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Good News, June 1-15, 2001
[Commentary] ©2001 Phil Hyde, The Timesizing Wire, Box 622, Cambridge MA 02140 USA (617) 623-8080


6/15/2001  glimmers of hope -

  1. California, rising, passes France on its climb - An economic survey charts the Golden State's growth, by Todd Purdum, NYT, A14.
    ...A shaky euro, a strong dollar and California's booming $1.330 trillion economy combined last year [better make that "bubbling" economy in view of the dot-com crash] to push the nation's most populous state past France's ...economy and within striking distance of Britain...according to a new analysis by the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp., a business group here....
    [And of course, we're talking GDP which is a very flawed measure of progress because it gives you good points for bad stuff such as -
    1. outasight Calif. energy prices which were already starting last year and are probably a huge component of this supposed surpassing of France over which this article trumpets so much. (Not that France, with its heavy reliance on nuclear power, is in an enviable energy position.)
    2. The 1997 video "Affluenza," recently on PBC mentions some other bad stuff that the GDP counts in as good, such as legal bills from divorce and
    3. charges from setting up separate households after family breakdown.
    4. They might also have mentioned general American litigiousness and short-term profits from generally gouging the environment.
      • They do mention oilspill cleanup bills and
      • short-term profits from clearcutting forests, but there's also
      • stripmining our mountains and
      • dragnetting our fisheries.
    5. Then they mention the cost, O gladsome day!, of diagnosing and treating -
      • a new cancer patient.
      • They might also have mentioned a new patient with black-lung disease from digging coal in underground mining or in the stripmining mentioned above,
      • or carpal tunnel syndrome, or any other ailments from poor work environment.
    6. Then they mention the cost of crime, which implies the many points the GDP must be giving us for
      • our huge prison-construction binge and
      • our whole prison-industrial complex.
    7. And they mention the bump we give the GDP every time we have car accidents and incur
      • charges by activating the insurance company and
      • the repair shop.
    Here, from this article, is the list of the top 10 national economies, in GDP anyway -]
    1. United States  $9,963 billion
    2. Japan  $4,614B
    3. Germany  $1,867B
    4. Britain  $1,415B
    5. France  $1,281B
    6. China  $1,104B
    7. Italy  $1,054B
    8. Canada  $701B
    9. Brazil  $606B
    10. Mexico  $578B
    [But now, let's ask, if the GNP was a terrible scoring measure, and the GDP, which stops giving countries points for production overseas (which it potentially doublecounts - in 2 nations?), what would be a good measure?

  2. Click here for today's TIMEsizings - 6/15/2001.

6/13/2001  glimmers of hope -
  1. 2 UPsizings, with unspecified new jobs -
    1. Ford creates unit to increase sales of boat engines, Bloomberg via NYT, C4.
      ...a marine division in September in Kennesaw, Ga. [in a new] 42,000-sq-ft center for the division's offices and operations.... Ford sells automotive engeines to other companies, which convert them for marine use and sell them to boat builders. The division plans to do the conversion work itself....
      [Unspecified new jobs - but of course, this will just move jobs away from the other companies who do this now.]
    2. France: Auto factory expansion, AP via NYT, W1.
      The Smart division of DaimlerChrysler [will] invest $84m to expand a factory in Hambach, France,
      [Sounds more like Germany than France!]
      where the next generation of its minicars will be built....
      [Unspecified new jobs - but of course, these may be reduced by even more complete robotization.]

