Thursday, December 21, 2017

Tax “Overhaul” Bill Passes Congress ↦

Damian Paletta and Jeff Stein reporting for The Washington Post:

Congress on Wednesday passed the most significant overhaul of the U.S. tax code in 30 years, delivering a landmark legislative victory to President Trump and the Republicans that had once seemed impossible for the fractured party.

The sweeping measure imprints a clear conservative vision on the tax code that will affect nearly every household and business. Corporations will see a massive tax cut, while most Americans will see temporary savings of various sizes. And in a move that may prove politically perilous, Republicans delivered the biggest gains to the wealthy.

I do have to take issue with some of the characterizations of this bill in that article. The idea that this bill is an “overhaul” and “imprints a clear conservative vision on the tax code” is a complete farce. First and foremost, there is absolutely, positively nothing that is clear about this bill:

The passage kicks off an intense period of uncertainty for consumers and businesses as both scramble to understand the changes[…]

Second, this bill does nothing to realize the vision conservatives have talked about for decades with respect to taxes: “A tax system so simple, your tax return would fit on a postcard.” If anything, this bill makes the tax system more complicated, not less.

The bill is also deeply unpopular. It’s almost as if the Republicans are resigned to losing in a big way in the 2018 elections and are just trying to line their pockets before they go.


Thursday, December 21, 2017

Apple to Introduce Ability to Write Apps That Work on Both macOS and iOS ↦

Mark Gurman reporting for Bloomberg:

Starting as early as next year, software developers will be able to design a single application that works with a touchscreen or mouse and trackpad depending on whether it’s running on the iPhone and iPad operating system or on Mac hardware, according to people familiar with the matter.

The report is thin on details as to how this would work, so the floodgates have opened for speculation. Some have suggested that this means Macs are moving to ARM processors. I think this move, however, is entirely unrelated to the possibility of ARM-based Macs; a single app can contain multiple binaries, each compiled for a different processor. And such a transition would take years, anyway, just like the transition to Intel processors.

I think this is much more likely to be the outcome of a unified set of libraries and APIs that will be available on both platforms.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Comcast’s Infrastructure Investment ↦

Jon Brodkin, reporting for Ars Technica:

Comcast yesterday claimed that it will invest more than $50 billion in infrastructure over the next five years because of the repeal of net neutrality rules and the new tax overhaul.

But the numbers show that Comcast’s investments soared while the net neutrality rules were in place and would hit the “new” milestone if its investments continued increasing by a modest amount.


Thus, if Comcast continues increasing capital expenditures by the same rate as it did with net neutrality rules in place, the company would easily break the $50 billion figure that Roberts attributed to the net neutrality repeal and tax break.

Industry-wide, cable broadband speeds soared during the years net neutrality rules were in place.

Is anyone surprised that a major ISP with monopolies or near monopolies in several markets would be dishonest about why it wanted net neutrality repealed?

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Democrat Doug Jones Wins in Alabama ↦

Jessica Taylor reporting for NPR:

Democrat Doug Jones has won the Alabama Senate special election, a victory that was a stunning upset in a deeply red state that voted overwhelmingly for President Trump. The president, who had backed Republican Roy Moore despite multiple accusations of sexual misconduct and assault, congratulated Jones on Twitter.

It’s unfortunate that a pedophile and professional loony came so close to winning but in the end sanity prevailed, if only by 21,311 votes1 (as of this writing).

  1. If we define sanity as “could not bring oneself to vote for pedophile and professional loony Roy Moore” then we could include the write-in votes, currently totaling 22,777, as voting for sanity. But one could also interpret the write-in voters as saying, “I don’t want to be personally responsible for it, but I would rather risk pedophile and professional loony Roy Moore becoming a United States Senator than vote for a Democrat.” That attitude is undeniably better than a vote for Roy Moore, but it is still troubling. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Uranium Firm Urged Trump Officials to Shrink Bears Ears National Monument ↦

Juliet Eilperin reporting for The Washington Post:

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and top Utah Republicans have said repeatedly that questions of mining or drilling played no role in President Trump’s announcement Monday that he was cutting the site by more than 1.1 million acres, or 85 percent. Trump also signed a proclamation nearly halving the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which is also in southern Utah and has significant coal deposits.

