But I’ll get to that.


Judy M: ‘Re Friday’s comment, I can vouch for Commerce Bank‘s customer service. Open late weeknights, open Saturdays, and even open on Sundays! (Now another local bank started opening on Sunday to compete with Commerce. So they’re improving customer service even for other banks’ customers.) And they have great little touches, too. At the drive-through window, lollipops for people and doggie biscuits for your pooch. They have one of those coin counters so you can bring your coin jar in and get it counted and deposited (no fees either). They have online banking (not very high tech) and 24-hour customer service. Best of all, very few nuisance fees. You just need a $100 minimum balance for free checking.’

Jim Taylor: ‘I recently needed to have paperwork notarized for moving some 529 plans to Vanguard. I went to a branch of Commerce Bank and they notarized without even asking me if I had an account there! (I do but it is in a different branch and I’m sure these people did not know me as a customer.) We have been with Commerce for over 10 years and they have always been exceptional in their service no matter what the transaction.’

☞ I think their logo is ugly, but reading comments like these make me feel better and better about owning the stock (as suggested here a couple of dollars cheaper). And, yes, of course, they’re open Presidents’ Day.


Sid Knight: ‘The sad thing about your NTMD fixation – worse, if it works – is that it is an object lesson in how not to keep your eye on the ball. People who treat the market as a casino (zero-sum game) can expect casino-like returns. A teacher’s caveats are powerless against his example.’

☞ Sid makes a good point. I have been arguing for the better part of 30 years that the options game is generally a bad one to play – a less-than-zero-sum game. So . . . what if some people get the bug with NTMD puts and decide this is a game they can win? (Or just enjoy the thrill of playing?)

If that’s the outcome, I will feel bad. Because the options game really is one I rarely suggest playing. Especially the short-term options game.* But, if you bought them with money you can truly afford to lose – don’t sell your puts.

*LEAPS – long-term options that offer, among other things, the possibility of lightly taxed long-term capital gains – are not always a good idea, either, but are considerably less casino-like.

Here are the most recent weekly BiDil prescription figures I’ve seen:

12/30/2005 1,063
1/6/2006 1,046
1/13/2006 1,206
1/20/2006 1,152
1/27/2006 1,203
2/3/2006 1,347

They’re inching up, and you can imagine their hitting 3,000 a week someday. Maybe. But 3,000 times 52 weeks times 90 pills times $1.80/pill equals $25 million a year in sales against $95 million a year in expenses. Not a business you want to be in – or pay $350 million for (30.5 million shares at $11.50 each).

As of February 13, the 7-day rolling-average prescription rate was 185.1 (1295 for the week), of which two-thirds were new prescriptions. I continue to wonder why so many of the prescriptions are for new prescriptions – shouldn’t a lot by now be for refills? What about the patients who started on BiDil in July, August, September, October, November, December and January?

I also wonder what proportion of these prescriptions may be written under the company’s voucher plan for low-income uninsured patients. Under that plan, instead of getting $1.80 a pill, Nitromed gets less than 30 cents.


In the spirit of Presidents’ Day, here’s a recent speech delivered on the floor of the Commonwealth of Virginia House of Delegates by David Englin (D-45). He quotes President Washington, whose birthday we celebrate today; and nothing in his speech, I suspect, would have drawn anything but approval from President Lincoln, whose birthday we also celebrate, were he alive today.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to this resolution. I’m not going to talk about same-sex marriage. I’m no fool – although others might make a different judgment about a freshman delegate rising in this chamber on the third day of session. But I understand that on the issue of marriage, I’m in the minority, perhaps even in my own caucus. I also sleep very well at night knowing that at some point in the future of this great Commonwealth, those of us of my opinion will be judged to have been on the right side of history. But let’s for a moment forget about the question of same-sex marriage, because this amendment addresses much more than that. We need to be clear and honest: This amendment also outlaws civil unions and domestic partnerships and other similar private legal arrangements.

We have heard from the other side that this constitutional amendment is necessary to protect conventional marriage. I am blessed with a beautiful and brilliant wife who is the love of my life. In June, Shayna and I will celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary, and I would fight with every ounce of my strength anything that would threaten my marriage. So I would like to know, how exactly civil unions and domestic partnerships and other similar arrangements threaten my marriage?

We have heard from the other side that this amendment will protect families. Shayna and I are blessed with a strong and bright six-year-old son, Caleb, and we have a strong family. My friend the gentleman from Rockingham County, Delegate Lohr, and I have discussed how we come from different backgrounds and different parts of this great Commonwealth, yet we share a deep and abiding commitment to our families. I want nothing more than to protect my family. I spent 12 years wearing the uniform of the United States Air Force to protect my family. I’ve been in harm’s way to protect my family. So I would like to know, how exactly do civil unions and domestic partnerships and other similar arrangements threaten my family? Because if they do, I will be the first one to stand up and fight, because nobody better threaten my family.

Moreover, we have heard from the other side that this amendment must pass sooner rather than later, as if there is some kind of crisis that is more important than issues like transportation or education or health care. Why else would this be our first order of business? Yet Virginia law already makes same-sex marriage and civil unions and domestic partnerships illegal.

So if this amendment doesn’t help protect my marriage, and doesn’t help protect my family, and if it doesn’t even change the status of same-sex marriage and civil unions and domestic partnership contracts, then what exactly does this amendment do? I submit to my fair-minded colleagues that this amendment sends a message. And that message is, if you are gay, or lesbian, or even a man and a woman living together and committed to each other who are not married, you are not welcome in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

And who are these people whom we are shutting out in the cold? They are my dear friends Karen and Sue, who have been together for years and are as loving and committed to each other as any husband and wife. They are my friend Lou, who served with me at the Pentagon, and continues to serve our country today. They are Father Mychal Judge, the gay priest who died in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 while ministering to fallen firefighters. They are Mark Bingham, a gay passenger on United Airlines Flight 93, who fought back against Al Queda hijackers and sacrificed his life to save others. They are Ronald Gamboa and his partner Dan Brandhorst, who, along with their 3 year old son David, were killed when Al Quaeda flew United Airlines Flight 175 into the World Trade Center. They are David Charlebois, the co-pilot of American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon when Al Qaeda tried to kill me and my comrades who were on duty inside the Pentagon at the time. They are friends and neighbors and teachers and doctors and soldiers and loving parents who want nothing more than to live life without fear that the government will tear their families apart.

I’m a student of history, and I find our Founding Fathers to be a great source of wisdom on many matters, so I want to close my remarks by reading from a letter that great Virginian named George Washington wrote more than two centuries ago:

“The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind . . a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens.*

‘May the Children of the Stock of Abraham who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

Ladies and gentlemen, I implore you, be strong and of good courage and vote down this resolution.

* How doth he demean himself / Let me count the ways. Groveling, bad puns, moral compromise . . . No, not that kind of ‘demean.’ Dat’s da meaner kind. Back in George Washington’s day, how you ‘demeaned’ yourself determined your demeanor. What a language, this English!

☞ And while we’re at it, here’s a site that compares statements in a Nazi propaganda film with statements from the Family Research Council and others dehumanizing their fellow citizens who are gay and lesbian. I think it’s important to remember that most Nazis didn’t wake up every morning thinking they were evil – any more than most radical Islamists do or slave-owners did. But that doesn’t mean their sense of moral superiority is or was justified.

We’re making rapid progress toward equal rights. Thanks to young leaders like David Englin, there’s lots of reason to be hopeful. Happy Presidents’ Day!

(See you Wednesday.)


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