  2. Bond sale seems to signal easing of Argentine crisis - Officials hint that tax cuts for the middle class may be the next strategy, by Clifford Krauss, NYT, C1.
    [We heard on NPR this morning that Argentina has been in a recession now for three years. And when the analysts admit to enough trouble to use the "R" word, brudda, dat's trubble. Why in the world would they think that selling a few bonds would solve anything?]
    ...The government succeeded [yester]day in auctioning $700m in treasury bills at far lower interest rates than it has been forced to pay in recent months...7.89% for 3-mon...and 9.9% for 6-mon. notes....
    [Why would the wealthy take on this much risk for this little return? Probably because, as everywhere in the world today, they have funnelled into their own pockets so astronomically much money they simply do not have much choice. Especially when the stock markets, which they have driven up to unprecedented P/E ratios, have gone into the foothills of a crash. What has allowed the wealthy to funnel so much moola to themselves and create thousands of new millionaires (and tens of thousands of new poverty cases: working poor, disabled, incarcerated that they don't want to think about)? Lack of any automatic system of spreading the profits of constantly inrushing technology to the general workforce, such as automatic workweek adjustment to prevent global labor redundancy and nil bargaining power.]
    Argentina swapped $29.89B of short-term bonds for new longer-term securities 9 days ago...to save...$16B in debt-service costs through the end of 2005.... Many economists here and on Wall Street said the threat of either a default or a devaluation of the Argentine peso this year had receded with the successful swap and debt sale, barring a political crisis or an external shock, like a default in another emerging market such as Turkey....
    [So what's "The Rest of the Story"?]
    But others viewed the moves as just another Argentine tactic to put off dealing with its financial problems until the future, in the process of adding $2B to the country's $150B in total debt, paying out more than $100m in fees to investment bankers and pushing up rates on new debt for years to come....
    [Basically the wealthy and the investment bankers are going to keep their stranglehold on Argentina - and themselves (not that an American is in any position to criticize). The first real step out of this kind of ongoing parasite load would be Timesizing.]

  3. Click here for today's TIMEsizings - 6/13/2001.

6/12/2001  glimmers of hope -
  1. 5 UPsizings, with 165 + unspecified new jobs -
    1. Concord MA company opens Lowell plant, by Kimberly Blanton, BG, C9.
      Manufacturers Services Ltd., a...contract manufacturer for the high-tech industry...opened a 55,000-square-foot plant in Lowell. About 135 employees work in the plant....
    2. Unit of Office Depot plans sales push in Switzerland, Bloomberg via NYT, C5.
      ...Viking Office Products is setting up a center with 30 employees to take telephone orders and a warehouse to serve Switzerland's German- and French-speaking regions...and will also set up a Web site....
    3. New Manhattan high school is planned, but it has critics, by Anemona Hartocollis, NYT, C17.
      ...an old-fashioned neighborhood school, once considered an endangered species, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan...the culmination of several years of lobbying by middle-class Upper East Side parents. They have returned to the public schools after years of abandoning them, rejuvenating many elementary and middle schools. But they contend that the magnet schools do not provide the rigorous academic programs that their college-bound children are looking for....
    4. Management firm formed, Bloomberg via NYT, C2.
      Sarah Ketterer and Harry Hartford, who resigned last week from the Los Angeles office of Merrill Lynch Investment Managers, have opened a new money management firm, Causeway Capital Management LLC...based in Los Angeles....
    5. Conoco plans Asian expansion, Bloomberg via NYT, C4.
      ...The 4th-largest oil company in the U.S. [will] spend $50m a year in Malaysia to build 20 gasoline stations a year for the next 3-4 years....

  2. [1 UNtakeover -]
    Acer Inc. spinning off units, Bloomberg via NYT, C7.
    ...A Taiwan computer maker will spin off its manufacturing units to form a separate company in July as part of a restructuring plan started last year.... Acer hopes to sell shares in the company within three years.

