What a weekend. Temperatures nudging 70. Humid. Overcast. Weird. Everyone went around talking about the weather. Took a long bike ride and got all sweaty, then chilled, then just sort of tired because sweating and chilling in one day takes it out of you.

But if you’re wondering why I didn’t blog yesterday, I’d have to say this: Because I spent most of last evening making the basics for a gingerbread house.

Yeah, I didn’t think you’d believe me.

Seriously, this is for a weekend party a friend of mine here has every year, featuring blighted gingerbread houses. If you contribute, they don’t necessarily have to be blighted, but they need to be different somehow, because they’re auctioned, and people don’t want to bid on some Martha Stewart shit. So now that I have my parts — my sides, my roof, my gables — I have to figure what to do with it all.

I’m thinking…TRUMP. First I have to hit the decorative-baking aisle at Joann Fabrics and buy as much gold shit as I can get my hands on. Ideas welcome. They must be YUGE ideas. And they must not require very complicated structures, because man, it is wearisome, rolling out gingerbread dough, which is inedible and unappetizing, and right now I am committed to a basic rectangular house with a roof and overhanging eaves.

Plenty of room for yugeness, as long as it’s not too yuge.

So. We’ve talked here, many times, about the folly of the facile idea that “government must run like a business.” While there are certainly aspects of it that should follow certain rules of finance, to say government should run like a business misunderstands both government and business. Even businesses are sufficiently distinguished from one another that there’s no one-strategy-fits-all. Many successful governors would flounder in the public sector, and vice versa. But we’ve hashed this all out before.

Still, I recommend this ProPublica project on how new management at the American Red Cross has driven the venerable nonprofit nearly onto the rocks, due to a fundamental misunderstanding — that a strategy that works in one industry doesn’t necessarily work in another:

As part of her effort to run the Red Cross more like a business, McGovern recruited more than 10 former AT&T executives to top positions. The move stirred resentment inside the organization, with some longtime Red Cross hands referring to the charity as the “AT&T retirement program.’’

McGovern laid out a vision to increase revenue through “consolidated, powerful, breathtaking marketing.”

“This is a brand to die for,” she often said.

Her team unveiled a five-year blueprint in 2011 that called for expanding the charity’s revenue from $3 billion to $4 billion. In fact, Red Cross receipts have dropped since then and fell below their 2011 level last year.

It’s not entirely the CEO’s fault; the organization was in failing shape when she took over. But it drives me crazy when these folks swagger in like the cavalry and then screw things up even further. The lionization of business people in this country has been insane for some time; you’d think we’d have learned by now.

Back to the gingerbread drawing board. Thanks for holding the place together when I flake off for a while.

Posted at 10:01 pm in Current events, Detroit life |

52 responses to “Collapse.”

  1. Deborah said on December 14, 2015 at 10:10 pm

    Does everything that goes on this gingerbread house have to be edible?

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  2. basset said on December 14, 2015 at 10:20 pm

    Run it like a business, is there any other way? I am a serious blood donor, been at it since 1973 at IU and coming up on sixteen gallons just at my current blood center… but I quit doing pheresis when the RC just made it too difficult, I showed up one too many times when the machinery was broken down or not ready and when I saw on the record they’d put me down as a “walkout” I just said the hell with it.

    If there’s a way to call the Nashville donation center and get a live, local human on the phone, I don’t know it. If you’re trying to make an appointment you have to wade through several press-this-to-press-that menus to reach someone in St. Louis who may or may not have any idea what’s going on, and it’s just about more trouble than it’s worth. I finally had to tell the RC to quit calling and trying to guilt-trip me… every week or so I would get a call saying that babies would die if I didn’t get down there and bleed right this minute, didn’t matter if I’d made a recent donation or not. Maybe that’s “powerful, breathtaking marketing,” but I’m one long-term donor they seem to be trying to run off.

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  3. Julie Robinson said on December 14, 2015 at 10:31 pm

    We tried to make a gingerbread house one year and it was messy and hard and disastrous and not at all the Fun Family Activity it was supposed to be. So no construction advice whatsoever, but I think the roof has to look like Trump’s hair (he sorta was a ginger, after all), and of course his name has to be on it in big letters. Make that yuge letters.

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  4. beb said on December 14, 2015 at 11:06 pm

    When your gingerbread house is done throw a shotglass of brandy over it and light it. Then it’s look like a typical Detroit distressed house…

    I suspect that running a business like a business is a mistake. Schools are not a business, hospitals are not a business, the post office is not a business. Government is a service organization, not a business.

