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Gender: Male
Hometown: America's Finest City
Current location: District 50
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 11,955

Journal Archives

EU readies sanctions on Venezuela, approves arms embargo

Source: Reuters

European Union foreign ministers approved economic sanctions, including an arms embargo, on Venezuela on Monday, saying regional elections last month marred by reported irregularities had deepened the country's crisis.

Anxious not to push Caracas any closer to economic and political collapse as debt restructuring talks begin, EU governments held back from targeting any individuals.

The bloc instead left names for a later stage to try to persuade President Nicholas Maduro to calm the situation.

"Everything we do is aimed at seeking dialogue between the government and the opposition to find a democratic and peaceful solution," Spain's Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis told reporters at a meeting with his counterparts where the sanctions decision was made.

Read more: https://www.yahoo.com/news/eu-readies-sanctions-venezuela-approves-arms-embargo-084254856.html

Republicans Are So Tired Of Tax Experts Rudely Saying Their Plan Helps The Rich

The GOP tax overhaul overwhelmingly benefits the wealthiest people in America, according to several estimates. But Republicans say you can’t trust any of those.

Over 47 percent of the tax changes in the legislation would benefit the richest 1 percent of households over 10 years, a report released Wednesday by the Tax Policy Center said.

Wednesday’s report closely resembles an analysis TPC issued on Monday, which the group quickly retracted because of an error ― which Republicans have said is all the more reason not to believe them.

Two controversies dominate the debate over how to analyze a tax bill: debt and distribution. Tax changes affect the amount of revenue the government collects, and Republicans disagree with most experts, who say their tax reform legislation would reduce revenue by more than $1 trillion over 10 years. GOP lawmakers would rather just take it on faith that tax cuts create growth and pay for themselves.


Tesla's Dangerous Sprint Into The Future

An informative and detailed NY Times article. They appear to have changed their focus to more objective reporting about Tesla, after trying to sandbag the company a few years back with a highly negative article by an oil industry-loving reporter who Musk called out for fictitious writing by revealing the electronic logs from the car the reporter was driving.


Twenty miles east of Reno, Nev., where packs of wild mustangs roam free through the parched landscape, Tesla Gigafactory 1 sprawls near Interstate 80. It is a destination for engineers from all over the world, to which any Reno hotel clerk can give you precise, can’t-miss-it directions. The Gigafactory, whose construction began in June 2014, is not only outrageously large but also on its way to becoming the biggest manufacturing plant on earth. Now 30 percent complete, its square footage already equals about 35 Costco stores, and a small city of construction workers, machinery and storage containers has sprung up around it. Perhaps the only thing as impressive as its size is its cloak of secrecy, which seems of a piece with Tesla’s increasing tendency toward stealth, opacity and even paranoia. When I visited in September, a guard at the gate gave militaristic instructions on where to go. Turning to my Lyft driver, he said severely: “When you complete the drop-off, you are not to get out of the car. Under any circumstances. Turn around and leave. Immediately.”

To hear its executives tell it, Tesla is misunderstood because it is still perceived as a car manufacturer, when its goals are more complex and far-reaching. But at least some people have bought into these grand ambitions. This summer, Tesla’s stock-market valuation at times rose above those of Ford and General Motors, and its worth exceeded $60 billion. It did not seem to matter to investors that the company had never made an annual profit, had missed its production targets repeatedly and had become enmeshed in controversy over its self-driving “autopilot” technologies, or that Tesla’s chief executive, Elon Musk, had conceded that the value of his company, of which he owns about 22 percent, was “higher than we have the right to deserve.” Tesla was a headlong bet on the future, a huge wager on the idea of a better world. And its secretive Gigafactory was the arsenal for a full-fledged attack on the incumbent powers of the car and fossil-fuel industries. The factory would help validate Musk and his company’s seriousness about leading humanity’s turn to greener technologies, with a vision now encompassing solar roofing tiles and battery packs for home and industry. Most crucial, it involved producing millions of Tesla cars and trucks, all of which would be sleek, electric and self-driving.

If ambitions were all it took, Tesla would be crowned the colossus of the global car industry. But rapidly accelerating new technologies have brought uncertainty as well. Automakers are encountering three destabilizing forces all at once: automation, electrification and sharing. And sizing up which companies will be the winners and losers in their wakes is in no way obvious. In terms of self-driving cars, it seems likely that long-established companies — General Motors and Ford, as well as BMW and Audi — will benefit from their substantial reserves of cash and deep manufacturing experience. Because these automakers can invest deeply in research (and spend hundreds of millions of dollars to buy start-ups), they can remain competitive with companies less inherently cautious, like Tesla and Waymo, the spinoff of Google’s self-driving projects.

