Real GDP grew at an annual rate of 2.9 percent in the third quarter. This is a fairly healthy number, driven largely by a big increase in purchases of durable goods (cars, refrigerators, etc.). Purchases of nondurable goods fell, and investment in residential housing also fell, for the second straight quarter. Exports were up considerably.

Politically, this is good news for Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump wants this to be a change election, but if inflation is low, unemployment is low, and economic growth is healthy, an awful lot of people are going to think that an extension of the Obama presidency sounds pretty good.

Health Update

Short version: I'm fine. Longer version: I just saw my oncologist, and he's pretty satisfied with everything. My M-protein level—the primary measure of cancerous plasma cells in my bone marrow—has been sneaking upward for the past few months, but in October it plateaued at the same level as September. Here's a special expanded version of my usual M-protein chart:

I started out at 4.38 when I was first diagnosed with multiple myeloma, and the initial chemotherapy got that down to about 1.0. The maintenance meds got it down to 0.3, but after we halted the evil dex1 it drifted up to 0.58. Higher is worse, but as you can tell from the chart, the entire past year has been fairly stable, and the minor ups and downs don't mean a lot. An M-protein level of 0.58 grams is roughly equivalent to a cancer load of about 3-4 percent, and my body can tolerate that basically forever. Eventually my M-protein level will rise above 1.0 or so, and then it will be time to switch to a second-line med.

However, my oncologist's satisfaction was mostly based on other stuff that I don't usually write about. There are three types of plasma cells: G, A, and M.2 My cancer happens to be of the G cells. However, my A-type cells have increased quite a bit over the past few months, and apparently that's an indication that my immune system is returning to normal. So that's good. Also, my Kappa light chains are pretty low, and my Kappa/Lambda ratio is nice and stable.3 That's also good. Put it all together and I'm in pretty stable shape.

However, the med I'm taking now can produce rashes in some people. It turns out I'm one of them. In my case, they're little red dots that showed up on my lower legs last week, then spread to my upper legs, and are now invading my stomach. How far will they go? Beats me. But if they go much further, they'll invade my face and I'll look like I have a permanent case of the measles. Oh well.

1That's dexamethasone, a corticosteroid that helps fight multiple myeloma. However, it has bad long-term side effects, so it can only be used for a few months at a time.

2This is not precisely the right terminology, but it's close enough.

3For the record, I have IgG Kappa light chain multiple myeloma.

Here's a weird—and yet totally unsurprising—story. It starts like this:

Martin Kelly Jones, a co-owner of Shipping & Transit, said the tracking of e-commerce packages relates to an idea he came up with in the 1980s to notify families of arriving school buses....Mr. Jones, who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, said he came up with the idea for a “vehicle notification system” in 1985 in Atlanta, after seeing a young girl waiting for a school bus on a rainy morning. He later formed a company to develop technology, involving hardware for buses, that could notify people their bus was arriving.

Apparently this idea went nowhere. But that doesn't mean it was a waste of time. Not at all. Jones then started up a company called ArrivalStar, later renamed Shipping & Transit:

Claiming patents “for providing status messages for cargo, shipments and people,” the company or a predecessor have sued dozens of major retailers as well as delivery giants FedEx Corp. and United Parcel Service Inc., according to court records. The companies have extracted millions of dollars in payments, said people familiar with the legal actions.

....Anthony Dowell, a patent attorney who used to represent ArrivalStar, said he helped it win more than $15 million in license fees between 2009 and 2013 from over 200 parties, including municipalities and providers of shipping services. He said the patents he focused on expired in 2013.

The success of this business is unclear. UPS decided to buy a license, and apparently FedEx did too. The Postal Service didn't. Local transportation agencies maybe did and maybe didn't. It's unclear. In any case, S&T is currently focusing all its attention on tiny little companies that don't have the means to fight back:

Spokesmen for UPS and the Postal Service said their agreements with ArrivalStar, Shipping & Transit’s predecessor, should cover their customers’ use of technology....[Jones] said using FedEx’s or UPS’s notification system would cover a shipper, but it might still need to buy a license if it provided any additional information, such as telling buyers an order has been filled.