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  5. brian stouder said on December 15, 2015 at 12:03 am

    I’m thinking something that incorporates cotton-candy trees out-front, groomed similarly to his hair-style; and with a ginger-snap WALL around it (but with a ‘beautiful door’ – which is barricaded shut!); and with a fleet of ships across the front and back yard (mixing those ones from a Battleship game, and Star Wars fighters) since he is a fantastical US military fetishist….

    and maybe with a big (yuge!) still-life bonfire going in the backyard, which appears to be consuming stacks of money (and maybe a little sign that says “afterall, y’can’t take it with you”)

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  6. Sherri said on December 15, 2015 at 2:03 am

    Someone pointed out that hiring an AT&T executive to run the business was a mistake for HP, too…

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  7. Hattie said on December 15, 2015 at 3:34 am

    My reaction to any invitation to participate in Christmas craft projects is to run away screaming. Even when irony is involved. You are a lot more courageous, obviously.
    And I’m sick of the Ask. I get several phone calls a day from this or that charitable organization, “public” radio or television stations, alma mater or what have you. I don’t even pick up the phone for those calls any more. And all solicitations by mail go right in the round file. I have a few pet charities and that’s it. I would far rather pay taxes for services. Oh, wait. I do that, too. I would like the Republicans to let the government work for all the people. Just a dreamer. Must be the holiday season that makes me believe in fairy tales.

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  8. alex said on December 15, 2015 at 6:13 am

    Sherri for the win!

    Having seen some good Trumpkin jack-o-lanterns this year, I would think that a Trump gingerbread house shouldn’t be too hard to pull off. It’ll need one helluva big piehole for an entryway, a couple of squinty eyebrow windows and a roof that’s laying askew.

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  9. alex said on December 15, 2015 at 6:37 am

    Wow. Show up at a disaster and hand out marketing swag to people who need first aid. Maybe McGovern should be running for president instead of Fiorina.

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  10. David C. said on December 15, 2015 at 6:39 am

    We’ve been in the mid-50s and in a couple of days a short stint of 20° reality. Then back into the 40s for the weekend. Is anybody going to throw a bucket of December rainwater on Inhofe?

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  11. Deborah said on December 15, 2015 at 7:07 am

    In Santa Fe today will have a high of 27 and a low tonight of 9. There’s quite a bit of snow out there too. So it’s winter here.

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  12. Suzanne said on December 15, 2015 at 7:17 am

    In the “run everything like a business” mind, anything that does not garner revenue is worthless. Healthcare, education, and eventually religion, included even though religion’s a tough one for them because if God is truly on their side, how could they fail? Honestly, I think the marketing mindset that has seeped into churches has contributed much to the rise of the so-called nones. When you start seeing God as your product and the masses as possible new consumers, you’ve kind of lost the point of “love thy neighbor”.

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  13. Peter said on December 15, 2015 at 9:00 am

    “breathtaking”. Like that baby on Seinfeld?

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  14. Heather said on December 15, 2015 at 9:19 am

    We had a gingerbread house decorating contest at work yesterday, which I actually enjoyed. They were pre-made so all we had to do was ice them and stick gumdrops and such on. Ours was definitely some Martha Stewart shit, very tasteful. But we didn’t win.

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  15. Jenine said on December 15, 2015 at 9:36 am

    A la Julie and brian above, cotton candy on the roof for The Hair!

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  16. Bitter Scribe said on December 15, 2015 at 10:12 am

    Does anyone know what the real story is with the Red Cross charging GIs for doughnuts and coffee during World War II? Every time I read about it their explanation seems to shift. We didn’t do it, yes we did but we were forced to, no we really didn’t except in some places that were rogue operations, yadda yadda yadda.

    As far as I’m concerned, if a charity has even a whiff of impropriety about it, it’s off my list. There are a gazillion charities out there that are beyond reproach and are desperate for money.

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  17. Deborah said on December 15, 2015 at 10:16 am

    Maybe you could make the hair out of a pile of ginger colored lard?

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  18. Icarus said on December 15, 2015 at 10:18 am

    “McGovern recruited more than 10 former AT&T executives to top positions.” With executive salaries I’m sure. I worked at a place I refer to as the No-Name Software Company and we hired a manager who brought over some friends. I nicknamed that the Motorola Outreach Program.

    I stopped giving blood because 1) it has become such a hassle and 2) the ban on blood donations from gay people.

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  19. basset said on December 15, 2015 at 10:31 am

    Meanwhile, some yuge! research:

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  20. Judybusy said on December 15, 2015 at 10:36 am

    Or, you could just do this:

    If you need the recipe, let me know.

