DoomwatchTM vs. Timesizing®

Collapse stories - Aug. 1-15, 1999 (Aug. 1 at bottom)
[Commentary] ©1999 Philip Hyde, The Timesizing Wire, Box 622, Cambridge MA 02140 USA (617) 623-8080

["Cry the beloved country."  This is an enormously important article.]
8/15/99 Who lost Russia? - The Russian Devolution: The country has spent the years since Communism spiraling downward. Who is to blame? That's becoming a highly charged question in American politics, by John Lloyd, New York Times Magazine, p. 34ff.
John Lloyd...was the Moscow bureau chief for The Financial Times from 1991 to 1996.
[On this topic, see the UN's eventual 2&3162;'s worth on this, in the 8/30/99 story "Economists hatch a disaster" on our Goodnews page.]
...Russians, free to get rich, are poorer. The wealth of the nation has shrunk - at least that portion of the wealth enjoyed by the people. The top 10% is reckoned to possess 50% fo the state's wealth; the bottom 40%, less than 20. Somewhere between 30 and 40 million people [out of a total population of how many?] live below the poverty line - defined as around $30 a month. The GDP has shrunk avery year of Russia's freedom, exept perhaps one - 1997 - when it less than 1%. Unemployment, officially nonexistent in Soviet times, is now officially 12% and may really be 25%. Men die, on average, in their late 50's; diseases like tuberculosis and diphtheria have reappeared; servicemen suffer malnutrition; the population shrinks rapidly.
...At the end of a century in which Russia has been raped by Bolsheviks, the country now seems to have been raped by capitalists....
The West's involvement in Russian reform was deep and early.... One issue overarched all others.... It was whether reform should push, hell for leather, the privatization of state assets or if institutions and a market infrastructure should be developed first.
[Guess we know the answer to that one now that Russia, a "free" mess, has been modeling scenario A and China, an oppressed success, has been modeling scenario B. As Louise "Grannie Hyde" Reppen of Nottingham's Toronto House pub used to say,
Patience is a virtue -
Possess it if you can.
'Tis often found in woman -
But seldom in a man.

Or as Piet Hein said in his "Grooks" -
Put up in a spot where it's easy to see
The cryptic admonishment "T-T-T".
When you think how distressingly slowly you climb,
It is well to remember that "Things Take Time."

