INdiana Systemic Thinking

February 19, 2008

Colin Powell Lectures at Butler

As readers will remember, I posted the announcement of Colin Powell’s lecture at Butler University. Well, last night was the big night and it was apparently quite interesting. Here is how the Indianapolis Star covered the event:

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said he had no plans to seek an office in the next presidential administration while speaking to a packed auditorium at Butler University today.

“But if any president — if he or she comes up to you — you have to think about it, you have to take it seriously,” he said. “But I am not currently seeking a position in any administration.”

The retired four-star general peppered with anecdotes an hour-long speech that touched on diversity, immigration policy and international diplomacy.

During a question-and-answer session with the audience he said the U.S. needs to pursue talks with Iran over that country’s disputed nuclear program.“We’re the strongest nation in the world — why should we be afraid to talk to them?” he said. “I think our policy is shortsighted.”Powell also said he endorsed an immigration policy that would protect America’s borders, regularize the some 12 million people who are here illegally and devise a plan to allow immigrant workers to enter the country “legally and with dignity.”

He lauded the increased openness and economic growth of China, and predicted the country would be the world’s largest economy in 20 years and an important U.S trading partner.

“Don’t expect them to become Jeffersonian democrats in our lifetime,” he said. “But the only thing they’ll be fighting us for is more shelf space at Wal-Mart.”

Powell also told the some 2,000 people gathered for the speech that U.S. leaders need to unify with other countries to address global warming, increase jobs for the poor and to fix the country’s troubled schools.

“I didn’t expect him to have such a sense of humor,” said 57-year-old Indianapolis resident Joyce L. Moore. “I also expected him to be more toward his party but he was more for humanity.”


February 9, 2008

Delaware Judge Now Says He is Extortion Victim

In a follow up to my post yesterday, Delaware County Circuit Court Judge Wayne Lennington now says he was a victim of an extortion plot, according to the Muncie Star Press:

Judge Wayne Lennington said Friday he believed an extortion attempt might have kindled an already existing investigation into his business affairs.

“If I would have paid him, I’m sure it wouldn’t have gone anywhere,” said the Delaware Circuit Court 5 judge. “But I wasn’t going to do that.”

On Friday, Lennington provided The Star Press with a copy of an e-mail whose author threatened to deliver to federal investigators information that was damaging to Lennington and a business partner, Joseph Gray, unless the men paid him $250,000.

The judge said he believed his extortionist was an Ohio man he had met once through Gray.

In a May 30, 2007 e-mail to Gray, the man purportedly wrote, “My attorney assures me that the material in my possession are sufficient to have Judge Lennington removed from the bench, and the both of you criminally prosecuted.”

Furthermore, the e-mail stated the man would be willing to turn over to investigators:

  • Taped conversations between himself and Gray about Gray’s relationship with Lennington.
  • Faxes to him from Lennington’s home.
  • “Copies of prints from the golf course,” which Lennington believes is a reference to an aerial photograph Lennington provided Gray of a Delaware County golf course they were considering buying.
  • Information about “unfettered access” to tax sale information.Sometime after receiving the e-mail, Gray showed the message to Lennington, the judge said.Lennington told The Star Press he had never done anything illegal so he felt comfortable sharing the extortion message with state police and Delaware County Prosecutor Mark McKinney’s office.
  • The judge could not provide a precise timeline concerning when Gray first provided him the e-mail and when he notified authorities.

    Lennington said he has not heard back from the police or prosecutor.

    While Lennington was under investigation before the extortion attempt, the fact that he refused to cooperate with the extortionist might have indirectly “intensified” investigators efforts to bring him down, the judge suggested.

    He questioned whether the extortionist, embittered by Lennington’s resolve, was feeding authorities false information that the judge conspired with Gray in illegal scams.

    An effort to reach the alleged extortionist through the e-mail address provided by Lennington was unsuccessful.

    Lennington didn’t mention the extortion letter during the Thursday interview in which he confirmed he was being investigated. The judge said he wasn’t comfortable with releasing the letter until a second conversation with a reporter on Friday.

