30 April 2022

Ha Ha!

In response to his 1st Amendment challenge to a consent decree that he entered into with the SEC to limit his deceptive tweeting on official matters with Tesla, a judge has responded, "Tu Stupri Cognati Mihi,". (Are you f%$#ing kidding me?)*

This is not a surprise really.  Musk has a long history of public statement that, in earlier times, would have him in the dock for stock price manipulation:

Billionaire Tesla co-founder Elon Musk lost his effort to terminate his consent decree with the Securities and Exchange Commission on the grounds that the mandatory pre-approval of his tweets that could move stocks violates his First Amendment rights.

“With regard to the First Amendment argument, it is undisputed in this case that Musk’s tweets are at least presumptively ‘protected speech,'” U.S. District Judge Lewis Liman wrote in a 22-page ruling on Wednesday. “At the same time, however, even Musk concedes that his free speech rights do not permit him to engage in speech that is or could ‘be considered fraudulent or otherwise violative of the securities laws.”


After the SEC issued subpoenas to investigate the matter, Musk moved to quash those subpoenas and terminate his consent decree, Liman denied both requests.

“Musk may wish it were otherwise, but he remains subject to the same enforcement authority—and has the same means to challenge the exercise of that authority—as any other citizen,” the ruling states. “Indeed, to conclude otherwise would be to hold that a serial violator of the securities laws or a recidivist would enjoy greater protection against SEC enforcement than a person who had never even been accused of a securities law violation. Musk points to nothing in the law or the language of the statute that would suggest that Congress intended such a perverse result.”


*When I wrote about this faux legal term earlier, I had no idea that I would be using the term so soon.

All Your Bases Are Belong to Us

We have now discovered that, "All of the bases in DNA and RNA have now been found in meteorites," which means that arguments supporting the extraterrestrial origins of life have become far more persuasive:

More of the ingredients for life have been found in meteorites.

Space rocks that fell to Earth within the last century contain the five bases that store information in DNA and RNA, scientists report April 26 in Nature Communications.

These “nucleobases” — adenine, guanine, cytosine, thymine and uracil — combine with sugars and phosphates to make up the genetic code of all life on Earth. Whether these basic ingredients for life first came from space or instead formed in a warm soup of earthly chemistry is still not known (SN: 9/24/20). But the discovery adds to evidence that suggests life’s precursors originally came from space, the researchers say.

Scientists have detected bits of adenine, guanine and other organic compounds in meteorites since the 1960s (SN: 8/10/11, SN: 12/4/20). Researchers have also seen hints of uracil, but cytosine and thymine remained elusive, until now.


A few years ago, geochemist Yasuhiro Oba of Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan, and colleagues came up with a technique to gently extract and separate different chemical compounds in liquefied meteorite dust and then analyze them.

We may all be descending from extraterrestrial chemistry.

Useful Suggestion

As the Republicans continue to make hay on political issues that they will almost certainly never pull the trigger on, I like the idea of calling their bluff.

When Ron Desnatis goes after Disney's special governmental district in Florida over cultur war issues, it is a good thing to suggest that this is a good idea, because it is an unconscionable corporate subsidies by the citizens of Florida, for example.

The Republicans take these positions, because they know the response from Democrats accrues to their political advantage.

To put it bluntly, trolling motivates their base, and it is time to counter-troll:

Let’s take it as a given that the right wing’s culture wars are, overwhelmingly, a ruse. [Because it is a ruse — Me]Taken together, they amount to a bad-faith attempt by cynical political wolves to lure in the rubes, appealing to lowest-common-denominator fears and ignorance as a way to distract from the substance of what the Republican Party is actually doing. Nowhere is this more nakedly apparent than in the laughable bleatings of Republican power brokers against the ​“elite.” Donald Trump’s ​“blue collar billionaire” con is now being pushed by less gifted con men against the idea of corporate ​“wokeism” — a thing that does not, in fact, exist. Yes, this is all shallow and actively harmful political maneuvering, none of which should be taken seriously.

So can we get anything good out of it?

I think so. We can say with great confidence that these culture wars will continue, because they work. Let’s set aside for a moment the Critical Race Theory panic and neo-book banning frenzy and focus on one specific variety of these culture wars: The fake Republican embrace of the working class. This is the sort of thing embodied by Marco Rubio’s March 2021 halfway-endorsement of the union drive at Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, because, he said, ​“companies like Amazon have been allies of the left in the culture war.” It is the sort of thing embodied by Fox News host Tucker Carlson inviting Amazon Labor Union leader Chris Smalls on his show for a sympathetic interview in a (failed) attempt to get Smalls to trash Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. It is the sort of thing that motivated Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to declare war against Disney, one of his state’s biggest power brokers and stalwarts of Republican state politics, because the company criticized an anti-gay bill.


Republicans are doing this because they are opportunistic. But their opportunism is based on an assumption that nobody will ever call their bluff. The Republican Party writ large figures that it can insult corporate America as unconscionable woke elite liberal scum out of one side of its mouth and still enjoy the political and financial support of corporate America on the other end, because the people that control things understand that this is all theater and that the Republican legislative agenda is still resolutely pro-capital and anti-labor.


There is another, much more promising opportunity: To drag the Republicans into an extremely uncomfortable position by acting as if they mean what they say. When Ron DeSantis declares that he is stripping Disney of its privileged legal position (which will likely never come to pass, which would be his ideal outcome), the Left must stand up and say: Yes! We hate corporate welfare! A rare bipartisan moment of agreement! When Republicans lazily rail against Wall Street and Big Tech and the Ivy League because those institutions dared to pay the cheapest sort of lip service to liberal values while fueling inequality and monopolizing data for the purpose of increasing revenue and fostering an insular ruling class that never changes, we need to recognize that the right wingers have miscalculated. They have gotten themselves out of position. In the same way that a boxer must attack when an opponent misses a punch and falls off balance, now is the time for the Left to lean in and push these points, hard.


Republicans aren’t built for this. You want to give a speech on the Senate floor decrying Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos as a bad person for being woke? We will introduce a bill to order that his wealth is confiscated, loaded into cargo planes as pallets of cash, and dumped over abandoned middle American factory towns. We’ll put every billionaire to work in fast food restaurants! You like to make fun of Starbucks as a pretentious bastion of elitism? We’ll do you one better — we’ll unionize the whole damn company! We’ll unionize Goldman Sachs! We love this game. Don’t just speak about it, you Republican poser Ivy League grads masquerading as salt-of-the-earth populists. Be about it. Republicans think they can win on some rhetorical battleground. They’re not prepared for what will happen when we take them at their word. Never let a good opportunity to pour gasoline on the class war go to waste.

Unfortunately, this not going to happen because:

  1. The Democratic Party establishment (There is no Democratic Party establishment) is already bending over backwards to convince the corporate elites that all of its talk about fair wages and equality are just talk, and they really want to protect the worst of the worst of the richest of the richest.
  2. Much of the  Democratic Party establishment (There is no Democratic Party establishment) likes the current status quo just fine, and all of the bankster looters are the friends and classmates.
  3. Who would donate large sacks of campaign cash that the Democratic Party establishment (There is no Democratic Party establishment) misuses in order to make their money?

It would be nice if it were to happen though. 

There is a class war going on, and it is being waged by the top 10% of society, including the Democratic Party establishment (There is no Democratic Party establishment), on the bottom 90% of society.

I'm an Engineer, Not a Lawyer, Dammit!*

But I need to remember this Latin phrase, "Tu Stupri Cognati Mihi".

It translates to, "Are you f%$#ing kidding me."

