DoomwatchTM vs. Timesizing®
Collapse trends - June, 2001
[Commentary] ©2001 Philip Hyde, The Timesizing Wire, Box 622, Cambridge MA 02140 USA (617) 623-8080
6/29/2001 omens -
6/28/2001 omens -
- [quote du jour -]
Helix Technology eyes wider loss, Bloomberg via Boston Globe, E8.
...The company's sales for the quarter will be $26-28m, down from $48.6m in the first quarter, as the market for semiconductor equipment reaches an "unprecedented level of uncertainty," CEO Robert Lepofsky said....
- Advertising - With 2001 half over, experts' forecasts for spending become even gloomier than before, by Stuart Elliott, NYT, C4.
- Conagra profits fall 38% in its 4th quarter, Bloomberg via NYT, C4.
[Conagra needs Viagra tbefore going over Niagara. Timesizing is Viagra for coporations!]
- Appeals court voids order for breaking up Microsoft but it finds abused power, by Stephen Labaton, NYT. front page.
[So they're just going to fine the richest corporation in the world? Oh, that'll really teach them a lesson. Something like, "We can do anything we want with these clowns."]
6/25/2001 weekend qikis -
- Disappearing wealth, graph by NYT, C9.
[Note this graph-introducing language that presents a grotesquely exaggerated picture of the common interest of Americans -]
The stock market caused the total value of United States household assets to fall [$1.43T] to $47.13 trillion in the first quarter.
[This makes it sound like, "Oh what a terrible disaster for us all! But c'mon, the top 1% of Americans own as much as the "bottom" NINETY-FIVE PERCENT. Little turns of phrase like this that have crept into our "objective" financial reporting reflect the loneliness of "regular guys" like Rupert Murdoch, Ted Turner and the other supersupersuperRICH on Wall Street etc. who really do want to feel as if everybody is just like them (at least till they have their next sneer-at-the-peons moodswing). Hence the cybernetics (feedback loop) of a system like ours gets worse and worse, as those who have grasped more and more of the decision-making power get more and more insulated and out of touch with any but their own most-comfortable "reality." We share the air, the English language, the calendar, the time-keeping system, the roads, the stoplights, the interest rates.... We even thought we shared political voice ("the vote") until Flori-duh last fall. But we don't share the coagulating market-demanded employment and wages.... The employment is the easier of these two. The easiest sharing technology is Timesizing.]
6/23/2001 omens -
- House G.O.P. seeks new way to block campaign [finance reform] measure - Democrats are courted - Leaders hope to defeat broad overhaul with help from disaffected liberals, by Alison Mitchell, NYT, front page.
[Same old story. Liberals want to jump on their white horses and ride off in all directions. What could not be achieved, with an initial focused approach on Timesizing to give progressives of every stripe more free time and spending money to pursue their myriad causes.]
- As welfare deadline looms, answers don't seem so easy, by Nina Bernstein, NYT, front page.
...38,800 New York City families...face a federal welfare cutoff in December.\..referring to the five-year lifetime limit on federal cash aid.... But their stories suggest that the universe of such cases is far more diverse and complex than champions...of time limits expected - on the whole, they are neither the most recalcitrant nor the least resourceful of the poor....
[But often the most unlucky.]
- Harsh Chinese reality feeds a black market in women, by Elisabeth Rosenthal, NYT, front page.
[You thought we were kidding on this one?]
[Maybe China should lighten up on the second child and toughen up after two = India's prescription - see 6/22, third item, "Relying on hard and soft sells, India pushes sterilization."]
- ...In rural China, there are more than 120 boys for every 100 girls because rural couples, who favor sons, abort fetuses and abandon newborns that are female.
- In much of rural China, it is considered culturally and economically essential that 100% of the men find brides and produce heirs.
- Net sum: For every 100 rural men who marry, 20 others must resort to extraordinary measures to find brides, like buying women kidnapped from urban areas.
6/21/2001 omens -
- Britain: Railtrack severance deal, by Alan Cowell, NYT, B2.
Gerald Corbett, the former CEO of Railtrack, the operator of Britain's railroad tracks and stations, received a severance package of $1.4m when he was resigned last November after a fatal crash and just days after an official inquiry cited Railtrack for a "lamentable failure" that led to another fatal train wreck in 1999. Mr. Corbett was CEO at the time of both the 1999 accident, which killed 31 people, and the crash last year, in which 4 people died. News of the severance package brought protests from survivors and labor union leaders who termed it grotesque and said it should be paid back because it rewarded failure....
6/20/2001 omens -
- Airlines' May revenue drops - 11.8% unit slide biggest in 25 years, Bloomberg via Boston Globe, C2.
Major US airlines, most of which will lose money this quarter, experienced their biggest decline in at least 25 years last month as businesses reduced travel spending. Unit revenue, or revenue for each plane seat that's flown one mile, fell 11.8% from the year-earlier month, while total sales fell 10%, the Air Transport Assoc. said. The decline is the worst since 1976, when UBS Warburg began keeping records on the statistic, said Sam Buttrick, an analyst for the firm....
