30 April 2018

How is the Trump Cabinet Like a Song by Queen

Thomas Homan has been acting head of ICE for over a year.

For reasons that are not particularly clear, his nomination has been on hold since November, has resigned as acting head of ICE:
Thomas Homan, the Trump administration’s top immigration enforcement official, announced Monday that he plans to step down from his job, less than six months after Trump nominated him to be director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Homan was named ICE’s acting director soon after Trump took office in 2017, and the tough-talking, barrel-chested former Border Patrol agent quickly became an unapologetic enthusiast for the administration’s more aggressive enforcement approach.

Under Homan, immigration arrests surged 40 percent after agents scrapped an Obama administration policy of targeting serious or violent criminal offenders in favor of casting a wider net. Homan said those living illegally in the United States “should be afraid” that his agents could be coming for them.
The article engages in some Kremlinology to try and explain this, suggesting that he had fallen out of Trump's favor, but I think that it is more likely that there was something in his background that would have prevented his confirmation by the Senate:
Thomas Homan, President Trump’s pick to permanently lead the nation’s immigration enforcement agency, has been in limbo since his nomination last November — and Democratic senators want to know why.

In a letter released Friday, nearly 20 Senate Democrats said they want the Department of Homeland Security to hand over documents shedding more light on Homan and his formal nomination to become the next director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The nomination of Homan, who has been leading the immigration agency in an acting capacity since the beginning of Trump’s presidency, has stalled since it was officially submitted to the Senate on Nov. 14, 2017, with no confirmation hearing nor movement in the chamber.


Democratic senators said DHS needs to give more information to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee before the nomination can proceed, but the department has yet to do so. The fact that it took Trump nearly 10 months to officially nominate an ICE director was also “striking,” Democrats wrote, “given the priority this Administration claims to place on immigration enforcement.”

“We understand that the Trump Administration may be concerned about Mr. Homan answering questions under oath about his leadership of ICE, as well as the possibility that Mr. Homan’s nomination could be defeated in the Senate,” the Democrats wrote in the letter. “However, the Senate is an independent branch of government and has a responsibility under the Constitution to provide its advice and consent on this nomination.
The fact that DHS has been unwilling to provide full documentation, and that this is juxtaposed with the spectacular flame out of Doctor Feelgood Ronny Jackson is ……… Curious ……… to say the least.

I gotta figure that there is something truly embarrassing in Homan's background, and that senior White House staff, along with senior Republicans in the Senate, know what it is.

Some Commentaries on the White House Correspondents's Dinner

First, read Matt Taibbi, who unloads a righteous can of whup ass on the chorus of whines from the "elite" press that must be read, and while both the New York Times and the Washington Post published articles that similarly extolled the virtues of comedy and the condemned the general uselessness of the establishment press.  (Here and here)

Basically, it's the same pathetic self important hurt feelings that we saw after Stephen Colbert cut the White House press corps(e) a new asshole in 2006.


Michelle Wolf's White House Correspondent's Dinner routine. Much butthurt ensues:

29 April 2018

And Rudd Falls on Her Sword

Amber Rudd has been in the unenviable, and nonviable, position of having to defend a racist attempt to expel legal immigrants from the Caribbean that was initiated by her predecessor, the current Prime Minister

She could not really reverse the policy, or blaming her predecessor, so she has been a political punching bag for the past few weeks.

Then, this Friday, the Guardian got its hands on a memo proving that she was enforcing arbitrary deportation quotas, something that she had categorically denied:
Amber Rudd’s insistence that she knew nothing of Home Office targets for immigration removals risks unravelling following the leak of a secret internal document prepared for her and other senior ministers.

The six-page memo, passed to the Guardian, says the department has set “a target of achieving 12,800 enforced returns in 2017-18” and boasts that “we have exceeded our target of assisted returns”.

It adds that progress has been made on a “path towards the 10% increased performance on enforced returns, which we promised the home secretary earlier this year”.

The document was prepared by Hugh Ind, the director general of the Home Office’s Immigration Enforcement agency, in June last year and copied to Rudd and Brandon Lewis, the then immigration minister, as well as several senior civil servants and special advisers.


The issue has become particularly toxic because of coverage of the Windrush generation – many of whom have been made destitute, homeless and denied benefits and healthcare because of the Home Office’s “hostile environment” policy towards those it deems to be lacking appropriate documentation to be in the UK.
It appears that this latest revelation was enough to force her out:
Amber Rudd has dramatically resigned as home secretary, after repeatedly struggling to account for her role in the unjust treatment of Windrush generation migrants.

The home secretary was forced to step down after a series of revelations in the Guardian over Windrush culminated in a leak on Friday that appeared to show she was aware of targets for removing illegal migrants from Britain.

The pressure increased late on Sunday afternoon as the Guardian revealed that in a leaked 2017 letter to Theresa May, Rudd had told the prime minister of her intention to increase deportations by 10% – seemingly at odds with her recent denials that she was aware of deportation targets.

Rudd was facing a bruising appearance in the House of Commons on Monday. Downing Street sources said that in preparing for her statement, new information had become available which convinced Rudd she had inadvertently misled parliament – and she had therefore phoned the prime minister on Sunday to tender her resignation.
More significant than Rudd's departure is the fact that she was a distraction from Theresa May's role in creating and enforcing the "hostile environment" policies of the Home Office when she was Home Secretary.

A Donation Request from Twitter

I am well aware that the DNC sued CREEP in the 1970s and got a settlement, but Wikileaks did not hack the DNC, the GRU did.

Wikileaks plays the role of the Washington Post, though they lack the charm of Woodward and Bernstein, in this drama.

28 April 2018

Quote of the Day

I have no idea if Sanders would have fared better against Trump than Clinton did. But I do know that Clinton was the worst possible person to answer the angry accusations of a populist insurgency from either the protectionist right or the socialist left. She was too much a contented representative and beneficiary of the very political and economic establishments against which Trump directed his fire.
Damon Linker
Tru dat.

You Had Me at, "Bulldoze the Business School"

Martin Parker, a former professor at a business school, is suggesting that business schools should be shut down:
Visit the average university campus and it is likely that the newest and most ostentatious building will be occupied by the business school. The business school has the best building because it makes the biggest profits (or, euphemistically, “contribution” or “surplus”) – as you might expect, from a form of knowledge that teaches people how to make profits.

Business schools have huge influence, yet they are also widely regarded to be intellectually fraudulent places, fostering a culture of short-termism and greed. (There is a whole genre of jokes about what MBA – Master of Business Administration – really stands for: “Mediocre But Arrogant”, “Management by Accident”, “More Bad Advice”, “Master Bullsh%$ Artist” and so on.) Critics of business schools come in many shapes and sizes: employers complain that graduates lack practical skills, conservative voices scorn the arriviste MBA, Europeans moan about Americanisation, radicals wail about the concentration of power in the hands of the running dogs of capital. Since 2008, many commentators have also suggested that business schools were complicit in producing the crash.