Tesla’s goal has always been focused on going green, rather than creating the driverless future. (Its mission is emblazoned on its factory walls: “To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”) Yet as the automobile industry settles on the consensus that self-driving cars are coming — their promise to improve safety and to help ride-sharing replace car ownership for many Americans propels their inevitability — Tesla finds itself in the midst of a contest to do both. This set of challenges should be enough for any company, especially one led by a chief executive whose time is compromised by other business commitments as a founder of a rocket company (SpaceX), a new tunneling operation (the Boring Company), a company planning a human-computer interface (Neuralink) and a nonprofit focused on the dangers of artificial intelligence (OpenAI). But Tesla has given itself a few others too. One is to essentially reinvent modern manufacturing processes at the Gigafactory. Yet another is to create the first mass-market electric car ever. In the meantime, a company that has never made much profit needs to somehow figure out how to do so — that is, to put itself in the black before financial losses and missed deadlines curdle any hope that Tesla inspires, among customers or stockholders, into skepticism.



Rand Paul is not a perfect neighbor, says community developer

Source: USA Today

The history between U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and his neighbor, who is accused of attacking him, is filled with years of angst and petty arguments over misplaced lawn trimmings and branches, the neighborhood's developer said.

"I think this is something that has been festering," said Jim Skaggs, the developer of the Rivergreen gated community in Bowling Green, where the two men live. "I wanted to build a place where everyone could get along, but I guess that's just impossible."

Paul suffered five broken ribs and lacerations on his lungs after his neighbor, 59-year-old retired doctor Rene Boucher, allegedly tackled the politician last week, according to an arrest warrant obtained by the Courier Journal.

Kentucky State Police charged Boucher with fourth-degree assault, which is usually reserved for incidents that result in minor injuries. If federal charges are added, Boucher could potentially face 10 years in prison for physically attacking a politician.

Read more: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/11/07/rand-paul-not-perfect-neighbor-says-community-developer/841622001/

"Not a perfect neighbor" is the polite way of saying he's the asshole of the neighborhood.

Goodbye science, hello industry

Rigorous, independent research and analysis should undergird everything the government does. Nowhere is that more true than at the Environmental Protection Agency, which crafts and enforces a wide range of regulations aimed at limiting damage to the environment — and to people — from pollutants. Democratic administrations tend to use data to justify more aggressive regulation, while Republican administrations tend to prefer a lighter touch. But the current administration is following a third path, seemingly bent on converting the EPA into a science-be-damned rubber stamp for industry. And if director Scott Pruitt is successful, we will be living in a much more dangerous environment.

When his name first surfaced as President Trump’s pick to run the agency, critics complained that the president was putting a fox in charge of the henhouse. Pruitt has done nothing to dissuade the country that his critics were wrong. In his most recent move, he has decreed that academics and other scientists who hold research grants through the EPA cannot serve on long-standing panels that advise the EPA on the science upon which it bases its regulations.

These committees aren’t merely window-dressing; rather, their work carries considerable weight at the agency. The 45-member Scientific Advisory Board creates reports on the state of environmental science and assesses the EPA’s efforts to mitigate health and environmental impacts. The seven-member Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, mandated under the Clean Air Act, reviews the EPA’s work on air pollution. The 20-member Board of Scientific Counselors advises the agency on technical and management aspects of its research programs. Members of the boards are top researchers primarily from academia.

But Pruitt’s new ban, which he said is necessary to avoid conflicts of interest, would boot many of the academic researchers. It’s a stretch to argue that because the scientists conduct some of their research under EPA grants — won through competitive bids — that they can’t offer independent advice. There’s been no evidence of a problem with the boards, and it’s disingenuous to cook one up now as a pretext to removing independent minds from them.


Good riddance to Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, the most obnoxious climate change denier in Congress

To our knowledge, Rep. Lamar Smith never brought a snowball onto the House floor like Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., to “prove” that climate change was a hoax.

But once you’ve said that, you’ve said everything. In all other particulars, Smith has been the preeminent climate change denier in Congress. That’s a problem, because he also has been serving as chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, the last place where someone devoted to undermining scientific research belongs. From that perch, he’s harassed government officials, Earth scientists and other academics whose work refutes his position that the human role in climate change is a myth.

On Thursday, Smith announced that he will be retiring when the congressional term, his 16th, ends in 2018. He didn’t give much detail on his reasons, although he noted that he’ll be term-limited out of his chairman’s post then.

Good riddance. May we never see his like again.


Man commits mass murder with a gun. Again. And America does nothing. Again.