"I can't remember such a precipitous drop in traffic, particularly business traffic, in all my years in the business," AMR CEO Don Carty said in testimony to a House transportation subcommittee looking at customer service issues.
[Well, Don, just look further back - at the decline in train travel in 1929-1930 at the start of the Great Depression.]
The US airline industry will have combined second-quarter losses of about $500m, based on statements from the carriers, Carty later told reporters....
[And all we have to do is centrifuge income from the top brackets to the people who actually spend it and create the demand for products and services, like travel. How to centrifuge the nation's income? Start by centrifuging work and skills with hourscuts, not jobcuts.]
- [What is up with Japan? Nothing is "up" - everything is down -]
More cold water on Japanese hopes, NYT, W7.
...A panel led by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has produced a draft report saying that growth will remain at a low level through 2002, in part because of deepening deflationary pressures caused by efforts to clean up the huge volume of nonperforming loans plaguing the banking system.... The trade figures for May, the 11th straight month in which Japan's surplus has deteriorated, showed slumping exports of technology goods while imports of energy rose....
[So what? So they're the second biggest economy in the world, that's what. And when they're "in deep kimshi" (smelly Korean cabbage dish), they're in no position to dig out anybody else - us for instance. Let's see if we can find those two other recent Japanese slump stories.
What do they need to do? Quit pretending they're still an agricultural society and share the vanishing work. They're probably the most robotized economy there is, and they're still working 1940-era workweeks. Result? Work, skills and wages get bunched up and we get the proverbial split between the people with money and no time and the people with time and no money. Les japonais should be copying les français and their shorter workweek.]
- Well, there's Tuesday (6/19) below, Japan: Slowdown intensifies
- and then there was one we didn't pick up on 6/13, As Japan's economy slows, a push for Bank [of Japan] to do more, by Stephanie Strom, NYT, W1.
- Economic scene - Despite real concerns, gauging work hours is not a problem in measuring productivity growth, by Prof. Alan Krueger of Princeton economics, NYT, C2.
[Oh no? This chap sounds pretty optimistic.]
...Stephen S. Roach, Morgan Stanley's chief economist, has argued that the Bureau of Labor Statistics [BLS] undercounts the hours people work because employees increasingly perform work after hours on cell phones, beepers and home computers. "There has been a significant lengthening of work schedules in the last decade that has not been captured in the government's productivity measures," he wrote in 1997. If so, the official numbers would exaggerate productivity growth in the 1990's. Mr. Roach called this "the ugly little secret of the apparent productivity-led recovery."
[Now that the "recovery" has turned into a mirage, it may also be a key to the resumption of economic deterioration. Our own patented "astrophysical economics" deems that the most significant tides in the economy are the centripetal and centrifugal flows of spending power. During wars when large portions of the nation's manhours are drained out of the civilian job market, the prevailing tide of spending power is centrifugal, spreading money to the millions who actually need it and spend it. Plus technology designers are preoccupied with military innovations, rather than innovations that will, in the contradictory view of mainstream economists, save work and boost efficiency of production "without displacing workers." (The "objective" science of economics is the mother of all whores, all in the line of duty, you understand.) Plus immigration typically slows down, and so does the birthrate. This rare balance of labor and employment looks to employers, of course, like a terrible TERRIBLE labor shortage. Consequently they must set up "wage and price" control boards to stop the terrible "inflation" which is really just a strong centrifugal tide of income flowing from the wealthy who have far more than can spend, to everyone else who actually spends it. But like water, money finds a way, and the vigorous consumer spending bolsters domestic demand and the consumer base, which is the biggest determinant of economic health, fluctuating, as it does, around two thirds of the American economy. The net result is that the income gap between rich and poor narrows. But economists are extremely quiet about all this - it's sooo tasteless of us to mention it at all! - and they soon forget it as war recedes into the past. But during prolonged periods of peace, worksaving technology pours into the economy, immigrants pour into the economy, imports pour into the economy, and after 15-25 years, postwar "babyboomers" pour into the job market. The centrifugal tide on spending power gradually slows and reverses. A centripetal tide begins, weak at first but then stronger and stronger. Soon the power gradient tips against ordinary employees, like a seesaw, and wages stagnate while executive pay skyrockets. The income gap yawns. Job security vanishes because employees are as common as dirt and as cheap as dirt. Employers have to cover this up however, so legions of media are marshalled to cover every little spot "labor" shortage - which is really a skills shortage, which is really a training shortage, because of course, employers have become far too spoiled to bother with training on anything like the scale they train during wartime. In fact, training is the first budget line they cut in a crunch. And crunches become more common, because employees are pumping out more products and services with all their technological enhancement, but with widening downsizing, insecurity and flat wages, all the captains of industry are vacantly wondering whatever happened to their vibrant markets. They can no longer grow their companies the honest way. So waddathey do? They start on an M&A tear, of course. Mergers and acquisitions. If they can no longer win bigger market share, they'll cheat and simply acquire somebody else's to add to their own. This naturally worsens things, because then they see all kinds of overlaps and efficiencies waiting to be realized, and they start downsizing even faster. Which dampens effective demand