20 May 2016

Something Smells

And it ain't in Denmark. (Pepe Le) Pew Research recently published a report claiming that the middle class was being hollowed out by migrations not only down but up as well. I just don't recall such an assertion before. Every news organ on the planet, especially the Right Wing cabal, has written it up. Here's the Times take on it. With nice R graphs.
The study defined middle-class households as those making between two-thirds and twice the national median income. That was roughly $42,000 to $125,000 a year for a family of three in 2014, though adjustments were also made for the cost of living in different areas.

I can't imagine a more biased definition of "middle class" than that. Fact is, $125,000 puts a household firmly in the top 20%. That's hardly middle class. Using the Wiki/Census, I'd say median income ±half median income. Median is $57,000, so the range for middle class is $28,500 to $85,500, which puts the top of the middle class in the 69th percentile or upper 30%. That makes a good deal more sense.

In any case, the notion of middle class was originally based on population distribution of income, not income percentiles alone. The phat middle was the point, and was what drove growth. As income/wealth has increased its skew, growth has waned. It's not a coincidence, but even Bernie (that I've read, anyway) ignores the historical record.

Here's a particularly helpful post. Note the median and average incomes shown in the bottom right of the graph, as it changes. This is the cumulative income distribution, so you don't see the skew of the frequency distribution graph, but when the average/mean is above the median, that's the definition of right skew (aka, income inequality).

And, it turns out, The Donald has changed his tune (now that he's got the nomination sewn up) on taxes: bunches for his 1% class, of course.

17 May 2016

A Man's Home

is his "Castle". One of the few scripted TeeVee shows I watched with regularity. "Elementary" is better, and hopefully won't devolve as quickly as "Castle". We'll see.

Suffice to say, the final episode of "Castle" was a Frankenstein monster. Wondering whether I was alone in finding the whole renewal/Katic/"Castle, P.I."/alternate ending mashup utterly lame, I went surfing. Turned out, I wasn't alone.
3) Beckett was an autonomous character. Yes, Castle had the mother and kid and the show had his name, but Beckett was a character. She wasn't just there to enable Castle's creative fiction. She wasn't just there to be an inspiration for a male writer. She's not an embodiment of male fantasy. That's what the ending makes her into. It completely sells out her personhood in much the same way a certain Fox series dispatched with its female lead earlier this spring by making her into an instrument of male deliverance and undoing everything about her as a character. The conclusion of these eight years of TV should not have been, "Oh, that Beckett. She totally inspired Richard Castle."
-- Daniel Fienberg/Hollywood Reporter

Yeah. Moreover, the producers didn't really do an "alternative ending", of course, merely grafted on an extra arm and leg to a body run by an Abby Normal brain. When the Katic firing was revealed, yet with renewal still unstated, I concluded that ABC/Castle's producers were buffoons. Cut costs by firing one of two co-leads? Not only that, but Beckett was the course through which 99.44% of the stories flowed. (Which, not incidentally, would be good reason for the actor playing the titular character to grow a tad fractious with his co-lead. Just sayin. Wouldn't you?) Castle, the man, would do a De Niro and jump into bed with Hayley and consult with Ryan and Espo now that beloved Kate was hors de combat? Is there any credible segue? Nope.

So, it is clear that the ABC/producers had no idea about an alternative. "Bring me the head of Kate Beckett!!" must happen. Or both. The cliffhanger had already been shot, evidently. Shooting a new ending really means writing a different, completely, ending, then filming it. A Jack-in-the-box Caleb was tawdry anyway, so I suppose that, being cheap and lazy, they merely tacked on the most saccharine ploy from a Creative Writing 101 class does track. Which is to say, a classless ending.

16 May 2016

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

from briefing.com
8:32 am Kindred Biosciences announces positive results from pivotal study of KIND-010 for the management of weight loss in cats (KIN) :

Co announced positive topline results from its pivotal field study of KIND-010, mirtazapine transdermal gel, for the management of weight loss in cats. This study, KB105, was a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pivotal field study that enrolled 231 cats to assess the effectiveness of KIND-010 in stimulating weight gain in cats. The primary endpoint was percentage change in body weight from Day 1 to Week 2. At Week 2, the mean percent increase in body weight from Day 1 was 4.07% in the KIND-010 group (n=90), versus 0.29% in the placebo group (n=97) (p<0.0001). Based on a preliminary review of the safety data, the drug appears to be well tolerated. The Company plans to file the Effectiveness Technical Section with the data from the KB105 pivotal field study with the Food and Drug Administration in the third quarter of 2016.


I suppose we'll see face lifts for Fido in the nonce.

