Archive for December 22nd, 2006

by Jay Stevens 

One of the criticisms about getting the 110th Congress to negotiate drug prices with big pharmaceutical companies is that the reduced profit would translate into less research, which, in turn, means fewer new drugs.

Only a new government report today says that currently most of Big Pharm’s R&D money ain’t going to new drug research. It’s pretty much going into researching “knockoff” drugs:

The report blames the slowdown on a shortage of research scientists, the slow adaptation of expensive new technologies, and an industry-wide focus on profit. Out of the “new” medicines that companies have submitted for review, 68 percent are so-called “me-too drugs” – modified versions of existing drugs, which generate generous profits while carrying little risk of rejection.

Ezra Klein:

But this is an industry driven, as one would expect, by profit, not a desire to find awesome new drugs to better the world. That’s for the good — we need the pharmaceutical industry. But some better and more stringent bargaining by Medicare wouldn’t harm things much, and if you channeled that money back into academic research — and possibly created a new government pipeline through the NIH for translating molecular discoveries into drugs — you could do quite a bit of good.

There you go. Not only would negotiating drug prices with Big Pharm save the taxpayers some money, it might also lead to more aggressive research and better medicines.

by Jay Stevens 

Recently, I’ve railed against the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to bar handing control of the Bison Range over to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. In a previous post, I thought that something other than tribal member performance on the Range was at stake here.

And it looks like I was right.

In today’s Missoulian, two ranchers and volunteers for the Bison Range stepped up and not only denied tribal members were performing poorly, they claimed that tribal members did a better job of managing the herd during the yearly roundup:

“The only FWS response was to run the [bison] harder, getting them even more stressed and worn out,” [Paul] Bishop says. “The common method, once all the ‘easy’ animals had been chased in by riders, was to retire the horses and bring out a FWS Jeep. The driver would then chase the remaining stubborn bison, horn blaring, until they submitted.”[snip]

But when the tribes came on board, that changed, Bishop says.

“The tribes’ first roundup was a huge success, which was completed in two days with time to spare,” Bishops says.

“I know it sounds odd, but I believe the animals noticed a difference, too,” he says. “They were clearly much calmer and less stressed. The riders did a fantastic job of handling the animals with care and everyone else followed suit. The bison were processed through with a level of compassion and patience that was definitely lacking in the old FWS cowboy days.”

Bishop says his jaw dropped when [National Bison Range project manager Steve] Kallin glossed over the success of the roundup afterward.

“I am not sure why he won’t tell you this,” Bishop says he told the roundup staff after Kallin left, “but that was the best roundup in the last 10 years, maybe ever.”

Bishop, along with Bernard Hakes, also deny that the bison they’ve seen look neglected, as was claimed by Kallin.

Bishop claims that Kallin “created an environment of distrust, animosity, and misinformation” at the refuge, and called for Kallin to be replaced at the Range by someone who would facilitate the change of control to the Salish and Kootenai tribes.

So why are they stepping forward, anyway?

“I quite frankly don’t give a damn who runs the Bison Range, but if Fish and Wildlife is going to take it over for a reason, let’s let it be the truth,” Hakes says. “I could bitch about the tribes over other things and spend a couple of hours. But when it comes to the Bison Range, there’s been no neglect, and the proof is in the animal.”

It’s times like this that I love Montana.

Of course, I know that this is merely anecdotal evidence, but it seems to fit in with the rhetoric emanating from the FWS itself over the change of control of the Bison Range, that resistance to the change is more about career bureaucrats unwilling to relinquish control of their prized possession than it is about poor tribal performance.

In the end, Bishop’s suggestion that Kallin should be replaced is spot-on. The CSKT should have control of the Bison Range, period. If Kallin can’t administer the change, let’s get someone in there who can.


Some more reform I could get behind: reigning in constituency funds.

Attempt number two to oust Dillon mayor begins.

The Chicago Sun-Times’ Rich Miller defends bloggers: “Pundits lose grip on reality when dealing with the Internet.” Indeed.

Spencer Ackerman explores the difference between strength and military power, and why militarism isn’t always good for America.

The Defense Science Board Task Force on Nuclear Capabilities lets the world know “just how totally awesome our nuclear weapons are.”

Democratic-run Congressional committees are hiring investigators for the upcoming legislative session. Let the good times roll!

Representative Keith Ellison – Congress’ only Muslim member – only looks better and better after all the attacks he’s recently undergone. Where did all the quality Republicans go?

Iowa poll on 2008 presidential Democratic hopefuls shows Vilsack in third at 12 percent; Obama and Edwards atop the heap, knotted at 22 percent. Oh, and Clinton at 10 percent…

Obama’s wild popularity doesn’t include a full third of Americans who have never heard of him.

I guess Bush just doesn’t hate gays enough for some people.

Here’s something you didn’t see in Path to 9/11: Bush let Osama bin Laden get awayafter 9/11.

Bill Hammond wants to round up liberals and put them in detention camps. Merry Christmas!

Speaking of unhinged, Republican Congressman Robin Hayes believes the key to winning Iraq is converting it to Christianity. So much for “hearts and minds.”

Marines charged in Haditha massacre.

A Bush administration official supports renewing the draft.

JEFF: Christmas is for atheists, too!

Foreign Policy’s top ten stories you missed in 2006.

by Jay Stevens 

For the two of you that don’t also follow Left in the West regularly, you must — must — check out this story on Dennis Rehberg’s communications director, Todd Shriber. Matt got the link from Joshua Micah Marshall’s nice overview of the kerfluffle, which links to NetwordWorld’s Paul McNamara, who linked Shriber to Dennis Rehberg’s office.

The shorter version: Shriber tried to hire hackers to change his college grades.

The longer version is well worth a long look and will give you a good laugh. Especially the pictures of squirrels.

But all kidding aside, is this the kind of guy Montana wants in the office of their Representative? Ultimately Rehberg is responsible for all the hiring decisions for his office, as well as for the behavior of his staffers. Does Rehberg really trust this guy? Or is the kind of staffer Rehberg likes?

Update: I’ll give credit where credit’s due — Rehberg canned Shriber:

U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg’s communications director, Todd Shriber, was fired Thursday after verifying the accuracy of online reports that he tried to hire hackers to change his grade point average in the records of his alma mater, Texas Christian University, according to Rehberg chief of staff Erik Iverson.

“Todd’s a good person who made a real big mistake and he’s going to have to pay the price,” Iverson said.

Iverson said he told Rehberg immediately, and that Rehberg agreed Shriber should be fired.

As much as I disagree with Rehberg’s politics (and question his judgement and character), I admit the dude is good at avoiding sh*tstorms. Sideshow Scott and his dog and pony show should take note.

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