Monday, July 31, 2006

"No Tears for Hank McKinnell"

Is the headline of The Street report on Pfizer's management change. And so the criticism that finally was unleashed on Friday and Saturday against Mr. McKinnell and his lack of leadership continues.

Deutsche Bank analyst Barbara Ryan suggested McKinnell's "lack of relationship" with top investors and "aloofness" contributed to his early departure.

The Street also subtly questions Jeff Kindler's competence, and writes, "By choosing a new chief executive who has spent more time working for Big Mac than for Big Pharma, Pfizer (PFE - commentary - Cramer's Take) certainly caught Wall Street's attention."


Jeff Kindler's only redeeming feature, according to this news outlet, is that he isn't McKinnell. "The initial response to Jeffrey Kindler, one of three Pfizer vice chairmen competing for the job, appears to be favorable partly because Kindler isn't Henry "Hank" McKinnell, who stepped down as CEO immediately on Friday.

And David Moskowitz of Friedman Billings Ramsey piles it on in a research report and says that Pfizer's management "has steadily lost all credibility, in our view, guiding for obviously unachievable objectives and teaching the industry a painful lesson on mega-merger failure."

Merril Lynch also expresses their concern that Kindler really is a McDonalds hamburger man. "We think that an outsider is the right choice," says David Risinger of Merrill Lynch, who updgraded Pfizer to buy from neutral. "But we note that Jeff Kindler is somewhat unproven as a pharmaceutical executive."

Kindler competed with Karen Katen, who joined Pfizer in 1974 and is in charge of human health operations, and David Shedlarz, who joined the company in 1976, for the job. And Risinger echos my earlier comments, and says "there's a possibility both will leave the company. However, change may not be a bad thing at Pfizer."

So the investment community appears to feel that McKinnell was not a good thing. Nor was Katen. Or Shedlarz. Anything is better, even a former hamburger executive.

Now that's criticism which speaks volumes.

Readers From Pfizer

For some unknown reason I'm getting a ton of readers from Pfizer today.

I guess it may have something to do with the fact that I've written quite a few posts about your new CEO, Jeff Kindler, in the past.

So here's a quick guide to find relevant Pfizer posts:

Referendum on Pfizer's New CEO

Thoughtful Words on Pfizer

Revolution at Pfizer: New CEO Jeff Kindler Major Contributor to Democrats.

The Knives Are Coming Out

Who is Jeff Kindler?

Benefit Fund for Axed Pfizer CEO

New Info About Anonymous Letter to Pfizer's Board of Directors

Pfizer CEO Axed: Handsome Mr. Kindler New CEO.

Breaking News: Anonymous Letter May Determine Who Becomes New Pfizer CEO

Letter From The Three Stooges

My Blog in the News

Pfizer Celebrity Lawyer Runs To Court to Shut Me Up

$10000 Fine If I Talk

Super Secret Secrets

A Class Act

The New York Times started an article yesterday saying, "CHIEF executives are inclined to avoid activities generally deemed to be high-risk: Sky diving. Cliff jumping. Motorcycle racing. And blogging."

But there is no question that blogs have more and more impact on the mainstream media.

Yesterday, the Financial Times quoted the eminent blog PharmaGossip.

"Pfizer's move to replace its chief executive, Hank McKinnell, was applauded by critics of the world's biggest drug company. Mr McKinnell, 63, was to retire in 2008. He will remain as chairman until 2008. One industry site had only mock sympathy ( "We must now rally round and 'dig deep' to help Hank meet his bills through this trying time."

And what did PharmaGossip do with this newfound publicity?

Well, as a very classy web site, PharmaGossip tried to share its new readers, and wrote this in a post referring to the FT article:

"And finally, a quick shout out to Insider's three best "blogosphere" friends: Peter Rost , Mike Lascelles and John Mack."

If that isn't classy, I don't know what is.

Imagine one newspaper trying to share its readers with another newspaper . . .

PharmaGossip. A class act. Go there!

The "let's hide behind our women and babies war plan"

A week ago I wrote the post They Will All Go To Hell. In it I criticized Hezbollah for their unprovoked attack on Israel, and Israel for their military response.

Then I suggested in The Dead Baby that once the New York Times started featuring dead Lebanese babies on their front cover, the world opinion was about to change.

I know, based on the fifty or so comments that this post really touched home. I also know that my readers are divided in several camps, for and against Israel, for and against this war.

Which makes me the lonely guy in the middle. And I'm not taking this position because of my readers. Quite frankly, I've been a strong supporter of Israel as the only democracy in the Middle East during most of my life.

But as I have started to reevaluate much of what I've supported in my life, and as I've traveled to Israel and seen both the situation from the Israeli point of view, as well as the Arab point of view, I came to the conclusion that my world view had been too simplistic.

Unfortunately, when you start studying any issue, this is often the conclusion you come to. You realize that what is right and wrong isn't really that easy. I realize Israel has been under attack for most of its existence and most of its neighbors want to finish what others started in the 30s. But I also realize that we have an unresolved situation with Arabs living in poverty and squalor, displaced by the new state. And I realize there is no perfect solution.

And absent a perfect solution, I don't think killing off each others babies is a good one. It's as simple as that.

And as I predicted world opinion has now changed.

The death of over fifty civilians, most of them women and children, in one building in Lebanon attacked by Israel has now led to Israel agreeing to halt bombings for 48 hours.

Only that promise didn't last long. The New York Times wrote an hour ago, "Israel continued to attack targets in Lebanon even after agreeing to a 48-hour halt to its broad bombing campaign in the face of an outcry over the air raid on Sunday that left dozens of Lebanese civilians dead."

But let's stop discussing the blame game.

And let's start discussing what's really going on here.

Hezbollah kidnapped Israeli soldiers using the excuse of a prison exchange. They knew Israel would refuse and that Israel was likely to attack.

This is what Hezbollah had planned for during the past twenty years, when they built bunkers, tunnels, and got tens of thousands of rockets and other goodies from Iran and Syria.

So now the stage was set.

Israel jumped up and down and took the bait. It was almost as easy as provoking a certain French football captain in the World Cup by insulting his mother.

The fight started.

And of course, with bunkers and rockets hidden in residential areas, the Lebanese death toll increased, until the number of dead children and babies made things unbearable for the international community.

That's exactly what Hezbollah had counted on. Meanwhile sympathy for Hezbollah, which has been somewhat of a fringe movement in the Arab world, exploded. That's also what Hezbollah hoped for.

As far as I can tell, Israel has played right into Hezbollah's hands.

It wouldn't be the first time in history a nation has fallen into that trap.

After all, that's how the expression a "Pyrrhic victory" was once coined. The phrase is more often reported as "Another such victory over the Romans and we are undone".

For the first time the Arab world has come up with a warfare model that Israel can't crush in six days using their tanks and airplanes.

It's a simple plan.

The plan is called the "let's hide behind our women and babies war plan."

missile babies

And Israel just made that plan work, by blowing up all those babies, some of whom ended up on the first page of New York Times

Nice job, Israel and Condi.

Neither Condi nor Israel is a in a rush to stop the mayhem. After, all, Hezbollah are "terrorists" and this is the time to exterminate them. As if bombing a country back into the middle ages would accomplish that.

Truth is that the Jewish people survived one of the worst atrocities in recorded history, even though most of them didn't have a single gun to defend themselves against state orchestrated terror. Israel is going to be even less likely to exterminate the "terrorists" equipped with rockets and other modern warfare materiel. After all, even if they dumped atomic bombs onto every surrounding country they wouldn’t achieve that goal.

And that leaves only one workable solution. Make up and live in peace.

But something tells me neither Hezbollah nor Israel is willing to listen to that advice.