I wondering if a lawyer would actually have the guts use this in court.

The source is Cory Doctorow, in a discussion of Disney's insistence that when it when it went on its merger and acquisition orgy a few years back, that it acquired the rights to publish the works, but not the responsibility to pay royalties:

The contract lawyer's technical term for this is tu stupri cognati mihi ("are you f%$#ing kidding me") (I made that up, but it really should be true). In truth, this "we only acquire assets, not liabilities" argument is grounded in the idea that the workers Disney stole from couldn't afford to fight them.
When people defend our current draconian copyright regime to, "Protect the artist," they mean nothing of the sort.

It's about maintaining and extending public subsidies to the already rich and powerful.

*I love it when I get to go all Dr. McCoy!

29 April 2022

What a Bunch of Self-Entitled Pricks

OK, that may not be completely accurate, a prick has a head, and this may not be an accurate description of the White House Press Corps(e):

White House reporters are bored, Politico reports.

According to Politico’s own White House reporter Max Tani, they’re unhappy because they’re not getting the attention – or reaping the career rewards – that came with covering the madness of the Trump White House.

Biden “has been a journalistic sedative” compared to “the most theatrical, attention-seeking, Beltway-panic-inducing president in living memory,” Tani writes.

“Gone are the Tweets that sent newsrooms scrambling,” he notes, wistfully.

The constant lies, the wild incompetence, and the staging of an attempted coup all made for great material. Now, White House reporters say, “the storylines, while important, and substantive, can lack flair or be hard to get viewer attention.”


Trump turned the White House into a thrilling reality TV show and covering him was easy. All that mattered was Trump. He’d say something nuts, White House reporters would write it down, adding a caveat somewhere that “critics disagree.” They’d get rewarded by trending on Twitter, leading the front page, and getting invited onto TV.

Now it’s more complicated.

They think it’s boring, but that’s because they’re not doing what the public needs them to do. They’re not there to get cheap thrills and better jobs, they are there to tell the nation and the world what the White House is doing, why, and whether it’s helping or hurting.

I'm not sure what they teach in Journalism School, but it does seem that it does not make better reporters.

In the old days you worked your way up from paperboy to copyboy to cub reporter, to reporter without a day in college.

You did not get this sort of solipsistic crap from them.

Of Course They Are

At the core of the Talibaptist world view is the idea that if a woman is sexually assaulted, it is some way their fault.

This is why the news that Liberty University is being investigated by the Department of Education for covering up rapes is no surprise:

The federal Department of Education has begun investigating Liberty University’s handling of student reports of sexual assault. In a statement to ProPublica, the school pledged its “full cooperation” with the investigation.

Last October, ProPublica revealed how the school, which was founded by evangelist Jerry Falwell, had discouraged students who tried to report being sexually assaulted. Some students who came forward were encouraged to sign forms acknowledging they might have broken Liberty’s moral code of conduct, “The Liberty Way.” Others described being encouraged to pray instead of reporting their cases.


Liberty students told ProPublica that federal agents have been at the school’s campus in Lynchburg, Virginia, this week. In an email viewed by ProPublica, a Department of Education official reached out to student advocates to arrange meeting times. An agency spokesperson declined to comment, citing a policy not to discuss ongoing investigations.


In another development, an unnamed former Liberty University student filed a federal lawsuit against the school on Wednesday, claiming the university failed to properly investigate after she reported a rape to school authorities a year ago. The plaintiff also alleged that when she reported being sexually assaulted, she was penalized by the school for violating The Liberty Way, because she had been at a party where alcohol was consumed.

Their behavior is perfectly consistent with with victim blaming.

Given that they have an NCAA Division I football team, I'm waiting for reports of the, "ver-present football player rapist," to emerge.

28 April 2022

It's Thursday, and

The initial unemployment claims fell, to 180K, with continuing claims falling to 1.4 million, but so did Q1 GDP, down at a 1.4% annual rate, about 3% less than forecast:

The U.S. economy shrank in the first quarter as supply disruptions weighed on output, but underlying strength in consumer and business spending suggested growth will soon resume.

The decline in U.S. gross domestic product at a 1.4% annual rate marked a sharp reversal from a 6.9% annual growth rate in the fourth quarter, the Commerce Department said Thursday. The first quarter was the weakest since spring 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic and related shutdowns drove the U.S. economy into a deep—albeit short—recession.

The drop stemmed from a widening trade deficit. Imports to the U.S. surged and exports fell, dynamics reflecting pandemic-related supply-chain constraints. A slower pace of inventory investment by businesses in the first quarter—compared with a rapid buildup of inventories at the end of last year—also pushed growth down.

In addition, fading government stimulus spending related to the pandemic weighed on GDP.
The really bad news is this:


The GDP report is unlikely to change the Federal Reserve’s plans to raise interest rates rapidly this year, including by a half-percentage-point at a two-day meeting next week. One reason: The report is likely to add to concerns that the economy is growing too fast. Private demand in the first quarter grew at a 3.7% annual rate, well above the 1.8% growth rate the Fed expects for the overall economy over the long run. 

I expect the November elections to be a bloodbath, because we will be in a recession.

Supply disruptions are only going to get worse with the war, and the resulting unrest throughout the world, and our system has only become more fragile since the pandemic.

Take Off Your Engineering Hat and Put On Your Management Hat

It appears that Boeing has lost the ability to develop and manufacture an aircraft, and the continuing saga of the 787 clusterf%$# provides further confirmation of this fact.

Somewhere in the bowels of the company, there are still people who can build airplanes, but when you look at their failures, the 737 MAX, the outsourcing of crucial components on the 787, and their moving production to South Carolina just to f%$# with the unions, it is clear that its problem is driven by the MBA culture that replaced its engineering driven culture in the 1990s.

They still cannot make a 787 properly:

For years, Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration handled 787 Dreamliner deliveries as though the perfect was the enemy of the good.

The FAA allowed the plane maker to deliver the wide-body jets with some minor flaws, so long as there was no immediate threat to safety. The expectation was that Boeing would fix such defects after the planes began carrying passengers, according to government officials and current and former Boeing executives.

That approach doesn’t fly anymore. Two deadly crashes of a different Boeing airplane, the 737 MAX, ushered in a new era of intense scrutiny of everything rolling out of Boeing’s factories.

The result has been a string of Dreamliner delays that have become headaches for both Boeing and the airlines waiting for delivery of scores of 787s worth more than $25 billion. Production snafus have popped up one after the other. Some of the latest involve titanium parts, glue and fasteners, people familiar with the matter said.


The FAA will no longer haggle over whether Boeing can deliver 787s that diverge from agency-approved designs and federal regulations. “Before, we’d work it out,” said one government official familiar with the FAA’s Dreamliner work. Now, this official said, “We’re not negotiating.”

Amid the scrutiny, Boeing employees found defects on their own and began taking a harder look at how the company produced Dreamliners. They found more problems.


It isn’t that Boeing suddenly stopped making Dreamliners properly. It found previously unknown production problems that in many cases had introduced minor defects in planes already flying. Those led to more discoveries, which fueled more questions from regulators.


In February, the FAA further tightened its oversight of the Dreamliner. It said its inspectors would check each jet individually, rather than let the plane maker perform routine final safety signoffs, as the FAA had permitted it to do for years.


After finding the Dreamliner defects, Boeing has run stress tests to determine whether the structure of any 787s with such defects in airlines’ fleets could easily withstand extreme flying conditions. In August 2020, Boeing teams identified eight in-service Dreamliners that didn’t meet “limit load requirements,” and recommended airlines ground them for immediate fixes.

