JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 239 : 12 October 2007

Keeping an eye on technology futures.
Business commentary - no hidden agendas.
New attitudes, no platitudes.

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13.5 mins.

More on big Pharma deception & corruption

Have you seen the PPA (Partnership for Prescription Assistance) TV advertisement? Gosh, it drives me crazy every time I see it. And it comes on all the time, on every TV channel - repeated, blatant deception.

The TV ad shows a big bus driving around America, helping poor people generate big savings on their prescription drugs. One poor old lady exclaims, "I lost my job, and PPA helped me save money!" A man hugs his wife and smiles, "With my wife and PPA, I'm in good shape". Another tight-lipped lady says, "PPA saves me $1,300 a month". Wow, one wonders how much she spends on medications, to actually save that much a month.....

The deception is this: The 2003 Medicare Drug Bill allowed drug companies to charge more by preventing Medicare from negotiating prices. The VA (Veterans Admin.) does bargain successfully, but Medicare cannot - prohibited by Law. Estimates show VA prices for the same drugs are 50-60% lower. This helped big-pharma to gain $531 BILLION (repeat, more than a half-TRILLION) over a 10-year period. So, they charge 50% more, and help poor people to save 30%. Whaddya think of that trick?

There was a brief flurry of outrage when Congress passed that Medicare bill with late-into-the-night arm-twisting by lobbyists. Later, the media reported on another scandal: the administration had deceived Congress about the bill's likely cost. But the real scandal is what's in the legislation. It's an object lesson in how special interests hold America's health care system hostage.

This is the stranglehold of an industry that is not held to truth in advertising laws, that baldly lies about the efficacy of its products and conceals lethal effects. This rises to the level of criminal conduct.

The public is not aware that many of the drugs that are lavishly advertised to the public are likely to be harmful. Drug manufacturers don't spend money advertising effective drugs, such as antibiotics - they don't need to. The more lavishly a drug is advertised, the more suspicious one should be about its value and adverse effects.

Pharmaceutical companies are caught repeatedly using corrupt marketing practices. But they continue to do so with impunity because they are able to pay their way out of criminal indictments. And fines, even in the millions, are no deterrent whatever for these multi-billion companies - they are just added to the "cost of doing business".

Who will stop this fraud? The Presidential candidates mention this. It remains to be see what they do about big-Pharma corruption.

Click Pharma Lobbyists - Blatant Corruption

Click Bush's prescription-drug plan elates lobbyists, bewilders seniors

Click A Serious Drug Problem - The Medicare Prescription Bill of 2003

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ISA Expo 2007 - comments & feedback

While I did not attend ISA Expo 2007 in Houston, TX myself, I had several special-agents who sent in these reports.

ISA has 'right-sized' the exhibition in terms of physical space - meaning that the hall fit the number of exhibitors, thus making it appear fuller in size. The total attendance remained abut the same as previous years - around 12,000, of which about 70% were non-exhibitors, a good ratio.

The split between end-users and vendors remained uncertain, though it was clear that most end-users were relatively local, making it more of a Regional Exhibition. Interestingly, there were the usual good number of international attendees for whom the ISA Show is an annual pilgrimage.

Many companies that had large booths last year, clearly anticipated a smaller crowd by taking smaller booths. This year there were just over 500 exhibitors, about the same as previous. Of the majors, ABB, Honeywell, Invensys, Siemens and Yokogawa had booths, though Emerson and Rockwell were conspicuously absent.

ISA bravely tried several new things this year to attract more people. Alcohol was allowed on the show floor for the first time in history. The party in the EXPO hall that evening probably helped, though it didn't really attract more attendees - it just kept them later, which was good for the sales guys.

Topical theatres (X-PODS) were strategically added to bring technical knowledge content to exhibition floor. There were food & beverage stations for the evening. The international student games competitions and award ceremonies on the floor were well attended. This innovation generated more traffic on the exhibition floor much of the time.

