Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Scam? or not?

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Here’s the story. Note that it has a huge potential market as Baby Boomers hit the Golden Years, hard. So: scam? or not?

Written by LeisureGuy

10 February 2016 at 5:03 pm

Now it’s not keeping up with the Joneses, it’s simply keeping up: FOMO drives us all

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People keep inventing more and more things to keep up on because it’s structured so that your keeping up requires you to spend some sort of currency: dollars, personal information— something of value:.

YouTube has a new service: YouTube Red. Don’t you feel you should keep up?

Original movies and series from top creators now available with YouTube Red
Big news! YouTube Red Original movies and series are available starting today – and it’s all made possible by YouTube Red members.

We’re kicking things off with a brand new series from PewDiePie and three new movies from Lilly Singh, AwesomenessTV, and Rooster Teeth. With crazy fun ideas from top creators, we’re just getting started and can’t wait to share all the new shows coming throughout 2016.

Ready to check out YouTube Red Originals? All you need is a YouTube Red membership. Try it free.

YouTube has a new service. Keep up.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 February 2016 at 4:23 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

The struggle for control of the educational system: Shape the young and you shape the future

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Pretty clear struggle as corporations work to privatize education and thus create new profit centers with government-enforced participation—start slashing costs because every dollar of cost eliminated drops right to the bottom line. Obviously, some oppose this move, and many of them because they have devoted their lives to education and don’t want to see things happening like Mount St. Mary’s, blogged earlier today.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 February 2016 at 3:25 pm

Running a university like a business: Mount St. Mary’s president fires faculty (even tenured faculty) who disagree with him

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And the board supports it, presumably because such actions are in line with Catholic values. (Mount St. Mary’s is a Catholic institution, and Catholic institutions frequently fire those who are not in agreement with Catholic teachings.) I admit that I no longer understand what “tenure” means when tenured faculty can be fired at will for merely voicing disagreement rather than for, say, moral turpitude, which has generally been grounds for dismissing tenured faculty.

Reported in Salon:

“This is hard for you because you think of the students as cuddly bunnies, but you can’t,” the president of Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland said to a group of professors. “You just have to drown the bunnies … put a Glock to their heads.”

President Simon Newman’s plan to get rid of struggling freshman students from Mount St. Mary’s didn’t get him fired. Instead, with a full vote of confidence and the backing of the University Trustees, Newman turned on the faculty who publicly expressed their dismay with these views. In lieu of respecting due process, Newman fired Thane Naberhaus, a tenured professor of philosophy, along with Edward Egan, the faculty advisor for the student-run paper, The Mountain Echo, which had published Newman’s remarks. Newman also demoted the Provost, David Rehm, who thereby lost his administrative job but was kept on as a member of the philosophy faculty, as well as Joshua Hochschild, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, who is also a philosopher. The reason for the demotions and terminations? “Disloyalty.”

Naberhaus has disputed that charge, arguing that he was acting to defend the ethics and values of an institution dedicated to higher learning. In a report appearing in The Washington Post, he asked rhetorically: “Who’s to determine what’s loyalty, and who’s to define that?…A lot of us have been likening this to North Korea. It’s like a police state.”

Today, news outlets report that North Korea has executed its Army chief of staff on catchall charges of “corruption.”

To be sure, Newman didn’t literally plan on executing students. Helpfully, the Board of Trustees clarified that the bunny-drowning-shooting thing was an “unfortunate metaphor.” He did, however, intend to push out the most vulnerable from campus, using a deceptive (and non-confidential) questionnaire that asked students if they’d felt “depressed,” like “a failure,” or “disliked” in the week since arriving Mount St. Mary’s. The responses would guide a pre-emptive dump of 20 to 25 freshmen before they would have to be recorded as dropouts. Various sources have noted that the president’s email stated:

“My short-term goal is to have 20-25 people leave by [September] 25th. This one thing will boost our retention 4-5 percent,” the email says. Professors note that the president’s goal wasn’t stated as providing better counseling or support services to 20-25 students, but having them leave.

This would be done with the explicit goal of raising the institution’s retention rates, one of the metrics used to rank them, which influences which students decide to apply, matriculate, and ultimately pay its private-school tuition rates. (The total current enrollment is around 2,300 students.)

To compare this small Catholic university to a secretive dictatorship is histrionic, but the feelings of fear running through the Mount St. Mary’s campus are no less real. “Speaking anonymously,” Inside Higher Ed reported, “professors said some faculty and support staff members were crying in various offices. With the firing of the provost and two faculty members–all of whom had disagreed with the president–people said they were scared. ‘It’s terrifying, and nobody is safe,’ said one faculty member.”

Faculty around the country have been profoundly alarmed by these series of events, with a protest petition having been signed by thousands of professors, and rising.  “Of particular concern,” the petition noted, “is that Prof. Egan was fired partly for actions taken in his role as faculty advisor to the university’s student newspaper, which first broke the stories leading to the present controversy.” It also notes that Mount St. Mary’s is a Catholic institution, and as such it is bound by the teachings that “charity always proceeds by way of respect for one’s neighbor and his conscience” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1789). Instead, the university has resorted to tactics of fear and intimidation, the goal being acquiescence and silence.

So much for respecting freedom of the press, the right to reasoned dissent, the imperative to seek out uncomfortable truths, or the ability to critique power without fear of (and being blamed for) retribution. Notably, three of the four professors that Newman targeted—Naberhaus, Hochschild, and Rehm–are philosophers by training. If any of the liberal arts could be said to be diametrically opposed to the corporate sensibility that Newman (a former hedge fund manager with no background in academia) and the Chairman of the Mount St. Mary’s Board of Trustees represents, it’s the pursuit of philosophy, which has become the unlikely bulwark against the steady creep of corporatism in the 21st century. . .

Continue reading.

I earlier today commented in the post on American Red Cross’s dismal record under their current CEO that some organizations suffer a lot if they are run like a business. This is a good example.

So far as the president’s rationale, I would point out that refusing to accept seriously ill patients would greatly improve a hospital’s survival rate, but that sort of misses the point: the hospital exists to help the seriously ill, and educational institutions exist to help students. The president is not concerned with the institution’s purpose but merely in driving up the metrics.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 February 2016 at 2:08 pm

Posted in Business, Education

How long with American Red Cross stick with their current CEO?

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Not much longer, if their board of directors have any sense. Justin Elliott reports in ProPublica:

The American Red Cross ran a deficit of $159 million last fiscal year, battered by a steep drop in fundraising and its struggling blood banking division, according to newly released financial statements.

Former AT&T executive Gail McGovern, who was hired as CEO in 2008 with a brief to stabilize the charity’s finances, has spent the last eight years making deep cuts in the Red Cross’ workforce and trying to bring in more donations with an increased focus on branding.

But the new financial statements show contributions to the Red Cross fell to $604 million, about $120 million less than the previous year. It is the worst fundraising result the Red Cross has had since at least 2000, the last year for which we could find financial records.

The Red Cross’ fundraising can swing wildly, spiking when there’s a major disaster and dropping in years with no big televised catastrophe. But there have been no signature disasters in either of the past two years, raising the question of why donations dropped so much.

A Red Cross spokesperson declined to comment in response to questions about its financial results.

In a letter to a congressman last month, McGovern says she presided over “Turnaround I” after inheriting financial problems at the charity in 2008 and that she is now in the midst of “Turnaround II” as a result of a drop in demand for blood.

The Red Cross’ large blood banking division, which has been struggling amid industry-wide declines and other issues, lost $71 million in 2015.

McGovern also wrote in the letter that fundraising is actually improving, but the charity has not provided data to substantiate the claim.

McGovern wrote that donations have increased “14 percent since 2008″ if major disasters are excluded. It’s not clear how the group is arriving at the figure. It declined our request for details on the calculation.

The group’s revenue in 2015 was also hurt by a decline in contributions from the United Way and other federated sources, which fell from $104 million to $77 million. A United Way spokesperson told us it has cut contributions to the Red Cross in recent years because it has shifted to a “community impact funding model.” . . .

Continue reading.

It’s often said that non-profits and government organizations (schools, hospitals, and the like) should be “run like a business,” but it’s good to keep in mind that it is not rare for a business to fail.

UPDATE: See this post on running a university like a business (and focusing on bending the metrics instead of on fulfilling the mission).

Written by LeisureGuy

10 February 2016 at 9:55 am

Posted in Business, Philanthropy

Bad news for global warming: Justices Block Obama Restrictions on Coal Emissions

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Obama as president should have the right to take executive actions, but the current Supreme Court is very political and very conservative, so they will happily deal him a setback (cf. throwing the Florida vote to George W. Bush and forbidding a recount). Adam Liptak reports in the NY Times:

The Supreme Court on Tuesday temporarily blocked the Obama administration’s effort to combat climate change by regulating emissions from coal-fired power plants. The brief order was not the last word on the case, which is most likely to return to the Supreme Court after an appeals court considers an expedited challenge from 29 states and dozens of corporations and industry groups.

But the Supreme Court’s willingness to issue a stay while the case proceeds was an early hint that the program could face a skeptical reception from the justices.

The vote was 5 to 4.

The challenged regulation, which was issued last summer by the Environmental Protection Agency, requires states to make major cuts to greenhouse gas pollution created by electric power plants, the nation’s largest source of such emissions. The plan could transform the nation’s electricity system, cutting emissions from existing power plants by a third by 2030, from a 2005 baseline, by closing hundreds of heavily polluting coal-fired plants and increasing production of wind and solar power.

“Climate change is the most significant environmental challenge of our day, and it is already affecting national public health, welfare and the environment,” Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. wrote in a brief urging the Supreme Court to reject a request for a stay while the case moves forward.

The regulation calls for states to submit plans to comply with the regulation by September, though they may seek a two-year extension. The first deadline for power plants to reduce their emissions is in 2022, with full compliance not required until 2030.

The states challenging the regulation, led mostly by Republicans and many with economies that rely on coal mining or coal-fired power, sued to stop what they called “the most far-reaching and burdensome rule the E.P.A. has ever forced onto the states.” A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in January unanimously refused to grant a stay. The court did expedite the case and will hear arguments on June 2, which is fast by the standards of complex litigation.

The states urged the Supreme Court to take immediate action to block what they called a “power grab” under which “the federal environmental regulator seeks to reorganize the energy grids in nearly every state in the nation.” Though the plan’s first emission reduction obligations do not take effect until 2022, the states said they had already started to spend money and shift resources to get ready.

Eighteen states, mostly led by Democrats, opposed the request for a stay, saying they were “continuing to experience climate-change harms firsthand — including increased flooding, more severe storms, wildfires and droughts.” Those harms are “lasting and irreversible,” they said, and “any stay that results in further delay in emissions reductions would compound the harms that climate change is already causing.”

In a second filing seeking a stay, coal companies and trade associations represented by Laurence H. Tribe, a law professor at Harvard, said the court should act to stop a “targeted attack on the coal industry” that will “artificially eliminate buyers of coal, forcing the coal industry to curtail production, idle operations, lay off workers and close mines.”

The E.P.A., represented by Mr. Verrilli, called the requests for a stay “extraordinary and unprecedented.” The states challenging the administration’s plan, he said, could point to no case in which the Supreme Court had “granted a stay of a generally applicable regulation pending initial judicial review in the court of appeals.” In a later brief, the states conceded that point. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 February 2016 at 4:24 pm

Spending a dollar to save a dime—Arizona spends a dollar to save 7¢

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Or, more accurately, foregoes $6,000 million in GDP in order to save $410 million costs: 6.8¢ saved for every dollar lost. Most states would think that losing $6,000 in order to get a benefit of $410 million is a bad deal. Not Arizona.

The comparison is between money lost (in terms of reduction in GDP—this is the money “spent,” or more accurately, forfeited) and, in return for that loss, money saved by not having to provide services. Kevin Drum has a post on the details, summed up in his chart:


UPDATE: Another article on the economics of the issue. And after I posted a comment, thebriang posted a pertinent reply about another instance of GOP willingness to spend lots of public money to no purpose other than making a cultural statement: drug-testing welfare recipients, a practice that costs a lot, catches virtually no one, but apparently is worth it to the GOP to show their disapproval of the poor.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 February 2016 at 12:44 pm

Posted in Business, Government


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