and the whole consumer base even more. As this game heats up, a downward spiral develops, a self-fueling firestorm sweeping through the economy. Again, it's small and spotty at first, but as these blind geniuses keep at it and at it, it spreads and builds. Japan, the world's second biggest economy, is deep in downward spiral now, having never really emerged the recession of 1990, certain of these United States are right down there with Japan, and all over the world, conservatives are sensing that we need a "real good war" - if only we can stay away from the nuclear toys and they can survive. Hollywood and TV are pumping out training films for temper tantrums and violence, the NRA has "Moses" (Charlton Heston) at its helm, bucking to lead us out of the "Egypt" of peace. And with the firefights in Yugoslavia (R.I.P.) unfortunately cooling, we're interviewing replacements in Macedonia, Israel and again, Northern Ireland. Just sold the Israelis 2 billion bucks' worth of F-16s. And with our Flori-duh "president" opening mouth and inserting foot all over the international and environmental scenes, dragging us back to the 19th century every way he can - even to the point of driving his own party in the opposite direction (see tomorrow's frontpage NYT article "House vote stalls gulf drilling plan - Bipartisan move is a setback to Bush's energy strategy") - maybe we can fan Star Wars into another Cold War after all! But we digress -
[Back to the key to economic deterioration. The problem for the short-sighted wealthy and their consolidated media is this, how to portray "everything's fine" productivity growth to encourage investment in their particular wealth spigots, while cowing their employees out of asking for raises or better conditions (they've succeeded in getting all Americans to completely forget about shorter hours by now) while at the same time not admitting enough productivity growth to make anyone remember their quiet but still prevailing dogma that "wages rise automatically with productivity." (Of course, wages do no such thing. They rise or fall with the power gradient, which depends on perceived labor shortage. And right now, the captains of industry are busy spinning spot skills shortages as a labor shortage when they want more visas for cheap labor from India, but quickly pointing to inflation dangers, ubiquitous downsizings and undercountedly vast unemployment whenever they sense employees are even thinking of asking for a raise.) This means that they can't let productivity appear to be rising too much. Guess what we're saying here is, it's impossible to get accurate productivity figures because they're too, if not political, definitely politically economic.
[So since people are so scared for their jobs, they're working megahours and not counting them so their productivity looks better than it is. But it could be much better, because of all the technology at their fingertips. But there are two other economists' myths in play here besides "wages rise automatically with productivity," and they are #1, a distant-background myth that market forces will automatically adjust the workweek downward as our levels of technology climb upward (which they never have and never will until we design and implement a system like Timesizing to make it happen) and #2, people are working megahours because they are freely choosing to work megahours (which can only be claimed because the pressures to stay late at the office, or work 24/7 at home, have become so subtle and pervasive in our neo--cotton-plantation capitalism). So the prevailing pressures on employees are to work long-hours but to report only those extra hours which lack "plausible deniability" and which are required to bolster the vain hope that they will innoculate one against the next flutter of pink slips - "I'm a good dooby, massa - you got you'all a blank check on mah life, yassuh! Jes' don' fire me, dare's a good massa. An' I won' even make a big thing about all deez heah extrah hours cuz ah LUVS mah job, de company an' you'all, massa. Ah LUVS it!" So the extra hours, only partially reported even by employees, amount to a case of covert Luddism - technology-resistance - because employees simply cannot allow technology to be as efficient as it was designed to be - even though in many cases they themselves designed it (witness the software developers sleeping under their desks to keep working round-the-clock on evermore "work-saving" software) - or they will lose their jobs. Thus the extra hours are one of the big symptoms of an advancing centripetal tide that is funneling spending power into an unspendably compacted 'black hole" in the top income brackets.
[Anyhoo, about Steve Roach's fingering of lengthening work schedules in the last decade as the "ugly little secret" of the allegedly productivity-led "recovery" of 1995-2000, Alan Krueger goes on with a major piece of naivete -]
A team of researchers from the BLS and the Bureau of Economic Affairs, led by Marilyn E. Manser, head of the Office of Productivity and Technology,...
[oh now , there's an independent investigation for you! - these are the same people who think it's just dandy to base unemployment figures on employer interviews...]
...has investigated Mr. Roach's hypothesis. It came up lacking.
[Oh what a surprise. Now check out their biassed assumptions dba "reasoning" -]
They carefully compared the official hours series with one they constructed from surveys of employees. Employees, they reasoned, would not underreport their hours, even if their employers might.
[And therein lies the vitiation of their conclusions. Employees are in a turmoil of insecurity these days. They'll report more of their hours than their employers, but part of the prevailing corporate culture that they bought into when they cooked their resumes to get the job in the first place was that they were completely available and "110%" committable to the company and whatever project it might condescend to put them on. So many employers are looking for signs of actual 24/7 from employees these days, especially with the bursting of the bubble, but they are also looking for 24/7 employees who don't make a big deal about it. And employees know this and play the game, because if they don't, they're toast. But here's the fatuous conclusion from the BLS etc. -]
They concluded, "The official productivity estimates are biassed trivially, if at all, by the absence of data on the actual hours of nonproduction and supervisory workers."...