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  21. Jolene said on December 15, 2015 at 10:49 am

    Very cute, Judybusy.

    Just heard that LA public schools have been closed for the day due to a terror threat. That’s 640,000 students. Can you imagine the level of disruption in people’s lives? Sheesh. Terrorists don’t actually have to do anything to fuck with us. They just have to generate a “credible threat.” Would love to know what was said to generate this response.

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  22. Joe K said on December 15, 2015 at 11:03 am

    Bitter Scribe,
    According to snopes the Red Cross did charge for off base lodging and snacks,
    Only because they were asked to by the government due to the fact that our allies were charged by their governments, we didn’t want it to seem unfair. According to snopes the Red Cross does not nor has not charged for any services, a lot of the rumors in ww2 were traced back to the enemy, kinda a interesting read.
    Shouldn’t pat my self on the back but flew to Burlington VT and back last night and still got up and ran 13 miles today,
    On my 58th birthday!
    Cheers all
    Pilot Joe

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  23. MarkH said on December 15, 2015 at 11:08 am

    Here’s as much as is known so far on the LA school shutdown:

    Happy Birthday, Joe K. Didn’t know we were so close on the B-days. I joined the Beatles song-age club last Friday and my wife did yesterday.

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  24. Peter said on December 15, 2015 at 11:09 am

    I’d second Pilot Joe – I was volunteered to be the United Way guy one year, and we had a presentation/sales pitch rehearsal.

    It seemed to be a ready made excuse for any WWII vet not to contribute to the united way – “the damn Red Cross charged us for doughnuts!” I was told it was because the British Red Cross charged for coffee and doughnuts, so the Red Cross did as well. Of course, if Trump ran it there would have to be charge because they would be YUGE doughnuts and the best coffee.

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  25. Judybusy said on December 15, 2015 at 11:19 am

    Happy birthday, Joe K! And you should be patting yourself on your back. It’s easy to blow off stuff that’s good for us!

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  26. FDChief said on December 15, 2015 at 11:41 am

    The central trope for the “run government like a business” seems to be the whole “live within your means” thing, the “my dad had to balance the family budget so why doesn’t the federal government”. Which should pretty much die on the spike of “your dad didn’t get to determine what his income was based on the family’s needs”, which is what governments can and should do.

    That, and the ridiculous notion that somehow just because the management in private organizations can, theoretically, get fired for failure that the threat of sacking makes them make more intelligent and productive decisions which, as anyone who has actually worked in the private sector, is utter nonsense. Private corporate decisions are often made based on the same distillation of ambition, distraction, uglification, and derision as other human decisions.

    The sad part of this is that “conservatives” seem to have bought into the notion that private enterprise is some sort of self-licking ice cream cone, compared to public services, anyway, so regardless of the number of times you point out the failure of private management they will pretend they didn’t see it…

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  27. Andrea said on December 15, 2015 at 11:56 am

    We see the “should run like a business” thing in the nonprofit world a lot too. I run a statewide nonprofit, and have a master’s degree in social service administration and 25+ years in the field. An organization I work with recently hired as their CEO a former head of a major division at a major US bank. Goes without saying that he is a smart guy, and so far I like him. But it is the height of arrogance to think that his experience at mergers and acquisitions or any other high finance thing, is relevant here. I’m sure that there is no situation in the world in which his former superiors would consider me for his position.

    But here in Illinois we are currently experimenting with the whole run like a business concept. Our billionaire businessman-governor has shut the state down for nearly 6 months now, with only funding flowing due to court orders and consent decrees, and a few appropriations bills he signed here or there. Higher ed has not been funded. Many social services have not been funded. Over 130,000 college students who receive state aid to attend college have not been funded. Just last week, a provider in southern Illinois told me that due to the state budget impasse, the wait for their psychiatric follow up care for people who have been hospitalized for attempted suicide is now…. six to eight weeks.

    Were this a business, those would-be suicides could take their business elsewhere. But government is NOT a business. And they have no where else to go.

    You know, a lot of businesses go out of business. It’s not some magical thing.

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  28. Deborah said on December 15, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    FDChief, well said. I often tell this story to conservative friends and family: when my purse got stolen from the back of my chair at a restaurant in Chicago, it took only a few minutes from the time I walked into the DMV office downtown to get my drivers license replaced (the city of Chicago, no less!). On the other hand it took days for me to get my cell phone replaced at the Verison store, with multiple trips, and of course I had to pay through the nose for it. I know this is just one silly anecdote of how a government agency can be more efficient than a private one, but it’s true.

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  29. FDChief said on December 15, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    Oh, and let me add my own service related Red Cross story.