Having taught in business schools for 20 years, I have come to believe that the best solution to these problems is to shut down business schools altogether. This is not a typical view among my colleagues. Even so, it is remarkable just how much criticism of business schools over the past decade has come from inside the schools themselves. Many business school professors, particularly in north America, have argued that their institutions have gone horribly astray. B-schools have been corrupted, they say, by deans following the money, teachers giving the punters what they want, researchers pumping out paint-by-numbers papers for journals that no one reads and students expecting a qualification in return for their cash (or, more likely, their parents’ cash). At the end of it all, most business-school graduates won’t become high-level managers anyway, just precarious cubicle drones in anonymous office blocks.

These are not complaints from professors of sociology, state policymakers or even outraged anti-capitalist activists. These are views in books written by insiders, by employees of business schools who themselves feel some sense of disquiet or even disgust at what they are getting up to. Of course, these dissenting views are still those of a minority. Most work within business schools is blithely unconcerned with any expression of doubt, participants being too busy oiling the wheels to worry about where the engine is going. Still, this internal criticism is loud and significant.
I would highly suggest that you click through and read the rest of the article.

Faster, Better, Cheaper

An uptick in exports has led Saab to increase spending on its Gripen E program:
Strengthening interest in the Gripen E has prompted Saab to accelerate its investment in the programme, with the step to include the introduction of enhancements intended to heighten the product's attractiveness to prospective buyers.

"Due to the strong interest in Gripen E/F, Saab has now accelerated the pace of investment to develop the system for future exports," the company disclosed in a quarterly results announcement on 26 April.

Chief executive HĂ„kan Buskhe describes the measure as relating to "industrialisation, and also some key development on features for the export market". While he declines to identify specific updates, he notes: "There are things that will enhance the product that we have seen during the development time for the Gripen E." This process began for launch customer the Swedish air force in 2013.

Buskhe says Saab received fresh interest in the new-generation fighter from several undisclosed nations during the first three months of this year. The company cites a long list of prospective customers for the type, including Austria, Bulgaria, India and Slovakia.

Saab will deliver its first production examples of the Gripen E to Sweden and export buyer Brazil next year and the nations will receive a combined total of 96 examples up to 2026. Buskhe says the level of interest being shown in the product is consistent with previous forecasts of a total production run of at least 400 units.
The Gripenis less than half the size, and less than half the direct operating costs, of its competitors, while being (at least) nearly as capable in terms of everything but payload and range.

It's been on budget, and on schedule, and (unlike the F-35) nations have the information to incorporate their own weapons into the aircraft.

It's not surprising that it's doing well:  It's in a very similar position to that of the Mirage III in the 1960s.

27 April 2018


Teacher protests in Arizona:

To quote Aesop, "In union, there is strength."

Bill Cosby Found Guilty of Sexual Assault in Retrial - The New York Times

Larry Wilmore on the Conviction
Bill Cosby has been convicted of sexual assault.

I really don't know what to say, except that I think that the trial, and the conviction, were long overdue, his accusers have been treated abysmally, and their accusations only began to be taken seriously when a man, stand up comic Hannibal Buress, started talking about what he had been doing. (Major props to Buress though for talking about it.)

I'm hoping that Larry Wilmor addresses this in an upcoming podcast.

I'll definitely listen.

Corrupt Son of a Bitch

Mick Mulvaney, head of the OMB and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, just admitted that he requires a payment from some people to talk to them in an official capacity.

Why hasn't he been frog marched out of his office in handcuffs?
Mick Mulvaney, the interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, told banking industry executives on Tuesday that they should press lawmakers hard to pursue their agenda, and revealed that, as a congressman, he would meet with lobbyists only if they had contributed to his campaign.

“We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress,” Mr. Mulvaney, a former Republican lawmaker from South Carolina, told 1,300 bankers and lending industry officials at an American Bankers Association conference in Washington. “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.”


Mr. Mulvaney, who also runs the White House budget office, is a longtime critic of the Obama-era consumer bureau, including while serving in Congress. He was tapped by President Trump in November to temporarily run the bureau, in part because of his promise to sharply curtail it.


Asked about the comments, John Czwartacki, a spokesman for Mr. Mulvaney, said: “He was making the point that hearing from people back home is vital to our democratic process and the most important thing our representatives can do. It’s more important than lobbyists and it’s more important than money.”
No, he was describing how he extorted donations from lobbyists.

Seriously, even by the standards of the Trump administration, this is brazenly corrupt.

England Doesn't Need the City of London Either

The EU's chief negotiator has stated that the EU does not need the City of London, and has no plans to create a special relationship with the UK financial sector. (FYI, the City of London is a 1 square mile area which is the heart of the British financial industry, the City of Londonis to London as Wal Street is to New York City)
No one needs the City of London except for a a small number of overpaid prats in Savile Row suits.

Finance is has become increasingly parasitic as it has grown to subsume larger portions of the UK (and US) economy, and the City of London is even worse than Wall Street, because while they both spend much of their effort on speculative activities of little or no benefit, the City of London's special products are money laundering and tax evasion, which benefits no one:
The EU does not need the City of London, and Theresa May’s “pleading” for a special deal for the UK’s financial services sector will not be rewarded, the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has said.

In his toughest rebuff yet to the demands made by the British prime ministerin her landmark Mansion House speech, Barnier suggested the City would be granted nothing more generous than that enjoyed by Wall Street.

“Some argue that the EU desperately needs the City of London, and that access to financing for EU27 business would be hampered – and economic growth undermined – without giving UK operators the same market access as today,” Barnier said at a meeting of finance ministers in Sofia, Bulgaria. “This is not what we hear from market participants, and it is not the analysis that we have made ourselves.”
I am not surprised at Barnier's comments.

The EU has plenty of expertise in tax evasion, it constitutes almost the entire economy of Luxembourg, and money laundering ain't rocket science.

The Brexit could be an opportunity for the British to turn their economy toward more productive and more honest endeavors, with the added benefit of reducing inequality, but the Tories hate that idea, and they are in charge, for a while, at least.

Not Learning the Lessons of Cuba

What a surprise, our policy of sanctions against Russia does not hurt Putin's political standing among Russian citizens.

If anything, it improves his political positions, because hardships can be blamed on an aggressively overbearing United States.

Seriously, this sh%$ kept the Castros in power for 60 years (and counting) in Russia, why should we expect anything different this time?


8 Ways to Piss off Your Cat: (Not recommended unless you like finding crap in your stereo headphones)

26 April 2018

Hypocrisy, Arrogance, and Bigotry Are Not a Good Combination

Last year, I noted that MSNBC media personality Joy Reid had been caught throwing around bigoted homophobic comments on her now defunct blog, particularly as pertains to Florida politician Charlie Crist.

She made a perfunctory apology, and it faded into the background, until this week.