  3. Click here for today's TIMEsizings - 6/12/2001.

6/10/2001  glimmers of intelligence - 6/09/2001  glimmers of hope -
  1. When truth is treason - The Pentagon Papers case: A lesson re-learned, op ed by Anthony Lewis, NYT, A27.
    Despite all the gains for democracy in the world, in many countries anyone who wants to publish truths unwelcome to the government risks suppression and criminal punishment. If Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon had had their way, that would be so in the United States too.
    On June 13, 1971...the NY Times began publishing a series on the secret official history of the Vietnam War that became known as the Pentagon Papers. That afternoon Pres. Nixon spoke on the telephone with Dr. Kissinger, his national security adviser.... "It's treasonable, there's no question," Dr. Kissinger said. "It's actionable, I'm absolutely certain that this violates all sorts of security laws." Two days later..\..attorney general John Mitchell...asked the courts to bar further publication of the Times series.
    An extraordinary legal struggle...ended 15 days later, when the Supreme Court, by a vote of 6 to 3, rejected the Nixon administration's claim. The First Amendment and other legal doctrines, the Court said, protect the right to publish even these highly classified documents - unless...publication would "surely result in direct, immediate and irreparable damage to our nation and its people." The [administration] had not made that showing.
    So it was the judges who saved this country from the repressive spirit that prevails in so many others. The Pentagon Papers case stands today as a barrier to silence by official edict.
    But there is another meaning in the...episode. It was caught...later in that same [telephone] conversation. "My God," the president said, "can you imagine the NY Times doing a thing like this 10 years ago?"... Nixon was right.... What had changed?...
    What changed the attitude of the Times and other mainstream publications was the experience of the Vietnam War. In the old days...the press respected the confidence of officials because it respected their superior knowledge and good faith. But the war had shown that their knowledge was dim, and...their good faith had died with their false promises and lies....
    It would be a great mistake to think that the Pentagon Papers case settled the issue forever on the side of freedom. Just last year Congress passed a bill that would have made publication of any classified information a crime.... Pres. Clinton...saved the day by vetoing the bill.
    Every generation has to relearn the lesson of the Pentagon papers case. William B. Macomber, deputy under the Secretary of State at the time, testified for the government, saying that diplomatic disclosures might have "irreparably damaged the chance of free government to endure."
    But years later he said: "Even though...nothing is more important to me than the security of the United States, the First Amendment is, in another way, the security of the United States.
    "You can't save something and take the heart out of it."

  2. Click here for today's TIMEsizings - 6/09/2001.

6/08/2001  glimmers of hope -
  1. 2 UPsizings, unspecified new jobs -
    1. Too Inc., NYT, C4.
      ...Columbus, Ohio, a retailer of clothing for girls, [will] open 7 stores this year under the Mishmash name. The first store is to be in Willowbrook, NJ.
    2. Visteon, NYT, C4.
      ...Dearborn, Mich., the maker of auto parts, [is] building a factory in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, to supply engine components to a nearby plant of the Ford Motor Co.

  2. Click here for today's TIMEsizings - 6/08/2001.

6/6/2001  glimmers of hope -
  1. [1 UPsizing]
    Harley-Davidson planning to expand 3 factories, AP via NYT, C4.
    ...in response to growing demand for its motorcycles.
    [Oops, maybe this is a "good, but," because people are probably buying motorcycles because they can't afford cars - or gas - any more.]
    ...The company, based in Milwaukee, expects to spend $200-250m this year on capital projects. Harley plans expansion at its factories in Wauwatosa and Tomahawk, Wis., and in York, Pa. The company shipped 200,000 motorcycles for the first time last year.

  2. [1 UNtakeover]
    Britain: Retailers to be shed, by Alan Cowell, NYT, W1.
    Kingfisher [will] concentrate on its home improvement retailing division and spin off its Woolworths, Superdrug and other general merchandise stores as a separate company by the end of July....

  3. Click here for today's TIMEsizings - 6/6/2001.

6/05/2001  glimmers of hope (for a slow news day) - 6/03-04/2001  weekend glimmers of intelligence -

  1. 2 items on how we're using technology to time-starve ourselves, not provide more free time = the most basic freedom -

