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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Opinionator Comments from Gore’s ‘Supreme Disloyalty’ in Saudi Arabia


Never mind that George W Bush, his entire oil-swilling family and many Republicans are completely and totally in the pocket of this “ugly and tyrannical regime.” This phony outrage on the part of Republicans is a joke and their hypocrisy never ceases.

Comment by Angie — February 15, 2006 @ 12:24 pm

In the same speech Mr. Gore also criticized Iran for its nuclear program and corruption. The former Vice President can defend his own words, successfully or not, to the American people if given a chance. He can be invited by Tim Russert to NBC’s Meet the Press or by George Stephanopolus to ABC’s This Week to explain himself.
As Samuel Johnson said, (false) Patriotism can be used as the last refuge of a scoundrel.

Comment by Deinde Alade — February 15, 2006 @ 12:48 pm

I find it troubling that the Main Stream Media has ignored Sheik Al’s comments but rise in indignation about a hunting accident. They have muzzeled themselves about cartoons but publish degrading Christian pictures as art. Where is the outrage and or concern about freedoms given away for fear of offending one relegious minority?

Comment by John B. — February 15, 2006 @ 12:48 pm

Just to be sure that I understand correctly: It is perfectly acceptable for Republicans like Tom DeLay to travel to Europe and the Middle East and publicly criticize the Bush Administration’s policy for Israel, which he and others have done. It is not acceptable, however, for Democrats to criticize Bush Administration policies at home or abroad because it undermines the U.S. in a time of war. The double standard is almost as mind-boggling as the number of Americans who buy into the blatent attempts to distract the public from the truth.

Comment by allen — February 15, 2006 @ 12:49 pm

Well at least there is some recognition by (some) Republican pundits that Saudi Arabia is an “ugly and tyrannical regime.” So, why does this administration still behave as their lap dog? Of course we know, it’s just a rhetorical question. It is high time the democrats speak up without fear and tell it as it is: The emperor has no clothes. By now, it should be crystal clear this administration is not made of patriots but profiteers.

We are at a war of Bush’s choosing. And just follow the money trail and you’ll see who’s benefiting from all this. I’ll vote for Sheik Al-Gore over any of these clowns, any day!

Comment by Ali E. — February 15, 2006 @ 1:13 pm

Who paid for Al’s speech? What plans do the Democrats have to cure all of the supposed ills they pin on W? How many people did Sheik Al know at the WTC on 11 September?

Comment by John B. — February 15, 2006 @ 1:29 pm

The right will use any excuse they can find to criticize Gore. It is important to devalue him politically because they know the public still sees him as the candidate whose presidency was stolen in a very close race by a Supreme Court divided along party lines.

The other issue here is the War on Terrorism. When does this war end? Does anyone think terrorism will ever go away completely? So we will be at war forever. In this state of war the government will feel free to discard the Constitution and claim it is necessary in a time of war. Torture and the lack of due process are only the most visible signs of the “Big Brother” mentality that absolute power breeds. Any question or expressed doubt about their use of this power is met with accusations of disloyalty or worse.

The truth is the truth where ever it is spoken.

Comment by Stringband — February 15, 2006 @ 1:36 pm

It seems impossible that the Republicans could come up with a more incompetent and corrupt president than Warren G. Harding, but Harding looks like Teddy Roosevelt by comparison to George Bush! Teapot Dome
will look like a minor incident by comparison with mendacity of W. Gore is more than fair given the completely corrupt Bush “chicken-hawk” gang.

Comment by Dennis Johnston — February 15, 2006 @ 1:49 pm

I heard the rant of a right-wing radio talk show host goofy about Gore’s remarks in Saudi Arabia. I thought surely that he was being misquoted so I scoured the (online) pages of the Good Grey NYT for a less biased report or version. Sadly, perhaps through my own ineptitude, I couldn’t find the story there or on MSN or MSNBC.

Comment by Irwin Brown — February 15, 2006 @ 1:58 pm

This highlights one of the major problems with blog opinion. People feel relatively anonymous, post whatever pops into their head, and need to resort to hyperbole to get any attention. It inevitably leads to the type of glib “outrage” noted above. These reaction are far from genuine, and show how group blogging in the wrong hands turns into a mindless game of partisan one-up-manship. The blogosphere at its worst.