    February 2, 2008

    Lilly to Reach Deal with Feds?

    Maybe, but no one is talking, according to the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, citing the New York Times.  Here is the background:

    Zyprexa was Lilly’s top selling drug last year. It rang up $4.8 billion and accounted for 25 percent of the company’s total sales, but it also has brought the company many legal headaches.

    Beginning in late 2006, a series of articles in the Times said Lilly downplayed the drug’s risks and marketed it for uses unapproved by the Food and Drug Administration.

    Attorneys general from 30 states have subpoenaed documents detailing Lilly’s sales, marketing and promotional practices for Zyprexa as part of a civil investigation under state consumer protection laws.

    The drug also has faced thousands of product liability claims from patients, many alleging the company did not adequately warn patients taking the medication of a heightened diabetes risk.

    And here is what is being said:

    Lilly spokeswoman Tarra Ryker declined to elaborate on the possibility of a settlement when reached by phone.

    “We are cooperating with the government in these investigations, and the discussions around those are confidential,” she said. “We’ve said pretty much all we’re going to be able to say on this.”

    She also declined to comment on the payment amount.

    “We don’t know where the information came from,” she said.

    The Times reported that federal prosecutors in Philadelphia are leading the settlement talks for the government, in consultation with Justice Department headquarters in Washington.

    The amount being bantered around is 1 Billion dollars.

    January 30, 2008

    Judge Currie Gets Probation

    In an update to my post here, Carroll Circuit Court Judge Donald Currie received probation, will have his driver’s license restricted, and will have to pay court costs due to a recent charge of Public Intoxication.  Here is the full story, from the Carroll County Comet.

    Carroll Circuit Court Judge Donald Currie pled not guilty at an initial hearing Dec. 26 after being arrested for public intoxication Dec. 23 in Boone County. A bench trial was scheduled for March at the initial hearing, but Currie then scheduled a plea agreement for Feb. 19. However, that date was moved up when Currie pled and was found guilty in Boone County Superior Court II by Judge Rebecca McClure Jan. 22.

    According to the Lebanon Reporter, Currie was found guilty of a Class B misdemeanor and issued a 180-day suspended sentence with credit given for his day in the Boone County Jail. Currie was ordered to pay $450 legal fees and his drivers’ license was restricted.

    Currie’s case could be investigated by the Indiana Judicial Qualifications Commission concerning judicial conduct violations. According to Meg Babcock, supervisor for the counsel to the commission, that process is completely separate from the court case and is not a matter of public record until the time formal charges are filed with the Indiana Supreme Court.

    “There is a lot the commission can do short of filing charges,” Babcock said.

    She said there could be no investigation, suspension from office without pay and other remedies which include fines, removal from office or disbarment. She called removal from office the “ultimate sanction.” Babcock said the Indiana Supreme Court would be the entity to decide upon the sanction if charges were filed. The commission would be making a recommendation to that court.

    Babcock referred the Comet to two similar cases investigated by the commission in the past two years. In both cases, the judges stipulated to the facts of the cases and their “misconduct.” Both were issued a “public reprimand” for their behavior.

    January 29, 2008

    Zyprexa, Cymbalta Fuel Growth for Lilly

    From the Indianapolis Star:

    Driven by solid sales of its antidepressant Cymbalta, Indianapolis drugmaker Eli Lilly and Co. today said fourth-quarter profits grew to $854.4 million and 78 cents per share, beating many analysts’ estimates.

    Earnings jumped six-fold from the same period in 2006, when Lilly recorded income of $132.3 million and 12 cents per share as it took a big charge to settle claims with patients who said they were harmed by Lilly’s Zyprexa schizophrenia drug.

    But showing how little harmed it was by that publicity, Lilly said Zyprexa sales were again No. 1 in its sales lineup, accounting for $1.27 billion. Cymbalta was next up with $628.3 million. Overall, its sales increased 16 percent to $5.19 billion.