Referendum on Pfizer's New CEO

Associated Press writes today:

"NEW YORK (AP) - The stock movement of Pfizer Inc. at the opening bell Monday will serve as a referendum on Jeffrey B. Kindler, the company's choice to replace Chief Executive Hank McKinnell."

Here's the result so far:


Thoughtful Words on Pfizer

Derek Lowe over at In the Pipeline has written some thoughtful words on the transition at Pfizer. Here they are:

I'm actually going to try to show some restraint and not make snide comments about Pfizer's announcement of a new CEO. True, Hank McKinnell is retiring at least a year before he said he was going to. But hey, I wouldn't want to be running Pfizer right now, either. And true, Pfizer's stock is down over 35% over his tenure - but as you can see from this chart, it wasn't until the first part of 2004 that PFE and the S&P 500 index definitively parted ways. And it's true that the new CEO, Jeffrey Kindler, is a lawyer rather than a scientist or businessman, has only been in the drug industry since 2002, and came to Pfizer from McDonald's.

The reason that I'm not throwing a fit about this is because I think, to a good first approximation, that it doesn't matter very much who the CEO of a large company is. As long as they're reasonably confident and competent, and not noticeably larcenous, it doesn't matter. I realize that I've just contradicted whole shelves of business books, but keep in mind that many of these are written by CEOs and/or the people that love them. I don't have much use for cults of personality, and that's what I think you get when you make too big a deal out of the top job. You can fill in the outlines of my opinion of, say, Jack Welch.

So I wish Jeffrey Kindler luck. As he's probably already noticed, he's in a rather different industry than the ones he's worked in before - and he shouldn't trust anyone who tries to tell him different. He should also show anyone the door who tries to make a case for exceptionalism, that Pfizer can succeed as a great behemoth because they're just so darn Pfizery. No, all he needs are a lot of smart, hard-working people, a lot of money, and - not least - some good fortune. Which is all anyone needs to be a success.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Revolution at Pfizer: New CEO Jeff Kindler Major Contributor to Democrats.

The political affiliation of the CEO of one of the world's largest drug companies is important.

Pfizer's prior CEO, Hank McKinnell, made no secret about the fact that he strongly supported a Republican agenda. He was a Bush Ranger and virtually twisted the arms of employees, trying to get them to support his personal agenda. I even got a phone call from someone claiming to call on his behalf, when I failed to pony up $2,000 for a Bush reelection fund raiser in 2003.

According to Bloomberg, "As chairman of the Business Roundtable, a Washington-based CEO association, McKinnell backs several of President George W. Bush's proposals, like personal Social Security accounts. In the 2004 election cycle McKinnell gave about $96,000 to Republican candidates and $350 to Democrats."

And of course, McKinnell has had Jeff Kindler, Pfizer's new CEO, at his side at innumerable fund raising events. Perhaps this is not very surprising, considering that Kindler was vying for the CEO position. But is Jeff Kindler really an ultra-conservative Republican, in McKinnell's mold?

After all, he started his life as a trial lawyer at WILLIAMS & CONNOLLY and trial lawyers are known to be Democrats . . . So what about Mr. Kindler?

And on NewsMeat we find the answer. Kindler has a long history of giving federal campaign contributions to DEMOCRATS. See this and this.

You may want to compare Kindler's record with McKinnell's record here.

So perhaps we will no longer hear aggressive fund raising stories, like this one, recently featured in a comment on PharmaGossip:

"I saved Pfizer's ass in 2002 when I personally took care of eight of twenty-one items on a warning letter for Pfizer... For that effort I got a 3% raise. If I’d committed to giving a thousand dollars to the Pfizer Political Action Committee that year I could have met Hank, had dinner with him, shaken his hand and had my picture taken with him. Yes, Pfizer has values."

Conclusion: We may see quite a change in Pfizer's future values. Maybe they'll even stop coercing employees to give money to Republicans?

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Knives Are Coming Out

Only a day ago, Hank McKinnell was Pfizer CEO and one of the most powerful men in the world.

Few newspapers wrote negative reports about his leadership at the Pfizer juggernaut. After all, advertising revenues could be impacted.

That changed overnight.

And now the media is filled with comments about Hank McKinnell's "autocratic management style" and poor leadership.

The New York Times writes, "In the last few months, analysts and people in the industry said, Pfizer’s board has grown increasingly concerned about Mr. McKinnell’s autocratic management style and the company’s struggles to bring new drugs to market."

"Mr. McKinnell, who took over Pfizer in 2001, has been viewed by many analysts and investors as arrogant and out of touch with Pfizer’s problems, at least publicly. His pay package fueled further anger both inside and outside the company. While Pfizer’s stock has declined 40 percent since Mr. McKinnell took over, and it has laid off thousands of employees, Mr. McKinnell has received $60 million in salary and other compensation. He is also eligible to receive an $83 million pension."

"In a report yesterday morning, before the announcement, an analyst at Merrill Lynch, David Risinger, wrote that Pfizer “stock could react positively to the prospect of a change in management.”

“Investors have been frustrated,” Mr. Risinger wrote, “that McKinnell has run the company in somewhat of an autocratic fashion and has denied some of the company’s problems. A new C.E.O. should be perceived positively.”

The Star Ledger states, "Now, by showing McKinnell the door, Pfizer's board is hoping to restore investor confidence in a company whose stock has languished while most other drugmakers have largely succeeded in convincing Wall Street of a better future. "

"At the same time, the board is hoping to alleviate some of the heat it has taken. Thanks to the $60 million in compensation McKinnell received over the past five years -- and news of an $83 million pension payment when he retires -- the outgoing chief executive became a poster child of excessive CEO pay. "

"Pfizer watchers say Kindler's elevation marks a distinct break from the past, when long-standing employees were tapped for the top spot and other choice jobs. Instead, the Pfizer board backed a relative newcomer -- and one whose background is in law and fast food, not drug marketing."

"This is a major shift," said one former Pfizer executive who asked not to be named. "It's not how Pfizer normally operates."

Bloomberg writes about McKinnell, "``He also didn't help his cause by being the type of leader that people would rally behind, that people would have tremendous confidence and respect for,'' she said. ``He was caustic in his addresses to shareholders and analysts and often seemed unrealistic.''

``One of the problems we've always had on Pfizer is management just wasn't all that accessible to the financial community,'' said Les Funtleyder, an analyst with Miller Tabak & Co. in New York, in a telephone interview yesterday. ``I think McKinnell would have been better served if he had done that. I think it would have made his life a little easier.''

Investors lost confidence when McKinnell ``made statements like `we're going to grow Lipitor to the end of the decade,' which was unrealistic to put it mildly,'' said Deutsche Bank's Ryan. ``It was a bunker-down mentality, and don't tell anyone anything.''

Reuters concludes, "Hank McKinnell helped build Pfizer into the world's largest drugmaker through two major deals, but the company's poor stock performance, a paucity of big new drugs and his abrupt departure leave a tarnished legacy."

"He contributed a great deal, but unfortunately in our culture when senior management are paid as much as they are and given as much autonomy as they are, they get the sense of being able to walk on water," said Viren Mehta, a principal at Mehta Partners."

"Although his departure appeared sudden, Pfizer months earlier had awarded McKinnell a lump-sum retirement parachute of $83 million -- a sum that drew criticism in light of Pfizer's sharply declining earnings and share price."

"Give it back, Hank," became a rallying cry among some irate shareholders at the company's annual meeting in April."

And the Wall Street Journal hints that former Pfizer CEO Bill Steere, may have been instrumental in ousting McKinnell:

"Pfizer directors began their all-day huddle early Friday morning at the midtown offices of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, one of the company's outside law firms. Though it wasn't a regularly scheduled meeting, the special board session had been arranged a month ago, one person close to the situation said late Friday.

"Nobody knew coming into the meeting today that [directors] would reach consensus on a candidate" nor reach consensus on the timing of Mr. McKinnell's departure, the informed individual said. Board members hadn't previously discussed the possibility of moving up his departure date, but directors quickly reached agreement, the person added. "There were no extended arguments."