To quote Clarke and Dawe, "The front fell off.


As Boeing’s factory churned out more planes, Boeing employees kept looking for additional flaws. The company halted Dreamliner deliveries in October 2020 after it found more flaws and widened inspections. The process was initiated by Boeing, which reported the findings to the FAA, according to people familiar with the matter.


Federal lawmakers strengthened protections for employees in Boeing’s Organization Designation Authorization, or ODA, unit, who are empowered to work on the FAA’s behalf. The agency now wants to use Boeing’s ODA unit as an additional layer of scrutiny: in-house experts who are more familiar than the FAA’s staff with the Dreamliner.

I believe that the term for this is, "Death Spiral."

Why Does Anyone Hire These Criminals?

EY is Ernst & Young
In testimony before Congress, representatives of McKinsey & Company declare that even theough they worked for Perdue Pharma to maximize addiction, they were completely ethical when they were consulting with the FDA at the same time.

Yeah, sure.

That's why they have already paid $600,000,000.00 to settle claims of wrongdoing.

Meanwhile McKinsey has also:

  • Facilitated bribery in South Africa.
  • Conflicts of interests with its in house hedge funds.
  • Enron.
  • Advising insurance companies to make low-ball offers.
  • Price gouging by the pharmaceutical company Valeant.
  • Data falsification at Rikers Island jail.
  • Consulting for ICE and telling them to make their detention facilities worse.
  • Fingering Saudi dissidents to Saudi despot Mohammed bin Bonesaw.

McKinsey's job is to justify the unethical.  It's their specialty, and they launder (Ivy League Wash?) their image by hiring graduates from the most prestigious schools.

They need to be Arthur Andersoned:

McKinsey & Co managing partner Bob Sternfels told a congressional committee Wednesday that his consulting firm did not have a conflict of interest when it gave advice both to Oxycontin manufacturer Purdue Pharma LP and the government agency charged with regulating opioid sales.

McKinsey gave consulting advice to both Purdue and the Food and Drug Administration from 2008 to 2019, and 22 of its consultants worked for both clients, according to a report published by the House Oversight Committee, which hosted the hearing. During that period, McKinsey offered to "turbocharge" Purdue's opioid sales while also working with the FDA division overseeing the development and marketing of drugs.

That work did not create a conflict because McKinsey advised the FDA on topics such as technology upgrades and organizational efficiency, Sternfels said.


Democratic Representative Katie Porter of California pointed out the omission allowed McKinsey to avoid a government review of potential conflicts of interest.

"Your scheme worked really well," Porter said. "McKinsey got contracts, Purdue got rich, and America got addicted."

Why this organization is tolerated in polite society is beyond me,

27 April 2022

Tweet of the Day

Just in case you are wondering, this twitter account is an homage to John Snow, doctor and one of the founders of epidemiology, not Jon Snow, the Game of Thrones character.

He, the original, determined that cholera was spread by sewage contaminating drinking water. 

In any case, Neoliberal John Snow is a treasure.

Look For, That Union Label

Delta, Huh?

It appears that Delta Airlines is worried enough about a nascent unionization drive, they will start paying flight attendants when they handle boarding and deplaning. (Is deplaning even a real word?)

So now, as opposed to just getting paid when the doors are closed, they will getting paid, albeit less, as they help passengers board:

Delta Air Lines announced Tuesday it will become the first U.S. airline to pay flight attendants for boarding duties starting this summer.

In a memo sent to employees, the company said starting June 2 flight attendants would get boarding pay for all flights. In the airline industry, flight attendants only receive compensation for flights after the airplane doors close.

“The addition of boarding pay to flight attendant compensation is a testament to Delta’s longstanding commitment to deliver industry-leading pay to our industry-leading team while enhancing our operational reliability for customers,” Delta said in a statement.

Along with the boarding pay, Delta is increasing its boarding time for smaller aircrafts from 35 minutes to 40 minutes.

“Flight attendants are critical to ensuring a welcoming, safe environment onboard, and we are excited to bring this new benefit to our people and improve on-time departures and arrivals for both crew and customers,” Delta said.

The boarding flight pay comes on top of a pay raise for employees that will go into effect in May. 

Delta's flight attendants are not unionized, but they are trying to get unionized.

This is the only reason that this happened.

Tru Dat

I know that Joe Manchin is probably the only "Democrat" out there who can win a statewide race in West Virginia, but that does not require Democratic Party establishment (There is no Democratic Party establishment) to treat him as trustworthy partner with which to develop policy.

There is a difference between a conservative Democrat and a disloyal one, and folks like Manchin, and Joe Leiberman, and Kyrsten Sinema are not helping the party.

They are, to paraphrase LBJ, inside the tent pissing in.

Support Your Local Police

LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva is threatening an LA Times reporter with prosecution for publishing a video of brutality in the jails that he manages.

He has since claimed that he was, "Misquoted," (He was not) but this sort of behavior resembles that of a gangster, which is particularly ironic given that the reporter he is threatening revealed that the LA Sheriff's office is infested with criminal gangs.

This guy has is abusing his power almost as abusively as Joe Arpio did in Arizona, and his behavior makes it clear that he is not just tolerating abuse of civil rights, he is a co-conspirator:

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Tuesday that his department was targeting a Times journalist in a criminal leak investigation for her reporting on a departmental cover-up, but after a barrage of criticism from politicians, the newspaper and press freedom groups, he backed off his announcement and denied that he considered the reporter a suspect.

The sheriff lashed out at Times staff writer Alene Tchekmedyian during a morning news conference in which he suggested two longtime foes leaked her a surveillance video showing a deputy kneeling on the head of a handcuffed inmate.

Detailing an ongoing criminal probe of the leak, Villanueva displayed a poster with large photographs of Tchekmedyian, his political rival Eli Vera and sheriff’s Inspector General Max Huntsman with arrows pointing from the two men to the reporter.

“The three individuals that we want to know a lot about,” Villanueva said. “These three people have some important questions to answer.”
This is a clear and unequivocal threat that he will use his official powers to harass and threaten his critics.

If the California AG and the US DoJ are not investigating this guy right now, they are not doing their jobs.

Villanueva exhibited a list of possible felonies under investigation, including conspiracy, burglary and unauthorized use of a database. When pressed by reporters on whether he was investigating Tchekmedyian specifically, the sheriff replied, “All parties to the act are subjects of the investigation.”


The Times published a report last month that described how Sheriff’s Department officials worked to cover up the March 2021 incident because they feared it would paint the department in a “negative light.” The Times report was accompanied by surveillance video from a lockup area of the San Fernando Courthouse that captured the deputy kneeling on the inmate’s head for three minutes after handcuffing him.

An L.A. County sheriff’s commander filed a lawsuit accusing Sheriff Alex Villanueva of obstructing justice and retaliating against those who blew the whistle.

Earlier this week, the newspaper and other outlets reported on a legal claim in which a department commander alleged that Villanueva participated in the cover-up, telling underlings, “We do not need bad media at this time.”
I get that politicians are loath to oppose law enforcement, but this sort of behavior is more than just bad, it is corrosive to society.

Like Somolia

The Ukraine is a real country, just like Pakistan (created as a consequence British Colonial ploys in 1948), or East Timor (created in 1975), or the former Yugoslavia (1992-2006), or South Sudan (2011), ore Eritrea (1993).

It's a real country, just like we think of a Somolia as a real country.

The Ukraine, like Somolia is a profoundly dysfunctional country, with its GDP still less than what it was with the breakup of the USSR, which is why somewhere north of 10% of the population has left.

