Friday, February 29, 2008

Know Your Supplier Baxter

The case of dangerous blood thinner gets scarier with each new revelation. Now up to 21 people may have died as a result of the tainted drug. The number with adverse reactions rose to 448. Those paying attention found more than one abrupt change in the story:

1. Originally the FDA let Baxter keep shipping the dangerous drug due to fear that a total recall would lead to an immediate and severe shortage of the drug. They even provided clinical directions for infusing the unsafe product to minimize reactions. Today Baxter announced a recall of virtually all its heparin products. This shifted to "Though Baxter produces much of the heparin used in the United States, regulators said the other major supplier would be able to meet the demand. "

2. When the news first broke, Baxter said it had two suppliers, one in China and one in Wisconsin. It now appears they are corporately related. Scientific Protein Laboratories is a majority owner of the Chinese plant. They substituted cheaper Asian production through Changzhou SPL. Ever the quick learner, Changzhou sought cheaper inputs through numerous small labs, known as workshops. Their goods were obtained through two consolidators.

3. Neither the FDA, nor its Chinese counterpart inspected the Chinese plant, much less the conditions in the numerous labs providing product to the two consolidators. Official regulatory bodies were clueless as to the methods of production and quality of the pharmaceutical supplies. There is no information on Baxter's knowledge in these areas. That the problem has gone on for months and the cause remains unknown isn't comforting.

Everybody is committed to finding the root cause of the problem, Baxter, SPL, and the FDA. One obvious problem is Baxter doesn't know its suppliers. Substitution of workers, production, inputs for low price does not mean lower total costs. Dr. Deming told us and we continue to ignore his teachings. In the case of healthcare, it's literally at our peril.

The other question is what role profit expectations played in this medical nightmare? SPL was acquired by American Capital Strategies in August 2006. Their corporate press release said ACS owned 87% of the company on a fully diluted basis. What management practices did American Capital institute that contributed to the heparin problem. Their history indicates something changed. What was it? I smell a PEU intent on making profits at any cost...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Carlyle Says Their Flood Yet to Come

Carlyle co-founder David Rubenstein spoke at the SuperReturn private equity conference in Munich. He spoke of the rough times facing the investment sector, but is sure good times will return. When companies realize they can't get the premium prices of yesteryear, private equity underwriters will again make very profitable deals. Mr. Rubenstein said:

"Private equity has not seen the high water mark. The industry will come back stronger."

Let's see, the high water mark for Hurricane Katrina hurt alot of little people. Will Carlyle's high water mark do likewise? New Orleans had the Superdome. Over two years later Carlyle goes for SuperReturns. PEU's expect a new high water mark. How many will drown this time?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Supremes Pass on Domestic Spying Review

I've been waiting years for the judiciary to confirm or deny President Bush's assertions that his domestic spying actions contravening existing law are truly legal. Yet, the Supreme Court dismissed the case with a single sentence. It passed on reviewing the case's numerous legal points.

The judiciary placed anyone wanting to get a final legal determination in a Catch 22. The only people with status to sue are those harmed by the government's actions. Since those actions are secret, no one really knows if they've been spied upon. Thus, no one can sue, at least until a whistle blower releases some names.

The LA Times had this to say about the legal arguments in the case:

In October, the ACLU asked the Supreme Court to take up their appeal and to rule that the Constitution does not give the president the power to ignore the laws. Administration lawyers said the disputed program is being revised in Congress, and they urged the justices to defer any decision on how it works. The case ended quietly today when the justices issued a one-line order turning down the case of ACLU vs. NSA.

So as long as someone is revising their actions that contradict existing law, the court will dismiss the case? Next time I get a ticket for speeding, I'll try the Bush defense. How quickly do you think I'll be found guilty? My bet is pretty fast.

Stealth Bank Loans from the Fed

By mid-February, the Federal Reserve Bank distributed nearly $50 billion in stealth loans to U.S. banks. Under the Term Auction Facility, banks bid on the relatively low cost credit, which they then have for a month. Some analysts worry about the secret nature of the loans while others view bank's growing reliance on government assistance as problematic.