Some directors favored Ms. Katen because she has more operational experience than Mr. Kindler, according to this individual. Other directors were eager for a decision because they had become increasingly perturbed by the protracted horse race launched in February 2005.

"Once you start the [succession] process, it gridlocks the organization," another knowledgeable person said. "You want to make it done as fast as possible. The only thing worse than that is making the wrong decision."

Pfizer named Mr. McKinnell as successor to CEO William Steere in January 2001. Mr. Steere remains a Pfizer board member and is also a board member of Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal.

The stock of Pfizer began 2001 at $41.19 and Friday was at $26.11 in 4 p.m. New York Stock Exchange composite trading, a decline of nearly 37%. Growth in net income at the company has slowed; Pfizer earned $7.79 billion in 2001 and $8.09 billion last year.

Mr. Steere remains a major force in the Pfizer boardroom, people familiar with the situation said. The retired Pfizer leader "still thinks he's Mr. Pfizer [and] Hank works for him," said an acquaintance of both men. It wasn't immediately clear, however, whether Mr. Steere had a role in the drive for Mr. McKinnell's early replacement.

Mr. Steere played an influential role in recruiting many Pfizer board members. Ten of the 13 current directors joined the board before he gave up the CEO spot -- including seven prior to June 2000.

"Bill had quite a legacy there," and so is respected by board colleagues, the acquaintance noted.

"They're almost all buddies of Bill."

Who is Jeff Kindler?

It was probably no coincidence that Jeff Kindler, Pfizer's General Counsel, graced the cover of Pharmaceutical Executive only a few days before he was named CEO of Pfizer.

Here is the full story on the "Inside Man."

Benefit Fund for Axed Pfizer CEO

The brilliant blog PharmaGossip has stared a benefit fund for Pfizer's axed CEO, Hank McKinnell, to ease his transition into retirement.

If you'd like to contribute, please go here.

Friday, July 28, 2006

New Info About Anonymous Letter to Pfizer's Board of Directors

So far only the New York Times has reported on the anonymous letter, allegedly sent by a senior Pfizer executive to the Pfizer board of directors and to some journalists. The letter appears to have been a last minute attempt to persuade the board not to select Jeff Kindler as the new CEO of Pfizer.

This is additional information the New York Times writes in tomorrow's edition:

"Mr. Kindler, however, takes his job under a minor cloud. Earlier this week, a person claiming to be a senior Pfizer employee sent a letter to Pfizer’s board critical of Mr. Kindler. The letter offered no evidence to support its claims, and they cannot be independently verified. But the letter’s author correctly predicted on Wednesday that Mr. McKinnell would resign after Friday’s board meeting."

Clearly, based on the correct prediction of Mr. McKinnell losing his job on Friday, the letter must have been written by one of very few top people within Pfizer.

It is even questionable if anyone but Kindler's two contenders, Ms. Katen and Mr. Shedlarz, or someone close to them, could have known enough to write this letter. After all, it is reasonable to assume that they were literally the only people informed in advance of what would take place. They and the PR persons who wrote today's press release. But the PR people already reported to Mr. Kindler and would have been joyous about this development.

And it is reasonable to conclude that Mr. Kindler will draw the same conclusion.

In the news release announcing his promotion, Mr. Kindler promised that Pfizer “will transform virtually every aspect of how we do business” and reduce “organizational layers to speed decision-making.”

Perhaps it wouldn't be surprising if Mr. Kindler starts his new job by reducing the layer right below him.

Pfizer CEO Axed: Handsome Mr. Kindler New CEO.

In a shocking news revelation Friday evening, Pfizer announced that CEO Hank McKinnell will lose his CEO job immediately and step down from his job as Chairman one year early, in February 2007.

Jeffrey Kindler (picture), the company's general counsel and a former McDonald's executive, will succeed Henry "Hank" McKinnell as the new chief executive effective immediately.

The New York Times and the New Jersey Star Ledger both contacted me with the news only a couple of hours ago and asked for my thoughts on this development.

I gave the following comment to the New York Times, (also see Breaking News: Anonymous Letter May Determine Who Becomes New Pfizer CEO for background):

"Not totally unexpected, but also a complete break with Pfizer tradition. Will cause major pressure on business organization, which has fought hard on Katen's side.

Be prepared for more major changes. Big ones.

I think you need to ask why Katen DIDN'T get the job. She has now been passed over twice, in spite of being second in command, and logical choice, after all she runs the business . . . what baggage does she have that we do not know about?

Also, Kindler doesn't know who sent that letter, but it is not going to improve his relation with Katen. In fact, the letter may have helped him, depending on content, since it may have appeared unseamly.

Shedlarz appears to have been playing nicely with Kindler. Katen is the one out in the cold right now. "

Of course, this is simply my opinion as an outside observer.

But so far, I have not been completely off on this.

I started my blogging career criticizing McKinnell's performance and wrote as early as February this year the following for CounterPunch:

"Greed is to become CEO for a drug company such as Pfizer, be responsible for a stock price drop of 40% over his five year tenure, twice as much as the AMEX Pharmaceutical Index, secure a $100 million retirement package while firing 16,385 Pharmacia and Pfizer employees, and get a 72% pay increase to $16.6 million as his reward."

As the year unfolded, the pressure on McKinnell and the criticism of his pay package, compared to his performance, resulted in the main press writing more and more about this. Finally, McKinnell started defending himself publicly, but it was too late. He got axed.

Not only was he asked to leave his CEO job right away and his job as Chairman of the Board a year early. Unlike Mr. Steere, his predecessor, "Mr. McKinnell already has accepted board colleagues' suggestion that he give up his Pfizer board seat once he retires," according to the WSJ.

Pfizer is one of the most important, if not the most important company in the healthcare field. And the CEO of that organization has an enormous impact on the health of our population.

Let's hope the new CEO, Jeff Kindler is not only a really good looking guy. Let's hope he is also a pragmatic person who will use common sense where McKinnell only showed inflexibility.

Then he could make a difference not only for Pfizer but also for our country.

PharmaGossip Going Through the Roof

As you know I love to read PharmaGossip.

In fact, I keep repeating how good that blog is, so of course, I take full credit now when this great blog has more than doubled its readers in just a week.

I don't think it has anything to do with the fact that PharmaGossip was just named Editor's Choice WEBSITE OF THE WEEK by Internet Drug News.

They wrote:

"We surfed across this blog last week and we bookmarked it. It hilarious and serious at the same time. The blogger (who is anonymous) has the inside track on breaking stories and scandals regarding big pharma. Worth a click"

No I don't think that made any difference.

I simply believe that the 10247 unique visitors I had last month made the difference. They all took a look at PharmaGossip.

And if you weren't one of the people visiting PharmaGossip, you are missing out.

By the way, PharmaGossip, is my check still in the mail?


No Free Lunch For Doctors.

Amanda at Strumpette thought this is something my readers may want to read about.

The fact that free lunch for doctors really isn't all that free. And even if the docs claim they get free drug samples for poor patients, often those free drug samples lead to prescription of expensive drugs instead of generics.

Read more in a new NY Times series, which is examining how money from drug and medical device companies can influence the ways doctors conduct business and practice medicine here.

You can also go the the web page No Free Lunch and find more info on what your doctors is doing when you are waiting.

The Dead Baby

A few days ago I wrote the post, They Will All Go To Hell.

And I wondered if maybe I had pushed the line when I published images of a dead baby, killed by an Israeli rocket in Lebanon.

(Remember, I am not taking sides, I think both sides are crazy, including the Palestinian parents teaching their kids to be suicide bombers.)

But I know many of my readers are taking sides, so let's talk some more about this.