The official measure of work hours...comes mostly from the monthly survey of 400,000 establishments by the BLS.
[There's your employer bias. In fact, the article goes on to make this explicit -]
Employers report the number of hours for which they paid production workers in manufacturing and nonsupervisory workers in other industries.
[So not only is this employers and supervisors doing the reporting, bias #1, but they're not even including themselves in their reports!!! How stupid is this?! And it gets worse -]
Because it lacks the data ['course it couldn't get off its big butt and GET it!], the BLS assumes the hours of supervisors are the same as those of nonsupervisors outside manufacturing, and that hours move at the same rate for nonproduction and production workers in manufacturing.
[And our boy Alan has the gall to title this article "gauging work hours is not a problem"? Give us a break!]
Another adjustment is made to convert hours paid to hours worked - subtracting paid vacations, for example.
[No problem there. Americans get hardly any paid vacations.]
Work hours of proprietors [i.e., self-employed?] and farm workers are derived from the Current Population Survey, the survey of 50,000 households used to estimate the unemployment rate.
[And how do they select this influential fraction of American households? No info.]
Employers may not know, or care to know, how much their employees work off the clock.
[Not when it comes to layoff time anyway.]
Moreover, supervisors' hours may have grown more quickly than those of nonsupervisors. Thus the researchers used employee reports of hours worked from the household survey to compute an alternative measure of productivity growth.
Work hours are indeed higher when reported by employees. But the gap must be growing over time to affect the productivity growth rate. It is not.
["Over time"? When did they start this "alternative measure of productivity growth"? 1995? Because if "over time" means less than a decade, no significant conclusions can be drawn.]
The two productivity growth series are strikingly similar: productivity grew 2.6%/yr in the alternate series and 2.5% in the official one from 1995 to 1999. The rebound in the 1990's is even more striking in the alternate series....
[Again, when did they start the alternate series?]
Mr. Roach said he found the results of the new study "counterintuitive" because he believes professional employees are increasingly working longer hours that are not recorded by either government survey.
[Well, that's true - Phil Hyde walked every street in Somerville, MA in 1997 and many people he talked to about the rigidity of the 40-hour statutory workweek snorted at the mention of 40 and said they hadn't experienced that for 5-10 years, meaning they'd experienced a lot longer workweeks.]
He pointed to Harris Poll data suggesting that workers typically work around 50 hours a week - substantially more than the 41-hour week found in the Current Population Survey - to bolster his argument that government statistics understate work hours. But the Harris Poll counts time spent keeping house, going to school and traveling to and from work as work time, which inflates the figures. Furthermore, the Harris Poll, just like the government data, finds no increase in work hours in the 1990's.
[So maybe it happened during the holocaust of downsizing in the 1980's. Krueger, careless, jumps to the comforting conclusions -]
Usually it is not newsworthy when government statistics turn out to be accurate....
[A premature conclusion if there ever was one.]
But productivity growth is ground zero in the debate over the new economy, as well as the main determinant of future prosperity.
[Why is he still talking about "the new economy"? The last nine months have shown there's no "new economy" where businesses have transcended the need for profitability because venture capitalists will just keep financing them indefinitely because they're so dazzled with dot-com-ery. And the only theories on which productivity was "ground zero" of the old and present economy are Say's "Law" (actually a fallacy proven as such by the Great Depression) that says markets automatically clear so that economies automatically stabilize at full capacity (they don't, they need the withdrawal of excess labor hours as by WWII or better, a shorter statutory workweek, to centrifuge wealth and bring demand and supply, consumption and productivity, back into balance) and the myth we refered to earlier that productivity determines wages (labor surplus or shortage and the resulting power gradient between ordinary people and the top income brackets determines wages). And productivity is hardly the main determinant of future prosperity because as the Depression demonstrated, productivity without markets is meaningless. It's not supply side we need, or just demand side. It's "balance side." And in a slump caused by an overwhelming centripetal flow of money and an astronomical overconcentration of wealth and the much under-researched neoclassical orthodoxy of the marginal utility of (concentrated) wealth or capital, the only solution is to strengthen the centrifugal flows of value and - the intelligent way is not war, it is Timesizing.
[Going back to the beginning of the article, let's examine some of Alan's other breathtakingly naive and unsupported productivity myths -]
Productivity growth melts away problems of inflation, budget deficits, unemployment and stagnant income....
[Boy, if this is mainstream economists' current partyline, we're in trouble. Alan Krueger should be starring in "Bedazzled." This obsession with productivity as the economic be-all and end-all seems to be a slightly more sophisticated and high-priestly version of technology rahrah. The likes of Bucky Fuller thought that technology was all there was to it and all the Star Trek series took it from there. But what good is technology if by downsizing instead of timesizing, we return ourselves to high-tech sweatshops and slavery. The downward adjustment of the workweek as technology climbs higher cannot be taken for granted or regarded as automatic. It must be designed and implemented, and the furthest advanced economy on this true path today is...France. And its version is only down at 35 hours a week - big deal - and still primitively rigid, arbitrary and unconnected - for example, to adjust automatically against un(der)employment.