The first-day hours were changed - starting at 1:00 PM and going on till 8:00 PM. Wireless remained the strong draw. The politics of the rival standards (WirelessHART Vs. ISA- 100) and "open letters" buzzed throughout the show floor. Standards related meetings just continued to frustrate those involved, and many were heard to intone the rhymes of the "Wireless Quadrille":

    "Will you walk a little faster!" cried Honeywell to the ISA snail
    "There's an Emerson right behind me and he's treading on my tail!
Attendance at central exhibitions is declining only because, in the age of the Internet and tortuous air-travel, few want to travel to distant locations for an old-fashioned "exhibition".

The ISA team is working to change the value proposition. In this age of life-long learning, future ISA shows will provide more technical content and knowledge-transfer opportunities. There will be multiple opportunities to gather knowledge quickly and effectively, to maintain the learning process, and to help make new industry contacts. The objective is to convince companies that think that they can't afford to send employees to ISA for a day, that they cannot afford NOT to.

The renewed dynamism, under the leadership of Executive Director Pat Gouhin and a strongly motivated executive board, is clearly getting results. The annual ISA Expo is the only real exhibition of its kind in North America. All the major suppliers, even if they made a token presence, could make ISA EXPO fly, because it's the best thing going.

Here's the conundrum: If more people came, more people would come.

Click ISA Global Strategy Moves Forward

Click The Decline of Large Automation Exhibitions

Click Poem - The Industrial Wireless Quadrille

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ISA name-change debacle

The selling of the change was not well done and the blame for that must go to the Executive Board. The definition they gave for "automation" was less than complete. Also there was perception that some of the delegates were not aware of the change until the actual day of the meeting because the paperwork appears to have been sent late.

The discussion itself was very interesting. Those who opposed the change spoke out strongly, and many delegates changed their minds because of the passion they displayed. Principally they felt that the ISA was losing its "instrumentation" and "measurement" heritage. It's hard to argue with someone who insists, "If the name is changed I'm not sure that I belong to the right society!"

The other argument was that eliminating "America" from the name was sufficiently international. This was not a good signal to international members who already consider ISA too USA-centric.

Requiring a 2/3 majority, the motion came up just a few votes short. It's interesting perhaps that if those who had abstained had in fact voted in favor then it would have passed.

Many members did not recognize that "instrumentation" is indeed an important part of the broader term "automation". In my view, instrumentation, sensors, control valves, control systems, MES, networking and communications on the plant floor, all are part of the discipline of automation. Other markets such as environmental monitoring & control, automated test & measurement, and other sub-disciplines all fit nicely under the big tent of automation. Indeed, many of these just don't fit in the much smaller domain of "instrumentation".

The Executive Board was left furiously locking the stable door after it was too late. There seems very little doubt that the motion will carry next year.

Click Walt Boyes - ISA's proposed name change rebuffed

Click Wikipedia - Good overview of ISA background, history & objectives

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Collaboration is a key growth enabler

With continued, accelerating change, companies can achieve significantly more through collaboration. This means the sharing of business information, joint planning and projections with suppliers and customers - and perhaps even suppliers' suppliers and customers' customers.

Collaboration brings major benefits for all the companies involved. The Harvard Business Review reports that a 5% increase in customer retention can result in a 25% to 95% increase in profits from collaborative relationships.

An effective enterprise collaboration solution must provide the technical systems links for people to work together in distributed, intra- and inter-company teams. Effective communications must be enabled across distance, time zones, and company borders, encouraging team members to discuss, analyze and review collaboratively. This is a key enabler, allowing companies to react more quickly to changes in supply and demand.

Expand your horizons, by expanding the borders of your company through collaboration. The question is, who can your company collaborate with? The answer is relatively simple: your best suppliers, and your best customers.

In the next few years your enterprise will be collaborative, or it won't exist at all.

Click Jim Pinto - Collaboration Strategies fuel Growth & Success

Click Creating a Collaboration Strategy

Click Book - The Stakeholder Strategy
Profiting from Collaborative Business Relationships

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Charity - where does it begin? And end?

By world standards, most of the people reading this are wealthy. So, given that we have more than most, how much should we give as Charity?

