend last year Smith assembled a team to acquire emails the team theorized might have been stolen from the private server Clinton had used while secretary of state. Smith's focus was the more than 30,000 emails Clinton said she deleted because they related to personal matters. A huge cache of other Clinton emails were made public.

Smith told the Journal he believed the missing emails might have been obtained by Russian hackers. He also said he thought the correspondence related to Clinton's official duties. He told the Journal he worked independently and was not part of the Trump campaign.

Smith let it be known that he was working in tandem with Michael Flynn and his son, Michael Jr.

I couldn't understand why there was this widespread belief that the 33,000 emails were not only other than what Hillary Clinton had claimed (non work-related, private correspondence), but that they were already in the Russians' possession, or easily obtainable to them. There is, after all, no indication that Clinton's server was ever compromised.

New revelations about George Papadopoulos may solve the mystery:

During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia's top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.

About three weeks earlier [April 26, 2016], Mr. Papadopoulos had been told that Moscow had thousands of emails that would embarrass Mrs. Clinton, apparently stolen in an effort to try to damage her campaign.

Let's look at an article that Judge Andrew P. Napolitano wrote for Fox News on May 12th, 2016. This is a period of time in between April 26th, when Papadopoulos was told about stolen emails, and the incident three weeks later in the Kensington Wine Rooms where an inebriated Papadopoulos blabbed about the theft to the Australian ambassador. See if you can figure out why I'm citing this piece.

While all of this has been going on, intelligence community sources have reported about a below the radar screen, yet largely known debate in the Kremlin between the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Russian Intelligence Services. They are trying to come to a meeting of the minds to determine whether the Russian government should release some 20,000 of Mrs. Clinton's emails that it obtained either by hacking her directly or by hacking into the email of her confidante, Sid Blumenthal.

Posted by orrinj at 6:37 PM


Exclusive: Mitt Romney planning to run for Senate if Orrin Hatch retires (Bryan Schott, 9/11/17,  Utah Policy)

Sources tell UtahPolicy.com that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is preparing to run for Senate in 2018 if Sen. Orrin Hatch decides to retire.

Sources close to Romney say the two-time presidential candidate will jump into the 2018 Utah Senate scrum if Hatch opts not to.

Too bad Mitt deep-sixed his own presidential candidacy by running as a Trumpie.

Posted by orrinj at 6:34 PM


Reformists keep distance from unrest on streets of Iran (Saeid Jafari, January 2, 2018, Al Monitor)

As protests continue in various Iranian cities, Reformists are asking people to show restraint in expressing their discontent. The protests, originally economic in nature and later expanded to include other grievances, have not been welcomed by Reformists inside Iran.

Having initially targeted the conduct of the executive branch, protesters gradually targeted other pillars of the establishment as verbal attacks against the Reformists and the person of the president subsided. 

The protests started Dec. 28 in the northeastern cities of Mashhad and Neishabur; this led some analysts to suggest that President Hassan Rouhani's main rival in the May 2017 elections, Ebrahim Raisi, and his father-in-law, Ahmad Alamolhoda, were behind the organization of these protests, with the aim of putting pressure on the administration. Raisi is the custodian of the Astan-e Quds Razavi charitable foundation in Mashhad, and his father-in-law is the Friday prayers leader there. The suggestion that Raisi and Alamolhoda were involved became more plausible when Iran's first vice president, Eshaq Jahangiri, said the protests were organized by those opposing the administration. [...]

Although Reformists have accepted that difficulties do exist and have defended the people's right to protest in the streets, all also seem to believe that continuing the current path of protests is pointless and will only result in crippling the country and making the situation worse.

On Dec. 29, Hamidreza Jalaeipour, a prominent Reformist political analyst and university professor, wrote on his Telegram channel, "The Reformists were criticized for having encouraged the people to vote and were accused of only knowing how to bring people to voting booths. My answer is that we will continue to do the same thing. Voting is the civil and responsible thing to do. If we didn't have informed participation in society, we would be worse off than Pakistan, Egypt and Syria. Let me frankly tell you that the Reformists do not look for the solutions to the problems of society in the streets."

Posted by orrinj at 6:30 PM


White House: Trump doesn't think "entire" Justice Dept. is Deep State (Erica Pandey, 1/02/18, Axios)

Press Secretary Sarah Sanders responded to a string of President Trump's tweets from Tuesday morning. [...]

On Trump's "Deep State" tweet: "Obviously the president does not believe the entire Justice Department is part of that [the Deep State]."