Note that this is in a country with (before the war) abundant resources, a once thriving agricultural sector, and a relatively robust steel industry.

There will eventually be a peace deal, but I don't see their oligarchs stopping their looting or losing power, so ubi desertum faciunt, pacem appellant.

So Long and Thanks for All the Fish

Seriously, is Joseph Heller writing the script for this?

26 April 2022

Tweet of the Day

I am so going to use this the next time someone complains about my mask wearing.

About F%$#ing Time

After 10 years of ignoring the law. the Occupational Ssfety and Health Administration is moving to take over enforcement of workplace standards in Arizona.

Enforcement of such standards are usually largely the responsibility of the states, but when a state consistently refuses to enforce the law, the Feds have to step in:

After a decade of outright Arizona defiance on everything from protecting construction workers against falls to protecting nurses against the coronavirus, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has run out of patience and is proposing the drastic step of taking over job safety and health enforcement in the state.

The record is so bad, the feds said, that “together, the state” agency’s “actions suggest Arizona is either unable or unwilling to maintain its commitment to provide a program for employee safety and health protection,” the 36-page Federal Register notice, to be formally published the week of April 24, says.

The feds “may initiate revocation proceedings if a state plan does not maintain its commitment to provide a program for employee safety and health protection that meets the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and is at least as effective as the federal OSHA program in providing employee safety and health protection at covered workplaces,” federal OSHA’s draft adds.


Arizona’s failures are long-standing, the federal OSHA said. Indeed, the first warning signal came when the state endangered construction workers almost a decade ago. State legislators enacted SB1441, stating the state agency did not have to protect those workers against falls unless the workers toiled at least 15 feet off the ground.

OSHA’s standard, then and now, calls for fall protection for workers starting at six feet above the ground. But Arizona, at least initially, defied it. States must follow, or better, both that standard and other federal OSHA job protection standards.

Refusing to protect your workers is never more obvious than when your legislature PASSES A F%$#ING LAW instructing your enforcement agents to ignore the law.

This is long overdue.

Nothing to See Here, Move Along

The US Army may spend as much as $22,000,000,000.00 on Microsoft HoloLens virtual reality goggles even though there are indications that soldiers will not use them, which would make them useless.

I think of useless and expensive weapon systems as a waste of time and money, "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

The generals, on the other hand, think that these bloated programs are a great investment in their post retirement plans.

Guess who gets to cut the line?

The US Army could end up wasting much as $22 billion in taxpayer cash if soldiers aren't actually interested in using, or able to use as intended, the Microsoft HoloLens headsets it said it would purchase, a government watchdog has warned.

In 2018, the American military splashed $480 million on 100,000 prototype augmented-reality goggles from Redmond to see how they could help soldiers train for and fight in combat. The Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) project was expanded when the Army decided it wanted the Windows giant to make custom, battle-ready AR headsets in a ten-year deal worth up to $22 billion.

The project was delayed and is reportedly scheduled to roll out some time this year. But the US Dept of Defense's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) cast some doubt on whether it was worth it at all.

"Procuring IVAS without attaining user acceptance could result in wasting up to $21.88 billion in taxpayer funds to field a system that soldiers may not want to use or use as intended," the Pentagon oversight body wrote in an audit [PDF] report this month.


The Army plans to purchase 121,500 IVAS units from Microsoft while admitting that "if soldiers do not love IVAS and do not find it greatly enhances accomplishing the mission, then soldiers will not use it," the report disclosed.

Bush insisted the Army has a policy to eventually test and evaluate whether or not personnel will use equipment such as Microsoft's AR techno-specs. He also disagreed that immediate user acceptance was necessary for determining whether the IVAS program would be worthwhile, and pointed out soldiers did not like night-vision goggles when they were introduced in the 1970s. But over time, they became more experienced with the technology ad developed tactics around it. Now, they are widely adopted by the Army. In other words: it's too early to tell for sure whether soldiers will use the AR technology or find it useful, according to Bush.

Yeah, sure.

This is not an upgrade to an existing system, it's something that is potentially transformative, much like the Future Combat Systems, and it imploded after more than $30 billion.

It became too heavy to be transported by a C-130 without being disassembled, its lack or armor did not work in a counter-insurgency campaign, (the most likely scenario) and it relied on a network that had to transfer so much information that it would choke.

Note that the FCS, as revolutionary as it was, was no where as intrusive as a militarized version of the Google Glass, which also failed.

Before committing to a multi-billion dollar buy of hundreds of thousands of units, at a unit price of over $180 K each, you don't just need to confirm that the basic concept works, but you need to verify the concept with prototypes, and then have a competitive bid.

Also given that Google Glass cost $1500 when it came out, there is no reason for a militarized version of such a system to cost 120 times of that.

This is a losing proposition all around.

Holy Sh%$, I Just Had a House Moment

As in Gregory House. Which is kind of strange, because I'm an engineer, not a doctor, dammit.*

I was just having a discussion about public health issues at the Stellar Parthenon BBS, and I realized that some of my VERY bizarre medical history might be related to that.

I'm fine, it's long in the past, and I've been fine for years, and it probably doesn't matter, but I'm probably going to look up some some stuff online. 

I'm probably full of crap, but this is a condition common for me as the reader(s) of this blog,

The curiosity is killing me.

One thing that I know for sure, it's not Lupus.

*I love it when I get to go all Dr. McCoy!

25 April 2022

Handled it Like a Westley

Carey Elwes just got bitten by a Rattlesnake, but he's going to be OK, and even found time to make a Princess Bride reference: 

Cary Elwes is on the mend after a scary incident landed him in the hospital over the weekend.

The 59-year-old actor posted a close-up of his hand — in which one of his fingers and fingernails appears swollen and blue — to Instagram Monday.

Seeming to be in good spirits despite his injury, Elwes began his caption with a nod to his classic 1987 movie The Princess Bride: "Bit not by a ROUS but a rattlesnake."

"Grateful to the staff of Malibu Urgent Care, LA County Fire Dept. and the staff and medical professionals at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center for their great care," he added. "Am recovering well thanks to all these wonderful folks.

That is a pretty Westley way of handling it, because it probably hurts like a mother f%$#er.

No indications that he went Dread Pirate Roberts on the the snake.

Ostrich Eggs and a Trebuchet

They Were Just Offering Breakfast
The latest fad among the right-wing Christo-Fascist croud is the, "People's Convoy," where truckers largely semi-trucks, go and block streets and attempt to intimidate their opponents. 

Well, they took their act to Oakland, and Oakland won in a hail of eggs.

I only regret that the counter protesters did not have Ostrich eggs and suitable artillery.*

They do not understand Oakland, though:

A convoy of trucks that had gathered outside a California lawmaker’s house over the weekend to protest her support of an abortion rights bill was forced to leave the area after crossing paths with a group of young people armed with eggs.

The people’s convoy, inspired by Canadian truckers who shut down roads to protest vaccine mandates, arrived in the Bay Area last week after weeks of demonstrations in Washington DC.

On Friday, about 20 drivers filled the road near the home of Buffy Wicks, a Democratic assemblymember, honking, and using bullhorns to demand she leave her home. The group was reportedly protesting legislation Wicks wrote that would end coroner investigations of stillbirths, the San Francisco Chronicle reported, and require state businesses to mandate Covid vaccines for their employees.

The convoy, however, drew fierce opposition from neighbors, who told the drivers to leave the residential street, SF Gate reported. Wicks called law enforcement for protection, and the trucks dispersed when police responded to the scene.