A Man's Got To Know His Limitations, part the second

There are some areas of human striving where quant is mostly about manipulating other humans rather than discovering more about God's Rules, finance comes to mind. Other areas are more amenable, since they are real science involved in discovering God's Rules.

One of the areas that exists on the margin betwixt the two is drug development and clinical trials. I forget where I read it, but there's the lovely adage in the field, "pancreatic cancer is where good drug companies go to die". I made a nice unrealized cap gain on one such small cap developer, but held too long. Poof. Didn't lose any moolah, net. But I learned a painful lesson.

Today brings another victim.
Aduro's chairman, Stephen Isaacs, called the findings "unexpected" given "the divergence of these data from the results of our Phase 2a study."

That's the line betwixt finance and science. Whether as a purposeful scam, optimism, or incompetence, PII studies will show the candidate to be wonderful (see: yesterday's "60 Minutes" piece on polio virus and brain cancer), yet fail (oft times spectacularly) in PIII. Various reasons have been postulated over the years. Most focus on the patient selection process of PI/II studies, which manages to find those most amenable to the candidate. PIII trials necessarily have larger patient counts and multiple sites, the result being that the investigators have less (or no) direct control over the trial.

And, it can also be the obvious: small samples are just more tricky than large ones. In the world of drugs, failed PII studies (nearly, none that come to mind) never lead to PIII studies which succeed. Kind of a one sided bias, that. But the rhetoric, "despite this disappointing PII trial, we believe deeply in the promise of FooBar, and intend to continue on with two full PIII trials in the coming months", too often comes from the mouths of Suits. They should all change their names to Barnum.

To my mind, ignoring the data from failed/marginal PI/II trials and dumping much moolah into PIII trials is where most of the "cost" of approved drugs goes. Get rid of the waste, whose only logical reason to exist is to provide drug company Suits fat salaries, and the "cost" of drug development plummets.

11 May 2016

The Good. The Super. The Supreme part the seventh

It's good to be alive.
It's Super Tuesday.
It's impossible for the Rabid Right to get it's way with the Supreme court.

Regular reader may recall the proposition that motive and incentive always trump (hehe) data when they are in conflict. With the passing of Scalia, the RR immediately looked at the data, their control of the House and Senate, and pronounced that there would be no Obama replacement. They intended to get a Super Scalia, i.e. more rabidly right, next year.

My, how bad was that assessment? Earlier today I saw a headline that Obama is to meet today with Republicans to discuss appointment. At the time of the passing, I allowed (although not until now in print) McConnell was out of his mind.

Here's the situation. If the RR double down on the election, what's the likely outcome? We won't know until tomorrow morning, but the candidate will be either Trump, Rubio, or Cruz. None can win the election, whether against Sanders or Clinton. A bold statement, but Trump is a wacko billionaire, and the other two are paid for by wacko billionaires. Not only is the RR certain to not win the White House, if it pushes its KKK agenda, it will lose both House and Senate; the latter with greater certainty.

So, McConnell et al face a simple wager: get a "moderate", less than Super Scalia, now or risk another Ginsberg in a year. Such a deal?

[part 2, 3 March]
As any Ph.D. quant or desperate stockmarket plunger knows, odds on an outcome change as the event's time approaches. In the case of sports events, the bookies adjust odds to keep the amount of moolah going to each outcome about equal. The same might be said of political events. If events proceed as at present, Trump becomes more unstoppable toward the nomination. As that happens, the RR has to gauge whether they can get a Trump White House, and if so whether he'd nominate a Super Scalia. Both are highly unlikely.

Here's a bit of Kristof
Me: He has a reputation as a straight shooter, but he lies. When PolitiFact was choosing its "lie of the year," it found that all its real contenders were Trump statements -- so it collectively awarded his many campaign misstatements the "lie of the year" award. And in backing him, you're pretty much guaranteeing a Hillary Clinton presidency. Indeed, because of Trump, the betting markets are now predicting a Democratic Senate as well.

Voter: Come on! Trump proved all of you pundits wrong again and again, and he'll do so again. And even those betting markets you like to cite -- they show Trump with at least a one-in-four chance of being our next president, and that's while other Republicans are trying to rip him apart. Just wait until the party rallies around Trump.
[my emphasis]

And, as expected, Obama is floating a "moderate". Take a small chance now, or a bigger one later. Brinksmanship in action.
Naming her would escalate political pressure on Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who spoke fondly of Kelly in 2013 before the Senate voted 96-0 to confirm her for the Court of Appeals.

Not game, set, match. Too soon, but it's political waterboarding at its best.

[part 3, 17 March]
Thanks to a raging flu, I've been bedridden, so this is a couple of days late in typing.