By the way, how often has anyone heard somebody from the Bush administration publicly criticize the Saudis? Democrats have been a lot more vocal about criticizing the Saudis. The Republicans are the ones holding hands with the Saudi Wahhabis (literally as well as figuratively).

Comment by A.S. — February 15, 2006 @ 2:09 pm

The Republicans here are desparate to deflect the attention from the failed policies they have to defend. Massive redistibution of wealth to the upper class, the destruction of our social safety net by placing a debt bomb in our budget so we can’t afford social programs, the give aways to the oil and pharmicutial, and all other, as well as lieing, breaking the law with illegal wiretaps, provoking a war that costs billions, and dirtying our countries honor and good will around the world. Gore didn’t say enough, or loud enough. Bush is a misguided enemy of our government, and seeks to destroy it.

Comment by Steve Spitsnogle — February 15, 2006 @ 2:13 pm

So why has this speech not appeared in any way in the news part of the Times? I’ve searched the name “Gore” several times and no mention. Not in the AP stories, not in the news section, not in any opinion piece. It’s as if the NYT has scrubbed this sad piece of shamefulness from the paper of record. To what end?

The only place it’s mentioned at all is behind the screen of TimesSelect. I guess Gore’s comments weren’t fit to print.

Of course that’s usually the case, but usually his comments are printed.

Comment by hambone_mcgoo — February 15, 2006 @ 2:13 pm

I don’t understand why TigerHawk believes Gore’s remarks “undermined” the U.S. At the very least, his remarks demonstrate to his Arab audience that there is active dissent in our country, which prides itself on tolerance for active dissent. More likely, his criticism of the treatment of Arab detainess will be received as an apology which will improve our relationship with the Arab community and improve stability everywhere. I can’t think of a single instance in American history when blind loyalty to an unpopular presidential administration has improved international relations.

I also don’t understand why TigerHawk refers to Bush’s number one business partner and ally in the Middle East as an oppressor. A huge chunk of our tax dollars go towards insuring that the Saudi monarchy is kept safe to continue doing business with Mr. Bush and U.S. oil companies.

Comment by William H. Payne — February 15, 2006 @ 2:38 pm

Gore has shown himself in recent years to be a brave, intelligent and yes, at times, passionate critic of the current administration’s foreign policies. He has done so with rigor and dignity. He is also focusing a necessary spotlight on the imminent catastrophe that global warming will bring, especially if US energy policies are allowed to continue unchecked.

I applaud his efforts to speak the truth.

Comment by Amy V. — February 15, 2006 @ 2:54 pm

Another conservative that says that it doesn’t matter what we do here because it isn’t as bad as what they do there. Does anyone see how that is disloyalty to the constitution and the country? How the practices they support debase and degrade our country so that in the end we won’t stand for anything but realpolitik and oil profits.

I am additionally sick of the entire “don’t criticize the government during wartime.” It looks as though we may never NOT be in wartime again. If you want to see how crazy the people that use that logic are ask them if we could have won in Vietnam if not for all the people “undermining the effort” and “giving comfort to the enemy.” Then ask them if Joseph McCarthy was an upright American.

Now is the time to stop all of the un-American practices, including the squelching of dissent, and now is the time to criticize everything about not only our government, but our entire way of life, because if we’re only fighting for something we don’t actually stand by when it is inconvenient to what our greed or prejudice drives us towards then that isn’t enough to give us the spirit we’ll need to succeed, or even to survive.

How about this for a change: if you believe that people shouldn’t question their government when their government lies to them, spies on them, tortures and murders them, tortures and murders ANYONE ANYWHERE, and especially that they shouldn’t hold them accountable for getting them into an illegal war principally because the illegal war is STILL GOING ON (and failing miserably, sorry if stating that indisputable fact prolongs the war and gives comfort to the enemy), then please go spring Saddam Hussein from jail and start a new country with him because you’re in the wrong one.