When the convoy got stuck in traffic outside an Oakland Safeway, however, a group of residents began throwing eggs at the stalled vehicles, shouting “get the f%$# out of here”, according to video of the incident. Passersby partook as well, grabbing eggs and tossing them at trucks scrawled with phrases such as “Let’s go Brandon”, a coded term among Trump supporters to insult Joe Biden, as they drove by. Many of those throwing eggs at the group were kids who cheered each other on and then fled after running out of eggs.

While egging a car may seem innocuous, it is not.  Once it dries out, you can never get it all off.

*By suitable artillery, I mean a trebuchet, a catapult, a compressed air cannon, or, if you are hard core, a rail-gun capable of accelerating an ostrich egg to 3.5 km/second.

That would be a hard boiled ostrich egg probably.

Things I Won’t Write about until There Are Charges Filed

The mountain of evidence growing that indicates that Trump and those in his inner circle were aggressively attempting to subvert the electoral vote tally in Congress.

The reason is that even if incontrovertible evidence emerges that Trump and his Evil Minions attempted to subvert the elections, and the Constitution of the United States of America, thus engaging in seditious conspiracy, there is no political will to pursue this.

Joe Biden still holds the delusion that he can reach across the aisle, and Merrick Garland is so concerned about the reputation of the Justice Department that he is normalizing the aforementioned Seditious Conspiracy.

I could be wrong, my mom, for example, was sure that Republican appointed Federal Judge John Sirica would bury the Watergate investigations, and that proved not to be the case, but I just do not see a similar level of fortitude in Garland, or Biden, or any member of the Democratic Party establishment (There is no Democratic Party establishment).

As Atrios is wont to say, rather ironically, "Don't See How Donnie Two Scoops Wriggles Out Of this One."

Unfortunately, our national polity has eschewed any accountability for senior leadership for decades, at least since Gerald Ford's execrable pardon of Richard M. Nixon in 1974, further reinforced by the GHW Bush self-serving pardons at the end of his term, and Barack Obama's commitment to looking forward not back regarding crimes against humanity done by members of the US state security apparatus.

I just do not think that anything will come of this, though I would be over the moon to be wrong.

Welcome to Myspace 2023

Elon Musk has reached a deal to buy Twitter.

My prediction is that he's going to run Twitter into the ground, as Rupert Murdoch did with Myspace, because he has no clue as to what he is doing, and thinks that he is brilliant.

Before this is over, I expect Donald Trump back on Twitter:

Elon Musk acquired Twitter for $44 billion on Monday, the company announced, giving the world’s richest person command of a highly influential social media site that serves as a platform for political leaders, a sounding board for experts across industries and an information hub for millions of everyday users.

The acquisition followed weeks of evangelizing on the necessity of “free speech,” as the Tesla CEO seized on Twitter’s role as the “de facto town square” and took umbrage with content moderation efforts he views as an escalation toward censorship. He said he sees Twitter as essential to the functioning of democracy and said the economics are not a concern.

Ownership of Twitter gives Musk power over hugely consequential societal and political issues, perhaps most significantly the ban on former president Donald Trump that the site enacted in response to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

Twitter is currently a cesspool, and with Elon in charge, it will get even worse.

One interesting thing is that the opprobrium being directed his way right now is so intense that even the Musk stans can't shout them down.

I think that the Apartheid Emerald Mine Heir's public image is at or approaching an inflection point, much like Adam Neumann, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Bobby Kotick, Andrew Cuomo, and Blockchain.

It will be interesting to see the bloom come off that rose.

Should Have Been Jail

Donald Trump is refusing to profide document that were subpoenad as a part of NY AG Letitia James' investigation of possible fraud and tax evasion by the Trump organization, so now a judge has imposed a $10,000.00 a day fine for contempt of court

Not enough.  Even though that is a not insignificant amount of money, and even though it is almost certain that Donald Trump has overstated his wealth, we has adequate resources between his Super PAC, Joint Fundraising Committee, etc.

If you want compliance, you need to throw him in Rikers until he complies.

Of course, this won't happen, but it should, because this is what would happen if an ordinary business man behaved in this way:

A New York state judge on Monday held Donald J. Trump in contempt of court for failing to comply with a subpoena from the state attorney general’s office, an extraordinary rebuke of the former president that came as that office suggested it might soon file a long-threatened lawsuit against him.

The judge, Arthur F. Engoron, ordered Mr. Trump to fully respond to the subpoena from the attorney general, Letitia James — who sought records from the former president about his family business — and assessed a fine of $10,000 per day until he satisfied the court’s requirements.

“Mr. Trump: I know you take your business seriously, and I take mine seriously,” said Justice Engoron, before he held Mr. Trump in contempt and banged his gavel.

The contempt order amounted to a judicial condemnation of Mr. Trump’s signature tactic — stonewalling litigation and law enforcement investigations that he has derided as politically motivated, sometimes for years. That practice has helped him emerge from several inquiries largely unscathed, stymieing a legion of prosecutors, regulators and congressional investigators seeking to hold him to account.
This won't bring him into compliance.  $3.65 million (or is it $2.6 million) a year is pocket change compared to what he can extract from various political fundraising organizations, that's why I say that he should have taken into custody.

That would get results.

There Is Nothing That the Finance Industry Cannot Ruin

Case in point, the Private Equity (PE) takeover of most air ambulance services in the United States:

  1. Buy up most of the air ambulance services in the country.
  2. Leave most insurance networks.
  3. Raise rates through the roof.
  4. Balance the poor schmucks who have to be airlifted to an ER.
  5. Profit! 

 They have done this with emergency room practices as well.

This is not productive, and it has no prospect of being productive.  It's just looting, and it is evil.

Come to think of it, "It's just looting, and it is evil," is a pretty good summary of what PE does everywhere:

Kathleen Hoechlin was in the intensive-care unit, wondering if she would ever walk again, when she and her husband, Matt, started receiving the phone calls. It was January 2018, and the couple had just gone skiing in Mammoth Lakes, California. On the last run of the day, Kathleen skied over a small jump and landed on her back, shattering the L1 vertebra in her lower spine. With the nearest hospital ill equipped to handle the required surgery, she was loaded onto a small plane and flown 300 miles south over the Sierra Nevada mountain range to Loma Linda, where she underwent 12 hours of surgery to replace the vertebra with a metal implant. The phone call, which the Hoechlins received less than a day after the surgery, was from the air-ambulance provider, Guardian Flight, informing them that the plane ride had cost $97,269.


From then on, Matt dealt with the incessant phone calls himself and managed to negotiate the remaining balance down to $20,000 after telling Guardian Flight that he and Kathleen would have to file for bankruptcy if it were any higher. Between their savings, gifts from family members, and a GoFundMe campaign, the Hoechlins managed to pay off the remainder. “It left me with a lot of trauma and a lot of ‘aha’ moments,” Kathleen says. “Why is this happening, and why should patients have to go through this?”


