Please let it be over. Please please please. I can't take any more of thi—

Ahem. Shall we do cat blogging a few minutes early? Yes we shall. Here is Hopper doing her very best impression of a concrete rabbit. Not bad!

For more on our furry feline companions, check out "Good Thing Cats Are Adorable, Because They Get Away With a Lot of Crap." It's an interview with cat enthusiast and science writer Abigail Tucker to discuss her new book, The Lion in the Living Room. The title sort of reminds me of this tweet.

I slept badly last night and feel kind of crappy this morning. I was hoping I could just stare at the ceiling for a while and then put up some catblogging and call it a week. But no. Email mania is back. Here's the letter FBI Director Jim Comey sent to a rogue's gallery of committee chairmen this morning regarding its investigation into Hillary Clinton's email server:

In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation. I am writing to inform you that the investigative team briefed me on this yesterday, and I agreed that the FBI should take appropriate investigative steps designed to allow investigators to review these emails to determine whether they contain classified information, as well as assess their importance to our investigation.

Although the FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant, and I cannot predict how long it will take us to complete this additional work, I believe it is important to update your Committees about our efforts in light of my previous testimony.

Translation: We have some emails we got from somewhere. That's all I can tell you. NBC's Pete Williams adds this:

Paul Krugman is PISSED:

Donald Trump is CHUFFED:

"We must not let her take her criminal scheme to the Oval Office," Trump said, adding, "I have great respect that the FBI and Department of Justice have the courage to right the horrible mistake that they made. Perhaps finally, justice will be done."

Wasn't Trump saying just a few weeks ago that the FBI was hopelessly corrupt and couldn't be trusted? I'm pretty sure he did.

Bottom line: There are some emails. They aren't from Hillary Clinton. They weren't withheld from the investigation. The case isn't being "reopened." That is all.

Speaking for myself, I'm willing to back any bet that anyone wants to make that this whole thing is a complete nothing. Republicans will be lathering away for the next 11 days, but there's no there there.

Sam Wang's meta-margin has Hillary Clinton leading Trump by 4.1 percentage points, down slightly from last week:

Wang's current prediction is that Clinton has a 99 percent chance of winning and will rack up 334 electoral votes. He still has the Senate tied, 50-50, but the Democratic meta-margin is down a bit to 1.2 percent and the probability of Democratic control is 76 percent. On the House side, he has Democrats up by about 4 percent, which is not enough for them to win back control. Here's Pollster:

Clinton is 7.3 percentage points ahead of Trump, exactly the same as last week. In the generic House polling, Pollster has Democrats ahead by 4.3 points, down a point from last week.

Overall, Trump vs. Clinton has barely moved, but the Democratic lead in congressional races seems to have ticked down a point or so.


Let me guess: someone at the State Department wrote a note to Huma Abedin asking if someone at the Clinton Foundation could loan them a hammer so that Hillary Clinton's latest broken BlackBerry could be smashed. And the kicker: It turned out to be a hammer from Benghazi!

With only 11 days left in this year's presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton has vastly more money in the bank than Donald Trump. It's not even close. So Trump has finally decided to pitch in a few dollars of his own money:

Donald Trump, seeking to boost momentum in the last days of the presidential election, wired $10 million of his own money into his presidential campaign Friday morning, two advisers said....Mr. Trump’s cash infusion brings his total contributions to his campaign to $66 million....Mr. Trump’s latest donation to his cause still falls $34 million short of the $100 million he has repeatedly said he will give to his campaign—a pledge he reiterated as recently as Wednesday.

Well, I guess he's still got another week to light his final $34 million on fire. In the meantime, consider this: Election Day can fall between November 2 and November 8. This year, just to add to our pain, it falls on the last possible day. If, instead, it fell on November 2, we'd have only four days of hell left. They say that whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and I sure hope that's true.

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.