It was with great surprise that I opened my New York Times this morning, and found another image of an 8-month old baby, killed by an Israeli artillery shell right on THE FRONT PAGE.

And I am not showing this image to point out that Israel is evil or because I'm against Israel, because I am not. But as a parent, I am for children, I really don't care who kills them. It is simply wrong. Especially to kill babies.

And I know, a few of you think, well, Israel has to do this. Lenin said you can't create a revolution without cracking a few eggs, and I guess, you can't fight a war without killing a few babies. That's the conventional wisdom.

But let's take a step back.

If you are for Israel, now we are at the stage that dead babies are on the front cover of NY Times. You think this helps Israel?

And you know what the headline was?

"Tide of Arab Opinion Turns To Support for Hezbollah."

And the Times writes, "with hundreds of Lebanese dead and Hezbollah holding out against the vaunted Israeli military for 15 days, the tide of public opinion across the Arab world is surging behind the organization, transforming the Shiite group's leader . . . into a folk hero."

Hezbollah is absolutely, completely wrong to kidnap Israeli soldiers and provoke Israel. Israel is absolutely wrong to take that as an excuse to go onto a murderous rampage.

But none of that matters.

Remember, history doesn't care who was wrong or right, only who wins. After all, those people write the history. So let's stop that discussion.

Let's talk about what will happen now.

I predict the New York Times picture will be the start of mounting criticism of Israel, with a complete loss of public support for this "war." And I know that so far Hezbollah has won the hearts of the Arab population, support they didn't have 15 days ago. And they won this support by offering up their own babies and children as a modern day blood sacrifice.

If Hezbollah can continue to stand up to Israel they will have achieved what Arabs have only dreamt of for the last 50 years. Remember, most wars with Israel have ended after just six days or so, with any attacker crushed under the mighty Israeli war machine. So if these guys, using their own babies as shield, can keep this going another 15 days, they will be folk heroes in the Arab world for the next century to come.

As for me, I'm simply ashamed to be part of "humanity."

Not even monkeys kill their own babies as brazenly as we do, nor do they hold up their babies in front of them when they fight other monkeys.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Letter From The Three Stooges

I know I have many readers from big, fancy law firms. You can find a list of some of them here.

And I feel bad because I haven't given them much fun lately. So I thought it might be time for a legal post, to correct that.

First, let me say that, seriously, I have a lot of respect for Pfizer's law firm Epstein, Becker and Green. They are the ones defending Pfizer against my wrongful termination lawsuit.

So, of course, when it was time for Pfizer to reply to our written interrogatories, (simply means my lawyer asks them questions which they have to respond to), which is part of the discovery process, before trial, I couldn't wait to read EBG's responses. After months of delay and legal wrangling the responses finally came.

And then, I realized why it had taken them so long to respond.

They had hired the Three Stooges to write the responses.


Because it surely couldn't have been the famous EBG lawyers who wrote those responses.

But don't take my word for it, let's take a look at what the Three Stooges actually wrote. And let me give you some background on this.

Of course, no one who is a defendant at trial wants to be a defendant. So if there is any way to claim the defendant was simply an innocent bystander, of course this is what the defendant will claim.

So, of course, Pfizer's Chief Legal Officer, and Top Lawyer and General Counsel, Jeff Kindler, doesn't want to be a defendant, and so he will assert, if he can, that he had nothing to do with me or my termination. So this is what the Three Stooges wrote on his behalf, on EBG's stationary, and I think all the real lawyers will get a kick out of this:

"In the period from April 16, 2003 through December 1, 2005, Kindler played no role with regard to the hiring, job assignment, compensation or termination decision with respect to Rost, except in his capacity as the chief legal officer (General Counsel) for Pfizer."

OK, I added the italics.

What he is saying is very simple.

It's like me saying that I had no role in the marketing of Genotropin except in my capacity as Vice President of Endocrine Care.

Or perhaps, I could also say, I had no role in making my children, except in my capacity as their father.

I don't know if you think it is funny, but I do.

And if you had the opportunity to continue to read Pfizer's entire response you'd be howling on the floor in laughter. Virtually every second question we've asked is so "vague and ambigious" and "overbroad and unduly burdensome" that it makes it soooooooooooooo hard for Pfizer or their smart lawyers to reply to them. They just can't. They are exhausted by the burden.

I wonder if that's the reason so many brilliant people go to lawyer school. I mean, imagine going to a school where, if you don't like the question, you simply reply it is too "vague and ambigious" and "overbroad and unduly burdensome." And you get a passing grade! No wonder smart people love law school.

And Jeff Kindler is not the only one who claims he had very little to do with me. So does Pfizer's CEO Hank McKinnell. Let's see what he writes.

"In the period from April 16, 2003 through December 1, 2005, although McKinnell was informed on occasion about events involving Rost during his employment with Pfizer, he played no role with regard to the hiring, job assignment, compensation or termination decisions with respect to Rost." (My italics)

So let's look at this statement more carefully.

Anyone who has ever worked for a company knows that if you march into the CEO, especially the most powerful CEO in the entire drug industry, and you informed him about events involving a certain employee, you look at his face and you listen.

If he smiles after you have informed him, you are happy, if he frowns and shakes his head, you run out of the office and change your plans.

The only way you can avoid being influenced by this powerful CEO, is if he is sitting in front of you with a brown bag over his head.

And I expect that when we go to trial, Pfizer will indeed pull out the brown bag which McKinnell is using when he is not influencing decisions. I can't wait to see that brown bag.

So who was responsible for firing me, according to Pfizer?

I mean there has to have been someone who made that decision, right?

How about the person who signed my termination letter, could it be her?

This is what the Three Stoges writes about the person who signed that letter:

"Sainpy remained ultimately responsible for Rost's employment status and compensation, insasmuch as he was considered to be assigned to her department, but the actual decisions relating to Rost's employment were delegated to other persons."

So there you have it, not even the person who signed my termination letter was responsible. I just happened to be in her department.

We have some mysterious "other people" making that decision.

And of course, we've tried to find out who they are.

We asked Pfizer to identify the decision makers for my personnel status and compensation. In their reply to that question the Stoges write, among other things, all of them non-responsive, "Pfizer cannot determine plaintiff's intended meaning."

I would believe them if the Three Stoges had signed the letter.

But it wasn't them.

I found the names of the famous lawyers,
Ronald M. Green
Michael A. Kalish
John Houston Pope

And I know they aren't the Three Stoges. After all, FOX News anchor Bill O'Reilly, who hired Ron Green to defend himself against the sexual harassment lawsuit he later settled, would not hire one of the Three Stoges.

But what do I know.

Maybe Ron Green and his team is trying to get an offer from Saturday Night Live, based on this hilarious performance.

Oh, one more thing. Read my legal disclaimer. I'm not a lawyer, just a regular bloke applying common sense to what lawyers write. Maybe that's the problem. Common sense does not apply to lawyers.

More On Women. And Men.

I don't know what's gotten into me this week. Maybe I'm just fed up with writing about serious stuff. And, after all this is a web log, so random musings are to be expected.

So here are some more quotes on women and men . . .

Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.
-Charlotte Whitton

Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition.
-Timothy Leary

Outside every thin woman is fat man trying to get in.
-Katherine Whitehorn

I wasn't kissing her. I was whispering in her mouth.
-Chico Marx, when his wife caught him kissing a chorus girl

In passing, also, I would like to say that the first time Adam had a chance he laid the blame on a woman . . .
-Nancy Astor

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Me and Amanda Chapel

Yesterday I wrote in my blog about the blog Strumpette.

As you may remember this blog is written, supposedly, by Amanda Chapel.