New homophobic posts were uncovered on the internet archive the Wayback Machine, and now Joy Reid is claiming that these were the result of hackers.

She has variously claimed that hackers accessed her blog after the fact and changed the posts, or that the Wayback Machine has been hacked, an allegation which the good folks there politely called bullsh%$, as did an analysis by The Daily Beast.

Unfortunately, as this colorfully named Twitter user observes, her blog posts have been archived by a number of archiving services over a rather long period:
According to the Library of Congress, Reid’s blog was archived on their local server on January 12, 2006–two days after the blog post in question was authored. Reid has so far decided against contacting the Library of Congress regarding the hacking allegations.
Oh Snap.

Also, see this Twitter thread, it gives a good survey of what was posted.

Also, the LBGT group PFLAG just rescinded an award that they intended to present to Reid, and she has had to cancel an appearance at an event with former New York US Attorney Preet Bharara.

My guess is that Reid is being honest when she says that she does not recall making those posts, but I put that down to her memory, and not hackers going after her 10 years ago.

Headline of the Day

Amber Rudd stumbles toward total ineptitude over Windrush
The Guardian
Amber Rudd is in a no win situation, of course.

This cock-up was created by her predecessor at Home Secretary, probably deliberately, but seeing as how the prior Home Secretary is one Theresa May, now Prime Minister, and as such is Rudd's boss, (for a while, at least), she is precluded from pointing at the person who created the problem in the first place.

Hopefully, this takes both Rudd and May down.

A Star Mangled Spanner

It appears that Scientists have managed to adapt 3D metal printing to zero gravity, and have produced a small wrench.

This is actually tougher than it sounds, since the powdered metals used can be explosive in the right (wrong?) proportions, and there is no gravity to hold them down.

This did not actually go into space, they produced the parts on a "vomit comet" flying a parabolic course.

Credit where credit is due, the pun comes from Arthur C. Clarke.

And He's Gone

Ronny Jackson withdraws as from his nomination to head the Veterans Administration:
Ronny L. Jackson, President Trump’s embattled nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, withdrew from consideration Thursday amid mushrooming allegations of professional misconduct that raised questions about the White House vetting process.

“The allegations against me are completely false and fabricated,” Jackson, the White House physician, said in a defiant statement. “If they had any merit, I would not have been selected, promoted and entrusted to serve in such a sensitive and important role as physician to three presidents over the past 12 years.”

Jackson’s nomination had become imperiled even before Capitol Hill Democrats on Wednesday released new allegations of misconduct. The claims include that he had wrecked a government vehicle after getting drunk at a Secret Service going-away party.

The allegations were contained in a two-page document described by the Democratic staff of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee as a summary of interviews with 23 of Jackson’s current and former colleagues. The document also described Jackson’s “pattern” of handing out medication with no patient history, writing himself prescriptions and contributing to a hostile work environment where there was “a constant fear of reprisal.”
I have a feeling that Dr. Feelgood's promotion to 2 star admiral might be delayed as well.

Quote of the Day

All successful revolutions are the kicking in of a rotten door.
John Kenneth Galbraith
These are truly words to live by.

25 April 2018

Journalism Fail

If you read stories about student loans in new sources like, "The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and CNBC," you have probably seen quotes from student loan expert "Drew Crowd".

The kicker is that Drew Cloud does not exist. He is a fraud promulgated by the student loan firm Lend EDU:
Drew Cloud is everywhere. The self-described journalist who specializes in student-loan debt has been quoted in major news outlets, including The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and CNBC, and is a fixture in the smaller, specialized blogosphere of student debt.

He’s always got the new data, featuring irresistible twists:

One in five students use extra money from their student loans to buy digital currencies.

Nearly 8 percent of students would move to North Korea to free themselves of their debt.

Twenty-seven percent would contract the Zika virus to live debt-free.

All of those surveys came from Cloud’s website, The Student Loan Report.

Drew Cloud’s story was simple: He founded the website, an "independent, authoritative news outlet" covering all things student loans, "after he had difficulty finding the most recent student loan news and information all in one place."

He became ubiquitous on that topic. But he’s a fiction, the invention of a student-loan refinancing company.

After The Chronicle spent more than a week trying to verify Cloud’s existence, the company that owns The Student Loan Report confirmed that Cloud was fake. "Drew Cloud is a pseudonym that a diverse group of authors at Student Loan Report, LLC use to share experiences and information related to the challenges college students face with funding their education," wrote Nate Matherson, CEO of LendEDU.

Before that admission, however, Cloud had corresponded at length with many journalists, pitching them stories and offering email interviews, many of which were published. When The Chronicle attempted to contact him through the address last week, Cloud said he was traveling and had limited access to his account. He didn’t respond to additional inquiries.

And on Monday, as The Chronicle continued to seek comment, Cloud suddenly evaporated. His once-prominent placement on The Student Loan Report had been removed. His bylines were replaced with "SLR Editor." Matherson confirmed on Tuesday that Cloud was an invention.
One hopes that editors at the publications that were taken in by the fraud are busy cutting their reporters new assholes over this one.

Medical Data Point of the Day

It turns out that the average American birth costs more than the recent delivery of Prince William and Princess Catherine's 3rd child at a luxury private hospital in London.

That hospital serves champagne and has an extensive wine list, and it still costs about the same as an average delivery in the USA:

Yet the price of delivering the new prince, who is fifth in line to the British throne, was probably slightly less than that of an average American baby. In 2015, the Lindo Wing charged £5,670 ($8,900) for 24 hours in a deluxe room and a non-Caesarean delivery. A survey in the same year by the International Federation of Health Plans found that the average fee for such a delivery in the United States was $10,808. ………
God bless our market driven health care system.

A Noun, a Verb, and Vladimir Putin

The Democrats in the so-called Heartland, the ones that Hillary Clinton lost in 2016, are losing patience with the DC party establishment's fixation on Russia:
In battleground states in the middle of the country, some Democrats watched with frustration as their party grabbed headlines last week with a splashy new lawsuit alleging a vast conspiracy between President Donald Trump and Russia.

The Democratic National Committee’s drumbeat of messaging on Trump and his relationship with Russia is wearing thin with some Democrats in purple states — particularly in the Midwest, where people on the ground say voters are uninterested and even turned off by the issue. The suit exposes a gap, they say, between the party’s strategy nationally and what Midwest Democrats believe will win elections in their state.

“The DNC is doing a good job of winning New York and California,” said David Betras, the Democratic county party chair in Mahoning County, Ohio, home to Youngstown. “I’m not saying it’s not important — of course it’s important — but do they honestly think that people that were just laid off another shift at the car plant in my home county give a shit about Russia when they don’t have a frickin’ job?”

Trump and Russia, Betras said, is the “only piece they’ve been doing since 2016. [Trump] keeps talking about jobs and the economy, and we talk about Russia.”