[The two mysteries this whole article was trying to solve were why -]
[Our answers - (1) the energy crisis and the mid-seventies stagflation made employees realize that their wages had been stagnant since 1970, so why bother? especially when the Fed is forgetting about unemployment (for ordinary people) and focusing exclusively on inflation (for the rich), another big factor strengthening the centripetal tide of money, and (2) the Internet and the Web hit the mainstream in 1995 and a lot of people felt that Camelot was back and they could strike it rich regardless of being forgotten by the Fed and having the unemployment rate watered down by the BLS in the early 90s. So they started working megahours in denial - 24/7 - on-call all 168 hours a week while acknowledging, even to themselves, only 40-50. Mainstream economists' perspective? The striking rebound of productivity in 1995. It is difficult to operate on one's own retinas.]
- productivity, [which] grew at an annual rate of 2.7% from 1947 to 1975 [is this smoothed?] then mysteriously slowed to 1.4% from 1975 to 1995,
- before rebounding to 2.8% after 1995.
6/19/2001 omens -
- Teradyne expects loss, plans layoffs - 1st red ink seen in over decade; cuts to total 12% of staff for year, by Jeffrey Krasner, BG, D1.
[That's 180 more permanent-employee jobcuts today in addition to 1230 permanent and 1400 temp jobcuts earlier this year. And listen to what the CEO says -]
..."This downturn is unprecedented in both breadth and depth," compared to the downturns of the previous decade, said George Chamillard, chairman and CEO, in a statement. "Business conditions this quarter...have continued to deteriorate in every segment. Both our customers and Teradyne are facing an unprecedented level of uncertainty."...
[Well, you're the guys who generated it. You can't get secure markets by creating insecure jobs. You can't go on forever funneling all the spending power to the top income brackets who just spend a fraction of it, and expect business conditions to continue rosy. You have no option. You must start trimming hours and keeping your customers' customers employed, instead of throwing employees out on the street every time there's a hiccup in your revenues. Timesizing, not downsizing!]
- ["It's all right when I do it but it's not all right when you do it."]
A triumph of politics - Bush finds market is not always free, by David Sanger, NYT, A14.
Three weeks ago George W. Bush...declared that his administration "will not take any action that makes California's problems worse, and that's why I oppose price caps" on electricity. [Since then] federal regulators [have acted] to impose...a system that looks and smells a lot like price caps....
"This is not a price control," Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, said. "This is a market-based mitigation plan that now will extend to 11 Western states."...
[Ooo, wow, a "market-based mitigation plan." That and a pack of Chiclets'll get you price controls.]
- [On a more serious note -]
Studies detail solicitation of children for sex online, by John Schwartz, NYT, A17.
One in five children [19%] who go online regularly is approached by strangers for sex, according to a new study...produced by the Crimes against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire [in today's] Journal of the American Medical Assoc.... Furthermore, 3% of the students characterized the solicitation as aggressive.
Only 10% of those solicitations were reported to the police, and a majority of children and parents surveyed said they did not know how to report an incident to authorities [and neither the Times nor the Globe tells us]....
[We're starting to think we need a second non-commercial non-polluted Internet with zero-tolerance for spam, porn and stalkers. Back to what it was originally. A real information tool where you can get the information you want and other users don't reach out to waste your time or bite you.]
- [And in case you were wondering what Israel does with us US taxpayers' $4 billion a year, this tiny item -]
Lockheed Martin Corp., NYT, C4.
[nice and close to DC where these slimeballs can lobby like banshees...]
and the Defense Ministry of Israel have reached an agreement in principle for Israel to buy more than 50 F-16 fighter jets in a deal worth $2 billion.
[There goes half our annual welfare money to Israel right there. A gigantic subsidy from us American taxpayers for our most destructive industry - weapons. Regardless of destabilizing effects on the ever-violent Middle East. Well, anything to keep our fancy diplomats joyriding across the "Atlanterranean" at our expense on never-ending "peace" missions.]
6/17-18/2001 weekend omens -
- Japan: Slowdown intensifies, Reuters via NYT, W1.
The Bank of Japan downgraded its assessment of the economy because of a big drop in output, only days after its decision not to ease its monetary policy further. The bank said in its monthly report for June that the slowdown in Japan's economy was intensifying and was likely to continue. The report said capital spending had slowed and industrial output was falling sharply, in part because of concerns over an inventory buildup.
[Inventory buildup = key phrase from the Great Depression.]
Exports also continued to slump amid a global slowdown and moribund demand for information-technology products worldwide.
- Thailand: Economy weakens, by Don Kirk, NYT, W1.