America’s spirit comes from the spirit of its people, and these illegal, inhuman and evil actions are undermining the basis of that spirit. Without it we stand for nothing, we are just another country, and our days are numbered. You can see it in the “passivity” that resulted in Katrina, but moreso you can see it in the passivity of the people that find less and less reason to care about whether this decay is happening. Because without the constitution and the bill of rights, and without even the belief of righteousness (not to mention the real thing) we’re just a country of malls and consumers tearing through the planet’s resources several times faster than anyone else and living on land we took through genocide. That’s not going to be enough. If America isn’t “Good” then it will be a country without a soul, descend into nihilism, and, mirroring the saying in the trailer for that Mel Gibson movie: destroy ourselves from within before any terrorist has to. If that happens, it won’t be the people with the printing presses or the people speaking out that are to blame, it will be the people that silence them.

Comment by Craig H. — February 15, 2006 @ 3:34 pm

If anyone is guilty of “supreme disloyalty”, it is first and foremost the perpetrators of the abuse at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere — they betrayed the human rights, freedoms and the humane treatment of prisoners that the US has stood for until now. They are the ones who let our country down in the worst possible way. I applaud Gore for his remarks — it is important for the Arab world to know that there are decent Americans who are shocked and outraged at what was done in our name, and are not afraid to say it.

Comment by Art T — February 15, 2006 @ 3:53 pm

Criticism of the Bush administration is a threat to our security and undermines the troops. The best response to such criticism is, of course, an ad hominem attack against the critic (see Swiftboat inter alia).

Gore’s haunting rhetorial question remains — “How dare they drag the good name of the United States of America through Sadaam Hussein’s torture chambers?” I’d like to see how the W’s ilk answers that in 2008!

Comment by Joshua G — February 15, 2006 @ 4:31 pm

Bush had Saudi members of the Bin Laden family secretly flown out of NYC on 9/12/01 when all other flights were grounded. He has sold US foreign policy to wealthy oil nations. His failed policy in the Mid East. His shaping policy and military action in Iraq to suit the interests of the energy industry over that of American security is treasonous. Hard right bloggers making an issue of what Gore is doing as a private citizen is a distration from the real issues, impeachable issues, that are currently plaguing the White House. Every time people talk about Katrina, the economy or Iraq expect someone to shout “Look, a covy of quail!”

Comment by J Winkleman — February 15, 2006 @ 4:56 pm

I score the responses so far as Gore 16, Bush 2.

I have a lot of empathy (Laura’s request) for Mr. Bush. Neither Bush nor any of his cronies and flacks can do anything right.

It’s all coming out. Gore’s criticism was mild compared to what Republicans are saying.

I would enjoy seeing and hearing the outraged defenders of loyalty in wartime present their candid evaluations of Republican critics of the failing Bush mob.

Comment by Realist — February 15, 2006 @ 5:23 pm

Could someone please explain what war we are “at?” Who are we at war with? It isn’t Iraq — that mission was accomplished years ago. We run the country now, right? Ditto the Taliban and Afghanistan. I keep reading the phrase “in a time of war.” But Congress never declared war against Iraq, and we are merely occupiers in that country fighting a tiny band of insurgents, right? And, unless I’m mistaken, we can’t really be at war with a gang of crazed, well-armed rabble-rousers, can we? And surely people can’t be referring to the “war on terrorism,” can they? If that’s the case, we will be “in a time of war” for the rest of time. So if that’s what people are talking about, that’s just silly and stupid. BTW, is Bush or Cheney or Rumsfeld going to tell us when we are no longer “at war” so we can begin criticizing the administration without being called unpatriotic or enemy sympathizers? That would really be helpful, especially for those of us who aren’t at all sure what war we’re in. But, in the meantime, help me — what war is it that everyone keeps referring to?

Comment by Craig C. — February 15, 2006 @ 5:29 pm

If the right-wing extremists at Fox News expressed a tiny shred of outrage at the anti-American abuses of power of the Bush administration, including the disgraceful treatment of American citizens of Arab descent, as the outrage at those who speak up for America’s values and traditions, such as Al Gore in this speech, I would try to listen to their arguments. Al Gore presided over the Senate that voted to steal the election from him, and ruled protests that supported him out of order, in a gracious gesture towards national unity. This deference has been rewarded by continued insults by those who represent an extreme fringe, albeit a vocal one that owns TV and radio networks.