For some people working to elect Democrats in Midwestern swing states, the suit — which threads evidence of a conspiracy between Trump’s campaign, WikiLeaks, Russia, and Trump family members — prompted something akin to an eyeroll.
Same for me.

They aren't talking real issues, Nancy Pelosi has gone full in on this, saying that it's OK for the Dems to back anti-abortion candidates, they aren't talking jobs, or trade, or racism, the corruption of high finance, or apologizing for their own incompetence and telling us how they might fix this, they are talking Russia, .

There is an internal logic to all of this: Admitting your incompetence can get you fired, going after high finance would turn off big dollar donors, which allow for big dollar consultancy fees, etc.

It's simply too lucrative to actually address the real problems of people.

24 April 2018

Special Election Tonight

The Republicans won the race for Arizona's 8th Congressional District:
Republicans won a closely watched special election in Arizona Tuesday, turning back a spirited challenge from a first-time Democratic candidate to keep a U.S. House seat in GOP hands.

The Associated Press called the race on the basis of the Republican’s lead in early voting. Debbie Lesko, a former state lawmaker, had the edge over Hiral Tipirneni, a Democratic physician making her first run for office, by 52.9 percent to 47.1 percent.
It's not an unreasonable showing by the Democrat, Trump won this district by 21%, and the Republicans significantly outspent the Democrats, but you don't get the brass ring for a close 2nd place finish.

Great Googly Moogly

White House Doctor, Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, has been accused of being an abusive manager, over-prescribing drugs, and being drunk at work:
President Trump acknowledged Tuesday that Dr. Ronny L. Jackson, his nominee to lead the Veterans Affairs Department, is in serious trouble amid accusations that as the White House doctor he oversaw a hostile work environment, improperly dispensed prescription drugs and possibly drank on the job.


Members of Mr. Tester’s staff said that they had been given several credible accounts of Dr. Jackson being intoxicated during official White House travel. In several cases, they said, he had apparently grabbed his medical bag and was “attempting to assert himself,” to show he was in charge.

On one trip during Barack Obama’s presidency, White House staff needed to reach Dr. Jackson for medical reasons and found him passed out in his hotel room after a night of drinking, Tester aides said. The staff members took the medical supplies they were looking for without waking Dr. Jackson.
The frightening thing is that this would make him one of Donald Trump's more qualified nominees.

About F%$#ing Time

For three years, International Standards Organization has been wrangling over which cryptographic algorithms will be incorporated into a standard for interoperability in "Internet of Things" gadgets; at issue has been the NSA's insistence that "Simon" and "Speck" would be the standard block cipher algorithms in these devices.

The NSA has a history of sabotaging cryptographic standards; most famously, documents provided by Edward Snowden showed that the NSA had sabotaged NIST security standards, but the story goes farther back than that: I have been told by numerous wireless networking exercises that the weaknesses in the now-obsolete Wireless Encryption Protocol (WEP) were deliberately introduced by NSA meddling. And of course, the NSA once classified working cryptography as a munition and denied civilians access to it, until EFF got a court to declare code to be a form of protected speech under the First Amendment.

Now, the NSA has been defeated at ISO, with its chosen ciphers firmly rejected by the committee members, who were pretty frank about their reason for rejecting Simon and Speck: they don't trust the NSA.
Good.  I don't trust the NSA either, and I do not want them in my home appliances.

Patent Trolls Lose Before Supreme Court

The 2012 America Invents Act created the inter partes review process which allowed for challenges to patents in an administrative, rather than a lawsuit, making challenges to patents faster and cheaper.

The patent trolls took it to court, saying that Congress could not delegate the court's patent authority in this way, and the Supreme Court just shot them down in well-deserved flames:
The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the constitutionality of a process for challenging low-quality patents. Since its creation in 2011, this "inter partes review" (IPR) process has dramatically lowered the cost of defending against frivolous patent litigation.

The process allows an executive branch agency—not the courts—to revoke a patent after it has been granted. Critics claim that runs afoul of the Constitution's requirement that only the courts can deprive people of their property.

But the Supreme Court didn't buy it. In a 7-2 decision written by Justice Clarence Thomas, the nation's highest court ruled that patent rights were fundamentally a government-granted privilege that could properly come with strings attached. One such condition is the risk that the patent office might change its mind and invalidate a patent that it had previously approved.

The ruling preserves one of defendants' most potent weapons against patent trolls. Challenging a patent in court can cost millions of dollars. As a result, prior to 2011, it often made sense for defendants to settle a patent case even if they believed that the patent wouldn't stand up in court.

But then Congress passed the America Invents Act, which created a new administrative process called inter partes review. That process cuts the cost of challenging a patent down to the low six figures. It has shifted the playing field for patent litigation, allowing the targets of frivolous patent lawsuits to fight back without going broke in the process. The new Supreme Court ruling puts that process on a firm constitutional footing, which should make life difficult for patent trolls for years to come.


But Oil States sued, arguing that the Constitution requires an IPR-like process to occur in the judicial branch—not in an executive branch agency like the patent office. Executive branch agencies do not have the independence of judges, and they don't necessarily offer all of the due-process protections provided to litigants by the judicial system.

While the argument was officially over the difference between the executive and judicial branch, this was really a dispute about the nature of patent rights. Are patents fundamentally a government-granted monopoly (a "public right," in legal jargon), or are they a form of private property akin to a home or car?

The Constitution provides robust legal protections, including a guarantee of due process through the judicial branch, to private property: a law allowing a federal agency to take someone's home or business without the approval of the courts would be unconstitutional.

But it doesn't make sense to extend that same level of protection to government-granted monopolies. After all, the public interest may require curtailing or eliminating these kinds of monopolies in the future.

"Congress can grant a franchise that permits a company to erect a toll bridge but qualify the grant by reserving its authority to revoke or amend the franchise," the court's majority wrote, citing a 101-year-old precedent on the topic. "The same is true for franchises that permit companies to build railroads or telegraph lines."
This is why the case is important: It is a refutation of the entire idea of "Intellectual Property", that has come to the fore recently:
None of these rulings was explicitly about whether patents are monopolies or property rights. But the question implicitly shapes how courts think about these kinds of questions. Monopolies are generally viewed with skepticism; property rights are not. "Allowing petitioners to patent risk hedging would preempt use of this approach in all fields and would effectively grant a monopoly over an abstract idea," the Supreme Court wrote in its 2010 ruling on patenting abstract ideas.

Tuesday's ruling is important in its own right, as it preserves a process that has had a real impact on the patent-litigation problem. But it's also a barometer of how the Supreme Court's justices are thinking about the patent system more generally. The fact that seven of the nine justices continue to view patents as a government-granted franchise, not a form of property rights, suggests that the high court's more-than-decade-long smackdown of pro-patent jurisprudence could continue for years to come.
The Federal Circuit, aka the "Patent Court" has been mishandling, and expanding, patents for years, and the Supreme Court has been pushing back for about a decade against the excesses of the Federal Circuit.