Meanwhile, the chair of the Minneapolis Fed is comparing 2008 to the 1991 recession, which lasted quite some time. His comments included:

The slumping U.S. economy is reminiscent of the aftermath of the 1991 recession, according to the head of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve. In a speech given Friday morning in Minneapolis, Gary Stern, the regional Fed president, said the current excesses in residential construction, housing market decline, and credit crunch all resemble the "headwinds" environment that prevailed 17 years ago.

"While such an environment will not be permanent, it could well persist for an extended period," said Stern. "If credit is in fact restricted by some institutions and in some markets, it will likely take time for potential borrowers to find alternatives and substitutes."

Well, what are those banks doing with that nearly $50 billion in secret loans?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Trojan SEIU Does Downtown D.C. Theater

The Washington Post reported on yet more high jinks by the Service International Employees Union at The Carlyle Group's expense. This time union members and guests conducted the equivalent of a panty raid at Carlyle headquarters.

The SEIU contingent -- chanting "better staffing, better care, no more money for billionaires" -- swarmed through the Carlyle building, jumping on and off elevators, running up stairways and trying to get into Carlyle offices in an effort to confront Carlyle co-founder David M. Rubenstein, the union's favorite target.

The piece opened with "the Service Employees International Union doesn't give up easily." The problem is this statement simply isn't true. SEIU President Andy Stern already said, "We have to recognize that employer-based health care is ending. It's dying. It will not return." That leaves one of three groups to pay for the benefit, if employers won't. Either the individual steps up, the government does more or unions fill the gap.

SEIU wants to organize all those ManorCare employees in over 500 facilities, mostly nursing homes. Yet, they won't tell possible members that President Stern has already given away the benefit in his mind. Instead SEIU underlings focus on the boogeyman, when they have a greater threat inside the union. Hello, Mr. Stern, you represent health care workers! Health insurance is an important benefit for them. It also pays much of the bills generated by those employees fine work.

I am no fan of The Carlyle Group. This can be seen in my many posts on this and my StateoftheDivision blog. But I'm no fan of the SEIU either. Both groups are secretive, hyper-competitive and relish rolling in piles of greenbacks. None of that is fulfilling and it sure doesn't help patients.

Beef Buyers "Burp-ware"

The U.S. Department of Agriculture forced a recall by Westland/Hallmark Meat Packing Company, the largest beef recall in U.S. history totaling 143 million pounds. The beef produced goes back to February 2006, meaning most of the recalled meat has already been eaten. In that case buyer beware is now buyer burp-ware.

Responses from regulators and management are telling. Here's what the U.S.D.A. said about the largest beef recall in U.S. history:

"We do not know how much of this product is out there at this time. We do not feel this product presents a health risk of any significance," said Dick Raymond, the undersecretary of agriculture for food safety. "But the product was produced in noncompliance with our regulations, so therefore we do have to take this action."

For somebody in charge, Mr. Raymond doesn't know much. After reading his words, I could easily conclude noncompliance with U.S.D.A regulations is no big deal, especially given his implication of virtually no health risk from the firm's actions. What else did he say?

Federal regulations are aimed at preventing the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, popularly known as mad cow disease, and other diseases. Raymond said the average age of the cattle involved is 5 to 7 years, meaning most of them were probably born long after a 1997 ban on a type of cattle feed suspected to cause the disease. He said the incidence of the disease in U.S. cattle is "extremely rare."

Average age is just that, some cows are younger and some are older than the 5 to 7 year range given by the bureaucrat. Most were born after the 1997 ban does not mean all. How many at risk cows were processed, Mr. Raymond? And have any violations of the 1997 ban occurred? Two U.S. cows were discovered to have BSE in 2003, one in Washington state and another in Texas. A third case was found in March of 2006.

Of course the incidence of BSE is extremely rare, but a few cases in Britain caused widespread cattle slaughter to eliminate the disease. Canada's efforts to keep BSE from spreading are even stronger than America's. The NYT piece added the following:

Agriculture officials said there was little health risk from the recalled meat because the animals had already passed pre-slaughter inspection and much of the meat had already been eaten. In addition, the officials noted that while mad cow disease was extremely rare, the brains and spinal cords from the animals — the area most likely to harbor the disease — would not have entered the human food chain.