At the start of the aughts, private-equity firms conducted about $5 billion worth of deals in the U.S. health-care sector each year. By 2019, that figure had jumped to an estimated $120 billion, a result of deep-pocketed firms looking to park their money in a sector perceived as recessionproof (people get sick even when the economy is bad) and ripe for consolidation. When major private-equity firms started buying up air-ambulance companies, it set off a flurry of acquisitions. In 2010, Bain Capital bought Air Medical Group Holdings for $1 billion, only to sell it five years later for double that amount to KKR, which, in turn, merged the company with yet another air-ambulance provider, American Medical Response, under the name Global Medical Response. (Tracking this shell game can be dizzying. In the three years between Hoechlin’s air-ambulance flight and mine, Guardian Flight merged with REACH Air Medical Services; both are owned by Global Medical Response.) In 2017, American Securities drastically accelerated private equity’s takeover of the air-ambulance industry with its $2.5 billion purchase of Air Methods, the largest domestic provider of air ambulances. (In 2016, during its final year as a publicly traded company, Air Methods posted a $97.9 million profit on $1.17 billion in revenue, and the year before had paid its CEO $2.5 million in direct compensation, including stock options.) That purchase established the industry’s current landscape, in which two private-equity firms, American Securities and KKR, control almost two-thirds of the national market for air ambulances, according to Medicare data.

As private equity tightened its stranglehold on the industry, it jacked up the already-high prices. Between 2008 and 2017, the median price charged by providers for helicopter air ambulances nearly tripled, jumping from $12,500 to $35,900 per flight, according to a study by the Health Care Cost Institute. As the Hoechlins and I experienced, air-ambulance providers are often out of network with private insurance companies. That’s not by accident: Private-equity-backed and publicly traded air-ambulance providers in particular tend to remain out of network to charge higher rates than what may be allowed under an in-network contract. Since patients don’t decide when or where they have a medical emergency that requires them to be airlifted to a hospital, they don’t have a choice in which air-ambulance provider they use. As a result, competition in the marketplace does little to keep prices down — the higher providers set the price, the more they may be able to get paid. When insurers deem the cost too high, they pass the enormous remaining balance on to the patient, a practice known as “balance billing.” Among privately insured patients, an estimated two in five air-ambulance flights result in a potential balance bill. About half the time, though, the insurance companies simply pay up, according to Loren Adler, associate director of the USC-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy. Private equity “saw an opportunity to say, ‘Look, the existing companies aren’t leaning into the surprise-billing threat enough from a moneymaking perspective,’” says Adler, who co-authored a white paper last year about private equity’s impact on the air-ambulance industry. “If you really lean on that a lot, sometimes you can fight with the patient to get paid. But I think a bigger part of the money thing is often you can cajole the employer to pay because they don’t want their employee getting stuck with an $80,000 bill.”

As private equity tightened its stranglehold on the industry, it jacked up the already-high prices. Between 2008 and 2017, the median price charged by providers for helicopter air ambulances nearly tripled, jumping from $12,500 to $35,900 per flight, according to a study by the Health Care Cost Institute. As the Hoechlins and I experienced, air-ambulance providers are often out of network with private insurance companies. That’s not by accident: Private-equity-backed and publicly traded air-ambulance providers in particular tend to remain out of network to charge higher rates than what may be allowed under an in-network contract. Since patients don’t decide when or where they have a medical emergency that requires them to be airlifted to a hospital, they don’t have a choice in which air-ambulance provider they use. As a result, competition in the marketplace does little to keep prices down — the higher providers set the price, the more they may be able to get paid. When insurers deem the cost too high, they pass the enormous remaining balance on to the patient, a practice known as “balance billing.” Among privately insured patients, an estimated two in five air-ambulance flights result in a potential balance bill. About half the time, though, the insurance companies simply pay up, according to Loren Adler, associate director of the USC-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy. Private equity “saw an opportunity to say, ‘Look, the existing companies aren’t leaning into the surprise-billing threat enough from a moneymaking perspective,’” says Adler, who co-authored a white paper last year about private equity’s impact on the air-ambulance industry. “If you really lean on that a lot, sometimes you can fight with the patient to get paid. But I think a bigger part of the money thing is often you can cajole the employer to pay because they don’t want their employee getting stuck with an $80,000 bill.”

Private-equity firms have applied their balance-billing approach to other corners of the health-care sector they have encroached upon, including emergency-physician staffing, anesthesia, and ground ambulances — all services for which patients don’t typically choose their providers. In 2017, Blackstone Group acquired the physician-staffing company TeamHealth for $6.1 billion, only to be one-upped a year later by KKR’s $9.9 billion purchase of another physician-staffing company, Envision Healthcare. In the time since, both companies have faced scrutiny for their aggressive billing practices, with TeamHealth sending thousands of surprise bills to patients in 2017 and even going so far as to sue low-income patients over unpaid medical debts. (The company now insists it has a “long-standing policy” against balance billing and ceased its practice of suing patients after a ProPublica investigation called attention to it in 2019.)


It may seem as if the battle to protect patients from shocking bills is over, but air-ambulance companies and other health-care providers aren’t giving up. A number of provider groups have sued the federal government, including the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, and the Association of Air Medical Services. While the lawsuits vary slightly, they all take issue with the arbitration process established under the No Surprises Act, arguing that it will result in insufficient payments to providers. (Research by USC’s Adler, by contrast, suggests that the only facilities that will suffer losses under the law “are those who were benefiting financially from surprise billing.”) 

The issue is not just that PE is toxic and non-productive with regard to air ambulances, or with regard to emergency services, or with regard to public health in general.  The issue is that PE is toxic, non-productive and corrupt wherever it goes.

I have never seen a single case where their machinations have delivered a positive outcome that would not have been better had they not been involved.

They are the financial equivalent of a Super Fund site, and they should be tightly regulated, and they should be held accountable, largely through changes to the bankruptcy code, for the damage that they do.

Also, as I have said way too frequently lately, their executives should be frog marched out of their offices in handcuffs.

We Should Have Done This at My Wedding

Every wedding needs a, "That's not a knife. This is a knife!" moment.

24 April 2022

When Jokes Do Not Work

My son Charlie was chuckling at the idea that, were he king of the world, he would change the names of the Republic of Congo (Red) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (Blue) to Eastern Congo (Red) and Western Congo (Blue).

He finds this hysterically funny.

I, on the other hand, think that this is a testament of the poor state of American geography education that you cannot even make a joke like this, and have anyone understand this.

It is supremely difficult to make a joke to someone about something which they are profoundly ignorant of.

Just Lovely

And now, in addition to everything else, we have new case of Ebola in northwest Congo.

I'm expecting a giant asteroid next:
A new case of Ebola has been confirmed in northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo, prompting health authorities to enforce urgent containment measures just four months after the previous outbreak came to an end.

The case, a 31-year old male, was detected in the city of Mbandaka, capital of Congo's Equateur province. Around 74 of his contacts are being tracked, the health ministry said in a statement.

The patient began showing symptoms on April 5, but did not seek treatment for more than a week, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement. He was admitted to an Ebola treatment centre on April 21 and died later that day.

"Time is not on our side," said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO's Regional Director for Africa. "The disease has had a two-week head start and we are now playing catch-up."

Just lovely.

The First Ever? What Misdoing Has Been Swept under the Carpet?

The US Air force has been in existence for 75 years, and for the first time ever, an Air Force General has been tried and convicted of a crime, sexual assault.

Given human nature, it is clear that there is a f%$#-ton of wrongdoing that has been missed over the past 75 years.

The idea that with something over 1000 generals in the USAF over this time, that has been only one general who has engaged in sexual harassment, taken bribes, misused his authority, etc. is ludicrous.

General officers in any service should be held to a higher level of scrutiny, and this does not apply to any of the services:

An Air Force major general in Ohio has been convicted by a military judge of one of three specifications of abusive sexual contact in the first-ever military trial of an Air Force general.

The charge faced by Maj. Gen. William Cooley during the weeklong court-martial at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio had three specifications, one alleging a forcible kiss and two alleging forcible touching in 2018. Cooley was convicted Saturday of the forcible kissing specification but acquitted of the other two.