...Economic growth rate slowed to 1.8% in the first quarter of 2001 from 3.2% a year earlier, its slowest rate in two years, as exports, manufacturing, consumption and investment all weakened.... Thailand's central bank recently raised interest rates to defend the Thai currency, a move economists say is expected to slow expansion further.
- PR gaffes you can take to the bank, by Alex Beam, Boston Globe, E1.
...Like tens of thousands of Massachusetts residents, I have become an unwilling Fleet customer. Fleet ate the bank where I bought some CDs [meaning "certificates of deposit" here - ed.] in the mid-1980s and recently dumped them into Pennsylvania-based Sovereign Bank. Then Fleet ate my mortgage company, chewed on it for a while, and recently disgorged it onto a Wisconsiin-based home loan company. All this while I am spotting pictures of tuxedo-clad Terry Murray [Fleet CEO] pressing the flesh on the Manhattan social scene..\..
What business is banking conglomerate FleetBoston Financial Corp. really in? There can be only one conclusion: the business of generating bad publicity. And they are very good at it....
For public relations gaffes, we have the tawdry mortgage scandals of the 1990s, the annoying ATM fee-gouging, and now this: The Bank of Boston, which Fleet had acquired in 1999, had been one of the few major US banks [including Bank of America] to endorse the "CERES Principles," which commit business to behave in an environmentally responsible manner - recycle, conserve energy, promote sustainable resource use, etc.... But after Murray's Fleet Bank took over, CERES got deep-sixed. This May "Fleet notified CERES that all of BankBoston's commitments had been nullified...and that senior management had no intention of recommitting to the CERES principles"....
6/16/2001 omens -
- 6/18 California counties pay jobless to move away, by Evelyn Nieves, NYT, front page.
...Over the last three years, Tulare County has paid more than 750 welfare recipients...an average of $1,600 a family to move almost anywhere in the country. For Tulare, one of the poorest counties in the country, giving welfare recipients a one-way ticket out is one solution to an unemployment rate that wavers between 15 and 20%. ...The program...has expanded to two other counties....
[Ah, the old emigration "solution." Isn't it a bit like "the solution to pollution is dilution"? Mexican presidente Vicente Fox has been talking as if he wants to pay poor Mexicans to move to the U.S. "Great" Britain got rid of thousands of impoverished petty thieves by shipping them to Australia. Worktime economist Arthur Dahlberg mentions that some unions even resorted to this recourse - "About 1850 in England the various craft unions like the Flint Glass Blowers, Compositors, Bookbinders, etc., provided 'Emigration Funds' with which to remove the unemployed and the competition for jobs which the unemployed [intensified]. Rather than keep the unemployed at home where they could be used as a club by employers to bring wages down, the Flint Glass Makers sent the unemployed to Australia at £20 per head; they sent them to plenty [so they told them] instead of to starvation, and kept their own wages high by the simple act of shipping the surplus labor out of the market." Jobs, Machines and Capitalism (1932), p. 181-82, drawing on Sidney and Beatrice Webb's History of Trade Unionism (1902), p. 183! Oh them primitive narstee Limeys, sez you. Us enlightened Yankees would never do a crude thing like that! Well, Dahlberg goes on to describe the American counterpart - "George H. Evans secured the passage of the Homestead Act in the United States in 1862. This act enabled the unemployed of the time to find new opportunity and the employed to experience less competition for their jobs." It seems "intelligent" human beings will do absolutely anything but the simple and obvious = share the vanishing work. So we're really saying not only Timesizing, not downsizing, but Timesizing, not emigration, not incarceration, not war, not genocide, not plague, not welfare, not makework. Just thaw the frozen workweek and set it to automatically adjust against unemployment, underemployment (and possibly under-pay!).]
The program was expanded to Kings County, west of Tulare, in October, and to Fresno County, the heart of what is known as the Central Valley's San Joaquin Valley farm belt, in March. The rapid growth of the program says much about this large swath of California, long mired in poverty.
[Don't tell us that yanking in poor farm workers from Mexico and points south is finally backfiring on our biggest state economy?!]
While the Central Valley is the richest food-producing region in the world, it is also one of the poorest places in the country....
[Ah the wonders of subsidized godzilla-sized agribusiness where all the profits go to the two guys who own it all - and have more than they could spend in thousands of lifetimes. And it's all taking place in a desert and we taxpayers in the Northeast are being dragged in to subsidize their massive, wasteful irrigation. And it's the major reason why there's never enough of the Colorado River left at its mouth to reach the sea. Today's economists don't have a clue with their huffy boycott of worktime economics and smearing misnaming of the "Lump of Labor Fallacy." They are out of ideas - bankrupt - brains back in the pre-Industrial Age. They haven't an inkling of the implications of technology. It's not optional to trim the workweek and share the vanishing work, unless you like the stupid or lethal alternatives - emigration, incarceration, war, genocide, plague, welfare, and their fave, makework, all duly disguised, of course, prettied up and called "capitalism" however many taxpayer subsidies they sneak.]
- [qiki #1]
6/17 Times get tougher for temp workers - Assignments dry up as firms watch costs, by Bruce Butterfield, Boston Globe, K1.
