Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thursday Mashup (9/15/11)

  • (By the way, I really don’t have anything to say about last week’s Area Votes in Congress writeup, the first one since the wretched 112th returned to Washington, but here it is anyway.)

  • Next, this New York Times story tells about the deal in which Google purchased Motorola Mobility for its patent portfolio, with Google raising its offering from $30 to $40 per share of Motorola stock, increasing the deal by about $3 billion.

    And who was smack in the middle of the whole thing, driving up the price of the deal and thus lining his own pockets (all legal as near as we can tell)? Why, Frank Quattrone of Qatalyst Partners, that’s who.

    You remember our pal Frank, don’t you?

    As noted here, he was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney General’s office for obstruction of justice based on an Email he sent to colleagues telling them to “clean up files” concerning allegations that he gave some clients privileged access to technology shares in return for getting other business; it’s very likely that Quattrone essentially performed a “pump and dump” of some of his hot IPOs, this artificially inflating the tech “bubble,” and when it burst, many in the industry lost their jobs.

    Oh, and let’s dispense with this fiction that he “successfully fought off” those charges in 2006, shall we? Quattrone’s conviction was thrown out over instructions given to the jury, so he didn’t “fight off” anything.

    So sure, he’ll receive the adulation from the business press once more. Just remember that, the next time you hear of Google announcing layoffs because, for all their tech smarts, they were dumb enough to get fleeced by this guy and have to recover the cost somehow, you’ll know why.

  • Further, it seems that the House Repugs eternally in search of an Obama Administration “scandal,” are trying to hype the business of the failed Solyndra energy contract for all it’s worth (here, and a previous post is here, at the third bullet)…
    WASHINGTON D.C. (WKZO) -- Rep. Fred Upton is investigating a California Company called Solyndra that received a 535-million dollar loan guarantee in federal stimulus money to develop a unique kind of solar panel, and has now gone bankrupt.

    Conservative republicans say because the Kaiser Foundation had money invested in the firm, and because George Kaiser is a big fundraiser for Barack Obama, that is reason to investigate. Upton says it was the very first to get one of the loan guarantees.
    You want to hear about an honest-to-goodness contracting scandal involving an agency of the federal government, Repugs? Read this (from November 2007)…
    The New York Times reported this morning that the inspector general of the Department of Education will take a look at whether or not federal money was “inappropriately used” to buy educational products from Ignite Learning of Austin, TX, a company owned by one Neil Bush…

    Members of (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, D.C.) and other critics in Texas contend that school districts are buying Ignite’s signature product, the Curriculum on Wheels, because of political considerations. The product, they said, does not meet standards for financing under the No Child Left Behind Act, which allocates federal money to help students raise their achievement levels, particularly in elementary school reading.

    Ignite, founded by Neil Bush in 1999, includes as investors his parents, former President George H. W. Bush and his wife, Barbara. Company officials say that about 100 school districts use the Curriculum on Wheels, known as the Cow, which is a portable classroom with software to teach middle-school social studies, science and math. The units cost about $3,800 each and require about $1,000 a year in maintenance.

    The citizens’ group says it has documented only a small part of the federal money spent on Ignite products. Ignite has had strong support from districts in Texas, President Bush’s home state. This week, the Houston Independent School District is set to consider whether to authorize schools to spend an additional $300,000 from various financing sources on the Curriculum on Wheels.

    Jay Spuck, a former curriculum director for the district, has criticized spending on the Ignite product, saying: “It’s not helping kids at all. It’s not helping teachers. The only way Neil has gotten in is by his name.”
    I’ll “see” you Solyndra and “raise” you Neil Bush and his COWs, wingnuts.

  • Continuing, this tells us the following…
    The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently decided to cease its calls for the resignation of drug maker Forest Laboratories' chief executive, Howard Solomon.

    Understandably, American business leaders weren't keen on the Obama Administration telling them whom they could and couldn't hire.

    But the feds made sure to emphasize that they would continue investigating and penalizing purported healthcare fraudsters, including "individuals who directly committed fraud as well as executives who were in a position of responsibility at the time of the fraud."

    That's all well and good. But the scuffle between Forest Labs and HHS provides a preview of how the Obama Administration plans to deal with organizations that don't line up in support of its healthcare agenda -- namely, by punishing them. Last year, federal officials accused Forest Labs -- and a number of other drug companies -- of fraud against Medicare and Medicaid because of alleged misconduct in the marketing of their products to doctors. Instead of fighting the allegations, Forest opted to settle the case. The settlement saved the company from expensive litigation and unwanted media attention.
    Gee, that makes the whole matter sound almost benign, doesn’t it? “Alleged misconduct”…that’s all. But it’s really the fault of that Kenyan Socialist Muslim who’s never run a business and his pesky “big government regulations,” isn’t it?

    In response, I give you this…
    "It would be completely unwarranted to exclude a senior executive against whom there has never been any allegation of wrongdoing whatsoever," said board member William J. Candee III, in a Forest statement. "Mr. Solomon has always set a tone of the highest integrity from the top."

    Oh, really?