Or as Lao Tzu put it,
Rule the empire as you would cook a small fish.
i.e., don't overdo it.]
...Joseph Stiglitz, the chief economist at the World Bank [feared haste, asking] "Who guards the guards themselves?" in a situation of rapid privatization.... His major opponents were Jeffrey Sachs, a Harvard economics professor, and Lawrence Summers, a colleague of Sachs and now the Treasury Secretary. "They thought you needed to pursue privatization rapidly and that infrastructure would follow," Stiglitz says....
[Strange, isn't this what we've always complained was the central weakness of socialism and communism? - that it required men to be angels?]
But it was Sachs and Summers who seemed to carry the argument. Sachs was at the height of his reputation following his success in breaking Bolivia's [hyperinflation (24,000%)]. In Warsaw in 1989...his myth as the economic liberator was born, and with it the mechanism known as "shock therapy." This was shorthand for a raft of measures - price liberalization, budget stabilization, a slashing of subsidies - undertaken more or less simultaneously to "shock" the market into therapeutic, market-driven recovery.... Though Russia never did adopt the full menu of shock therapy, the release of prices and the soaring of inflation, with its effect of wiping out the average person's modest savings, was shock enough - without...any therapy..\..
[Curiously, a large component of this "shock therapy" seems to have involved Sachs on the phone badgering the IMF etc. to provide billions of dollars (of American taxpayers' money without their consent or knowledge) to support various risky currencies, such as the Polish in 1989, afterward the Russian, and earlier, one assumes, the Bolivian. Maybe we should call it, the Double-Shock therapy, a shock both for donee and donor.]
...In early 1993, Summers was appointed Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs.... Sachs, on a leave of absence from Harvard, had installed himself and his team in [Russia's] Finance Ministry.... Both men proselytized for shock therapy - Sachs, vocally and impatiently, and Summers, behind the scenes, nagged and pushed the IMF and the World Bank to lend, lend, lend. The money, tens and tens of billions of dollars, would be used for the essential first step in the reform, making the ruble convertible on world markets. Only with a hard currency, they believed, would investors commit the substantial sums needed to transform the Russian economy.
[From the viewpoint of worktime economics, here is the fundamental flaw in all this. It's all "deus ex machina." It all takes outside help, instead of simply a slight rearrangement of daily relationships within the hurting economy itself - in the direction of strategic, dynamic, and accountable sharing - in the initial periods, sharing work and skills. Even now, the fastest thing that can improve Russia is worktime economics. Get the IMF and their loan-wrapped leech therapy out out out.]
...[But Russia] needed much more help than the Clinton Administration - or any other Western government - was willing to give.... At the end of 1991, as Mikhail Gorbachev left office and the Soviet banner was pulled down from the Kremlin tower, most Russians were lining up around the block for the basics. As [Yegor Gaidar, director of a small academic institution and acting Prime Minister at the time] tells it, he had no choice but to let prices rise to increase supply and to scrap trade barriers so that foreign commodities could begin to fill store shelves....
[Here's another fallacy - that there's only two choices, black or white, all or nothing. Why didn't he raise prices gradually? Why didn't he lower trade barriers gradually? Again, if applied in haste to a large system, almost any cure is worse than the disease.
[Sachs, of course, ever eager to escape blame, so much of which falls rightly on him, passes the buck to Western governments who declined the astronomical infusion of capital - to satisfy the standards of their richest speculators (sorry, investors) - that Sachs' deus-ex-machina, cavalry-over-the-ridge, solution would have required. And of course, he's now quick to deny the very position which Stiglitz described him as holding, "you needed to pursue privatization rapidly and [market] infrastructure would follow" - ]
"...I never thought that the markets would do it by themselves - never."
["Methinks the lady doth protest too much."]
...Summers, who more than any other single official was in charge of Clinton economic policy on Russia, would not be interviewed for this article.
[The article goes on for another 7 pages detailing the transformation of Russia into a gangster economy. The flavor is given by this paragraph, when the author went to one of the first auctions of state-owned shops...]
...There was no gathering of economically knowledgeable actors. The majority were puzzled and hostile citizens raised in a Soviet culture, with a few sharp customers thrown in - perhaps already accustomed to cutting corners and wheeling and dealing in the many cracks in the command economy - who were taking advantage of an incredible stroke of luck..\..
[Or as David Lipton, who worked closely with Summers put it in trying to pass off the blame by blaming the victim - ]
The key thing was the Russians themselves - the lack of people who knew what to do....
[What did he expect, we wonder? Let's wrap it up for now (it's 3:30 am Tues.) with a couple of blowout quotes.]
'What the U.S. Treasury and the IMF were doing was financing and licensing a Great Grab and calling it reform. And there was so much in Russia to steal that was so precious: oil, diamonds, nickel. It was the kind of opportunity that comes once in a millennium.'
[Note the unresolved mingling of blame and admiration, a common sickness in our prevailing primitive capitalism that might be called 'partitioned brain syndrome.']
'Our big mistake was in assuming we would have a strategic partership,' says Condoleezza Rice, the principal foreign-policy adviser to George W. Bush. 'In that regard, we were spoiled - by getting so much from them so early. What we now a Russia more dangerous than it has been, because it is coming apart.'
[...But is fully and most efficiently restorable through the next-generation of capitalist design software, worktime economics, i.e., Timesizing, and its successors....]

[Can anyone figure out where these academics are comin' from?]
8/14 The vacation, a measure of behavior and values, by Felicia Lee, NYT, A15.
[Yeah, so?]
"You can't have vacations without a certain kind of class with the resources and the time to take vacations," said Cindy Aron, an associate professor of history at the University of Virginia. "That really doesn't happen in the United States until the first half of the 20th century."...  Ms. Aron [has authored] "Working at Play: A History of Vacations in the United States" (Oxford Univ. Press, 1999)....
"...Scholars have gotten so interested...because vacation says so much about work," said Karen Halttunen, a professor of history at UCal-Davis.... "It's a kind of a work ethic run amok."...
[These academics have their agenda so deeply buried that their thrust, if any, is useless. Give us professors who have a little more honesty and openness about what they want, like Benjamin Hunnicutt of the Univ. of Iowa in his two books, "Kellogg's Six-Hour Day" and "Work Without End - Abandoning Shorter Hours for the Right to Work" (Temple Univ. Press).  Professor Hunnicutt comes out loud and clear that, at our levels of technology, we should be working a much shorter workweek, considering that the U.S. Senate passed a 30-hour workweek bill nearly two thirds of a century ago.]