    The theory was that if you had personal problems during deployment the local Red Cross rep could help you out; contact the ARC office in your hometown to help if, say, one of your kids got in trouble or your wife/husband at home got injured or some other sort of domestic disaster; help you with chain-of-command requests, that sort of thing.

    In fact the ARC people were fairly useless at that sort of assistance. What turned out to be the most helpful organization was the Roman Catholic Church. If you had an RC padre – especially if that chaplain was, as many of them tended to me, Jesuit – it was fairly impressive how much Army brass they could help shift when they put their backs into it.

    I had and still have a hard time with some of the doctrines of the Roman church. But as a force multiplier they rocked.

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  30. Jeff Borden said on December 15, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    One of my best friends in Chicago works for a not-for-profit that deals with abused women. She and everyone else in the office have taken 3% pay cuts because of Bruce Rauner’s scorched earth policies. Believe me, she’s not well paid as it is.

    So far, the only businessman turned politician who seems to be succeeding is Mark Dayton in Minnesota. He hiked the tax rate for the very wealthy to pay for an array of initiatives and his state now outperforms all others in the Midwest, especially Wisconsin, where the puppet boy of the Koch Brothers continues to try to recreate backwater Mississippi without the humidity.

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  31. annie said on December 15, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    for the Trump gingerbread house, be sure to build a giant wall around it with a sign: no Mexicans, Muslims allowed.

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  32. Deborah said on December 15, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    Don’t get me started on Rauner, everyone of my husband’s design projects got canceled, all IL state school expansions/additions. Very frustrating. Not that there were that many projects but it’s hard when they all dry up at once. But the IL highways are getting funded because you’ve got to keep building those so that they can be maintained at great cost forever after.

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  33. Deborah said on December 15, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    Happy Birthday Joe! Keep up that running.

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  34. Julie Robinson said on December 15, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    Annie, that’s the best idea yet. You can make those fences from pretzels held together with mini-marshmallows. A made in China label somewhere would seem to be indicated too.

    Happy Birthday Joe! Hope it’s grand.

    The library where my mom worked forever is in the middle of a large expansion, and suddenly the funding was yanked because of the Illinois budget woes. Now they have no choice but to go to the city and tell them they have float a loan there. It makes them look bad, and just when they’re about to reopen in what should be triumph.

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  35. Charlotte said on December 15, 2015 at 1:23 pm

    In a pinch, Elmer’s glue works great for Gingerbread house corners and roof (nontoxic, just tell them not to eat the corners, which no one eats the gingerbread anyway).

    And FDCheif@29 — when I lived in Salt Lake City, who was the biggest social service provider? Catholic Charities …

    I stopped giving to the big charities years ago — too much overhead. I have an old raft-guide friend in Nepal (who is getting a PhD in International aid in his 60s) who has been documenting the outright theft of aid money from big sources after the earthquakes. They have a little charity that consists of Beaz and a couple of his friends with motorbikes carrying in supplies:

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  36. basset said on December 15, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    Another non sequitur;

    Managed to avoid NYC so far and my only experience with the real thing is Shapiro’s in Indianapolis.

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  37. Scout said on December 15, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    Make sure your Trumplestiltskin house has a sign that says Muslicans Keep Out.

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  38. Deborah said on December 15, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    Peter, when you said, “I was volunteered to be the United Way guy one year…”, I read that as United Wise guy, which sounded about right to me. Hee her.

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  39. Deborah said on December 15, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    Peter, when you said, “I was volunteered to be the United Way guy one year…”, I read that as United Wise guy, which sounded about right to me. Hee hee.

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  40. Deborah said on December 15, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    I tried to stop the first one when I saw that auto-correct had changed my second hee to her. Sorry about the duplication.

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  41. Dexter said on December 15, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    Mitzvah Day, Detroit…why we all get along like these women do? (scroll down a few inches and click on “Mitzvah Day”)

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  42. Dorothy said on December 15, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    Time just to do a fly by and wish Pilot Joe a happy birthday. (In case you’re wondering, that was a purposeful reference to a ‘fly by’ buddy!)

    I am extremely grateful for the mild weather that is hereabouts. We’re driving to Penn State later this week to see our son walk in a grad ceremony where he’s getting his Master’s. He began the work online when he was deployed. He has done all the work online since then. It’ll be a fun reunion since our daughter and her boyfriend are coming up from Virginia. We booked our hotels back in March and we all said “fingers crossed the weather won’t be too bad for the drive!” We’re awfully lucky.