Might this be a bit of a red herring? Who eats cattle spines or brains? But those dangerous parts still enter the nonhuman food chain in America.

In July 2007 Canada broadened its safeguards against bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, by banning the use of cattle brains, spinal cords, and certain other body parts from all animal feeds, pet foods, and fertilizer.

Management from Westland/Hallmark Meat Packing Company weighed in as well:

In a statement issued February 3, Westland Meat President Steve Mendell said that the company was cooperating with the USDA and that the practices depicted in the Humane Society video are "a serious breach of our company's policies and training. We have taken swift action regarding the two employees identified on the video and have already implemented aggressive measures to ensure all employees follow our humane handling policies and procedures."

Let's see, this serious breach went on for two years under the noses of company management and the U.S.D.A.? That's considered swift action? Why did management not know? In an Abu Ghraib like move, the two former employees were charged with animal cruelty in California.

The news report didn't say anything about financial incentives the employees might have had to process downed cows. Were there quotas or bonuses associated with production volumes?

It's a sad day when to cost of poor quality hits so many people, 37 million pounds went into burgers, chili and tacos in school lunch programs. It's also sad when customers have to beware after consuming.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Did Stephen G. Bradbury Get My Justice Department Complaint regarding LifeCare?

Nearly two years ago, I wrote the Justice Department regarding my concerns about George Bush's White House Lessons Learned report and its omission of the hospital with the largest number of patient deaths after Hurricane Katrina. LifeCare Hospitals had been purchased weeks before by The Carlyle Group, a politically connected private equity underwriter with a Pennsylvania Avenue address. I never heard back. After reading today's Washington Post, I wonder if my complaint reached the desk of Stephen G. Bradbury.

Mr. Bradbury testified before a House committee on the Bush administration's use of waterboarding. The article said:

The method was not, he said, like the "water torture" used during the Spanish Inquisition and by autocratic governments into the 20th century, but was subject to "strict time limits, safeguards, restrictions." He added, "The only thing in common is, I think, the use of water."

Bradbury indicated that no water entered the lungs of the three prisoners who were subjected to the practice, lending credence to previous accounts that the noses and mouths of CIA captives were covered in cloth or cellophane. Cellophane could pose a serious asphyxiation risk, torture experts said.

Now I have some insight into the Justice Department's criteria. They may be willing to look at deaths where water enters the lungs, like the patients who drowned in St. Rita's, a New Orleans area nursing home. That facility made Fran Townsend's Hurricane Katrina report.

But in cases where patients expire with no water in their lungs, the feds might take a hand's off approach. This could explain the free pass given by the White House to LifeCare and its corporate parent, The Carlyle Group. If only Mr. Bradbury had written me back with his criteria, otherwise I'm left believing no one cares about my concern, not Pres. George W. Bush, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Sen. John Cornyn, Rep. Mike Conaway, White House Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend or any members of the FBI or Justice Department.

However, an observer to Stephen G. Bradbury's testimony seemed as disturbed as I was nearly two years ago, when I found the LifeCare deaths/Carlyle ownership/White House omission link.

Martin S. Lederman, a former Office of Legal Counsel official who teaches law at Georgetown University, called Bradbury's testimony "chilling." In an online posting, Lederman said that "to say that this is not severe physical suffering -- is not torture -- is absurd. And to invoke the defense that what the Spanish Inquisition did was worse and that we use a more benign, non-torture form of waterboarding . . . is obscene."

Yes, Professor Lederman. You can add submitting an "investigative report" that leaves out the hospital with the largest number of patient death to the list of obscene.

I want to know if Stephen got my second complaint regarding The Carlyle Group's purchase of ManorCare, the huge nursing home company. The PEU's track record of failing 24 long term acute care patients in a time of crisis warranted examination by both the Justice Department and Congressional hearings. But once again I heard nothing. The Bush administration served as Santa a second time for their good friends down the street, approving the deal just before Christmas.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Another Harmful Bush Rule Relaxation?