    “Lilly completed a very successful year by continuing to deliver strong financial results to our shareholders in the fourth quarter,” said CEO and chairman Sidney Taurel. “Our additional investment in sales and marketing helped fuel accelerated double-digit sales growth.”

    January 27, 2008

    Sen. Patricia Miller Dissed by Senate on Ethics

    Senator Patricia Miller (R-Indy) is a very, and I cannot underscore that enough, very powerful Senator in the Indiana Senate.  She chairs the Senate Health and Provider Relations committee, and is therefore very influential in all areas of health and healthcare policy for the state.  She is also powerful in other areas.  Some credit her with putting together a coalition that ultimately chose Senate Pro Tempore, David Long, as leader of the Senate.  Therefore, today’s news of the death of her bill to require a cooling off period for legislators (one year) before they can become lobbyists, comes as somewhat of a shock.

    Sen. Marvin Riegsecker, the Goshen Republican who controlled the bill’s fate as chairman of the Senate Public Policy Committee, said he killed the proposal because he and other senators were angered by comments that “we’re taking money under the table. That’s the interpretation we had.”

    Those members of the public who had pushed for the bill say they were talking about the legislature’s image, not making specific accusations.

    “I guess we read between the lines,” Riegsecker said. “Either way, it angered my fellow senators, so I wasn’t going to subject them to a vote. I don’t think the bill would have passed anyway.”
    It has elsewhere.

    Twenty-six states have enacted one- or two-year cooling-off periods for lawmakers.

    In Indiana, more than 30 former lawmakers have registered as lobbyists, including four former speakers of the House.

    Supporters of the cooling-off period were optimistic when Miller’s bill was granted a hearing before the Senate Public Policy Committee.

    Vaughn said she made sure members of the public came to testify, so lawmakers couldn’t say people didn’t care about such issues.

    But, she said, the lawmakers were hostile “from the get-go.”

    “To be honest, it almost seemed to me that they wanted to be offended so that they would have an excuse not to deal with the problem,” said Patricia Wittberg, a sociology professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and a Catholic nun, who came to testify.

    Wittberg said that throughout her 18 years of teaching, when she talks to her students about legislators representing them “in a fair and just way, and not influenced by special interests, the students laugh. They laugh.”

    It was those words that Sen. Vi Simpson, D-Ellettsville, found among the most offensive.
    “The testimony was so nasty and mean and personal that the committee members were furious,” she said. “It was a very unpleasant confrontation. That’s not how you get legislation passed around here.”

    Sandra Mowell, a member of the League of Women Voters who also testified, said it was lawmakers who were “rather nasty.”

    “I thought they just reacted rather violently without a whole lot of provocation toward us,” she said. “People in elective office may say they want people to participate in this process, but I went away with the definite opinion that that’s just talk.”

    Miller said she may file the bill again next year.

    Senate President Pro Tempore David C. Long, R-Fort Wayne, said the legislature will at some point have to take up the issue.

    “I do think we’re going to have to take a hard look at how Indiana compares to other states and ultimately address particularly the issue of how soon you can go out into the hall and lobby,” he said.

    Senator Miller is to be congratulated for sponsoring this measure and she is right on track with her reasons for the bill.  Other lawmakers should probably stop taking public comments so personally and realize, as hard as that may be, that the public perception of legislators to lobbyists so quickly looks bad.  In reality, it may not be, but right now there is an angry population out there, and they do vote.  Failing to address this issue looks like legislators are padding their own bank accounts (after they leave) while the rest of us pay more and more in taxes.  Is this a correct perception?  Probably not, but right now perception is reality and legislators would be well advised to realize that.

    January 26, 2008

    IN U.S. Rep. News

    In the third district, U.S. Rep Mark Souder announced he is cosponsoring the Economic Growth Act of 2008.  This act would allow businesses to fully expense assets at the time of purchase, reduce the top corporate tax rate from 35% to 25%, end capital gains on inflation, and simplify the capital gains rate structure.  You can read more here.

