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      We’ve raised just under $6,000 so far, which means we’ve reached the first goal at $5,000 – five linked articles in a series about political concepts and how to actually use them. Most people learn political and economic concepts, but the knowledge really does them no good, since they no on explains when they work […]
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Just so you know

No matter what they tell you, I was not singing in a bar tonight to a Fleetwood Mac song. I did not take the microphone and try to warble like Stevie Nicks. They did not capture the moment on their cell phones. It’s all lies..

Fake news.

Aretha

Irreplaceable.

Her songs are the ones I most like to sing to in my car. The bridge of this one is especially satisfying.

Walk to the bus music

I’m am so meetinged out. 🤪

Have a Pink Martini:

The hinky thing about Theranos @preetbharara

While we wait for the jury in Paul Manafort’s trial to convict his ass, and fret, justifiably, about Trump revoking the security clearances of national security experts who reasonably believe him to be a treasonous idiot and aren’t afraid to say it, let us turn our attention to the case of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos.

Theranos is (was) a startup company that promised to run accurate assays on dozens of blood tests with a finger stick. Elizabeth Holmes was a Stanford drop out who came up with the idea and the device, got many high name backers, and sold it to medical facilities everywhere. At one point, Theranos was worth $10 billion.

Then unsettling news started to leak about her gizmo. Specifically, her publications were thin to non-existent and the presentations on the data were amateurish.

She was eventually indicted for fraud because the device did not work as advertised, putting millions of patients potentially at risk.

Preet Bharara’s Stay Tuned this week focuses on the Theranos case. He interviews John Carrey of the Wall Street Journal about the history of Theranos. Very interesting. This interview exposes some uncomfortable truths about Theranos, venture capital and journalism.

Let’s take the last first.

Carrey makes a point that as a medical journalist, he has a better sense about Theranos than the typical journalist. 🙄. Like many of his ilk, he makes a big deal about credentials and the fact that Holmes was a college drop out and didn’t have any publications blah, blah, blah.

Those are not character flaws or limitations. I’ve worked with some fantastic medicinal chemists who got hired during their undergrad internship and never finished their degrees.

I know plenty of researchers who have a remarkable record of achievement who can’t publish because their work is proprietary, patentable and jealously guarded by lawyers.

As for her ability, there are tons of publications and youtube classes and other resources that are online and free so that anyone who is sufficiently motivated and insightful could come up with a magical blood testing device that kinda sorta works.

These are not limitations. In fact, if anything, other women who are interested in starting their own company could have gone the Holmes route. More power to them. That’s how we make breakthroughs. Your lack of credentials should not be a limiting factor. You can learn just about anything if you want to. In fact, if we took the attitude that only people with multiple degrees should be considered credible, then Steve Jobs and Bill Gates would have been serving burgers instead of creating technology that everyone uses.

I can’t even fault her iterative design. That’s a big buzz term these days but while it’s somewhat new to technology, it’s just another way of saying scientific method. There’s nothing wrong with putting out a device that works well for one test and then as you improve the device, you add more tests.

The problem with Theranos and why I don’t buy her aspirational, selfless “for the common good” defense of her fraudulent actions is I haven’t heard anything yet that says the FDA or any other regulatory agency approved her device for sale for something as serious as blood tests.

Nope. Nada. I’m still waiting for someone to tell me what agency approved it.

That’s where she would have had to show her work, just like all of us labrats have had to do. We have lab notebooks that are signed and co-signed.

She could have done that.

We make presentations and show all our work and data and sometimes years and years of clinical results. And sometimes, even that isn’t enough to get a new drug or device approved. The bar on safety keeps rising. It’s difficult to keep up. But we all understand and take seriously, our responsibility to show that our inventions are safe and efficacious.

Apparently, Elizabeth Holmes didn’t have to do that before she started selling her blood test machines. Her clinical tests were real world. And I’d like to know why. How did she get past the regulators? Did it have anything to do with her early backers at the conservative Hoover Institute who has deep ties to government entities and knew what buttons to push and which ones to avoid?