The surge of proposed rule relaxations by the Bush administration makes me wonder how bad "buyer beware" will get in George W.'s last year in office. The latest is a Food and Drug Administration proposal that lets drug and medical device makers promote their off label uses, i.e. non FDA approved indications. The New York Times reported:

The rules would allow drug and device makers to provide doctors with copies of medical journal articles that discuss product uses that have not been vetted or approved by the F.D.A. The rules also say that drug companies do not have to promise to adequately test the unapproved use discussed in the article.

So essentially, your prescription drug's "expanded use" will be held to the same standard as an over the counter medication. Yee haw! Crank out the sales men and women, armed with journal articles. How many drug companies will start their own medical journals to broaden indications for their drugs?

This rule change follows a SEC relaxation of accounting standards for foreign firms. They merely need to publish their financial statements in English on their web sites. U.S. accounting standards? They mean nothing...

Friday, February 15, 2008

Another Bush Glitch!

It turns out the Food and Drug Administration did not inspect a Chinese plant providing a key ingredient in Baxter's heparin medication. They refer to this oversight as a "glitch". Quality problems are significant and widespread in our world today. From Chinese manufacturers to the Bush Executive department, numerous examples of poor quality can be found. The New York Times had this to say about its latest expression:

“It was obviously a glitch” that the drug, heparin, produced and sold by Baxter International, was approved for sale without a plant inspection, said Karen Riley, an F.D.A. spokeswoman. The agency does not know who was at fault, and it is still “preparing to send inspectors over there,” Ms. Riley said.

Peter Barton Hutt, a former top lawyer for the agency, said that since 1980 it has had a policy requiring that plants be inspected before drugs are approved for sale.

It turns out the Chinese didn't check out the plant either. This provides me the opportunity to share my published poem with the same title.


What word suffices when processes fail?
When leaders err
When they show their tail?

Something changed their perfect plan
Mucked it up, gummed it up
Such that intended perfection can’t run.

What evil creature would do this dastardly deed?
It must be one that can’t be seen.
Has anyone really seen a glitch?

One can usually spy the tail end of a fleeing snitch
And definitely feel one’s nose going twitch
But what of the seemingly frequent but invisible glitch?

It dashed in as seniors began Medicare Prescription coverage
It stopped air passengers at the gate as planes hovered

The glitch infected clocks trying to extend the day
In Houston it even gave teachers unearned bonus pay

In war, the glitch thrives
Wrongful enemy identification costs numerous lives

The FBI post 9-11 had thousands of glitches
As agents galore looked through citizen’s britches

One act in Iraq caused my jaw to hit the floor
The glitch even took some $8 billion, walking out the door

Yes, leader’s fail their people when they blame glitches
It makes them look more like sniveling snitches
Trying to make their way out of self dug ditches

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Baxter's Heparin Needs to Call Johnson & Johnson's Tylenol

The New York Times reported on a problem with Baxter's heparin drug. The firm suspended production this week after 350 patients suffered harmful effects from the drug. At least four people died.

Yet, the Food and Drug Administration and Baxter knew of the problem months ago. The article reported:

Public health officials noticed a problem with heparin supplies late last year when children undergoing dialysis at a Missouri hospital had severe allergic reactions. As officials investigated, they discovered hundreds of similar cases. Baxter initially recalled some of the product, but the problems persisted.

Recall the Tylenol scare and J & J's reaction? They pulled all inventory off the shelves. They wouldn't sell any product that might be deadly. What happened in this case?

The F.D.A. decided to allow Baxter to deliver heparin that it was in the midst of shipping for fear that a total recall would lead to an immediate and severe shortage of the drug. The F.D.A. cautioned doctors to use as little of the Baxter drug as possible and to infuse it into patients very slowly. The agency also suggested that doctors consider giving steroids or antihistamines along with the Baxter heparin to help prevent possible severe allergic reactions.

This is a prime example of the cost of poor quality, including greater risk of harm to patients and the cost of counteracting medicines. Baxter is responsible for the quality of their heparin ingredients, regardless of where they're manufactured. In this case, one plant is in China and the other, the company would not mention. The FDA plans to inspect the Chinese plant in the near future. One might expect Baxter to have already done so. They've known about the problem for months. What did the company find?