What exactly is Charity? Is it an obligation, or does it stem from guilt? How much should I give and to who? And, who sets the parameters - Religion? Society? Family? Relatives? Country club? Should we heed the pleas of the preacher, or simply keep up with the Joneses?

You can melt when you see the pitiful pictures of poor orphans in some far away place. But perhaps you should know exactly how much of your donation actually goes to those orphans AFTER all the marketing and administrative salaries have been paid and the expenses for TV advertising and sales brochures have been deducted. Ask your favorite charity for that percentage. You'll be surprised.

Most charities take care to remind you that your gift is tax deductible. So, does that encourage you to give more, or does it discount the value of your giving?

Lots of charitable dollars - especially from the wealthy, who have the most to donate - are going to operas, art museums, symphonies, and theaters where they spend much of their leisure time. These aren't really charitable contributions; they're more like investments in the lifestyles the wealthy already enjoy. They're also investments in prestige - especially if they result in the family name engraved on the new wing of the art museum or symphony hall. Anyone who has his or her name advertised as a benefactor already receives the benefit of recognition. Let's not call it charity and make it tax deductible in the bargain.

Charity is something that comes from within. I have come to the conclusion that charity is only charity when you give goods, services or money without personal gain, benefit or recognition of any kind. True charity is anonymous. It begins and ends within your self.

Click Charity - where does it begin, and end?

Click Bill Clinton's new book - GIVING

Click When Charity Shouldn't Begin at Home

Click Charity Navigator - Find a Charity You Can Trust

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Jake Brodsky [ab3a@comcast.net] has worked in the water industry for more than 20 years, and comments on the "water wars":
    "These so-called water wars will not be about water. They will be about energy and efficient purification technologies. If the water resource is already clean, you've got a huge head start. However, if need be, you can desalinate the oceans to drinking water quality. The difference? The electricity and maintenance bill for the latter is far greater.

    "We know how to purify the water we need. We need to have energy resources to sustain this effort with today's technologies. We can either make the process more efficient (new RO membranes technologies are constantly being developed), or find a less expensive energy supplies, such as Nuclear powered electrical plants.

    "This is really not about water. It's about energy. And that's an old, but sore subject..."

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Dave Schneider [dschneider@arjaynet.com] blames the Drug Bill on government interference in the process:

    "Was the lobbying involved in the Medicare prescription bill disgusting? Absolutely! But to blame the insurance or drug industry for this is ridiculous. The opportunity for such corrupt acts is created by the presence of government in the health care industry. If every individual had the ability to make his own health care decisions and the responsibility to pay for them, there would be no government officials with the influence to peddle. Lobbying and corruption are the inevitable result of the concentration of power in a very small number of hands.

    "The answer to any form of political corruption, whether it's the health care issue, campaign financing, election fraud, contract bid rigging or anything else is to remove the power from the corruptible officials and distribute that power to smaller groups and individuals."

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David Cutter [dave@villageebike.com] thinks that the constitution is being subverted by fanning the fears of terrorist attacks:

    "Jim, I found particular interest in the little snippet you shared about why it is indeed patriotic to want to stimulate change in a floundering world.

    "Once upon a time, America had a strong president who reassured the American people that, 'We have nothing to fear but fear itself.' Now we have a weak president who tells us that we must be fearful of all things all the time, using fear as a political pump to inflate his own ego and power. They even color codes fear for us, always keeping the colors flame-hot. He uses the scorching rhetoric of fear to scare Congress into rubber-stamping blatant subversion of our constitutional liberties.

    "Fanning the fears of terrorist attacks, Bush stampeded Congress to rush through a law which lets the executive branch of government eavesdrop on private phone calls and emails without bothering to get search warrants. Congress ceded this extraordinary reach even though there's a perfectly-functioning, quick-responding court in place to authorize surveillance of legitimate terrorist suspects - and to do it constitutionally. Bush's law is not about protecting Americans from terrorists. It's arrogant nonsense for this administration to assert that they're above the law - but it's shameful cowardice for our congressional leadership to go along.

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