Writings and observations

First take

This is going to be tough: A proposal from Oregon Representative Tobias Read that the $473 million kicker – income tax refund, owing to higher than expected revenues – announced a couple of weeks ago, would go not to taxpayers but to the state’s rainy-day fund. The advance is that it could go a long way, come the next economic downturn, to smooth budget things out. It’s tough to begin with because it would take a two-thirds approval of each legislative chamber, which it’s highly unlikely to get. But more generally: You’re talking about telling people they’re going to get money, and then proposing taking it away. That’s just the time when it’s most likely to draw an angry response. Or would, if the bill actually looks as if it would pass, which it probably won’t.

The mesh between app-based car delivery services (high-tech taxis) and self-driving cars cannot be far off: Imagine a company able to put self-driving cars out on the road, picking up and dropping off passengers. The Pittsburgh Business Times has spotted just such a mashup, a car from the car service Uber (which has been so controversial in Boise and Eugene and Portland but adopted easily in some places) on the streets of Pittsburgh. Uber had said in February that it planned to do something like this, but it seems to be moving at high speed. Self-driving cars are going to be among is soon

USA Freedom Act (a revision of the Patriot Act) has my instant suspicion, the same as the Patriot Act did. A bill trying to self-describe in such glowing and inarguable terms just has to be hiding something ugly.

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