This story hit the wire the same day the SEC voted on relaxing its rules for foreign firms. If the Chinese plant marked their packages in English, would that make it a quality product? Bush's SEC seems to think so. It looks like "buyer beware" all around. I bet you didn't think you'd need your doctor or financial advisor to exercise it on your behalf...

Bush's SEC Ditches FASB for Foreign Firms?

The SEC moved to exempt foreign firms from registration requirements if they do one thing, publish their financial statements in English on their web site. But get this, last year that same SEC scrapped a requirement that overseas companies reconcile their financial reports with United States accounting rules.

Add foreign financial statements to the list of "buyer beware" items. How is an individual investor to know if the company followed FASB accounting standards? They won't. Who will end up buying the latest version of tainted toothpaste, lethal cough medicine, dangerous pet food, defective tires, defective drugs or poisonous toys?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

PEU Boys Hire One that Got Away?

CCMP Capital Advisors hired ex-Triad CEO, Denny Shelton, to advise the private equity firm on its healthcare acquisitions. That's rather magnanimous of them, as Denny's board chose to ignore the Goldman Sachs/CCMP offer and sell to Community Health Systems.

Mr. Shelton spoke last fall at Angelo State University about the future of healthcare. Using that as a crystal ball, what firms might CCMP purchase? Denny believes everyone should have health insurance, but he sees few groups stepping up to increase coverage. The CEO called employer sponsored health insurance a competitive burden for American companies competing in a global environment.

For a hospital company executive to make such a statement is both profound and disturbing. It's profound in its implication that it reflects widespread management thinking in the U.S. For that very same reason, it's disturbing. Triad needs to have insured patients to have a profit margin. Denny's ready to sacrifice the goose that laid his golden egg.

Mr. Shelton talked about the rich paying for their health insurance coverage, i.e., means testing Medicare. That's kind of him, given his $40 million gross on the sale of Triad. So high end insurance companies could do well in Denny's healthcare future.

The ex-CEO wants to drive inefficiencies from the healthcare system, other than increased interest expenses on debt used to finance hospital company buyouts. Automation, clinical practice improvements, drugs and medical devices could help squeeze costs from the system. It remains to be seen what CCMP buys in the way of healthcare companies. And it will be interesting to see the choices made by a man already wealthy beyond the normal citizen's dreams.

The real question, will Denny get to pay taxes on his private equity fees at the carried interest rate? Heaven forbid, the rich pay more to cover poor kids.

Mr. Shelton should thank his lucky stars Community Health System purchased Triad. CHS jettisoned Triad's non-profit hospital joint ventures. San Angelo's Shannon Medical Center sat briefly on this list. It turns out Denny just formed a company to do this very thing. His new venture is called Legacy Hospital Partners. Even the name greases the skids for Shannon to roll back into a deal with Denny. Shannon's captive health insurance company is called Legacy Insurance.

So Denny's not done, he's leading Legacy. Guess who invested in Shelton's new firm? That would be CCMP Capital Partners. My guess is Mr. Shelton already called those CHS nonprofit joint venture cast offs. Will Shannon Medical Center end up back on the acquisition list? Time will tell...

Roger That!

Q: Does Congress have better things to do than worry about whether Roger Clemens used steroids 10 years ago?

A: My representatives never answered why The White House juiced up its "Lessons Learned" report on Hurricane Katrina. Why didn't they bring in Fran Townsend to explain her free pass for the hospital with the highest number of patient deaths post landfall? LifeCare got not one mention in Fran's investigative report. Funny, this same Congress failed to ask LifeCare's owner, The Carlyle Group, about it. They had their chance to grill Carlyle exec's during their review of the ManorCare purchase. Instead Congress played Santa. If Carlyle can fail one of twenty one LTAC's in a time of crisis, what can they do with 500 mostly nursing homes?

That Unethical Bush Administration

The White House says it wants to crack down on fraud and corruption on government contracts, but its plans provide a semi-tractor trailer rig sized loophole. Overseas contractors are exempt from Bush's proposal.