All three branches, the Press and the American people are the Deep State, which is why he's been held in check so comprehensively.

Posted by orrinj at 5:52 PM


Snubbing FCC, States Are Writing Their Own Net Neutrality Laws (Sean Captain, 2/02/17, Fast Company)

 "We all agree that in an ideal world it should be handled at the federal level," says California state senator Scott Wiener. "But if the federal government's going to abdicate, then we need to take action, and I'm glad that a number of states are looking at this."

Along with pursuing lawsuits over irregularities in the FCC process (like millions of fake citizen comments being submitted), several states are crafting their own net neutrality laws, which they will start debating as new legislative sessions commence this month. They would prohibit internet service providers from blocking or hindering access to legal online content sources, or from offering premium-bandwidth "fast lane" deals to others. Washington State was first to act, with Democratic and Republican state representatives debuting nearly identical bills back on December 13 and 14.

Posted by orrinj at 2:18 PM


The Risks and Rewards of Welfare Reform (Michael D. Tanner, 12/20/17,  National Review (Online)

[O]ur current welfare system is a bureaucratic nightmare. There are at least 70 different programs that provide benefits to individuals and more than 30 other anti-poverty programs, all with different rules, eligibility requirements, management, and oversight. At the same time, the system increasingly provides payments not to the poor themselves, but to an industry of landlords, doctors, grocers, and others who serve the poor. Only about 21 cents of every dollar spent on welfare is actually paid in cash to recipients. It is almost as if the system was set up to benefit everyone except the poor.

A guaranteed income for every American (Charles Murray, 6/03/16, WSJ)

The great free-market economist Milton Friedman originated the idea of a guaranteed income just after World War II. An experiment using a bastardized version of his "negative income tax" was tried in the 1970s, with disappointing results. But as transfer payments continued to soar while the poverty rate remained stuck at more than 10% of the population, the appeal of a guaranteed income persisted: If you want to end poverty, just give people money. As of 2016, the UBI has become a live policy option. Finland is planning a pilot project for a UBI next year, and Switzerland is voting this weekend on a referendum to install a UBI.

The UBI has brought together odd bedfellows. Its advocates on the left see it as a move toward social justice; its libertarian supporters (like Friedman) see it as the least damaging way for the government to transfer wealth from some citizens to others. Either way, the UBI is an idea whose time has finally come, but it has to be done right.

First, my big caveat: A UBI will do the good things I claim only if it replaces all other transfer payments and the bureaucracies that oversee them. If the guaranteed income is an add-on to the existing system, it will be as destructive as its critics fear.

Second, the system has to be designed with certain key features. In my version, every American citizen age 21 and older would get a $13,000 annual grant deposited electronically into a bank account in monthly installments. Three thousand dollars must be used for health insurance (a complicated provision I won't try to explain here), leaving every adult with $10,000 in disposable annual income for the rest of their lives.

People can make up to $30,000 in earned income without losing a penny of the grant. After $30,000, a graduated surtax reimburses part of the grant, which would drop to $6,500 (but no lower) when an individual reaches $60,000 of earned income. Why should people making good incomes retain any part of the UBI? Because they will be losing Social Security and Medicare, and they need to be compensated.

The UBI is to be financed by getting rid of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, Supplemental Security Income, housing subsidies, welfare for single women and every other kind of welfare and social-services program, as well as agricultural subsidies and corporate welfare. As of 2014, the annual cost of a UBI would have been about $200 billion cheaper than the current system. By 2020, it would be nearly a trillion dollars cheaper.

Start it at birth, but don't allow access until they're 21.
Posted by orrinj at 2:14 PM



THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION has either failed to complete or is keeping from the public more than half of the reports that President Donald Trump assigned to the administration through his early and prolific use of the executive order. Of the reports it did complete, many were turned in well past the assigned due date and only "complete" in the sense that they consist of words on paper.

In his first year in office, Trump ordered 95 separate reports, performance reviews, instructions, or other activities to be carried out by executive branch agencies. The Intercept has been reviewing these orders for the last year. We found that 48 of the 95 actions were completed, in many cases after the due date stipulated in the order. Federal agencies have yet to complete another 20. In 27 cases, the agency was unresponsive to our requests for information.

The executive orders were intended to form the building blocks of Trump's governing strategy. They covered everything from defeating the Islamic State, to instituting signature policies on immigration and cybersecurity, to fashioning the administration's position on regulatory reform and energy independence. That the executive branch has completed just half of the tasks the president had ordered suggests that the administration isn't running like the "fine-tuned machine" Trump has boasted about. If federal agencies cannot do the basic block-and-tackling work of writing a progress report, their ability to operate in a crisis is highly questionable.

