Mudguard

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  1. US Politics: Opening Pandora's Box

    My post only made two points. First, there isn't yet a consensus about austerity like there is about climate change, which your first paragraph seems to acknowledge. If there was a consensus, why hasn't Europe given up on austerity already? The second point was that the WP article was not useful because it barely provides any of the underlying details of the NBER working paper that supports its conclusions. Without any details regarding the modeling, the WP article merely serves as a source of confirmation bias for people that already agree with its conclusion. It's impossible to assess whether the NBER working paper has merit or not from the WP article. As to your other comments regarding various models, assumptions and fiscal multipliers, I'll just say that I view any economic prediction with a very healthy degree of skepticism precisely because so many economists make errors in assumptions, each model has its limitations, and the liberal use of fudge factors like fiscal multipliers.
  2. US Politics: Opening Pandora's Box

    Unfortunately, the NBER working paper cited by Washington Post article is not freely available and there's no description in the WP article of how the model was constructed, so it's impossible for me to form any opinion regarding the conclusions of the paper. There certainly isn't any consensus right now among economists that austerity under current conditions doesn't work. I'd also point out that NBER working papers have not been peer reviewed. Instead, they function to stimulate discussion and revisions to the paper before publication, so I'm not ready to call this matter decided yet.
  3. US Politics: Opening Pandora's Box

    Based on this timeline, besides making clear that Flynn's been lying for months, it seem like Pence didn't know that Flynn lied to him until Feb. 9, even though the White House was notified on Jan. 26. Some people here were speculating earlier that Trump would have no interest in governing at the Pence would be the person running the show. I think this makes it clear that Trump is 100% in charge and that Pence isn't even among the inner circle.
  4. U.S. Politics: Courting Trump

    That we know the exact 4 questions asked and that 2 are geared towards Democrats and 2 geared towards Republicans doesn't make these 4 questions an accurate representation of the entire set of conspiracy theories. The question about Obama hiding something in his background is an outlier when compared to the numbers seen in the other questions. Large number of Republicans believe in that conspiracy, which is not surprising given the timing of the polls (December 2012 in an election where Trump made this conspiracy theory a big deal). If you throw that question out along with one of the Democrat friendly conspiracy theories, I'd bet that the numbers for the two parties would be about the same. If you and others still believe that that bit of polling data proves or provides strong evidence that Republicans believe in conspiracy theories more frequently than Democrats, then apparently no amount of logic is going to convince you otherwise.
  5. U.S. Politics: Courting Trump