The proposed rules, which are in the final approval stages, specifically exempt "contracts to be performed outside the United States," according to a notice published last month in the Federal Register. A spokeswoman for the White House Office of Management and Budget, which oversees federal procurement policy, declined to answer questions about the planned exemption of overseas contractors from the beefed-up requirements for reporting fraud.

Recall the last time new Bush rules hit the final stretch? That would be the FCC's broadening of media ownership, widely panned in public meetings across America. The Bush team proved it could care less about public comment. My guess is this will be another round of Bush blocking for his corporate buddies. So much for that ethical White House promised in 2001...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Banana Fight!

The World Trade Organization judged illegal the European Union's practice of charging some countries a tarrif on imported bananas, while giving others duty free access. Who brought this challenge against the EU? It would be the world renowned banana producer, the United States.

Huh? I've seen sugar cane fields in Lousiana, rice paddies in Southeast Texas, orange orchards in Florida, and apple tree farms in Virginia. But where are America's banana plantations?

There aren't any. The U.S. brought the challenge on behalf of three large, American based mulitnational firms, including Chiquita, Del Monte and Dole. Yes, this would be the same Chiquita given a $25 million fine for sponsoring terrorists in Columbia. Rather than end up next to Jose Padilla in Guantanamo, the Chiquita CEO jumped ship to another American corporation, Hollinger/Sun Times Media.

Rest assurred, the Bush administration battles hard on behalf of all American banana farmers. He does so to the sole benefit of U.S. corporations, that much is clear. This provides insight to Bush's tackling the uninsured problem in America. It's for the benefit of big business, not to help the individual citizen. Why am I not surprised?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

PEU Romney Drops Out Due to Time of War

Presidential candidate and ex-private equity CEO Mitt Romney broke the bad news to his followers today. He's suspending his presidential run. His announcement attributed it our country's War on Terror.

"In this time of war, I must now stand aside, for our party and our country."

"If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely for Senator Clinton or Obama to win. And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign, be a part of aiding a surrender to terror."

Mitt Romney can drop out, but sure won't ask his buds in the private equity underwriting (PEU)world to pay regular income taxes on carried interest. As for the great wars and America's financing of those conflicts, consider the maximum individual tax rate:

World War I-77%
World War II-94%
Vietnam War-70-77%
War on Terror-35%

Mitt and the rest of the PEU boys leave with their wallets intact. Yes, he'll drop out to protect America from terrorists from the Democratic Party, but he won't pay the freight, at least not like past generations. Sad days indeed...

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Global Coordination for PEU Boys

A Global Buyout Committee consisting of private equity leaders will meet to establish common ground for the industry, the London-based Times reported. This is the first time the heads of Europe's major private equity firms have come together since they were the object of criticism by unions and politicians last summer, the newspaper said.

The committee aims to promote a coordinated message, the Times said, citing Robert Easton, managing partner of Carlyle Group Inc, who will chair the group. Here's my verison of what the modern day money changers should say:

1) They buy mostly companies in growth industries, thus they will claim credit for corresponding job growth. The fact that much of their growth comes from expanded government business should be ignored.

2) Their six figure and higher paid managers deserve their low tax rates on carried interest, because of the aforementioned job growth. It's sort of a national economic development, tax rebate scheme. While their firms get large chunks of revenue from the government, managers paying taxes to that same entity is very bad.

3) They pretend to care more about treating customers fairly than that 25% annual return target. Carlyle has a history of failing hospital patients in a time of crisis and blaming everyone else for their failures.

4) There's another group, sovereign wealth funds, even more private and secretive than private equity underwriters (PEU's). So please focus on the sovereigns, not on private equity.

5) Funny, those Western capitalistic private equity firms are being bailed out by those same sovereign government controlled corporations. What happened to all those advantages of being private? Why would the much better model need to be helped by the clearly inferior government firms?

6) Their employment of huge numbers of ex-government officials is just a coincidence. Pay no attention to those former high ups driving federal business to their numerous PEU affiliates.

