Interesting Links: Dec 14, 2015

Here are links to a few interesting articles I recently came across. They are about the massive systemic problems inherent in large centralized and corporatized institutions-especially those run by incestuous coteries of scammers.

Link 1: The Corporate Takeover of the Red Cross

A former AT&T executive who had taught marketing at Harvard Business School, McGovern pledged to make the tough choices that would revitalize the Red Cross, which was chartered by Congress to provide aid after disasters. In a speech five years ago, she imagined a bright future, a “revolution” in which there would be “a Red Cross location in every single community.’’ It hasn’t worked out that way. McGovern and her handpicked team of former AT&T colleagues have presided over a string of previously unreported management blunders that have eroded the charity’s ability to fulfill its core mission of aiding Americans in times of need. Under McGovern, the Red Cross has slashed its payroll by more than a third, eliminating thousands of jobs and closing hundreds of local chapters. Many veteran volunteers, who do the vital work of responding to local fires and floods have also left, alienated by what many perceive as an increasingly rigid, centralized management structure.

Despite the failure of the plan, the former AT&T executive who McGovern brought in to run the division and other top managers were awarded bonuses last year, one former official recalled. Employee morale has been damaged by the repeated layoffs — or “right sizing,” as McGovern calls it — as well as by the perception that the Red Cross is increasingly focused on image over substance. A marketing department created by McGovern tried to lift spirits by crafting what it termed the Red Cross’ “internal brand essence.” The slogan, designed “to remind and guide us as we work,” was “Sleeves up. Hearts open. All In.” — an homage to the Friday Night Lights television show’s signature: “Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose.” The rallying cry hasn’t worked. An internal survey of Red Cross employees obtained by ProPublica found just 35 percent responded favorably to the statement, “I trust the senior leadership of the American Red Cross.”

Link 2: Yahoo Burned Through $3B On M&A, Which Are All Worthless

On Monday morning, Eric Jackson, manager of hedge fund SpringOwl, sent a brutal 99-page presentation to Yahoo’s board, outlining his case for why the company should drop Marissa Mayer as CEO and find new management. Jackson points out that Yahoo has burned through $3 billion on M&A in the past three years since Mayer took the reins, which contributes to $10 billion in what Jackson calls Yahoo’s misallocated capital. The value of all of those startups Yahoo has acquired, Jackson says, is worth nothing at Yahoo’s current stock price. Jackson also points out that Yahoo has a history of buying up startups run by former Google APM members.

While at Google, Mayer started the company’s elite associate product-manager program. Of the 49 acquisitions Yahoo has made under Mayer’s leadership, six were startups founded by ex-Googlers. The total cost of these six acquisitions is $319 million, according to Jackson’s slide deck. Yahoo bought Polyvore in July for $230 million. Polyvore, a social commerce site that lets users make artistic collages of clothes and accessories…But Jackson does not mince words when it comes to Yahoo’s decision to spend shareholder money acquiring Polyvore and companies like it. “It’s not acceptable to pay $230M for zombie companies run by former APM members,” he says, pointing out that Polyvore had raised $22 million in VC funding, was 8 years old, and had gone through multiple pivots. For all intents and purposes, it looked like a goner until Yahoo bought it.

Link 3: Failure to Report: A STAT Investigation

Stanford University, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and other prestigious medical research institutions have flagrantly violated a federal law requiring public reporting of study results, depriving patients and doctors of complete data to gauge the safety and benefits of treatments, a STAT investigation has found.The violations have left gaping holes in a federal database used by millions of patients, their relatives, and medical professionals, often to compare the effectiveness and side effects of treatments for deadly diseases such as advanced breast cancer.The worst offenders included four of the top 10 recipients of federal medical research funding from the National Institutes of Health: Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of California, San Diego. All disclosed research results late or not at all at least 95 percent of the time since reporting became mandatory in 2008.