This one is significant, because it throws a brick through the "Intellectual Property" window.

This Guy Needs to Burn

I am referring to Jeffrey Reinking, father of semi-naked shooter Travis Jeffrey Reinking, who gave his son his guns back because ……… 2nd Amendment.

There is no excuse for this sh%$. You guaranteed that you would keep your guns out of your crazy son's hands, and at the first opportunity, you gave them back to him.

Prosecutors, please take note, and nail him to the wall:
You probably know this about the man suspected of shooting up a Tennessee Waffle House and killing four people:
Months before the man suspected of killing four people at a Tennessee Waffle House on Sunday became the target of a manhunt, authorities arrested him for trying to breach a barrier near the White House and later seized his guns.

Among the four weapons they took from Travis Reinking was the AR-15 semi­automatic rifle that police say he used in the Waffle House on Sunday. Two of the other weapons — a long gun and a handgun — are missing from Reinking’s apartment, and as of Sunday evening, Reinking was still at large.
And you probably know this:
... Reinking's father was present when ... deputies came to confiscate the guns, [Tazewell County sheriff Robert M.] Huston said. The father had a valid state authorization card and asked the police if he could keep the weapons. Deputies gave Reinking's father the weapons, Huston said.
"He was allowed to do that after he assured deputies he would keep them secure and away from Travis," Huston said, referring to Reinking's father.

Huston and Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson said they believe Reinking's father returned the weapons to Reinking.
It's bad enough that Jeffrey Reinking, the father of Travis, returned the guns to him after that White House incident. But it wasn't the only troubling incident that should have concerned Jeffrey Reinking. There was this:
In June 2017, police records state Reinking threatened someone with an AR-15 while wearing a pink dress. After threatening the man, Reinking drove to a public pool and dove in before exposing himself to others at the pool, according to the reports.
And this, in May 2017:
You see how this proceeds.

If you support responsible behavior with firearms, then you need to penalize people who engage in irresponsible behavior with guns.

This is just like breathing into someone's ignition interlock breathalyzer, and then the driver kills someone, Jeffrey Reinking needs to be prosecuted for anything, and everything you can possibly find.

I am talking, "Pretend that his name is "Mahoud Ibrahim crap."

Tweet of the Day

A very good point is being made here: The people who want a pilot roll-out of something like single payer actually trying to kill it.

Single payer, and things like the jobs guarantee, CANNOT not work unless they are universal in nature, and pilot programs are, by the very nature of their being pilot programs, are likely to fail.

23 April 2018

Just Read This

Dear Liberal America: The FBI Is Not Your Friend -- And It Never Has Been

Seriously. It's still the misbegotten offspring of the Palmer Raids and J. Edgar Hoover.

This is Rich

When Sean Hannity was named in court this week as a client of Donald Trump’s embattled legal fixer Michael Cohen, the Fox News host insisted their discussions had been limited to the subject of buying property.

“I’ve said many times on my radio show: I hate the stock market, I prefer real estate. Michael knows real estate,” Hannity said on television, a few hours after the dramatic hearing in Manhattan, where Cohen is under criminal investigation.

Hannity’s chosen investment strategy is confirmed by thousands of pages of public records reviewed by the Guardian, which detail a real estate portfolio of remarkable scale that has not previously been reported.

The records link Hannity to a group of shell companies that spent at least $90m on more than 870 homes in seven states over the past decade. The properties range from luxurious mansions to rentals for low-income families. Hannity is the hidden owner behind some of the shell companies and his attorney did not dispute that he owns all of them.

Dozens of the properties were bought at a discount in 2013, after banks foreclosed on their previous owners for defaulting on mortgages. Before and after then, Hannity sharply criticised Barack Obama for the US foreclosure rate. In January 2016, Hannity said there were “millions more Americans suffering under this president” partly because of foreclosures.

Hannity, 56, also amassed part of his property collection with support from the US Department for Housing and Urban Development (Hud), a fact he did not disclose when praising Ben Carson
, the Hud secretary, on his television show last year.


Among the most valuable are two large apartment complexes in Georgia that Hannity bought in 2014 for $22.7m. The developments are in the cities of Perry and Brunswick, which have higher poverty rates and lower median incomes than the US averages. One- and two-bedroom units in Hannity‍‍‍’s apartment complexes are available to rent for $735 to $1,065 per month, according to brochures.

The Georgia purchases were funded with mortgages for $17.9m that Hannity obtained with help from Hud, which insured the loans under a program created as part of the National Housing Act. The loans, first guaranteed under the Obama administration, were recently increased by $5m with renewed support from Carson’s department.Also, Carson could approve condo conversions for him next year.


Not a Surprise

It turns out that the United States Border Patrol has taken the opportunity granted by Trump's rhetoric on immigration to feed blatantly false statistics to the public:
Last November, reports that a pair of U.S. Border Patrol agents had been attacked with rocks at a desolate spot in West Texas made news around the country. The agents were found injured and unconscious at the bottom of a culvert off Interstate 10. Agent Rogelio Martinez soon died from his injuries. Early reports in right-wing media outlets such as Breitbart suggested that the perpetrators were undocumented immigrants, and President Donald Trump quickly embraced the narrative to bolster his campaign for a border wall.


It was four months before the FBI concluded its investigation and determined that the most likely cause of Martinez’s death was an accidental fall. Meanwhile, media outlets across the political spectrum repeated statistics showing a sharp upward trend in the number of assaults against Border Patrol agents even as the number of undocumented immigrants apprehended while crossing the southern border has dropped.

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data, assaults on Border Patrol officers increased dramatically in fiscal year 2016, reversing a long downward trend. That year, CBP claims, there were 454 assaults on agents nationwide, compared with 378 in fiscal year 2015, a 20 percent increase. The increase from 2016 to 2017 was even more surprising. In 2017, according to CBP, there were 786 assaults, a spike of 73 percent, even as apprehensions fell from 415,816 to 310,532.

Almost the entire increase — 271 purported assaults — was said to have occurred in one sector, the Rio Grande Valley, in South Texas. A large number of the assaults supposedly occurred on a single day, according to charts and details provided by Christiana Coleman, a CBP public affairs spokesperson. In response to questions from The Intercept, Coleman explained in an email that “an incident in the Rio Grande Valley Sector on February 14, 2017, involved seven U.S. Border Patrol Agents assaulted by six subjects utilizing three different types of projectiles (rocks, bottles, and tree branches), totaling 126 assaults.”

According to conventional law enforcement accounting, this single incident should have been tallied as seven agents assaulted — not seven agents times six perpetrators times three projectiles. Subtracting the seven agents from 126 leaves 119 extra “assaults” that falsely and grossly inflate the data, making it appear to the public that far more agents were assaulted.