[Japan jolts from job security to job hopping.]
8/12 Economy's ebb in Japan spurs temporary jobs, by Howard French, NYT, front page.
...After 10 years of serious decline in Japan's economic prospects, companies have been laying off workers in increasing numbers. And more and more, they are cutting costs by replacing permanent jobs with temporary ones, making the longtime ideal of lifetime employment an unattainable dream for all but a shrinking core of workers. For more than a million Japanese, the snug job security of the past has been rudely replaced by unemployment. For millions of others, a new way of life that involves job-hopping and temporary and part-time work is quickly taking its place.
[But note this columnist's identification of lifetime employment with the CORE of workers, albeit shrinking. In their present form, temporary and part-time jobs do not an economy make. Why?]
As in other countries, temporary jobs tend to pay less than career employees earn.
[We still don't have a mechanism in place to make those jobs pay more and keep overall markets from declining as the job markets volatilize and temp & part-time jobs skyrocket. The only general line of solution to this, besides war or plague, is to make "part time" into "full time" by reducing the maximum workweek. There just aren't enough unlimited-hour jobs or even 40-hour jobs for everyone in any rising-technology economy. To avoid splitting further into have's and havenot's, economies will sooner or later have to cut the workweek and spread the vanishing work to give everyone a share. Our design for this is Timesizing.]

[Kansas schools drop back to Dark Ages by deleting evolution.]
8/12 Board for Kansas deletes evolution from curriculum - A creationist victory - New strategy of Darwin foes after court setbacks is to discourage teachings, by Pam Belluck, NYT, front page.
The Kansas Board of Education voted yesterday to delete virtually any mention of evolution from the state's science curriculum....
[The best comment we've heard on this is the title of an op-ed article in the Boston Globe on Mon, 8/16 by Mona Charen, "A victory for the creationists - and for the ostrich mentality."
[We set this flare-up of fatuousness squarely at the doorstep of mealy mouthed scientists. They continue to call it the "theory" of evolution when it's got enough volumes and volumes of backup evidence from so many species and geographies to have been declared the Law of Evolution decades ago. We'll be contributing a book on the subject later this year, extending the Law of Evolution from the biological world into the world of the social sciences.]

8/11 Four "messages" today, in the nature of handwriting on the wall -

  1. [A new area of downsizing - ]
    2,300 more seniors lose HMO coverage - Group of doctors drop Harvard's First Seniority, by Alex Pham, Boston Globe, D5.
    In the latest of a series of upheavals for seniors enrolled in once-popular health maintenance organizations, about 2,300 seniors in central Massachusetts have learned they will have to search for new insurance coverage on Jan. 1.... The hospital and physicians cite "substantial losses" from caring for First Seniority patients, coupled with declining reimbursement from Harvard Pilgrim.... Numerous physician groups and HMOs have announced similar decisions to drop their Medicare HMO business in recent months, citing inadequate reimbursement from the federal government....
    All told, more than 28,600 seniors in Massachusetts will have to find new insurance coverage or switch doctors within a year's time. The American Association of Health Plans, an HMO industry group, has predicted that as many as 250,000 elderly and disabled patients nationwide will be affected by such moves.... "Health plans, physicians, and hospitals are all operating in an environment where there is simply not enough money to cover the costs due to inadequate reimbursement by the federal government," said Patti Embry-Tautenhan, a spokeswoman for Harvard Pilgrim.... Medicare pays only 80% of most medical bills.
    ["Not enough money"?? But what about the "healthy" "robust" "booming" economy that's creating "hundreds of new millionaires"?! Canada may also be having troubles with health insurance but the difference is, while Canada is having its troubles, every Canadian is covered by universal health insurance, and we "best in the world" Americans aren't.]