She writes in her bio, "I have 15 plus years experience in marketing communications. I am a former vice president in the Consumer Marketing Group at Weber Shandwick, one of the world’s largest PR firms. Prior to Shandwick, I spent about 10 years bouncing around various top agencies . . . Truth is, I have a killer portfolio. I’ve been involved in award winning campaigns in key consumer sectors: food and beverage, health and beauty, retail and fashion . . . I am 5’ 4” tall, athletic, Pantene shoulder-length black hair, perfect perky boobs. I present well and am most accomodating. I’ve slept with clients. I sleep with my boss. I am the consummate PR strumpette."

So anyway, after I wrote my post one of my readers apparently visisted Amanda's blog and posted some of my comments.

Only they ended up in the wrong place, so Amanda wrote to me thanking for the mention and wondered if I was the one who'd made the comments and if I wanted to re-post. I had to disappoint her, since I had made no comments on her blog, but I was pleasantly surprised that she wrote.

In fact, it's not everyday someone like Amanda writes to me.

After all, here we have a girl who is quite dashing, and doesn't mind showing off, so much that her pictures in my post yesterday were not appreciated by a couple of my readers.

(For them, to tidy them over the episode with Amanda's buffed posterior, I have included an appropriate male rear end image, left, to ensure that I'm objective and without bias as I cover male and female gluteus maximus muscles in a similar fashion.)

But back to Amanda.

We ended up having quite a conversation over e-mail. She's a bright lady. Finally, late at night, she invited me over to her place, I mean her blog.

And of course, I accepted. Quite an honor. I'd love to write something on her blog.

I promised a visit in a month or so, when I hope to have more to write about public relations.

And I can assure you that this has nothing to do with her pictures. I just love her intellect. After all, I have to love a fellow rebel blogger, even though she posts nice images on her blog.

What's so wonderful about her is that here we have someone working on a high level in the PR business, hiding behind a pseudonym, which makes her very hard to find . . . and to fire.

And of course the PR industry just hates that. Just like any other industry, they want to be able to indiscriminately fire anyone who dares to speak up. But they can't fire Amanda because they can't find her. I just love that part of the story.

Here' s what theBivingsreport writes about Amanda: "A strange persona entered and shook up the PR world (at least the part that is online and blogging) rather recently. Strumpette, a blog written by one Amanda Chapel, has inspired a great deal of vitriol from online PR folks such as Steve Rubel, fellow Edel-ite Phil Gomes, the young and ambitious Flackette and even Shel Holtz. A strange site to see, as most PR bloggers are rarely critical of the industry and are genuinely giddy about the power of blogging. But when faced with Strumpette in March, they quickly switched into an attack mode."

"Strumpette is frequently critical of the public relations industry. Posts typically point to the problems the industry regularly faces, such as overbilling and controversial clientele or programs. Chapel is also a bit snarky and irreverent (in the classic blogger way), and also creates some mischief that, while mean-spirited, is nothing new in the practice of blogging."

"Amanda is a character, an anonymous one, who has fun with her readers at the expense of the public relations industry. It just seemed that most PR bloggers could not handle the occassional slam that most white collar professions (including banking, law and medicine) receive."

"Strumpette’s readers are a mixed bag. She tends to make some of them laugh and others, those who are incredibly angry, can’t seem to stop themselves from reading her blog or commenting."

Sounds like she has the same readers I used to have the Huffington Post . . .

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

There is a new blog out there, and this is how the about section starts:

The Genesis of a Naked Journal

Here, by way of a little background, before I tell you about this site, it's probably best to tell you how it came about. A few weeks ago I was supposed to meet my best friend Marcy for a cocktail over at the Four Seasons. Well, of course, Marcy's late (always) and I end up alone in a bar (I hate that). Sure enough some 3-piece empty suit imagining me a gyro spit tries to make a pass. He barely acknowledges the introduction and goes straight for the "So, what I do for a living?" I assume he's quick in other ways, as well.

Anyway, it had been a long twelve-hour day of putting out client fires and teeth-gnashing internal politics. It's budget time at the "image factory." I was/am spent and just didn't have one ounce of posturing left in me for this guy. I hear myself blurt out, "I am a whore." It was a total knee-jerk reaction.

This blog, by an imaginary PR woman who posts very revealing pictures of herself, has created quite a bit of attention, most recently in the Washington Post.

Howard Kurtz at the Washington Post reveals that it is an anonymous team of PR industry bloggers, three women and one man, who are posting under the identity of "Strumpette," a slutty expert in marketing communications with "perfect perky boobs" who takes on big name PR agencies and public relations in general in this tongue-in-cheek blog.

Hat tip PharmaGossip.

Online Diary Gets Assistant in France Fired

This is quite a story. A British secetary working in France writes about her work, her private life and her boyfriends in a blog called La Petite Anglaise.

Then her employer finds out abut the blog and is not happy, in spite of the fact that she hasn't used her name or her employers name.

She is sacked.

And that's when the newspapers pick up on her tale. It doesn't hurt that she's an excellent writer and her musings about her boss and life in the office are quite hilarious.

Here is what the Daily Mail in the UK writes:

Her internet diary recounts the everyday life of an English secretary in Paris and is avidly read by up to 3,000 people each day.

Writing under the pseudonym La Petite Anglaise, the thirty-something's thoughts on love, work and life as an unmarried mother have gained an international following.

Read extracts from her blog here

But now the anonymous English secretary has lost one vital ingredient feeding her internet musings. For the 33-year-old has allegedly been sacked for bringing her British employers into disrepute with the internet diary - even though it does not name her or them.

But she will shortly glean fresh material for her popular web diary as she is bringing a test case under French labour law to contest her dismissal from leading accountancy firm Dixon Wilson.

Today La Petite Anglaise can be revealed as Catherine Sanderson, who grew up in York and has spent all her working life in the French capital.

Catherine, the mother of a three year old daughter, said yesterday she was made to feel 'like a naughty schoolgirl called up before the head' when suspended two months ago because of La Petite Anglaise diary.

Yesterday, as news of her dismissal was revealed, her blog "hits" more than trebled to 10,000.

Today, more than 220 followers of her website recorded their messages of regret at her dismissal. Most condemned her employers for targeting the world of the blogger and urged Ms Sanderson to keep fighting.

But a few warned her that being online carried the same degree of responsibility as any other form of communication.

Ms Sanderson says she set up the blog "on a whim" more than two years ago, having originally come to France to teach English on a university exchange programme "and somehow never left".

Now, thanks to the blog communications which cost her her job, the course of her legal challenge - one of the first involving bloggers' rights - can be followed by a global audience if she chooses to continue her Bridget Jones-style saga.

"The phrase used, 'gross misconduct,' usually means you've done something terrible like you embezzle money from your firm," she said.

"I was so shocked that I didn't stick up for myself, even to point out that the whole blog was written anonymously. I was given five minutes to gather my belongings and leave.

"I didn't mention the name of the company, and I still don't believe many people would have identified where I worked.

"If anyone did stumble across my blog there was no way of them telling where I worked, even if they could see my picture.

"I was stunned when I was called in and sacked. I offered to take the material down , but that wasn't good enough."

Her French lawyer has now lodged a claim - one of the first of its kind in France - with a French industrial tribunal claiming compensation of up to two years' pay, about £54,000, from Dixon Wilson.

Catherine, a French and German graduate from Bath University, added: "It is really a matter of principle as far as I am concerned, in defining the boundaries between personal and professional activities, where the line should be drawn for bloggers who touch on the events of their working life in their writing."

The company, with offices in London and Paris, refused to comment but allege that she made herself, and therefore the firm, identifiable by including her own photograph on the weblog.

They also complained that she used office time to work on it.

Catherine, who tells her visitors to her so-called 'blogsite' she was adopted at birth, says she began her blog ' as a bit of fun' two years ago.

"I was trapped at home with my young daughter. I couldn't leave the house so began writing. All of it is true and honest, although I have to admit that some if it is slightly embellished. I thought it fine to use a bit of artistic licence."