According to James Tomsheck, former director of internal affairs at CBP, the agency’s method of counting assaults is highly unusual.

During a phone interview with The Intercept, Tomsheck said law enforcement agencies count the number of people assaulted, not the discrete acts of violence that occur during an incident. And that’s how it was done when he worked at CBP (he left in 2014). “Five rocks [thrown at] an agent would have been considered one assault,” Tomsheck said.

Tomsheck said that during his more than three decades of police work, he has never heard of any law enforcement agency multiplying assaulted officers by the perpetrators and the weapons. When I asked Franklin Zimring, a criminologist at the University of California, Berkeley and author of “When Police Kill,” if he’d ever heard of such a method, he burst out laughing. “No,” he said, laughing again. “I haven’t.”


Rather than a picture of increasing violence against Border Patrol agents, what emerges from the FBI’s data is that the Border Patrol’s job has never been safer. The decrease was so significant that by 2016, according to FBI statistics, Border Patrol agents were about five times less likely to be assaulted than officers in local police departments — and only half as likely to be killed on the job by homicide or by accident. As the Cato Institute observed in November, “Regular Americans are more than twice as likely to be murdered in any year from 2003 through 2017 than Border Patrol agents were.” But even as Border Patrol work was getting safer, the agency began manipulating its data to claim increasing danger and advance a political agenda.
(emphasis mine)

Gee, you think?

CBP already operates with more impunity that most law enforcement, and they are just getting worse.

End Stage Looting by an Ayn Rand Fan

About a year and a half ago, I observed how the hedge fund operator who is running Sears according to the principles of Ayn Rand is running the venerable retail institution into the ground.

After many years of mismanagement and looting, he is now looking to buy its remaining assets at a cut-rate price.

To use Ayn Rand's language, he is a looter, not a creator:
Edward S. Lampert, the chief executive of Sears, offered on Monday to buy real estate assets and the Kenmore brand from the troubled retailer in what would be his latest attempt to save it.

In a letter to the Sears board, Mr. Lampert, whose ESL Investments hedge fund owns a controlling stake in the company, said ESL would be also be willing to buy the retailer’s home-services and its appliance-parts units.

Any deal involving Sears and Mr. Lampert is complicated by his dual roles running both the retailer and the hedge fund, which is also a major Sears lender.


In his letter to the board, Mr. Lampert offered to pay Sears $500 million for the home-services and appliance-parts units, but did not mention a price for the Kenmore brand or the real estate. He noted that the company had been trying to sell the assets for nearly two years, but had failed to find other buyers.
He failed to find another buyer because he has completely destroyed the company.

I will leave it to the reader to determine whether this is because he indented to drive its value down so that he could snap up its parts for a song all along, which is a fairly typical hedge fund behavior, or if he was simply wedded to a philosophy (Objectivism) which is completely antithetical to a business that actually makes, or does, something of value.


World's best cover of "The Wheels on the Bus"

22 April 2018

Tory Government in a Nut Shell

The UK Government refused to cooperate with a French money laundering investigation because the company being investigated was a major donor to the Conservative Party:
The British government refused to assist a French investigation into suspected money laundering and tax fraud by the UK telecoms giant Lycamobile – citing the fact that the company is the “biggest corporate donor to the Conservative party” and gives money to a trust founded by Prince Charles.

French prosecutors launched a major probe into the firm and arrested 19 people accused of using its accounts to launder money from organised criminal networks two years ago, after BuzzFeed News revealed its suspicious financial activities in the UK. But the Conservatives continued taking Lycamobile’s money – and it can now be revealed that the British authorities stonewalled a formal request from French prosecutors to carry out raids in London as part of the ongoing investigation.

Confidential correspondence between British government officials and their French counterparts, shown to BuzzFeed News by a source in the UK, reveals that the French wanted British authorities to raid Lycamobile’s London headquarters last year and seize evidence as part of their investigation into money laundering and tax fraud by the company.

In an official response dated 30 March 2017, a government official noted that Lycamobile is “a large multinational company” with “vast assets at their disposal” and would be “extremely unlikely to agree to having their premises searched”.

The letter, from the team at HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs) that handles law enforcement requests from foreign governments, continued: “It is of note that they are the biggest corporate donor to the Conservative party led by Prime Minister Theresa May and donated 1.25m Euros to the Prince Charles Trust in 2012.” The email referred to Lycamobile's donations to the British Asian Trust, which was founded by the Prince of Wales to tackle poverty in South Asia, not to his youth foundation The Prince's Trust which has never received any money from Lycamobile.


When BuzzFeed News first approached HMRC to ask about its response to the French request, the agency’s senior press officer strongly denied that Lycamobile’s donations would ever be cited as a reason not to conduct criminal raids. “No HMRC official would ever write such a letter,” he said. “This is the United Kingdom for God’s sake, not some third world banana republic where the organs of state are in hock to some sort of kleptocracy.”

However, after verifying the contents of the email seen by BuzzFeed News, another HMRC spokesman said that it was “regrettable”.
Translation, we regret that we have been caught.
Lord (Ken) Macdonald, England’s former director of public prosecutions, said the government’s response to the French request for assistance represented “a descent into banana republic law enforcement” – and called on the UK authorities to cooperate fully with the investigation. “It would be beyond worrying if HMRC were to regard the payment of political donations as a shield against criminal investigation,” he said. “Obviously the fact that a company may have the resources to challenge HMRC’s actions in court is not a reason for authorities to back off. Otherwise, wealthy organisations would be beyond the reach of the law.”
Gee, you think?

This is not a surprise.  The Tories and the Blairite New Labour have made financial corruption and money laundering the center (or centre) of their economic plans, and this is the inevitable result.

The Judges Give a 9.6 for Snark

Alexandr Petri opens up a major can of whup ass on pundits who think that they have the right to be published no matter how contemptible they are.

It is, of course, an allegory about the case of Kevin Williamson, whose very short tenure at The Atlantic was a result of his extremist views, has been on a major whining tour about how his call for hanging women who have abortions led him to be persecuted.

Just read the article.

Sing It, Brother

I wholeheartedly agree that the world of deceptive user agreements used to arbitrarily punish customers 6 pounds of sh%$ in a 5 pound bag:
Mark Zuckerberg says it doesn't matter how creepy and terrible his company is, because you agreed to let him comprehensively f%$# you over from asshole to appetite by clicking "I agree" to a tens of thousands of words' worth of "agreements" spread out across multiple webpages; when questioned about this in Congress, Zuck grudgingly admitted that "I don’t think the average person likely reads that whole document." But as far as Zuck is concerned, it doesn't matter whether you've read it, whether you understand it, whether it can be understood -- you still "agreed."

Facebook is far from the worst offender: Paypal has been cutting off the accounts of users who signed up before they were 18, which violated their 50,000+ word ToS (spread across 21 web-pages!); it doesn't matter if those users are now well over the age of consent, more than a decade later, their failure to read all those terms is a hanging offense.