  2. Survey:  1 in 4 angry at work - Authors: Statistic may explain workplace violence, by Evelyne Girardet, AP via Bos Globe, D6.
    CHICAGO - ...Nearly 25% of respondents to a 1996 Gallup nationwide telephone survey of 1,000 adults age 18 or older who were employed full or part time indicated that they were "generally at least somewhat angry at work," according to a new study....
    [How can the study be "new" if it's 3 years old?]
    The study, "The Experience of Anger at Work: Lessons from the Chronically Angry," is scheduled to be presented today at the annual meeting of the Academy of Management in Chicago. It was sponsored by Marlin Co., a Connencticut management consulting firm.
    Authorities say workplace rage was a factor in the July 29 shooting spree in which Mark O. Barton killed 9 people and injured 12 others in 2 Atlanta office buildings where he worked as a day trader. A week later, Alan Eugene Miller killed 3 people at 2 Pelham, Ala. companies where he worked, prosecutors say....
    There were 856 work-related murders in 1997, a 7% drop from 1996 that mirror[ed a drop] in violent crime nationwide...according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
    [The article implies the drop is due to the "economic boom" but we think this kind of "boom" (a pre-depression "boom" of wealth concentration, a widening income gap, and a population splitting into hostile camps) is the cause of the violence. We attribute the drop to the growing insecurity of the newly wealthy who have contrived to lock up more people at risk of violent behavior than any time in our history - yielding our record incarceration numbers.]
    According to the study,
    • the most common cause of workplace anger - cited by 11% of those questioned - was the actions of supervisors or managers.
    • 9% said coworkers [or] others not being productive, and tight deadlines or a heavy workload were to blame.
    • Others cited dealing with the public and being treated badly as reasons for their anger.
    "There has been a lot of downsizing. A lot of companies are leaner and meaner, and many of the workers who are left feel overworked and underappreciated"..\..said Donald Gibson, a professor at the Yale University School of Management and a coauthor of the study....
    [Oh yeah. CEOs fell in love with the term "lean and mean" as a model for their companies. This amounted to a declaration of class warfare. But then they acted surprised when the hostility levels within their own companies rose, and - predictably - they started accusing others of declaring class warfare. This is the way they induce cyclical depressions that are solvable, absent worksharing, only by war, and then they forget history and do it all again. How many times are we as a supposedly "intelligent" species going to put ourselves through this mishigas before we get wise to ourselves and expend a fraction of the debugging and design smarts on it that we pour on our burgeoning software?]
    Gibson said most of the effects of workplace anger are subtle. They include a hostile work environment and the tendency to do the minimum amount of work to get by, resulting in a drop in productivity. Suppressed workplace anger has also been linked to health complaints, such as anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

  3. Gunman wounds 5 at Jewish day camp in LA, by Jeff Wong, AP via Bos Globe, front page.

  4. [And a returning American asks - ]
    What happened to America while I was away? by John Doyle, Bos Globe, A19.
    ...I have worked [25 years] in Bolivia, where I saw a harsh and cruel life for ordinary people.... Now I've come home to see the same thing repeated in my own country....
    [Funny, that's just about the amount of time that wages have been flat, and mergers and downsizings have been accelerating. Maybe that's also about when the World War II kill-off of the surplus labor of the Great Depression had finally been offset by population growth and advancing technology, and without being able to adjust downward our frozen 1940-era workweek, we once again began to overwhelm the job markets and become common, and inexpensive, and then cheap, and disposable.... Now our "30-year record low unemployment" and skill shortage masks stagnant wages and labor glut, oh yes, and no need to train when there's so many desperate job seekers out there. Pull'em in from overseas if there's the slightest problem.]
[Recently, 9 dead at brokerages in Atlanta, Georgia (scan down to 7/30 below), and now...]
8/06 Workplace shootings leave 3 dead in Alabama, by John Zenor, AP via Boston Globe, A18.
PELHAM, Ala. - A man allegedly shot two co-workers to death at their office [at Ferguson Enterprises, a heating and air conditioning company] yesterday morning, then killed a third person at a company where he used to work [Post Airgas several miles away that sells helium, oxygen and other gases].... Pelham is a suburb of about 10,000 people south of Birmingham.... [Or the NYT version:]
3 are killed at workplace; man is arrested, AP via NYT, A11.
[The longer-term message to employers - cut the stress and the easiest way to do that is, CUT THE WORKWEEK!  Meanwhile, the immediate message to legislators is, TIGHTEN GUN CONTROLS.]

8/03/99 Gates denies plan to give all his wealth to charity, by Laura Raun, Bloomberg News via Boston Globe, p. D3.
REDMOND, Wash. - Microsoft Corp. cofounder Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, denied a report in London's Sunday Times, saying they have no "imminent" plans to give away all their wealth, now about $90 billion [scan down to 8/01 on our goodnews page] did the market take his MS stock down $10b recently?]....
A Sunday Times reporter who worked on the story [, Tom Rhodes, was quoted in The Seattle Times as acknowledging that Gates Sr. never said his son was planning to quickly transfer his fortune to the foundations. "If it is kind of misleading, I'm sorry. Someone put together the main story in London," Rhodes was quoted as telling the Seattle Times....
[Commented Kate Jurow over breakfast, when Phil read her this reversal, "I thought there was something strange about that. And you know from politics how much stuff the media just makes up."]

For earlier collapse stories, click on the desired date -

  • July 15-31/99.
  • July 1-14/99.
  • June 16-30/99.
  • June 1-15/99.
  • May 16-31/99.
  • May 1-15/99.
  • Apr.16-30/99.
  • Apr.1-15/99.
  • Mar.16-31/99.
  • Mar.1-15/99.
  • Feb/99.
  • Jan 16-31/99.
  • Jan 1-15/99.
  • Dec/98.
  • Nov/98.
  • Oct/98.
  • Sep 16-30/98.
  • Sep 1-15/98.
  • Aug/98 and before.

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