So, in sum, Obama has taken the predicted tack: here's an old guy, with a mixed/neutral record. If you don't take it, here's your options.
1) Trump wins, and may be you a Super Scalia. But you're just as likely to get a Sherman or Taft, if Trump is pushed to make good on his anti-hedgies rhetoric.
2) Trump gets trounced by Hillary. The most likely outcome. She'll nominate a 40-something anti-Scalia, and won't back down. Constitutional crisis, or as the Rabid Right likes to say, "elections have consequences". Moreover, Trump could (still too dim) take down the Senate. Which is the main reason the RR is so intent on getting rid of him. Cruz is no better, just sneakier.

[part 4, 22 March]
Thanks to some reporting from the NYT, we now know that Roberts, not the most truthful of appointees during confirmation called for a dialing down of partisanship.
Last month, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. delivered some blunt remarks about the Supreme Court confirmation process. The Senate should ensure that nominees are qualified, he said, and leave politics out of it.

Still, only the fourth inning.

[part 5, 25 March]
Well, more pressure. Chinese water torture, sort of. Or, waterboarding, if you're of The Donald tribe.
the polls building pressure.
Senate Republican leaders have said they will not hold hearings on any Supreme Court justice nominated by President Obama because they want to wait until the next president is in office. Seventy-three percent of Americans think this is being done for political reasons, while just a quarter say it is because that's what Republican Senate leaders think is best for the country.

And the Blue State Republicans are getting squeezed.
A week ago, [Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois], who faces a tough reelection fight, became the first Republican senator to break with the rest of his conference to call for an up-or-down vote on Garland, according to reports. Kirk told a Chicago radio station that his colleagues should "just man up and cast a vote."

One out, bottom of the fourth.

[part 6, 22 April]
In the news, GOP pulling the plug on state elections. Kind of a surprise, at least to me. The Rabid Right has taken over much of governance by the simple expedient of taking over state government. Why stop now?

The lede:
The Republican National Committee is scaling back its financial commitments to some of the most hotly contested states because of flagging fund-raising, the most concrete evidence yet of how the party's divisive and protracted presidential race is threatening the party's entire ticket in November.

Here's the pressure point: they're getting ever more worried that Trump will not only lose, but take the Senate, and worse the House, with him.
This sort of unease about Mr. Trump, along with the dislike many of the party's business-oriented donors have for the hard-line Mr. Cruz, has prompted the R.N.C. to begin privately assuring donors that it will create a so-called Senate Trust fund. Money earmarked for that fund will go entirely to initiatives aimed at retaining the Senate -- including hiring field operatives and opposition researchers and bolstering digital efforts.

If events keep following this story, Republicans will have to admit that Garland is the best they're going to get.

Drip, drip, drip.

[part 7, 11 May 2016]
(One might be tempted to name this piece, "7 Days in May", but I'll pass on that.)
New polling out:
A plurality of swing-state voters approve of Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll conducted in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The survey, released Wednesday, found that a majority of voters in those states would like the Senate to at least consider Garland's nomination.

The Donald, more than Hillary, needs the swing states, since he's carrying the baggage of the extreme Right Wing. It gets funnier by the day.
The question of Garland's nomination has already seeped into at least one swing state Senate race. Sitting Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican who is running for re-election, has said he would like to wait for the next president to pick the next Supreme Court justice -- a decision that has 30 percent of voters saying they would be less likely to vote for him in November.

And it will get worse for Pat and his brethren. It's only May.

Addendum (not worth making a new update):

Check the Iowa bet on Congress, bottom of the page. Yikes!!

08 May 2016

The Rent is Too Damn High

For some of us, The Rent's Too Damn High Party was a SNL skit. Turns out, there was/is such a party in New York. And you thought all the nutballs lived in California. My SNL consumption devolved to just tuning in for "Weekend Update", and when Fey and Meyers decamped, I've not seen it much.

But the Rent for drugs is Too Damn High. Pharma continues to spend more on SG&A than R&D. Billions of dollars to create a new drug? Most these days are re-working of existing with a pretty pink ribbon.

So, should we be surprised to find that Big Pharma couldn't do what real researchers can:
devise a cheap test for Zika.

06 May 2016

Money For Nothing, and the Checks Don't Clear -- Update

Not being Brit, I've not been following reporting from there or Europe, only seeing stuff that passes my eyeballs. Trump's recommendation did pass by.

Consider the British economy. It's mostly finance, even more so than the USofA, and most of it is tied to the EU countries. Since there's not much to finance, the EU will cut off the Brits in a heartbeat. Be careful what you wish for.

[update]
Separately, the newest member of the Bank of England's monetary policy committee (MPC) said that the central bank might have to raise its benchmark rate to 3.5% within 18 months in the event of a "Brexit." The official, Michael Saunders, noted that imported inflation would soar as the pound collapsed.
-- briefing.com 11 May 2016