“The second you are using technology beyond what a licensee has, you need a license from us,” he said.

So if you send notifications telling customers that their orders have been filled, S&T will sue you for $25,000. Why? Because they claim to have patented this idea if it's done via some kind of computer network. In all this time, however, the patent has never been tested in court. It's never been worth anyone's time.

This. Is. Ridiculous. If you call your customer on the phone, it's fine. If you send them an email, you'll get sued. It's hard to conceive of anything stupider.

Get rid of software patents. All of them. Right now.

I basically have one foreign policy present that I'd like for Christmas:

  • Stay out of Syria. No troops. No "advisors." No weapons shipments to "friendly" rebels. No no-fly zones. Nothing. If Putin wants to waste his time there, let him.

Syria is a tragedy. If I could wave a magic wand and stop the killing and the refugees and everything else, I'd do it. But there's no magic wand, and there's nothing within reason that the United States can do to influence the outcome of the war. So just stay out. Period. That means you, Hillary.

That said, we obviously have an interest in eliminating ISIS, and once they've been driven out of Iraq they'll have to be driven out of Syria too. I don't know what that will involve. Maybe drone attacks, maybe some super-secret special ops missions that everyone knows about. That's fine. But stay out of the civil war. Nothing but catastrophe will come to anyone who insists on getting involved.

My Twitter feed is alive with the news that a "senior official" in the Trump campaign has admitted that they are engaged in voter suppression. Let's go to the tape:

Instead of expanding the electorate, Bannon and his team are trying to shrink it. “We have three major voter suppression operations under way,” says a senior official. They’re aimed at three groups Clinton needs to win overwhelmingly: idealistic white liberals, young women, and African Americans. Trump’s invocation at the debate of Clinton’s WikiLeaks e-mails and support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership was designed to turn off Sanders supporters. The parade of women who say they were sexually assaulted by Bill Clinton and harassed or threatened by Hillary is meant to undermine her appeal to young women. And her 1996 suggestion that some African American males are “super predators” is the basis of a below-the-radar effort to discourage infrequent black voters from showing up at the polls—particularly in Florida.

Ahem. For those of you new to American elections, allow me to blogsplain. This is called "negative campaigning." It is designed to make ones opponent look bad, and it has been a feature of every US election since—well, roughly forever. The fact that a "senior official" calls this voter suppression doesn't mean that it is. It just means that the Trump folks are amateurs who are laughably ignorant about what a "major" operation of any kind actually looks like in a modern presidential campaign.

There are 12 days left until we go to the polls. Is violence brewing from disappointed Donald Trump supporters? Here are nine quotes from a New York Times story that ran this morning:

Jared Halbrook, 25, of Green Bay, Wis., said that if Mr. Trump lost to Hillary Clinton…it could lead to "another Revolutionary War." "People are going to march on the capitols," said Mr. Halbrook, who works at a call center. "They're going to do whatever needs to be done to get her out of office, because she does not belong there."

…"It's not what I'm going to do, but I'm scared that the country is going to go into a riot," said Roger Pillath.

…"I'd probably go into a depression, because life is hard enough for us right now," Ms. Olson, 69, said.

…"Unfortunately, I'm not a man of vigilante violence," said Richard Sabonjohn, 48, of Naples, Fla. "I'm more of a peaceful person. But I do think there will be a large amount of people that are terribly upset and may take matters into their own hands."

Mr. Swick considers himself a "Bible Christian" and "Thomas Jefferson liberal," and said he hoped to beat Mrs. Clinton "at the ballot box." But Mr. Swick, by his own estimation, also owns "north of 30 guns," and he said Mrs. Clinton would have trouble if she tried to confiscate the nation's constitutionally protected weapons.

…"I am not going to take my weapon to go out into the streets to protest an election I did not win," Mr. Weegens said, "but I think that if certain events came about, a person would need to protect themselves, depending on where they lived, when your neighborhood goes up in flames."

"I'd go home and cry for four years," said Ken Herrmann, 69, of Punta Gorda, Fla.