Do you think the man who was ridiculed as an obsessive policy wonk by the right during the 2000 election would have taken the month of August 2001 as a holiday while threats of an attack were growing?

Gore’s obsessiveness might well have prevented the 9/11 attacks, much as the LA airport/Millennium terrorist attack had been thwarted by the Clinton administration attention to it, but he is too much of a gentleman to point that out.

Comment by Lynn — February 15, 2006 @ 5:47 pm

Are these jokers expecting people to take them seriously? We get “supreme disloyalty” because a U.S. public figure–who actually won an election that was later stolen by neo-fascists–gives his opinion in a foreign country? If we think about why we are “in time of war” in Iraq, should we worry about the context of Al Gore’s comments? I think some of them hit the mark. Today, that matter more than where he said them. I’m ashamed of our government and many of its actions, too.

Comment by N. Bell of N.CA. — February 15, 2006 @ 5:52 pm

Anyone who dares criticize Bush and his adminsitration is considered to be a liberal by his supporters, who claim to be conservative but are really part of a personality cult. It doesn’t matter if you are an old style Republican conservative who believes in limited government. If you dare criticize Bush for a Federal budget that is out of control, for the slow response to Katrina, for the mismanaged war in Iraq or for the intrusion of big government into the personal lives of people in the form of warrantless domestic spying, you will be labeled a “liberal” as if that word is obscene.

Comment by Richard T. — February 15, 2006 @ 9:36 pm

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Wanting It to Be Over Isn't Enough by Gretchen Morgenson

February 12, 2006

VETERAN investors have learned the hard way that for a company in crisis, even the smallest moves by its executives can mean a lot. Shrewd investors also know to question Wall Street's quick pronouncements that the company's crisis, whatever it involved, has passed.

And yet, a primal urge remains among many investors to heed all spin that is positive. People who buy stocks are optimists, after all.

Shareholders of SFBC International, the nation's largest administrator of clinical trials for drug makers and medical device manufacturers, face just such a conundrum. The company, still recovering from deep and wide-ranging turmoil, has recently installed new management, and Wall Street analysts are recommending its shares, braying that the worst is over.

But a closer look indicates that the company's managers seem interested in silencing critics and avoiding the kind of sweeping changes to their operations that some investors would prefer.

You may not know SFBC, but the company has conducted trials for many of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies and generic drug makers. Bristol-Myers Squibb has been a major customer, and SFBC conducted studies for Merck on Vioxx, the arthritis painkiller, after it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Vioxx was withdrawn from the market in 2004.

SFBC's woes began last November, when Bloomberg News published an extensive report questioning its practices and its behavior toward drug trial participants — some of them poor, non-English-speaking immigrants — at its Miami facility, a former Holiday Inn. In December, a drug trial at the company's Montreal unit collapsed when one participant infected others with tuberculosis.

Senator Charles E. Grassley, an Iowa Republican and Finance Committee chairman, opened an investigation into SFBC, and the Securities and Exchange Commission came calling.

Not surprisingly, SFBC's shares plummeted on these unhappy events. It hired an independent law firm to investigate its operations, but it turned up just a few minor problems.

Things seemed to be stabilizing until a mid-December conference call with investors, when a hedge fund manager brought up some regulatory problems in the past of a top SFBC executive, Gerald L. Seifer. Only then did the company's board remove him and two SFBC founders.

Departing were Arnold Hantman, SFBC's chief executive; Lisa Krinsky, its president, a graduate of a Caribbean medical school who is not licensed to practice medicine in the United States; and Mr. Seifer, a vice president of legal affairs who is not a lawyer. Real estate records show that Ms. Krinsky and Mr. Seifer bought a $15 million home together in Hillsboro Beach, Fla., last year.

None of the former executives could be reached for comment.

In 1992, the Federal Trade Commission sued Mr. Seifer and a wireless cable company he owned; in 1994, the S.E.C. sued both him and another company he owned. The suits contended that Mr. Seifer misled investors and consumers; he settled the suits without admitting or denying wrongdoing.

Until the conference call, however, SFBC had not publicly disclosed Mr. Seifer's previous business history or his executive position at the company — though some fine print in one filing called him a consultant.