Oh, sure, when people started to question how her black box machine worked, she had to start make presentations that were found wanting and required further investigation. But by that time, she had sold many machines and made a fortune for herself and her early backers.

And I think this is where we come to the core of the problem. In order for Holmes to do this legit, she would have had to have done much of the research and gotten the data before she sold a single unit. Venture capitalists ain’t got time for that. It takes time and money, Gobs and gobs of both, before a single machine is sold.

Holmes, a young woman without a degree would have had a very hard time getting venture capital for a long term investment. Somehow, she met with the right people who didn’t think that would be a problem.

That’s the problem, Preet. Someone(s) knew where the loopholes and took advantage of them. They can proclaim innocence and good intentions until they’re blue but they still managed to skirt the regulatory process. And that’s a bad thing that should alarm all of us.

Morning walk

Hi my best beloveds, busy, busy, busy. Will be back around lunch.

Walk to work in a trance music:

What’s it all about, Bobby?

Back in March 2018, Franklin Foer wrote a piece for the Atlantic called The Plot Against America. You might have skipped right over it, confusing it with a thriller co-written by an ex-president and a famous novelist. But you would be wrong.

Foer’s piece is all about Paul Manafort, how he made his millions, how he lost his millions, his ties to government insiders in former soviet states, and how he eliminated ice from the menu at his daughter’s rehearsal dinner. Oh, and that stuff about how he coerced his wife into group sex? Yeah, there are hints and allegations that it might be true.

And then there’s this:

His work, the source of the status he cherished, had taken a devastating turn. For nearly a decade, he had counted primarily on a single client, albeit an exceedingly lucrative one. He’d been the chief political strategist to the man who became the president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, with whom he’d developed a highly personal relationship. Manafort would swim naked with his boss outside his banya, play tennis with him at his palace (“Of course, I let him win,” Manafort made it known), and generally serve as an arbiter of power in a vast country. One of his deputies, Rick Gates, once boasted to a group of Washington lobbyists, “You have to understand, we’ve been working in Ukraine a long time, and Paul has a whole separate shadow government structure … In every ministry, he has a guy.” Only a small handful of Americans—oil executives, Cold War spymasters—could claim to have ever amassed such influence in a foreign regime. The power had helped fill Manafort’s bank accounts; according to his recent indictment, he had tens of millions of dollars stashed in havens like Cyprus and the Grenadines.

Anyway, as I was reading it, I was reminded of Robert Mueller’s “speaking indictments” from earlier in the year. There was one about the Russian trolls. There was one about the ties of some agents of the GRU to the 2016 shenanigans. They were supposed to inform the public that there’s a story here, a narrative, that he is beginning to tell like Homer reciting in front of the fire about the muse singing about the man of twists and turns on a wine dark sea.

We may all be scratching our heads about what Manafort’s current trial regarding fraudulent bank loans have to do with the Trump campaign in 2016 and we may not find out exactly what the tie in is by the end of it. But I think Mueller might be using this case as another chapter in the story, a different kind of speaking indictment. There are connections here that run all over the place from Manafort. It’s vast and sleazy and I doubt that there will be a Penelope at the end of this tale but the destruction of the suitors is going to be riveting.

********************************

Walk to work music. How do you call your loverboy?

Showdown

I’m think today will be a very bad day for Devin Nunes, Donald Trump and Republicans in general.

Stay Tuned with Preet features Steve Schmidt, John McCain’s campaign advisor. Schmidt tells us why he left the Republican Party. He’s right on almost everything. I’ll let you guess where he was wrong. Great interview. Highly recommended, especially for Republicans who are waking up to wonder how the hell they got here and how they get back their souls.

And now a word from our sponsor, Plato:

And this we may truly affirm to be a great proof that a man is just, not willingly or because he thinks that justice is any good to him individually, but of necessity, for wherever any one thinks that he can safely be unjust, there he is unjust. For all men believe in their hearts that injustice is far more profitable to the individual than justice, and he who argues as I have been supposing, will say that they are right. If you could imagine any one obtaining this power of becoming invisible, and never doing any wrong or touching what was another’s, he would be thought by the lookers-on to be a most wretched idiot, although they would praise him to one another’s faces, and keep up appearances with one another from a fear that they too might suffer injustice. Enough of this. Now, if we are to form a real judgment of the life of the just and un- just, we must isolate them; there is no other way; and how is the isolation to be effected?