The self-replicating plague of bullsh%$ "agreements" is finally getting a reckoning, as users wake up to the fact that companies were actually serious when they said that they expected hold us to these absurd legal documents. What's more, the looming spectre of the EU General Data Protection Regulation, with its mandate for plain language agreements that users have to understand, is calling into question whether it's possible to even have a business that can only exist if users agree to terms that put the US tax-code to shame.

That is to say, businesses are being told that they are obliged to obtain detailed, informed consent to every single term in their contracts before they can start interacting with their users. The businesses say that undertaking such a process could take hours and that no one would ever use their services if a precondition for their usage is to actually understand what they're giving away.

To which the EU answers: exactly.
The EU is doing the right thing here.  (I cannot believe that I just said that)

Seriously, the ecology of the commercial internet resembles nothing so much as a petty bunco operation.

I am Sure that Theresa May Does Not Think of Herself as a Racist

But the so-called "Windrush scandal", where Theresa May, then Home Secretary, systematically destroyed evidence that would be required of  legal immigrants from the Caribbean to prove their legal entry into the country:
The Home Office destroyed thousands of landing card slips recording Windrush immigrants’ arrival dates in the UK, despite staff warnings that the move would make it harder to check the records of older Caribbean-born residents experiencing residency difficulties.

A former Home Office employee said the records, stored in the basement of a government tower block, were a vital resource for case workers when they were asked to find information about someone’s arrival date in the UK from the West Indies – usually when the individual was struggling to resolve immigration status problems.

Although the home secretary, Amber Rudd, has promised to make it easier for Windrush-generation residents to regularise their status, the destruction of the database is likely to make the process harder, even with the support of the new taskforce announced this week.

The former employee (who has asked for his name not to be printed) said it was decided in 2010 to destroy the disembarkation cards, which dated back to the 1950s and 60s, when the Home Office’s Whitgift Centre in Croydon was closed and the staff were moved to another site. Employees in his department told their managers it was a bad idea, because these papers were often the last remaining record of a person’s arrival date, in the event of uncertainty or lost documents. The files were destroyed in October that year, when Theresa May was home secretary.

A person’s arrival date is crucial to a citizenship application, because the 1971 Immigration Act gave people who had already moved to Britain indefinite leave to remain.
She then followed up with her hostile environment policy, which, much like Donald Trump's, "Self-Deportation," rhetoric was a policy of deliberately terrorizing immigrants.

The inevitable conclusion was that this was a deliberate series of actions:
Theresa May was two years into her job as home secretary when she made her strategy explicit, telling the Telegraph in 2012 her aim “was to create here in Britain a really hostile environment for illegal migration”.

The outcry over the treatment of the Windrush generation of migrants in Britain legally, but sometimes without the paperwork to prove it, has exposed the scale of that strategy.

The hostile environment created by new legislation and regulation has meant migrants do not face border officials only when they enter the country for the first time, but as a constant part of daily life. They must prove their immigration status whenever they try to rent a property, open a bank account or access the health services. Landlords and employers become immigration enforcers – or risk hefty fines.

At the Home Office, May was tasked with delivering David Cameron’s election promise that immigration would be reduced to the tens of thousands, a pledge that has still yet to be realised.


Teather, who is now the director of the Jesuit Refugee Service, said: “Theresa May was determined to transform things. She was proud of wanting to generate a really hostile environment.

“The Home Office has a culture of enforcement and disbelief which runs deep into the walls, but it is politically led. It’s a culture from the top, and it has been a bit rich for the home secretary, Amber Rudd, to blame civil servants. When you’ve had a Conservative home secretary that long, you cannot moan when civil servants deliver those policies.”

Before this metastasized into a political catastrophe for the Tories, Theresa May, and her hand picked successor at the home office, were congratulating themselves over their mindless brutality.

The fact that this happened to an immigrant population that is almost entirely black is no accident.

They are a bunch of racist rat-f%$#s, period, full stop.

God Bless America

Here is the headline, "Naked Gunman Kills 4 at Waffle House in Nashville, Police Say.

There was a similar event at the UK about 20 years ago, at a church, only, because of the difficulty of acquiring weapons, the assailant was swinging a sword.

No fatalities in the UK.

21 April 2018

No Blogging Tonite

Unsuccessfully trying to update the BBS that I admin.

Calling it a night.

20 April 2018

Another School Shooting

God Bless America.

Is this even news any more?

Thankfully only one minor injury.


It appears that in their quest to hide the fact that the incompetents who lost to a human inverted traffic cone still work there, the DCCC has filed suit against Russia and WikiLeaks for exposing their actual internal discussions to the public.

I can't imagine that a judge won't dismiss this before the ink is dry, because publishing information that your target does not want published is the very epitome of journalism.

That being said, if it DOES go to trial, WikiLeaks, and Russia, get to do discovery, which means putting people like Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, John Podesta, Donna Brazile, etc. under oath and asking them questions. This will not end well:
The Democratic National Committee filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit Friday against the Russian government, the Trump campaign and the WikiLeaks organization alleging a far-reaching conspiracy to disrupt the 2016 campaign and tilt the election to Donald Trump.

The complaint, filed in federal district court in Manhattan, alleges that top Trump campaign officials conspired with the Russian government and its military spy agency to hurt Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and help Trump by hacking the computer networks of the Democratic Party and disseminating stolen material found there.

“During the 2016 presidential campaign, Russia launched an all-out assault on our democracy, and it found a willing and active partner in Donald Trump’s campaign,” DNC Chairman Tom Perez said in a statement.

“This constituted an act of unprecedented treachery: the campaign of a nominee for President of the United States in league with a hostile foreign power to bolster its own chance to win the presidency,” he said.

The case asserts that the Russian hacking campaign — combined with Trump associates’ contacts with Russia and the campaign’s public cheerleading of the hacks — amounted to an illegal conspiracy to interfere in the election that caused serious damage to the Democratic Party.
Props to keeping the Congressional Democrats in the dark about this until the last minute.

Instead of hunting Russian spies, which I have been told is a difficult thing, how about searching for incompetents in the organization, and looters among your consultants and contractors.

It's an easier job, with a much larger payoff.

Yea, This Russiapohobia Sh%$ Is Getting out of Hand………

It appears that the latest Russian spies prevented from entering the United States include a prima ballerina with the Bolshoi Ballet:
Amid roiling relations between the US and Russia, two members of Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet — including one of its prima ballerinas — have been refused visas to perform in New York City, Page Six has exclusively learned.

Organizers of a Lincoln Center gala where Olga Smirnova and Jacopo Tissi were due to dance on Monday believe the Department of Homeland Security’s decision may be motivated by the myriad tensions between the superpowers — and say that Smirnova is so revered in Moscow that her treatment could create a Russian backlash.

On Wednesday the department’s site read, “On April 10, 2018, we denied your… petition for a nonimmigrant worker.”