Her musings centre on life in Paris with her three year old daughter 'Tadpole,' her former relationship with the child's French father 'Mr Frog,' and include details of a brief but intense 'affair' with 'Jim', a man she met on her website.

No explicit content

Sexual encounters are occasionally mentioned but with no explicit details and Catherine shirks at being linked with Bridget Jones, the fictional character immortalised by Renee Zellweger.

"I am not particularly keen on that comparison," she said. "I think my diary's a little bit more thoughtful and not quite so desperate."

Her blog describes life at Dixon Wilson's French office as 'an oasis of Britishness in Paris,' with a framed portrait of the Queen on the wall, Tetley's tea and 'watches set to GMT'.

She recounts accidentally showing her cleavage to the London office while organising a video link and recounts someone breaking an 'unwritten rule' by pulling his cracker before the senior partner at the office Christmas lunch.

Catherine describes one senior partner as 'very old school,' a man who wears 'braces and sock suspenders, stays in gentlemen's clubs when in London, and calls secretaries "typists." "I can't prevent myself from mirroring his plummy Oxbridge accents," writes Catherine.

Dixon Wilson is apparently particularly angry about the continual references to her immediate boss, partner James Howes. He was said to be 'incandescent with rage' at what she had written about him.

"James is an old school type and does not expect this kind of thing to be written by a cheeky secretary," said one source at the Paris office.

Catherine insisted: "They are intended as humourous anecdotes, nothing more."

She admits she sometimes worked on her blog during work time but only when she had no work to do. "Other employees would often read books at their desk if things were quiet."

Catherine said the reason for her dismissal was subsequently reduced to 'failure of confidence' and now, after two months paid notice, she is unemployed.

"My initial fear was that I would be left penniless. I'd just bought a new flat and, as a single mother, needed my salary. I want to work again, of course, but my only fear is that I'll Be identified and won't be able to get another job," she said.

Daily Telegraph Paris correspondent Colin Randall, who first wrote about the plight of "La Petite Anglaise", today used his blog to ask whether print journalism is about to be smothered by the online age and "the march of the New Media".

One blogger responded: "I find it interesting that bloggers claim to be 'the new media' and then complain about being terminated from their positions at companies for being bloggers: would you expect to be terminated if you 'moonlighted' for the traditional media?"

But another asked: "Where does the influence your employer has on your day-to-day life stop?"

On Ms Sanderson's own website, the vast bulk of correspondents supported her, but one blogger warned: "You do have to be so careful with publishing these days, and it's a mistake to think that blogging, because it is so easy, is any different."

Another wrote from Canada: "I do not intend for this to sound mean-spirited, but seriously, did you not see this coming?"

But, despite playing down the Bridget Jones connection, she now has literary ambitions of her own and wants to write a book. "I've already worked out some proposals for publishers."

War Online

It used to be that civilians simply hid in their basements or ran to a bomb shelter when the air defense sirens started wailing.

Not anymore. Now they pull out their video cameras and record the event, including rocket explosions, and then download this to the net.

Here are two tapes from the last few days in Israel. The first tape starts with sirens in Haifa and ends with explosions, in the second, one kid runs down to the family's bomb shelter.

And here's a video from Lebanon, with a comment to the U.S. "This is your liberation of Lebanon."

Monday, July 24, 2006

They Will All Go To Hell.

Ten days ago I wrote Are they Nuts in the Middle East?

It was a post in which I didn't support Israel or Hezbollah or anyone else. Because I think they're all crazy.

I have Jewish friends and I have Arab friends. But that's not the reason I'm not taking sides. I'm not taking sides because I think neither side is right. Because I think neither side will win. Because I think they will go on killing each other until there is no Israeli and no Arab left to kill.

Since I wrote that blog post, U.S. Congress has come out strongly in support of Israel.

And it is no small talk. They put some billions of dollars behind that talk and give Israel the best military machine money can buy. So to fight this machine, Hezbollah hides in residential neighborhoods, where they can't be easily found and defeated.

And of course, when Israel attacks them, not just fighters die, but children.

And just to make sure this hits you in the gut, this is how that looks.

So who's fault is this? Israel wants you to believe it is Hezbollah hiding among civilians, and Hezbollah sends out this image, exploiting their dead children, to gain support for their cause.

Truth is neither side gives a sh-t about these children. Israel doesn't really want to kill them, because that gets world opinion against them, otherwise they don't care. Because if they cared they wouldn't continue to kill these children. And Hezbollah also doesn't care about killing civilians and children, since they indiscriminately shower Israel with rockets.

So here we are again, in modern times, with adults killing children.

And both sides are just as determined to continue.

But it doesn't stop there. In Arab territories, "martyrs" are celebrated and children learn early to respect their sacrifices and to look up to the "martyrs." The posters of suicide bombers only come down when western photographers show up.

And Israel is no better. In Israel the children get to sign off on the rockets that kill the Lebanese children.

All of this orchestrated by--adults. Adults killing children, teaching their own children to hate.

And our president Bush doesn't think it is time to stop the fighting. Not yet.

In an earlier post I quoted the infamous Nazi Hermann Goering. This is what he said, "Why, of course, the people don't want war," Goering shrugged. "Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship."

Of course the people don't want war.

How could they?

Look at the images!

But that doesn't matter, does it? Because Bush saw no reason to ask Israel to stop. Or to seek peace with Hezbollah. Why?

Because both the state of Israel, and Hezbollah want war. Why else kill hundreds of people in Lebanon because two soldiers were kidnapped? Why else kidnap the soldiers?

And of course neither side can talk to the other. After all you don't talk to "terrorists" nor do you talk to a state you don't recognize.

This is the situation.

Make no mistake about the fathers, the mothers, the leaders, the presidents, who created this situation.

They can go to church every Sunday, looking pious, they can bend over in the direction of Mecca and pray to Allah, they can celebrate Sabbath, but in the end, they will all go to hell.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

About Men.

Men, in general, are but great children.

Being a woman is a terrible difficult task since it consists princiapally in dealing with men.
-Joseph Conrad

No man ever told a woman she talked too much when she was telling him how wonderful he is.
-Earl Wilson

Talk to a man about himself and he will listen for hours.
-Benjamin Disraeli

There are three things most men love but never understand; females, girls, and women.

What is the thinnest book in the world? What Men Know About Women.

What Women Really Want.

I like the discussion that finally got going about men and women in What Women Want. And Men.

And I got some responses.

Here's what some women want. And think is hot.

Chris Isaak, Wicked Game, with Helene Christensen:

George Michael, Freedom, with every super model of that time:

Saturday, July 22, 2006

What Women Want. And Men.

I'm trying to learn here.

Let's use some early Shakira videos.

Is this passion that men like.

Or women too?

You tell me.

Who Are You II?

I have to admit I am really amazed and pleased with the result of the survey in Who Are You?

I had no idea that my readers, in age, created such a beautiful bell-shaped curve. Seems like what goes on here attracts a wide audience. I'm especially happy about the 20-29 audience.

While I happen to be in my 40s, it doesn't realllllly feel like I'm that age, and I don't want this to be a blog that only attracts people my age. I can't believe I just wrote that, that's the kind of stuff I used to hear older people say.

My only disappointment is that there seems to be more men than women reading, although the balance is still pretty good.

Gotta work on those women readers, though, not sure what is best approach. Risk is always trying to be everything to everyone and then no one is happy.

I guess I could have more pictures appealing to women, like this one. Only I'm not sure it really does appeal to women, or if it appeals more to men who like men.

It is called "Sailor Loading Fixed Ammunition," McClelland Barclay, Oil on canvas, 1942.

Or I could try to write more things that women might read, such as Mauren Dowd's fabulous opinion piece, How to Train A Woman, in the New York Times.

She describes how women may want to mold their men to be more obedient and less irksome, but there are nagging questions about nagging:

Does it work?

