Friday, August 26, 2011

An Invitation, a Question, and a Rant

1. Remember last year's blurghosphere-wide (and then some) Community Human Services or CHS Holiday Gift Drive to provide individuals and families with unique challenges practical gifts for the holiday season? It is launching earlier and more ambitiously this year, with the Pirates vs. Marlins game on Saturday Sept. 10th at 7:05.

Those who consent to watching the Pirates live at PNC Park alongside web-loggers like myself, Virginia Montanez, Jennifer England, and Kevin Acklin (his campaign was basically a five-month long blog post, right?) in the special Roberto Clemente section will enjoy the view from the lower left infield, fireworks and a Clemente t-shirt all for just $20. Register now! Please join us.

*-UPDATE / INSPIRATION: For those of you familiar with CHS's work and who don't care to join us at this ballgame -- how about getting your Christmas donating out of the way now, while your credit card bill still fits in an envelope?

2. Professor Briem points us in the direction of a couple interesting articles in the most recent Pittsburgh Business Times. Go read them through his portal -- or read as much of them as you can without a PBT subscription. We'll wait right here. Dum de do.

3. Back again? Good. Now, a serious request. Can somebody quickly remind us why it is crucial to prevent our pension fund management from getting "taken over" by PMRS? We understand why the local pension board itself would be anxious to prevent a takeover by a statewide investment cooperative with a far superior track record. Very clear on that. We just need a quick refresher course on why Pittsburgh At Large ought to be persuaded to "all row in the same direction", towards what is in any event the same waterfall around the next bend.

4. If two or more providers of similar products or services operating in the same area are by definition in the same "market" -- and this state of affairs necessarily entails "competition" among the two "competitors" -- and this "market competition" absolutely mandates the cessation of cooperation between competitors to further efficiency in delivery of these products and services -- how can we possibly be discussing institutions of purely public charity, or non-profits?

Some cry in cowardice, bad judgement or bad faith, "Don't kill the goose that lays golden eggs!" Health care is the new steel, the new coke, and the new coal combined. Health care is one of the few consumables guaranteed never to go obsolete or out of style. Those remaining in charge of it -- only the most aggressive and methodical practitioners of corporate piracy, the monopolists -- have obviously given up any pretense of being motivated by compassionate instincts. Watch any old telephone company commercial -- "We bring mothers and daughters together, over distances! Communication! Aren't we the sweetest things?" This is the very self-same self-serving non-sequitor. Extravagant claims about "charity care" have never been audited. Taxpayers entirely underwrote the construction and evolution of one of these two self-involved "competitors": the University of Pittsburgh.

Meanwhile, a ridiculously high volume of tax exempt land is slowly but now noticeably strangling this city in particular, just as it's struggling to rebound. The center cannot hold.

Tax these deluded phony plutocrats. Tax them no harsher than all the other duly celebrated profit-seekers in this vibrant working world must be taxed. Tax them whether they agree to play nice with each other or not.

Who knows? We might actually be able to hire some teachers for our schoolchildren, or update some critical infrastructure to keep us from drowning in the rain.

Lower-most image: PBT, Jim Snively. And did you find this post valuable? If so, then please consider voting for the Pittsburgh Comet again today in the Most Valuable Blogger thing.


  1. I was just thinking the same on #4 this morning. I think the minute the CEO of a non-profit (who is compensated VERY handsomely, himself ) uses the word "competitor" within earshot of the media, his organization needs to be immediately stripped of non-profit status, quite apart from the other very good reasons.

    There is no clearer indication possible that the organization is run FOR profit...and now he's just thumbing his nose at us. Unacceptable. It's a gamechanger - like a "George HW Bush doesn't know how to buy socks" know, the moment that lost Poppy that election.

  2. Amen, Bram, and Amen, Minuteman.

    I was already planning a post on this for Monday, but I'm not sure how much more I can add to what I've seen here.

    Anyone who pretends that these two are "non-profits" is an idiot, or a charlatan, or both.

  3. Who can forget the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank versus Just Harvest wars? Or when the United Way took on Make A Wish -- so many caught in the crossfire. To this day, Meals on Wheels won't deliver to anybody in a home built by Habitat for Humanity.

  4. @ Chad: Romoff is charlatan!!
    Strip 'em of their NP status and then let's see the competition!

  5. Well said bram! The compassion that these np's espouse has blinded this city to their thinly veiled corporate greed.

  6. Bram, you are dead on. However, missing one key piece. Both organizations and their fearless leaders answer (or should answer) to their respective boards. Whenever an organization goes awry, the real responsibility lies with the board. Focus on the board members, how they get appointed and how they make decisions and you will find the key to unlocking how to stop the madness. I'm not saying that there is some mass conspiracy, but rather if we want change maybe we need to start at the board level and ensuring that true community representatives are on the board?

  7. That's not a bad idea, Anon 9:42.

    But one issue is, when I suggest, "Tax them whether they agree to play nice with each other or not," I more or less mean it -- first because the center isn't holding, secondly because it's likely also that I believe legislators to be easier to motivate than major institutional board members, That latter assertion might be erroneous.

    Either way, we should probably try both.

    UPMC Board of Directors (24 members? Seems like a lot)

    Highmark (to maintain the pretense of equivalency. 20 members)

    Out of curiosity, who in the Legislature are DeLuca and Ferlo's biggest foils, or rather who are Big Health's biggest allies? To whom does Big Health donate most conspicuously?

  8. I'm with you on the tax them argument. I just think you need to look deeper at the board. Looks like lots of corporate chieftains. I'm not against that, per se, but how do they get on these boards? What is the nominating process? Do they have conflicts? Trust me here, look deeper. Why are these community assets being allowed to operate in this manner by these boards?

  9. A surprising number of them are nondescript LLC's, and financial investment outfits. Then there are your universities and YMCA's as well as seeming free radicals. The *former* chief of Westinghouse, I presume that still carries some cache.

  10. Hardly nondescript Bram. These are the people that quietly run the region. The irony of Rich Lord's "the network," is that he got it wrong. There IS a network, but he focused on the people the "real" network wants attention directed to. Lets start with UPMC. Find out who Mr. Paul is. Then take a look at the rest of the private companies on the list. Start adding it up.

  11. Obviously the boards needs to be "outted". In the case of the UPMC board, all I've read of Romoff is that he is a no nonsense demanding executive who gets what he wants from his board. I see some people there who you would think would place a higher value on the lives and welfare of their "clients". Barazone, Bush, Nordenberg, Levine, Siger.Maybe these members should step down in protest. They're educators, humnanists, and a doctor,socially involved, at least on the surface.The rest are business people, lawyers, private entrepreneurs, wealthy "scene' column folks. Howard Hanna is probably the most widely known name on the list. Is there room for pressure there?? Don't buy from Hanna!! I wonder what these groups do for their healthcare needs...or do they get comped by Jeffy!!