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  43. mouse said on December 15, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    Bitter Scribe @ 16,my father was a Captain in the Army during WW2.He told me the Red Cross sold cigarettes that were meant to be given to the troops when he was in Okinawa.He never forgot that and would never give them a dime.He was a no bullshit type of guy so I have no reason not to believe it.

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  44. brian stouder said on December 15, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    You’re ahead of me, basset; I’ve never done a real deli

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  45. Connie said on December 15, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    Carnegie Deli and Stage Door Deli (now closed) in NYC, and of course Shapiros. Carnegie Deli, I had their deli made corned beef hash for breakfast, like no corned been hash you’ve ever seen. My husband still refers to the height of his Pastrami sandwich at the Stage.

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  46. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 15, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    That Red Cross story has a long life span, but as usual, it’s worth consulting Snopes:

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  47. David C. said on December 15, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    This is what happens when you run the University of Iowa like a business.

    IOWA CITY (AP) — The University of Iowa’s new president has apologized to an employee who chastised him for saying publicly that instructors who aren’t ready to teach their classes should be shot.

    Bruce Harreld told librarian Lisa Gardinier in an email that his statement to the UI Staff Council last week was “an unfortunate off-the-cuff remark.” He said he didn’t mean to offend anyone or imply that he supports gun violence.

    Gardinier said Tuesday she believes Harreld’s remark is symptomatic of the former IBM executive’s rocky transition from boardrooms to academia.

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  48. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 15, 2015 at 6:10 pm

    This has been trolled past here before, but it seems the time of year to repost it:

    REQUESTS ANONYMITY: At the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette in the mid-1980s, the holiday bonus was always a gift certificate for a turkey or ham from a local grocery chain. One year, in the envelope those certificates came in was a letter suggesting we donate our holiday “bonus” to the Christmas charity the paper sponsored every year. As one of my co-workers noted when he saw the note, he already earned so little he could qualify for help from some of the local charities. But it did take balls to give us a bonus and at the same time ask for it back.

    I also “enjoyed” this one — REQUESTS ANONYMITY: One year when I worked at CNN, pre-merger, they gave out blankets covered with logos from all the Turner networks at the time. They were constructed from the thinnest, paper-like material. A number of employees gave them to the homeless and for weeks afterwards you could spot them around the city.

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  49. Deborah said on December 15, 2015 at 7:19 pm

    The last place I worked before retiring was particularly generous with bonuses during the holidays, it was very pleasent. Plus that’s when they gave promotions so it was doubly fun. They give the major bonus for the year mid-June too. Plus after you had worked there for 5 years you became vested and got profit sharing. I worked there only 6 years and I had no idea until I retired how much I had accumulated by that time. It was quite a pleasent surprise. No place else I had worked previously was nearly that generous.

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  50. Dexter said on December 15, 2015 at 8:08 pm

    One year the corporation hired a beautiful young woman into HR to shake things up, I guess. She organized many activities such as AA meetings in a back room, smoking cessation classes, even aerobics in the break room…the fat asses in the office went there, stacked the chairs, and hopped around until they turned blue…it was hilarious to see from the windows. This woman was so full of ideas and so charming she seemed to be able to do anything she came up with, to wit: she decided it would be benevolent to mail every hourly worker a crisp benjamin in a corporate envelope. Well, here’s the aftermath: it seemed many workers paid no attention to corporate letters and tossed them into the trash unopened. While the rest of us wasted no time heading to stores to buy a couple more presents with our unexpected one hundred dollar bills, the idiots that threw theirs away went ballistic, running to the office, raising hell, trying to get the local union involved (no dice), just really pissed off. And that was the end of the progressive whirlwind stop in our factory for the HR dynamo. She was immediately sent to another plant in the system. Their gain, our loss.

    I also recall receiving turkeys and hams over the years. Sometimes we had to drive to Fort Wayne to pick up a Honey-Baked Ham. Usually a truck showed up and we lined up for a turkey.
    There may be a couple of you out there (the K.bros. and mouse maybe) who remember when Joe’s Tavern in Ashley, Indiana would bake hams on-site , having processed the hog from slaughter all the way through. We’d put our order in a week or so in advance and pick up the ham just before Easter Sunday. All we had to do was warm it up and eat it. Everybody agreed it was the best ham any of us ever dreamed of.
    It may have been the same hog farmer who peddled whole-hog sausage around in the bars around Steuben and DeKalb counties. You never had sausage like that…it was the best ever.

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  51. Dexter said on December 15, 2015 at 8:10 pm

    Oh Christ no! The debate has commenced. 🙁

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  52. Suzanne said on December 15, 2015 at 10:06 pm

    It’s aweful!

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