[For examples right from Silicon Valley, see our weekend homelessness story.]
- [qiki #2]
6/17 Economic downturn fuelling burnout, by Michael Rosenwald, BG, K2.
..."This burnout thing is happening like you can't believe," said Jack Mohan, president of Management Recruiters-Boston.... Some employees are working harder to make up for those who have been laid off.... Even managers and executives are burned out.
[Hey, they made their bed. Now let them lie in it.]
...So what can be done? A lot of times, it's about breaking up tasks that are overwhelmingly monotonous....
6/14/2001 omens -
- Does inequalilty matter? -
[Our answer: Not if you don't mind recession. But their subtitle already starts the obfuscation -]
- The new rich may worry about envy, but everyone should worry about poverty, The Economist of London, 9.
...[In] today's world...there are more rich people than ever before, including some 7,000,000 millionaires, and over 400 billionaires....
[As population pressures stress the environment, we will need an incrementally more efficient economic system than one that wastes most of the spending power among a relatively few people who have much more than they can possibly spend, and are adding more daily to their uncapped "black holes" of wealth. We will need to progressively and systemically strengthen the centrifugal force on income, which, apart from periods of what is perceived by employers as acute labor shortage, is always overwhelmed by the concentrating or centripetal force on income.]
...The gap between the [poor] and the rich is rising, even in the industrialized countries where for much of the 20th century the gap had narrowed.
[Narrowed only during and after the world wars, because war-casualty-created labor shortage centrifuged income.]
In America, between 1979 and 1997 the average income of the richest fifth of the population jumped from nine times the income of the poorest fifth to around 15 times. In 1999, British income inequality reached its widest level in 40 years.
...But...now..., share prices have fallen and much of the industrialized world is heading either for recession or for slower growth. At such times, inequality of wealth tends to narrow, though not necessarily that of incomes....
[But incomes are of the essence, because they have a greater effect on spending than wealth. The rest of the article is basically the Economist editors snuggling up to the rich and posing distractions from their original good question to the wealthy's (and not surprisingly, the media's) usual bandaid campaign for -]
helping the poor, the truly poor....
[Whatever that means. In fact the original good question could be better. It could be, Does income concentration matter? Or, at what point does the concentration of income begin to undermine itself by suctioning the markets away from its own necessarily huge investments? Where is the point of diminishing returns? How do we recognize it? How do we calculate it? How does the marginal efficiency of wealth operate? As we mentioned above, we believe that population pressure against a finite environment will gradually tolerate less and less of the inefficiency of uncapped concentration of value, on the understanding that there are numerous components or dimensions of "value." We believe that the balancing of value will take place one component at a time and roughly in a specific order. First the concentration of marketable skills will be addressed (as the Timesizing program does address it in Phase Two and Phase Three), although this parameter will have to be returned to repeatedly. Then the concentration of market-demanded human work (Timesizing's Phase Four). Then the concentrations, respectively, of income, wealth, and credit, followed by less defined and (to us) less understandable parameters such as credibility, celebrity, constituency...- all unpacking the word "power" into its components - basically an infinite list that humans will get better and better at addressing and balancing as the centuries and millennia roll on.]
6/12/2001 omens -
- Firm discusses WWII memorial deal, by Burt Herman, AP-NY-06-13-01 1230EDT via AOLNews.
BERLIN...- A German construction company that used Nazi-era slave labor said Wednesday that an American subsidiary hired to build the World War II Memorial in Washington shouldn't be held accountable for its parent corporation's misdeeds.... More than 5,000...workers...died from the 12-hour shifts, seven-day workweeks and daily beatings....
[Whatever may have been the workweeks of antebellum American slaves, here's clear evidence of an 84-hour workweek of Nazi slaves. So any present-day American employees, e.g., in dot-coms, who have allowed themselves to drift (or be pressured) up to 80-90 hours is right "up" there with the Nazi slaves. What a "smart lot" - so "cutting edge"! "24/7" indeed! "I'm overworked, therefore I'm important." Ha! Just as important as Nazi slaves. Lately Scott Adams has weighed in on the subject as only cartoonists and the occasional standup comedian can during the dumbing of 21st century America - for example, yesterday - "It looks like someone is leaving early," says the Pointy-Haired Boss. "I started at 5 a.m. and I've already worked eighty hours this week," says the Pyramid-Haired Woman. "So," says the Pointy-Haired Boss. Thank you, Scott Adams, for putting worktime on centerstage where it belongs, at least for a few days, and long workweeks in the appropriate ridiculous perspective in an age absolutely bursting with work-saving devices. (6/13/01 Boston Globe, D16.)]
6/08/2001 omens -
- Japan's economy shrinks a bit, Reuters, NYT, W1.
[Don't they mean "a bit more"?!]
...in the first three months of 2001, and may be slipping into its fourth recession in a decade, according to government figures released yesterday....
[When "recession" gets this frequent, we're kidding ourselves that this is not simply a continuous chronic depression.]
Consumer spending stalled and retail prices fell in the quarter, while business investment declined, in part because export markets for Japanese products have started to cool off, the report indicated.
[=As good a description of the Great Depression as you could have read back in the '30s.]
"It seems everything has weakened slightly," the finance minister, Masajuro Shiokawa, said. "I'm a bit worried.
[Oh c'mon, Masajuro, you're too wealthy to be worried.]
"But I do feel the actual economy has more strength than the figures show."...
[It does, pal, but not if you and your buds keep all the money. You already have everything you could possibly want, and you're not spending the huge amounts you take in. Gotta centrifuge that "folding green" if you have a yen for more consumer spending - get the moola out to the people who want to buy stuff. Best way? Centrifuge remunerable employment. Cut the karoshi (death by overwork) and lower the workweek. Cut hours, not jobs. Timesizing, not downsizing.]
6/04/2001 omens -
- Germany: Jobless rate grows, by Petra Kappl, NYT, W1.
German unemployment rose a seasonally adjusted 18,000 in May, to 3.83m, leaving[?] the unemployment rate at 9.3%. The increase in the jobless rate, the fifth consecutive monthly increase, dashed hpes for a labor market recovery in spring....
6/01/2001 omens -
- The key to wooing later-stage investors, by Beth Healy, Boston Globe, C4.
It's taken seven months and more than 60 meetings with venture capitalists for Connected Corp. to land $30m in what it's calling a "last round" of money to grow its PC-backup and servicing business.
CEO Bob Brennan doesn't mince words in describing the experience. It was nothing short of horrifying," he says. "I cannot tell you how many frogs we had to kiss...."
[Another feature of the Great Depression = reluctant investors.]
- Clicks for sale - Paid placement is catching on in Web searches, by Saul Hansell, NYT, C1.
...In 1998, [Bill] Gross's Idealab introduced GoTo.com as a search engine with a difference: Web sites would pay to be included in the search results after a user entered key words.... Mr. Gross's concept that Web sites should be able to buy their way to the top of search listings is being copied in one way or another by every major search and portal site. As [Web sites] do, the search engines, which are still the most popular gateways to the Web, are transforming themselves from infinite electronic encyclopedias to the more prosaic, if profitable, role of universal commercial directories....
[Rich boy George Soros natters on about the importance of 'open societies,' even as the concentration of income and wealth that he embodies makes the drive to earn a living so desperate that open societies are being sacrificed every day for individually appropriable profits. We think also of the vast privatization movement, the commoditization of good will and social commitment - in post office, phone company, schools, hospitals, banks, insurance companies - even stock exchanges want to issue stock and sell themselves, regardless of their history of success with a different business model.]
For earlier collapse stories, click on the desired date -
- Philippines: Economy shrinks, by Wayne Arnold, NYT, W1.
Slack global demand for electronics helped slow the Philippine economy's growth to 2.5% in the first three months of 2000...
[Ah, don't they mean 2001?!]
...the government said, down from a 3.8% annual rate in the prior quarter. Electronics make up [at] least half of Philippine exports....
[A real sloppy little article - they left out the 'at' of 'at least' as well. The flagship newspaper of the "world's leading economy" deteriorates apace. Can't afford proofreaders? (Not that we're in any position to judge, but then, our daily "circulation" ain't in the millions.)]
- [Continuing] unemployment claims in U.S. are reported at 7½-year high [2.85m, highest since 11/93], Reuters via NYT, C2.
...an increase from 2.76m in the previous week \while\ first-time unemployment claims had risen for the third consecutive week, to 419,000 in the week ended May 26, up from 411,000 in the previous week and the highest level in a month..\..the Labor Dept. said..\..in one of several gloomy reports.... Analysts said the report...was a sign that the labor market was deteriorating,
[oh they're finally noticing!]
a potentially dangerous development for the economy..\..
- Another report said the risks of a recession had risen.... The National Assoc. of Purchasing Mgmt in Chicago reported that its index of regional mfg fell in May, to a seasonally adjusted 38.7 from 38.9 in the previous month. An index below 50 signals a contracting mfg sector....
- In yet another grim report, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago said that although it remained unlikely that the economy had slid into a recession,
[Let's face it, they're going to delay using the R-word as long as humanly possible.]
- chances of such a contraction rose last month. The national activity index slid to minus 1.09 in April from minus 0.87 in March. The figure was weakest since the economy began slowing in July and represented the 10th consecutive month the index remained below zero, an indication of below-trend growth.
- The three-month moving average index, which irons out month-to-month fluctuations, also fell, reaching minus 0.96 in the previous month. [This] index has dropped below minus 0.70 during only six periods since 1967 [when] the Chicago Fed's data [started], and only one of those times did the economy skirt recession, commonly defined as two consecutive quarters of contraction....
[So we've only got a one-in-six = 17% chance of avoiding recession even by their blind-to-the-problems definition. But what the heck to the expeck when "smart" CEOs fill the news with takeovers and downsizings?]
Sep. 16-30/99.Sep. 1-15/99.
Aug/98 and before.
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