Kathy Maney, 61, a hairstylist from Fletcher, N.C., used the language of love lost. "I won't feel hatred or mad or anything like that, but my heart will be broken," she said.

Ms. Sanger added, she will dutifully accept the outcome on Election Day. "I would absolutely respect the result and support the next president," she said. "Pray for the next president, whoever it is."

This story ran under the headline "Some Trump Voters Call for Revolution if Clinton Wins." But not a single one of these folks "called" for a revolution or said they'd participate in one. Just the opposite. They said they themselves wouldn't do anything, but were worried that other people might. Even young Mr. Halbrook, who came the closest, only suggested that "people" would participate in "marches on the capitols," which is perfectly legal and not necessarily violent.

So why is everyone worried that other people might riot on November 9? Is it because of headlines like "Some Trump Voters Call for Revolution if Clinton Wins"?

Miscellaneous thing #1: NFL viewership is down sharply this year. Is it because of Colin Kaepernick? That's the favorite explanation from conservatives, but today the New York Times tells us this:

The two most successful sports leagues in the world, which bring in billions of dollars in revenue, the biggest corporate sponsors and mammoth audiences every game day, are now sharing an altogether different experience: The National Football League and the English Premier League are enduring startling, double-digital declines in television viewership this season.

The Premier League is obviously not suffering from a Kaepernick backlash. So why are those two sports behemoths falling on hard times, but not others? It's a chin scratcher. I don't know much about English soccer, but my personal guess about the NFL is that it's just boring this year. I'm not quite sure why, but it seems like even the good teams are kind of mediocre and play like they were carved out by a cookie cutter. I'm a very casual but fairly reliable NFL viewer, but I haven't been bothering to watch very much this year. I just can't work up much interest.

Miscellaneous thing #2: Are you curious about the Mexican border? Here's a nice graphic. We've already doubled the size of the border patrol and fenced off nearly the entire land border—but although that's reduced illegal immigration, it hasn't stopped it. All that's left is the Rio Grande, which is a very tricky fencing project indeed. Maybe a bigger, tougher fence would work better, but that's hardly a slam dunk.

And speaking of borders: have you read Shane Bauer's story about going undercover with a border militia? You should!

Miscellaneous thing #3: Is the 2016 election just a taste of things to come? Will a more self-disciplined version of Donald Trump take over the Republican Party in 2020 and win where Trump couldn't? Kevin Mahnken says no:

Trump is sui generis. Ted Cruz entered 2016 with a bulletproof anti-establishment resumé, and look how far he got running as a slightly “cooler, more polished” alternative....Anyone with the requisite political instincts to win a general election would have to temporize eventually, which would mark him as a career politician. Anyone exotic enough to fully copy the Trump playbook would be vaporized by the institutional weaponry of the Republican Party, which won’t be caught sleeping twice in a row.

....Very few politicians exert lasting influence on American political parties. The last ones to do so were Lyndon Johnson (who shattered the remnants of the New Deal coalition and inadvertently established the Democrats as a multiethnic alliance in favor of big government and various liberation movements) and Ronald Reagan (who solidified a pact between the Moral Majority and business elites that is only now breaking down). But these were two-term presidents who won massive legislative victories. Trump, who was never selling a governing ethos to begin with, will be a profoundly rejected figure.

I agree. Trump is unique, and his victory in the primaries this year was a perfect storm sort of fluke. Like Glenn Beck before him, however, he's had his year in the sun and his brand of performance art has already gotten old. He may go on to a TV career, or he may sink into a deep depression and never be heard from again, but it doesn't matter. He's a loser and a laughingstock. At most he'll motivate future candidates to break a bit from party orthodoxy (on support for free trade, for example, or entitlement cuts) but that's it.

Six years ago I read a pair of articles about Yemen which predicted that its population would double by 2035; oil revenue would decline to zero by 2017; and the capital city of Sanaa would run out of water by 2015. Today I got curious: How are those forecasts panning out?

Population: On target. Yemen's population has increased from 23.6 million to 27.5 million since 2010—an annual growth rate of 2.58 percent. If this continues, Yemen's population will double by 2037.