The FDA, which regulates prescription drugs, is empowered to levy fines of up to $10,000 a day per trial for late reporting to In theory, it could have collected $25 billion from drug companies since 2008 — enough to underwrite the agency’s annual budget five times over. But neither FDA nor NIH, the biggest single source of medical research funds in the United States, has ever penalized an institution or researcher for failing to post data.Even the agency’s own staff scientists have violated the reporting law three-quarters of the time.Collins said NIH research shows reporting rates by both industry and academia have improved over the past several years due to greater awareness, and NIH’s own scientists are now reporting their results about 90 percent of the time. “Of course I would like to see all of these rates reach 100 percent,” Collins said.Data from reviewed by STAT show NIH scientists’ reporting of results within the legal deadline peaked at 38 percent in 2013. Counting results reported late, NIH staff performance reached 90 percent for studies due in 2012 but has dropped since then.

What do you think? Comments?

  1. P Ray
    December 18, 2015 at 2:40 am

    I can only speak with some certainty about Ms. Mayer in that …
    the idea that “Page & Brin” implemented Google … is a falsehood.
    People have gone on the record that they merely wrote the pseudo-code, while others actually did the programming.
    Plus, through the evolution from 1997 to what Google is now,
    I am VERY sure that Page & Brin … have no idea what the algorithm is anymore.
    Since taking on some thousands of engineers, I doubt any single person can actually implement that formula on their own.
    Ms. Mayer seems to have done very little programming when she came on board at Yahoo … perhaps that is also a reflection of what she actually did at Google?

  2. P Ray
    July 27, 2016 at 9:44 am

    Ah, there’s the link about Brin and Page’s pedigree:
    It Turns Out Google Co-founders Larry Page And Sergy Brin Are Actually Pretty Lousy Coders

    Nicholas Carlson

    Oct. 30, 2013, 12:36 PM
    If you’re like me, you’ve probably always assumed that Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are pretty great at writing code.

    You may have even assumed that Page and Brin wrote the code that made so fast and powerful as long ago as the late 1990s.


    I’ve been reading early Googler Douglas Edwards’ excellent book about the company’s startup days.

    It’s called “I’m Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59.” You should buy it if startups fascinate you.

    The book reveals that Page and Brin actually had little to do with making the code that powered Google back then.

    In the book, early Google engineering boss Craig Silverstein says “I didn’t trust Larry and Sergey as coders.”

    “I had to deal with their legacy code from the Stanford days and it had a lot of problems. They’re research coders: more interested in writing code that works than code that’s maintainable.”

    One Google engineer from back then says the most remarkable thing about the co-founders’ code was that when it broke, users would see funny error message: “Whoa, horsey!”

    It turns out the developers most responsible for building the that quickly became the Web’s most powerful company are two guys you’ve probably never heard of.

    The first is Urs Hözle. According to one early Googler quoted by Edwards, Hözle was “the key” to Google’s early success.

    Edwards writes, “Enough engineers sang his praises that this book could have been written entirely as a hagiography of Saint Urs, Keeper of the Blessed Code.”

    Note: Urz Hözle told Brian Reid his ideas were too old to matter.
    “In June 2002,[1] Reid became director of operations at Google. His only written review was from Wayne Rosing, which was positive. In October 2003 he was moved to a program with no funding and no staff, while his former duties were taken over by Urs Hölzle, who was 15 years younger. He was fired by Larry Page (who was 30 at the time) in February 2004, after being told he was not a “cultural fit” by Rosing, and that his ideas were “too old to matter” by Hölzle, according to Reid.[13] It was nine days before the company’s initial public offering (IPO) was announced, allegedly costing him 119,000 stock options with a strike price of $0.30,[12] which would have been worth approximately $10 million at the $85 IPO price. Reid estimated that given later appreciation, his unvested stock options would have been worth at least $45 million if he had stayed there.[14]”

    The second is Jeff Dean. Edwards writes that “Jeff pumped out elegant code like a champagne fountain at a wedding.”

    “It seemed to pour from him effortlessly in endless streams that flowed together to form sparkling programs that did remarkable things. He once wrote a two-hundred-thousand-line application to help the Centers for Disease Control manage specialized statistics for epidemiologists. It’s still in use and garners more peer citations than any of the dozens of patented programs he has produced in a decade at Google. He wrote it as a summer intern in high school.”

    Hözle and Dean still work at Google. Dean is so highly regarded that Google employees still make flattering jokes about it.

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