I answer: Let the unjust man be entirely unjust, and the just man entirely just; nothing is to be taken away from either of them, and both are to be perfectly furnished for the work of their respective lives. First, let the unjust be like other distinguished masters of craft; like the skilful pilot or physician, who knows intuitively his own powers and keeps within their limits, and who, if he fails at any point, is able to recover himself. So let the unjust make his unjust attempts in the right way, and lie hidden if he means to be great in his injustice (he who is found out is nobody): for the highest reach of injustice is: to be deemed just when you are not. Therefore I say that in the perfectly unjust man we must assume the most perfect injustice; there is to be no deduction, but we must allow him, while doing the most

unjust acts, to have acquired the greatest reputation for justice. If he have taken a false step he must be able to recover himself; he must be one who can speak with effect, if any of his deeds come to light, and who can force his way where force is required his courage and strength, and command of money and friends.

And at his side let us place the just man in his nobleness and simplicity, wishing, as Aeschylus says, to be and not to seem good. There must be no seeming, for if he seem to be just he will be honoured and rewarded, and then we shall not know whether he is just for the sake of justice or for the sake of honours and rewards; therefore, let him be clothed in justice only, and have no other covering; and he must be imagined in a state of life the opposite of the former. Let him be the best of men, and let him be thought the worst; then he will have been put to the proof; and we shall see whether he will be affected by the fear of infamy and its consequences. And let him continue thus to the hour of death; being just and seeming to be unjust.

When both have reached the uttermost extreme, the one of justice and the other of injustice, let judgment be given which of them is the happier of the two.

Or, as Jennifer Palmieri, Clinton’s campaign advisor said to Kellyanne Conway:

“If providing a platform for white supremacists makes me a brilliant tactician, I am more proud to have lost.I would rather lose than win the way you guys did.”

All in all, we are the happier people.

********************************************

Walk to work music:

Baba O’Reilly in bluegrass:

or the original:

Walk to the bus music

Be back in a bit. Vamp.

Chris Collins should resign.

I have to make this short.

I’m not saying he should resign because he’s Republican. I’m saying that because his insider trading selfishness hurt people.

Short summary: biotech startups are created by scientists. Startup costs, capital investments in equipment etc are very expensive for pharmaceutical R&D. There aren’t as many positions available in pharma R&D since the patent cliff caused Pharmageddon in the last 10 years. That means companies have to scale down their portfolios and put most of their money and staff on one drug. One bad clinical failure or FDA ruling and all that hard work and money is gone. I don’t particularly like this business model but that’s the way out new breed of financiers want it. Scientists take a lot of risks and then they have to deal with vulture capitalists. You know what is a good model for a pharmaceutical company? A midsize private corporate lab. Sorry lefties, but that’s the way things work. But I digress.

If you’re lucky to find one, you’re likely to receive some of your compensation in stock.

A lot of your compensation is in stock. It’s not necessarily to incentivize you.

And you can’t make vulture capitalists stay. It doesn’t matter that they don’t understand that research takes a long time and fails repeatedly before something hits. They do not understand deferred gratification.

So when some asshole congressman reacts to a bad clinical trial by engaging in some insider trading and makes the stock drop by 92%, that hurts. That hurts everyone. It hurts the company, scientists and patients.

There ought to be a law or a better way to finance research. But there ain’t. We do have prosecution for insider trading.

I’ll take it.

And Collins can quit. Now.

Walk to Work Music

Good Morning, oh best beloveds. It’s a warm, sticky cloudy day in the burgh. Lots to do today. But I’ll be listening to the Manafort trial if I can. I think we’re getting hints of why Donald Trump doesn’t want to release his tax returns.

Get the popcorn. With extra butter.

Father John Misty: