Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Two sides to every story - SEIU/UHW vs. Prime Healthcare

I ran across this release from a local (Ontario, California) company, Prime Healthcare. It discusses Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW). A few excerpts:

Prime Healthcare Services, a California-based and award-winning hospital management organization, has filed a complaint under the federal RICO statute against SEIU, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, UHW, UHW President Dave Regan and affiliates....

Filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Francisco Division, the lawsuit accuses the defendants of conspiring to extort, threaten and force Prime Healthcare to enter into a "neutrality agreement" that would enable SEIU to force all employees into the union regardless of employee choice.

Among other unlawful conduct, the defendants have issued malicious and false statements, funded operations with money unlawfully received in violation of federal law, coerced the California Hospital Association to impose neutrality agreements on its members including Prime Healthcare, and threatened to prevent acquisitions of hospitals by Prime Healthcare unless it concedes to the defendants' demands and provide them control of all Prime Healthcare hospitals.

I figured that the SEIU and UHW would have a different spin on the story. I was right:

A growing coalition of community leaders and SEIU-UHW members are speaking out to hold Prime Healthcare Services accountable.

Prime has a shameful history of buying struggling hospitals, then laying off large numbers of staff and reducing patient services in order to increase profits. Prime’s business model has been bad for patients, bad for taxpayers, and bad for workers.

And Prime Healthcare isn't the only hospital chain that has incurred SEIU-UHW's ire:

Shortly after reaching a truce with much of the hospital industry...California's largest healthcare union vowed to step up its criticism of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and two hospital chains that balked at the agreement..

On an internal conference call leaked to the media, a leader of the Service Employees International Union lashed out at the three holdouts and talked about using the new deal to bring them "to heel."...

Under the agreement, the California Hospital Assn. and a majority of the state's 430 hospitals approved a new "code of conduct" to make it easier for the union to organize thousands of workers....

But [SEIU-UHW President Dave] Regan singled out Cedars-Sinai, Prime Healthcare Services Inc. and the Providence Health & Services hospital chain as the top three "bad actors" who didn't sign on.

And SEIU-UHW is receiving criticism from the other side:

Some rival unions and patient advocates have faulted SEIU for making this deal and for being too cozy with hospital management.

You just can't win.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

If you fail at one business, get into another - .@peterose_14 continues to hustle

Baseball may have a new commissioner, but it still enjoys looking to its past. Earlier this month, baseball held its annual Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Cooperstown, New York. Obviously an event such as this is bound to lead to reminiscing, but sometimes a look at the past is not appreciated by everyone. Take this story shared by Staten Island reporters Charlie Greinsky and Jay Greinsky.

During a break for a TV commercial, [Jane Forbes] Clark asked Barry Larkin to name the greatest moment in baseball history he witnessed. His reply was Pete Rose's 4256 hit. The crowd went wild and Commissioner Bud Selig sat expressionless.

Selig, you see, is part of the group that is enforcing Pete Rose's lifetime ban from baseball for betting on the sport. Whatever one may think of the ban, you have to admit that it dictates the Stalinist-style treatment of Rose as a non-person (Jim Murray's words) whenever official baseball events take place.

Yet Rose still made his way to Cooperstown - just not in an official capacity. You see, because of all the fans who congregate in Cooperstown, a number of retired baseball players like to show up and sign autographs - for a fee. Rose was no exception.

Also signing at his usual spot was Pete Rose. Pete was signing balls with crazy inscriptions such as " I am sorry I bet on baseball, I was not in Dallas Nov. 22, 1963, I did not shoot Lincoln."

The Greinskys went on to say:

He spends his time now living in Vegas signing balls from dawn to dusk four days a week.

You can't blame him - autographed baseballs at Rose's official website sell for $99.99 and up. The $199.99 version:

Hits 4256
Steroids 0

Selig probably doesn't like that either.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Because politics - Federal banking recommendations on disaster recovery, and what happens when a U.S. Senator takes an interest in the topic

I should caution my readers that the technical capabilities and limitations discussed below are primarily of historical interest. The articles cited in this post date from 2003, which is ancient history when you talk about communications.

Not that disaster recovery is no longer a concern; it clearly is. In a disaster recovery scenario, you set up two computer systems, with the hope that if something happens to one computer system, all processing can be shifted to the other computer system.

But what if a disaster occurs that affects BOTH computer systems? Certainly an earthquake or a hurricane could adversely affect both systems - depending upon where they are placed.

The U.S. Government, in its recommendations to the banking industry, had to grapple with that very issue - but chose not to do so, for reasons outlined in this April 2003 article.

Three U.S. regulatory agencies have released disaster recovery guidelines for financial institutions notable for their lack of any recommended minimum distance between primary and secondary data centers....

In August, an interagency white paper that was released on strengthening the resilience of the U.S. financial system was soundly criticized by banks and brokerages for its suggestion that there be a minimum distance of 200 to 300 miles between a primary and backup data center (see story).

Many firms considered it technically unfeasible. For example, Fibre Channel, the most common network protocol used between data centers, has a distance limit of about 62 miles, or 100 kilometers.

Ah, this is refreshing. Government agencies make decisions solely based upon technical factors.

But I couldn't help but click on the link that appeared at the "(see story)" parenthetical statement. And that link, to a January 2003 article, told an entirely different story.

In letter to U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the heads of the Federal Reserve System, the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said they will now work individually with companies to develop contingency plans that will help keep backup sites in New York.

"At a time when New York is scrambling to keep businesses downtown in the wake of 9/11, it would have been disastrous to force the mainstays of New York's financial industry to move out of the city," Schumer said in a statement.

It's interesting to note that the January article said nothing about Fibre Channel or its 62 mile limitation. Instead, it talked about a New York Senator who was worried about business moving out of New York. Apparently Senator Schumer worried that the secondary sites, rather than being located in Buffalo, might be located in Raleigh - or perhaps even Boston.

Of course, as Dave Barry once said, any action by a government agency is automatically negated by an equal an opposite reaction from another government agency - something that can be seen when you look at the examination preparation materials issued by the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council.

Geographic Diversity

When determining the physical location of an alternate processing site, management should consider geographic diversity. In addition, alternate sites should not rely on the same critical infrastructure system that provides utility services such as electricity, telecommunications, transportation, and water. While geographic diversity is important for all financial institutions, this is a particularly important factor for financial industry participants whose rapid recovery is critical to the financial industry. Financial institutions should consider the geographic scope of disruptions and the implications of a citywide or regional disruption. The distance between primary and back-up locations should consider RTOs and business unit requirements. Locating a back-up site too close to the primary site may not insulate it sufficiently from a regional disaster. Alternatively, locating the back-up site too far away may make it difficult to relocate the staff necessary to operate the site. If relocation of staff is necessary to resume business operations at the alternate site, consideration should be given to their willingness to travel, the modes of transportation available, and if applicable, lodging and living expenses for employees that relocate. When evaluating the locations of alternate processing sites, it is also important to subject the secondary sites to a threat scenario analysis.

On the other hand, the text above is couched in phrases such as "management should consider," and no minimum distance is mandated or even mentioned. In other words, there are enough loopholes in this to guarantee that if the senior U.S. Senator from New York raises a stink, any geographic diversity recommendations can be safely disregarded.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Are you suffering from gluten deficiency?

(DISCLAIMER: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. In other words, we don't know what the heck we're talking about, but it sounds really good.)

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Facebook ventures beyond Silicon Valley

When we think of major companies such as Facebook and Google, we often picture them within the confines of Santa Clara and San Mateo County. Sure they have branch offices here and there, but we still think of them as "somewhere else."

Well, Steven Streight set know...about that. Streight is from Peoria, Illinois, and he recently attended a local event.

Name: Facebook Small Business Boost
Date: August 12, 2014
Time: 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Website: Register for this event at

Event Description:
Through a special partnership with local business organizations, Facebook invites you to join experts from Facebook's Small Business Team as they share best practices,success stories, and strategies for how to grow, manage, and understand your small business identity on Facebook. There are over one billion people on Facebook. Learn how to reach the right audience for your business and turn them into loyal customers.

I didn't even know that Facebook did something like this, but they do. And not just in Peoria, Illinois; they recently ventured to Stockton, California. (For those who don't know California's geography, Stockton is not within Silicon Valley.)

Facebook Small Business Team Leader Bess Yount...illustrated the strategies small businesses can utilize Facebook to bring people to company pages with key objectives being: building awareness; bringing people into a physical store; and increasing online sales. "You can reach the right audience and turn them into loyal customers."

And because it's a partnership, attendees can interact with local businesses and organizations.

Sounds like a win-win.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Why we hate transparency - the .@espn suspension of .@max_kellerman

Over the last few years, you've probably seen comments such as this one:

It’s not surprising that we overwhelmingly trust recommendations from people we know because we expect them to be transparent. Overall, increased trust in other forms of advertising has occurred during the past six years because advertisers understand that in a socially connected world, there are more people sharing their opinions about marketing. As a result, marketers must be more respectful and transparent with consumers.

If you believe the hype that transparency is rewarded in the market, think again.

Remember how BP's Tony Hayward was rewarded when he said those five fateful words, "I want my life back"?

Remember how TV reporter Shea Allen lost her job for saying things such as "I am better live when I have no script and no idea what I'm talking about"?

Well, late last week a new example of the dangers of transparency emerged.

Let me start by explaining that there are two ways that a journalist or commentator may choose to cover sports.

The first way is to focus on the game. People often treat sports as a release from everyday life - it's no accident that one of the most popular activities associated with sports has the word "fantasy" attached to it. Proponents of focusing on the game argue that the contest itself is paramount.

The second way is to acknowledge the outside issues that impact on the game. Proponents of this view argue that sports is not performed in a vacuum, and that issues surrounding sports are a legitimate topic for discussion. City Council zoning decisions, racial and sexual issues - all are fair game to people in this camp.

Perhaps these two views can best be contrasted by noting that Frank Gifford is the poster boy for the first view, and Howard Cosell is the poster boy for the second view. And those two shared a broadcast booth for over a decade.

Two proponents of this second view are ESPN's Max Kellerman and Marcellus Wiley. I've never heard their TV show, but I often hear their afternoon radio show in Los Angeles. Without fail, when some major event happens in the sports world, Kellerman and Wiley take the time to cast the event in light of broader societal currents. Issues of race, sex, class, and other "off the field" topics are often explored by the duo, who often take the time to share their personal perspectives, based upon their lifetime experiences.

Great transparency, right?

(Source: Wikipedia)

In that spirit, Kellerman offered an on-air comment a few days ago that impacted on a major story - Ray Rice's assault on his then-fiancee, and the resulting punishment by the National Football League.

On the "Mason & Ireland " show, which leads into his afternoon-drive program, Kellerman admitted to hitting his girlfriend many years ago....

On ESPN-LA, Kellerman told a story going back years when he and his then-girlfriend Erin, who now is his wife, attended a college party.

Kellerman said they both had to much too drink. He said when he tried getting things under control his then-girlfriend slapped him. Kellerman said he slapped her back. He was quick to tell listeners that the woman is now is his wife and they have been happily married for 20 years.

Some would think that this is a prime example of transparency, in which Kellerman admitted to a youthful failing. The New York Daily News account does not say whether or not Kellerman explicitly compared his experience to that of Rice, and as it turns out, ESPN is not going to be willing to provide a transcript of that particular conversation.

Industry sources said while the content of his story was disturbing, the suspension was all about Kellerman...not adhering to ESPN brass' warning concerning the Rice topic being a highly sensitive one....

While the topic became even more charged after [Stephen A.] Smith's remarks and suspension, ESPN personalities were warned to measure and consider their commentary as soon as Rice's two game suspension was handed down by commissioner Roger Goodell.

Kellerman's remarks were briefly posted on an ESPN-LA podcast but quickly pulled down and never widely circulated.

The New York Daily News claims that Kellerman was formally suspended by ESPN for his remarks. ESPN would not confirm this, merely saying, "Max Kellerman will return to ESPN-LA Radio and 'SportsNation' on Thursday."

Kellerman's suspension, if true, is actually the third recent suspension of an ESPN on-air personality, as John L. Goodman notes.

ESPN which seeks edge & controversy has now suspended Stephen A. Smith , Dan Le Batard & Max Kellerman

Could Keith Olbermann be next?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Hey, Shaun, I guess I can Twitter about the International Association for Identification now #99IAI

2007 and 2008 were a long, long time ago.

Back then, I was working for a company called Motorola. The separation of Motorola into two separate companies was still several years in the future. The sale of my division from Motorola to Safran would not become official until 2009.

I was working as a product manager. I wouldn't find out about my return to Proposals until late in the summer of 2009, and I wouldn't actually return until the fall.

I was a regular attendee at the annual conference for the International Association for Identification - San Diego in 2007, Louisville in 2008. I had no way of knowing that the 2008 conference in Louisville would be my last (so far).

Oh, and I was using this application called Twitter. My early adoption of Twitter was more luck than conscious planning, but I was active on Twitter (under a pseudonym), had learned about hashtags, and had even looked at hashtags from a time perspective - enough to get me listed on the Twitter Fan Wiki (although my contributions pale in comparison to those of Boyd, Messina, and Ritter).

As I noted in a 2008 post (again, under a pseudonym), all of this stuff about Motorola, product management, the IAI, and Twitter intersected together one day. One of my fellow product managers, Shaun, had a suggestion for me. (Incidentally, Shaun is the person who took the picture of me in this post - the "pirate with his Motorola Q" picture.)

The second largest conference that I attend every year is the International Association for Identification (IAI) annual conference. (That's why I was in Louisville in August, by the way.)...

My co-workers know about my various obsessions, so one of them suggested to me, "Hey, while we're at the IAI, why don't you Twitter it?" The idea was that this would be a good way to get some publicity out of our efforts there.