Officials said the verdict marks the first court-martial trial and conviction of a general officer in the Air Force’s 75-year history.

A former commander of Air Force Research Laboratory, Cooley was charged with abusive sexual contact in an encounter with a woman who gave him a ride after a backyard barbecue in New Mexico nearly four years ago. Officials said the woman is a civilian who is not a Department of Defense employee.

Cooley was to be sentenced Monday morning and could face as much as seven years in jail as well as loss of rank, pay and benefits.
I would note that this was not just the first conviction, this was the first court martial ever against a USAF general.

Something is seriously wrong here.

Given the Choice between a Right Wing Nationalist and Someone Who Acts like a Right Wing Nationalist, People Will Vote for the Real Right Wing Nationalist All the Time

I am, of course, referring to Emmanuel Macron, who pulled off a squeaker in the French Presidential Runoff against Marine Le Pen, 57% to 43%.

Considering the fact that the match up between the two 5 years ago had a 33% margin, it appears that Macron's policies, doing the bidding of the elites and aggressively pushing Islamophobia, does not seem to be the electoral winner.

While there were slight differences in degree between Macron and Le Pen, policies, it's clear that the French public is not was not enthusiastic about the choices, particularly given the 14% spoiled ballot/abstention rate.

You see the rise of right-wing nationalists throughout the EU, and it has 90 year old echoes.

The pro-European centrist Emmanuel Macron has vowed to unite a divided France after winning a second term as French president in a decisive victory against the far-right’s Marine Le Pen, who nonetheless won more than 12 million votes in a historic high for her anti-immigration party.

Macron became the first French leader to win re-election for 20 years, scoring a clear margin of 57% to 43%, with almost 95% of the votes counted on Sunday night.


Macron beat Le Pen with a lower margin than the 66% he won against her in 2017. Turnout was also lower than five years ago, with abstention estimated at a record 28%.

Le Pen succeeded in delivering the far right its biggest-ever score in a French presidential election, after campaigning on the cost of living crisis, and promising a ban on the Muslim headscarf in public places as well as nationalist measures to give priority to native-French people over others for jobs, housing, benefits and healthcare – policies Macron had criticised as “racist” and “divisive”. Le Pen called her score “a shining victory in itself”, adding: “The ideas we represent are reaching new heights.”

This is clearly a trend, look at Poland, and Hungary, The League in Italy, the rise of AfD in Germany, A Austria's Freedom Party, etc.  The question is, "Why this is happening?"

As longtime reader(s) of this blog are now doubt aware, my theory is that the Social Democrats in Europe have bought completely into the Neoliberal EU to the exclusion of support for a robust social safety net.

This has created a vacuum where the only alternative are right-wing nationalist parties.

A viable Euroskeptic left would be a very good thing.

F%$#ing Plants, I Hate Them

I do not hate all plants, just the ones who insist on doing their procreation in public.

Some plants scatter their genetic material to the wind, (pollen) and the rest of us suffer, with sneezing, red and itching eyes, and a drippy nose.

Seriously, I get the biological need to propagate, but why does it have to be so public.  It's literally in my face.

Just swipe right, go out to a nice restaurant, and afterwards, cue up the Barry White, and remember that no means no.

23 April 2022

Don't Buy Starbucks

First, their coffee tastes burnt, and second, they treat their employees like crap.

The National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint against Starbucks on Friday for what the agency said was the unlawful firing of seven employees in Memphis in retaliation for seeking to unionize.

The labor board said the company fired the workers in February because they “joined or assisted the union and engaged in concerted activities, and to discourage employees from engaging in these activities.”


Starbucks did not immediately comment but said at the time that it had fired the workers for violating safety and security policies, including allowing members of the media into the store to conduct interviews after hours and failing to wear masks during the encounter.

Separately on Friday, the labor board regional office in Arizona filed a petition in federal court seeking the immediate reinstatement of three Phoenix workers it says Starbucks unlawfully retaliated against in response to their union activities. The labor board office had issued a complaint against the company in March making formal accusations of retaliation in the case.

The office argued in court on Friday that it stood a “substantial likelihood of success” in litigating the complaint and that Starbucks was likely to engage in similar acts during the proceedings unless its conduct was “immediately enjoined and restrained.”

This is not an individual store issue, it flows from the top, as shown when Starbucks CEO, Founder, and huge schmuck Howard Schultz was caught on video exhorting managers to fight dirtier against unions.

This is not a company that you want to patronize.

Adding to My List of They Who Must Not Be Named

Johnny Depp and Amber Herd.

I am not at all interested in their version of the Akira Kurasawa classic Rashomon.

Passover is Over

After we finished packing away the Pesach dishes, I got a pizza.

8 days without leavened bread makes one really appreciate a 'Zah.

I got deep dish to maximize the leavened experience.

Orrin Hatch has Died

The former Senator from Utah was 88.

As is my occasional custom, I will speak no ill of the recently dead, and instead focus on the good he did for the world:


That is all.

This is a Troubling Trend

Over the past 50+ years, corporate research laboratories have vanished in the United States.

This is not a surprise.  With the emasculation of  antitrust enforcement, it's easier to buy an innovative startup, think Facebook buying Instagram, than it is to develop new and improved products:


Arora et al argue that a cause of the decline in productivity is that:
The past three decades have been marked by a growing division of labor between universities focusing on research and large corporations focusing on development. Knowledge produced by universities is not often in a form that can be readily digested and turned into new goods and services. Small firms and university technology transfer offices cannot fully substitute for corporate research, which had integrated multiple disciplines at the scale required to solve significant technical problems. As someone with many friends who worked at the legendary corporate research labs of the past, including Bell Labs and Xerox PARC, and who myself worked at Sun Microsystems' research lab, this is personal. Below the fold I add my 2c-worth to Arora et al's extraordinarily interesting article.
The authors provide a must-read, detailed history of the rise and fall of corporate research labs. I lived through their golden age; a year before I was born the transistor was invented at Bell Labs:

The first working device to be built was a point-contact transistor invented in 1947 by American physicists John Bardeen and Walter Brattain while working under William Shockley at Bell Labs. They shared the 1956 Nobel Prize in Physics for their achievement.[2] The most widely used transistor is the MOSFET (metal–oxide–semiconductor field-effect transistor), also known as the MOS transistor, which was invented by Egyptian engineer Mohamed Atalla with Korean engineer Dawon Kahng at Bell Labs in 1959.[3][4][5] The MOSFET was the first truly compact transistor that could be miniaturised and mass-produced for a wide range of uses.[6]

Before I was 50 Bell Labs had been euthanized as part of the general massacre of labs:

Bell Labs had been separated from its parent company AT&T and placed under Lucent in 1996; Xerox PARC had also been spun off into a separate company in 2002. Others had been downsized: IBM under Louis Gerstner re-directed research toward more commercial applications in the mid-90s ... A more recent example is DuPont’s closing of its Central Research & Development Lab in 2016. Established in 1903, DuPont research rivaled that of top academic chemistry departments. In the 1960s, DuPont’s central R&D unit published more articles in the Journal of the American Chemical Society than MIT and Caltech combined. However, in the 1990s, DuPont’s attitude toward research changed and after a gradual decline in scientific publications, the company’s management closed its Central Research and Development Lab in 2016. Arora et al point out that the rise and fall of the labs coincided with the rise and fall of anti-trust enforcement:
Historically, many large labs were set up partly because antitrust pressures constrained large firms’ ability to grow through mergers and acquisitions. In the 1930s, if a leading firm wanted to grow, it needed to develop new markets. With growth through mergers and acquisitions constrained by anti-trust pressures, and with little on offer from universities and independent inventors, it often had no choice but to invest in internal R&D. The more relaxed antitrust environment in the 1980s, however, changed this status quo. Growth through acquisitions became a more viable alternative to internal research, and hence the need to invest in internal research was reduced.