    1. 6/03  Lean, mean, out of steam - Firms' race to efficiency leaves workers with little downtime, by Steve Ulfelder, Boston Globe, J1.
      "I remember when I used to take a lunch break," Mona Cohen said wistfully. "You'd just round up a group of people and go somewhere. It was very social." She makes the noontime ritual sound faintly exotic, like a trans-Atlantic trip in the 19th century.
      Cohen, who spent much of the 1990s as a manager at Boston training firms Forum Corp. and Organizational Dynamics Inc., said, "It changed in the early '90s. Suddenly, keeping people busy with billable hours became more important."
      Social lunches vanished for Cohen - and for 32% of professionals who recently told a[n] Oxford Health Plans study that they work while they eat.
      The reason: In the late 1980s and early '90s, US businesses feared the Japanese were about to eat their lunch and responded with a quest for efficiency that continues today.
      [And what were the Japanese doing more than any other economy? Robotization.]
      Despite the boom economy of the 1990s, large-scale corporate cutbacks grew commonplace.
      [It wasn't the later "boom" that accelerated the cutbacks. It was the recession of 1990-91 when employers got spoiled by floods of resumes and notched down their respect and appreciation for their employees, treating them increasingly like renewable - and 24/7 - and disposable - technology.]
      Employers believed they had to stay lean and mean; downsizing was a fact of life, even in healthy companies.
      [And as we said in our headline yesterday, "Downturns are made, not born, & the guiltiest are CEOs in profit who downsize regardless." Downsizing by profitable companies funnels spending power into unspendable concentrations, and, "the more concentration, the less circulation."]
      Employees adjusted, working harder to fill in for fallen coworkers. Their consolation for longer, more frenzied work days was the knowledge that the new lean regime made the business sharper, more agile, better able to compete in a fast-changing world.
      But what if it didn't? Noted business and technology consultant Tom DeMarco asks and answers that question in "Slack: Getting past burnout, busywork, and the myth of total efficiency" (Broadway Books, 224 pages, $23). He argues that the cost-cutting mania of the past decade has created organizations that are indeed more efficient - but less effective.
      [They make people sacrifice the here&now more for some will'o'th'wisp future and they rely increasingly on other companies' employees for their markets. And now that so many of them are doing that, they're surprised their markets aren't growing.]
      ...DeMarco says that what looked like inefficiency to senior executives under pressure to cut costs was actually something else entirely: the downtime - or slack - workers require in order to innovate, adjust, and change. ...Companies that trim too much slack lose the agility they love to boast of; they become adept at marching in one direction, but lose the ability to change that direction when needed.... DeMarco...writes that too many US businesses have become like a car that can accelerate but can't steer; "in the short run...it makes lots of progress in whatever direction it happened to be going. In the long run, it's just another road wreck."
      ..\..By some measures...the toil has paid off. According to US Bureau of Labor Statistics, nonfarm labor productivity has soared, growing an average of 2.6% a year from 1996 to 1999, compared to 1.5% a year from 1981 to 1995.
      [Probably entirely a function of adjusting the definition en route to actually count a greater fraction of the huge productivity gains being constantly injected into the economy in the form of wave after wave of mechanization, automation, and robotization - which virtually everyone agrees we have problems measuring accurately (especially when there's a common myth that employee pay should pace productivity which incentivizes many employers to under-count productivity). Additionally, with all this technology, productivity is hardly our problem. Our problem is a balance of productivity and consumption, and increasingly, a balance of consumption and ecological sustainability. See our story below on "The mirage of a growing fuel supply."]
      ...The present downturn is forcing companies to rethink their business models, strategies, and processes, which demands the type of introspection that overly efficient companies lack, DeMarco says.... Matt Adiletta knows a little about innovation [as] one of only 37 Intel Fellows.... "To get innovation, you need patience," Adiletta said. "That's where time comes in. Innovation won't happen overnight."...
      Despite the hero worship often accorded CEOs, DeMarco said, "The idea of one person reinventing a company is ludicrous. The person at the top can foster an attitude, but the actual change must happen at all levels," led by middle managers. Ultraefficient companies that find themselves unable to adapt and survive, he writes, "are that way because because they fired the very people who were capable of helping them get through the necessary change."... If DeMarco is correct, it's fair to wonder how businesses that have wiped out the resources they need to reinvent themselves can change course. Barbara Reinhold, director of the career development office at Smith College in Northampton MA...says that when it comes to building a little slack back into the organization, the Fortune 500 companies she consults with have yet to face the truth. "The HR people talk a good game," Reinhold said, "but when I sit down with the women in our programs, they say that if you want to have a life, you're in trouble."
      DeMarco is more optimistic. "In basically healthy companies, which are most," he said, "managers at all levels understand there's a problem here and know they need to change." He cites...Motorola Inc. as a large business that "has realized they are too busy, and...they're building a cadre of managers who are taking time to reinvent the company."
      [They are? We thought they were still still downsizing and overloading the survivors - 600 cuts in Mexico on 5/17, and 22,000 since December, according to item #7 under 4/12/2001. If Motorola is DeMarco's reason for optimism, he must have written this book before Motorola got into all these cuts, because he now clearly needs another reason. The article does also mention Intel, but even at Intel there are dark signs -]
      ..\..Matt Adiletta...credits Intel for allowing his team the slack to "not settle for the first solution" - whether it's creating the IXP1200, the first programmable network processor, or rethinking its own role, as the team was forced to do recently when it was reassigned to a new group....
      [Then there were Intel's total of 6400 jobcuts on 3/15 and 3/09.]
      In the end, DeMarco writes in "Slack," businesses need to realize that, "It's possible to make an organization more efficient without making it better."
      As for Mona Cohen, she now works out of her home for ebizQ.net, and online news and consulting service, and rediscovered lunch.