    Additionally, H/T to Blue Indiana and Fort Wayne Observed for picking up the news of Michael Montagano’s scheduled announcement that he will seek the democratic nomination for the congressional seat currently held by Souder.

    In the fifth district, (stay with me here)  Andre Carson, grandson of the late U.S. Rep. Julia Carson, will seek the democratic party’s nomination for the U.S. House in May.  This will follow a special election in March, where he is seeking the same seat.  In the March race, he will oppose Indiana State Rep. John Elrod.  Because of the special election, it is entirely possible the two will oppose each other in elections in both March and November.  Carson’s announcement is here.

     In the ninth district, Mike Sodrel has filed to seek the republican nomination for the U.S. district representative seat.  If successful, it will be the fourth time he and current incumbent Baron Hill have faced off.  Sodrel lost the seat two years ago to Hill.  You can read more here

    Lilly’s Cymbalta Sales Grow

    From a Bloomberg report, via the Indianapolis Star
    INDIANAPOLIS — Eli Lilly and Co.‘s antidepressant Cymbalta exceeded $2 billion in global saleslast year, Chief Executive Officer Sidney Taurel said. That would represent at least a 52 percent increase from the $1.32 billion reported in 2006, when Cymbalta was Lilly’s third-best-selling product globally. The drug is intended to replace revenue lost to generic competitors for the antipsychotic Zyprexa, Lilly’s top-selling drug, when it loses patent protection in 2011. “Cymbalta is growing very, very fast,” Taurel said Friday in Davos, Switzerland, where he is attending the World Economic Forum. “It will be bigger than Zyprexa before Zyprexa loses its patent.” (Bloomberg)

    The Blogmeister agrees with Mr. Taurel.  They just keep finding new uses for this drug.  I recently heard some physicians have found it very useful in the treatment of pain managment.  New uses equal more prescriptions which equal more sales.

    January 24, 2008

    Wellpoint Cherry Picking

    In a follow up to my post from yesterday regarding and increase in profits (by 7%) by Wellpoint, Anthem’s parent company, comes this news from the Indianapolis Star.  Apparently increasing profit by 7% isnt good enough and executives with the company continue to want more, more, and more…

    However, the company also reported that during the quarter, it paid out 82.9 percent of each premium dollar for care — a measure called the “medical loss ratio” in industry jargon — up from 81 percent a year ago.

    The increased medical spending came from WellPoint’s commercial business and higher-than-expected medical claims in the company’s Medicaid contracts in Ohio and Connecticut. WellPoint said it is terminating its contract with the Ohio Medicaid program because it was unable to reach an agreement with the state that would allow the company to participate in a “financially responsible manner.”

    Just as a reminder, Anthem was one of the companies chosen by the Indiana Department of Family and Social Services Administration to administer Indiana’s Medicaid Program.

    Charity Bailey Appealling Release of Records

    As most will recall, Charity Bailey, along with Lawrence Green, is accused of beating her daughter, Tajanay Bailey to death back in November.  The case shook the Department of Family Services to it’s core, mostly because Juvenile Court Judge Marilyn Moores ordered the release of records pertaining, not just to TaJanay, but older records of Charity Bailey.  Now, according to the Indianapolis Star, Charity Bailey is appealing that, as well as other decisions, made by Moore.

    An attorney representing the mother of TaJanay Bailey has notified the court she will appeal two court decisions releasing juvenile records in the case.

    On Jan. 3, juvenile court Judge Marilyn Moores granted The Indianapolis Star’s request to release records in the earlier of two child-welfare cases involving TaJanay. The judge also released the juvenile records of the girl’s mother, Charity Bailey.

    TaJanay, 3, died Nov. 27 of apparent abuse. Bailey and her boyfriend, Lawrence Green, both 20, face murder and neglect charges.

    Attorney Frances L. Ashton filed a notice last week that Bailey would ask the Indiana Court of Appeals to review Moores’ decision. She also notified the court that she would appeal a Jan. 11 decision by Moores granting The Star’s request for a transcript of the last court hearing before TaJanay’s death.

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