Lack of anti-trust enforcement, pervasive short-termism, driven by Wall Street's focus on quarterly results, and management's focus on manipulating the stock price to maximize the value of their options killed the labs:

Large corporate labs, however, are unlikely to regain the importance they once enjoyed. Research in corporations is difficult to manage profitably. Research projects have long horizons and few intermediate milestones that are meaningful to non-experts. As a result, research inside companies can only survive if insulated from the short-term performance requirements of business divisions. However, insulating research from business also has perils. Managers, haunted by the spectre of Xerox PARC and DuPont’s “Purity Hall”, fear creating research organizations disconnected from the main business of the company. Walking this tightrope has been extremely difficult. Greater product market competition, shorter technology life cycles, and more demanding investors have added to this challenge. Companies have increasingly concluded that they can do better by sourcing knowledge from outside, rather than betting on making game-changing discoveries in-house.

I think that the analysis is good, but limited.  It ignores the devastating impact of the Bayh-Dole Act, which served to mandate privatization of publicly funded research.

That research is now subsidized twice, first when federal money funds the research, and then when the federal contractors are allowed to get an exclusive license (a patent).

From a profit perspective, it makes sense for business to avail themselves of these subsidies rather than developing or maintaining an internal organic R&D capability.

From the prospect of the rest of society, this makes no sense as all.

22 April 2022

Also, Patents Lead to Corruption

It appears that the research which showed that the drug simufilam had promise in treating Alzheimers patients, Cassava Sciences may have submitted dubious data in an attempt to secure regulatory approval and funding.

A number of journals have already retracted articles using this data:

A small biotech company that trumpeted an exciting new treatment for Alzheimer’s disease is now under fire for irregularities in its research results, after several studies related to its work were retracted or questioned by scientific journals.

The company, Cassava Sciences, based in Austin, Texas, announced last summer that its drug, simufilam, improved cognition in Alzheimer’s patients in a small clinical trial, describing it as the first such advance in treatment of the disease. Cassava later initiated a larger trial.


But many scientists have been deeply skeptical of the company’s claims, asserting that Cassava’s studies were flawed, its methods opaque and its results improbable.

Families of some trial participants have said they see improvements. But critics noted that the trial reporting better cognition due to simufilam lacked a placebo group, and asserted that the Alzheimer’s patients were not followed long enough to confirm that any improvements in cognition were genuine.

Some experts went further, accusing the company of manipulating its scientific results.


On March 30, another scientific journal, PLoS One, retracted five papers by Dr. Wang after a five-month investigation into “serious concerns about the integrity and reliability of the results,” according to a spokesman for the journal. Two of the papers, co-written by Dr. Burns, were about a brain protein targeted by Cassava’s drug.

The New York Times contacted nine prominent experts for comment about the scientific underpinnings of Cassava’s trials. All said they did not trust the company’s methods, results or even the premise underlying the drug’s supposed effectiveness.

As Dean Baker notes, the enormous profits generated as a result of being granted a patent encourages fraud and fabrication, and the solution to this is to make revoking a patent when fraud is used:

The New York Times had an editorial about the corruption of the patent system in recent decades. It noted that the patent office is clearly not following the legal standards for issuing a patent, including that the item being patented is a genuine innovation and that it works. Among other things, it pointed out that Theranos had been issued dozens of patents for a technique that clearly did not work.

As the editorial notes, the worst patent abuses occur with prescription drugs. Drug companies routinely garner dozens of dubious patents for their leading sellers, making it extremely expensive for potential generic competitors to enter the market. The piece points out that the twelve drugs that get the most money from Medicare have an average of more than fifty patents each.

The piece suggests some useful reforms, but it misses the fundamental problem. When patents can be worth enormous sums of money, companies will find ways to abuse the system.

We need to understand the basic principle here. Patents are a government intervention in the free market, they impose a monopoly in a particular market.


We should think about patents in the same way. While patents can be a useful tool for promoting innovation, when huge sums are available by claiming a patent, we should expect there will be corruption, in spite of our best efforts to constrain it. This means that we should limit their use and try to ensure that we only rely on them where patent monopolies are clearly the best mechanism to promote innovation.
Even enforcing the written rules for patents, requiring full disclosure of the invention, requiring them to be an actual invention, etc.  would go a long way toward fixing an completely broken system.

The New York Times OP/ED Gets One Right

They issued an editorial lambasting the prevalence of junk patents in the United States.

This is not a particularly unusual opinion, but it is a surprise coming from that bastion of the establishment that is the New York Times editorial board:

The injector pen is not, by any stretch, a new invention. Drugmakers of every ilk have been using it for decades to deliver all sorts of crucial medications into the bloodstream. By adding this old technology to its insulin drug, Glargine, however, the pharmaceutical giant Sanofi was nonetheless able to secure additional patents for a lucrative product. The drug’s existing patents were expiring, and new ones enabled the company to maintain its monopoly — and the bounty that goes with it — much longer. But for the patients who depend on this life-sustaining drug? Too many are still struggling to afford it.

Sanofi is not alone, of course. Other drugmakers have patented scores of uninspiring tweaks to their existing products: making a tablet instead of a pill, changing the dose, adding a flavor. When it comes to protecting a drug monopoly, it seems no modification is too small.


And for all the hand-wringing over how to lower prescription drug costs in recent years, little has been said about the patent system or its many failings. Put simply: The United States Patent and Trademark Office is in dire need of reform.

The agency was created more than two centuries ago for the express purpose of protecting and promoting innovation. For most of the ensuing decades, it has stood as a beacon of American ingenuity. But critics say that by the time the office issued its 11 millionth patent last year, it had long since devolved into a backwater office that large corporations game, politicians ignore and average citizens are wholly excluded from. As a result, not only is legal trickery rewarded and the public’s interest overlooked, but also innovation — the very thing that patents were meant to foster — is undermined.


Given that import, it’s concerning that the agency spent the past year without a permanent director. With that post now filled — the Senate confirmed Kathi Vidal, a Silicon Valley patent attorney, this month — there’s a fresh opportunity to modernize and fortify the patent system. Ms. Vidal and Congress should seize that opportunity quickly. Here’s how they can start.

Enforce existing standards. The best way to ensure that patents spur innovation instead of thwarting it is to set a high standard for what deserves patent protection in the first place and then to honor it.

In the United States, that standard already exists: To secure a patent, an invention must be truly novel and nonobvious, it must be described in enough detail for a reasonably qualified person to build and use it, and it must actually work. The problem is these rules are poorly enforced.

The pharmaceutical industry is a good example. Nearly 80 percent of the drugs associated with new patents between 2005 and 2015 were not new. But the issue is not confined to drugmakers. The Theranos debacle, to take just one other example, was touched off by officials who granted scores of patents for a device that had never been built and that turned out not to work. The company was able to secure those patents without disclosing almost any technical information about its product.

I want to note something here:  Patents and trade secrets are mutually exclusive.  Patent law requires the public disclosure of the information necessary to duplicate an invention in order to secure an exclusive license for a limited amount of time.

IP law, is public interest law, as is explicitly stated in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, it exists, "To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries."

It's time for patents to be limited to actual inventions, and not trivial changes that are neither novel nor significant.