Apparently, someone called Amy Sutherland struck a chord in a recent Times essay -- about how she successfully applied the techniques of exotic animal trainers to change some annoying traits of her husband, Scott.

He became her guinea pig for methods she discovered as she researched a book on trainers teaching hyenas to pirouette, baboons to skateboard and elephants to paint.

''The central lesson I learned from exotic animal trainers is that I should reward behavior I like and ignore behavior I don't,'' she wrote. ''After all, you don't get a sea lion to balance a ball on the end of its nose by nagging.''

She began using ''approximations,'' which means rewarding the small steps toward learning a whole new behavior. ''With the baboon you first reward a hop, then a bigger hop, then an even bigger hop,'' she wrote. ''With Scott the husband, I began to praise every small act every time: if he drove just a mile an hour slower, tossed one pair of shorts into the hamper, or was on time for anything.''

And Maureen Dowd quotes Helen Fisher, a Rutgers anthropologist and the author of ''Why We Love, saying, ''If I were a man rewarding a woman, I'd do it in the format women find intimate, which is face to face. I'd go straight up to her, while she was doing the dishes, I'd turn her around face to face, and I'd say: 'Thanks so much for being on time last night. It meant a lot to me.' '' (You might also tell her that you will not only finish the dishes, but that you want to finish the dishes.)

Maybe I should do a bit more like that. What do you think?

Doctor Indicted for Off-Label Marketing of Drug

There is always a first. So far it has been real hard for any doctor to get arrested for involvement in off-label drug use.

I wrote about this in Off-Label Prescriptions.

It was always the big drug companies paying the big fines and having their executives indicted.

But that is apparently about to change. You see some doctors may have overstepped the line and become marketers of drugs, for off-label purposes. And then, there's suddenly a different ballgame.

The following may be an extreme case, but it made the front page of New York Times.

Read all about it here.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Who Are You?

I'm curious about who likes to read this blog. But I'm not going to ask any very intrusive questions, just your gender and age.

I think it would be fun for everyone to see who likes to come here.

I know most of you don't like to fill in anything.

But just this once, please vote!

It makes it more interesting for everyone!

Who likes to read this blog? Just fill in age and gender!
Age 10-19
Age 20-29
Age 30-39
Age 40-49
Age 50-59
Age 60-69
Age 70-79
Age 80-99
Free polls from

And as a thank you, here comes a suitable tune, courtesy of one reader . . .

Cheating Executives

Stock options used to be a wonderful thing. Like printing your own money. Didn't even have to be expensed, so didn't impact company profit. Like money from thin air. But that wasn't enough for many executives.

The idea behind those options were that they'd make executives work harder to increase share holder value. That, of course, led to accounting fraud; WorldCom, Enron, and other scandals.

But that wasn't enough. The WSJ has for a long time shown how many companies also fiddled with the initial value of the stock options. In order for the options not to be expensed and impact profit, they had to have zero value when they were given. The idea was that hard work would then increase the share price and the value of stock options.

But that's too hard for most executives. I mean, they'd have to work.

So they soon realized that no one was looking, not share holders, not SEC and not auditors.

SO what they did was simple. They looked back at the year, checked when their stock was at the lowest point, and then simply backdated the options they gave to themselves, and of course, then the stock options suddenly were worth a lot right away, since stock value had usually increased.

But doing that changed the whole game. That meant the options should have been an expense to the company. But no one knew. Not until some researchers started digging and found this amazing correlation to dips in stock price and allocation of stock options. Like those execs had a crystal ball when they allocated options.

Well, they didn't. If it is too good to be true, it aint true.

The SEC, which doesn't do much on their own, of course had to take action when the whole thing was on the front page on the WSJ. That's how the SEC usually comes up with something to do. Read the WSJ.

SO, yesterday federal authorities issued civil and ciriminal securities fraud charges against one CEO, one CFO and one HR executive.

70 OTHER corporations are also under investigation, but a recent study indicates that as many as 2,000 companies may have abused the system. And of course the SEC will never have the resources to investigate them all.

A little cheating can go a long way. Why rob a bank when you can simply print your own money?

One executive with funny stock options is the CEO of UnitedHealth Group. His options are worth over a billion.

And so, the era of the Robber Barons goes on.

And the only thing that stands between them and the gold they can steel is the free press, such as the Wall Street Journal.

What an irony.

Read more here in the WSJ. Even the New York Times has picked up on WSJ's story, here. And here you can read about latest development.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

A Strange Collection

People collect strange things.

When I was a kid I collected stamps and coins.

Now, I mostly collect new experiences. I've got quite a collection of those from the last few years . . .

Recently a reader wrote to me and told me about his collection.

He collects online ads. I'm not kidding.

You may hate 'em, or you may love them but his collection is amazing in itself. I never look at that stuff, and I have all kinds of ad blockers, but if you want to see just how much drug advertising is on the net, go to his site, here, and look at the drug ads, or any of his other categories!

Prominent Researchers Caught Again With Their Hands in the Cookie Jar

Here we go again.

It was only a week since the Journal of the American Medical Association published a correction, because seven well known authors of a Februrary article on depression failed to reveal that they were paid by the drug industry.

And of course, their study, which they also made into a road show, indicated that it is perfectly fine to take these strong antidepressants even if you're pregnant. To me, as a doctor, giving such drugs which impact neurotransmittors during pregnancy appears to be close to giving the fetus rat poison.

Nothing against antidepressants/SSRI's, they help many, but to use them in pregnant women and have the fetus also get the same dose simply goes against all common sense.

Sure it is better than mommy killing herself, but unless that is a real risk, fetus should come first and should develop without interference of powerful drugs.

This was the third time JAMA got caught this year.

And now one of the nation's most prominent psychiatrists, the editor of the journal Neurophsychopharmacology got caught when he together with seven co-authors published a study he had done. Turns out they all had financial ties with the company, whose treatment they recommended.

Remember when I wrote the post Don't Trust Your Doctor?

To read about the latest conflict of interest scandals, check out the WSJ.

Biggest problem is that it pays to cheat. What is the penalty for non-disclosure of financial ties?

Usually nothing.

Anyone surprised?

Recruiters Who Check You on the Internet.

There has been a lot written lately about people, especially 20-somethings, losing out on job offers based on pictures and stories they posted to the net. appears to be an especially dangerous area for newly minted graduates.

So what's the risk?

Here's how an ExecuNet survey of 100 recruiters and 136 executives played out:

35% of executive recruiters who use the Internet to check out prospects say they eliminated candidates based on what they found on the net.

82% of the executives expected recruiters to look them up online.

33% of the executives had never conducted a Web search on themselves. (That's probably the same people who can't type and use a secretary to book everything from their lunch to their next toilet visit.)

16% of the executives fear information online might eliminate them from consideration. (Are these the convicted felons in our executive suites?)

Talk to Your Computer

Finally, there is a program that really works if you want to talk to your computer. 99% accuracy aint to bad.

Read about it here.

It truly appears to be like having a secretary in your PC . . .

The Best Part About This Blog . . .

. . . is the readers. I've said it before and I'll say it again. I have the best and the smartest readers and the replies are often better than the posts.

Take a look at the responses to Mercy Killings in New Orleans? and Shot With a Taser.

For the first post I'd like to especially highlight the link to the post Blessed are the Merciful on Bitch Ph.D.

I also can agree with those who think using a taser five times on a drunk may be more violence than necessary.

In fact, I went back to those two video arrests on Shot With a Taser and I noticed a similarity.

Both people were shot with the taser several times, when they didn't put their hands behind their backs, but both people also told the police they couldn't move their arms and do that, probably because they had just been shot with a taser.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Mercy Killings in New Orleans?

A doctor and two nurses were arrested Tuesday after the Louisiana attorney general accused them of using lethal injections to kill four elderly patients in a New Orleans hospital last year in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Many more patient deaths are under investigation.