    The move to exclude Mr. Solomon apparently stems from Department of Justice accusations of fraud in 2009 related to Lexapro, an antidepressant. In a civil complaint, federal prosecutors alleged that Forest hid from parents and doctors the results of a study indicating that Lexapro might increase the risk of suicide in kids. Meanwhile, the complaint alleges, the company was promoting another clinical trial -- financed by Forest, naturally -- showing Lexapro's effectiveness.

    Prosecutors also charged the company with providing kickbacks to doctors in the form of sports tickets, expensive meals, and paid vacations.

    For this last allegation, we really don't need to rely on the good word of attorneys at DOJ. Take a gander yourself at Forest Lab's "Fiscal Year 2004 Marketing Plan" for Lexapro. As reported by The New York Times, 80 pages of this confidential document were made public by investigators working for Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA).

    Under "Marketing Tactics," the document said the company planned to create bylined "or ghostwritten" articles. "We will identify a Lexapro thoughtleader to place 2-3 bylined articles in trade journals, consumer publications and on the Internet."

    The estimated cost for the ghostwriting program was $100,000.

    Another sales tactic was funding continuing medical education (CME) courses, the classes doctors take to remain current about patient treatment. Believe it or not, doctors actually allow companies to pay for their education. And get this: some doctors believe that companies won't use this opportunity to influence prescribing. Makes you want to question your doctor's intellect, no?

    Forest's estimated CME budget to push Lexapro in 2004? $11.9 million.

    Maybe we should change the acronym's meaning to Corporate Marketing Education (CME)?

    Other marketing schemes included "lunch and learns" for $36 million. "Providing lunch for a physician creates an extended amount of selling time for representatives," the document said.

    I suspect Forest was not serving PB&J.
    And from here…
    These antidepressant drugs, which include Paxil, Zoloft and Prozac, have different side effects for the unborn child associated with them including the increase risk of premature birth, breathing problems, gastrointestinal side effects and motor problems. The exact degree of risk of Lexapro birth defects is currently unknown, however the risk of developing complications has been reported in babies following use of these medications. Women taking this drug during their pregnancy can expose their baby to the medication while in the womb leading to the development of a Lexapro birth defect.

    Lexapro And Pregnancy Birth Defects Include:

    • PPHN (persistent pulmonary hypertension)
    • Abdominal Birth Defects
    • Cranial Birth Defects
    • Heart Birth Defects
    Oh, and just to let you know, the author of the “Hill” piece, Peter J. Pitts, once said here that the February 2010 health care summit Obama had with congressional leaders (back when we still had actual adults running the House) "created no ‘aha’ moments or Daily Show-worthy gaffes, and was about as interesting to watch as Olympic curling."

    That's a questionable-at-best “diagnosis” from someone who purports to be a medical professional, I must say.

  • Finally, in case anyone out there had any doubt as to whether or not said bunch of miscreants under Boehner and Cantor had any intention of passing the American Jobs Act and thus helping to put people back to work, I give you this from Orange Man himself…
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top Republican in Congress on Thursday dismissed President Barack Obama's jobs-creation package as a "poor substitute" for policies that would boost the economy and ruled out tax increases as a way to close the country's budget gap.

    In a high-profile speech, House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner called on a special congressional committee to consider tax reforms that would close loopholes but not raise rates as part of its bid to cut the deficit.
    So what does this bunch of fools and frauds offer in response? This (from here)…
    Leading House Republicans on Thursday will take up the contentious debate over the National Labor Relations Board’s efforts to block Boeing from operating a $750 million aircraft assembly line in South Carolina instead of Washington State.

    The Republican-controlled House is expected to approve an unusual bill that would bar the labor board from pursuing the board’s pending action against Boeing, which Republicans have been denouncing day after day.

    Republican leaders and business groups are vigorously backing the bill, saying it would safeguard the freedom of corporations to locate operations where they want.

    But many Democrats and labor unions have denounced the bill, asserting that it would badly weaken an independent federal agency and be an improper favor to Boeing, a prominent political contributor.

    The Republican bill, called “The Protecting Jobs from Government Interference Act,” would prohibit the labor board from “ordering any employer to close, relocate or transfer employment under any circumstances.”
    This piece of crap was introduced by teabagger Tim Scott of South Carolina, whose state (as the story notes) stands to lose the Boeing jobs that were originally planned for a second facility to be built in Washington State, as noted here.

    In response, I give you the following from AFSCME President Gerald W. McEntee here…
    “Instead of passing the President’s jobs plan and actually creating jobs, congressional Republicans are up to the same old politics and doing the bidding of Corporate CEOs,” stated AFSCME Pres. Gerald W. McEntee. “H.R. 2587 gives companies a get out jail free card and makes them less accountable for firing workers and shipping jobs overseas. At a time when our economy is stagnant, and millions of Americans are unemployed, we should encourage companies to hire workers, not debate legislation that will allow companies to ship jobs to other countries.”
    And as noted here, labor law experts say that if the allegations against Boeing are true, the NLRB has presented a "classic case" of labor law violations.

    So for now, it looks like plans for aircraft assembly in South Carolina are “grounded” at least for now, particularly since this joke of a bill will never be signed into law.

    What a shame I can’t say that "grounded" applies to this wretched U.S. House and its “leadership” also.

    Update 9/16/11: More here.
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