7) If PEU managers are taxed at a greater rate, that would hurt their trickle down spending currently keeping the world economies afloat.

8) Any country is lucky to have private equity firms. Treat them badly and they'll take their funds and companies elsewhere.

It looks like countries need a global response to such firms and their coordinated messages. Only by sticking together, can countries not be pitted against each other and picked off. It's time to call them out, and call their bluff. It's a shame America lacks the leadership to do so.

Monday, February 4, 2008

How Presidential!

Both the U.S. President and his corporate counterparts get advice from staff and hired guns. Which presidential advisor was described as "an unapologetic apologist for the days of the Imperial C.E.O."? Consider the following comments for more clues:

"Come on, you can say it. I’m a professional entrencher of management.”

It turns out voters are much like shareholders, people with little rights once the kingly officeholder takes their seat.

In the memo, a manifesto about the responsibilities of board members, the adviser wrote that “limits on executive compensation, splitting the role of chairman and C.E.O. and efforts to impose shareholder referenda on matters that have been the province of boards should be resisted.”

Anyone who might expose malfeasance, needs to be stomped down in both industry and government.

What is more, the adviser suggested that boards should resist “the trend of having the audit committee or a special committee of independent directors investigate almost all whistle-blowing complaints, recognizing how disruptive such investigations are, and being judicious in deciding what really warrants investigation.”

President Bush's derision of whistleblowers is also clear. The same day Bush showed up on Wall Street to dress down a bunch of NYSE exchange traders for excessive executive compensation. George talked about relaxing Sarbanes-Oxley, which require corporations to investigate whistleblower complaints.

Who wants to return to an era when chief executives could do whatever they wanted, when boards/legislators were mainly rubber stamps and shareholders/voters had only one way to express their discontent: sell their shares.?

I'm afraid we're already there...

Carlyle Wants to Watch You Pee

The Carlyle Group invested in eScreen, a leading drug testing company. eScreen offers the industry's only FDA-approved, instrument-read, point-of-collection rapid urine-based drug test system. Private Equity Hub had this to say:

"eScreen is well-positioned to capitalize on the $1 billion-plus worldwide market for pre-employment and workplace drug screening services," said Robert E. Grady, Carlyle Managing Director and Co-head of the firm's U.S. Venture and Growth Capital group. "The company's unique, proprietary, first-to-market products and software deliver results in fifteen minutes or less and automate the hiring process for the employer, the applicant and the clinic."

"Carlyle looks forward to working with eScreen to capitalize on opportunities in this large and expanding market," continued Mr. Grady.

Of course Carlyle will use their contacts to increase revenues dramatically. They have over a thousand firms in their stable that could send business eScreen's way. That's not counting their incredible political connections. What if every new federal employee, including the military, needed pre-employment drug screening? The Bush administration best act fast to sign one of those emergency agreements with eScreen. His time to send business his friends way is slowly dribling out.

What if Carlyle combines Authentec's abilities with eScreens? Then they'd have your fingerprint along with your urine. Can a microchip be far behind?

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Bush's Favorite Job Can Be Done by Brush Eating Goat

President Bush loves clearing cedar from the Western White House. It turns out a goat can do his job. The San Angelo Standard Times ran this in today's edition:

A natural brush control seminar featuring brush-eating goats will be from 10 a.m. to noon Friday at the Texas AgriLife Research Center, 28 miles south of Sonora on State Highway 55.

Dr. Erika Campbell, post-doctoral research associate and toxicologist at the center, formerly called the Sonora Research Station, will discuss her work in identifying goats purposely bred to control juniper, commonly called cedar.

The obvious questions remain from substituting a goat for the most powerful man in the world. Will the goats be considered pets or employees? Will they get health care? If they're imported goats, who's responsible for their temporary worker status? How do we know they aren't associated with terrorist goats from other countries?

If this frees up President Bush to pursue peace in the Middle East, is that a good thing? Bush has a clear track record of divide and conquer in the region. He pursues peace dangling carrots, while aiming the barrel of a gun. If he shifts his brush clearing days to weapon firing, what will that do to our world situation? It looks like either way, George W. Bush has our goats, and maybe a new pet...