The administration's track record also reinforces the incredible secrecy within the Trump government. Only 19 of the 48 completed reports were publicly released.

Posted by orrinj at 2:11 PM


Trump accuses Justice Department of being part of 'deep state' (CATHERINE LUCEY and DARLENE SUPERVILLE, 1/02/18, Times of Israel)

The whole point of the Deep State is it can't be subverted by a banana Republican.

Posted by orrinj at 1:47 PM


Most of the U.S. will be below freezing all day Tuesday (The Week, 1/02/18)
Many parts of the Midwest rang in the new year with record-low temperatures on Monday, and Tuesday won't provide much relief. The National Weather Service has issued wind chill advisories from Texas to New England on Tuesday, and temperatures in more than half of the U.S. won't get up to 32 degrees, CBS News meteorologist Danielle Niles reports. 

32?  How about up to zero.

Posted by orrinj at 1:18 PM


Posted by orrinj at 7:56 AM


Trump's war on immigrants (Shikha Dalmia, January 2, 2018, The Week)

The Trump administration's malice toward immigrants isn't only evident in harsh deportation and other enforcement policies. You can also see it in the White House's acts of gratuitous pettiness. Case in point: the recent declaration that it plans to revoke the work authorization of spouses of foreign techies on H-1B visas.

Unlike almost every other visa category, spouses of H-1Bs, 90 percent of whom are women, receive H-4 visas that allow them to live in the country but, until recently, not work or start a business. Spouses of diplomats, investors on E visas, and intra-company transfers on L visas have never faced such restrictions.

This didn't make any sense. But it didn't matter all that much when transitioning from H-1Bs to green cards took only a couple of years. But in the last decade, average wait times have ballooned to six years. And for tech workers from China and India, wait times are now approaching two decades. This means that Chinese and Indian H-1B spouses are effectively frozen out of the U.S. labor market during their most productive years. Currently, about 1.5 million H-1B families are stuck in green card limbo land.

Posted by orrinj at 5:35 AM


How America is Transforming Islam (Emma Green, Dec. 31st, 2017, The Atlantic) 

American culture often presents two opposing paths for young Muslims. On one side are people like President Donald Trump, who retweets unverified videos purporting to show Muslim violence; says things like "I think Islam hate us"; and claims there's "no real assimilation" among even second- and third-generation Muslims in the U.S. On the other are movies like The Big Sick, which depicts the autobiographical love story of Kumail Nanjiani, a Muslim comedian who rejects religion and falls in love with a white woman, devastating his immigrant family.

In reality, most Muslims are somewhere in between. U.S. Muslims--roughly 60 percent of whom are under 40--are going through a process that's quintessentially American: finding new, diverse, self-constructed identities in their faith, ranging from fully secular to deeply pious. The contours may be particular to Islam, but the story is one shared by Catholics, Jews, and even the Puritans. Muslims are creating distinctively American forms of their religion.

As a group, Muslims are extremely diverse, and their experiences reflect that diversity. Some young Muslims care deeply about their religious and cultural identities, but choose to prioritize other parts of life. Others self-define new, non-traditional ways of engaging with their faith. Immigrants understand the country differently than people who have been in the U.S. for generations; black Muslims encounter distinctive kinds of discrimination and have particular communal needs. Converts face questions from family members who might not understand their new religion, and have to navigate the sometimes-unfamiliar cultures of new friends and partners. And some Muslims don't feel accepted by their own community, for reasons of race, gender, or sexuality.

As in other American religious groups, a tiny minority of young Muslims take their religion to an extreme, including in the context of love. Jaelyn Young and Muhammad Dakhlalla offer one such story--two Mississippi college students convicted in 2016 of conspiring to join the Islamic State. According to the Center on National Security at Fordham University's School of Law, young Muslim converts are particularly common among those involved in ISIS-related cases in the U.S.

But for the vast majority of Muslim parents, teachers, and imams, the worry is the opposite: that the young will drift away from their faith. "The people [who] are anxious about [assimilation] are the people who are white-knuckling it, holding onto tradition, worried that they're going to lose it," said Zareena Grewal, an associate professor at Yale University. Imams will often compare young Muslims and Jews, she added, wondering whether their religious organizations will also be hurt by widespread disaffiliation. "They're like, 'Oh, the rabbis are panicking, so we should also be panicking.'"