At Memorial Medical Center, at least 34 patients died and this has been the subject of intense speculation.

Tissue tests revealed morphine and another powerful sedative, Versed, in a lethal combination.

If these "mercy killings" really took place it is a scary story.

It is also a story that is far from over and no one has been convicted of anything. It would certainly be suprising if medical personnel took it upon themselves to risk life in jail in order to solve a very difficult situation in hospitals during Hurrican Katrina using euthanasia.

Shot With a Taser

After my post Non-Lethal Taser Is Pretty Lethal, some readers asked how the Taser works and how effective it is. I think the following video from a real arrest will show exactly how a Taser works and what it can do.

And here's a short video of three cops volunteering for taser treatment. Check out the leg movement . . .

And finally, here's another arrest with a taser, of a lady who just can't stop arguing with the police officer:

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Today's Second Quote . . .

. . . comes from the New York Times.

"John LaMattina, the top scientist for Pfizer, counts himself as an incurable optimist. Given his company's problems, he needs to be."

Alex Berenson, New York Times.

Today's Quote

According to Forbes, in a note to investors last week, Prudential Equity Group analyst Timothy Anderson wrote that Merck Chief Executive Richard Clark says Vioxx doesn't keep him up at night.

This quote made Evelyn Pringle write the article Merck Not Losing Sleep Over Vioxx Disaster.

Winners and Losers in the Medicare Drug Lottery*

*(We the People, vs. Them the Large Insurance and Drug Companies)

Some of my readers have asked me to write about the Medicare Part D program. So here are my viewpoints.

The New York Times today wrote an article called A Windfall From Shifts to Medicare. The conclusion was simple.

"The pharmaceutical industry is beginning to reap a windfall from a surprisingly lucrative niche market: drugs for poor people."

"The windfall, which by some estimates could be $2 billion or more this year, is a result of the transfer of millions of low-income people into the new Medicare Part D drug program that went into effect in January. Under that program, as it turns out, the prices paid by insurers, and eventually the taxpayer, for the medications given to those transferred are likely to be higher than what was paid under the federal-state Medicaid programs for the poor. "

Anyone surprised that tax payers got the short end of the stick and drug companies the long end?

According to an April Washington Post/ABC News Poll, 86% of seniors currently take prescription drugs on a regular basis, but only 38% have signed up for the Medicare prescription drug program. This is a glaring disparity in numbers. 44% thought the cost was too high and more Americans disapprove of the program, 45%, than approve, 41% (14% had no opinion).

Here are some more facts:

Only about 25% of Medicare recipients have received coverage they previously lacked, according to Los Angeles Times: "Medicare announced that the prescription program is now helping 30 million beneficiaries. However, it is estimated that only about one-third of those had previously lacked drug coverage. The rest were enrolled in other government programs and in employer-backed retiree plans that are now receiving some Medicare subsidies. There are 43 million Medicare recipients."

The Washington Post states that "8 million -- and as many as 14 million by some estimates" eligible Americans have not signed up for the drug program.

The New York Times writes, "At least two dozen states have taken emergency action to help low-income people who could not get their medications under the program, which began Jan. 1. States are spending millions of dollars a day in such assistance."

And the Los Angeles Times claims that "a review by the Senior Action Network, a grass-roots advocacy group in San Francisco, found that Costco's prices on the top 100 drugs used by Medicare beat prices of all 48 plans in California in more than half the cases."

Meanwhile, "The net federal cost of the new benefit is projected to be $37.4 billion in 2006 and $724 billion from 2006 to 2015 (HHS, February 2005)."

Maybe the federal government should just have gone to Costco and saved taxpayers that huge bill?

But there are winners. According to the Wall Street Journal, the "early winners" include large health insurers, who "have snagged roughly 15 million new customers and healthy government subsidies" under the program. The WSJ concludes, "By far, the biggest winner in the race to sign up seniors is UnitedHealth Group Inc., which has used an alliance with AARP to help it grab more than 3.9 million new customers"

And the UnitedHealth Group is clearly a very needy organization. The UnitedHealth Group CEO, according to the Wall Street Journal, has "$1.6 billion in unrealized gains he holds in UnitedHealth stock options. He and in some years at least 10 other top executives of the company frequently received options just before big run-ups in the company's share price, which had the effect of making the options more profitable than they otherwise would have been. The Securities and Exchange Commission is conducting a broad inquiry to see whether options at many companies were backdated to benefit executives, which could be a violation of securities laws."

Meanwhile, the White House is conducting a dirty campaign to force seniors into the fold. According to the Boston Globe, "Thousands of Americans who order prescription drugs from Canada have received written notice that their medications have been seized, part of a US government crackdown on the cross-border discount trade."

The Globe continues: "US Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat and an opponent of the policy, said at least 13,000 packages containing pharmaceuticals were intercepted during the first months of the campaign. The seizures took place in a half-dozen mail inspection facilities across the country, including Seattle -- where Popkin's drugs were found -- Los Angeles, Miami, and New York.

Nelson is among a group of congressional critics from both parties who said they suspect the seizures are part of an effort by the administration to steer seniors to its new Medicare prescription drug plan, called Part D, which has generated confusion since it went into effect Jan. 1.

The enforcement policy began Nov. 17, two days after the enrollment period for the Medicare program opened."

''It would be devastating if someone gets sick or dies because someone's drugs were confiscated," said US Representative Gil Gutknecht, a Minnesota Republican who has been a staunch supporter of imported drugs.

''It is amazing that we have a government that can't control our borders to illegal immigration and literally tons of illegal narcotic drugs that are coming into this country every day, but by God they can stop Grandma from saving $50 on her prescription drugs," he said."

In conclusion, the current administration does what this administration does best. Funnel money to already fabulously rich executives. And American taxpayers do what they do best--pay the bill. Meanwhile, our poor and our elderly are suffering. In fact, in a Washington Post-ABC poll less than a third of respondents said they were saving a lot, and 26% said they had seen no savings.

Perhaps that shouldn't be surprising, considering that, according to U.S. Senator Herb Kohl, "those with drug costs below $810 a year will actually pay more than they do today if they sign up for the drug benefit. Seniors with drug costs of $5,000 will still pay almost $4000 themselves - almost 80% of the bill."

So just how much of a mess is the new Medicare Part D Drug Program?

Let's ask the guy who runs the program: Mike Leavitt, chief of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the nation's top health official.

Of course you can expect someone like Mike Leavitt to help his parents sort through the dozens of private insurance plans offering coverage. The Leavitt parents joined the program last fall with lots of fanfare and help from their son. Anne Leavitt, 73, was quoted in the Salt Lake Tribune touting her enrollment as smooth, and a guaranteed money-saver.

Leavitt's father was in charge of a health insurance company, was a Utah state legislator and clearly has a son who knows the Medicare program better than most. In spite of this the elder Leavitt ended up dropping out of his first plan

According to The Salt Lake Tribune, the Leavitts disenrolled after discovering that their Medicare drug plan enrollment would jeopardize their entire medical insurance from their former employer, the state of Utah.


Mark Leavitt's office confirmed that the couple then signed up for another Medicare plan through their insurer, Utah's Public Employee Health Plan.

Neither the talk-active Anne Leavitt nor Dixie, 76--who made his fortune in the insurance business--could be reached for comment.

Wonder why.

So, what is the good part in this mess?

The fact that many seniors will lose their coverage after summer . . . let me explain, and I'll quote BusinessWeek: "About 38% of Medicare beneficiaries are at risk, reckons Bruce Stuart, director of the Peter Lamy Center on Drug Therapy & Aging at the University of Maryland. This means 7 million to 10 million seniors and disabled could lose coverage for part of this year. Many will stumble into the gap in late summer or early fall -- just before the November elections. This could be bad news for Republicans, who pushed the Medicare drug law."