    The second link is consistent with Dundermifflins interpretation, which is that political affiliation predicts which conspiracies a person tends to believe in. And that political affiliation by itself does not appear to be correlated with a likelihood of believing in conspiracy theories. It should be obvious that you can't extrapolate to a general conclusion that Democrats are less likely to believe in conspiracy theories than Republicans based on questions about 4 different conspiracy theories. You can see that the numbers vary significantly with the specific conspiracy asked about, so it's very likely that if you asked about 4 other conspiracies you'd get very different results. The poll was never designed to answer that question.
  6. Only if they are able to actually obtain a patent, which is generally getting harder and harder to do nowadays. In the good old days, maybe around 20 years ago, patent examiners had to hand search through paper records to find prior art to reject the claims in a patent application. As you can imagine, that wasn't a particularly efficient or effective method. Now, examiners can search electronic databases which make them much more effective at their jobs. And even if they get a patent, it's often possible to design around the patent. The tradeoffs seems fair to me. I'm OK with where the patent system is at right now. I'd rather the government take a stab at directly trying to regulate drug prices, preferably through some sort of universal healthcare system. If that still isn't enough to control drug prices, then I'd be willing to look at revising patent terms.
  7. Very interesting points. It's strange to me that more research isn't done because blockbuster antibiotics, like Zithromax for example, had sales of $2 billion at their peak. That was about 10 years ago, so maybe doctors have become much more conservative with handing out their antibiotic prescriptions since then to combat drug-resistance development. I also suspect that research in this area is just very difficult. Tweaking an existing antibiotic is easy to do, but finding a new class of antibiotics is a huge challenge. If there isn't much incentive for big pharma to get involved, then incentives for private companies, whether it's big pharma or a startup, need to be created because basic research labs aren't going to be able to take a drug through clinical trials and to market.
  8. Large companies with aggressive patent strategies can definitely make life difficult for their competitors. But to get those patents, the company has to disclose all those inventions to the public. That's part of the costs and benefits of our patent system. The USA has been slowly harmonizing it's patent laws with the rest of the world. I just don't see a patent term reduction as a serious possibility at this time, especially if it would lead to the US having a weaker patent system than the rest of the world. It's also too esoteric a subject to get people excited about it, especially when compared to stories like the unconscionable price gouging by drug companies. I agree with your last paragraph about the government negotiating over drug prices. Some of the pricing is completely out of control and needs to be reigned in.
  9. Medical devices run the gamut. Some medical devices, like stents, sutures, and pedicle screws are trivial to make, while others like complex imaging systems are much more complex. A lot of the products sold by large medical device companies like GE, Medtronic, Boston Scientific, Edwards Lifesciences, etc. were developed by startups that were eventually acquired by these giants. These startups are able to take risks that many larger companies are not willing to accept. With respect to orphan drugs, part of how we encourage their development is to provide additional patent term extension for orphan drugs. In the US, you can get up to 7 extra years of patent term for orphan drugs. Again, stronger patent laws are encouraging this development that you otherwise wouldn't see. Yes, I agree that price regulation is the main problem. The US needs to move to a universal healthcare system. I think that's the only reasonable way to get prices under control at this point. We have a lot of effective treatments for many cancer types, but no overall cure for all cancers. Some cancers, like glioblastoma, still have no effective treatment, even after many decades of research. Billions and billions and decades have been spent on trying to develop a vaccine for HIV, but still nothing. The point is that simply throwing money at a problem is no guarantee that you'll develop a cure or treatment for that particular problem. The post I was responding to suggested that if we just spent more money on public research, a laudable thing, we would have an antibiotic to treat multi-drug resistant bacteria. Sure, more money is helpful, but I don't think that's the limiting factor is this case.
  10. Virtually all companies that innovate file for and obtain patents unless they can keep their technology a trade secret. And yes, the entire point of having a patent is for its ability to exclude others from making, using, or selling the patented invention. A large company can use their patents to block or restrict what a startup can do, but at the same time, a startup can do the same and prevent a big company from doing ripping off their product if they have a patent. Pharmaceuticals are different because it takes years to get a drug approved, and the drug compounds themselves are easily copied and manufactured. Without patent rights, it would be trivial for a generics drug company to copy and have the drug ready for sale as soon as FDA approval was granted. Nobody would be first by themselves anymore. Since the copycat company doesn't have to spend on R&D, they can massively undercut the innovating drug company. In this environment, why would anyone bother to invest capital to develop a new drug? Same thing for biotech and medical devices which face similar regulatory barriers. You need some length of patent protection. There's certainly nothing magical about the 20 year term, but it's what been settled on by essentially the entire world. Could a 19 or 18 year term also work? Probably, but shortening the patent term would almost certainly have negative consequences. It would be very strange for the USA to have the weakest patent system in the world, and I don't think that would be a good thing. Software patents were allowed before Alappat. Alappat just set forth a new test to determine whether a particular software patent was patent eligible or not. I agree with you on trolls. Private companies do invest in R&D, in the expectations of making a profit. If we make the expected profit smaller, then we likely push some investments off the table. I'm all for spending more on public research, but that doesn't address the problem on making the expected profit smaller by shortening patent term. The rest of the world has 20 year patent terms, but most don't have the same problems with drug pricing as we do. I don't think the solution is to mess with patent terms. I'd rather more pressure be put on drug companies through public transparency (and outrage) about pricing, like what happened with the epipen, or even better, enacting a universal health care system, which I think is more likely to happen than reducing the patent term for pharmaceuticals. As far as I'm aware, both parties support a strong patent system.
  11. That's an interesting point. Yeah, there appears to be a subset of progressives that are willing to sit elections out in the name of ideological purity, even if that means that a person like Trump could get elected. Doing that seems crazy to me, but we won't know if they've learned their lesson until after the 2018 election. Several of the liberal justices are very old, so it's critical to retake the Senate in 2018. Maybe the best approach is for a handful of Senate Democrats to cross the line to vote with Republicans while the rest of the Democrats put on a show to appease the base.
  12. Yeah, that's what I'm thinking. Democrats aren't getting anyone better than Gorsuch, and at least he's well qualified and respected among the legal community.
  13. I agree that what the Republicans did to Garland was wrong. Unfortunately, Democrats are over the barrel here and have little actual power. I think Republicans would be willing to nuke the filibuster in exchange for nominating a Supreme Court Justice. I read a couple articles, like the one on CNN stating that Democrats might be OK with Gorsuch, that suggested that Gorsuch may be the most moderate of the candidates Trump is considering. Yeah, he's a conservative, but is he the best candidate that we are going to get from Trump?
  14. He seems extremely well qualified to me. His resume is on par with Garland. It'll be interesting to see how the Democrats in Congress play this. From what I've read, which hasn't been much to be honest, he seems like the most moderate candidate that Democrats could expect. If Democrats oppose Gorsuch, there's the risk that Trump nominates someone even more conservative who is pushed through after Senate Republicans nuke the filibuster. Trump is easily vindictive enough to do that if Gorsuch is blocked.
  15. Private companies and public researchers are both trying to develop new antibiotics, because as you note there is a big need, and because it's a huge multi-billion dollar market. Whoever develops a new antibiotic that can deal with drug resistant strains would make many billions. The problem is that it's just generally very difficult to develop new drugs. Same thing with developing cures for cancer and HIV. Public research and private companies work hand in hand. There's a place for both. For example, developing an entirely new class of antibiotics is going to either take a lot of luck through simple trial and error, or a breakthrough in basic research, which often occurs in public research. Once the breakthrough occurs, it's still going to take a lot of time an money to develop drug candidates to find one that works and is safe. Lots of startups license their initial patents from universities or research organizations. Financial return is certainly a consideration for startups and the investors funding the startups. If the disease is very rare, there will be much less incentive to develop a drug for that disease. But if you really develop a new class of antibiotics, there isn't going to be an issue getting a patent. Getting a patent is generally only difficult when you are making an incremental change or improvement to something that already exists. Then it boils down to whether that difference was obvious.