Unfortunately, this would only make sense if anyone were listening. I performed a search of both Twitter and FriendFeed, and I was unable to discover anyone other than myself who even had a passing interest in the IAI. If an IAI tweet lands in the Twitter forest, it WON'T make a sound.

(It shows you how long ago this conversation took place when you see that I searched FriendFeed for meaningful content.)

You may be exclaiming, "The people in the IAI in 2007-2008 were such bozos! Why weren't they on Twitter?" But before you get into that mode, consider this - back in 2007 and 2008, why SHOULD the IAI have been on Twitter?

It was one thing for Oracle to be active on social media at that time. Oracle produced very technical computer software products (no hardware yet; Exadata wouldn't appear until 2009). In addition, the Oracle Technology Network was led at the time by Justin Kestelyn. It was reasonable to expect that a company like Oracle would be active in Twitter and hashtags and the like.

The International Association for Identification was a different story. Sure, the IAI folks were technical, but for the most part they were interested in a different kind of technology - those types of technologies that could be used to gather forensic evidence at crime scenes. And yes, there were companies like Motorola and its competitor Safran that provided computer hardware and software to do this, but these systems were mostly back behind firewalls and not interacting with, say, Twitter. (Or even FriendFeed.)

Well, times have changed. I no longer work for Motorola; nobody does (Motorola as such no longer exists). I am no longer a product manager. I am not at this year's IAI conference in Minneapolis, and haven't been to IAI since 2008. But I am still using Twitter; a link to this post will appear on Twitter after I finish writing it.

Oh, and the IAI has adopted hashtags.

This year we are trying something NEW! Our conference has an official hashtag! Use #99IAI on both Twitter and Facebook when you post about your time in Minnesota this week! #99IAI will be searchable in both formats so that we can see what everyone has to say! Have a great week everyone!

And if you're wondering why the 2014 conference has a hashtag with "99" in it, the explanation is here.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Government investment spurs private industry advances! Um, but...

There is always a debate about the targeting of funds to government agencies. Purists argue that this is an inefficient use of economic resources. Proponents, argue, mount the counter-argument that investing money in government agencies will often lead to advances in the private sector. The space program is cited as an example; as we in the United States targeted money to land a man on the moon, we lavished procurement dollars on private enterprises, and we got...Tang. Well, we got other stuff too.

There's a similar discussion going on right now, but with a little wrinkle. You see, the U.S. Army wants to get a new gun for the first time in several decades, and is mounting a procurement effort to achieve this.

Several gun makers will compete for the lucrative contract, developing weapons that are more reliable and more powerful than those currently in service....But the last time the military challenged the industry to make a better handgun, all the innovations intended for the battlefield also ended up in the consumer market...

Great, huh? Government investment spurs private advances! But let me finish that sentence.

...and the severity of civilian shootings soared.

As Defense One explains, a disturbing trend was noticed in the 1980s, as patients at Washington DC hospitals became more and more likely to show up with multiple gunshot wounds. The spike in these injuries occurred at precisely the same time that Beretta won an Army contract to produce handguns - and immediately released a civilian model with similar features. Meanwhile, those who lost in the Army competition took their improvements and released them to the civilian market also.

While there were other issues - the Firearms Owner Protection Act of 1986 served to deregulate the market at the same time - certainly government indirect investment in the gun industry played a role in the hospital statistics that followed.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Come here! Go away! (On linking)

All social media services want you to connect to people. "Connect, connect, connect," they will constantly say - up to a point. Then they turn around and say, "Why are you connecting to so many people?"

I was on LinkedIn one day, and noticed its list of suggested people to whom I may wish to connect. Often I haven't even heard of the people that LinkedIn is suggesting, and sometimes the person is someone who I don't really know that well.

But in this case, I saw the name of someone that I knew online. Although I haven't worked with this person in a business relationship, I have seen the person's work (the person is a content creator) and have been very impressed by it. In addition, I've seen previous comments from the person about looking for work.

Now this seemed like an ideal candidate for a connection. Although I don't directly work in this person's industry, there's always the chance that a LinkedIn connection could eventually lead to business for this person in the future. So I followed LinkedIn's recommendation to connect to this person...and was asked to enter the person's email address. While I know this person online from several services, I've never exchanged email and don't know the person's email address. So I went to another service and looked at the person's profile. The email address wasn't listed there either.

There's a bit of irony here. According to research, it turns out that the reason that I have to enter an email address to link to this person is the past I tried to link to too many people who said that they don't know me. (I only recall one instance of this, a person who used to work at the poster company, but apparently there must have been at least five such occurrences.)

So LinkedIn continues to suggest that I link to people...but throws up a roadblock that makes it hard to link to them. I guess there's some logic somewhere, but I'm not sure where.