“I don’t understand it,” Linda K. Morse, chair of Youth America Grand Prix — which is hosting the gala — told Page Six. “One interpretation is that it’s political. That’s my knee-jerk reaction, but I can’t figure out why — other than that they’re Russian. But it doesn’t make any sense.”

The immigration service’s objection appears to be that the organizers applied for a visa usually granted to groups of entertainers, but since Smirnova and Tissi were planning to perform at the “Stars of Today Meets the Stars of Tomorrow” gala as individuals, rather than alongside the rest of the Bolshoi company, they’re not eligible for it.

But we’re told that YAGP has got the same visa for dancers — including Smirnova — in the past. Morse told us she “definitely” thinks the move could create political resentment in Russia. “Olga is considered the number one ballerina in the world right now,” said Morse, “and to refuse her visa is striking. It’s alarming.”
It's also very, very, very stupid.

Happy April 20

Yes, it is 4/20, and ……… Are you going to finish those fig newtons?

How about getting the never ending pasta bowl at Olive Garden, and then watching the Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense ……… That would be so epic —

……… What were we talking about again? 

Appeals Court: 1 — Mike Pence: 0

In what is a remarkably uncontroversial upholding of legal precedent, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago just ruled that Mike Pence's Indiana anti-abortion law is unconstitutional:
Indiana's ban on "selective abortions," which was signed into law in 2016 by then-Gov. Mike Pence (R), is unconstitutional, a federal appeals court ruled on Thursday.

The law banned women from having abortions based on the gender, race or disability of the fetus.

The law imposes an "undue burden" on a woman's right to get an abortion, said the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.

“The Supreme Court has been clear: the State may inform a woman’s decision before viability, but it cannot prohibit it,” Judge William Bauer wrote.

Similar bills passed or proposed in other states have specifically tried to ban abortions based on a Down syndrome diagnosis.
Good.  Let's hope that there will be more defeats of the Talibaptists nationwide.

19 April 2018

Not Enough Bullets

We have good news, and bad news.

The good news is that researchers have determined that an anti-cancer drug, Imbruvica (ibrutinib), was just as effective, with fewer side effects, at lower doses.

It would also save money for patients, or it would have if the drug maker had not tripled the cost of the drug in response:
A group of cancer doctors focused on bringing down the cost of treatments by testing whether lower — and cheaper — doses are effective thought they had found a prime candidate in a blood cancer drug called Imbruvica that typically costs $148,000 a year.

The science behind Imbruvica suggested that it could work at lower doses, and early clinical evidence indicated that patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia might do just as well on one or two pills a day after completing an initial round of treatment at three pills per day.

The researchers at the Value in Cancer Care Consortium, a nonprofit focused on cutting treatment costs for some of the most expensive drugs, set out to test whether the lower dose was just as effective — and could save patients money.

Then they learned of a new pricing strategy by Janssen and Pharmacyclics, the companies that sell Imbruvica through a partnership. Within the next three months, the companies will stop making the original 140-milligram capsule, a spokeswoman confirmed. They will instead offer tablets in four strengths — each of which has the same flat price of about $400, or triple the original cost of the pill.


Just as scientific momentum was building to test the effectiveness of lower doses, the new pricing scheme ensures dose reductions won't save patients money or erode companies' revenue from selling the drug. In fact, patients who had been doing well on a low dose of the drug would now pay more for their treatment. Those who stay on the dose equivalent to three pills a day won't see a change in price.

“That got us kind of p---ed off,” said Mark J. Ratain, an oncologist at the University of Chicago Medicine who wrote about the issue in the Cancer Letter, a publication read by oncologists. “We were just in the early stages of planning [a clinical trial] and getting it organized, and thinking about sample size and funding, and we caught wind of what the company was doing.”
Pharma execs are, "A bunch of mindless jerks who'll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes."

I'm just saying.

OK, I May Have Been Too Dismissive of AI

It appears that scientists have managed to create a machine that can assemble IKEA furniture in about 20 minutes.

Of course, it2 a few years to do the programming:
Singaporean scientists have asked the question: “Can robots assemble an IKEA chair?” and come back with enough of a “Yes” that The Register feels it time to call for robots to take this job away from humans. Pleeeease, robots. Take this job away from us!

The boffins behind this breakthrough, assistant professor Pham Quang Cuong and a team of students, all of Nanyang Technological University, were cognizant of previous attempts at unpacking flat-pack kit that had used bespoke kit. So they instead used off-the-shelf robots and open-source code like the Point cloud library and gave them the job of assembling a “STEFAN” chair.


The robots didn’t do all the work themselves - assistant professor Pham and his students laid out the parts for the bots to find. But once unleashed, the machines did the job in 20 minutes and 19 seconds with over half of that time spent on computing the required actions. Actual build time was nine minutes, a little less than the average human according to IKEA.

Success came only at the fourth attempt, a failure rate that would put IKEA out of business. Problems on early attempts included the bots breaking some parts.


The team's paper is here
(paid subscription required)

I'm feeling much better about the rise of the machines.

Adventures in the Annals of Quackery

In the annals of quack medicine, there is patent medicine, there is quackery, and then there is treating someone with the saliva of a rabid dog:
“Hair of the dog” remedies may do the trick for some hangover sufferers. But health experts say that a Canadian homeopath took the idea too far—way, way too far.

Homeopath and naturopath Anke Zimmermann used diluted saliva from a rabid dog to “treat” a four-year-old boy, according to a blog post she published earlier this year. Zimmermann claims that the potentially infectious and deadly concoction successfully resolved the boy’s aggressive behavior, which she described as a “slightly rabid-dog state.”

The tale fits with the scientifically implausible principles of homeopathy. These roughly state that substances that produce similar symptoms of a particular ailment can cure said ailment (“like cures like”) and that diluting a substance increases its potency (“law of infinitesimals”).

Health experts say Zimmermann’s claims aren’t just farfetched, but, rather, they’re barking mad.


Zimmermann quickly sniffed out the source of the problem: when Jonah was younger, a dog bit him. That is, Jonah’s mother said that one time a dog accidentally “broke the skin slightly” on Jonah’s hand while it was reaching to get food Jonah was holding.

Zimmermann pounced on the tidbit, claiming:

A bite from an animal, with or without rabies vaccination, has the potential to imprint an altered state in the person who was bitten, in some ways similar to a rabies infection. This can include over-excitability, difficulties sleeping, aggression, and various fears, especially of dogs or wolves. This child presented a perfect picture of this type of rabies state. Most homeopaths would have easily recognized the remedy required in this case.
The “remedy” to this “state” was clearly the saliva of a rabid dog, Zimmermann concluded. Months later, the mother reported that Jonah’s issues had improved—although they had not resolved entirely.
You can read the whole article for innumerable dog puns, but this is truly horrifying, and Zimmerman needs to be locked up to protect the rest of society.