    2. 6/03  Prescription for stress - if you can take it, by Michael Kranish, Boston Globe, C1.
      [Just a qiki on this one - a few prime quotes -]
      ...Who has time to relax - to kick back and read a good book - when there's money to be make?
      The problem is, many Americans don't take all of their relatively meager vacation time. Indeed, even Elaine Eaker, an epidemiologist who analyzed the Framingham [Mass.] Heart Study data and concluded that vacations are vital, acknowledged that she hasn't taken a vacation in three years.
      [Shades of Anders Hayden's admission that he often worked 24/7 on his book about shortening the workweek, "Sharing the Work, Sparing the Planet."]
      "I've been too busy running my own company," she says, emphasizing that she loves her work.
      [The test of whether someone really loves their work is whether they'd be willing to reinvest their overtime earnings in training and hiring.]
      She is hardly alone. A survey this year by Conn.-based Oxford Health Palns found that 1 in 6 employed Americans is so overworked that he or she doesn't use up annual vacation time. "People need to start thinking of vacation as preventive medicine," says Dr. Alan Muney, Oxford's chief medical officer (who says he does take all of his vacation time).
      The survey noted that companies in the United States offer the least vacation time in the industrialized world.
      • For example, Italians have an average of 42 vacation days,
      • the French get 37, and
      • the Germans 35.
      • Americans typically get 13 days - and even that is often not used to maximum health benefit.
      "It is almost a point of pride that Americans are so stressed that you have to buy a book to [learn] to relax," says Nora Rawlinson, editor in chief of Publisher's Weekly.
      Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, a Manhattan psychiatrist who runs a consulting firm called WorkPsych Assocs...sees a direct relationship between the workaholic "Type A" personality people who can't relax or reflect, and the risk of career burnout or...onset of heart disease. To Kahn, the art of relaxation is not merely lounging at the beach, but also includes the ability to celebrate small and large achievements [e.g.,] "by vacation." ...It may sound obvious, but it is the stuff of which many bestsellers have been made, including volumes such as "Don't sweat the small stuff...and it's all small stuff."
      ...To [Dr. Herbert] Benson, father of the "Relaxation Response," the trick is to "break the train of everyday thought that often drives you up a wall, such as finances, family, deadlines."... Stress is good up to a point, motivating people to finish a project or reach a goal. But [after that] it becomes an overload, which can cause medical or psychological problems, he says.... "The body that is more rested," Benson concludes, "is more efficient."...

  2. 6/04  The mirage of a growing fuel supply - Mathematically drilling more oil is a losing game, op ed by emeritus Prof. Evar Nering of Arizona State U. math.
    [In 1798, Parson Robert Malthus published his little essay stating that food supplies grow only arithimetically as 1,2,3,4,5... while demand for food in terms of population grows exponentially as 1,2,4,8,16... Here it is applied to energy -]
    When I discussed the exponential function in the first-semester calculus classes...I invariably used consumption of a nonrenewable natural resource as an example.... The oil would last 100 years if it were consumed at its current rate. But the oil is consumed at a reate that grows by 5% each year. How long would it last...? That is an easy calculation; the answer is about 36 years.
    Oh, but let's say we undercalculated the supply, and we actually have a 1,000-year supply. At the same annual 5% growth rate in use, how long will this last? The answer is about 79 years.
    Then let us say we make a striking discovery of more oil yet - a bonanza - and we now have a 10,000-year supply. At our same rate of growing use, how long would it last? Answer: 125 years....
    The point of this analysis is that it really doesn't matter what the estimates are. There is no way that a supply-side attack on America's energy problem can work. \And\ estimates...are usually considerably less than 100 years....
    A full doubling of the available supply will not be as effective as reducing [the consumption] growth rate by half - to 2.5%
    [Or better, to zero.]
    ..\..[because] exponential growth [in consumption] does not have to be large, and it is never sudden. Rather, it is inexorable....

6/02/2001  glimmers of intelligence -
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