Here we are again, extending thoughts, prayers and sympathy to the victims of a gun massacre, this time 26 worshippers Sunday at a Texas church (the fact that we are praying for people slaughtered while they were praying is both ironic and heart-breaking). It wasn’t the gun, the nation will be told by the NRA and its backers, and clearly the gunman suffered from (fill in the blank). And remember, guns don’t kill people, people kill people (as in, people with guns kill people, but never mind that).

And we’ll be told again that it’s too soon to discuss gun policy — we must first give the families time to grieve. The gunman was a white man so we must search for the causes and address them without touching gun laws; had he been a Muslim, well, that would be terrorism and we would be told we must close the borders (and gloss over the guns). And today’s traffic report says the 405 Freeway has the usual slowing through the Sepulveda Pass while the East L.A. interchange is a slow go. In weather, it will be cool and partly cloudy. The tide will rise and ebb and the sun will rise and set and in (TBD) days another white man will use a gun to murder (fill in the blank) people and the nation will extend thoughts and prayers to the victims while we don’t talk about guns then, either, because, well, grief.

The familiarity of this is disgusting. There have been at least 21 mass killings (defined as at least four dead in one incident) so far this year, in which 176 people have been killed and 486 wounded, led by the sniper slaughter in Las Vegas last month, according to statistics maintained by the Gun Violence Archive. There have been more than 305 mass shootings (defined as at least four people struck by bullets in one incident) with nearly 400 killed and 1,650 wounded. The notion that the “good guy with a gun” solution could ever stanch this kind of bloodletting is ridiculous.

This is what we accept as normal in the United States of America. This is what we shrug off. The vast majority of gun deaths each year occur in relative obscurity. Suicides. Men killing their intimate partners. Men killing their families. Men killing each other. Nearly always men. It’s the big dramatic moments, like Texas on Sunday and Las Vegas last month, that get public notice. In September, an estranged husband killed nine people in a Dallas suburb at a football-watching party at the spouse’s house, and it barely caused a ripple. That few people nationwide know about that incident is part of our national indictment. Nine dead, and we barely batted an eye. What in the end will move us to act if 26 dead children and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School did not?


The dangerous cult of Donald Trump

I am not the first person to point this out: There’s been a cultish quality to President Trump’s most ardent supporters. He seemed to acknowledge the phenomenon when he boasted that he could “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody” and not lose voters.

Throughout the campaign, and in personal appearances since then, Trump has harnessed the kind of emotional intensity from his base that is more typical of a religious revival meeting than a political rally, complete with ritualized communal chants (“Lock her up!”).

As we approach the one-year anniversary of Trump’s election victory, the zeal of some of his followers seems increasingly akin to a full-fledged cult.

I use the word “cult” in its pejorative sense, meaning a deeply insular social group bound together by extreme devotion to a charismatic leader. Such groups tend to exhibit a few common characteristics.


Qualcomm confirms Broadcom's $100 billion buyout offer

Source: San Diego Union-Tribune

Qualcomm confirmed Monday that it has received a buyout offer from Broadcom of $70 a share in cash and stock, in the largest deal in the history of the semiconductor industry.

The San Diego wireless giant said in a statement that Broadcom’s unsolicited offer consisted of $60 a share in cash and $10 a share in Broadcom’s stock.

Qualcomm’s board and financial advisers will examine the deal, and declined further comment.

The offer likely will face tough scrutiny from global regulators.

Read more: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/business/technology/sd-fi-avago-broadcom-20171103-story.html

This is a huge tech deal. Qualcomm doesn't want it, so I think things are going to get messy.

Ecuador's President Ousted From His Party

After months of internal dissent and public feuding, Ecuador's president, Lenin Moreno, has been kicked out of his party, the Alianza Pais. He will remain in office, though, and the decision – technically justified by Moreno's absence from several meetings – is being hotly contested within the party.

Moreno served as vice president for six years under Rafael Correa, the popular and charismatic founder of the left-wing Alianza Pais party. In April 2017, he was narrowly elected as the successor to Correa's administration, which oversaw the most stable political period of Ecuador's democratic history.

During his presidential campaign against the conservative banker Guillermo Lasso, there were already signs that Moreno was distancing himself from Correa. But at the time, these subtle political shifts seemed necessary to win an extremely tight race on a continent where the once-powerful Left is now ailing.

Now, after executing a shocking breakaway from both the Alianza Pais platform and its supreme leader, Correa, the party is taking action against him. This political turnaround is complicating Ecuador's democratic transition and unraveling the powerful Alianza Pais.


Correa still wants to pull the strings in Ecuadorean politics. I think he set up Lenin Moreno to take the fall for the effects of reduced oil revenues, and intends to make a comeback in the next election.
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