Upon these executives' exits, the company installed as chief executive Jeffrey P. McMullen, a former executive at PharmaNet Inc., a provider of clinical development and consulting services to drug companies. SFBC acquired PharmaNet in late 2004.

SIX weeks into the job, Mr. McMullen seems to have persuaded investors that he is righting the ship. SFBC's shares have risen 50 percent since he took over. The latest push came on Feb. 2, when Mr. McMullen met with analysts and investors at SFBC's new headquarters in Princeton, N.J. The next day, Goldman Sachs Asset Management disclosed that it owned a 9.6 percent stake in the company.

Wall Street analysts at the meeting also liked what they saw, urging investors to buy SFBC shares. "Yesterday's meeting gave us greater comfort with SFBC's current and future operations," a Jefferies & Company analyst wrote. "We believe C.E.O. McMullen is addressing risk issues aggressively and that, contrary to some investors concerns, SFBC is winning new business as opposed to losing it."

An analyst at UBS also recommended the shares, saying that "the right management team is now in place." Both investment firms helped SFBC sell 3.5 million shares to the public last March at $38 each.

But not all who attended Mr. McMullen's meeting came away bullish. Some investors said they were troubled that the company, whose work to regain investor trust is surely not complete, ejected a participant at the meeting after he asked questions relating to SFBC's profitability and cash position. Michael York, an SFBC spokesman, said the company would not provide any information for this column.

But it isn't as if the ejected investor, who was not identified on a Webcast of the meeting, asked irrelevant questions. In late January, analysts at Moody's Investors Service said that the company might not be able to generate enough cash flow this year to cover working capital and capital expenditures. Moody's also said it expects to see a drop in SFBC's earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. As a result, the rating agency said, SFBC may have trouble complying with financial covenants in its bank loan.

While investors have been quick to buy Mr. McMullen's act, SFBC's customers may be another matter. Mr. McMullen said at the Feb. 2 meeting that SFBC's clients did not seem to be abandoning it.

For example, a spokeswoman for Merck, Casey Stavropoulos, said that it had reviewed SFBC's conduct. "Based on this review," she said, "we believe in the scientific integrity of the research SFBC has conducted for us, and at this time we intend to continue to engage them in research."

But two former customers say they are indeed going elsewhere for their clinical trial work. Tony Plohoros, a spokesman at Bristol-Myers Squibb, said in a statement: "Bristol-Myers Squibb is not currently working with SFBC on any active clinical trials and has no plans to place further studies with that company at this time. Presently, we are in the process of conducting a thorough review of all the work SFBC has done for Bristol-Myers Squibb."

Robert T. Foster executive chairman at Isotechnika Inc., the company in Edmonton, Alberta, whose drug trial by SFBC collapsed after tuberculosis broke out, said he would not hire the company again. "We'll definitely be looking beyond SFBC for supplying our contract research help in the future," he said. "I am not a lawyer, but SFBC should be liable for anything that comes out of this. They didn't recruit as carefully as they should have."

One problem may be that Mr. McMullen has not hired an outside firm to plumb SFBC's operations thoroughly. While the company is conducting a full-scale review of its business and practices, the inquiry is being handled internally.

Finally, there are questions about how clean a sweep Mr. McMullen has made. High-level executives who worked closely with Mr. Hantman, Ms. Krinsky and Mr. Seifer remain at the company. And it is still represented by Michael D. Harris, an outside counsel in West Palm Beach, Fla. Mr. Harris represented Mr. Seifer on many of his previous ventures, including those that drew scrutiny from regulators. Mr. Harris's office referred questions to Mr. York, the SFBC spokesman who declined to comment.

SENATOR GRASSLEY, meanwhile, is still on the case. Last week, he sent a letter to Mr. McMullen asking for details of SFBC's standard operating procedures and personnel qualifications.

"This company has shooed out some of the top birds, but we don't know yet how much of a mess is left in the coop," Mr. Grassley said on Friday. "When you're looking at the integrity of clinical research, it's important to know whether corners were cut. Were patients protected and rights respected? Were study investigators appropriately credentialed? We're seeking answers to these questions."

Company officials have until Feb. 27 to respond. Inquiring investors will surely want to know what they say.