“This is not about energy,” Zinke told reporters Tuesday. “There is no mine within Bears Ears.”

But the nation’s sole uranium processing mill sits directly next to the boundaries that President Barack Obama designated a year ago when he established Bears Ears. The documents show that Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc., a subsidiary of a Canadian firm, urged the Trump administration to limit the monument to the smallest size needed to protect key objects and areas, such as archeological sites, to make it easier to access the radioactive ore.

So they were lying about resource extraction in Bears Ears. I am not the least bit surprised.

What always struck me, though, even before this report, is that no one was even trying to claim there wasn’t going to be any mining in Grand Staircase-Escalante. Of course shrinking that monument was all about mining: specifically coal in the Kaiparowits Plateau. But even if the monument shrinks are upheld by the courts, there’s a chance that coal mining still won’t happen; despite Trump’s quixotic quest to bring back coal, the demand for it keeps dropping.

But Kaiparowits does have real treasure under the ground worth digging up: fossils.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Republicans Fret Over Tax Bill’s Unpopularity ↦

Alexander Bolton and Naomi Jagoda reporting for The Hill:

Republican lawmakers are concerned about how their tax bill is being viewed by the public and say they need to do a better job of selling it to middle-class and low-income voters.

A CBS News poll conducted last week found that 53 percent of people nationwide disapprove of the GOP tax bill and only 35 percent approve.

OK, I know this is crazy but maybe, just maybe, the problem with the Republicans’ tax bill is not how it is being marketed. Maybe the problem is the content of the bill.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Trump Administration to Scrap Airline Disclosure Rule ↦

Melanie Zanona reporting for The Hill:

The Trump administration has scrapped an Obama-era proposal requiring airlines and ticket agencies to disclose baggage fees as soon as passengers start the process of buying a ticket.

I can’t decide if this comes from the “all regulations are bad” part of Trump’s psyche or the “I must undo everything Obama did” part. Either way, it’s just the latest in a long line of evidence that the Trump Administration may well be the worst in American history. There’s just no good reason to scrap this rule.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Republicans Trying to Discredit Mueller ↦

Devlin Barrett and Sean Sullivan reporting for The Washington Post:

Republican activists and lawmakers are engaged in a multi-front attack on special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe of possible connections between associates of President Trump and Russian agents, trying to stop or curtail the investigation as it moves further into Trump’s inner circle.


Several law enforcement officials said they are concerned that the constant drumbeat of conservative criticism seems designed to erode Mueller’s credibility, making it more politically palatable to remove, restrict or simply ignore his recommendations as his investigation progresses.

Make no mistake: they’re worried because they know Trump is guilty of something. It’s just a matter of finding out exactly what.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Violence Between Palestinians and Israelis Following Trump’s Jerusalem Announcement ↦

Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash reporting for The Washington Post:

Palestinian protesters battled Israeli soldiers on Thursday in Jerusalem, Ramallah and other places in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, one day after President Trump announced that his administration would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.


“This will be bad,” said an ambulance driver as young men burned tires and pelted the soldiers with stones.

If only someone could have predicted that declaring Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital would inflame tensions? I guess Jared Kushner has his work cut out for him…

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Volkswagen Executive Sentenced to Prison ↦

Reporting by Megan Geuss at Ars Technica:

On Wednesday, a US District judge in Detroit sentenced Oliver Schmidt, a former Volkswagen executive, to seven years in prison for his role in the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal of 2015. Schmidt was also ordered to pay a criminal penalty of $400,000, according to a US Department of Justice (DOJ) press release. The prison term and the fine together represent the maximum sentence that Schmidt could have received under the plea deal he signed in August.

Why weren’t any finance sector executives similarly held accountable after the 2008 crisis?