Oil revenue: On target. Yemen is currently producing a meager 22,000 barrels of oil daily. In fairness, much of this is due not to pumping their fields literally dry, but to infrastructure destruction during the current civil war. They still have proven reserves of about 3 billion barrels, so production could rise again if the war ever ends.

Water: On target? Adela Jones of USC writes: "Already, Yemenis allocate up to 30% of their annual income towards water....As early as 2017, Sana’a may officially run out of water. Given consumption trends, the rest of the nation may follow."

I remain fairly ignorant about Yemen, aside from the fact that it's the site of a brutal proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran—in Saudi Arabia's view, anyway—and we've been assisting the Saudis since it started. But Yemen's future looks pretty bleak no matter who wins. What happens when they finally pump the last of the groundwater and there's nothing left?

Harvard’s Institute of Politics has just released its latest poll of 18-29 year olds, and reports that Hillary Clinton has a "massive" lead over Donald Trump. Over at the New York Times, however, Yamiche Alcindor says the new poll shows that Clinton has "struggled" with millennials and "will have to convince many young people that they should trust her to grapple with some of the nation’s biggest issues." Nancy LeTourneau is annoyed:

That is the power of narrative. Once you buy into the idea that Clinton is having trouble with millennials, it is almost impossible to break out of it. In the back of Alcindor’s mind, she has to do better than a 28 point lead to be successful with young people. Who knows how high that bar is?

I get the exasperation with this, but the problem is that both the IOP and Alcindor are right. Clinton leads Trump 49-21 percent in the IOP poll, which is indeed a massive lead. At the same time, 49 percent support is less than Democrats usually get from 20-somethings. Like it or not, Clinton is less popular with young voters than any Democrat in the past two decades except for Al Gore. Is this because of the Bernie effect? Because of Clinton herself? Because third-party candidates are getting more attention than usual? That's hard to say. But whatever the reason, Clinton is underperforming with millennials.

Now, at this point her underperformance is fairly modest compared to anyone other than Barack Obama. And she still has a couple of weeks to make up ground. It's fair to say that she's a little behind the usual pace for Democrats, but it's not fair to regurgitate the narrative from two or three months ago when she was struggling pretty hard with millennial disaffection. It may not make for a great story, but sometimes the truth is a little bit boring.

With 13 days left until the end of the campaign, Donald Trump seems to have all but given up. He's mostly promoting his hotels these days and has stopped all big-dollar fundraising. In fact, he seems as if he'd be pretty happy if Republicans lost in an epic wave election, which might make his own loss seem less of a personal humiliation and more a party failure. Given all this, I suppose this means that Republicans are resigned to losing and are probably putting their heads together to figure out how they can work with Hillary Clinton over the next four years in order to accomplish at least—

Eh? What's that, Ilya Shapiro?

The Senate Should Refuse To Confirm All Of Hillary Clinton’s Judicial Nominees

Um, OK. That's clear enough. Gonna be tough on the federal judiciary, though. Don't big businesses need the courts to stay fully staffed so they can continue suing each other over dumb patent infractions? Maybe not. But anyway, Shapiro is just one guy. This is probably not a common opinion, right?

OK, fine: two guys. But surely wiser heads in Congress will prevail?

Jason Chaffetz, the Utah congressman wrapping up his first term atop the powerful House Oversight Committee, unendorsed Donald Trump weeks ago. That freed him up to prepare for something else: spending years, come January, probing the record of a President Hillary Clinton.

“It’s a target-rich environment,” the Republican said in an interview in Salt Lake City’s suburbs. “Even before we get to Day One, we’ve got two years’ worth of material already lined up. She has four years of history at the State Department, and it ain’t good.”

Welp, it's sure sounding like the Republican Party has learned nothing and forgotten nothing over the past eight years. If this is how things go, they're planning to double down on total obstruction starting on Day One—or even before that for Chaffetz. Then in 2020 they'll wonder yet again why they have such a hard time winning the presidency. I wonder if it will ever occur to them that getting nothing done just isn't a winning argument for a majority of Americans?